Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's In The Garden

Today marks the end of a quarter, one that seems to have passed too quickly. With Spring upon us and some warmer days, more transparent have been our feathered friends in the garden; a few of this weeks visitors included the handsome Rufous hummingbird, robins and finch.

Friday, our niece and her two lovely children came to visit, and
despite the rain we gathered our gear and strolled about the garden.
All looked well in the greenhouse.

Would you look at those potatoes!

Delicate and dancing are these low-growing Erythronium americanum
(fawn lily, trout lily) with its mottled leaves.

aquifolium, also known as Oregon Grape, adds brightness to the landscape.

A beautiful sunny Saturday and mid-60's allowed us to work in the garden way beyond the amount of time that we should have. Blossoming beauties: Clematis macropetala 'Blue Bird', Yoshino cherry, tulips

Yesterday, rain/thunder and 48 degrees forecast.
They might have considered looking out the window.

Tonight's low is estimated at below freezing. Hopefully these will be okay as we covered them over last night and will do so again this evening.

Today as I walked about the garden and enjoyed the beauty of the Muscari, Aubrieta deltoidea, Frittalaria meleagris (Snakes Head) and Tulips...

there is less concern for them than for the plum and pear blossoms.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Honey Bee Colony Update 2

I am so excited about sharing this wonderful news with you!

If you recall, in January our 70 foot oak collapsed on our driveway, and I wrote about it here (Honey Bees And Oak); fortunately there was no damage to life or property. To our surprise we found a colony of honey bees inside one of the large arms of the tree, and needless to say I was rather distraught in an attempt to locate someone to help save those bees. This (Honey Bee Colony Update) is the followup in which I described calling the swarm contacts, several of whom indicated nothing could be done.

The exception was Pat, who with his beautiful little daughter Ruby, took the time to see if they could come to the rescue of not just the honey bees, but me. (wink) For those not familiar, you might read both of the above or at least enjoy the photos. In any case, this is how the cold and rainy 18th of January looked as my husband and Pat wrapped the log in burlap...

and a photo of the collapsed combs.

I wrote to Pat a short while ago to ask how the bees were doing; additionally I told him of my delight at the large number of honey bees currently in our garden. Pat sent the following wonderful photos and response relative to my 'log bees' that he and his family have come to call them:

I simply placed the 'log' on our hive platform, opened the end with the knot hole they appeared to use before the tree came down, covered with a tarp and let 'em be.

They have been coming and going vigorously with our other one hive. Today I took a look inside.
You can see the existing combs, which had collapsed against themselves, now have space between. I think they removed an 1/8 from each side of each comb to create the near 1/4" 'bee space' needed to work between.

New comb (lighter color) has been built perpendicular to the hold, on the top of the cavity. Straight on in the middle of the cluster you can see nectar (honey) and pollen being stored already, and as well, capped off cells that contain the larvae of new bees. This colony is doing fine. They even have some space to expand toward the back of the log cavity and may not even swarm out this year!

Now I ask you, is this not the most remarkable event? Look at what these amazing creatures have accomplished in a few short months: they have rebuilt just as Pat suggested they might. Absolute beauty! Bless you Pat and bless those bees as I am one happy and thankful lady! and with tears of joy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mishmash and First Day of Spring

Such a busy time of year!

Continued garden cleanup and blossoms to enjoy

while pink plum petals gently mantle the soil's surface.

I chased a butterfly around the garden in an attempt to photograph, but for naught as its elusive behavior took me to the hillside edge. American Lady, Painted Lady or West Coast Lady? I do believe it was the latter, but will have to wait for another day to photograph and identify.

Early morning sunrises not to be omitted

prior to assessing outdoor raised vegetable beds and seeds that lay promisingly upon soil blocks in numerous containers strewn about the house.

Shall I ever look upon a chocolate brownie quite the same again?

We finally got our compiled tax information taken to the CPA on Friday, and I'll just say this about that: nothing, I repeat, nothing should be that complex and consume such time and energy each year! But for now we can put that aside and get on with real life.

Speaking of vermin, yesterday morning was the third time we found the suet feeder wrapped around the tree branch and the new block of suet completely eaten. Raccoons are likely the culprit, and we had to listen to a flock of Stellar's Jay squawk about what had occurred.

The raccoon may be cute to some, but underneath that mask is a destructive and dangerous animal, a nuisance and one that may carry a communicable disease in their feces; unpalatable is having to clean their excrement from our flower beds all around the house. Currently we replaced the top of our largest bird bath as they often climb into it and repeatedly knock it over - it finally cracked. One of the reasons for giving away the fish in our pond several years ago was that they used it for their feeding ground, and at times we would find a half-eaten fish cast aside. However, most disturbing is to see a raccoon, tail tucked, head bent and occasionally walking through the garden during the day. We even experienced one coming directly toward my husband several years ago.

On the brighter side: around each corner a new blossom peeks its head, fragrance fills the air, bumble bees and honey bees are busy working (and I have some great news on that front another day); birds are singing and scurrying about in preparation, as are we.

The potatoes growing in pots are quite robust and continually requiring addition of soil. Accompanying them in the greenhouse are:

Beans: Sadie's Horse bean and Bush Blue Lake
Squash: Black Beauty and Straightneck Yellow
Tomatoes: Pineapple and Stupice

These can be found growing in the main garden and raised beds:

Beets: Early Wonder, Ruby Queen, Crapaudine
Broccoli: Packman
Cabbage: Stonehead and Red Acre
Carrots: Purple Dragon and Nantes
Cauliflower: Graffiti and Bishop
Garlic: Chesnok Red purple stripe
Kale: Blue Curled Scotch
Leeks: Giant Musselburgh
Lettuce: Red Fire
Mesclun blend (mild)
Onions: Texas Sweets and Walla Walla
Peas: Sugar snap
Radish: White Icicle and Sparkler
Spinach: Bloomsdale, Erste Ernte, Regal
Swiss chard: Fordhook Giant

Yet elbow deep in seed starting mix and soil blocks,we have the following that have sprouted and appear to be doing well:

Choy Sum,
Chinese Kale, and
Shanghai Bok Choy were seeds sent to us by Thomas . You will be pleased to know they sprouted within 3 days, except for the latter which popped up in 2!
Heirloom Tomatoes: Ashleigh (sprouted in 3 days), Black Krim, Nile River Egyptian, Old German, Pineapple, San Marzano Gigante (the latter not an heirloom)
Basil: '09 seeds have sprouted

Not doing so well are:

Cilantro (used '09 seeds and did not germinate, so I will replant)
Eggplant: Japanese Long Purple (only 4 seeds have germinated)
Kohlrabi: Kongo hybrid (only 1 has sprouted in the peat pot, but some extras I threw into a 4-inch pot are all up and happy. Go figure.)
Lima beans, a bust the second year in a row so I'll discontinue attempting to grow them.

~ ~ ~
Yesterday, the first day of Spring found us doing more work in the garden and cooking, preparing for D and J to join us for dinner. This beautiful 68 degree day was celebrated in high fashion: an enjoyable first evening stroll around the garden with good friends and wonderful neighbors and celebrating the beginning of Spring.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Planting Carrots and Other Stuff

So I was over visiting Meredith at The Enchanted Earth and commented on how I start my carrots with regard to her How To Grow Carrots post. I offered some advice and it included using a seed mat so as to avoid having to thin them as they begin to grow. She liked that idea and said and I think a blog post would be brilliant. Meredith, brilliant! (wink) So here goes.

Our second variety of carrot was planted two days ago, the Purple Dragon, beautiful purple on the outside, orange in, and one we have not tried before. We like the Nantes variety very much, and those are now beginning to peek through the surface. The carrots are planted in raised beds and prefer a fairly loose and composted soil.

Since at times the seeds are a little slow to germinate, I soak them overnight, drain off the water, and place them on a paper napkin to absorb the excess, then get to work.
: Understand that some of this may be highly technical and scientific in nature and may require specialized equipment, but let's give it a shot as best we can.

In a small bowl mix a heaping teaspoon of white flour with just enough water to make a slightly thick paste - consistency of a nice puree so it will drop onto the paper. (The glue should keep for several days for other seed mats if kept covered.) Unfold and place an inexpensive paper napkin atop an aluminum tray (cookie sheet) or piece of foil, and using a ruler as your guide, simply use a pen to place a dot where you want each seed, in this case about one inch apart (whatever the vegetable requires). With a plastic toothpick (has a little knobby end) or something similar, place a drop of glue at each one-inch spot on the napkin. I usually do several rows at a time.

Then pick up a seed with the same toothpick (it will stick to the moistness) and lay it on the wet glue spot on your napkin. It works beautifully and goes quickly. Now allow it to thoroughly dry.

Plant the entire mat in the raised bed and with only the slightest amount of soil to cover the top. (Try not to do this on a windy or rainy day.) The carrots need to stay moist (not wet) while germinating, so I lay a tiny frame with clear plastic over them until they begin to poke their little heads... then remove the frame. Straight rows, thinning eliminated, and it can be used on all sorts of seed varieties. Hope this helps.

Don't forget the tops of the carrots are edible (great in soups) as are those of your tender and young radish leaves and which we especially enjoy... quickly sauteed in a little extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, a few sliced radishes, sprinkle of kosher salt, and as my brother is known to say so good and so good for you.

What else is in the garden?

Radishes are coming along, some lettuce, and
a little spinach is peaking through as is the
mild mesclun blend.

The potatoes I planted in pots last month have all produced foliage, but Dakota Rose has raced ahead of the pack and already seen the addition of soil following her first 8 inches of growth. And Sadie's Horse Beans are attempting to escape through the dining room window. Something must be done with these soon! At this point I assume that Thomas is laughing.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wind and Rain

The week's Magnolia beauty

Thursday the rain came,

and yesterday morning the wind and driving rain
took its toll upon Magnolia stellata.
The spring occurrence strips and scatters her delicate blossoms
upon the earth's surface.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Blossoms and Wild Turkeys

And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast

rose from the dreams of its wintry rest. ~Percy Bysshe Shelley

Since the 13th of February there have been declarations of Spring: male and female blossoms appeared on Corylus avellana 'Contorta' and flowers flourished upon Rosemarinus officinalis. Thence came a progression of blossoms, increasingly, and mostly in order of appearance: Aubrieta deltoides, Crocus, Helleborus x hybridus, Daphne odora, Daffodils, Galanthus nivalis (snowdrop) , Spiraea prunifolia 'Bridal Wreath', Forsythia 'Fiesta', Camellia japonica 'Camellia in Pink', Prunus cerasifera'Thundercloud', Rhododendron x 'PJM', naturalized Trillium ovatum and Trillium chloropetalum, and the fragrant and magnificent Magnolia stellata continues as overseer for most of it.

What would yesterday's stroll about the garden be without the accompaniment of wild turkeys?

Here's lookin' at you kid.