Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The newly expanded and improved veggie garden

Just a picture of the veggie garden as it is today.  We expanded it by about 10 feet.  The posts will be for the indeterminate tomatoes, pole beans and cucumbers.  I'll add more pictures as I get plants growing in it.  Maybe once a month or so.

And since they are so pretty, a picture of some tulips growing in my obelisk garden that I took today.

Gardening practices I abhor

First off, a big thank you to my loyal reader who reminded me to write.  I really need to get better at that.

I just came back from a walk around my neighborhood with camera in hand to show you some of my biggest pet peeves in gardens.  This is a full blown rant, inspired by my favorite gardening blog, and this blog post I read today:

1. Make compost, People!
The photo above shows the pile of black plastic garbage bags at a house up the street, all filled with leaves and last year's mulch.  I couldn't count them all but I estimate that there are approximately 50 bags in that pile.  The village will pick them up and supposedly compost them (although I've never found the compost pile, only the pile of woodchips they make.)  But they will happily pick up just a pile of leaves; they don't need to be bagged.  These are people who consider themselves gardeners and definitely do not have any kind of space constraints that would prohibit a compost pile.  Personally, I don't believe anyone is really a gardener if they don't compost.

2. Stop strangling your trees.
Everyone seems to think that trees can't stand up on their own.  But the truth is that if they are properly planted they will do much better if they are not staked.  Staking prevents the tree trunk from developing the strength to stand up against wind.  Also those wires often damage the bark and if left on too long, which often happens, will girdle the tree.  So how do you properly plant a tree?  Remove the burlap or wire wrapping the root ball.  I even recommend removing all soil from the root ball as well.  Roots will develop better if there is no difference in the soil it is planted in.  Dig a hole twice as wide and deeper than the size of the root ball or pot the tree is in.  Don't amend the backfill and water well making sure there are no air pockets beneath or between the roots.

3. Don't form a mound around the base of your tree trunks.
This example is also shown in the photo showing the staked tree although you can't see it clearly.  Mounding up mulch around the base of a tree is a bad idea for a couple reasons.  First, it encourages rot and insect damage to enter the bark of the tree which should only be exposed to air.  Second, it causes water to funnel out away from the tree, and this is especially detrimental to young, newly planted trees.

4. Red mulch is wicked ugly!
Not only is it ugly but it is artificially dyed.  I don't know what they use to dye it that red color.  I tried to google it but only found a company that would sell you the dye so you can dye your own mulch.  They say it is all natural but who knows what that means.  I also found a reference saying that red mulch is better at keeping weeds down than other mulches.  Hmm, wonder why that it.  I believe that red mulch also inhibits the growth of the plants you want to thrive.

Actually, I don't mulch at all, except with compost when I have enough.  I rely on reseeding annuals in my gardens and mulching would prevent them from growing.  Oh wait, I do mulch with straw in the veggie garden.

5. Why, oh why do you use pesticides?  
Don't those warning signs give you a freakin' clue?  I have nothing more to say about this or I might start frothing at the mouth.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hot weather

It was over 80ºF today!  Unbelievable for the middle of April.  My daffodils were starting to wilt and I just came inside from watering them.  We've had an entire week of overly warm and dry weather.  Now, it could come in the last week and half of April, but we haven't had our usual April snow storm.  Granted, I hate those storms.  HATE them!  But I'm kind of freaked out that is has been so hot and dry this month.  Not warm, hot.  I've never had to water the garden in April before.  You know, April showers and all.

I also wanted to talk about a neat little flower I found in my garden yesterday.  That's it up there.  I've decided it is an Iris reticulata.  I didn't plant it and was astonished to find it.  I've never seen one growing before and I have no idea where it came from.  At only about 4" it is a wee tiny thing and very delicate.  I hope it spread some for me.  Kind of a whole If-You-Build-It thing.

Friday, April 11, 2008

When Your Gardening Heart Breaks

On August 14, 2002, the hottest day of the year, new neighbors moved into the yellow house on our west side.  I greeted them with a bouquet of hot pink gladiolas cut from my garden.  She loved them and we soon became fast friends.  Sharing a new interest in gardening we signed up for a gardening class together.  We spent hours together discussing how our gardens were growing, scouring obscure nurseries for interesting plants, and helping each other dig new beds and pull weeds.

Being a military family, they moved to Germany last year.  When the newer neighbors moved in last summer I greeted them with a plate of cookies and explained that if they had any questions about their garden I'd be happy to help because I knew everything that was in there.  She told me that she didn't know anything about flowers and didn't think she wanted to learn.  Ok then.  That week they tore out the raised vegetable garden.

Yesterday I looked out my kitchen window and gasped in horror.  They were ruthlessly tearing out the beautiful flower beds surrounding the front of the house.  I ran over and told them that if they wanted to dig the gardens out then I would do it for them so I could save the plants.  They agreed to that and I called a friend to help.

The whole thing makes me so sad.  I was almost as emotionally invested in that garden as I am my own.  Certainly not everyone will have the same interest in growing and beauty as I do, but to sacrifice the thousands of dollars invested in those gardens simply because you don't want to do the work involved?  That hurts my heart.  The only thing that makes me feel a little better about all this is that between the time my friends moved out and the new people moved in, I snuck over at night and dug up a few prime specimens including a wonderful hardy hibiscus and some perennial heliotrope.  They are happily growing in my own garden in honor of my good gardening friend and neighbor.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

My OM (organic matter) Troubles

I was desperate this year for a big load of horse manure for my veggie garden.  I transported a few bags across the state line (is that legal?) from my parents' place in Pennsylvania but it wasn't nearly enough.  So yesterday I came up with a brilliant plan.  A teenage boy down the street has a beat up pick up truck and a brother who worked at a horse farm.  I offered to pay him $50 to bring me a pick up load of horse manure.  He was more than willing and I explained to him in detail about how it needed to be well decomposed, old poop.  

The load of manure came in the afternoon.  It was straight out of the horses' behind fresh.  Sigh.  Now, I live on a small plot in the middle of the village.  What am I going to do with a big big pile of poo?  I considered tilling it in and hope that in the month I have before plants need to go in it would decompose enough that it wouldn't burn my seedlings.  But am I willing to take the chance?  In the middle of last night I finally decided that I couldn't take that chance and spent the morning raking it off the garden.  I made a low pile all around the perimeter of the garden.  This fall I'll rake it back on.

The moral of this story is that you should never trust a teenager to know the difference between old poop and new poop.  So now I have a whole lot of fresh horse manure that I can't use this season and I have a big pile of compost that I can't use on the vegetable garden at all.  Someone, not us, threw their dirty cat litter in it.  Wonderful.  I will use it on the flower beds this fall, it won't go to waste.