September 24, 2015

Meditation

I would say I skipped last week because it’s time for the fall slowdown, but that would be fibbing. I actually got lazy. Yes, the school year started and my schedule has been all over the place. That doesn’t mean my garden can do without me. If the weather holds as it usually does, I have close to a month left before it goes to bed for the winter.

No rest for the wicked, in other words.

Events

Although I did enter my yarrow and coneflowers in the Interstate Fair, I never made it in to see how I did. If I actually got a ribbon, it will be mailed to me. But I’m sorry to miss the floral display, which I’ve enjoyed in past years.

Yardscape

Despite my own least efforts, the takedown process does continue. Just one of my cucumbers has a fruit left growing. The others are down from the trellis. In Bed 4, I cut back the overgrown coleus and foxgloves. Now the smaller perennials can get some sun before they have to go dormant.

In the main vegetable garden, I’ve begun clearing parts of the grid and seeding with buckwheat as a cover crop. Since so much of the garden was really hit hard by intense heat, it isn’t a tough job to pull things out this year. On the other hand, some of my sunflowers blew down on a recent blustery day. They practically pulled themselves out!

Pickin’s

Over the next few days, I expect to clear away all but the tomatoes and maybe one hot pepper. The bush beans are still bearing, so I’ll let them be a while longer.

Indoor Forest

The echeveria leaf I was trying to sprout has come through. Two tiny, lavender-tinged clusters are peeking out from the parent leaf. I also salvaged a stem from a trailing sedum and I have that inside sprouting.

Wildlife

Those hens have gotten quite used to my yard now. They seem to wander down the alley most mornings. Even when we have the gate shut, they flutter over the fence. So far I don’t mind, though they did pull down one of my tomatoes for a snack, and they seem to have excavated a sort of dust wallow. The bird netting might have to come back out, I guess. On the other hand, I do get to collect some manure and add it to my compost heap.

Until next week, enjoy to fall weather.

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September 9, 2015

Meditation

Ah, the harvest. Tonight I brought in my one butternut squash, several large carrots, and a cup of fresh beans from the garden, and roasted them along with potato chunks in butter with rosemary and black pepper. With apple slices and gouda cheese it made a perfect, simple supper with the freshest food available. What could be better?

Events

Setup day for the floral competition at the Interstate Fair is next Tuesday. I’m holding myself back from cutting any flowers too soon. Wish me luck!

Yardscape

Fall cleanup is under way, starting with the blackberry patch. I’ve cut back the canes that fruited this year, and tied up the new ones growing. I even cut a few thicker sections and jammed them into my compost, to create air pockets.

In a pleasant surprise, one of my neighbor’s boys brought me over a pot of hen-and-chicks from their yard. I’ve tucked them into a bare spot where they balance the hen-and-chicks I got from the Friends of Manito sale last weekend.

Pickin’s

The cucumbers are about done now. I just need to clear away the over-ripe fruit. Squash vines are withered except at the very ends. I have one large pumpkin, and that’s about ready to come down. One by one, I’ll be clearing my beds and scattering buckwheat for a cover crop. My hope is this will not only add nutrients but keep cats from digging where the vegetation is too thick.

I’ve put together enough dry beans from the Pencil Pod Black Wax to repay the Hillyard Seed Library for their loan in spring. Their pack had 12 seeds, and I’m returning 24. I feel good about that.

Jersey Wakefield cabbages did well for me this year. One of the heads split after a heavy rain, but the others came through. I started two mason jars of sauerkraut during the weekend. I might even be able to taste-test them tomorrow!

Indoor Forest

During the rainy Labor Day, I set out two of my Mexican Hats. Unfortunately, some critter came and mowed them both down. Fortunately, I still have one left. Guess I’d better let this one get a bit bigger before I try again.

Wildlife

Goldfinches are flocking to my sunflowers, as they do every year. I love hearing their little twitters as I work in the yard. I’ve also glimpsed a few hens in the yard across the alley. There are two black ones, one buff/orange, and one gray speckled. They’re smart chickens and keep their distance from strangers like me. I haven’t heard the rooster in several weeks, though. I wonder if the crowing got to be too much.

Until next week, enjoy the fruits of the season!

September 3, 2015

Meditation

Is it really September so soon? Although we still have as much as six weeks of warm weather ahead, I can feel the chill in the evening. In the morning, there’s condensation on the car windshield — a harbinger of frost to come.

But not yet. For now, I enjoy the warm afternoons and the bounty around me.

Events

Friends of Manito’s fall plant sale was a pleasure to attend. I took it easy on my wallet, buying only scotch moss, wooly thyme, hen-and-chicks and a new type of sedum with a pink tinge to the leaves.

Coming next is the Interstate Fair, where I’ll be entering some of my flowers. I’m tending my yarrow and coneflowers carefully, making sure they get plenty of water and watching the buds develop. I hope in the next two weeks I’ll get the perfect blossoms to form.

Yardscape

I scavenged a pallet that wasn’t too banged up, and I’ve been turning it into a planter I can hook onto my chain link fence. First a layer of black landscape plastic with drainage holes. Then two corrugated boxes, flattened, for stiffness. Today my husband helped me take out one slat and nail it across the bottom for extra support. The neighbor dogs have been very indignant at this intrusion, but I look forward to putting in soil and seeing how it comes together.

Pickin’s

The cherry tomatoes continue to bear, but the others are looking fairly bare. With the cooler temperatures, I hope the other tomatoes will start to set fruit again. I haven’t got much corn, unfortunately, and I know there’s no rebloom, so that’s about done with. I did harvest a nice butternut squash today, and I have a large pumpkin that’s still quite green. Still getting carrots, broccoli, cabbage, and beets.

Indoor Forest

My tropical plants all got a nice drink and shower when it rained during the weekend. I have one or two outside during warm weather. It’s about time to bring them in for the year.

Three cheers for fall!

August 27, 2015

Meditation

Wow, the fires! We have them every year, all over the west, but Washington and Idaho have been hit pretty hard. Spokane is safe, and I remind myself every day to be glad the fires are 90 miles or more away. But the wind is bringing us all the smoke, which dims daylight, turns the sun crimson, and irritates our eyes and sinuses. Last week, at the convention I attended, it was bad enough that visitors started call us “Smokane.”

Just a reminder, I guess, that Mother Nature is the one who’s really in control.

Events

Friends of Manito Park has their fall plant sale this Saturday. It’s at the maintenance yard near Gaiser Conservatory, from 8 am to 3 pm. Not that I really need anything more for my yard, but who can resist good plants at great prices?

Yardscape

I’m not working on much right now, due to the summer heat, but I’m glad to say that my transplants from early August are holding their own. There’s only one clump of blue fescue I need to keep an eye on. The swamp milkweed I started from seed is green and perky.

Pickin’s

Tomatoes and cucumbers continue bearing great bounty. The first ears of corn were small, but sweet. Lots of side shoots on the broccoli. I’ll be letting my beans mature now, so that I can have seeds to return to the library.

Indoor Forest

Mexican hats are small, but I should be able to set them out in a few more weeks.

Wildlife

Nothing to report. Hope the summer finds you well, and no fires near you. See you in a week!

August 13, 2015

Meditation

I mentioned in May and June that my husband had brought some tomato seedlings home from work. Although I was set with the tomatoes I wanted, I nevertheless found places for these poor orphans. Both were labeled Sungold, a yellow/orange cherry tomato. Now that we’re starting to get fruit, the truth is coming out. One of them is Sungold, I’m happy to say. They’re not in the best place, but the tiny fruit make perfect little snacks when I work in the front yard.

The other..?  Well, it isn’t giving me cherry-sized fruit. It isn’t even giving me orange fruit. They are large, slightly flattened, with a lumpy look that reminds me of Mortgage Lifter and a color more like Brandywine. Whatever — they’re awesome on sandwiches. That’s what matters, right?

Events

World Science Fiction is in Spokane next week. I’m both volunteering and presenting on panels. That’s going to take me off line, but I’ll be back on August 28th.

Yardscape

You know how they say, “Sieze the day?” I seized a rainy day to do some transplanting. I dug up a clump of blue fescue (a native grass), divided it into three, and spaced them out in Bed 5, where my landscaping upgrade is in progress. Naturally, the forecast immediately called for 100-degree temperatures! But because blue fescue is a native grass, I’m pretty confident they will pull through. If not, there’s one more clump of blue fescue I can plunder.

Pickin’s

Since it is tomato season, I’ve been freezing them every time a few come ripe. I’ve had the best success so far with Kosmonaut Volkov, which is bearing lots of ox-heart type fruit. The mystery tomato, Mortgage Lifter, and Brandywine are later but putting on lots of fruit. The Black Cherry has begun yielding tasty treats, too.

Pencil Pod Black Wax Beans continue blooming and fruiting. I have frozen about what I really need. Next batch will go to the food bank. Lemon Cucumbers are just as reliable. I need to start a batch of pickles soon.

In the flower beds, both my sedum (Dazzleberry and Lime Zinger) are coming into flower. If you don’t know what sedum are, they’re closely related to the kalanchoes you’ll often see in florist shops.

Indoor Forest

The poor echeveria has given up the ghost, but not before I snagged a healthy leaf. I’ll see if I can get it to sprout so I can try again in a different part of the yard.

Wildlife

Not exactly wildlife, but we have a new neighbor across the alley. Said neighbor has a small dog that doesn’t like to be left alone and yaps constantly. I think I like the rooster better.

August 6, 2015

Meditation

I’m taking a big step this year and entering the floral competition at the Spokane Interstate Fair. I’ve enjoyed those displays in past years but never got myself organized enough to enter. What will I use? Native wildflowers, of course! Coneflowers and yarrow are my most reliable bloomers, despite the harsh weather. I’m also enjoying the beautiful colors of my Black Knight and Hot Buttered Rum coral bells, so I’ll enter those as foliage.

Entering the competition is a challenge to myself. It will take me a little outside my comfort zone, but perhaps it also will show other gardeners at the fair how beautiful these humble wildflowers will be. Maybe some will even give a tough, drought-tolerant wildflower a try in their own gardens.

Yardscape

The sky has been very smoky, as we are downwind from a couple of large forest fires. So far I haven’t had to curtail my activities, though.

Pickin’s

Wax beans and cucumbers continue to produce well, although the cukes are kind of sneaky and tend to hide from me until they’re over-large. I’ve gotten my first summer squash for the season.

Sadly, the pumpkin I hand-pollinated got stepped on and destroyed. Might have been me, but more likely my son decided to take a short cut through the garden. I do see many bees at work, but I will continue hand-pollinating because I have several varieties growing in close proximity and want to be sure each is pollinated by its own.

Indoor Forest

The milkweed and Mexican hats are growing apace. They should be good to plant by mid-September. And I’m babying along a Christmas cactus that wasn’t happy where it was.

Wildlife

It’s the time of year when I see mother birds leading their fledglings around the yard, showing them what’s good to eat while the fledglings flutter their wings and beg to be fed. This was very cute to watch, until one of the fledglings crashed into a window. Now I’m pondering what I could hang on that side of the house to prevent it from happening again.

For the first time I saw a mouse on my property. Don’t worry, it was outside! Evidently the corn and sunflower patch offers good habitat for small mammals in addition to food for goldfinches and bees.

Until next week, may you summer be stress-free!

July 30, 2015

Meditation

Want to see some butterflies? Try looking down. Strange advice, I know. We’re trained to look up for those big, beautiful insects like swallowtails and monarchs. But, in fact, most butterflies are a lot smaller than that. In my yard, swallowtails are rare visitors and I’ve never yet seen a monarch butterfly.

But, by looking down, I have seen the more humble of the clan. Little hairstreaks and skippers are common in our area, and they’re just as cool. As I build my landscape with milkweeds and other butterfly-friendly native plants, I’m watching to see who else I can get to visit me.

Events

The wildflower-seeding project I started last spring continues off and on. I harvest seed from wildflowers like coreopsis and blue flax, and then scatter them on my daily bike rides. As before, I use native wildflowers, not aliens that might become invasive. I keep my seeds out of people’s yards. Only areas like road banks and traffic islands are on my radar — especially if they’re already overgrown with weeds.

These seem like tiny patches of land, but our native bees are also tiny and don’t need all that much room. My goal is to improve bee habitat and beautify desolate areas at the same time.

Yardscape

Here comes the hot weather again! It would sure be nice if my cucumbers and blackberries kept yielding for me. I’m giving everything in my yard a good drink ahead of hundred-degree days in the forecast.

Pickin’s

At last, I’ve had female flowers on my winter squash. I hand-pollinated a pumpkin and am watching for the chance to do the same on my butternut and acorn squashes.

In the kitchen, I canned two batches of cherry/blackberry jam, and I’ve frozen some wax beans and kale. I nearly have enough tomatoes to freeze some of them, too.

Indoor Forest

Heat did the trick, and I finally got sprouts on my inside starts of Mexican Hats and Milkweed. That means my plan to buff up butterfly habitat can eventually go forward.

Wildlife

Someone on my block has gotten chickens. A rooster has been crowing since about the start of July. Oddly enough, the crowing doesn’t bother me as much as I would have expected.

Until next time, keep digging in the dirt!

July 23, 2015

Meditation

Canning season! It’s such a conumdrum. You go out to pick fresh fruits or vegies and get all excited about the sweet treats you’re going to make. Then you spend long afternoons in the kitchen, boiling things and generally making hot days even hotter. You don’t even sweat off enough calories to balance the aforesaid treats. And then you have to clean up!

Yet we still do it, every year. Maybe for the taste of summer during cold winter months. Maybe for the pride of giving your family something special. For me, it’s because of my son. Like all teens, he has a hard time admitting I do anything right. Except for my blackberry jam, that is.

So, look out, kitchen — here I come!

Yardscape

In Bed 5, most of my transplants are hanging in there despite the warm weather. Only, the echiveria I got is really not liking it. I assumed a succulent would tolerate the strong sun. Perhaps I should have hardened it off first. Good thing I only spent $5.

Pickins

The Triple Crown Blackberries have slowed considerably. This is typical, as summer heat causes the longer canes to cut off growth before the berries mature. I’m giving them a good soaking today, and I’ve trimmed off the most wilted canes so the plants can concentrate on healthier ones. Even so, I gathered enough berries to make 1 qt of puree. If I wasn’t out of pectin, it would already be jam.

However, I did have enough canning salt to make 2 pints of Bread & butter pickles. Today I plan to blanch and freeze my wax beans and kale. I’ve also harvested seed from my cilantro, and I’ll be grabbing seeds from my blue columbines to start next year.

In the vegetable patch, I have lots of male flowers on my squashes, but no females yet. The carrots are gigantic, some with a 2″ diameter. Heads are starting to form on the cabbage, both the Early Jersey Wakefield and the anonymous ones donated by my husband. Given the number of Cabbage White butterflies in my yard, I was a little worried about that.

Indoor Forest

I have just one sprout on my Mexican Hats, none on the Milkweed. The air conditioning might be cooling the room too much. I’ve plugged in the heating mat to see if that makes a difference. But, what the heck, I also threw down some seeds outside to see if they sprout faster. It never hurts to try different things.

Wildlife

Essentially, my bumblebee house is in place. I took a spare plastic pot, about 9″ across the mouth, terra-cotta colored. As planned, I dug out a spot in the iris bed. I then gathered several handsful of pebbles from the soil for the base and a small square of bird netting on top. Then I raked the lawn for thatch, let it dry a day or two, put that in the nest, and set the pot in place upside-down.

Many bumblebees like to nest in the ground, so it’s buried to half its height. The air holes are all on the top. To keep water out, I placed more pebbles and used them to hold up a couple of pieces of spare oak flooring as a roof. Initially, the roof fell off when I dragged a hose by. I set an old brick on top, which should hold up against the hose. Now to let it weather in and see if the bees like it.

Until next time, take some advice from the Beatles and “let it bee.”

July 16, 2015

Meditation

“Rain, rain, go away.” Isn’t that what we all sing? But after two months of really hot weather, I’m singing, “Rain, rain, come and stay!” Yes, it rained vigorously on July 10th and has continued off and on. I don’t actually have to go out and water, but I have some transplants to pamper. Besides, it just feels great to have cooler air and wonderful wet drops on my arms.

Events

For my daughter’s birthday, I bought her tickets to an outdoor concert. “Mozart on a Summer’s Eve” was an informal affair with a string trio and a nine-piece wind band, set on an open lawn at Manito Park. The temperature was great and the music lovely. Manito Park is such a gem.

Yardscape

Revisions in Bed 5 have begun. I cut down two large asters, the cranesbill, and my big lavender bush. Then I dug out the root masses. This looked like a long, awful job, but they came out pretty quickly. Once we had a good rain and several cooler days in the forecast, I began moving plants over from Bed 6. White Yarrow, a purple Coneflower that was being shaded out, a White Swan coneflower for variety, a Blue Flax seedling, a couple of Indian Blankets… I even rescued a tuft of Blue Fescue grass that was being smothered by my growing Lilac bush.

For the front row, I added succulents to improve bee habitat immediately. There’s a Razzleberry stonecrop and an Echeveria that wasn’t named but looks a lot like Perle von Nurnberg, a hybrid that’s popular at the moment. With all this, we should have a more consistent look to the front of the house.

Pickin’s

Black Wax Pencil Pod bush beans and Lemon cucumbers are doing well. The Golden Bantam corn is starting to put up tassels. I’m trying to collect enough blackberries to make jam, but my son keep using them in smoothies!

Snap peas are about done for this year. I’ll soon be collecting seed from my cilantro. The other herbs are finding the sun just a bit too harsh in their window sill.

Indoor Forest

No sprouts yet on the Mexican Hats and Milkweed I started to put out in the fall. It’s only been a few days, after all.

Wildlife

I’ve found several very easy plans to build a nesting box for my native bumblees. I can use extra pots and some dry grass from my lawn as bedding. Little stones reclaimed from the yard and a scrap of bird netting will keep things dry inside. All that remains is to pick a site that is a bit sheltered from wind, gets afternoon shade, and won’t be watered too much. Perhaps in my iris bed.

I know it won’t be occupied right away. These things have to weather a bit before bees will use them. But if I put it in now, it will do that weathering over the winter and perhaps by next spring a bumblebee queen will find it to her liking.

Until next week, keep digging in the dirt!

July 9, 2017

Meditation

My California poppies went ballistic! Yes, really. California poppies use a technique called “ballistichory” to scatter seeds away from the parent plant. After the seeds develop, the seed pods dry out. This causes them to shrink. Shrinkage creates mechanical tension. Eventually the pods burst open. The release of tension flings the seed in all directions.

I didn’t realize California poppies were ballistichores, but when I looked at the tray where my poppy pods were drying I saw that a number of them had opened on their own. Tiny black seeds were all over my dining room table! I covered the tray with a sieve, but the gaps were still large enough for the some seeds to escape.

Now I have a paper napkin spread over the sieve so air can flow while keeping the seeds in a convenient place. It’s true what they say — you can learn something new every day!

Yardscape

Our unusually hot weather in late June had my lawn drying out earlier than usual. When the forecast went over 100 degrees, I not only gave my yard extra water, but passed on mowing my lawn. I hoped the taller grass would protect the roots and keep the lawn healthier. I’m pleased to say that it worked, although my growing blackberries did take some scalding.

We haven’t started our pergola and fence yet, but the summer is still young. I’m also ramping up for some revisions in Bed 5, the south facing that gets the most sun.

Pickin’s

The garlic was all falling over, so I pulled it and let is dry on a shaded rack for a few days. It’s now braided and hanging up to continue drying. I did reserve two nice, large heads to plant for next year. Unfortunately, since I lost my journal, I have no record of what variety the garlic is. I do like it, though, which is why I’m replanting from this year’s crop.

Cucumbers, melons and squashes are blooming vigorously. I’ve picked my first two cucumbers, a Sumter and a Lemon. They taste wonderful in salads. I have many more Lemons growing, and even a few melons.  Pumpkins and winter squash have bloomed by not set fruit as yet.

Lots of tomatoes coming on, though they’re all still green. And I have enough of mt wax beans to freeze my first half-pint. Don’t know if California poppy seed can overwinter and sprout the next year, so I’m taking care to save a few as I go.

Indoor Forest

Things are looking a bit thin up in my den, where I usually sprout stuff. The spider plant and epiphyllum are hanging outside for the season, and the Christmas cactus is down in a sunny window. My best opportunity to dust and sweep the sprouting area. Soon as I do that, I have seed to start Mexican Hats and Butterfly Weed (a.k.a. Milkweed) to set out in fall.

Wildlife

Last week I had a big thrill — a hummingbird was checking out my Larkspur and Gloriosa daisies! I’ve never had a hummingbird, although I know there are native ones. It was too far away to see the markings, but it could have been a young adult looking for good territory. It showed itself twice in one day, but I haven’t seen it since. Must have cruised on. This inspired me to upgrade my offerings for hummingbirds, so perhaps the next one will decide to stay.

I’ve also seen a Tiger swallowtail this week, plus innumerable Oil bees, and some Gray Hairstreaks doing aerobatics above my Coneflowers. Good times!

Until next week, make sure you actually relax a bit in your garden!