Archive for June, 2010

Rotary mower Monday, June 28th, 2010

A rotary mower makes for an even greener thumb, environmentally speaking

The Hub and I have had a rotary mower and here are the pros and cons:

PROS

  • Lighter – yes, self-propelled may be even easier but this is much lighter
  • No gas, cords, etc.
  • Smaller storage foot print
  • Mulches naturally
  • Clips the grass straight which leaves it looking healthier – power mowers tend to rip and leave jagged ends
  • Better for the environment
  • Doesn’t kick stuff out
  • Cheap, cheap, cheap – think we got ours 8 or so years ago for about $80
  • Good arm workout
  • No clogging
  • Quiet – no neighbors are going to complain if you mow at 11 pm or 6 am – when it is cooler out

CONS

  • Need to keep lawn picked up, sticks can jam it up
  • Need to mow more frequently – when grass does get too long it is hard to clip it, usually just bends it over. I’ve combatted this by mowing in a few different directions – usually gets the job done

TIPS

  • Keep the mower sharp – ours hasn’t been sharpened so it makes for slightly harder work – we’d have to check around to see what business actually offers sharpening for this particular type of mower.
  • Keep the lawn picked up
  • Mow frequently, especially during the rainy season when the grass is thicker and growing faster
  • Wear protective shoes – the blades aren’t completely covered like for a power mower
  • I like to have the option of a power mower as well – sometimes I like to bag to put it in the compost or when the lawn has gotten way too long I’ll power mow. But a rotary mower would be a great supplemental tool that would probably pay for itself in 2-3 years
Lettuce entertain you Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Eating the lettuce from her garden

This year I planted two different kinds of lettuce. One, a buttercrunch head lettuce and the other a ‘rocky’ mix of loose leaf lettuce.

Loose leaf lettuce was scattered seed and picked at leisure, but often to keep the leaves coming – a decent month-6 weeks of mixed ‘oak’, red, green and speckled leaves. Some of the leaves were nearly paper-thin which made them most agreeable in sandwiches. In a salad it was hard for a fork to really puncture them. Though, eating salad by hand lends a tactile punch to your lunch.

The buttercrunch head lettuce was a new endeavor. As the seeds sprouted I would thin periodically for the best-looking plants eventually allowing them about 8″ of breathing room. They didn’t exactly form heads . . . like the tight iceberg balls you’d get at the grocer, but more a tier of leaves up a heavier stalk. Not sure if this is typical or if our recent heat caused a sort of bolting. The leaves of this variety are bitter sweet – the bitterness definitely a sign of the heat and a sign that I better get picking and munching on this latest wave of harvest. The leaves are excellent in salad but I’m also excited to use the nicely-shaped, strong leaves as wrapping for beans, deli meat, etc. instead of bread, tortillas or chips.

Sizzlin’ Monday, June 21st, 2010

As the mercury rises I have a tendency to hide. I’m a wilter at the first sign of 80F, even a 75F day can get to me. Perhaps it’s that I have a little hotbox for a baby on me most of the time. I peel her away, hair curled with sweat, she smiles at me and I think, “Oh well, it rained last night so at least I don’t have to water, I think we’ll stay right here.” That little babe is a real lazy-maker out of me.

But, this is the time the critters and pests start getting my flora and I told myself I’d be more vigilant after last year’s buggy munchers got so much of our produce. Blighted tomatoes – can’t really do much except move the next season’s crop as far away from the affected area, check!

There are a few things you can do for bad buggos

  • Collar tender plants to keep cutworms away – can use a can, plastic bottle cut into a ring or a TP roll cut into a ring – immerse 1″ of whatever you use into the dirt at the base of the plant
  • Slugs – beer can be used a bait, or sprinkle diatomaceous earth (crushed shells of sea animals) around the slugs favorite plants (hosta, lettuces) or if you have no qualms go out in the morning with the salt shaker and sprinkle on the little critters and watch osmosis in action.
  • Aphids – introduce some lady bugs with short-lived success, blast them with water – simple and effective or use insecticidal soaps
  • Inspect and treat the underside of plants where most insects like to hang out and lay their eggs.
  • Self-rising flour is a home-remedy I’ve heard about and tried. Works for brassica that are getting munched and I’m thinking I might also try it on my vining plants for the squash borer I had last year.
  • Treat early in the day with most of these remedies – that’s when the munchers are most active.

None of these solutions will have a chance of working if I don’t get out there and inspect my garden. So, onward and outside I’ll be heading to ward off those pesky peskersons.

Crunch, munch and collect Friday, June 18th, 2010

Cerelia's spring veggies garden

So far my daughter’s garden has been getting the most action – harvest wise that is. The second wave of spinach is hopping up, the lettuce are starting to form heads – I keep thinning as they grow. The rainbow swisschard are starting to reach up to the sun and most recently the peas are popping. The carrots are steadily growing and will have the longest existence in the bed except for the errant Trollius we planted in it last year, when it only held flowers. We’d forgotten about it but my daughter found it early in the spring, dug it up and replanted it in nearly the same spot. The happy golden-yellow flower makes me smile every time.

We’ve made salad, dressed sandwiches with the leaf lettuce and spinach, sauteed some swisschard with olive oil and salt and the latest was a tuna casserole amended with chard and peas, which really put a freshness and crunch to a usually mushy, but comforting classic.

Another thing I’m looking to do this year to keep expenses down is to harvest some of my own seed (pea/bean/etc.). I’ve clipped a few articles on it so I’ll have to dig those out soon. In most cases you let the seeds ripen and start to dry on the plant, then cut off the seed head and lay it on newspaper or paper towel to let them dry more thoroughly. Next loosen the seed or pop open the pea/bean and store in envelopes in a cool dry place or in your fridge.

I’m so glad for the regular rains still but I need to NEED TO get some weeding done. I broke down the other night and weeded one bed in the dark – I only lost one little swisschard plant and a whole lot of crab grass.

Beyond silly: Illegal to harvest rain in CO Monday, June 14th, 2010

The Hub directed me to this article: Illegal to collect rain water in Colorado. Sheesh, for a crunchy state this seems quite improbable. One argument is the rain that falls is supposed to go into a lake that supplies residents with water. Ugh, sounds to me like someone is just trying to keep CO residents from getting some of their water for free. What next, charging them for the fresh mountain air they breath? Good grief!

Singing in the rain Friday, June 11th, 2010

Singing in the rain because I don’t have to lug watering cans back and forth through the garden. We have two rain barrels and two broken outdoor faucets so I get to do it the old-school way. It reminds me of hanging out with my paternal grandmother as she toted 5-gallon buckets around the farm to water and feed chickens, pigs, etc., using a cart on only the longest walks. Good grief she was strong.

I did get a chance to glance about the very muddy garden – I stayed out of it so as not to cause compaction. All my pumpkins, gourds, melon and beans have sprouted. They will need to be thinned a bit but I’m never sure how many to keep for good crop insurance vs. having my entire yard engulfed in vines. 2-3 maybe? At least until they start producing flowers.

My nasturtiums and cilantro that I planted weeks ago and almost gave up on have also shown up. I guess they just needed a few muggy, warm, wet days. Cilantro is always tricky to keep going long enough to pair it with the tomato and pepper harvest. I’m hoping my Slo-Bolt variety and the fact that I planted it in a cooler, shadier pocket of my yard will keep it producing and not bolting (going to seed) so quickly. Other varieties I’ve tried only produce a 1/2 dozen harvestable leaves and then up shoots the flowering seed head.

Can’t wait to hear about ‘Ladybug’s’ tomato taste reviews. Please send me any and all you have!

Catalpa and moving trees Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

3 year old catalpa tree

Approximately 3 years ago I planted a few Northern Catalpa seeds. And now I have one little catalpa tree. Right now it is growing in my garden soon to be (hopefully) surrounded by pumpkin and squash vines. I’ll have to make sure they don’t overtake the little fella. I planted in the garden area and left it marked just so it wouldn’t get trampled or mowed and because I really didn’t know where I wanted it’s permanent home to be.

It’s still small and therefore should be fairly easy to transplant but Northern Catalpas do have a taproot which can make for more difficult transplanting if it’s too mature. But, this taproot is also why catalpa are such adaptable and strong trees.

Basic rules for transplanting a tree

  • Dig your new planting hole first (wide with sloping sides)
  • Measure the diameter of the tree’s trunk, for every inch wide start digging 1 foot out from the trunk all the way around.
  • Dig down 1-2 feet to get as many roots as possible.
  • Take as much root and dirt as possible.
  • If the root ball is large and the new hole nearby, try rolling it onto a sturdy rug and dragging it to the new planting hole.
  • Place in new hole at same or higher level.
  • Back fill with dirt and water well, continue with weekly waterings (about 1″ per week)
Carnivorrrrre Monday, June 7th, 2010

A couple weeks ago, my son barely mentioned wanting to get a Venus Fly Trap and, boom! there I was online trying to find a way to bring that to him. Any reason to encourage a love of plants even if I have to go the way of the flesh-eating variety.

The kit was a little smashed up but the plants seem fresh enough to have sustained the trip. It came with:

  • clear bowl with plastic, ventilated lid
  • dirt (actually peat moss)
  • 3 plants: fly trap, pitcher plant, sundew

It was very easy to assemble. I picked this one because it came with live plants and not seeds and it’s own terrarium. These plants come from bogs which are hard to replicate in one’s house without a terrarium to help control humidity and soil moisture. To top it off I used some decorative (white and natural) aquarium rocks to cover the peat. I’ve set it by an east window in our bathroom (naturally humid).

Ok, so I might be a little more excited than my son but we haven’t fed the ‘traps’ yet. I was telling my mom about it and she said you can also feed them a tiny tiny bit of raw hamburger if bugs end up in short supply.

Hello June Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Bearded iris, poppy, columbine in front garden

Way back in March, did you ever think June would get here? But at least us gardeners know a little something about patience, right?

Now that the veggies are tucked in their beds it’s time to move on to other things . . .  besides weeds – which have been fairly easy to pull so far with the intermittent storms we’ve had. Anyway, next I plan to take stock of my front garden bed which is quite full and askew as far as plant heights go, and divide some things and swap some things to also help out my side garden beds which are sparse and have a long way to go in the interest category.

What I have to work with is an abundance of bearded iris, allium and daylily in the small front bed and quite a few daffodils and hyacinths from the side bed. The first three are medium to tall plants flowering from June or later that maintain a green grassy foliage of either an upright stately nature or soft and ribbon like. The last two are short to very short and early bloomers – now having spent their glory days in the sun, they’ve taken on a yellow cast and have fallen and withered on each other like a plate of off-looking limp noodles. I’m hoping by swapping these plants around I’ll have more consistent flowering and the taller foliages will camouflage the shorter ones as they wither away.

Transplanting now might not be ideal but our days are sticking to the 70s with a possible shower and now is when I’ll have the time. I can also still tell where the daffodils and hyacinth are but if I wait much longer their foliage will have completely disintegrated and I’ll have a hard time dig the individual tubers. I will wait until the iris are through so I don’t interrupt their bloom time and the daylilies haven’t shown buds yet. So far there is a Japanese painted fern under some of these, I’m wondering what other treasures I might find among the overgrowth. But I dare not take too much from my front bed because it’s one of the few places that needs little weeding – there’s just no room for them.

Garden . . . planted Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

I just got done putting the last of my warm season crops in, all by seed. Vine crops, except for peas, tend to be warm season crops – think melons, squash, cucmbers, etc.

In my last open area I put up a couple ‘trellis’ (the sides of a crib my son had shaken to bits a couple years earlier) and under them planted a Kentucky Pole Bean – one leftover in my collection of seed, and a Dragon Tongue Bean, a Dutch Heirloom variety I got from Baker Creek Seeds. Both can be eaten whole or the latter, shelled. Now that I look closer at the package, these Dragon ones might be a bush crop so I won’t need to trellis them. I could’ve also soaked the beans before planting them to speed germination.

Another bush crop I planted is a winter squash, a bush buttercup also from Baker Creek. The next few squash I’ll speak of came from seeds I’d also tried last year. Most of which met their demise via squash borer (think giant maggot – totally gross!) But I’m trying again and going to be on the lookout for the first signs of damage, July on.

I also planted a Hubbard True Green Improved and two edible pumpkins – Winter Luxury Pie and a cheesecake pumpkin with the French name Rouge Vif d’Etampes (now isn’t that just fun to say), it can be harvested when still small. Another pumpkin with a French name that has a dull almost pink shell is Musquee De Provence I’m guessing is not edible but very pretty for arrangements, and maybe carving for Halloween.

The last thing I planted was a Charentais melon – these seeds I got in a swap with a friend. I don’t have much info but I’m thinking it resembles a cantoloupe.

The melon, and squash were all planted about 5 seeds to a hill to ensure 1-2 plants after thinning. Planting in hills allows for quicker soil warm up and quicker drainage as well as more oxygen into the soil. Make a small area at the top of each hill flat so seeds don’t wash away with watering.