Monday, May 28, 2007

Happiness is Gardening

We had a fabulous weekend for gardening and enjoying the unofficial beginning of summer. The new garden bed by the grape arbor is 99% done following today's installation of a fieldstone pathway to the hose bib. I am so pleased with how it looks, I just love it. I have 3 lavender plants to go in, and have one other space to add something too, then it is done but for the inevitable tweaking.

Saturday K
yle and his girlfriend Meaghan were visiting; it was great to see Kyle to congratulate him in person on passing his driving exam. As soon as his mother gets him added to the insurance, he'll be able to come and visit much more easily.

We had planned to get a load of shredded bark mulch for the front garden bed, and Kyle and Meaghan graciously
helped spread it out. We weeded and fertilized, then spread it just before the flowering crab began to lose its blossoms. The petals began falling yesterday afternoon and look dramatically pretty against the dark brown mulch. Sunday we worked much of the day in the vegetable garden, turning over the soil with the broadfork, and adding gypsum to help lighten the clay. Dan did most of the broadfork work, I added the gypsum and then followed with a cultivator, breaking up clods and pulling weeds. Had it not been for a rain shower Saturday night/Sunday morning, we would have finished the vegetable garden, but we decided to let the wet soil dry a bit and work on other projects. I checked the soil temperature, it was 66 F. The squash bed, which I'd turned earlier in the season, was 72F. We decided it was warm enough to plant, so I planted Winter Luxury Pumpkin and New England Pie Pumpkin, 2 hills of Costata Romanesca Zuchinni, and some melon, Prescott Fond Blanc.

Dan made little hot caps out of gallon milk jugs for the melon/squashes/pumpkins to keep them warm. I keep hoping I'll strike it lucky with a melon, because I LOVE melon.
We also set out the peppers in the pepper bed, all Johnny's varieties. Lipstick pimento type, Carmen Italian bulls horn type, and some cubanelle peppers. We added floating row cover over the hoops to make it nice and warm, and to protect the peppers from the sun. They looked pretty happy tonight when I peeked in to look at them.

We ended the weekend with out traditional Memorial Day potluck in our friend Karen's lovely backyard garden, enjoying the fine weather, good food and great company. Happiness is being in a garden.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Heavenly Scent

This morning I awoke to the intoxicating scent of lilac wafting through the bedroom window on the slight breeze. If I could awaken to that scent more often, I would be in heaven!

Ocho helped make sure I awoke to catch the scent. She likes to lurk in the window sills and birdwatch --she's quite a birder! Fortunately, she's an inside cat.

In the front yard, the flowering crab tree fills the
air with color and scent. The perfume wafts through the window of the upstairs bath, and the light reflecting off the blossoms gives the room a rosy glow. This tree is breathtakingly beautiful every spring, and without fail, later in the summer all the leaves drop and it looks very sickly, yet it still is gorgeous every spring.

Once awake, I had to arise and make coffee to sit out on the deck and enjoy the view. The sun is lighting the crab tree, in full bloom, and as the breeze stirs, the petals drop to the ground. It is amazingly beautiful.

I love the mornings this time of year, sitting on the deck with my coffee and looking over the yard. I love the garden, it fill me with happiness. When enjoying this view, I even forget about making a to-do list. For a minute or two.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

New Resource for Mainers

I discovered today, while searching for a class on canning and preserving, that the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service has a blog. Who knew!

The canning and preserivng class I enrolled in is on June 14 in Lisbon. I hope to learn how to safely use that pressure canner.

Fasten Your Seatbelts, America!!!

Kyle passed his driver's test, he's now road ready. Whoooooo -hooooo Kyle!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sweet idea for sweet peas

I saw this idea in some coverless magazine while biding my time in my podiatrist's waiting room, and thought it was clever. Is it too late to plant sweet peas?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Steady as she goes

Sunday dawned cool, grey and drizzly. Good for the garden, and the cool temps kept the black flies at bay, but I'm ready for some sun. I do think the cool weather has meant my tulips, as ragged as they are from the escaped chicken debacle and being trampled by the construction of the grape arbor have held their bloom for a long time; they are just finishing now.

Today we puttered about, weeding in the front garden bed and fertilizing the Silver & Sedum bed near the driveway, planting in the far back of the lot along the property line the 5 long suffering American Arborvitae purchased at the Fedco Tree Sale, and pruning the many volunteer maples and pin cherries from the lilac hedge by the big deck. We are working steadily on the list, and I'm feeling like we've accomplished a lot of our early spring gardening chores.

I don't think we pruned the lilac hedge last year, or if we did, we made a bad job of it, as I found a pin cherry sapling bigger in diameter than my thumb. The maples are terrible pests, they readily sprout even though the big sugar maple provides so much shade the lilacs have become a bit leggy over the years. I'm doing my best to encourage some new growth, with regular fertilizing and checking the soil pH, and pruning out the competition. Today we noticed the trunk of one of the older lilacs has cracked over the winter and it needs to be removed. A new item for the list.

When we were planting the arborvitae in our back 40 (feet) we came across a bird's nest in in a tangle of grass. Dan nearly raked it away, but saw it in the nick of time. There were four tiny babies, sparrows we think, in the nest, no more than a day old if that, eyes still closed, but beaks turned skyward when they heard us. They are so tiny!! We pulled the grass back to screen the nest, and got out of the area as quickly as possible so mom & dad could resume feeding duties. I'll try and snap some photos tomorrow.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Progress despite the rain

We made much progress today on our gardening chores. Although temps have been cool and we've received 2 inches of rain since Wednesday, the garden is growing and greening, the backyard this week looked like a travel pic of Ireland, it was so green. The flowering crab is about to bloom and is as usual, breathtakingly beautiful, the pear won't be far behind in blooming.

Our morning started with a visit to the Bowdoinham Library Plant Sale. It is a great sale, one of the best, well organized and there is better horticultural information available at the sale than at many nurseries. We came home with quite a haul; I unfortunately didn't find the Pagoda Dogwoods until it was too late, but we did purchase: 2 good sized hemlocks, a gold flame spirea, a larch, a yellow-twig dogwood, and some perennials --lovage, sedum, sweet woodruff, and an ostrich fern. With predicted rain leading to postponed yard sales, we elected to head home and garden, and we got nearly everything planted and more as the rain held off.

With considerable assistance from our hungry hens, we moved our three Gold Mop false cypress shrubs (part of a before-
chickens plan to create a hedge in the far back), planted all the woody plants from the sale, fertilized various other shrubs with Holly Tone, and moved a number of herbaceous perennials to the grape arbor bed and it's companion bed across the path. Remaining on the list generated last week:
  • Add compost and turn over vegetable garden
  • Fertilize and weed perennial beds (3 of 7 left to do)
  • Turn over working compost pile (when finished bin is empty)
  • Prime the barn wall above the hosta bed
  • Transplant perennials to grape arbor bed --still to go, Lamb's Ear
We planted 2 of the Gold Mops in the Holly bed, and the third at the end of the driveway in front of the arborvitae hedge. I love the way it looks there against the dark green arborvitae. The larch replaced one of the Mops' spot in the back, where we'll be able to see it from the house when it gets a bit bigger. The hemlocks were added to the hedge we started last year.

We also added some catmint to the arbor bed,
removed from the driveway bed of Russian Sage. I replaced the catmint with a division of one of the sages and planted another in the arbor bed, too. It is starting to look like a garden.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Chicken Love

I'm not the only crazy chicken keeper on the planet, it seems. Check out the story of 2 NYC apartment dwelling chickens (and no, this isn't an episode of Friends).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Seedlings are growing....

The seedlings are up! I had some doubts about the viability of some of my tomato seeds, left over from last year, but all varieties but one germinated very successfully. The Gardener's Delight, Sungold Cherry, and Rose were all left from last year, (from Johnny's Pine Tree Seeds and FEDCO), and all popped right up. The only non-starters? The Marglobe tomato from Burpee Seeds, packed in 2006 and treated just the same as my other seeds (i.e. badly).

I'm dreadfully behind with the seed starting, and when I finally started, I realized I'd forgotten to
place my Pine Tree Seeds order. Yikes! On the Pine Tree list:

Beets--Burpees Golden and Ruby Queen
Brussels Sprouts--Falstaff

Lettuce--Summer and Winter Mix
Melon-- Banana
Peppers--Red Beauty
Radish-- Easter Egg
Pineapple, Sun Gold, Gardener's Delight
Winter Squash--
Futsu Black

Fortunately, I had the tomato, lettuce and some radish seeds left over, and a few beets as well. I planted the tomatoes in pots inside, and sowed heavily outside in the salad greens bed radish, lettuce, and beets. Here's hoping those germinate as well. (I know somewhere I have a list of
seeds that don't germinate well when old, but naturally, I cannot think where the list is just now.)

I really want to try the
Futsu Winter Squash and the Banana Melon, so I'm going to place an order. I'll add more lettuce as I know I'm low on last year's seed. Kyle started lots of seeds, so he's given us a yellow Brandywine type tomato, Lillian's Yellow, so I'll forgo the Pineapple this year.

Since I'm ordering anyway, I may add a few perennial flower seeds to my list... I've got some empty space in the Arbor bed, and I can wait a year for them to bloom. I also started some herb seeds, and a few flowers: Rosemary, Chervil, Sage, Basil, Marigold (in remembrance of our hen Marigold), Morning Glory, Aster, Bachelor Buttons, and maybe a few more I cannot recall.

I'm still suffering with this nasty cold, but I am hoping to get the soil in the far end of the vegetable garden turned, to prepare for peas, and to warm the soil up a bit for pole beans.
Our new vegetable garden plan is ready, now we just need to implement. Ah, Spring. There's so much to do!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Slower Sunday

Sunday we moved a little slower, no doubt in recovery from Saturday, but we did cover a lot from the list, and added some new tasks:
  • Planted salad greens, yay!
  • Set up hoop house frame over salad bed
  • Connect waterline to hose bib
  • Laid the waterline to the back yard, including solving some hose connector problems with help from our fabulous local hardware store
  • Watered the salad bed and the new blueberries with the new waterline
  • entertained my student employees for dinner
  • did 2 loads of laundry and hung it on the line, mmm I love that scent!
Still to go....
  • Add compost and turn over vegetable garden
  • Fertilize and weed perennial beds (4 of 7 left to do)
  • Turn over working compost pile (when finished bin is empty)
  • Move Golden Mops to new bed
  • Plant new plants
  • Prime the barn wall above the hosta bed
  • Transplant perennials to grape arbor bed --still to go, Lamb's Ear, Flax
Ah, well, that's what the evenings are for!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Thank Heavens for Sudafed

The weekend list:
  • Plant sale
  • Add compost to raised beds
  • Fertilize raised beds and pumpkin patch
  • Close off vegetable garden to the chooks
  • Plant salad greens (at last)
  • Add compost and turn over vegetable garden
  • Fertilize and weed perennial beds
  • Mulch hosta bed with leaf mold
  • Turn over working compost pile (when finished bin is empty)
  • Move Golden Mops to new bed
  • Plant new plants
  • Pick up sticks in lawn and mow
  • Prime the barn wall above the hosta bed
  • Connect waterline to hose bib
  • Plant arborvitae
  • Transplant perennials to grape arbor bed
Remaining for Sunday:
  • Plant salad greens (at last)
  • Add compost and turn over vegetable garden
  • Fertilize and weed perennial beds (4 of 7 left to do)
  • Turn over working compost pile (when finished bin is empty)
  • Move Golden Mops to new bed
  • Plant new plants
  • Prime the barn wall above the hosta bed
  • Connect waterline to hose bib
  • Plant arborvitae
  • Transplant perennials to grape arbor bed --still to go, Lamb's Ear, Flax
Whew! We accomplished a lot today. If it weren't for Sudafed, I am pretty sure I wouldn't have been gardening, and that would have been a tragedy! It was a perfect gardening day, clear and sunny, but not too hot, with temps in the low 70s and a nice black-fly reducing breeze. The gardens are looking great, and the chickens have the vegetable garden looking better than I've ever seen it in the spring.

It was a wonderful day in the garden, and we are following it up with dinner at a local church supper, with friends accompanying. Phooey on the common cold.

More details on our gardening efforts today:

This third raised bed (on right) is completely overgrown with apple mint, which I love and I think makes the best mojitos, and an anemone of some kind, which is incredibly invasive, and not pretty enough to put up with bullying behavior. The mint, on the other hand, is so worth it. I'm going to dig some of the mint out and try a containment strategy, then we'll solarize this bed.

The Asiatic lily bed, sans red lily beetles. I checked periodically throughout the day, and crushed 8 of the little buggers (wearing my rubber gloves, of course) with my fingers. VERY satisfying.

The cart is full of weed barrier fabric from the Russian Sage hedge in front. After the mulch began to break down, was colonized by turf grass and creeping charlie, exactly what we used the product to prevent. We ripped it out this afternoon --I'll never use that useless product again!

The Orioles are back!

This morning, drinking coffee and making our to-do list, Dan exclaimed "the orioles are back!" I looked, and sure enough, they were, perched in the sugar maple. I leaped to my feet and immediately put fresh oranges out on the feeders.

Later, driving to the Wiscasset Garden Club plant sale, a male pileated woodpecker flew across the road in front of us, then landed on a roadside tree, giving us an outstanding view.

Returning home, we saw both male and female orioles on the orange feeders, snacking.

At the plant sale, we got:

Lysimachia ciliata v Firecracker
Leopard's Bane

Pink Foxglove
Pink sedum

Now, time to plant, weed, mulch, mow, etc. etc. etc. We've both had nasty colds, but it's spring, the sun is out, and there's no time to waste!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Before and After



Just kidding! This is actually the work of Fishy's awesome groomer, Kathryn. We call him Mufasa.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

As the Garden Grows

Despite an insanely busy weekend (again) we did get some garden work done. There is still much to do, but last weekend we did start a last-year project, running a simple black plastic 3/4 inch water line to the vegetable garden area, to make it easier to water the chickens, the blueberries, new shrubs for the border, and when needed, the vegetable garden.

The first step was to
bury the water pipe under the new garden bed and the path; the remaining line will be laid on the ground along the edge of the property amidst the shrubs, and covered with mulch to avoid UV degradation. Of course, we found the pipe at a tag sale, making this an inexpensive project. Dan came up with a clever idea for protecting the water line from damage -- we threaded the black plastic pipe through the old downspouts replaced a few years ago when we repaired the gutters on the house.

No doubt inspired by the countless times we have inadvertently cut Fishy's Invisible Fence wire while gardening, we thought that by threading the pipe through the downspouts in the garden areas, we would prevent damaged to the line while digging in the garden. A clever way to use those downspouts which have been cluttering up the barn for a few years!

We have a sink back by the vegetable garden already, having found a lovely porcelain double sink by the side of the road with a free sign on it 2 years ago. We made a frame for it with some recycled lumber and set it by the edge of the yard near the garden, made a gravel draining bed and popped some wet-loving perennials next to it; it is great for washing veggies, etc. We'll again this year have rain barrels set up, but for potable water for chickens, wahsing veggies and occasionally running a sprinkler, this will be way more convenient.

We also transplanted some plants to the new garden bed, and set up a concrete pedestal marking where the water feature will be in future years. Finally, we turned over (again) our pile of shredded leaves with some wood shavings from Henbogle Coop added, and I used that to mulch the blueberry hedge.

On Saturday, I'd also attended a
conference at work, and prepared handouts and a display on organic gardening methods. Whew! What a whirlwind weekend. Oh, and finally I started some seeds --better late than never I suppose. Leeks, Lipstick Peppers from Johnny's, and Black Krim, Amish Paste, Orange Banana and Rose tomatoes. Still to start are Sungold and Gardeners Delight Cherry tomatoes.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Maine Plant Sales

It's plant sale season! I'm a big fan of plant sales, it is a terrific way to acquire new plants, and meet other Maine gardeners. Here's the list of those Midcoast Maine sales I know about (let me know if you have one to add!)

Plant Sales by Date

Thursday, May 10
Bath Garden Club's annual plant sale 8 a.m. - noon, Patten Free Library, Bath

Saturday & Sunday May 12 & 13
9 a.m.-5 p.m. The McLaughlin Foundation Garden and Horticultural Center - 97 Main St., South Paris, ME. Our season-opening plant sale specializing in wild flowers and perennials. Enjoy Bernard's [McLaughlin] wild flower collection in bloom while you choose additions for your own garden. The gift shop and house will be open as we officially kick off the season. Free

Saturday May 12, 9 a.m. to noon at the Southern Maine Community College Greenhouse, 10 Slocum Drive. 741-5877 for more information.

Saturday, May 12 from 9 a.m. to noon Garden Club of Wiscasset perennial plant sale, Wiscassett municipal building, corner of Routes 1 and 27. Small perennial shrubs such as lilacs and raspberry bushes, and perennial plants including peonies, irises, hostas, daylilies, and phlox.

Saturday & Sunday May 12 & 13, Plant Sale, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Barters Island Road, Boothbay. 207-633-4333 for more information.

Saturday, May 19, 9 am - 4 pm Bowdoinham Library Plant Sale, Bowdoinham Town Hall. Don't miss this one! Bring a box, or plastic bags, or both. For more info, or for directions

Saturday, May 19 The Annual Master Gardener Plant Sale will be held at the Barron Center in Portland from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m., Brighton Ave, opposite Lowe's, at ME Tpke Exit 48. The proceeds provide scholarship money for Maine students studying horticulture.

Saturday, May 19 Maine Rose Society Annual Plant Sale, The Barron Center, Portland. More Information

Saturday - Monday May 26-28, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. Friends of the Maine Wildlife Park, Gray. Annual Plant Sale flowers, vegetables and baskets from their own greenhouse Details.

Saturday - Monday May 26-28th Lilac Festival 9am-5pm Our 10th anniversary lilac celebration! The McLaughlin Foundation Garden and Horticultural Center - 97 Main St., South Paris, ME. Experience the colors, scents and traditions around lilac season with us. Perennials and lilacs will be on sale all weekend. The house, gift shop, and café will be open as well. $5 donation requested

Saturday, June 2 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Morris Farm Peerless Perennial Plant Sale Maine-grown heritage perennials from established Midcoast gardens for sale at reasonable prices. The proceeds of the sale will help underwrite the farm's summer programming. Call 882-4080 for more information. The Morris Farm, Rte 27, Wiscassett. Details 882-4080