Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Pre-Sprouting Seeds

Sometimes I like to pre-sprout my seeds before putting them in the soil. These are French fine green beans, my first time to grow them and I am excited. There are a ton of seeds in a packet, but which will sprout? What if it is too cold to put them in the dirt? I've had seeds turn to mush if they are cold and wet. Not this time. It is already warm enough and I decided to give the patch a head start with this tried and true method of pre-sprouting. Get two small plates, a wet paper towel and pour on the seeds. Cover with the second plate and place near a sunny window, or just in a warm spot.
In two days lift the top plate and see what sprouted.
Pretty cool huh? Ready to pop in the dirt and cover and let the growing begin.
 I'm at the local Walmart super store almost daily and have to check out what has come in and looks enthusiastic. I call this rescue gardening. Can't let sprouted bulbs or roots sit in these bags for long, knowing they will die if not immediately given refuge. I brought home these potato starts and they have been sitting waiting for me to plant them, growing greener in the bag ever since. Shame on me. But they are going in today, since I now have more composted manure for their home. But while I was searching the floor of my pantry in hopes of finding some Kosher salt, I found this stray potato tucked behind some bags of rice. Musta fallen out of a bigger sack. Talk about enthusiasm! Theorhetically potatoes are sprayed with something that is supposed to prevent eyes sprouting. I guess this one didn't get the memo. Into the garden it will go.

Super huge grow bags, which I ordered before I got my Walmart blue bags. I tried to cancel before they got shipped but was minutes too late. They are 20 gallons each and I have ten. Wha? 
 Here's a size comparison.
Of course they do not need to be filled to capacity, just deep enough for the plants that will be in them. The soft sides can be rolled down to let in more light, so perfect for things like green beans. So I am glad to have them. 
Today I am expecting my garden guys to arrive, actually hoping to see them any minute. They will prepare the beds on the north side of the house, removing clay and adding composted manure. I am anxious to begin my shade garden there with these Heuchera (Coral Bells) and Hosta. Not nearly enough, I know. 

I've harvested and eaten some of these lettuces already. One of the romaine was pulled out by a squirrel, even on the porch we are not immune. grrrr. So in it's place I put a sprouted nasturtium which has yet to emerge. 
My patience has been rewarded in this set of six packs. A cucumber and sugar snap pea have shown themselves. I know you can't see them, but I am recording their debut for future reference.

OK, I am going out right now and digging a spot in the peony bed for these perennials. Four Hardy Geraniums. Yay!

Friday, April 9, 2021

Bursting into bloom

Both of our cherry trees are in full bloom and it couldn't be more gorgeous. What a blessing! To think we just got to have these as part of the house deal. Wow. I saw some sapling versions of these trees at Lowe's for $249 a piece. Gulp. So thrilled to have them grace our yard every spring. 
In the kiddie pools I have planted some peppers, Grand Marconi, Big Bertha, and Coolapeno. I've grown all of these before and have had good yields. I still need Poblanos, but will have to wait until the weather gets hotter. In the same pool is the half price Gerbera Daisy. 

My friend Patsy has had hers overwinter, and she lives up on a mountain top, so I guess they are hardier than I expected. Great! I'll keep my eyes open for more, greedy little gardener that I am.
In another pool I have four tomatoes in the bags, plus some extras that I will share. German Johnson, Black Krim and two Celebrity.  The extras are all Celebrities. I'd rather get them as 6 packs than bigger plants, and  in a few days they are all the same size anyway. I am using Patsy's shredded newspaper as mulch. 

The my new shade garden plants arrived and I am so happy to have them all. Hostas, heucheras, heucherellas, and hardy geraniums. And one oddball. Jack Frost Brunnera. 

 Here's a special newbie, Wu-la-la a sport of the humoungous Empress Wu which I had take over my last garden. This one is slightly different in the leaf, with a lighter green edge, not all that visible in this picture.

 And finally I am so happy to have Boom Chocolatta Hardy Geranium to add to my collection. The flowers are blue (my fave) and the leaves will darken to almost black. So dramatic.
I've also planted Hyacinth Bean seeds, cucumber and Sugar Peas. In the front garden in the peony bed I planted two Baptisia varieties and a Black and Blue Salvia one of the most vigorous and floriferous members of the sage family. Here's an example: It gets this crazy in one season. Woowoo!

Monday, April 5, 2021

Hold everything!

I saw this on Pinterest (sound familiar?) and I fell down the rabbit hole. So many gardeners are getting into this grow bag idea. I spent hours on Youtube watching all kinds of variations on this theme and decided I had to give it a whirl. 
Today I went to Walmart and got the following:
9x12' tarp with landscape pins to secure it to the ground
4 48" kiddie wading pools for sub-irrigation (already have drilled holes 2" up from the base for drainage after a rain storm, thanks to my friend Charly)
20 Walmart bags at $.50 each!!
20 liters of Perlite to lighten my compost mix
40 pounds of all purpose fertilizer
4 54" heavy duty tomato cages

I already have six bags of composted manure to mix with the perlite and fertilizer, so I can have an instant garden.  This video really got me. Corn grown in bags?

I didn't buy any veggies in pots, yet, just seeds, but got the following:
Black Beauty Zucchini
Sparkler radishes
Sweet Corn: Silver and Gold, and Early Sunglow
Bush Beans: Bush Blue Lake, Royal Burgundy, and French Filet
Super Sugar Snap Peas (edible pod type)
Bush Champion Cucumber
Darrk Opal Purple Basil
Lettuce Leaf Basil
Mammoth Basil
Sparkler Radish
White seed potatoes
Summer Harvest Garlic
white onion sets

I'll buy tomatoes and peppers in 4 packs and maybe a watermelon. I love the leaf on watermelons if nothing else. I did grow them before but the flavor just wasn't there. 

I think this idea is so much better than my concrete block garden and so much less work. I love planting but hate watering after a while and with these pools I have the opportunity to fill them with an inch deep of water and let the bags wick the moisture up, directly to the roots. That's better for the plants anyway. 

I've placed the tarp/pools/grow bags in view from the house back windows, so I can watch the progress each morning. And I put the whole thing inside the doggie enclosure to keep the nasty rabbits away. 
When the bags are filled and in place I will take pictures. After my nap...

It took 2 hours, start to finish, including clean up. 9x12' and 20 bags almost full. I have one more bag of composted manure, but I think I will wait and let these settle and warm up before topping off each one. 

 Dave came out to admire my handiwork. It looks so tiny, but I am thinking it will be more than enough. Here's how I did it. I put one bag of composted manure into the wheelbarrow and added 4 cups of all-purpose fertilizer and 8 cups of Perlite (as if I really measured!) and mixed it all up, sitting down. Then I scooped the mix into the bags and transferred them to the pools. Then I turned down the edges of the bags so they would stay open and round. The area stayed in full sun til about 6pm, and this is on the east edge of the yard, so the morning sun will reach it at about 6am, providing at least 12 full hours of sun. I haven't had a really sunny garden like this in years. The cost? Under $100 complete with seeds. ha!

I am surprised that there is a lot more room in the pools than I imagined. Which is fine since the bags are moveable and when the plants get big, I will need to separate them for aiflow and accessibility. I was gonna cut off those white barcode tags but the backs are plain so I will use a permanent marker and write what is planted in the bag, with a date. Getting smart in my old age. 

The view from under the cherry trees.
The two cherry trees are just now starting to open. The blossoms are like little rose bouquets. I am so blessed! 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Ordering Plants: Part One

Despite a promise not to go overboard on gardening at my new house...I do have a few plants on order that are just plain necessary for my mental well being. I went to our local $$$ Nursery and saw that while they are stocking lots of things I would like to have, the plant I simply must have was not there.  Which meant that I had to go looking online. Luckily I found a site in Michigan which was full of fabu stuff, on sale, and ready to ship to moi. 
First of these: Baptisia, aka False Indigo, is a plant that I have cultivated since gardening in Illinois, and it never disappoints. I got two varieties, Purple Smoke and Baptisia Australis. I assume they will look exactly alike, but so what? What I love about this plant is that it is tall, bushy and has beautiful foliage and wonderful seed pods after the flowers are gone. And for heaven's sake it is BLUE. I love me some blue in the garden. It stays put, doesn't flop, isn't bothered by bugs, or deer, or rabbits, and has a deep taproot, which means, put it in and leave it alone. A must have plant, as far as I am concerned.

The bed along the north side of our house has been cleared of stuff that had no chance of living, as it is always in shade, which is wonderful news to me. I love shade gardens, because I can grow hosta, another plant that always succeeds, making me feel like a champ. And there are tons of different varieties to choose from, and here is a new one called Sun Power, a bright chartreuse speciment which I can place at the very eastern edge of the shade garden where it will get the most sun. It is likely to get as wide as five feet at maturity, filling that space easily. 
  Sagae Hosta, a vigorous midsize specimen, which will multiply nicely, giving me lots more of itself to fill in the gaps. Gotta love the enthusiasm of a plant like this. 18" tall and 3 feet wide, until it gets too big and has to be divided. My pleasure!
 Another biggie, or gigantic variety is Wu-La-La, a sport of Empress Wu, said to be the biggest hosta ever. I planted two Empress Wu's at the last garden and they did really emerge to be giants. But alas I left them there. Now this sport is slightly different, and more interesting because it has an apple green edge on its blue leaves, so I am glad to have it. At maturity, before I die, I hope, it will reach 4 feet tall and six feet wide. Stand back!
 This cultivar is called Halcyon and is a lovely blue with thick glaucous leaves and an upright habit. All good attributes to keep the leaves off the ground and mulch underneath to discourage slugs. We have slugs here, for sure. I'll place this one next to Sun Power for contrast. Oooh, pretty. It will grow 18 inches tall and 36-42" wide.
 Krossa Regal, which as you can see is upright and proud of itself. As you would be if you were so tall and strong. Its height allows for smaller plants to be placed at its base and I have plans for that too. Stay tuned. 40" high and spreads to 6 feet. I have a big space to fill and each of these hosta will do the trick.
Sum and Substance Hosta. Is this photo doctored? It does get this big, but it takes a long time to achieve, so I am not bothered by its dimensions. The color is the best part, a really lush limey green. I've grown this variety in a pot and in the ground and it just kept on living no matter what. Big stalks of white flowers erupt in mid summer. I hope the owner of my last house enjoys it, as the big pot is still there. 
 And lastly, a smaller variety, Loyalist, a bright wide center makes this glow in the shade. It will grab the limelight even tho it is a shortie, but with that varigation, it deserves the attention. I admit to being a hosta nut, but they have served me well in every garden I have had and I expect they will do the same here.  The front porch deck that I am having built (when????) will have planter boxes surrounding it, and I will have a shady spot for more of these in the future. 
We had a hard frost last night, arrgghh, but thankfully none of these plants have yet to arrive, so no worries. The peonies and Asiatic lilies didn't seem to care, and I brought in my patio planters of lettuces just in case. April is the cruelist month.
Another absolutely necessary plant is the hardy geranium, or Cranesbill, which gets it name from the seed pods which look like a crane's bill. Obviously. Here's what's on order:

 Boom Chocolatta has darker bronze leaves in contrast with its blue flowers. A clumping mass of yumminess. Hardy geraniums usually are real stalwarts in the garden and there are tons of varieties. I like this one especially for its darker leaf color. 

 New Hampshire Purple. Dense foliage with great bright flowers emerging in the spring. Dependable and vigorous and will rebloom if cut back. The leaves are just a beautiful red-green in the fall. 

 Johnson's  Blue. How could I not have this plant in my garden? In the past I have grown it in near full shade and while it got leggy, it still continued to bloom. In this new garden it will get hard full sun and I expect it will thrive. The flowers are on long stalks making it easy to cut for a bouquet.

 Perfect Storm Geranium, what a name. A long bloomer with intense purple centers. A good example of the variety of colors in these long lived perennials, and I can't wait to see it in my yard. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Now here's my plan

 In our vast backyard, we have a lot of green, a down and durty doggie fence, and some figs trees...and this wooden structure, which used to support grape vines, trying to stay alive and not doing a good job of it. (This photo was taken indoors, while standing in our bathtub, since it pouring rain currently). I keep looking at this framework trying to decide how I want to use it. Today it dawned on what I will do and of course it means hauling and constructing a garden bed. 
The dimensions are about 4x16 feet it is in direct sunlight all day long, perfect for tomatoes and peppers. My plan is to construct a concrete block bed in the interior part of the frame and have flowing vines growing up the uprights. 
Long time readers know I have done this before...in several of my previous houses. It is a diy project that I can handle myself. Seriously.This one had a pink dogwood, and two rhododendrons, plus a hydrangea, and all did quite well in this spot.  I've learned alot since doing this 48 foot long bed.

And I just want/need/must make a small veggie bed for necessary tomatoes and peppers. I might even use half of it for asparagus, since I had to leave that crop at my last house. See a pattern here?
OK nothing is going to happen today, since we expect rain to continue, and I have yet to wrangle my pal Charly into using his truck to pick up the blocks and soil. That's next. But O! What joy I feel just thinking about this project.

Here's an update on my peony/Asiatic lily bed. Mulched and the supports are in. I wish you could have seen me struggling with these wire cages. Like wrestling an octopus. But eventually I garnered control and placed 20 of them.
I continue to find more peonies popping up along the sidewalk. They have been hidden by weeds and as I try to expose them I am surprised at how large the clumps are.  I have already given my BFF Patsy a big bin full of them, all from one plant, and weeks ago I gave my sister two and they are planted and doing well. 
NowI see I have ten more to share. I introduced myself to my excellent gardening neighbor two doors down and she is happy to take whatever I can dig up. Phew! I want to move them so that a new front lawn can be installed in my weed patch. 

In other news, my little bleeding heart is coming along nicely. It was one of those roots that came in a bag, $3, from Walmart. I must have bleeding heart plants. And once you have one, they reseed so happily that I am destined to have many, probably to share. At the same time I bought a root of Ostrich ferns and one teeny little fern has unrolled and will have to be moved, since it is where the new front porch will be constructed.
We are so thankful to have this redbud tree in our back yard and it is gloriously in bloom this week. Yay!