Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A few more pics

Here are three more garden pictures. The first shows how I am protecting the cabbage plants from insect damage. The plants are looking beautiful, so to keep them that way I cut a piece of lightweight floating row cover to the size of the box plus and extra 10" all around. I tucked the cover under the rim of the box and secured it with clothespins. My original plan was to secure the cover with bungee cords, but I couldn't come up with the right combination of sizes. Fortunately, the clothes pins work just fine.

Next is a picture of my sole peony plant, 'Top Brass.' I love how the middle part of the flower is ruffled up like a little top knot. I purchased this plant at a small independent nursery in Galena, Illinois. Have you noticed how few independent nursery/greenhouses there are these days? It seems we lose one or more every year. What a shame.

The final photo is of the flower bed at the garage end of the house. This end of the bed features Dutch iris, Oriental poppies, and perennial geranium. It is such a cheerful little garden and nearly carefree. Last year, before the perennials had grown so large, I filled in the spaces with Sweet Alyssum. I learned the secret to successfully growing Alyssum from seed is to plant them early, and only barely cover the seeds. I believe I planted the seeds in mid-April. The display was just as nice as when I started with bedding plants, but of course much less expensive. I love direct seeding whenever possible -- it just doesn't get much easier than that.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Focusing on What's Right

We have been having the most beautiful weather the past several days. Yesterday and today we had some intermittent rain, but nothing that has come close to spoiling the whole day. The combination of warm temperatures, bright sunshine, and gentle rain has really caused the garden to flourish. Unfortunately, the weeds are flourishing, too, and I spent a good part of yesterday weeding the beds. When I got home from work today I started noticing how much more weeding there still is to do. Even in the vegetable garden where I have spread a pretty thick layer of mulch the weeds are peeking through. How frustrating! It's hard to stay discouraged, however, when the sun is shining and the birds are singing, so I decided to get the camera and focus on what is going right in the garden. Here are a few of the highlights.

Pictured are my white clematis and a riot of golden coreopsis, plus a shot of false blue indigo, one of my favorite small shrubs. In the garden boxes are the beets and zucchini which you can see are off to a great start.

The corn, beans, cucumbers, carrots, and lettuce are also up and doing well. The tomato plants had a slow start and I had to replace one of the plants today. All in all, however, the garden is doing well. I will include more pictures in my next post.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Morning Visitor

This morning, as Nick was going out the front door to his car, he noticed something unusual in the driveway. He called me to the door to take a look, so I rushed to see what was going on. Unfortunately, I didn't have my contacts in or glasses on, but I looked out anyway. I saw what sort of looked like a rabbit--sort of. Whatever it was looked pretty fuzzy to me, and not because it was furry. Well, it wasn't a rabbit. Nick told me it was a skunk! It didn't look to be in any sort of hurry, and this complicated things a bit since it was time for Nick to leave for work. Fortunately, some quick thinking and modern technology came to the rescue. Nick used his remote keyring to blast his car horn 4 or 5 times. Mr. Skunk turned tail and ran down the drive without leaving any sort of lasting reminder, thank goodness! It was a comical sight. I never knew skunks could run like that! Many times in the past we've whiffed evidence that there are skunks around here, but this was our first up close and personal encounter.

A few minutes later as I was preparing to leave, I heard the unmistakable "gobble gobble gobble" of a wild turkey. Although he must have been nearby I never did see him. We have been surprised by wild turkeys on our evening walks in the past. When a good-sized turkey suddenly flies across the road in front of you, it's a bit of a surprise, to say the least.

Just two nights before, we were surprised when Toby took off down the drive like a shot. We couldn't imagine what was going on, but he was down the drive and across the road (without stopping to look both ways) in a matter of seconds. Soon, Nick saw the reason. Toby had spotted a young deer and was in hot pursuit. He chased her until he was tired of the sport and then came back home. We were quite suprised by our dog's sudden interest in deer hunting, being that we are not hunters, and prefer just looking at deer to shooting at them. I guess Toby just couldn't deny his instinct this day. We've been told his mother was quite an excellent deer hunting dog. She would have been proud.

So, these are my accounts of our recent close encounters with Indiana wildlife. I'm sorry to say I have no pictures of the critters to share, but we won't forget about then anytime soon.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Busy Weekend

What a weekend! Saturday started out rainy and cool, and did not look at all like a good day for an opening day program at nearby Fort Ouiatenon. I had agreed to help out by being at the herb garden and talking to visitors who might like information on starting their own garden or who had questions about herbs. I was dreading it because it looked like the storms that started the night before might continue on throughout the day. We were surprised, however, that just after the flag raising ceremony at noon the sun came out and it turned in to a pretty nice day. Even more surprising to all of us, however, was how quickly the river started rising. I had parked my car in the lot without even a serious looking mud puddle nearby. Around 3:00, one of the other volunteers came over to ask where I had parked my car. The river was rising--fast--and so I went to check. I couldn't believe my eyes! My car was completely surrounded by ankle deep water. I didn't know how I was going to wade out to it. The fact I was wearing my 18th century costume made the situation even more complicated. Just as I was contemplating my next move, my husband drove in to the park, looking very much to me like a knight in shining armor! Thankfully he was able to drive me to the passenger side of my car where I was able to climb in with a minimum of wetness and move my car uphill to safety.

Whether because of the unpredictable weather, all the other activities going on in the community that day, or just a lack of publicity, there were very few visitors to the opening day of the Fort. It was disappointing, but we made the best of it. I used the time between visitors to weed the herb garden and contemplate some additions to it. Many of the plants didn't make it through the winter and the beds are looking pretty sparse. We also used the time between visitors to help put up a twig fence around the Three Sister's Garden, and were pleased with how it turned out.

Sunday was spent at home mowing and trimming. There is still so much to do, but it is starting to look nice. When everything is mowed and trimmed, our yard looks like a park and we enjoy it so much. This spring has been so wet, however, that the grass has grown like crazy and mowing has been no simple chore.

Here is a picture of a teacup planter Nick got me for Easter. I filled it with a parsley, Thai basil, and sweet marjoram plant given to me by my youngest daughter. I think it turned out so cute. I will keep it on the picnic table as long as the weather is nice.

I finished planting onions today, and also got the last of the deadheads off the showy sedums. It feels good to get some chores crossed off the to-do list. Even thought there are still a lot more jobs we need to get done, we made a lot of progress this weekend and feel good about how things are coming along. Plus, it's not even Memorial Day yet, so plenty of summer is left to come. I'm glad.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Hummingbirds are Here!

I try to put out the hummingbird feeder every year by Mother's Day, which is usually a few days before we actually see one of the tiny flying jewels. This year the hummers were right on schedule. Unfortunately, the first hummingbird we saw was a little dead one found in the driveway. It looked absolutely perfect, so we aren't sure what happened to the poor little thing. Only a few hours later, however, I heard that familiar buzz while working in the garden, and spotted a hummer visiting some wild columbine. The first of our feeders went out that same afternoon. On the east side of the Mississippi we have only one type of hummingbird, the ruby-throated. I remember being fascinated by the other types of tiny hummers we saw while visiting San Antonio one year, and I'm sorry we only have one variety of hummingbird to migrate here.

Most of my garden boxes are planted now, and I'm in waiting mode. The only plants I've put out so far besides the cabbage are three different varieties of peppers that were given to me: Fushima, Slim Pim, and Early Jalapeno. The tomatoes are hardening off on the porch and can go out any time. Of the seeds I've planted one variety of cucumber has sprouted (Muncher), the carrots now look like delicate blades of grass, and the beets are off to a good start. I'm still waiting for the first planting of green beans and turnips to germinate, as well as the Minnesota Midget cantaloupe, and Trinity sweet corn. I am hopeful that this weekend I will finally get the chance to get my onion plants into the garden. Progress is being made, slowly but surely!

There is so much left to do in all the flower beds, but even they are off to a pretty good start. I've done a lot of weed pulling so far, but need to devote an entire afternoon to this not so pleasant task. There are also some dead flower heads and stalks that need to be pulled out of some of the beds, especially from the Showy Sedum plants. I could finish that job in about 15 minutes if I could just get started. Oh well, it will get done in time. At least now I can look forward to occasional visits from the curious hummingbirds as I work among the flowers. It's nice to know they appreciate the gardens enough to nest and stay here all summer. They are certainly welcome.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ready to Grow

Once spring finally decided to come to our part of Indiana, it really arrived with a flourish. All at once the lilacs and crab apple trees burst in to fragrant bloom, and some of the early iris are already putting on a fine show. I was surprised and pleased today to see how much the hosta have grown, along with many of the perennials around the yard--coreopsis, Oriental poppies, coral bells, obedient plant, peonies, and Dutch iris. Everywhere I look there is a plant up that I didn't notice only last weekend.

We got so much accomplished this weekend, and it really feels good. I am especially happy with the progress we've made on the garden. My favorite new addition to the garden are three trellises we've added to keep the vining plants up off the ground. We started out with 2, and then went back to our local Lowe's store today for a third. I installed them behind the 3 boxes that will grow cantaloupe 'Minnesota Midget', two varieties of zucchini squash, and two varieties of cucumbers. I braced the trellises with some rebar to help insure that they don't get pulled down by the heavy vines later this summer. Not only will they help keep the produce healthier by keeping it up off the ground, I like how the trellises already look good in the garden. They will help add some needed vertical interest. I can't wait to see them covered with vines and fruit.
I hauled about 6 carts of mulch and I think after another two cart loads that job will be finished. I love the finished look it gives the garden, not to mention how it helps to keep the weeds under control. When I dumped one load on to the garden I was surprised to see I had scooped up a small snake along with some mulch. How could I miss a snake? I dumped him on the ground and screamed out loud because this little guy was more than a little upset. He put some distance between us and then started striking at me. If he would have been any bigger it would have been scary!
The garden is also completely enclosed now with my versatile and easy to install fence. I am using 3' tall plastic posts called quickstiks and 2' tall plastic poultry fence. With only a little muscle power and a rubber mallet I had the garden enclosed in less than an hour. I have been really happy with how well this easy simple set-up works to keep out hungry rabbits and unwelcome dogs.
The garden is now ready to grow. In a couple of weeks I'll be able to put out the tomato and pepper plants and then it will really seem like a garden. I'm also waiting a bit longer to plant the Thai melon, green beans, and corn. Even though the soil in the boxes warms up more quickly than the ground, our nights are still pretty cool and there is no need to rush the season. Meanwhile, the cabbage starts I set out earlier in the week look good. The beet seeds have sprouted, and the peas are really starting to grow. I also have radishes, spinach, cilantro, and lettuce planted. I'm really happy to be off to such a good start. Here's hoping your garden is off to a good start as well.