Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Vegetable Beds Update

It feels like it's been a while since the last photos of the raised beds.
Here are some I took yesterday evening.


First, the original raised bed.

Here you can see snow peas growing along the fenced edges.  No idea if they'll do well in our climate.  I guess we'll see!  Donald selected them, and now that I read the packet, I see that they are "very sensitive to heat".  Ha ha ha!  (Maybe he was in a hurry and didn't read the back... Either that or he's just an eternal optimist!) Well, good luck, pretty little snow peas.  Maybe the remaining seeds can be planted for a cool-weather crop, later in the year...  (Otherwise, why do they even sell the darned things down here?!  That's one of my pet peeves-- places selling things that aren't at all well-suited to the local climate.  You really have to do your research and not just assume that they wouldn't sell you something that has almost zero chance of surviving our brutal summers.  A packet of seeds-- not a big deal-- but an expensive potted plant...)

Then there are four broccoli plants growing left center.  Again, no idea how they'll do here.  Another of Donald's choices.  I've never heard of people growing broccoli down here, so I'm a little bit skeptical.  They seem to be doing fine so far, but our nightmarish heat and humidity haven't arrived yet, either.

There's a clump of chives in front of the broccoli, too, and in the back we have a couple hills for squash and zucchini.    If they're planted where we think they are (and not vice versa), more of the yellow squash seeds sprouted than the zucchini-- but I'm positive I've read that zucchini do well here, so I remain hopeful. 

Garden Progress


Next, the new raised bed.

Here's a shot looking down the length of the whole bed.  The posts and sticks in the ground aren't the supports for the tomatoes, by the way.  Donald just stuck them in there to keep the weight of the sheets from damaging the plants, back when there was a freeze risk. 

Garden Progress

Now, the same bed, from the front.

On the right, in the holes in the blocks, we have some dill seedlings.  (The dill did really well, last year.  We don't use it much-- just with some potato dishes, really-- but we already had the seeds, and it's just fun to watch it grow.)

Then, inside the bed, we have a row of okra seeds that we'll have to thin out to a couple of plants--  I guess.  I've never grown okra before-- and Donald certainly hasn't-- but I think they get pretty big.  Two is probably the most we could possibly fit here.  Donald doesn't like okra, so this is for me-- much like the cucumbers we planted against the fence in the yard are his-all-his.  (Not a big cucumber fan.)

Next, tomatoes.  Varieties, varieties... We have the tags saved somewhere... Here!  "Homestead"-- Apparently an heirloom tomato (so we should try to remember to save some seeds to try next year)-- determinate, which means bushier, bears crop all at once.  "Red Beefsteak"-- Also marked as "heirloom"-- indeterminate, which means it may need more caging in, and (maybe?) tomatoes through the season instead of in one big crop.  However, I read now that "Red Beefsteak" tomatoes mature later in the season, so we'll have to keep that in mind.  "Homestead" tomatoes apparently are good at setting fruit even in hot weather-- lots of tomatoes in a concentrated period of time. 

Garden Progress

In this photo, the two tomatoes after the block marked with the plastic container are "Sweet 100" cherry tomatoes.  (We have two more of these planted in a flower bed inside the yard.) 

Next-- still going from right to left-- there are four bell peppers.  There are onions in the holes in the blocks along the back, and the beginnings of smaller bunching onions in a few holes in the front.  (I need to plant more seeds in a few of those holes.  I tried using some of the old seeds leftover from last year, and they didn't come up well at all.  Something to remember for next time! Onion seeds, like chives, don't last well.  You're better off buying a fresh envelope.)

Garden Progress

Here's where things get harder to see.  ;o)

The onions in the holes continue across the back and down (most of) the width of the bed.  In front, there are lots of chives.  The bigger diameter ones are surviving plants from last year.  The smaller ones are from this year.  (We divided one small pot into several pieces.)  There are also chives in the pot outside the bed.

There are supposed to be four rows of seedlings inside the bed, but one row hasn't really come up yet (assuming it ever will).  I'm not sure I remember which row is which (Donald planted them), but I think the first on the left is radishes, followed by a row of some sort of lettuce (loose-leaf type), a row of Swiss chard (large ribbed dark green), and another row of lettuce (loose-leaf).  I don't know which lettuce is which, though.  We planted "Black Seeded Simpson" from last year (but supposedly lettuce seed is good for a minimum of two years) and a fresh packet of mesclun ("Gourmet Greens Mixture")-- which don't look that much alike, so it should be obvious soon which one came up.

Garden Progress

And I think that about wraps up the tour of the raised beds.  :o)


Monday, April 21, 2014

Garage Update

Over the weekend, we "TSP"ed and started priming the (second-hand) cabinets for the garage storage/workbench area.  Here's a photo Donald took, along with his plan for how they'll be arranged:


We'd been putting off buying cabinets because we were thinking of first putting some sort of epoxy sealant on the floor.  We talked about it a lot-- Donald researched it-- and we basically went back and forth over the issue for a while.  I guess we've finally decided to just not bother with it, for the time being.  It's something we can do later, if we change our minds.  If you use the "good stuff", it's not a cheap project-- especially when we have so many other things we want to do around the house and yard.  (For me, it was definitely a lower priority than many of those other projects!) Then there was the difficulty of knowing which product to use, with all the conflicting reviews out there...  Anyway, I think we can live with an unsealed garage floor.  ;o)  (I don't think anyone we know has an epoxied garage floor.)

Now that the decision's made, there's nothing holding us back.  We put together a couple of free-standing shelves we bought back around Black Friday.  Now we're working on refinishing the cabinets.  (They'll feel like ours when they've had a coat or two of nice, clean paint.  Nothing like paint to freshen things up!)

Priming Garage Cabinets

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Other Things:

-- I finally planted a six-pack of annual vincas.  Still need to plant a couple more vincas and a variegated periwinkle (also, confusingly, known as vinca major)...

-- I transplanted some butterfly ginger from the "bottom" of the yard (along the west fence) closer to the house.  They've spread quite a bit, down there.  They're not making large clumps, but they're traveling surprising distances-- one here, one there-- in places that I'm pretty sure I didn't originally plant them.  Maybe I'm making a mistake planting it in/near flower beds closer to the house, given its wanderlust.  But it's possible to dig it out again (I hope) if it misbehaves too badly.  I wanted some where we'd be able to smell that wonderful perfume more easily.

-- This year, some of the clumps of (what I call) wild iris (a.k.a. yellow flag or yellow iris) have been blooming.  I think this is the first year I've seen them bloom, here, though the foliage has done well for a while.  I wonder if it's a fluke brought on by perfect weather (for this plant, I mean), or if they just needed to settle in...

Yellow Flag

-- The white double clematis is still going strong.  These blooms last a long time, and they're more resilient than their delicate appearance led me to expect. 

Clematis

-- We have our first bloom on the passionflower vine since we put it on the trellis! 

First Flower on the Trellis!

--  The rambling, old-fashioned (?) pink rose by our bedroom windows is about to burst into bloom.  It is absolutely covered in buds, right now.  I was afraid the latest cold spell might ruin them, but they look fine.  Can't wait for the show to start.  ;o) 

Ready to Burst into Bloom


(One or two buds got antsy and opened earlier than the rest.)

Early Bloomer-- Literally

--  This is one of a few self-sown cleome that have come up.  I'd hoped more would make an appearance, so I may try to sow a few more seeds by hand. 

Cleome

-- We have tomatoes on the vine!

Tomatoes!


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Updated photos of the raised vegetable beds, next time. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Luna Pix

Here are the latest photos of Luna.  She'll be four months old tomorrow.  :o)


(You can hover over the photo and use the arrows that appear to flip back through the rest of our Flickr photostream.)

She's a sweetie-- sometimes.  ;o)  Other times, she still thinks biting is a fun game.  She loves chasing (and growling at) frisbees, has the word "treat" memorized perfectly, and is pretty good at the three commands we've taught her so far.  Those would be "sit", "down" (as in "lie down"), and "wait" (which means don't take the treat yet). We've also taught her "no", and sometimes she obeys that one, too.  (g)  She loves to give ear-kisses-- and nose/mouth kisses, too, if you aren't careful.  She's still not house-trained, but that's really more our fault than hers, I'm sure.  (She'll learn, eventually.)  She sometimes whines and howls when she's very sad (such as when everyone else goes outside and she's left behind), but she's usually very good at keeping herself occupied with her toys.  She runs and throws herself against the cardboard "fences" that keep her in her room, when she really, really wants out or sees you coming.  She stands on her hind feet and sticks her head and front paws over the cardboard to watch you when you're working in the kitchen.  She loves pulling her blanket out of the crate and around the room.  She has the softest fur ever.  She's an expert at "welcome home".  She's a cutie-pie-- but I may be biased.  :o)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Heavy Rain & a Tale of Two Trellises

We need to remember to buy a new rain gauge!  Our old one was broken and leaking, and we keep getting these monumental amounts of rain, with no way of knowing exactly how much we got.  Inches upon inches, Monday evening/night.  (Edit:  Donald reports that Grandpa and Mom both recorded over 8 inches!  That's a lot for one 24-hour period, even around here.  Donald brought home a new rain gauge, which is now in place, ready for the next deluge.)  The ground still squelches when you walk in some spots-- but we're lucky; we live in a place that drains pretty well.  No flooding.  Just some puddles and very saturated soil in low spots.  

After the rain pushed through, cold air followed, and temperatures plummeted down to near freezing, last night.  Possibly freezing in mid-April, down here, when you've planted vegetables and tender annuals?  Not fun.  We took the precaution of covering lots of things, which means not only covering them, but also uncovering them.  It seems like a lot of work to a lazybones like myself.  ;o)  But we did it.  As it turned out, we only got down to 34, just above freezing.  Could've saved ourselves the trouble.  Oh well.  Such is life! 

Photos of the very full pond:

The Pond Overfloweth

The Pond Overfloweth

The Pond Overfloweth

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When we were inspecting our raised beds yesterday afternoon-- (sprouting squash, zucchini, okra, beans, radishes, and Swiss chard!)--  we found a snake toward the end of the new bed-- actually in/on the raised bed!  Fortunately, it was a kingsnake, one of the good guys. (g)

Here he is heading toward the "forest".  (I guess he wasn't in the mood for company.)

Kingsnake

I think this is the third snake we've seen this year.  There was a garter snake making repeated appearances in one area of the yard, a couple months ago, and then more recently I saw a plain black snake of some sort-- nonvenomous-- hanging out near the raised beds.

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I posted the "before" shot of a new trellis for the passionflower vine, a couple of entries ago.  Here it is with the vine on it:

Trellis for Passionflower

No blooms at the moment, but it looks happy enough.  I do wonder, though, if we shouldn't have woven it as high as possible... Reading about ivy-- (see next item)-- I've learned that if you try to make it grow vertically too quickly, it can get leggy, with all its leaves at the top.  You want to go slowly so that it fills in the bottom, too.  Of course, ivy and passionflower vine aren't remotely the same plant.

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Speaking of ivy... ;o)

Here's a "before" shot of the area where we put our second trellis:

Before Ivy Trellis

It's an ugly spot, with all those boxes and wires and pipes-- and it's right by the door we (and most other people) use 99% of the time.  I think most houses are planned so that these unattractive utility boxes aren't in plain sight, but the way our house was situated, this is just the way it worked out.

(Side note:  This photo highlights the need for some future improvements, such as painting the door, touching up the paint on the covered patio, and finally putting in a permanent step to replace the shabby-looking, make-do tripping-hazard that has been there "temporarily" since the house was built.)

I had the idea of putting a trellis over as much as possible of this mess (while still leaving access to the breaker box and the electric meter), so Donald planned one out, and we built and put it into place over the weekend.

Here it is with the ivy planted:

After Ivy Trellis

After Ivy Trellis

The path between the planter and the post of the patio cover isn't roomy, but it's not too bad.  We made the planter pretty narrow, and most of the time we'll be using the wide passage across from the door.

(The blue rope on the ground is where we've been planning out the placement of some new gravel pathways we're going to put down in this part of the yard.)

Of course, after building the trellis and planting the ivy, I decided to look it up online... So I had the pleasure of reading that (some people say) ivy doesn't adhere that well to vinyl.  (NO!  Our lattice is vinyl!!)  And then there were the people telling how terrible ivy is, period-- so destructive to brick.  (What if the ivy outsmarts me and gets onto the brick?  Our house is DOOMED!!) 

Well, it might do fine.  This isn't slick vinyl.  It's textured, and there are small holes so I can try to weave it back and forth to help keep it in place, too.  If it absolutely refuses, we could try it somewhere else (away from our precious brick) and try another plant on the trellis.

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Clematis



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Around the Yard

The latest photo-tour--

The viburnum has started blooming:

Viburnum in Bloom

Not sure if this is the "final look" of the bloom or if more of the interior buds will eventually open up, too. Even if this is it, I think we're happy with it. We like the texture of the leaves, and as they are, the blooms remind me of very small lacecap hydrangeas.

Clematis


Clematis


This spring, the two clematis vines on our fence have been the best I've seen them in the two or three years since planting. If we re-do part of our fence, they'll have to be removed from the old fence. I wonder how they'll handle that...

The azaleas are blooming:

Azalea

Azaleas

Some of the things we planted in the past few weeks are growing, such as the Creeping Jenny:

Creeping Jenny and Polka-Dot Plant

I know marigolds are supposed to be extremely easy, but I'm still impressed with how well the seeds I gathered last year are doing! I can't wait to see them bloom!

Marigolds

Here are a couple (one in the front/right and another in the background to the left) of "new" hydrangeas recently added to the yard.  Months ago, I layered a couple of low branches of our existing hydrangea, and these are two resultant new plants. I hope they'll survive! I didn't realize I should've staked the branches to help them grow upright until it was too late, but I'm sure that if they live, they'll sort that out on their own... eventually.

Hydrangeas

Our old raised vegetable bed:
Broccoli in the background. Donald has since planted peas along the fenced portion and put in a couple of hills for the crook-neck squash and zucchini seeds.

Raised Vegetable Beds

Our new raised vegetable bed:
(We built this bed using materials already on hand-- cinder blocks that had been all but forgotten in their stack out in the woods.  They're not the most beautiful material, but if they work, we'll be satisfied.  They have a sort of utilitarian appeal, I guess. (g))

Tomatoes in the front, then some bell peppers. Since this photo was taken, Donald planted okra seeds in the empty section in the foreground and lettuce, radish, and Swiss chard seed in the back. Oh, and there are things planted in some of the holes of the blocks, too, as you can see. Onions, bunching onions, chives, and dill, so far. (The love affair with chives continues.  Some of these are survivors from last year, but we also bought another little pot that we divided into four more bunches.)

Raised Vegetable Beds

And finally, here's the trellis we built for the passionflower vine. It still needs a final coat of paint before we can plant the vine, but that won't take long. We're planning to use the pavers from the path to the main gate to make a little mini-patio between this trellis and the back porch. (The paver path will be gravel, instead, if all goes according to plan.)

Trellis, Before Planting

That concludes this official garden update.  ;o)