Friday, March 27, 2009

square foot gardening: oh, my back

Someday I will have a wheelbarrow. Until then, I must be satisfied with getting lots of exercise for a relatively small payoff. But the good news is, the little square foot garden (it really is little) is nearly ready to rock.

A couple of weeks ago, fishy and I got lumber and worked together to build a little 4x4 raised bed. It's not exactly 4x4 inside; it's a little smaller, which means that I'm going to have to limit one side of my growing space to half a foot. So I'll have 12 square foot plots, and 4... less than square foot plots. This is okay. For things like basil or lettuce I don't need a full complement of plants.

Today I mostly filled it. I mulched the base with leftover Lee Valley packing paper. I used a bag of mushroom compost, the pile of soil leftover from when I dug the other veggie beds, some leaf litter, and four or five shovelfuls of our own awesome compost. It still needs a little more, so when I'm at the nursery on Sunday I'm going to pick up a bag of peat, a bag of vermiculite, and another bag or two of compost. When that's all mixed in with the organic-rich, sandy loam, I should have a soil that defies any vegetable not to grow well.

What was even more fun was that while I was shoveling, a robin stopped by to see what I was doing. It followed me around, waiting for poor worms and other critters that got exposed by my digging and plucking them up. It didn't seem to wary of me, which pleased me to no end, even when it was chewing its way through my helpful invertebrates. Too bad there are no earwigs for it to enjoy yet -- it can have as many of those as it wants.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

first flowers, and some seedlings planted

Hello spring. I think we've met before. You with your fickle sunshine and changeable temperatures, me with my seeds, gloves, and muddy boots, waiting, waiting, waiting for the right moment...

I am pleased to report the crocuses are blooming, and have been at it for almost a week now. The tulips right next to the house are up actually quite well along, although no buds yet. The white daffodils I planted last fall are consistently showing their little green heads now, and I'm curious to see what they have in store for me. They were mixed bulbs; my hope is that none of the close, very visible ones are astonishingly garish.

My Dutch iris, unfortunately, have come under severe attack by squirrels. I was hoping the squirrels would be too full of my birdseed to eat my bulbs this spring, but fat chance. They've eaten some of the bulbs in their entirety. The rest they're waiting for the iris to poke their poor little heads up, and then they're chewing them back to the ground. I am most displeased. Squirrels may be cute, but I could really do with less of them. I have fed them all winter, not necessarily by choice, but I would have thought they would have better manners. Little bastards.

I've started a number of seedlings now -- the peppers, the tomatoes, the tomatillos, and the Rudbeckia hirta 'Chim Chiminee' are all in little flats. The shallots still haven't come up and they're well past their 21 day germination period, so I'm losing hope. Dunno what I did wrong there. I need more seedling mix now, as I'm pretty much out and still have lots to start.

I also need to get my veggie bed finished. The frame is built, but I need to dig it in and then fill it with soil and compost. Lots of work and not terribly appealing given the rain, cold, and cloud. (The weather forecast says it's sunny right now -- someone failed to look out the window, I think.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Kennedy, Des. An ecology of enchantment. Douglas & McIntyre: 2008.

This week has been a write-off as far as gardening is concerned. Not because of the weather -- no, that was beautiful -- but because it is hard to get up the energy to do any work in the garden when one is so tired one falls asleep before 10pm every night. Good old March Break.

But I have plans for today! Even though it's one of the colder, greyer days we've had this spring yet. *grumble grumble*

Meanwhile, another review, this time of Des Kennedy's absolutely wonderful book An Ecology of Enchantment. Highly recommended!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

snouty surprise!

I was out doing a little bit of cleanup (a very little bit, it's tremendously soggy out there still) and made an interesting discovery.

We have moles.

Part of me thinks, "Hey, wow! Cool! More backyard wildlife! Excellent!"

Part of me thinks, "Oh crap. That's not good for the garden."

The "cool wildlife" part of me is kind of winning out at this point, because I haven't noticed them doing any major damage. Because nothing is growing yet. They've got quite a little nest of holes underneath the big miscanthus grass in the back (which provided them with a tremendous amount of cover, but kept the snow out of the entrances -- it was while chopping the dead grass back that I noticed the holes, and I hadn't seen them before). I hope they haven't damaged the miscanthus roots -- it's one of the plants we have that makes me look good.

There are only two types of mole this could be: a hairy-tailed mole, or a star-nosed mole. And chances are, given the characteristics of the soil we have, they're the former. Either one is pretty darn cute (in a "what the heck is that, good lord, it's so ugly" kind of way) and I'm not about to [attempt to] evict them unless they start causing serious problems. I'm not all that attached to my lawn.

I am more attached to my earthworms, but moles have a habit of eating them. They also eat grubs, snails, centipedes, and slugs. So... I think the benefit of moles may outweigh the disadvantages, as long as I don't step in any holes and break myself.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thursday bird report

So, I've been seeing - or hearing - a number of exciting things lately. Monday, on my way home from work, I caught a glimpse of a bald eagle eating something beside the river. I was driving so I didn't have a chance to see what it was eating, but I saw enough to know that the eagle was a full adult. I'm always astonished by how large they really are.

Saw both a possum (not a bird, I know, but still cool) and a peregrine falcon yesterday. The peregrine was in a place I normally see a red tailed hawk, but there was no doubt about what it was when it was flying, and I was sitting at a stoplight so I was able to get a good look. There really isn't any other bird the size and shape of a peregrine around here.

This morning, to add to the chorus of cardinals, chickadees, and mourning doves in the backyard, I heard a robin whinnying away. That's my first robin of the year! I know other people have seen them earlier, but I hadn't so they don't count.

It snowed yesterday. Just to show me, I'm assuming. But the next couple of days are supposed to be very nice, particularly the weekend. Perfect maple syrup weather, actually -- bright sunny days and freezing nights. When it warms up a little more, the mourning cloak butterflies will be coming out. Looking forward to that, too!

Friday, March 6, 2009

dividing hostas: wtf, internet?!

Okay. So I have been working under the presumption for several years now that hostas are best divided in the early spring, before they start to grow their leaves. I have seen this advice in books and all over the internet, from people who know plants and from people who know hostas specifically.

Now to be fair, I have never divided or transplanted a hosta myself, so the truth of the matter is that I have only book knowledge about this. But it's almost early spring, and damned if I'm going to let the hostas in the front bed go another year looking awesome in the spring and getting the awesomeness sun-blasted out of them by late June. It's not good for the hostas and it's not good for my gardening ego, either.

So I'm thinking, probably need to be doing something about this in the next couple of weeks. I can't remember when the hostas started to get their leaves last year, but I'm thinking transplanting time will be late March, early April for those babies. But then I think, let's double-check that. Let's make sure that I know when the best time to transplant hostas is. Let's make sure I know how to do it.

Previously, any info I have seen says "early spring! early spring! best for plant!" So why, internet, is all the information I see from you this morning saying "late summer! late summer! best for plant!"

Late summer is over, internet. I cannot possibly let those hostas go by another summer. They will gall me every time I see them and they are right by my front door, so I will see them a lot. Why didn't you tell me this last spring, when I was thinking about transplanting the hostas and ultimately not doing it at all because I thought I'd missed my chance?

It's too late, internet. I don't care what you say now. I'm transplanting those hostas this spring. As I am doing it, I am going to think to myself, "These are plants. Plants want to grow. I could probably divide them in July and they would still grow. They might hate me, and look awful for the rest of the summer, but they would still grow."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Primeau, Liz. My natural history. Greystone: 2008.

I've reviewed Liz Primeau's memoir My Natural History over on the book blog. I also picked up Front Yard Gardens by her at the library yesterday. Actually, I was quite impressed. I put it on hold yesterday morning and it was waiting for me when I got into work yesterday afternoon. My library rocks.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lima, Patrick. The Organic Home Garden. Key Porter: 2003.

Since I've started up the book blog, I've decided to post all my reviews there, instead of posting any reviews of gardening books and cookbooks here. I've got one posted now, of Patrick Lima's superlative guide to organic vegetable gardening The Organic Home Garden, and I'll have one for Liz Primeau's gardening memoir My Natural History coming up. I need to read gardening books right about now because it is sunny out there, but the ground is still frozen and I am starting to get antsy enough to try digging in the frozen ground anyways.

Yes, I know it's not good for the soil. I'm not actually going to do it. But I really really want to. So gardening books are protecting me and my garden from myself.