From seed, some of my favorite plants

Papaver orientale

Papaver orientale

Eschscholzia californica

Eschscholzia californica

Some of my greatest gardening achievements have resulted from haphazard seeding. These poppies, for example, are just majestic as they herald the new season in early June. So big and bold… and so well behaved. After blooming, the seed capsules stay big and strong for awhile. Then, the plant relapses into its dormant state until the next spring time, leaving room for other late summer bloomers.

Another poppy favorite that is as loyal and forgiving as “orientale” is Eschscholzia californica, or the California poppy.

There’s something so wonderfully alive and responsive about poppies. For instance, at night and during rain, the plant will fold its flowers to protect its pollen, I suppose. Both of these poppies have allowed me to move them (after blooming) and they continually return. Love them!

Poppies greeting the morning sun

Poppies greeting the morning sun

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Review of World Events

Still working on updating the brickwork, walkway by walkway. Almost done! Here’s a little preview:

walkway

The process of lining the walkways with layers of newspaper appears to be working. This post describes the beginning. What I hadn’t expected was the tedious process of laying the sections out so they form a uniform base. BTW, re-doing the south walk, I realized why this works: the newspaper becomes a layer of paper mache!

What I also hadn’t anticipated is the review of world events that go into the mindless layering. For example, on the south walk underneath the brick are layers of stories on the Boston bombers, Alec Baldwin’s media blitz for “Orphans,” the 17-day survivor of the Bangladesh building collapse, and most recently, the little boy fleeing the carnage of another bombing in Kabul. I have no desire to join the world-is-moving-so-fast / TMI whining crowd, but I am aware of the impact of reviewing these stories, in the garden, and slowly.

My heart goes out to the scared children and those who suffer. While China is on a debt binge and Google and Apple continue their megalithic climbs for industry dominance, I quietly layer the news to buffer weeds and level my walkways. But not without sending out heartfelt wishes to those who cry and ache for an easier life. Thanks, J-J, for helping me gather the news.

Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds

I mentioned this seed company in an earlier post. Just learned of this WSJ article about their work. Here’s a description of the “heirloom” in Heirloom seeds from the WSJ article:

“Heirloom seeds are those that are passed down from generation to generation, are open-pollinated and aren’t patented or genetically modified. Every week, people from as far away as the Ukraine or as close as Appalachia send Mr. Gettle their own heirloom seeds, each with a story. Customers from St. Louis to Saudi Arabia buy the seeds for small farms, home gardens, schools and public gardens.”

Cool!

Supporting Actors

KP and I bought these trellis’ last year at Home Depot to support my badly-placed tomato plants that went hog wild and yielded about 5 cherry tomatoes. Then Superstorm Sandy hit and two of these went down. I moved them, just in time for the graduation party and decided they should go to the garden out east. Inspired by this picture on my Pinterest board, I had the idea to recycle the storm damaged HD trellis and create lean-to’s like it.

leantotrellis Inspired by this picture, I had the idea to recycle the storm damaged HD trellis and create lean-to’s like it.

I read somewhere that carrot plants, like lettuces, like the filtered shade. With the red and yellow carrot seeds I ordered, it seemed like a good plan.

Tomato cages from Gardeners.com are on their way to me. I looked high and low for advic

panel

e. I

was persuaded to purchase the tomato cages by reading that one of long-time employees of Garderners.com swore by the tomato cages. We’ll find out here in August – October how they fare.

First, I sawed off the legs to shorten the panels. I bought some hardwood stakes at my local garden store and some jute. The panels look more solid than they really are; they’re made of some flimsy wood, but I love the framed look and would like to get a few more years out of them. Two of the sawed-off legs were in pretty good condition, so I hammered in 3 nails. I plan to wrap the jute around the nail and the top of the stake. This will give me some play in the angle of how the frame attaches to the panel.

After attaching the frame to the stakes with jute, I then attached the frame to the panel. It was an awkward process wrapping the jute, but the day was beautiful and sunny, and I convinced myself to chillax. Here are the panels attached to the leaning stakes with a bit of composted cow mixed into the soil.  Well, it ain’t pretty, but it should hold. The jute will also fade to a simile of natural jute. Don’t ask me why I just didn’t buy natural colored jute.

frame

I used the jute to attach the frame to the panels, drove the stakes into the earth and gave them a couple of good pounds with KP’s mallet. Here are the panels in situ:

panelsinsitu

I put the bean seeds just under the panels so they can climb up, a divider of brick to keep the seeds separate, and then some short rows of carrot seeds. I’ll add mulch to line the front of the panel and around the side.

Towards the western edge of this extension, I added the last of the celery seeds, lime basil and regular basil. Here’s a view of the cleaned bed, with vegetable seeds in seed starter (so I can see the rows (!), and awaiting the tomato cages:

extension

While it’s only a 40′ extension, digging always takes a lot of energy. I had to clear the pseudo-lawn out of the way. It’s been so dry in the NE, the grass and weeds peeled away like cheap carpeting. Because this is a new extension to the quadrant, I’ve been saving my kitchen scraps (fruit and veggie peelings only with egg shells) and taking them to the garden. This extension resides on a down-slope so every little bit of extra earthiness helps to built it up. After planting the two bean varieties, carrot seeds, and the remaining celery, lime basil and regular basil, I felt pretty proud. The tomato cages can go in the middle, between the two seeded areas.

But the next morning, I saw that raccoon varmints had gotten into the stinky kitchen scraps and complete obliterated my nice neat rows. At least it wasn’t deer! Note to self: Place a pile of compost that isn’t sited in the garden. This could turn out to be a happy accident with the two basils and celery growing haphazardly.

extension2 What a mess! Oh well. We’ll see what shakes out…

Happy Mother’s Day

Being a mom is a lot like starting seeds. The progeny require much more time and nurturance than you can ever imagine. These babies took twice as long as I anticipated and what coaxed them out of their own little wombs was a lot of rain and sun. So many mornings I sat outside, peering into the little pods, anxious to see any stirrings of maturity. Ever so gently, I watered every day, but nothing. Finally ready to let go and let them mature or not, we had four rainy days with a sunny one in the middle. Life has its own timing. We have to continue nurturing, loving and trusting until It – our babies, our pets, our friends, our endeavors – arrive when ready.

Image tomatoes big time. Always have and probably always will. Tried about 6 plants last year I had bought from Home Depot. Unfortunately, I put them in a spot that didn’t have enough sun and by August, they became unwieldy, beastly vines that beared little fruit. This year, with the garden getting more sun, I decided to try again.

So I ordered some seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds on 4/1. I ordered these varieties:

Image Image Image

and started them in decomposable seed pods in organic seed starter on 4/8. In the NE this year, it’s been a cold, but sunny spring with very little rain. These guys were sucking up water like mad, requiring a good soaking every morning. Most nights were cool (between 45-50˚) so every night for weeks, the trays would come in and then back out in the morning. Weeks and weeks went by, but nothing! Uncle Mark Bagby was the first to finally show signs of life around 4/29, followed closely behind by the Celery Tendercrisp.

Now, it’s mother’s day, 5/12 – for crying out loud – and I’m just finally seeing signs of arrival! I think what has brought these babies to fruition is the last four rain-soaked days punctuated by a full day of hot sunshine.

Here are some snaps:

First, the Uncle Mark Bagby:

Image

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Here’s the Paul Robeson at 5 weeks. (Sorry for the blurry pic. Still snapping with the phone.)

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These little darlins are baby celery plants. If you don’t grow celery, and can, you DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE MISSING! Throughout the summer, I hack off bits here and there for salad, pasta, pretty much everything. It’s fresh and tangy, and I use it like I would parsley. But being able to snip what I need without destroying the entire plant and without the waste created by not using an entire bunch bought from the grocery is a blessing and convenience. And better yet, it grows through October and will even give you some love early the next spring!

The nursery, in situ:Image

Here are the other seeds I purchased. Most probably, I’ll sow these directly when I can get back to the garden next weekend. Hopefully.

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Keep watch for future posts on these blessed seedlings. Please remind me if I forget.  Next year, I want to try this Snow Starter idea:

snowstarter

Recycled plastic jugs as seed starters in January

Moving the brick … again.

southwalk

Every spring I’m torn between nicely manicured beds, filling the beds with plants and keeping the walkways weed-free. While looking online for ideas for tomato supports, I ran across instructions for building raised beds that suggested using newspapers to line the bottoms as a decomposable way to keep weeds away. Aha! I thought.

So the first go turned out sort of okay. Not 100% happy with the outcome because it’s a bit bumpy, and I wanted the newspaper to elevate the bricks an inch or so to address another problem I have with drifting mulch. Check it out:

driftingmulch

See how the mulch and dirt, over time, drift from the beds to the bricks? It adds to the weed problem. What I’ve done for a few springs is go through each section, brick by brick, with a butter knife to de-weed everything. A full rotation twice a summer is required, and this takes hours and hours of labor. Not good.

So raising the bricks an inch or two should help. Hence the newspapers…

Determined to keep at it, I thought instead of re-doing the south walk section, I would start with the circle and then build out from there.

First I removed the brick and pulled all the deeply-rooted weeds and heinous vines (bittersweet, locust roots, etc., etc.). Then I worked at improving the level of the dirt. My tools? A string connecting two bricks and a small rake! Here’s what it looked like:

Down to the dirt

Next, I started laying out the paper. Note to self: don’t do this on a windy day! There was only a slight breeze, but strong enough to have all those pages flying, so I dragged the water out and wet the paper as I layered it from the center and extending out. Then, using the string/two-brick tool, I found the center point and positioned the bricks to start the circle.

centering This was kind of scary. Why? Because being in the middle of a mess like this, one realizes that you can’t go backwards and forward is the only way to proceed. Plus, I wasn’t sure this was really going to work!

 I added a new tool – not sure what it is called. I think of it as a prospector’s tool: kind of like a pointy hammer on one side of the head and a prying kind of thing on the other side. I quickly ran out of half bricks and used the prospector to break whole bricks in half. I found that with a quick bang on the smooth side of the brick, it would separate with one good whack!

So after filling in the center, I started lining it with concentric circles. When I got within 3 or 4 layers of the beds, I noted the level dropping off. I had two bags of Hampton’s Estate mulch left over from last year, and gave these outer edges some nice beds of mulch, saving about a third of one back to fill the center. This helped raised the level.

And here’s how it turned out! Pretty, right! Loving it. Loving the center too.

Done I am such a spazz with the cell phone camera. This photo is blurry because I had taken a video rather than a picture. Must. Get. Camera. Anyway, parting shot: CU of the lovely center:

center

More anon …

Update… a rainy Sunday, but here’s the west walk with about a month’s worth of NY Times and Wall Street Journals underneath them:

Before…                                                                                         and after:

westwalk_before westwalk_after