Thursday, June 3, 2010

Garden Thursday

All things going as they should have gone, this post would have been up last night, but our big homeschool track meet was today and somehow I forgot all about Garden Thursday (luckily I'm not on some payroll somewhere, isn't it). As it was, it's a good thing this is a written column and not a spoken one, because I am hoarse from shrieking "GO! GO! GO!" and "RUN! RUN! RUN!" over and over and over again. Pretty exciting stuff. Nothing like watching your kids run like the wind.

But we were talking gardening, weren't we?

I've had a few people mention the lack of bees in their gardens right now. If you're noticing this make sure you have enough enticing plants for them. Here are a few of the things attracting the bees in my garden: Jupiter's Beard, roses, rhodos, coreopsis, digitalis, asters, balloon flowers, clematis, strawberries, clover, sage, lupins, foamflower, marigolds (I'd include the usual fruit trees but mine have already flowered so I'm focusing mostly on what is flowering at the moment). Don't forget habitat: solitary bees need places to live, whether it's simple holes in the ground or brushy, rocky areas for them to burrow into. I've been noticing a lot of paper wasps and already I have two little 'starter' nests that I had to turf out of the greenhouse. Sadly, one was in the roof beam (where it would have posed a hazard to anyone entering it) and the other was nestled inside a pot, and I only noticed it when I dug out the pot's contents: an overwintered agapanthus. Here's a link to paper wasps, which are good for your garden, if their nest is somewhere that everyone can co-exist with, of course.

It's incredibly green here right now. We've been having a lot of rainy warm weather, which raises the spectre of blight, about which I have little experience (knock on wood) or I'd give you some ideas. The up side to this kind of weather is that it causes the plants to grow like stink. In the top photo you can see the spotted pulmonaria that I cut down to the ground 2 weeks ago. It will be blooming again by August. Surrounding it is the mint that we've been eating every day: in sandwiches, in cous cous, puréed in salad dressings (1/2 cucumber, a good fistful of mint, some seasonings, oil and vinegar and you have a really amazing dressing). I'm also making mint syrups. This is best done with new mint - the stalks are still soft and the taste is fresh. I freeze it in little sandwich freezer bags, to be brought out when it's the middle of winter and we're longing for something fresh in our lemonade or Christmas party punches.

Another project I'm working on is this. You can't see it all that well in the photo but I'm laying PVC pipe across lawns and walkways where the soaker hoses usually run. This way the slaves kids can mow the lawn without me worrying about them mowing the hoses as well. Last year I buried the hoses, which worked well enough although the paths were a bit on the sodden side. This year I am going to thread the hoses through the pipe so the water can run one way or another into a bed and not pool in the ground under the path. I can then leave the pipe in the ground permanently and haul the hose out without worrying about it having been sitting under sod all summer.

Firsts: artichokes are coming up, as are the new potatoes. We've also been eating the first strawberries and honeyberries (from a fruiting honeysuckle). The green onions are everywhere, as is the lettuce (I've got a speckled red and green Romaine called Freckles that is quite unique) and the first raspberries are starting to ripen. Makes up for all those bloody green caterpillars decimating the young apple trees.

I discovered a snake in the garden the other day. She looked very fat, which is what led me to believe that it might be a she soon to be a they. Sigh. I also had snake nightmares that night. I am so not a snake person.

Here's a new garden experiment: we're using chicken wire to grow potatoes in. This particular cage is called Experiment #2. This is Dominic's garden, and you can see the wire in it surrounding a rather large patch of potatoes from last year's Lost & Forgotten Crop. We're adding soil as the plant grows. I am hoping that this will keep the potatoes and their hills from spreading into everything else, as they did last year. I'm what you call a Cram Gardener: I cram what I can into what space I have. You'd be surprised what you can grow vertically if you try.
Here are some more potato cages. They are Experiment #1. I've sawn the bottoms off random plastic pots. Experiment #3 involves more chicken wire and taller cages.

Yes, the fun never ends around here.

Here is Clever Idea #286. Well, I like to think of it as a Clever Idea. We'll see how clever it is come August, when I hope to be harvesting a crop of English cucumbers from the horizontal stick attached at right angles to this cedar stake. At the bottom of the cedar stake is a little cucumber plant (in the clump of white). Four feet to the left of this stake is another stake (with another cucumber plant), and that long horizontal stick is attached to both stakes. The idea is that these cucumber plants will grow up and across, fruiting cleverly and oh-so-handily along that stick. I will flounce along and pick pick pick. This idea came about because we just finished all the cucumber relish I made last year, in my never-ending quest to avoid high fructose corn syrup (condiments being a favourite dwelling place of HFCS). It was good relish. So I will make more, providing this clever idea holds up.

What's the "clump of white" you ask? Ground eggshells. I have a large container of them and I surround all the new starts with a good sprinkling. Keeps the slugs away. Of course, it might actually be the snake keeping the slugs away...
Gratuitous Garden photo.

People always seem surprised when they see my garden in real life, but that's because they don't realize what a tricky photographer I am. On the other side of this tree is a 4 lane freeway, 3 grocery stores, and 5 apartment buildings.


Rebecca said...

Your garden is looking absolutely fabulous, dahling.

I just planted most of my seeds this week because it's been so bloody cold. I'm jealous about your lettuce.

I do have some gorgeous strawberries ripening on our plants - thank you thank you thank you.

sheila said...

Why thank you. Yes, that lettuce is lovely, isn't it? I believe I got the seeds from Samantha, so I'm into sharing.

Strawberries? How lovely! We're having strawberry shortcake tonight, with dinner. I had to fight my way through the Snake Bed today. It was scary for both of us.

Suji said...

I remember the other time you had a snake in the she the same type? Lovely garden photos :)

Samantha said...

Really??!! You are a super tricky photographer then, because I totally see your yard as very large and far from the city.

Thanks for your garden words of wisdom. I look forward to it every week. I learn and I find out what day of the week it is - win win!

sheila said...

Suji, I keep meaning to explore The Life Cycle of the Snake, just to see if this IS the same one. It's not in the same place, if that makes a difference. It IS a garden snake though - nothing more, nothing less. I suppose I should be thankful for small miracles.

Samantha! Today is Wednesday, just in case you were wondering...I will henceforth consider it my duty to keep you informed. Tomorrow is Saturday.

And yes, I AM a tricky photographer. I live deep in the grit of the city. Handy for getting out and about. I am a city girl at heart.