Saturday, January 29, 2011

A January Day Outside In The Garden

We've had very warm weather for us in January the last few days.  Friday it was 70 degrees Fahrenheit!
Saturday wasn't that warm, but it was still nice.  My wonderful husband and I took advantage of the nice weather to do our tree pruning.  We prune the trees while they are "asleep" for the winter.  The locust tree in the back garden had a couple of branches that touch the patio when it is full of leaves, and there are always a few branches growing across another branch.  My WH loves climbing trees so he set to work on the locust.

I pruned the small trees like our redbuds.  I also removed some old rough canes from the lilacs.  It's easier to get into the lilacs and see which canes are showing signs of decay when there are no leaves.  Also, removing the older wood reduces places for the ash lilac borer to lay its eggs and kill those canes anyway.  I don't prune the tips of the lilac canes until after they've bloomed for the year.  I also pruned our red twig dogwood and brought some of the nicest branches inside to put in a vase.

I also checked out the cold frame where I planted radishes and lettuce late last fall.  I thought the lettuce was dead after our sub zero temperatures for New Year's but look it's growing. 

I ate one of the leaves. Yum! I actually ate a leaf of lettuce from my garden while sitting in my garden in January. Crazy. There is not much there and it is growing slowly but I'm happy with my experiment.

After Thanksgiving, the lady where I work who decorates the front lobby for the holidays came to me with a little bag of gourds I'd grown last year wanting to know if I wanted them back.  I had brought her some for the decorations.  I said, "sure, I'll just throw them in the compost pile."  A little while later, she returned to ask me if I wanted the two pumpkins and the gourds she had purchased too.  I said, "yes!"  My WH and I made roasted pumpkin seeds and I saved these two gourds with plans to harvest the seeds.

The multi colored gourd cut easily with a knife but the bumpy gourd was hard.  My WH used the tree saw to cut it open for me.

I'm going to try to grow some of these gourds in the garden this year.

I also picked up trash that has blown into the garden and watered the strawberry plants.

The weather forecast is calling for another artic front to come through Garden on Sherlock Street with snow Monday into Tuesday.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Do I Really Have Room To Plant All Of This?

I shared a vegetable planting calendar from our local extension office in my last post.  Now, I have the list of vegetables I want to plant.

I've done better the last few years keeping the seed packets and making notes on them about how the plants fared and whether we liked the variety or not.  This year, I put everything into a list on the computer.  Now, I can check off seeds I still have from last year, take the list to a local store to buy seeds and fill out those catalog orders without missing something we want.  My plan is to also put the varieties we do not want to grow again on another list so we don't mistakenly "retry" them a few years later.

With regards to using seed that is a year or two old, I've been reading that most seeds will last a few years unless they're exposed to extreme temperatures and/or humidity. I keep my extra seeds in a dark cabinet in a cool, dry place.  Everything on my list should be fine for a year or two except I recently read at A Way To Garden that onion seeds and parsley seeds may not be good after one year.  I plan to plant all I have and buy new ones next year.  Otherwise, I don't keep seeds past two years anyway.  I usually plant all of them except for the squash family.  There is a limit to how many zucchini plants one can use.
Have you heard the joke that it is completely safe to leave your car unlocked in a small town except during zucchini season?  That is so true.  You could end up with a backseat full of zucchini.  Even locking the car won't save you.  A neighbor of ours in one small town we lived in left his extra zucchini on our back porch steps.  Extra produce is never a problem at Garden on Sherlock Street.  If we don't freeze it to use through the winter, I have grateful family and friends who enjoy it.  I have yet to resort to distributing zucchini under the cover of darkness.

Now, will all of this fit into the vegetable garden?  Vining crops take up so much space.  I bought more cages at the end of last year's growing season and am going to try putting them around all the squash plants this year.  Vertical space I have.  It's worked well with the cucumbers.  Hopefully, it will work well with the squash.  Otherwise, I plant most of my smaller plants in little pockets of space.  I don't worry too much about rows.  The only thing I have figured out regarding placement so far is the tomatoes will move to the other raised vegetable bed.  Gotta rotate those crops! 

2011 vegetable/herb list


snap: contender (bush)

broccoli raab
*I've never tried this before

red cored chantenay
scarlet nantes


slicers: marketmore 76

*this was planted in October.  I'll save some as seed for this year's planting.

early white vienna
purple vienna
*I've never tried the purple ones before

leaf: grand rapids tipburn resistant [? Saved from 2010 ?]
leaf: salad bowl [? Saved from 2010 ?]
leaf: black seeded simpson
leaf: red salad bowl
romaine: parris island cos

melon, muskmelon
hales best jumbo

melon, watermelon
[from Mom & Dad]

evergreen bunching
red burgundy
sweet spanish yellow utah jumbo

aromatico a costa rossa

edible pod: sugar bon
shelling types: little marvel (dwarf)
snow peas: melting sugar
*I've never tried the edible pod or snow peas before

bell: buy starter plants
jalapeno: buy starter plants

large: jack-o-lantern

multi-colored: french breakfast
red: cherry belle
*I've never tried french breakfast before

*I've never tried this before

squash, summer
early prolific straightneck
black beauty (zucchini)

squash, winter
early acorn hybrid
small wonder hybrid

plum/roma type: buy starter plants
grape/cherry type: buy starter plants (saved tag from 2010)


The following are seeds I have from last year. I'm not planning on buying more of these but will probably plant what is left.

I'm going to experiment with winter sowing the pepper and tomato seeds. No stress if they don't make it because I already have plans to buy those as starts if needed.


bell: California wonder

white: icicle, short top

bloomsdale long standing

grape/cherry type: sweetie

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Still Planning

My Friday evening was wonderful planning and dreaming.  I have a pretty good idea about changes I want to make with the "hardscapes," paths and structures in the garden as well as perennial plantings. 

I'm working on my vegetable garden plans this week.  A little here and there as I find time.  I want to narrow down my decisions and order some seeds soon.  Our local extension office has a list of vegetable varieties that do well in our area.  I consult the list each year.  We haven't liked some of the choices on there, so they've been scratched; and we've tried varieties not listed and had good luck with them.  I'm doing better at keeping track of the varieties we like so I can plant them each year.  I'm compiling my list and will share it with you soon. 

This is the vegetable planting calendar that accompanies the vegetable varieties list.  Some vegetables aren't represented and I've found I have good luck planting peas again late in the summer for a fall crop, but it is a great place to start.  You plant during the time the boxes are white and harvest during the time the boxes are black.  As you can see, there is no vegetable gardening in January, February, November or December.

Friday, January 21, 2011

One Friday Evening

An ice storm this past week reminded me that we are still deep in winter at Garden on Sherlock Street.  Our entire world was glazed on Wednesday.  Driving and walking outside were precarious activities.

I've been casually looking at the seed catalogs arriving in the mail imagining container groupings, new plants for the new beds, new plants for the old beds, another bed edged with the remaining concrete pieces stacked in the garden, placement of the vegetables and how good it will feel to dig in the soil.  Soil which is currently frozen solid.

After a busy week for my wonderful husband and me at our places of employment, Friday was a day of celebration.  TGIF!!!!!

My WH had plans to game with his buddies Friday evening.  I had a whole evening to do whatever I wanted.  I wanted to plan my garden.

I piled all the saved seeds, empty seed packets (with notes written on them), seed and plant catalogs, lists, drawings of garden beds, the computer, etc. on the coffee table in the family room where the overwintering plants reside.  I settled in to dream of spring.  

My plans will change before they are carried out.  The list in the right hand column under pages will change as I change my mind.  Oh, but what fun to dream and plan!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Story Of 'The Forest'


We love 'the forest.'

'The forest' is one of our greatest gardening achievements.

'The forest' is consistent, dependable, beautiful, functional, supportive, sheltering.

Here is the story of 'the forest':

The little strip of property which contains 'the forest' is bordered by the cement of the city sidewalk, the cement of the driveway, the cement of our rain barrel station and the neighbor's lawn which we placed a landscaping barrier along to keep grass from creeping in under 'the forest.'

When we bought our house, this area was river rock. Every inch of it. There was also a rotting split rail fence along the neighbor's lawn. The fence came out easy. The rock took a bit more effort. Under the river rock, we found plastic. Not a surprise. However, under the plastic we found chet rock. Under the chet rock, we found pieces of plastic. Neighbors told us that the area was used by a previous owner to park an RV. We were enthusiastic. Just have someone take the rock and go.

We let a friend come with a front loader to take as much river rock as he wanted. He didn't take it all. We gathered the remaining river rock into a pile and sold it.

Then, we had all the plastic and chet rock to deal with. We started by the rain barrel station. We raked, dug, loaded a wheel barrel and made a rock platform that the composter now sits on. Then, we raked, dug, loaded a wheel barrel and hauled away the chet rock/dirt mixture. This continued...rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul, rake, dig, load, haul. Eventually, my wonderful husband had filled every hole and dip in the alley. We worked on this off and on through the summer of 1998. The area also became inundated with weeds during our lulls (like when it was 104 degrees). So, there was a lot of weed pulling too.

Finally, one day, we declared the area as rock free as it would get. We began to search for soil. We got compost from the city's free compost pile but that was still a new resource so we didn't get enough to fill the area. We got dirt from a cousin who had a pile from a project. We could have added more, but went with what we had.

We got some old straw bales from my parents' farm and tilled the straw into the soil. There was still enough chet rock in the mix that while my WH was running the tiller in the evening, the sun went down and he threw sparks. Then, we waited through winter.

The next spring, we measured our space. We knew we wanted Spartan Junipers. They stay relatively narrow and do well in our zone. On grid paper, we marked off our space. We drew circles along our neighbor's property line to represent each tree at its full grown width. The next row was nestled into the spaces between the first trees and so on until we filled the space with as many trees as possible without extending outside it. We needed 23 trees.

'the forest' is on the far right

the odd rectangle with a rod among the junipers is where a downspout lays on the ground and the splash block at the end of it

When the garden centers started getting their stock, we checked them on a regular basis. We wanted to get the trees as early as possible so they wouldn't bake on a parking lot for very long. We also wanted to buy the smallest ones we could find because they'd be less expensive. We rounded up 12 trees in our city. That was it. No other small spartan junipers to be had. We went out with a tape measure and carefully marked where every tree would be planted (all 23). We marked the places with straws. It sounds silly but we had straws. Neighbors asked how long it took to grow a straw tree. A funny group, our neighborhood. We planted the 12 trees using every other straw. Each one got a little mulch and we spent the summer watering them and weeding around them.


The next spring we were on the hunt for more Spartan Junipers. We found 10. We used all the other straws except one. One lonely straw. More mulch, more watering, more weeding.


We lost one juniper where the mailman kept cutting across from our neighbor's house to ours. I put up a "fence." The mailman started using the sidewalk, at least coming into the yard.

The third spring, we looked for two Spartan Junipers. One to replace the lonely straw and one to replace the juniper that died because the mailman kept walking “on” it. We figured we could get larger ones now so we broadened our search to more greenhouses. A lady at one of the greenhouses tried to tell us Spearmint Junipers were, "the same thing." Well, no. They would look odd with the Spartan Junipers. She didn't care about our garden plan. She only wanted to sell trees. We finally found a couple of Spartan Junipers. More mulch, more watering, more weeding.


Yes, we changed the roof line of the garage, and the siding and the trim on the house.

I divided a clump of purple irises we rescued from more rock in the back yard. We'd given them a nice space to recover and multiply. I planted just a few irises between each of the junipers. We ran soaker hoses between the trees, got a load of free mulch from the city mulch site to cover all the bare soil and let everything grow. The irises filled in some of the empty space and looked really nice blooming around the junipers in the spring.


For a couple of Christmases, I put a little red bow at the top of each juniper. It was too cute.

We battled a bag worm infestation for a couple of years. My WH got really good at spotting the bags hanging in the junipers and squishing the worms. [A rental property nearby had a shrub that just bred the bag worms because no one even tried to kill them and they spread to our little trees. Rental property has since been sold and renovated including removing the dying shrub with bag worms.] The trees are so large now that bag worms wouldn't hurt them much but we haven't seen any either. My WH still checks for bag worms. As the trees grew, he'd be out there checking for bag worms and I wouldn't see him when I looked out into the garden. After a while, I'd call his name and he'd answer, "I'm in the forest" which is how we came to calling it 'the forest.'




One of the junipers was almost blown down during a storm. The wind gets really strong between our house and the neighbor's house. The juniper was precariously leaning toward the rain barrels. Our extension agent told us we could stake it back straight but we'd have to leave it for a few years to make sure it reestablished good roots. We found flat nylon "ropes" with triangle pieces on the ends that we could hook with a ratchedable nylon cable and hook that to T posts driven into the ground. It's still holding. I think the tree is probably good but we're making sure.





A few irises still bloom in the spring along the edge of 'the forest' but most of them have whithered away with no sunshine inside. Lamium grows in 'the forest' near the rain barrel station. Vinca vine is weaving its way along the driveway and salvia has started to claim some of the larger spaces along the driveway.

We hope 'the forest' has a long healthy life. It is a wind break (although it does cause some snow drifting in front of my side of the garage), and it screens the view so we don't have to look at a storage property on the other side of our neighbors' yards.

We love 'the forest.'


I scanned all the photos prior to 2008 and the landscaping plan to complete this post.

Thank you for reading this very long post.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Overwintering Plants Part 4

This is the final video from the tour of plants overwintering at Garden on Sherlock Street.  I hope you've enjoyed them.  It was a good way to "garden" inside during the recent Arctic blast!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Overwintering Plants Part 3

If there is one tip I pass along about all indoor plants during the winter it is this:  don't turn them.

I used to turn my plants when they started to lean toward the light thinking they'll be better if they grow straight.  If I turn them, they'll lean back the other way.

Well, I went to a houseplant workshop our extension office offered and the man giving the presentation said turning a leaning plant during the winter will starve the plant.  Since there is so little light during the winter, a plant positions its leaves to capture as much light as possible.  When you suddenly move it, it loses that light.  It starves.

At Garden on Sherlock Street, my plants can do the hokey pokey if they want, but they can't turn around.

Enjoy the video!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Overwintering Plants Part 2

It was -6 degrees Farenheit this morning when we got up.  More inside gardening today.

These little video tours are fun to make.  I hope you're enjoying them.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Overwintering Plants Part 1

It is COLD at Garden on Sherlock Street.
This is the patio thermometer after the sun came up Tuesday morning.
0 degrees Fahrenheit. Brrrr!

Wednesday morning is suppose to be colder.

So, let's talk about some inside gardening.

I am overwintering several plants in our family room.  They migrated in last fall.  There have been a few casualties which are highlighted on the list.  Here is the list as of today:

3 Jacob's coats
2 amaryllis
1 mother-in-law's tongue
2 cacti
10 geraniums -1
1 aloe vera
2 asparagus fern
6 impatien cuttings -3
1 ice plant
8 sweet potato vine cuttings -4
1 basil
1 verbena
hornwort (in bucket)
snails (in bucket)

Since I had trouble uploading a video tour of all the plants at once, I have created a four part series.  I hope you'll watch each day.

Ice Plant/Variegated Sweet Potato Vine

Monday, January 10, 2011

This Is Real Snow

We had a dusting at the beginning of December and a light layer at the end of December.
Today, we got real snow.  Snow that requires you to shovel a path.

I took these before 7 am today.  We may get more snow before nightfall.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Odd Thing I Saw At A Store

On Saturday, my wonderful husband and I were running errands.  We went to the store where we buy bird seed to stock up before the supposed blizzard arrives (I say supposed because you never know what our weather will do until it happens.)  I ventured into the area where a few Christmas items remained and found these amaryllis bulbs.

I have two tiny amaryllis bulbs getting love and attention at Garden on Sherlock Street yet they will not perform.  These two bulbs were ignored on a store shelf with no soil, no water, no natural sunlight, etc yet they bloomed.  Obviously, they are done blooming.


This post is property of

Friday, January 7, 2011

How Are The House Plants?

The house plants in the living room are doing well.  They were tucked into corners to make room for the Christmas tree, but have been returned to their space in front of the window.  The ficus tree in the far corner is not real.

I introduced you to the house plants in August.  They are all doing well.  There is an additional angel wing begonia which had been on the front porch during the summer.  It is the short plant on the floor in the above photo.  It lost a lot of leaves after moving into the house but is hanging on. 

The star of the house plants currently is the family Christmas Cactus. 

It is starting to bloom! 

I don't fuss over it about how much light it is receiving to force it to bloom for Christmas.  I just let it live as it wishes.  It rewards me with blooms each year sometime between Christmas and St. Patrick's Day.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It Was Cold For This Tour

The January tour photos are now posted.  Since the New Year, I've been a bit down with a cold.  Sigh.  I seem to be on the mend.  I went out this morning to get these photos.  The sun hadn't been up very long.  With the sun mostly up while I'm at work, it's hard to get garden shots unless it's the weekend.  There is still some snow in the garden.  More snow is forecast for us this weekend.  We need it so I hope we get buried.

This post is property of

Tour January 2011

Front Garden



Back Garden

Side Garden