July 2, 2015

Meditation

Previously I mentioned seeing a large fly pouncing on a native bee. After careful watching, I’ve discovered what was going on. They both are the same species of bee, and the larger male has been cruising around from one end of the flower patch to the other, looking for females. Somehow he can tell if they’ve mated or not, and the pouncing is so he can do the honors.

I’m glad it wasn’t an attack on my bees. I’m also glad to know I have a breeding population, although I couldn’t tell you what species they are. None of the pictures I look at online are quite the same. But I’m still watching.

Yardscape

With any luck, we’ll be spending July Fourth building a pergola and fencing along the east side of our house. My husband wants to screen between our living room and the neighbor’s bedroom. I’d like to create an alcove where we can sit in the shade on hot afternoons, and maybe even do yoga some mornings.

To me, it’s a lot more patriotic to create something beautiful than it would be to over-eat, get drunk, or blow stuff up. Although, if it’s as hot as forecast, I’m sure there will be a bit of beer around to reward the workers.

Sprouts

I’ve taken a big gamble and transplanted some small sunflowers from Bed 7 into Bed 5. They’re tucked behind some large lavender and aster bushes, so I hope that will shade them enough that they don’t bake in the sun. Bed 5 is very blah, actually. Large bushes and not much else. I’m inventorying my yard for things I can divide and move over there in the fall.

Pickin’s

No tomatoes ripe yet, but my wax beans and snap peas are delicious. I’ve got my first batch of beets, but I have to figure out how to cook them in this heat without roasting up the house.

I continue watching the California poppies for the seed pods to ripen.

Wildlife

With the sunflowers in bloom, I’ve started to hear the familiar song of goldfinches in my yard. This is something I really look forward to every year. Also, while riding my bike along the Spokane River a few days ago, I startled a Whitetail doe out of the brush. Not exactly my yard, but that’s just as well. I don’t need wildlife helping themselves to my lettuce.

As I mentioned the bees above, I should also mention that they didn’t seem to like the sunflower stems I’ve provided, so I bought some reed sections that I hope will attract more tenants to the nesting box.

To all those in the USA, have a good Independence Day. Stay safe around the fireworks! The rest of you, just stay safe.

June 25, 2015

Meditation

Now that I’m on summer break, it’s bike season. I ride to keep my weight in check, and for relaxation. (Yes, really!) One thing I do while cycling along is take note of people’s yards. Some are much nicer than mine. Green and flowery and big vegetable gardens with cute towers for the tomatoes. They inspire me to keep trying with my own yard, which is a little rough at the edges but still full of color. And some…

How can I say this without judging?

Some get no maintenance at all. Dead weeds to knee height, or small trees crowding the entire yard. I worry a little about places like this. Is the resident too ill or frail to keep the place up? Maybe no one even lives there. At least I can take comfort that my raggedy yard is an improvement over some in the area.

Yardscape

As some parts of the country brace for storms, I’m bracing for a heat wave. Our forecast calls for temperatures over 100 this weekend. I’m preparing by giving all my lawn and plants a really good soaking. I hope the deep watering will help my green friends get through.

However, I know these temperatures will be the end of my lettuce. This morning I pulled out eight heads. Three I kept for my family, and five I took to Second Harvest.

Sprouts

The corn is growing taller, even while my first sunflowers have opened up. With some extra water, I’m hoping my tomatoes and squash will pull through the heat. Cucumbers and winter squash are vining out. I’m using velcro tape to help them climb one of my obelisks. One good thing about our season lengthening is that I might possibly get fruit on my melons. Previously, our growing season just wasn’t long enough for them.

Pickin’s

I snagged the seed pods off my blue flax and they’re drying now so I can thresh out the seed. I’m also watching my California poppies for those seed pods to ripen. Later on, I’ll ride around and toss those onto some of the local embankments that currently are drab and boring.

Also, I did my final pick of cherries last weekend. They looked amazing, but I discovered most of them had worms. Let that be a lesson to me about waiting too long. After careful inspection, I dried a couple of trays in my oven and made the rest into pancake syrup.

Indoor Forest

Did my semi-monthly fertilization with miracle grow, both the house plants and the vegetables and flowers outside. The package is an old one and I just need to use it up. Then I’ll look for something more organic.

Wildlife

Other than a couple of stray dogs I persuaded to come out of the traffic, there isn’t much to report. But we plan to go to the lake this weekend and escape the heat, so maybe I’ll see some wildlife there.

June 18, 2015

Meditation

Something strange has happened to my lawn. I noticed it was looking brown and crispy after our recent hot weather, but when I looked closely I realized it wasn’t the whole lawn that was dying. It was just the Chinese Clover. Not that I mind, exactly. Chinese Clover is one of my most hated weeds. But it was very strange to rake out great handfuls of dead clover last weekend.

Never one to waste an opportunity, I went to Northwest Seed and picked up a blend of grass seed. It’s 60% Bluegrass and 40% Red Fescue. If even a few seeds sprout, perhaps I can fill in the new openings before the next generation of Chinese Clover comes up.

Events

School is out for my district. I have one more day currently scheduled, next Monday. Until then, I have a long list of gardening chores to catch up on.

Yardscape

I made another pass to take out dead tulip and daffodill stalks from 5 and 6. My Dark Towers penstemon is struggling to establish. Not surprising, since it is a pretty large plant. The red beardtongue is perfectly happy, however.

It seems like the yellow and red coneflowers I got last fall both fell prey to winter’s cold. Purple ones are coming up nicely, though. This fall, perhaps, I’ll divide my purple ones rather than try to add more.

Sadly, my Kittentails plant has withered away, despite being well watered and in a shaded location. If I tug gently the roots appear anchored, though. I hope the plant might put up new leaves when conditions are better.

Sprouts

The yarrow I started from seed have magenta/purple flowers instead of the peachy gold of my others. I think in the fall I’ll be moving them down beside the porch, rather than keeping them in the shallow flower beds.

For my first wave of Golden Bantam corn, I had planted them in a trench and mulched with lawn clippings. Now I’ve raked the dirt into the trench, giving support to the roots. Most of my corn fell over last year. I’m hoping this will keep that from happening again.

Pickin’s

I need to get my last few cherries off the tree tomorrow. Then, in addition to the ones I froze, I think I’ll dry some and make juice with the rest. If I can find a good recipe, perhaps I’ll take a try at cherry syrup for pancakes. Lettuce, kale and snap peas continue producing well.

Wildlife

I’ve noticed a large fly hovering over my lavender, which is now in full bloom. It looks very much like a bumblebee, but I can tell it’s a fly because the wings stick out at an angle instead of folding straight back. I witnessed this fly diving down and pouncing on a small native bee. It hung on for a moment, then let go. I don’t know if it decided this wasn’t prey after all, or parasitized the bee in some way. I tell myself I should be glad that I have enough native bees to attract a predator.

Until next time, may your summer days be glorious!

June 11, 2015

Meditation

2015 has been a very dry year around my parts. We had almost no snow during the winter, and it isn’t just a problem for skiers. Washington State depends on our snow pack for summer water. For the first time ever, we’re facing a drought. Likewise, we’ve had weather in the ’90s already. Used to be, we only got near 100 in August. We’ve been there by Fourth of July the last two years.

It bugs me that we can see changes all around us, yet there are those who still deny the planet is warming. Or they admit it’s warming, but deny human activity is behind it. People! For real? Why do you even think it matters whether this change is natural or caused by industrialization? The change is happening. We have to live with it.

Can we, please, stop quibbling about whys and wherefores, and start working toward solutions?

Events

The Friends of Manito Park plant sale was fabulous, as always. I managed to sneak over there and still get back in time for my eye appointment. But, alas, I wasn’t able to get the milkweed plant I was longing for. Apparently a lot of people have the same ideas as I do, to plant milkweed and support monarch butterflies. There was nary a milkweed to be found.

Instead, I got a large penstemon called Dark Tower, which has bronze foliage and pale pink flowers. It should pop nicely among my red and yellow blanket flowers. I also added a red beardtongue, which is a penstemon cousin that grows low to the ground.

Yardscape

Once the hot weather smooths out, I plan to transplant my new friends into Bed 6, near my front door. I already did put out my Golden Bantam corn, just before the hot spell. Mulching with lawn clippings seems to have helped them get through.

In Bed 2, I removed a number of Triple Crown blackberries that had spread a little too far. Those went to my brother and sister-in-law’s new house.

Sprouts

My second planting of Pencil Pod Black Wax beans are coming up nicely. I have blossoms on the first wave. Still only one tomato, though. The daytime heat has just been too much for fruit to set.

Pickin’s

Lettuce and snap peas are in their prime, although the snap peas got sunburned. The growing tips on my second planting are all dark and crispy!

I expect to be harvesting cherries within the week. Not to rag on climate change, but I usually have cherries at the Fourth of July. June 14 is going to be a really early harvest. I’ve invited my neighbors to bring their boys over and pick a few. You can’t start too early teaching kids where good food comes from.

Indoor Forest

The epiphyllum my Mom gave me several years ago is outside for the summer. It would be great to get a bloom off of it. Meantime, the six cuttings are now in a new pot.

Wildlife

This week brought me a couple of cool wildlife encounters. My husband spotted a gray squirrel at our bird feeder on Monday. We’ve never seen one before, although they live in a nearby park that has oak trees. I think with the hot weather it was foraging for new food sources. Unfortunately for the squirrel, we’ve let our feeder go empty for the summer. However, there is always water in the bird bath, so I hope we’ll see it again.

Second, as I watered my lawn, a crow came down to splash in the runoff. That was a fun side to a bird that many of us think are sinister pests.

But best of all was when I was watering Bed 6 and a wasp came down to my hand. It rested there and sipped from water drops on my hand. Sure, I was a tiny bit nervous. I held still until it took off again.

Until next week, keep digging in the dirt!

June 4, 2015

Meditation

It’s been an odd bummer of a week. I keep losing things. When I lost my hoodie, that was okay. It was getting a little threadbare. And when my reading glasses disappeared from my sweater pocket, I maintained. I buy inexpensive ones just for this reason.

But then, a really big loss — my garden journal. I had to take notes at a meeting, but somehow the journal didn’t get back in my car with me. The book I use to map out my garden, sketch ideas and plan projects. Where I record what I planted, when I planted, where in my yard, and how the harvest went. Probably ten years of data — gone.

Gardening can be like that. You work hard and trust nature, but sometimes the crop just doesn’t come through. Thing is, this loss is my own fault. That’s what I didn’t expect.

Events

Friends of Manito Park is holding their spring plant sale on Saturday, June 6th. I’m hoping to pick up a few more penstemons or beardtongues. And, since my Milkweed seeds turned out to be Yarrow (how the heck did I do that?) I’ve been saving a spot for one of those, too.

There was also an iris show scheduled for Saturday, but due to an unusually warm spring it has been cancelled. The iris have already finished blooming.

We’ve also had the good fortune of a new garden shop opening near me. Green’s Greenhouse is a well known grower in Cheney, WA, who has added a shop in Hillyard. I’ve been there. It’s small but the plants are beautiful and the prices are fair.

Yardscape

Weeding goes on. Doesn’t it always? However, I’m pleased to report that the reel mower I got from American Lawn Mower continues to please. It really is quiet, and it’s light enough that I don’t have to struggle with it.

Sprouts

I have again been presented with random vegetables. This time it’s a Sungold tomato plant and an Ancho hot pepper. Before that, I got a six-pack of anonymous cabbages. Not sure where my husband is getting these, but more is better, right?

The second wave of Golden Bantam corn has been sprouting well. Once they get their second leaves, I’ll place them in Bed 7 along with the first wave. Unfortunately, this means some really nice sunflowers will have to go.

The Kosmonaut Volkov tomatoes and Marconi peppers are blooming, but I don’t think any fruit have started yet. Ironically, I suspect it’s been too warm for them to set. The blackberries are coming into bloom, while the cherries are starting to show their color.

On the floral side, my coneflowers are putting up stalks. I should have three colors — red, purple and white. Also, the lavender is just about to bloom. I adore the fragrance of lavender, so this is keenly awaited.

Pickin’s

Almost too many things are ripening for me to keep track of. Salvia, California poppies, blue flax, columbines and gallardia are all thriving. In the case of my wildflowers, I plan to allow seed heads to form so I can collect for next year.

I have Sugar Snap peas nearly ready, plus two kinds of lettuce and strawberries.

Indoor Forest

The cuttings from my China Lake epiphyllum are all putting out new leaves. It’s about time for a transplant.

Wildlife

Lately I’ve noticed some large moths in my lawn. They fly away when I mow, though they never go far. They’re brown on the outside, but with bright orange under wings. Looking at pictures, I think they’re Yellow Underwings. Not a native species, but great to look at. I also have those little white grass moths in my lawn.

Until next time, do you know where your garden journal is??

May 28, 2015

Meditation

Ah, the smell. No, not that smell! I mean the lovely scent of roses in bloom.

So many people garden for appearance only. Their landscapes feature exotic flowers or colorful foliage. I like those, but what’s the point of beautiful flowers without fragrance? To me, the ideal garden is a treat for all the senses. Not only the visual, but tactile touches of leaf and bark, a whispering breeze, a berry’s sweet burst — and yes, the fragrance of herbs and flowers.

Some people have allergies or asthma. I get that. I’m allergic to lilacs, yet I still enjoy the aroma from my neighbor’s lilac bushes. And when I ride up on my bike at the end of a day’s work and the fragrance of roses greets me… Paradise.

Events

Art Fest is this weekend. This is a celebration of music, arts and crafts, sponsored by the Museum of Arts and Culture Northwest. Okay, it isn’t a garden show, though it does take place in a park. I plan to enjoy it all the same.

Yardscape

Now that the elm seeds have stopped snowing down, I begin the summer ritual of weeding them out before they set deep roots. Also, I continue to mulch my garden with lawn clippings and generally keep on top of the weeds.

Sprouts

Something ate my cucumber seedlings. I may have to just buy plants. On the positive side, my second seeding of onions, beets and carrots is taking off well. Pea vines are flowering, so there’s that to look forward to.

I’ve started taking a few of my herbs for drying, before the warm weather sends them to seed. I’m currently working on parsley, basil, sage and catnip. Oregano, rosemary and chives are waiting for room.

Indoor Forest

My large Croton has put out a huge bloom! It looks like a downward-drooping cone of small, star-like flowers. Very nice to see it. However, the plant itself has become a single tall stem with leaves only at the top. Any suggestions on how to rehabilitate it?

Wildlife

Some of my winter birds, like the Oregon juncos, have returned to wild lands. But some of my summer insects have returned. I’ve seen my leaf-cutter bees already nesting. Nobody is using my new bee house yet, but sometimes that takes a while.

Meanwhile, the annoying cats keep digging in my squash beds. Looks like I need to get the netting out now that my soaker hose is in place.

Until next time, may you be surrounded by sweet smells of summer!

May 21, 20415

Meditation

May. Isn’t it the best? The world is so full of life. Tiny little sprouts are growing. Plants I set out are spreading to fill their space. Trees are fully in leaf. Flowers are in bloom. Lots of butterflies and bees are showing up.

Best of all, the days are getting longer. I can work outside in the cool evenings after a hot day. I can even enjoy seasonal thunder storms. In May, life is good.

Events

For Memorial Day weekend, we plan to just chill at home. However, there is another plant sale coming up. Friends of Manito Park has their sale, to benefit park operations, on June 6th near Gaiser Conservatory.

Yardscape

This week I’m taking advantage of a free resource: lawn clippings. The dandelions are pretty much beaten, and the Japanese clover hasn’t set seed yet, so I’ve been spreading the clippings over my planting beds as mulch, and to continue building the soil.

Sprouts

I’ve gotten behind on a few things. It’s time to sprout the second batch of sweet corn! Perhaps a second wave of carrots, as well. Meantime, my cherry tree has cut about 1/3 of the fruit it had started. The rest continue to grow. I have strawberries growing, too.

Also, I mentioned about a month ago that my daughter gave me a “Bag o’ Garden” for my birthday. Of the nine plants, I have just four sprouting so far. Can’t say I’m terribly surprised. Who knew how long those poor roots were in there? Still, it’s sobering to have less than a 50% sprouting rate. I console myself that this leaves more space for other things during the summer.

It’s short this time, because those corn seeds are calling me. Hope you’ll all enjoy the bliss of May.

April 14, 2015

Meditation

Gardening is all about risk. We choose seed varieties based on what we know of our own climate and their capabilities. We choose when to plant for the best germination. Still, there’s always the chance we’ll plant too soon or too late, or the weather will pull a fast one.

Last week I set out my tomatoes. A few days ago my corn seedlings went into their trenches, with a good layer of aged lawn clippings for mulch. I also took the risk of putting my geraniums out before Memorial Day. So far, all is well. We got a couple of cool, rainy days to help them get settled.

Much as I’d love to gloat over my good risk-management, I think we all know that Mother Nature gets the real credit.

Events

Garden Expo! It was so amazing. My husband went with me and we spent a couple of hours cruising around, trying to take it all in. Money was tight, with some substantial bills coming due on May 15th, but we still brought a few things home. We have two hot peppers, a jalapeno and a cayenne type. We have cilantro and rosemary. We have a US-made trowel from Lowell’s tools. We bought it from Lowell himself. It isn’t elegant, but has proven itself sturdy. For my shady Bed 4, I added a heucherella called Hot Buttered Rum, as a balance to the Black Knight I got earlier.

We even saw some yard art we both liked. If only we had the money…

Yardscape

As I set out my corn in Bed 7, I leaned too hard on the edge. The board broke off! Okay, it was about 10 years old. On top of that, it was treated lumber, which I’ve since learned is not a great choice for a food garden. I think we can get through the year, but in the fall there are some fixes to be made.

In Bed 5, my penstemons are getting buried under daffodill leaves. I’m looking around for a place to move them, next time we have a couple of rainy days in the forecast.

I’m happy to report that the dandelions are much reduced. Now, when I look out at my lawn, the white puffs I see are more likely to be clover blossoms than seed heads.

Sprouts

Lots of things are emerging: sweet peas, kale, pumpkins. Pea vines are climbing the chain link fence. Elsewhere, the bleeding hearts and astilbe are sending up shoots. Gosh, it’s starting to look like a garden out there!

The only dark spot is patchy germination by my bush beans, and the fungus among my asparagus. The baking soda drench was helpful, but I think I need another dose.

Indoor Forest

One of my epiphyllum cuttings has new growth! Everything else needs a bit of basic grooming.

Wildlife

We have a pair of resident robins again this year. I see them on the lawn and in the bird bath. Also, the clover blossoms have drawn honey bees. I like both of those things.

Until next week, keep digging in the dirt!

May 7, 2015

Meditation

Did you know “wait” is a four-letter word? You put seeds in the ground and water well. Then waiting, waiting. Day after day the sun shines — but no sprouts!

Until today, that is. My bush beans, cucumbers and corn are starting to peep out at last. And I remind myself that nature always knows when the time is right.

Events

Another long-awaited moment is my purchase of this year’s zonal geraniums. I know, all the rest of my yard is native plants, but I just can’t give up my geraniums. Fortunately, I’ve found a local high school that raises geraniums to sell the week before Mother’s Day. They’re a steal at $3 each and I support a future generation of floral and greenhouse professionals.

Also coming up is Garden Expo, organized by the Inland Empire Gardeners and held at Spokane Falls Community College. There are so many vendors with plants, tools, statues and decorations! I’m just dying that I don’t have as much money to spend as I would like. Top of my list for this year is a folding hand saw and perhaps a trowel from Lowell’s Tools. These tools are made in USA and I hope will not bend like the brand new trowel I was just given two weeks ago.

I also hope to score a scented geranium and some sweet peppers.

Yardscape

Yard work has focused on taking out the withered foliage from tulips and daffodills, letting some sunlight get onto the penstemon, coneflowers and other summer beauties. The blue flax and cranesbills are already blooming, with columbines and coral bells putting up their stalks.

But, as I mentioned, the serious work was weeding. I’m okay with a dandelion here and there, but it was getting ridiculous. My neighbor even came over to help out. (It was a little embarrassing, actually.)

As if that wasn’t enough, the annual elm snowstorm is in progress as little white seeds flutter gently down into my yard.

Sprouts

After a week of weather in the ’70s, I gave in and planted my tomatoes and peppers. Now I’ll have to really watch the weather. I also have those geraniums to harden off.

After a bit of concern about frost in mid-April, I can see cherries forming on my tree. Good tidings!

But, I’ve had to do a second seeding of kale and onions. I’m confident the rust flies didn’t get in through the cover cloth, but I’m afraid the soil stayed a bit too dry for good sprouting. So it goes.

Indoor Forest

The cuttings I took from my Mom’s epiphyllum have rooted. No new growth yet, but they’re looking green and plump.

Wildlife

A lot of the weeds, mentioned above, were bird seed that sprouted under the feeder. I think it might be time to clean that out until autumn. They’re wild birds, after all, and don’t need help finding food in the warmer months.

Other little garden buddies are starting to return for the summer. So far I’ve seen Gray Hairstreak and Fritillary butterflies, along with hover flies and small bumble bees.

Until next week, happy gardening!

April 30, 2015

Meditation

This is going to be brief. It’s been a tough week. One of my cats was ill, we’ve spent about 3 times what we could afford, and he isn’t much better. This is the not-fun part of being a pet owner.

Events

I had a great time at the Master Gardener’s plant sale last weekend, even though it rained and even graupeled on us. (Graupel is sort of between hail and sleet.) There were so many great vendors! Great advice, too. I came home with several herbs and a new wildflower called Kitten Tails. Much as I love cats, there was no way I could resist. Now if I can find some Pussy Toes…

The next plant sale is Garden Expo, May 9th. It’s the big one, and I can hardly wait!

Yardscape

What you see up above is my new herb garden, put together with second hand pots and a combination of bought and started herbs. They’re all really happy on their sunny ledge — even the basil!

Weeds are starting to get ahead of me, though. I need to spend some serious time this weekend.

Sprouts

I did plant the “bag o garden” my daughter gave me, with the Bleeding Hearts, Lilies of the Valley, and Astilbe. I’ve never had astilbe, and I’m eager to see what it looks like.

Wildlife

The new bee house I had built fell down! The tacks that held it together came loose in the wind. Guess I’ll have to make repairs and get it back out there.

That’s all for this time, folks!