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!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Garden for sale?

Someone keeps calling me and asking if the house with the vegetable garden is for sale. They are very bold and tell me to call them back with a price.
The house is obviously NOT for sale. There is clearly activity going on over there. Gardening materials, a yard full of mulches, beds with plants in them, plants in the's driving me crazy.
I find it incredibly rude and abrasive that someone thinks they could call me (and how they got the number?) and I would just toss out some number that my home was worth. This has been going on for months. I have also noticed the previous owners driving by a lot, and they live nowhere near here now. So it makes me think they want the house back, after all we've done it it. And I tell you, it's a MAJOR improvement inside and out. And I'm not selling it. No way, no how.
Slowly that yard is being transformed into a garden.
When the weather was a tad warmer I had been working on this:

Believe it or not, people actually thought it was a great idea to put HUGE thick layers of broken concrete slab just under the grass surface. I think they were attempting to stop errosion, but of course that didn't work because water couldn't perculate through the soil. SLOWLY, I am digging up the darned huge hunks of cement, cleaning them and turning them on their side as raised bed gardens. For now I am just throwing OODLES of leaves and compost underneath pinestraw. In our heat and periods of rain, this breaks down quickly and can be dug into the native soil which is red clay. The trick is to get all the invasive plant material out before I can accomplish this. Monkey grass, weeds, vines with tap roots, and of course the yucca that refuses to die (at least I've slowed most of it down. I swear I had to dig to China to do this!!). Notice that we are slowly EATING UP THE GRASS WITH GARDEN :)
In front of this narrow "border" (imagine no fence, the border goes right out to the sidewalk) will be a walkway. It's hard to put much more garden area in around here because there is a rather annoying maple tree in the middle of the front yard. It's not a beautiful tree, however it's a tree so it stays. Of course it's shallow roots make it hard to garden around, and simply not a good idea to "smother".

There has also been tree and rose liberation. This tree, which isn't my favorite tree to begin with, took a total of 2 years...TWO YEARS of digging out weeds, monkey grass, orange ditchlilies, ivy, nasty privit bushes along with massive amounts of this terrible spined vine and poison, trash. It was mean to the tree, which isn't in the best of health. About a week ago I finally got the job finished and then mulched well. Normally I wouldn't mulch around a tree like this, but this tree had always had it's roots covered up, and so it needed protection. The rose was in a trash pit of some sort. It took me the 2 years to remove the trash which had become a rat and snake infested scary mess, and fill the pit with sand and clay and let that all settle. Again, weedy trees, vines, monkeygrass and orange ditchlilies were strangling the now beloved "K-Mart" rose. I have no idea what this rose is but it smells fantastic and it is always in bloom. It can be leafless in July and August and still be covered with flowers!

Do you see the boarded up home? Soon it will be inhabited with some very nice people! They are very into getting the privit and tree weed "hedge" out and replacing it with something evergreen and easy. And hey, they would prefer it be planted on my side! Oh...can you say CAMELLIAS FIT THE BILL, at least in the front yard area. The back will eventually be set aside for native plants. I already have many buckeye seeds in pots waiting to jump to life in the spring. Bottlebrush, red and painted buckeyes.

Please be kind to your yard and landscape. Keep it healthy, make it happy. Care for it as you would care for anything in God's creation. I believe that we are only stewards of this earth, that when we buy a piece of property we are really buying a share of stewardship that we are to maintain.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

When is a radish not a radish?

In my 'hood' it seems a radish isn't a radish, its a turnip.
I have taken to adore radishes. In the southern clay soil, amended and grown in raised beds, radishes are sweet. They can be so sweet that there isn't a single note of hot in them. De-lish!

My vegetable garden is in the front yard, and one day I was picking baby greens and radishes for salad. A neighbor asked me if I was going to throw the "turnips" away? Uh, no?....well, I guess the greens are good, he stated. Ahah! He's talking about the multicolored radishes I'm holding. So I explain about radishes. He's never even heard of them, let alone tried them. Being of the rainbow variety, he'd just assumed that the "turnips" had gone bad and were very immature!

So we ate radishes for dinner, and had a good story to go along with them.
I enjoy showing my neighbors the variety of fruits and vegetables that can be home grown for next to nothing. It has not influenced them in any way to partake of the fruits of this earth in their most natural form. No, they are still opting for their food to be presented in box or wrapper emblazoned with two golden arches.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Oh, I love trash! Anything dirty or dingy or dusty...

Yep. My new boots are the color of Oscar the Grouch, and aside from never often being grouchy, we are a lot a like. OK, I'm nobody's puppet, but I love junk. My house is filled with other people's old junk, and when I found out you could garden with junk, I was thrilled! Now, I'm not one for "junk gardening" which is using a lot of junk in the actual landscape...I mean I love recycling but I try and keep it to a minimum and focus on the plants. Quite a few years ago I joined Gardenweb, an online, international gardening forum. There I learned how to Wintersow thanks to Trudi D who gave an identity to the process of stratifying seeds in a controlled environment outdoors. This is a skill I also teach the greenhouse workers at Seedtime & Harvest , a garden ministry of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter.

Here are my "fall sown" jugs and containers. Really, you can use just about anything you can poke holes into. These are sown into a cold frame because I can plant snap dragons, parsley and many greens almost anytime during the winter in our climate.

Boo Boo Kitty is getting supremely annoyed that I am not outside right now. She is not a bloggin' cat. However, Boo LOVES seed saving! It's one of her favorite garden chores. We go around and collect seed into plastic applesauce cups and paper bags which I hang from curtain rods mounted to the ceilings. Some curtain clips make the job easy, and you get your seeds up and out of the way! However, some seeds do better left on plates etc. like purple hyacinth beans and Euonymous Americanus "Hearts a Burstin'.
Some of these will be wintersown (you don't wintersow the hyacinth bean seeds as they will rot in too cold of soil.) The rest go for sale. I sell my seeds for .50 a package plus a dollar for postage only to the USA. If you love homegrown seeds or native seeds, I have many different types. Most packages have 25 seeds per pack, some less. I can email you a list with the info!

Off to braise some radish greens for dinner!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Why can't I find a jacket that fits?

I need a new gardening jacket.

That sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

Well, I need a really LONG gardening jacket. And I prefer el cheapo fleece because it doesn't really wear out, is easy to throw in the wash and is pretty warm. Oh, and not hiddeous.

Did I say LONG? Yes. That is the problem. I need a jacket that covers my butt, and these days they seem to expect that everyone wants to show off their butt. I do not need the drug dealers, who stand around all day on my street watching me garden, to see my butt.

I did get great BRIGHT green rubber boots today though! It's not easy to find LONG rubber boots either.

The cold and damp weather did not keep me from taking a photo of the current status of the veggie garden. Have you ever noticed that when you look through the eye of a camera, suddenly you see how things look through other peoples' eyes? It's amazing what a tiny hole can do for one's perspective. I was so proud of my veggie beds. I'd worked so hard on the...and then I realize that the "greenhouse" looks like a shantytown tent and the metal trellis is very crooked and wobbly looking (although it's not wobbly at all). Off come the rose colored glasses.

I am creating a database of all my seeds. Is that a bit obsessive? I like to think of it as a bit organized. The goal is to make sure I'm not buying more of the same seeds I already have before I run out, and to make sure I keep diversity in the garden.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Meet Me in the Electric Garden

We eat it, we enjoy it, we LISTEN too it.
I spent the last few weeks pouring over unusual vegetable catalogs on-line. I love Rosalind Creasy Her books inspired me to try new vegetables, and to create more colorful, ornamental gardens just like The Flamboyant Garden by Elizabeth Sheldon encouraged my sense design.
I don't know many people who vegetable garden in the Atlanta area. I know fewer people who grow heirloom and ethnic vegetables in Atlanta. 10 Signs Like This assures me that I can grow many of these vegetables, and they have already experimented with the best growing times for many.

I am addicted to gardening books. Here's a great set of books on Amazon's
List mania

It's raining and sleeting and it sucks outside.

I put up a mini hoop house yesterday, but not over the currently planted vegetables. It figures.
I didn't tent those either. Because of the vertical structures over these beds, I can't make hoop houses over them. So I make tents out of old shower curtains and psychedelic bedsheets for added warmth. I ran out of daylight yesterday because, like the scatterbrain I am, I HAD to finish the hoop house over the empty bed. Just because.

This photo is from late April 2006. It's the beginning of the vegetable bed at the 2nd property we purchased, right next to ours. We are trying to McMansion-proof our own little world so buying neighboring properties will insulate us, a bit. I'll try to remember to post a new photo of how the veggie garden has grown over the last few months....