Monday, May 11, 2015

The Merry Month of May

Hello to my readers in Europe – especially in Russia!  I hope this blog is an encouragement for you.

From my 5 AM reading:
“My garden, though it is full of limitations, and in all ways fall short of any worthy ideal, enables me here and there to point out something that is worth doing, and to lay stress on the fact that the things worth doing are worth taking trouble about.

But it is a curious thing that many people, even those who profess to know something about gardening, when I show them something fairly successful-the crowning reward of much care and labor-refuse to believe that any pains have been taken about it.  They will ascribe it to chance, to the goodness of my soil, and even more commonly to some supposed occult influence of my own-to anything rather than to the plain fact that I love it well enough to give it plenty of care and labor.
They assume a tone of complimentary banter, kindly meant no doubt, but to me rather distasteful, to this effect: “Oh yes, of course it will grow for you; anything will grow for you; you only have to look at a thing and it will grow. “  I have to pump up a labored smile and accept the remark with what grace I can, as a necessary civility to the stranger that is within my gates, but it seems to me evident that those who say these things do not understand the love of a garden.”

Gertrude Jekyll – Wood and Garden, Notes and Thoughts, Practical and Critical, of a working Amateur.

I laughed when I read that!  Gertrude went on to describe a walk through an area at Munstead Wood (the name of her garden)  where some visitor remarked upon the height and vigor of a plant in an area where something like that should not have grown, and said something like, “I don’t believe a word about your claim to poor soil!  Look at the growth of that lily!”  Further on, they came upon an excavation that was 12’ wide and 4’ deep, and the visitor asked what the huge hole was for.  Gertrude replied that she would fill it with cart loads of Dahlia-tops and other soft plants in the fall, with sand and soil sprinkled over each layer, and tamped down well.  This would make a nice, cool moist bottom of slowly rotting vegetable matter.  That would be followed with kitchen waste, cabbage stumps, weeds that had been hoed up – each layer chopped and pounded so that there would be as little sinking as possible.  Over all this, loam, manure, the best of the compost heap.  And only then would she be ready to plant another lily or two.

My immediate neighbors know how much work I put into my garden – they see the dump trucks from Highway Fuel coming with loads of soil mix, compost and sawdust – my driveway is rarely used for parking vehicles, but rather as a staging area for distributing these components to their respective beds and paths.  But the chance visitor will stop by and look in amazement at the lushness and mass of blooms and fruit and think I have a magic touch.  Good to know that other gardeners have quietly suffered these comments.

So I get ready this morning to receive a large load of soil and sawdust.  I need to top off the rest of my beds, and then finish covering the rest of the front lawn where the dwarf fruit trees are.  One didn’t make it. I will have to dig it up and then save the hole space and replant in the fall.  I have one small area covered and planted already.  I need to get the rest done and the plants on their way before the heat of summer hits.  And some of the paths are wearing a bit thin and need to be refreshed with sawdust.  So I won’t see my driveway again for a few weeks.

I picked up some tomatoes at the Master Gardeners sale that need planted.  Along with a few cucumbers.  I mostly grow mine from seed, but these have a few weeks head start, so if I can keep the slugs away from them, I will get a head start this way.  I didn’t get enough tomatoes for all our needs, so will have to stop by 13th Street Nursery and get the rest.  I don’t like getting them this early, as I will have to cover them with row cover for the next month.  But everyone is buying tomatoes and veggie plants now because of the nice weather – if I want any choice of plants, I am forced into getting them now.

I swear next year I will put together my portable greenhouse and do my own starts!  This was just too hard this year with my daughter having surgery in November and spending so much time recovering.  But next year it will be a different story – I hope.
Gertrude Jekyll from the David Austin Gardens

My first Gertrude Jekyll rose bloomed this week.  It is a beautiful David Austin rose and I am thrilled to have it.  I thought I would lose it shortly after planting to an infestation of aphids – took almost two weeks of spraying with my oil and soap mix to get them off.  That mix also caused some very green caterpillars to crawl out of the holes they had drilled in a few of the rose buds; I didn’t think the one bud would bloom because of the huge hole in it – but it did.  But it was worth it - the smell is fantastic - just like an old rose should smell!

Now it will be a constant battle for the next six months spraying for aphids, and for mites, and stink bugs, and leaf spot, etc. That is why I only have a few roses, besides my rosa rugosa which don't need all that.  The roses I have in memory of my mother, who loved roses.

Last major project in the front yard is the asparagus boxes (planted with sunflowers this summer) and the covering of the lawn around the dwarf fruit trees.

When I built this asparagus bed in 2010, there was plenty of sunshine for it.  But, between the marionberries to the south, and the elderberries to the east, there is no sun left.  It sporadically produces, so this fall, I will dig up the crowns and move them to along the fence in the front yard to grow sedately beneath my espaliered apple tree.

 First I dug up about 16-18 inches of soil along the fence.  This is where the lawn and the boxwood were, and the soil is pretty poor.   And, I wanted to use hugelkultur principles. I have a huge need for dirt right now, so used my screen and wheelbarrow to sift the dirt from the grass roots:
 I have to admit that I do enjoy this part of gardening - it is how I started all my children and my granddaughter gardening.  there is something so meditative about sifting soil.  I give the grass roots to the city to compost, mix the soil with my compost, and reuse it.
 Now I have my trough all ready, and am building the box
 I put down some weed barrier on the side of the trough to help block the grass from coming in.  I ran out of cardboard which I have been trying so hard to collect, but covering an entire front yard with it takes a lot of cardboard!  Once the bed was situated just inside the trough, I added the wood - some great 100 yr + wood from old onion crates, some wood from around the yard I have been saving for just this.
 Then I added a good layer of half-finished compost - eggshells and cartons and all.

Added some lovely soil mix, planted my sunflowers, and then covered it with chicken wire till the flowers are up - otherwise the cats will think I built this for them!

All the soil I dug up was mixed with soil I had delivered, and I put another section of soil on the lawn.  I first used the weed trimmer to cut into the grass, down to the roots, and raked all that up and composted it.

You can see the first section I did a couple weeks ago, with the good bug blend just coming up.  Once I get this all done, I will post another pic.  Eventually, there will be no grass to mow.  Just my wonderful good bug blend from Arbico Organics.  It is a blend of  yellow, red, crimson, rose, and white clovers, grizzly alfalfa, white alyssum, nasturtium, white yarrow, carrot, dill, daikon radish, and celery seeds - highly recommneded for orchards.  It is the food that beneficial bugs need so I can attract them to my yard.  ( 

Meanwhile, this week we picked the first strawberries on May 7th:

Ripe on May 7th   
And much to our surprise picked the first Raspberries on May 9th - almost three weeks earlier than last year!

Of course, the cats are watching very closely everything I am doing out in the garden, sometimes from their perch in the apple tree:

Camera-shy Macie, and Puppy

Puppy watching me plant seedlings

Lovely to have the rain for a couple of days now so that I don't have to water all the seeds!