Thursday, April 29, 2010

Flora Obscura book

I just made a book on the Blurb website called Flora Obscura. It's a book of pinhole photographs of flowers from my garden.

You can view it here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blossoms and Fruit

Last fall I planted a wildflower mix in my front yard, where the grass had died due to drought.  I didn't go to much trouble:  I just scattered the seed on the ground and sort of chopped it in with a rake.  I didn't weed or water or mulch or fertilize.

This spring it has started blooming.  I"m not sure what all the flowers in it are, but they are pretty.

I think this might be some kind of wild phlox.

I'm pretty sure that these are coreopsis:

And there are several colors of batchelor buttons, including this unusual dark purple one:

Some more are getting ready to bloom. I think they are cosmos.

Also the collard plants I set out last fall are blooming. They are pretty, and maybe Tom will collect the seed from them while I'm in TN.

We planted a little tangerine tree (aka mandarin orange) in the front yard, and it has very fragrant blossoms:

Amazingly, baby tangerines are also forming already!

You're supposed to fertilize your citrus four times during the growing season, and early May is one of the times, so I need to do this soon.  I'm also keeping it well-watered as it gets established.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

One Misty, Moisty Morning...

Well, actually it was the afternoon. We went to the beach and it was foggy.  There were lots of people there, but you could barely see them and their umbrellas through the fog.

It was a strange kind of light that I'd never seen at the beach before.  A kind of glow, caused by light shining through a scrim of water and salt droplets.

Two little boys attached themselves to us and played with Dixie for about an hour, throwing the ball for her and chasing her into the surf.  She was really tired after all that, and barely moved for a couple of days. I guess she was actually sore, like I am after a long hike or run.  She's getting old!

Eventually a ranger came and made us put her on a leash.

So we walked down the beach away from the state park, to the part of the beach in front of the houses, where dogs run free.  Then why not we?

A lot of the houses had bad erosion underneath them, where Hurricane Ike had washed away the dirt under the houses.  Most of the houses had been repaired, but some still had a lot of broken windows and torn siding.

Eventually the fog lifted and the sun came out. 

I wore my Vibram Five Finger shoes. They were perfect for the beach, because they protect you from glass (there's a lot of glass because of the hurricane) and you can swim and wade in them, yet they don't hold water.  They are also great to run in.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Those Texas bluebonnets, how sweetly they grow...

,..Over all the wide prairie, they're scattered like snow
They make all the meadows as blue as the skies
Reminding me of my little darlin's blue eyes."

--Laurie Lewis

In Houston, we've paved the prairies, so the bluebonnets are scattered along the bayou, near my house, and in Mason Park.

Also coreopsis is scattered among the bluebonnets.

Vilma and I went to check them out, because we helped to plant them in October.

I also planted some wildflower seeds last October in my front yard.  It turned out that there were no bluebonnets in the mix, but there are some pretty red flowers blooming. I'll photograph them today.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Xtreme(ly) Fast Spring Gardening

I went back to my garden in TN for about a week at the end of March.  It was a whirlwind tour of the world of spring planting of cool season crops:  peas, lettuce, brassicas, potatoes, onions, and the like.  One of the interesting things about gardening remotely, from my control room in Houston, is that I have to figure out how to get a month's worth of work done in a week.  Answer:  cut corners.

One "job" that you can't cut corners on, though, is admiring the daffodils.  These miniature ones are my favorites:

I divided some of them (while they were blooming!) and distributed them to neighbors.  They are just so cute, I want to see them everywhere.  It works to divide them while they're blooming if they go back in the ground pretty quick at their new home.

Some things that I planted last fall were growing pretty well.  I had planted greens--seven top turnips, mustard, kale, and lettuce--and root crops like carrots, daikon, and multiplying onions.  The seven top turnips took the prize for winter vigor and hardiness, a prize that usually goes to kale.  For some reason, the kale was puny.  Maybe something nibbled on it and that set it back.  Not sure.  Here it is.  It was already bolting and about to bloom.

I gave it some fertilizer, so maybe when I come back it will be bigger.

The carrots were all dead, frozen.  That happens sometimes.  I ate the daikon over the winter, so it was all gone.  The lettuce got too cold too and died.  But the multiplying onions that my neighbor Joe gave me looked green and vigorous.

On to new plantings.   First, peas:  I set up a trellis and planted sugar snaps and regular English peas.

In my garden, voles are a big problem. They love to eat germinating peas.  So I treat them with something called Ropel (repels rodents--get it?) that tastes horrible and that keeps them from being eaten in the ground.  So I hope they will be up and growing when I get back to my garden in May.

I bought some lettuce transplants and set them out.

As with all the other plantings, I put a lot of compost on the bed, removed (most of) the weeds, and fertilized with alfalfa meal.

My neighbor and I have a constant debate about tillage.  She said she heard that tillage just stirs up the weed seeds and makes them sprout more.   That's probably true, but somehow you have to get rid of the weeds that are already there growing before you plant new stuff.  You could spray them with Roundup like no-till people do, but that's expensive, and I reserve Roundup for the really hard cases like poison ivy.  So my solution is to just sort of surface cultivate the top two or three inches of soil.  I sort of scratch the surface with a fork or hand weeder and pull up a lot of weeds that way.  It's kind of time-consuming but it works.  If there's something big in the way, I dig it up with a spading fork.

One problem this past spring was that it rained a lot while I was at my garden. When soil is wet, it's not a good idea to cultivate at all:  it messes up the soil structure.  You've heard the expression, "too wet to plow."  Well, that's why.

All the rain caused some delays.  I couldn't weed the very messy bed where I wanted to plant collards and other brassicas.  So I bought some landscape fabric and laid it down on the bed and cut holes in it for the plants, and stuck them in!  It worked, apparently.  We'll see in about a month.

I put straw down on top of the landscaping fabric to keep the soil cooler and to keep the fabric from blowing around and abrading the stems of the collard plants.

I also planted some leeks, one of my favorite vegetables:

Carrots, spinach, and more lettuce were seeded into the same bed but they had not come up by the time I had to leave.  This bed will be very weedy when I get there in early May, I know from experience.  There's no way around that.  Usually, though, if I just pull the weeds in early May, I find the food plants in there among the weeds, and they do ok.  I cultivated once with a hoe just to nip the germinating weeds in the bud, as it were.

Absentee gardening is not the best way to garden, probably, but it's less consuming of your entire life than regular, daily gardening, which tends to expand to meet the time available to it, like housework.

Right before I left I did the ultimate short cut:  I just threw some seeds on the ground among the early spring weeds and then scattered some straw over them!  Sometimes this works surprisingly well. Those vigorous seven top turnips were sowed that way at the last minute, late last summer before I left my garden to go back to Houston.

The potato job was almost equally slapdash:  I just dug some holes right in the weedy bed and dropped the taters in!  I covered them up, and voila.  I think I might have put a little compost on top, and a lot of fertilizer.  Potatoes love nitrogen.  They probably dislike weeds too, but tough tatties.