Friday, April 15, 2011

Flowers feed the Soul (April Bloomday)

Every work-day I return home and make a bee-line for my patio flower garden. I inhale the wondrous mix of scents, rose, sweet pea, lavender and I am rejuvenated. This small meditation helps my troubles dissipate. I’d like to think that the bees carry them away with harvested pollen. It is so easy to get caught up in the rat race of modern life; the flowers entreat me to slow down and recognize that the sun continues to shine, the rain continues to fall, plants sprout, and animals grow. My petty cares are vanity and a chase after the wind.

Nasturtiums growing under and around the roses - happy accidents!

 Lavender for the bees

Detail of Blue (well, purple) Hibiscus

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dazzling Successes and Epic Fails

The purpose of my blog is in part to dole out advice on vegetable gardening; it is also a record of my (mis)adventures in gardening that I hope entertains as well as informs. But at the risk of sounding too high and mighty, I feel I need to knock myself off my perch of gardening know-how. I’ve had great successes in terms of amount and quality of vegetables harvested, but I’ve also had some epic fails. In some of my endeavors, the jury is still out. But I like to think I can learn from my mistakes.

My previous weed abatement attempts have been dismal. My first sin was pride; who am I to completely counteract millennia of weed evolution? My second sin was using the wrong tools. I used two types of weed control fabrics to cover my seven vegetable beds. The first type was black, permeable to rain, but not to smaller particles. This kind worked reasonably well, only the most determined weeds poked through the surface of the material. The second weed control fabric was white and gauzy, opaque enough that the sun’s rays could penetrate its filmy surface and give weed seeds the chance to germinate. And germinate they did, in spades. Ever the recycler in the garden, I plan to reuse the black weed cover fabric for parts of the garden next fall. The opaque fabric can be used as a shield to protect lettuces from the full strength of the summer sun, but it will never ever again be used as weed guard.

About two weeks ago I orchestrated moving my herb garden including mature rosemary and Cleveland sage bushes. I wanted the herb garden closer to the back door for easier access. I also wanted to re-purpose the bed (vegetable bed four of seven) to serve as Hubby’s new home for his collard greens and my cucumber trellis. Alas, I did not know it then, but in the transplant process, we had damaged the root balls beyond repair. First, the sage and rosemary drooped, then they withered, then they burnt to a crisp despite plenty of watering. Replacement was the only option, so off I went to the local nursery. I have planted the new sage and rosemary seedlings in their new home. Hopefully I can train them to conform nicely to their new space. In the meantime, I’ll have to make do with my dried herbs until they grow large enough to safely provide fodder for my spice rack.

As for my attempts at growing perennial flowers, the jury is still out.  I started my second planting of cooler season vegetables, including perennial flower seeds, in February with some success. I have radishes galore and my carrots are beginning to make an appearance. I also have a significant amount of ‘volunteer’ tomatoes, the children of last year’s crop. The humor is not lost on me; I plant lettuces, broccoli, carrots, and flowers and the first thing that comes out of the ground is tomatoes. Though the vegetables are making their appearance, it is harder to discern the flowers from the weeds. I think I see a couple of suspects, but only time will tell if they are really the hollyhocks, black-eyed susans, butterfly bush and yarrow that I originally planted. I have high hopes though, and that is the promise of a seed, that it will germinate in the future.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Extending the Pretty

It is hard not to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work my garden needs to produce vegetables and maintain a beautiful appearance. The winter weeds are still insidious, the slugs are munching my tender sprouts, and rain threatens to flatten my tomato seedlings. When it comes to dealing with cleaning up the garden, I have adopted a new philosophy called Extending the Pretty. I have separated my garden into zones, starting first with the patio area, and focus on making that zone pretty. Each time I work in the garden, I extend that zone. When I feel frustrated I go back to the pretty patio zone, have a glass of water, relax and smell the roses and sweet peas. (All pictures are of my beautiful, relaxing patio.)

Using this strategy, I have cleaned up the patio, the butterfly flower garden, and the first of three of seven vegetable beds, starting on the west side of the yard and moving toward the east. The west side is beauty, vibrant and fragrant roses and sweet peas, happy accident nasturtiums blooming red, orange, and yellow, lavender blowing in the breeze.  The east side is beast, ugly, seedy weeds growing wild and some half dying in an ill conceiving poisoning attempt, piles of yard refuse waiting to be tossed in the garbage, and multiple scattered tools in need of a new home in a tool shed.

Since Hubby spend last weekend playing with hot rods, he agreed to help me in the garden this weekend. I plan to send him to the east side with a flat head shovel to slice weeds. (If he needs a machete, we do have one!)  I will continue to clean up the remaining four of the seven vegetable beds and will renew my weed poisoning campaign against the weeds breaking through my brick hardscape. Sometimes you just have to resort to chemical support.