Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Every Drop Counts

Everyone talks about the weather.  Everyone asks, "how much rain did you get?"  Around here, if you don't have an answer, you can feel inadequate.  Having a rain gauge is almost a requirement for each household.  I have a larger rain gauge that was attached to a post but the arborvitae at the base of the post have been doing very well making it hard to get to the rain gauge.  So, I removed that rain gauge and am giving this one you stick in the ground a try for a while.  Obviously, it came from the American Red Cross.  My wonderful husband is a faithful blood donor.  I'm sure he was given the rain gauge during one of his donations.  It only reads to four inches.  It's very rare for us to get that much rain at one time, but it can happen during a crazy summer thunderstorm.  Then, I'll just have to say, "we got more than four inches."  During dry years, people like to say things like, "I have to get a new rain gauge.  Mine only got twenty hundreths."  I think we're past deep freeze weather that would break the rain gauge.  If not, I'll have to rescue it from the garden.  I put this rain gauge on the berm.  Out in the open to be as accurate as possible.  Don't want to be giving any wrong answers when asked, "how much rain did you get?"

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bucket O' Snails

Over wintered 09-10 part 6:
Do you have a bucket of snails living with you?  They're great houseguests.  Quiet.  Don't need entertained.  Eat very little.  They're perfect houseguests.  The snails became homeless when we drained the water garden tub last fall.  Three fish were returned to my parents' cattle tank to live with their hundred or so relatives, but the snails stayed with us.  They have eaten all of the water plants that came in with them and are living on fish food.  Snail droppings are what you see at the bottom of the bucket but there are many tiny snails in there in addition to the few large ones you see on the sides.  If you have two snails you'll have more.  A friend gave me a water lilly for my water garden tub.  The snails were stowaways.  Anyway, here they are waiting to return to the water garden tub.  Just not yet.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Making The Cut

Over wintered 09-10 part 5:
Just a quick post on the remaining plants waiting to return to the garden.  This poor looking thing (1st photo) is an impatien cutting which I took rather than bringing in the whole impatien container last fall.  It doesn't look great right now, but has actually bloomed off and on this past winter.  These plants (2nd photo) are the only two geranium cuttings I got to root this winter.  I don't know if they're white or purple and white Martha Washingtons.  These cuttings (3rd photo) are ice plant.  They bloom pink.  I can never get ice plant cuttings to root in soil.  I put them in this glass vase that hangs in a copper swing from the curtain rod where they make roots and then plant them in the container they'll live in for the summer when it gets hot out.  They look cool hanging in the window all winter.  I got the copper swing/vase holder from a vendor at a big city garden show I went to one year.  These ice plant cuttings really want to go outside looking at the sunshine and the side yard through the window.  But, not yet.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Day Of Sunshine

The sun came out today!  It was a great day to be in the garden.  I pulled a lot of weeds so my compost tumbler is going to be busy with those.  I have radishes, lettuce and kohlrabi sprouting in the cold frames.  And, I have my first daffodil bloom and my white crocus are starting to flower.

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Waiting For A Resurrection

Over wintered 09-10 part 4:
The Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent for our county is a generous soul who has a beautiful angel wing begonia in her office.  I believe it is a family heirloom plant for her.  She gladly gives starts from it all the time.  A few years ago, she gave a couple of starts to my amazing gardening neighbor who in turn gave one of the starts to me.  It took off and was beautiful on our front porch.  I brought the plant in that winter and watched in dismay as it dropped leaves.  I checked with the extension agent and was told this is normal.  Although, she keeps hers pretty nice.  The next spring, I took a start from what was left of the plant.  It rooted and grew beautifully on our front porch as did the mother plant.  I brought the plants in again in the fall and they started losing leaves.  This photo is the original plant.  Sad, I know.  The daughter plant looks better.  As long as they hang on in my dry, dim house over the winter; they get to stay.  No matter how spindly they look.  There was a great post, "growing fancy-leaf begonias, indoors and out," earlier this month at A Way To Garden.  I don't know what variety I have.  I just know it (and its daughter plant) is holding on for some heat and humdity.  It wants to go outside.  Just not yet.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

More Rain

It's another rainy day for Garden on Sherlock Street.

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Don't Forget Me!

Over wintered 09-10 part 3:
This asparagus fern has been with me for years.  When it gets too big for this clay pot, I divide it replanting one division back into this clay pot and putting the rest in various hanging baskets and containers with flowers for the summer.  Last year, it was kinda small come spring so I didn't divide it at all, but this year, it is going to grace several containers.  It can handle some cooler temperatures, but not yet.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Holly Hobby Still Loves Flowers

Do you remember Holly Hobby?

Looks like she's gardening on Sherlock Street.

It was not my intention to make my profile photo look like Holly Hobby. Honest. I had the photo there for about a week when it struck me out of the blue--it's Holly Hobby all grown up! Happy gardening!

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Introducing, Strawberries!

I'm working on documenting all the edibles that are in my garden.  The last edible item currently in the garden but not in the blog are the strawberry plants.  So, here they are!  They grow on the near end of the berm.  I first planted them in 2008 following all those rules about not letting them run, etc.  In 2009, we had strawberries!  Not a lot but a nice treat.  Then, I wasn't sure about the runners.  I tried to get them to root.  Some did but I lost some mother plants in the heat of summer.  Everyone tells me strawberries will just spread.  Mine aren't really spreading.  I have them on a raised bed.  Light soil.  Some sand below for good drainage but they're still staying on one end of the berm.  Do I need to dig up the runners after they root and transplant them?  The strawberries are greening up and I know it's time to plant new ones if you're starting a bed.  Do I need to move some of these now or after they make berries.  I'm not really sure what I'm doing with the strawberries at this point.  I just know I want more of them.  If you're a strawberry farmer, I'd love to hear from you.  Thanks.

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We Want To Go Outside Too!

Over wintered 09-10 part 2:
This is my small collection of cacti and one aloe vera plant.  Sadly, I almost killed the aloe vera last summer.  I had a huge pot full of aloe vera that were falling out of the pot.  I divided them up, gave some away to friends and repotted a few in the pot you see in the center of the photo.  Then, I sat it out in the garden where it got too much rain and too much wind.  Some died and the remaining ones looked sad.  I rescued them from the yard last fall and they seem to be fine now.  It's just so small compared to what I had.  The cacti were given to me by a friend at work.  I have no idea what varieties they are.  They were all together in a little "desert" pot display.  I separated them and the two on the left side of the photo are actually new starts because the original cacti got way to large for me to keep in nice little clay pots.  They're all ready for some heat and some sunshine on our back patio.  But, not yet!

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010


It's a rainy day for Garden on Sherlock Street.

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Can We Go Outside Yet?

Over wintered 09-10 part 1:
Every fall, I bring in one pot of each geranium variety I had in the garden that summer.  I simply give each one a bath, trim them back to fit on my plant stand and settle them in for a winter's rest.  I water them enough to survive in the dry house air, and I take cutting off them in early fall when they're still growing to try and start more plants.  As winter progresses, I usually lose some of the geraniums. This winter, I only got a couple of cuttings to root but I kept all three of the mother plants alive!  One is a purple and white Martha Washington geranium, one is a fuschia ivy geranium and one is a classic white geranium.  They want to go outside...not yet!

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Do You Plant Kohlrabi?

I plant kohlrabi every year.  I love it and my wonderful husband likes it too.  He'd never experienced kohlrabi until I came into his life.  Kohlrabi is super easy to grow.  Kohlrabi are best harvested when they're the size of a golf ball.  Maybe a bit larger.  I just peel kohlrabi and eat them raw.  They're crisp and have a light cabbage flavor.  Delicious and nutritious.  If I should happen to harvest more than we can eat at one time, I store the peeled kohlrabi in water in the refrigerator.  They keep fine for a few days.  I guess you can cook kohlrabi, but I don't know why you'd want to. It's mostly a spring/early summer crop as heat makes kohlrabi woody.  I've read a bit that it is a European favored vegetable.  I've never seen kohlrabi for sale anywhere (not even our local farmers' markets).  When I tell people about kohlrabi, they think I'm making it up.  There are always packets of kohlrabi seed available in our area.  There is a purple variety too, but I'd have to order the seeds.  I can't be the only gardener buying the seed in our area.  I've realized that the only people I know who grow kohlrabi are:  me, my mom and dad, my sister and my two brothers.  Now, I know my mom's family and my dad's family had kohlrabi.  So, I'm thinking my ancestors brought the love of eating kohlrabi with them to America, and my farming/gardening parents passed it on.  My dad is always in the garden looking for the first kolhrabi of the year.  Do you plant kohlrabi?

Monday, March 22, 2010


Just a quick photo to show you that the garlic I planted last fall is looking good.  I have it planted on the far end of the berm.  The concrete pieces on the berm are to give me a place to step while I'm working there.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Onion Sets, Spinach & Kohlrabi

Spring returned today.  I took advantage of the nice afternoon and put in my onion sets (red and yellow) at one end of the new raised vegetable bed and around a cold frame on the first raised vegetable bed.  I sprinkled a little straw around them and gave them a good drink.  I also planted spinach (bloomsdale long standing) and kohlrabi (early white vienna) inside the cold frame on the first raised vegetable bed.  I've never grown spinach before and was surprised at how large the seeds are.  I was expecting something like leaf lettuce seed.  I also moved a soaker hose from one flower bed to another, and put in the fence trellis for the peas.  It was good to have spring back.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Knew This Would Happen

On Thursday, it was sunny, breezy and 70 degrees.  I planted potatoes, peas, radishes and lettuce.  On Friday, it was snowing, windy and temperatures fell all day.  I knew this would happen.  The weather forecast said we'd have snow on Friday.  Each day of the week, the chance of snow got larger and the amount of snow got larger.  I planted anyway.  For one thing, every year it snows at least once after I put some seeds in the ground.  I figured I'd get it over early.  The weather forecast also calls for warmer weather again by Sunday.  The snow is already melting today.  So, I knew the cold weather wouldn't do any harm to seeds in the ground.  Plus, it's moisture!  We'll take any we can get.  I'm not sure the robins were on board with the snow though.  Note the cold looking robin in the photo with the potato containers (3rd photo.)

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Radishes & Lettuce

First seeds in the new cold frames--radishes and lettuce.  I'm really looking forward to fresh lettuce and I've always loved radishes.  The cold frame on the first raised vegetable bed  is holding some radish seeds (cherrybelle and white icicle.)  The cold frame on the ground is half planted with lettuce (mesclun, salad bowl, grand rapids and paris island cos romaine.)  The backyard cottontail will be bummed that she can't get to the lettuce in the cold frame.

Peas Please

I love fresh peas!  I eat them straight from the pod in the garden.  Then, when the big crop comes in, we enjoy them for supper and hopefully have enough to freeze some for a treat after the pea season is past.  The last few years, I've been squeezing pea plants in along the edge of the first raised vegetable bed or planting them down the center of the berm.  This year, they're going in the new raised vegetable bed.  I probably planted the rows too close together because I usually plant seeds too close together, but I have faith they will be fine.  I need to get a fence trellis for them to grow on, but the seeds are in the ground!

The Great Potato Experiment

Potatoes have always been a staple in my parents' garden. A lot of potatoes. My earliest memories of the garden growing up are of time in the potato patch. Mom or Dad would dig the hole, I'd drop in the seed, they'd put the dirt back in the hole, I'd step on the spot and we'd repeat, repeat, repeat; row after row. Then, there was hoeing between the plants, potato bugs to pick off the plants, water hoses to move from row to row and harvest. Mom or Dad would dig up the potato hill and I'd pick them out. They would carry buckets and buckets of potatoes to the cave.  My parents have a cellar under their farm house that includes a cave--a limestone lined, arched ceiling tunnel with access from the cellar inside the house and it used to have access from the outside with the classic door in the ground you see farm families hurrying through during a tornado in the movies. It is the perfect place to store potatoes. My parents still grow potatoes, just not as many. Although, they always have some to share because us children who moved to town don't have room to grow a lot of potatoes or a cave to store them in. Well, this year, I'm going to try growing some potatoes in big pots left over from trees we've planted in our yard. I've been scouring the gardening sites for information on this technique.  My understanding is that as the plants grow, you add more soil so they'll have more root space to grow potatoes. I'm not expecting a ton of potatoes in these relatively small spaces which is good because I don't have a cave, but if it works, I may find a way to use larger containers next year.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Pile

"Honey, where do you want me to put these pampas grass stalks?" 
"On the pile."
"How about these peanut shells?"
"On the pile."
"Apple cores?"
"On the pile"

This is "the pile."  We removed an old shed from our backyard which left a rectagular hole.  We started throwing plant material in it from fall cleanups, spring cleanups, containers, the kitchen, etc.  Looking at this photo, I can see pampas grass stalks, dried decorative gourds, purple fountain grass with root balls from last year's containers, orange peels, miscellaneous potting soil from houseplants that died, etc.  Our city provides a free compost site where citizens can take plant material and get finished compost.  Currently, we're only getting compost as all our plant material is going into "the pile."  I have a compost tumbler but it's not really being used at this time because I have "the pile."  I guess weeds go into the compost tumbler because I don't want them growing in "the pile."  We did the same thing when we built the first raised vegetable bed and stole the great soil from the old garden spot leaving a hole.  It was next to the old shed.  I often refer to this part of the garden as "the wild area."  I occassionally plant something on purpose in "the wild area," but mostly I let whatever wants to grow there have its way.  Last year it was filled with bachelor buttons and then sunflowers, morning glories and gourd plants twined together.  There are a few determined iris plants that took root.  The new raised vegetable bed is encroaching on "the wild area," and we have future plans for the space.  Eventually, we won't have "the pile" anymore, and I'll use the compost tumbler and the city compost site better.  But this year, it will be fun to see what grows in "the wild area" on its own.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Free Compost

Here is a photo of the new raised vegetable bed we built Saturday out of concrete blocks (1st photo). It sits next to our first raised vegetable bed that we build three years ago (2nd photo). It is an unusal shape because we were fitting it between a sidewalk, a fence, the trash area and an old tree stump that we were hoping to keep for a while as a bird bath stand. The tree stump is now gone. It was from an old cherry tree that died after we'd lived here a few years. It was the only tree on the property when we bought the place. The wire frames on the first raised vegetable bed are my various plant cages. I store them that way during the winter to deter the neighborhood cats from using the raised vegetable bed as a litter box. After building the new raised vegetable bed Saturday, we made a trip to our city compost site. Citizens take plant material there free of charge. City employees work it in long rows until it becomes compost. Then, citizens pick up the compost free of charge. It's great! We filled the bed of our pickup with compost, came home, filled the new raised vegetable bed with compost and top soil, top dressed the first raised vegetable bed, filled the flower bed we layed out on the lawn last weekend with a lot of newspapers, compost and top soil (3rd photo) and top dressed the berm (4th photo) where we grow strawberries, garlic and variable vegetables. Saturday night, we were very tired! But, just look at the glorious places I have waiting to be planted!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Concrete Blocks

This is a pallet with thirty 8"X8"X16" concrete blocks (with two big holes) and twenty-eight 4"X8"X16" concrete blocks (solid).  Different numbers because we had some blocks left over from another project.  My wonderful husband (whose legs are seen in this photo) and I used these blocks to build a new raised vegetable bed Saturday.  We set the ones with two holes so the holes were up and then we capped them with the solid ones.  That makes a good soil depth in the bed and closes all the holes so critters don't take up residence in the blocks.  They're also perfect to sit on while working in the garden and to walk on around the bed if needed.  We built a raised vegetable bed using this method three years ago.  It worked great.  So, we did it again.  My wonderful husband kindly lifted all the blocks in place while I leveled the soil for them.  We ended up with one extra block of each size and a very nice new pallet.  Any ideas on what to do with the pallet???

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Taking Out More Sod

Since we moved here in 1998, we've been removing sod.  Circular areas to plant trees, long swatches to plant flowers along a fence or the house, sweeping areas to connect beds leaving mowing easy.  This year, our plan is to take out all the remaining sod in the back yard.  The front yard will still have a shapely patch to mow (someday it will be gone) and we'll likely still have some along the alley (but we're working on removing that too).  Saturday, my wonderful husband helped me lay several chunks of concrete we'd saved from a pad an old shed was on to part of the lawn for a future planting area.  We went with a kidney shape to use as much of the area as possible, but allow room for the red bud tree and paths around the beds (1st photo).  There are newspapers beneath each piece of concrete to smother out the grass (2nd photo).  More newspaper will be placed inside the bed before soil is added and outside the bed before mulch is added.  This has become my preferred way to take out the sod.  Sometimes we dig the sod, but smothering works so well.  It's less work and doesn't have as many weeds to deal with later.  It does take more patience for some projects.

Friday, March 5, 2010

New Cold Frames

This year's wish list of new things in the garden includes a cold frame.  I researched designs, considered ordering one, and studied the benefits and process of using a cold frame.  Most articles I read about cold frames said, "find an old window and build the box to fit it."  That would have been easier and faster, but I was worried something would break the window and I'd have glass shards in the garden.  So, we bought a piece of plexiglass and went from there.  Because of the size of the plexiglass sheet available, my wonderful husband decided we could build TWO cold frames.  The two we built cost together about the same as the one I was considering ordering, and they're both slightly larger! My wonderful husband cut all the cedar wood, drilled all the holes and assembled everything.  I cut the plexiglass and held the pieces while he screwed them together.  [Note on cutting the plexiglass:  what I really did was melt it along sharpie lines with a dremel bit that is now coated in plastic.]  Because of other activities in our life, the cold frames took two Saturday afternoons to complete.  Plus, we were redesigning the top as we worked.  The cold frames have two panes of plexiglass each that slide out for access to the plants.  They should be secure in strong winds even when open.  I placed one cold frame on an existing raised bed (1st photo) and the other cold frame on the ground (2nd photo.)  They are both easily accessible from a sidewalk. I tilled the soil and set them in place with thermometers inside.  I'm letting the soil inside get warm and planning the crops.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

First Post!

I thought I would start this blog with a photo of the first flowers in my garden in 2010--crocus.  I was so happy to see them Saturday.  My crocus numbers have dwindled the last few years, so I put crocus at the top of my list of bulbs to plant this fall.

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