Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April Showers Bring May Flowers -- I hope!

It's been cold and rainy the past couple of days but spring is on the way. The weeds at least are growing, that's for sure. The view from our front porch changes every day. The little crab apple tree will be blooming soon, and the oak trees have finally dropped their leaves from last fall and are showing some green. The river is up and we often hear ducks and geese, even though we seldom see them now that the field is no longer flooded.

Inside I have nice starts of basil, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, and some flowers growing well under the lights. Three of the four rows are full. I probably won't need the bottom tray this year. I love brushing my fingers over the top of the little basil plants. Just a light brush releases their spicy, earthy fragrance. Mmmmm.

There is still a lot that needs done outside to get the garden ready. This past weekend I uncovered the growing boxes and moved them in to place. Some of the reservoirs had water in them despite the tarp being over the boxes all winter. I'll have to figure out how that happened because I'm afraid having ice form in the boxes will crack the reservoirs which would ruin them. It is going to be a bit of a challenge to make room for my six new boxes, but I'll find a way. Once they are assembled and arranged I'll put down the mulch to keep the weeds away. That will probably be the end of my big mulch pile. Maybe Nick will surprise me with another dump truck load this spring. I think he enjoys driving the big customer courtesy truck as much as I like getting the mulch! A chipper shredder may be in our future as well, as our brush piles keep growing. I think it would be a lot of fun to turn all those sticks and branches in to mulch.

I hear the weather is supposed to be nice this weekend. I hope so. It would be great to plant some beets, spinach, lettuce and other greens. I am so hungry for fresh, crunchy veggies straight from the garden!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Gardener's Workout

I didn't make it to the fitness center today, but it hardly mattered. As it turns out, I got a good gardener's workout at home. The weather was perfect for yard work. The temperature was in the mid 50's and the sun was shining and cheerful. No bugs, no humidity, but much to be done!
Thankfully, nothing else was on the agenda for today so gardening was the priority for a change.

One of the first things I wanted to take care of was emptying the compost tumbler. The compost tumbler is basically a barrel with a removable lid on one end, mounted on an aluminum frame so that you can spin it and mix the contents to help speed the composting process. We add kitchen and yard waste to it throughout the year, give it a spin once in a while, and it takes care of turning it all into nice, black, compost. It had been over a year since we emptied the barrel, so it was getting quite full and heavy. I decided not to bother with sifting out the stuff that was not completely broken down, but instead let the process complete itself in the garden. I dug three good sized holes where I will plant tomatoes once it is warm enough in about mid-May. I filled each hole with about a wheelbarrow load of the compost mixture, then covered them back up with a thin layer of soil. By the time the tomatoes are ready to go in the soil should be rich, fertile, and loamy. Because I'm not yet sure where the rest of my tomatoes will go I decided to pour the remaining compost in one of my original raised beds.

When cleaning last year's vines off the obelisk in the barrel by the front porch I uncovered the nest built by our little running bird. I wonder if she'll be back to set up housekeeping again this year? (September 2008 post.)
Next, I took the loppers to several small Asian honeysuckle plants that had sprung up in the woody area in the back of our property where I have a wildflower bed. I was happy to see a few Trillium, wood poppies, and bleeding heart plants coming up in the bed. We'll be able to better see and enjoy them with some of the invasive shrubs out of the way. There are many more to clear out as I find time.
Finally, I spent a lot of time raking out the flower beds and cleaning out the dead leaves and stems to make way for the new. It is so rewarding to pull off last year's dead plant material and see the new green growth starting to emerge. I was surprised to notice that even the clematis 'Niobe' is starting to leaf out.

As we were outside working, Toby enjoyed having the freedom to roam through the yard. He made countless trips with me to the area where I dump yard waste, and back again, and then over to the other side of the property to see how Nick's trimming work was going. He is such a good garden dog. The cats apparently wanted to be outside, including the new kitten (now named Kit Cooper) who has apparently forgotten how much he wanted to be inside just a few weeks ago. Here are a couple of pictures of Kit on the inside looking out, unlike the first time we met him.

Our orange tabby Ralph, who has cost us a small fortune in vet bills over the past month, did manage to get outside this evening. It took about 30 minutes to find him. We have invested way too much in this silly cat to have him become dinner for some coyote, besides we happen to think he's a pretty cool cat. Fortunately he is safe and sound inside once more.
There is so much more to be done in the yard and gardens, but I think getting so much done today will make later work just that much easier. I know I will sleep well tonight. This gardener is tired!