Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sometimes Evil Is Pretty

I REALLY loathe catalpa trees. They drop these long seed pods all over my yard and despite my best efforts to clean them all up before they can release their devil spawn, I pull thousands of catalpa babies out of my garden every year.  They're not even easy to pull.  If hand pulled, their bark pulls off like a glove and the trunks and roots remain.  I have to dig them out or pull them with pliers.

I lived in a Victorian era neighborhood and the Victorians really loved the catalpa. About 100 years ago, there was some sort of tree disease that spread through the neighborhood, killing many of the trees.  The neighbors living here at the time replaced the trees with catalpas. Now we have hundreds of mature catalpa trees all over our neighborhood, including my neighbor's backyard.

I hate to admit this, but I can see why the Victorians were so enamored with catalpa tress. I can only see their point of view for about two weeks a year when the catalpa are in bloom. This week, when I step out into my backyard, a sweet fragrance envelopes me.  I look up at the catalpa tree and see these orchid-like flowers and I look across my yard and see it blanketed with fallen flowers. 

Soon, however, the tree will form these long fruits that look like seed pods.  Then the fruits will burst open and their magical flying seeds will drift all over the neighborhood. The dried up fruits will litter my back yard. How can something so pretty be so invasive and messy?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Plant Marker Idea

Last week when I went to Soule's Gardens to buy some hostas, I saw a wonderful idea for plant markers. Cynthia, the owner of Soule's, uses polished rocks with the names of the plants written with paint pen to mark the names of her plants. [She also buries a tag in the ground at the 2 o'clock position on all her plants just in case some child decides to play rock collector.]

Cynthia told me that the rock tags have lasted for more than two years for her without getting washed off or faded. She told me to make sure that I used paint pens and polished rocks.

I went to a big box store and found some bags of polished rocks in the candle section and some paint pens in the craft section.  I bought black, white, and gold pens to see which one looked best and was easiest to read.

I think that the gold one was the prettiest and easy enough to read, so I made most of my rock labels with the gold pen.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Little Green Berries

My berries plants are finished flowering and are now forming berries.

Blueberries:  Elliot

Blackberries: Triple Crown

Red Raspberries: Heritage

Strawberries: Honeoye

Friday, May 21, 2010

Veggie Garden Progress

Here's an update on my vegetable garden.

My west back yard bed

My north backyard bed

My eggplant is doing well. I'm growing listada de gandia. I chose this variety because it's white with purple stripes. It's supposed to have a great flavor and it's just the right size for dinner.

My zucchini got munched by something, probably bunnies, but it is forming some new leaves. I hope that it will survive.

Most of my cucumbers look great.

However, my lemon cucumbers look terrible.

I planted green, purple and yellow bush beans.  They all came up and are growing well.

My tomatoes have grown at least a couple of inches this week.  Fred Limbaugh looks fantastic.  I chose this variety because it's a pink beefsteak that tastes sweet and fruity. 

These are my cheater celery.  The celery that I started from seed didn't do well, so I bought a dozen celery seedlings from a nursery. This variety is self-blanching, so I don't have to worry about planting them in trenches.

My broccoli has finally taken off. The seedlings were puny, but they are filling out nicely. I chose Apollo because it produces a lot of side shoots.  I don't like heads of broccoli much, but the side shoots are sweeter and more tender.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Field Trip to Winery

My friend, Maggie, and I went to visit our friend, Alicia, today.  On our way back from her house, we stopped by Oliver Winery to do a little wine tasting and buy some wine.  Oliver has beautiful gardens, so I snapped a couple of pictures of them to inspire the design of my gardens.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Central Indiana Plant Swap 2010

I haven't written much for the past week. I was out of town on business. When I returned, I had to prepare for the plant swap. I had most of my plants dug up and ready to go but I still had a few to finish at the last minute. I finished the potting on Saturday and Sunday morning, and then I labelled the plants with popsicle sticks marked with the plant names. I ended up taking about 180 plants. I had several in gallon pots, but most were in 4" pots. I managed to fill my trunk, back seat, and front seat. It was a tight squeeze, but I got all the plants into my car. 

There were about 30 traders at the swap.  The picture above was taken near the end of the swap because I was too excited to remember to take photos for most of the swap. We had everything from Jack Frost brunnera and daylilies to birdhouses and old gardening magazines.

I stopped getting plants after several rounds because I already had or didn't want what was left. I have many different perennials in my garden, so I don't need a lot of new plants. However, I chose some lovely plants.  I choose coral bells, shasta daisies, dwarf yellow reblooming iris, pink asters, lavender bearded iris, pink anemone, scented geranium, and lady's mantle.  I also snagged a dozen or so English gardening magazines, a birdhouse, and a garden-themed tote bag. I'm pleased with my haul.

My sister brought home red monarda, sweet william, daylilies, obedient plant (I warned her, but she won't listen to me....), and columbine, among others plants that I can't recall right now.  She also stopped after a couple of rounds because she had gotten all that she wanted.

Some gardeners who needed more plants, were able to take more plants home:

A guy named Russ is organizing a fall plant swap.  If you want to find out more information about the Central Indiana Fall Plant Swap, go to the 'get togethers' forum at the plant forums later in the summer.  He shall have posted details by August.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Potato Progress

My potatoes in pots are thriving.  Tuesday, I added more planting medium  to the pot, because as the potatoes grow, their stems need to be covered with dirt.  I added a mixture of grass clippings, dried out leaves from last fall, and some soil to cover all but about 4 inches of the top of the stems.  Eventually, I will fill the pots to their tops and the pots will be topped with huge crowns of potato leaves and flowers.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What a Hoe!

I loathe weeding.  I usually can only get through it with the help of Peter Frampton, the Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton, and George Thorogood. [In reality, it often takes my sister coming over and making me weed.  Even then, I have a limited attention span for weeding.]

Last summer as I was hand weeding my beds and whining to my neighbor, Gaynell, she told me that I needed a Dutch hoe.  She brought hers over for me to try and I loved it.  It was a slim hand held hoe with a knife-sharp blade.  I went out that day and found one at Smith Hawkins.  Now, I'm a frugal person, so for me to buy something at SH means that I REALLY want something badly and can't find it anywhere else.  They called it a Japanese hoe.

This hoe slices through weeds like they're nothing.  It does a nice job of running about an inch under the surface of the soil so it does wonders with grass and plantain lilies.  I can even sharpen it in my electric knife sharpener.  Today, I used it to removed all the tiny weeds from my beds and it was wonderful.  I thought that others out there who hate weeding might find this tool useful.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Planting Tomatoes

I finally got to plant my tomatoes.  Today I had both time and dry weather!

I planted the following tomatoes:
black cherry
black krim
bloody butcher
chocolate stripes
Fred Limbaugh
Henderson's Wins All
Italian heirloom
Japanese trifele
mortgage lifter
orange Russian
supersweet 100
sweet tangerine
Wolford's wonder

Here's a tomato 'pineapple' seedling.

I pinched off the lower leaves so that I could bury the stem deep. Tomatoes do much better if they are buried deep. Their stems, if buried, will develop roots all along the buried part of the stem. Burying a lot of the stem allows the tomatoes to grow an extensive root system.

I dug a 6-10"deep hole for each tomato plant and added some used coffee grounds and crushed egg shell the the dirt in the bottom of each hole. In the past, I have had problems with end rot on my tomatoes. End rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in the soil. The egg shells will slowly release calcium around the roots of the tomato plants. Bone meal can also be used as a source of calcium. The coffee grounds will serve as a source of extra nitrogen to the growing plants.

Finally, I buried the tomato plants deeply in the bed.  I probably buried 70-80% of each plant.
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