Saturday, May 31, 2008

At the last minute

I've been reading a lot about heirloom tomatoes lately. Different tastes. Different colors.

Like any new interest crushes develop. You sneak around to get a look at your favorites and silently pine after them.

Two I've been very interested in were Black Krim and Aunt Ruby's German Green. I have so many paste tomatoes that it seemed worth it to pick these two up today when we stopped by Jungs.

When we got home I planted them in two of the extra holes. I took off the bottom four branches and planted them deep to develop a good root system.

At Jung's I even chatted with an elderly gentleman who'd never heard of the heirlooms they had out on the table. We talked tomato flavors. It was a lot of fun.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This is the Day

The grand construction. Yes, we really did use the Tonka. To crush egg shells.

The path between the two halves.

Totally flattened by a helpful watering boy. Will bounce back soon.

Twenty-six little tomato plants were planted today. Eight Opalka. Eight Powers Heirloom. Ten German Pink. I also left three holes open. I thought I'd plant in them but I may leave them for some peppers.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Clock is Ticking

Sources vary on the exact day, but the Last Frost Date for my Zone (4b) is approaching quickly. Over the next week we will move from 60% chance of the last frost (2 days ago) to 80% chance (next Wednesday). Most sources recommend the 23rd or the 28th of May for planting. Normally I would be jumping to plant everything today (woohoo!) but with our cold Spring I'm going to take an extra few days to let the earth warm.

All my tomatoes with more than 4 leaves are out in the beautiful weather today (and the terrible mosquitoes). Son #4 helped these get used to torrential downpours by watering them for me with my new water wand.

It may be a bit early for the tomatoes but I bought a tall daisy at the All-city garage sale last weekend. I'm finally planting that today.

Dean bought me a Lemon Pixie lily at the same sale. Here is the tinier one from the container. I planted her larger sister in the front yard.

Do you ever wonder why certain plants grow better than others under the same conditions? These two broccoli were huge when I put them out. Now they are even bigger. The other 10 are tiny. You can see one of the small ones as a little floppy leaf in the front corner of the bed. I had to remove a few leaves from one of the large broccoli. They looked like they had some kind of fungus. Big white spots eroding the leaves.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

For the Tomato Lovers

Sometimes it just seems so long before they will be ready.

Click on the link and wait a moment. Guy Clark gets me through days like this.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I'm running out of room..and time.

I live in central Wisconsin. Lots of pine woods and cranberry bogs. Lots of water. Some interesting land formations carved by the retreating glaciers. The Wisconsin Dells. What I don't have much of is direct sunlight.

It's sort of kind of almost there. As the earth moves it moves, never staying in one place. The trees cooling in the summer and sheltering in the winter.

Not the best spot for gardening.

Last year I planted potatoes in the decades old garden bed (located under the ornamental cedars). I think we got as many out of the bed as we put into it. This year I decided to try beans there. They will be more forgiving of the shade, I hope.

The potatoes were left homeless. The new beds will hold heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and melon. Oh well, I thought. I can buy a 10lb bag of Kennebecs and a 5lb bag of white onions from a local grower for $10. Save room for the more expensive items.

Then I stopped at the local Feed & Seed. Just to check it out. They were selling potato seed mix and match by the pound. I bought $1 of seed thinking I could fit it in anywhere. Ha!

Weeks later, the potatoes still in a paper bag by the front door, I had one of those fits of inspiration which seems to only happen when I'm waking up in the morning. I realized I had the perfect southern exposure. Okay, it's paved. Okay, its usually covered with garbage cans, bikes, and recycling but it's definitely got full sun (I have the cracked paint to prove it).

Since then I've managed to buy 6 5-gallon containers for $1 each (and snag one from my husband). Seven little potatoes sitting among the scooters and big wheels.

Eleven more to go. Anyone have any cheap container ideas? I feel like I've orphaned the little things. At this rate I may have to resort to cannibalism just to get them off my desk.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Garden Bloom Day--May 2008

I'm new to gardening and the garden blog world but it seems that every month there is a common photo meme of what plants are blooming in people's yards.

It's been a chilly, late Spring but I have this beautiful blooming Virginia bluebell. One of the Spring stars of my shady yard.

It blooms for a few weeks every year without fail, just after the tulips have passed and before the clematis opens. It tolerates heavy shade at the base of an oak tree. All this and it folds back quickly and quietly when it's done blooming to make way for nearby hosta.

Here for a moment and enjoyed by all ('Mom, is that flower blue?').

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In a yard with no lilacs

I can count on lily-of-the-valley, one of my favorite scented blooms. It reminds me of my grandmother's dressing table and walks across a college campus at nightfall.

I'm glad to see the little guys this year. It's been a late, cold Spring and many of the early flowers (tulips, daffodils) just didn't bloom.

I've also cut down their growing space considerably with my new tomato bed. I banished them to the shadiest places by the house because I know they're strong enough to survive.

Here is the result of my big project. The bleach and vinegar only worked 70% so I dug out most of the roots, graded the slope with an iron rake, and covered the remaining bishop's weed and lily-of-the-valley with cardboard and newspaper. Then I covered the newspaper with compost and covered the whole thing with pieces of clear plastic I got from someone's trash bin. The plastic should warm up the slope for the heat-loving tomatoes.

I ran out of compost so I'm using the kiddie pool to clear out the last 5 feet until I can get the city to deliver some more.

All-in-all I have that very righteous, I-can-do-anything feeling you get when you finish a big project. The opening of the lily-of-valley is the perfect ending.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Usually every Spring is a blank canvas. The perennial flower beds have their regular arrivals and departures but the veggies need ordering, juggling, and finessing.

This year I have a volunteer...several in fact. If you recognize this red stem, these serrated leaves please leave me a note because I have no idea what this is.

Last year this bed grew onions (not very well), leaf lettuce, banana peppers, and a few volunteer potatoes that made it through the compost level of my raised bed.

This doesn't look like any of those to me or the local weeds. It looks the closest to my chard seedlings (didn't have any of those last year and I seeded them in the basement this year).

Whatever it is it's growing stronger then anything I've got out there right now, so I think I'll let it. I don't need that bed until cukes, squash, and melon go out in June.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Good to the Last Drop

Nothing beats the taste of the last freezer strawberries.

No more until picking time next month. Then we'll pick a cooler or two and freeze them. This year I think I'll use smaller bags though. Then we can use them more regularly.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Heartsease by any other name

It's that time of year again, when enough sun and rain have hit the ground and the grass is starting to look shaggy on its journey to touch the sun.

Usually when this happens the wife raises an eyebrow at the husband, or maybe just sighs and goes off to mows it herself.

That does not happen here.

Since we moved into a house with a lawn full of creeping charlie and wild violets (aka heartsease, pansy, or johnny jump up) I found myself enjoying the tiny blooms each Spring.

No lawn mowing allowed during violet season! A house-wide wildflower holiday is called. So far no one is complaining.

As a crazed and confused Ophelia said to an equally confused Hamlet, "There's pansies, that's for thoughts," and it's a good time to think.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Win some, lose some

So the little plants are getting a bit of sun and cool evenings. During the day I roll up the front door so they get some breeze and it doesn't get to warm in there. In the evening I zip it up tight because we're still having chilly (38 degree) nights.

Tuesday we had an all-day appointment for my youngest son at the clinic in a nearby town. He's been diagnosed with epilepsy and he was getting an MRI. Oldest son went to friends after school. The middle two went to a friend's house. My husband even found a place for our pup to visit for the day.

Baby plants did not have a sitter. When I went out yesterday half of them were fried. Cilantro and lettuce were the worst. Broccoli and chard did a bit better. So I watered them and left the flap open. I also took cold frames off the lettuce and spinach.

Maybe they'll come back. I'm guessing it got too warm in there (terrarium effect on overload) and dried them out. It can also get dry within the cold frames (especially if it rains at night when I have the frames up) and I have to watch that as well. Dean suggested putting a pot of water in the bottom to keep fluids in and I may try that.

He was apologetic (probably because we'd had such a hard day anyway) but I told him its only plants. No one died (even vegetables). And I have the room to start again downstairs if we loose one of our ICU patients.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Acorns, mung beans, and hostas..oh my

My boys have a new hobby...sprouting and planting acorns. First they find them. Then they soak them in water until they sprout. Then they plant them. Now I'm finding glasses (real or plastic) and spoons all over the yard. You know its spring when all your good spoons (the ones that won't bend when you dig in the dirt) start popping up outside and no one seems to know how they got there.

Maybe this is where they got the idea? Dean is sprouting mung beans right now. He found some on clearance at the Country Store when I was stocking up on flour. The first batch sat in the closet too long so he cooked them on Saturday morning and ate them.

Hardening off the broccoli. I bought this stand with cover for myself on Friday (it was on clearance and its hard to resist rightly-timed clearance). The lettuce and spinach I planted out was not hardened off at all. It's doing okay, but still pretty weak.

Dug-up hosta on the left; empty hole on the right. I'm moving any plants I missed to the flower garden by the deck before I do the last bit of root cleansing. As you can see (little green leaves everywhere) the bleach water was only somewhat effective. Later on I went over it with a gallon of vinegar which was also helpful but not a strong enough deterrent for the extremely invasive and root-thick bishop's weed.

Next: systematic annilation!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I guess I'm low maintenance

I wore these so much this winter he got a pair for himself.

And yes, they say MUCK on the side.