Monday, February 5, 2007

Nearly Naked Posting

Why is this blog nearly naked for a month?
Because it's actually WINTER here!
Thought it would never happen, but it's been cold for a month or so now.
More nights in the 20's than I can remember in 9 years.
Great for winter sowing!

Sheets and a few old shower curtains have kept the vegetable garden green. It's not actively growing, but it's green!

Cold loving seeds are germinating.

Plants are hybernating in the plant house.

The "hell strips" have been ammended and seeded for early spring.

Warmer weather starts next week!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Does your cat know how to garden?

This might sound really silly to some of you (like anyone reads this, anyway, I am amusing myself by writing 'you'), but my cat, Boo Boo Kitty loves to garden. She really LOVES to garden! It's one of her "jobs" as she is a working cat. 'Munkin is her other favorite job (our name for chipmunk hunting, as our chippies destroy the garden and forested areas with burrows).

You can see a photo of Boo in the herb garden to your right. She tries to garden the herb garden from other creatures, especially other cats peeing in it. Nobody likes peed on food, after all!!

So Boo is my companion as I surf the net for seeds, and upload photos of our garden which she always recognizes. As I do my seed organizing she waits patiently or kicks Miss Kitty's butt when Miss Kitty steals seed packets in glee of being a "naughty kitty". Boo will sit by me so patiently as I seed out the flats and containers for winter sowing, then she will tend them, lovelying as they sit out, waiting to germinate. I am not kidding when I say that that darned cat keeps track of EVERYTHING! She watches containers for germination, she KNOWS when they need a little extra water, and forbid if you move anything. She will walk back and forth amongst the containers figuring out what was moved and where it is now. It's astounding to see.

We are a pretty good team, my garden cat and I. Yesterday we spent several hours getting the first winter sowing containers ready for their exposure to the elements. And wouldn't ya know, it was quite cold last night! Stratification, here we come! I also worked on the first parts of the vegetable gardening and seeding class I will be teaching in March. It's two parts, and more intense than any other class I've taught. There's a class coming up at the end of January first though which is using recyclables in the garden. I love teaching people how easy and simple gardening should be. That love and patience are as much a part of the garden as plants are, and that money can't buy what time can do.

Monday, January 1, 2007

How about a little vintage pot?

Not only do I garden out of doors in the Electric Garden, but I also like to garden indoors at Ward 81, with houseplants planted in vintage pottery. Old Pot sort of goes hand and hand with the entire theme of the Electric Garden and Ward 81. If you'd click the links, you should get the connection!

One of the houseplants I enjoy the most are christmas cactus. I started to grow many epiphytic cactus in general, but because they came from small cuttings, I haven't seen any flowers from them yet. Well, that's the reason I'd like to think I haven't seen any flowers from them. I received a trade of some eucarist lily a few years ago and I have never seen any blooms from those either. I tend to sort of ignore house plants. Water and occassionally misting, one or two fertilizations a year and maybe a dust and polish if they are lucky is all the attention they get. That is mainly why I like very simple and easy to grow house plants.

I started gathering the pottery several years ago. At first I mainly looked out for late 60's plastic planters like those from Ingrid. Then I began to notice older pottery at thrift stores. It all started innocently enough, but as my love of house plants grew, so did the need for more planters. I discovered McCoy was a "thing" when I bought a plant for .25 cents from a plant sale at a local Washington DC ladies plant club. It came with a planter (it still has the same plant in it, 13 years later!!). Then at the Cathedral thrift store in DC, I scored a very large McCoy yellow bamboo planter for $7. That opened the floodgates!

Now I obssessively gather vintage pottery bits and pieces. Mainly yellow, some types of green and cream/white. The tiny pots are great for rooting plants. They still look good when they are teensy, and of course the large planters and pots are really hard to find, which kind of stinks, since plants grow.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Garden of Eatin'

We are back from holiday travels and so happy to be eating fresh from the garden. Roadside salads are horrible, and their dressings even more so. Nice fresh veggies with a heaping helping of high fructose corn syrup. Yesh.

The road reading, however was quite inspiring. We took along a copy of 100 Vegetables and Where They Came From by William Woys Weaver and I read it out loud as we drove. I spent any spare momement in the weeks afterward underlining every tantalizing vegetable and vegetable source that I'd like to find.

I was also captivated by Jo Ann Gardners'
The Heirloom Flower Gardens: Rediscovering and Designing With Classic Ornamentals. I didn't find any new types of flowers in this book, but I did read about some interesting, mainly long lost cultivars and similarly, sadly, long lost seed sources.

Speaking of seed sources, I came home to a plethora of seed catalogs! I've been sifting through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds most recent catalog. There are only a few things I "need". Jungs, Shumway, totally Tomatoes and
Seymour's Selected Seeds (not Select Seeds who are fabulous!!) also arrived. I thumb through them but refuse to buy anything based on their poor feedback ratings by the Garden watchdog.

On our trip I was also lucky enough to visit Richters Herbs, live and in person. I found the trip rather strange. The garden store is tired. Very tired. They are missing several types of herb seeds and I'm not sure if they are sold out or were not replaced. It didn't look like the seed stock in the store had been refreshed in quite some time. The store itself is a greenhouse, but there aren't really any live plants on display. There isn't a single decorative thing about the place either. It's rather sunbleached and sad. With the store being a greenhouse enviornment, I could see the amazing opportunity to display 12 month lush container gardens full of herbs and show how their beautiful herb garden signs and supplies can be used. That, however didn't keep me from buying a lot of their seed.
The greenhouses themselves were fastidious. The plants were lush and gorgeous in the sales greenhouse and I wish I could have taken one of everything home. A woman, who clearly suffered from dementia was also visiting with her son. Although unable to keep up a conversation, the woman and I enjoyed touching and smelling every leaf in sight. What a lovely outting for a person who's world now relies only on the senses and the here and now.
My mom and I also wandered into the propigation greenhouses and saw how the staff employ some techniques I'd never thought of. This greenhouse was quite cool and moist (I'm sure to keep down pests and to also discourage bloom). The seed tables had plastic hoop houses on them, just 3' tall so one could easily get into it from the side (the plastic was rolled back as the seedlings had already germinated). Without much extra cost to heat the seedlings, everything could stay snug until sprouting. The plants were seeded into very small celled flats and most covered with vermiculite. Some of the soil was sandier than others. I tell you, when it comes to seeds, I don't miss a trick.

On our way out I grabbed another copy of the 2006 mail order catalog, however, when I arrived home only a week later, the 2007 was at the doorstep. That again was kind of strange, like they weren't super enthusiastic about the new sales year.

I didn't think to take some photos while I was there, sorry, I just have pictures of my nephew's 2nd grade Christmas recital.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

When the back is out, the gardener is down for the count!

UGH! Today while weeding some sort of chenopodium monster out of the daylily garden at church, my back went out. Thank goodness my friend Bobby came to the rescue. Today just isn't such a great day. It is incredibly warm, but it is raining off and on. So we'd have to run in and out of the greenhouse to pick up raked leaves (which we just threw around blueberries etc. for composting) and then dash back in when the big drops fell... Fine enough, but rather difficult when bent at a 45 degree angle!!

I managed to walk home, but that's about it. Falling into a chair to check out the last of the new Pinetree seed catalog.

Can one be a punk-rock gardener?
I like to think so.
I try to be.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Gardening like a cheap-ass

I really don't want to spend a fortune on the garden. Hardscape items and some tools cost enough (oh, for a chipper/shredder!!) so plants I want for cheap. Plus, many of the plants I want can not be purchased as an actual plant...for a) decent money, b) anywhere around here. One of the things I especially hate is to buy annuals. Please do not think I dislike annuals or am not allured by the variety and beauty. I just hate to pay cash money for them. On the other hand I will gladly fork over cash money for seeds (although free or traded is equally valued!) Even though I do not like to pay for annuals, I still like annual container plants and baskets on the deck. A few years ago I learned that some houseplants make perfect annuals. And even better yet, they root and survive in water all winter long!! Tradescantia Zebrina or "Wandering Jew" is a great trailing houseplant to use as an annual in baskets or containers. I like it mixed with green peperomia for foliage contrast. The tradescantia has sort of clear 'fuzz' or hairs on the leaf and the leaves are longer and thinner. The peperomia scandens has light green, roundish, glossy leaves. Also great for rooting in water are types of coleus & small philodendrons. I just keep everything in old jars on the windowsill. A month or so before planting out I might pot them up to assist with "Soil root" growth. It depends.

I also put brugmansia cuttings in water to root. Some people like to use water pumps, aquariums and other methods for rooting the brugs, but I find a very cool room with clear glass jars and lots of light does the trick just fine. When well rooted I pot them up and then I try and seperate groups of plants if I can. They need air circulation when brought inside as they tend to get whitefly very badly. They often drop all leaves but the stems will remain green. No biggie. The whitefly will have nothing to eat and the leaves grow back lickity split! This year I got smart, and instead of labeling the jars of cuttings, I actually wrapped tape around the cuttings as a flag and marked the tape flag with the cutting color. THIS year I should finally be 100% sure of what is what!

The best cheap-ass gardening trick I have up my sleeve is the driveway plant sale. I hold these several times in the spring, and they are very popular. Divisions, seeded plants and things like rooted brugmansia cuttings are placed on the driveway for the mad rush. This year I had people waiting an hour before I opened (thankfully, I'd set up the night before!!). Everything is sold dirt cheap. Some of the money goes towards seed purchases, part of it gets donated to the Seedtime & Harvest gardeners (they in turn decide where they would like to make a donation), and last year the money helped buy a lot of mulch for the vegetable garden. I think the best thing though is to meet other avid gardeners and also to help neighbours with less experience make great choices for their own gardens.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Stuffing faces, sides splitting.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. We stuffed our faces until our sides split!! One of our cats, Monkee gave thumbs up for the yummy sweet potato and carrot crisp. Fresh, crisp and sweet radishes: white hailstone (most successful in fall here), french breakfast and cherry belle made great appetizers.

A mix of greens from the garden including red kale, collards, mizuna, boc choi and pac choi made a nice "mess of greens" to accompany the meal. The weather has been just beautiful! Sunny and in the 60's so I tried to create some more lasagna beds near the vegetable garden in hopes of good soil for planting shrubs in the spring.

Today I promised my friend Alice in South Carolina I would send her a variety of seeds. She asked for alpine strawberry seeds to edge her beds. Alice's request led me to find a nice palmful of white strawberries which are so sweet and juicy. You need to plant an awful lot of alpine strawberries to get any sort of decent harvest, but even a few are worth it. Boo Boo Kitty will delicately pluck one every now and then as she walks along the thyme path which the alpine strawberries line.
Speaking of Boo Boo Kitty, I let her out almost 2 hrs ago, just before dark. She's not home yet. I worry about her when she doesn't come in on time. There are so many cars, crazy people, possum, rats and often stray dogs around here. I'm obsessing again.
Happy thoughts, happy thoughts....Grow Italian seeds came today. The packages are all shiney and such eye candy!