Archive for April, 2010

Bloomin’ good time Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Apricot flower - even if the recent frost hampers fruit production the pretty blooms were worth it for aesthetic value

What I believe to be apricot trees were in full bloom and now have dropped most of their petals in a shower of pale white and pink. I believe they are apricots as apposed to plums because of their ridiculously giant thorn-branches. Only wild plums seem to be labeled  as having thorns in my research. Only true way to tell is if they fruit.

Pink and purple tulips give a monogmous color display

Bluebells and hyacinths are a great spring addition with their blue colors.

Bluebells in April

Quade picks some grape hyacinth

Yellow corcus

Crocus are one of the earliest harbingers of spring. They can come in blues, purples (like our state flower the prairie pasque) whites, yellows etc. My garden is definitely missing these so I’ll have to make note for a fall purchase – the best time to plant most early-spring bulb/corm bloomers.

If you are noticing that your spring bloomers, especially hyacinth, crocus or daffodils aren’t blooming like they used to, it just means that they need some dividing. Once they are done blooming (waiting till fall would be best) you can divide them and spread the extras to other parts of your garden or share with friends. Just mark their specific location now as they may be hard to locate in a perennial bed once your other plants have filled in over their wilted leaves.

Earth Day: Yes you can Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Make a difference . . .

  • Buy local products – less travel = less energy
  • Plant a tree – help clean CO2 from the air
  • Pick up litter
  • Walk or ride your bike
  • Buy earth-friendly products
  • Opt for basic cleaners – vinegar, lemons, baking soda, etc. all are more environmentally friendly cleaners, they do a great job both cleaning and deodorizing, plus they are quite often cheaper
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle – if you haven’t been recycling up to this point, now is a great time to start
  • Update an appliance with an earth-friendly one, but only if this appliance is not repairable
  • Take advantage of this weekends FREE SPRING CLEANUP in Aberdeen
  • Buy, and eat, whole foods – better for you and the environment
  • Eat at home – same as above
  • Use reusable grocery bags
  • Shut off your furnace and grab a blanket – unplug, switch off, shutdown and grab a book, board game or head outside
  • Use more organic methods of weed/insect/pest control/fertilizer – insecticidal soap, hand-pulling (bonus exercise), bone meal, fish emulsion
  • Start your own compost – less being thrown into the trash and free food for your plants
  • Reuse branches and scrap wood for raised beds or trellis – instead of buying new
  • Buy from a secondhand store
  • BE A GOOD EXAMPLE AND PASS ALL OF THIS ONTO A CHILD
Feeling it Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

The sun’s out, and we’ve gotten a bit of seed in the soil to welcome it. It’s been about 1.5 weeks since we planted much of my daughter’s garden. Spinach, radish, purple carrot, swiss chard, peas and some sweet pea flowers to add a spot of color. This wasn’t the original plan but very rarely do we ever follow through with an original plan. I put in a metal obilisk for the peas to climb and we marked the rows with sticks. When planting with a couple kiddos I just showed them the first furrow and let them go after that. With a little instruction on spacing and covering they did an awesome job. I’m happy to say this year my daughter seems much more interested in taking responsibility for watering and weeding. Though she did try to transplant a dandelion in the middle of the raised bed. I didn’t say “boo” about it.
Also, we have what appears to be two plum trees in bloom – will post photos later (when I find my camera) – Not sure if the 28F the other night will cause them to drop blooms or if a future frost will help them to their demise. Trees like plums and apricots can grow here but because of their early bloom time – usually before a few hard frosts – they rarely ever set fruit.

Tree for Novella Friday, April 9th, 2010

Dad, big sis and big bro plant little sister, Novella's, tree - Tilia cordata 'greenspire'

4-7-2010 was the day our 3rd child was born. Novella Jane Valentine. The Hub set off with the older kids and my mom to pick out a tree later in the day as is tradition with the birth of our children. Menards actually had a few container trees so he picked out a greenspire linden – Tilia cordata ‘greenspire’. I’d been there the day before and scouted out what they had – a couple different lindens, some maples and ton of crabapples and other fruit trees.

The rust-red bark of the greenspire linden (not one of them I’d covered in a previous post but sounds comparative to the other lindens mentioned) had caught my eye and I guess The Hub’s as well. So the tree got planted in our front yard giving space away from our house, the neighbors and a few feet clearance of any sidewalk should any surface roots pose any problems in a couple decades. Having been planted on the West side of the house it will create a much-needed shade during the hot late-summer afternoons and evenings for our house.

Most plants you can read planting instructions and take them at their word. But, when it comes to trees or shrubs and the tag reads to plant the top of the root ball even with the ground I’d encourage you to plant it shallower. Inevitably, once you’ve back-filled and watered a tree or shrub they tend to sink. Keep the top root above ground level and then mound the dirt up just covering the top root. A tree will survive if planted a little too shallow but not necessarily if planted to deep. Roots need the oxygen and this is more important on some species than others.

Tree specs:

  • 60′ tall x 30′ wide
  • pyramidal shape
  • fragrant yellow flowers in the summer
  • good fall color
  • our alkaline soil doesn’t always lend itself to optimum fall color here so I’m not holding my breath but the bark, asymmetrical heart-shaped leaves (most lindens have these) and summer flowers will give 3-seasons of interest.
easter bunny damage Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

Rabbit damage through the winter. Note the tell-tale litter of "raisins" underneath.

I’ve heard a bit on area-person’s bunny damage. Nipped branches, chewed bark ringing tree trunks at different levels depending on where the snow height was during that particular snack time, and piles of droppings under the most tasty and gluttonous of rabbit-dining experiences (at least they are leaving a very good fertilizer behind).

Today I took note of one of my own. An old cotoneaster bush at the SW corner of my house – a couple whole branches stripped of bark. This is minimal damage at best. So far I’m happy to report there have been no other casualties to note. My youngest trees/shrubs: a catalpa seedling, larch, forsythia and witch hazel don’t show any damage. I took extra care last fall to protect them. I utilized old circular tomato cages and set inside an additional lining of chicken-wire fencing or green plastic mesh. I made sure to go up to a good height knowing bunnies will skip along the tp of snow drifts and snip off any branches poking out from the protective icy layer.

The most noteworthy damage I’ve heard by a rabbit came from my parents. They’d just gotten back from a trip to find their internet connection down. After assistance from family and a call to the cable company followed by a technicians visit, it was determined that a rabbit had chewed through their cable in the crawl space under the house. Now that’s a hungry bunny.

Good Friday marks potato planting Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Kennebecs harvested in 2008

Good Friday was always the day to plant potatoes – I picked this up from my father who had it passed down to him. It’s nice to get something in the actual ground so early – gives the gardening itch a good scratch. I didn’t exactly get mine planted yet but I got them picked up.

You can get seed potatoes at many places: grocery stores, hardware stores, nurseries, etc. I finally got to Runnings (local ag/hardware store) and picked up some seed potatoes. I chose Norland Red and Yukon Gold. Also available were Kennebec (white) and Pontiac (red). On sale for $o.35/lb. I picked up about 3-4 of each and made sure there were a few good eyes on each one. In past years I’ve used a bag of fingerling potatoes from the grocer that we hadn’t eaten up before the eyes started to sprout and they did well too – potatoes are not the pickiest crop. There are a few things to take note on though:

  • Avoid any seed potatoes that seem soft or moldy.
  • Potatoes are in the same family as tomatoes so can have similar ailments or transfer ailments/pests to each other.
  • Rotate where you plant potatoes every few years and when rotating, also avoid places tomatoes have been planted.
  • Cut the potatoes leaving a couple eyes on each and let the cutting dry for a day or two before planting.
  • Plant cutting level with the ground and mound about 3″ of dirt around them.
  • Once plants emerge you can continue mounding up more dirt just under the top set of leaves.
  • Potatoes will send out roots to make more tubers all the way up their stems – that’s why you can keep mounding the dirt, making a higher and higher hill which also makes digging them up later in the season much easier.
  • Potatoes can be harvested from mid-summer (for fingerling potatoes) up until the tops wither in fall (for larger potatoes).
Spring bulbs: when subtraction = division Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Spring bulbs have pushed their way up out of the dirt, like baby bird mouths hungry for sun and rain. I know it’s spring when my daffodils and grape hyacinths show that tell-tale shock of spring-green where there was once only gray rubble.

It’s been a few years since I planted these – a great fall investment of both time and money. The first signs that spring-blooming bulbs need to be divided is a lower blooming rate than in previous years. Some, like the hyacinths need it more often than others like tulips. If you pay attention they will tell you.

One thing I’ve forgotten in past years is to mark where my spring bulbs are so that, come early fall, I’ll still be able to tell where they are long after the shoots have withered back. I’ve been wanting to move them around anyway so I’ll be taking my smaller trimmed pieces of maple branches and poking them in the ground to note their location. My reason for moving them is simply aesthetics – I plopped the short bloomers in the middle of a south-facing bed so I end up with a dead spot come June, right in the middle of my perennial flowers. That or I end up trying to plant something new in June or in fall and I slam my trowel right through a mess of bulbs – and a slurry of 4-letter words bloom forth.