Planning, Planning and Planning…

This year is my first ‘official’ garden of my own – ever…Already I’ve learned a few hard lessons and I feel that there might be another one or two in the works. I’ve already figured out that I planted my English peas 3-5 weeks too late. Right now they’re flourishing because it’s been so cool during the night and day, but I fear this weekend of upper 90 degree weather may greatly shock them into an Oklahoma spring. So what’s a Groovy 1st time Gardner Girl to do?? Plan, Plan & Plan…sprinkled with some advice from mom and numerous garden planning websites!!

My amended plan – hold off from doing anything other than preparing a few more beds for at least a couple more weeks. The average last day of frost for our area is sometime around April 15. Now if you’ve lived in this area long enough, you realize that in actuality, that means nothing really…just look, we’ve had 80-90 degree days around St. Patty’s day and at the end of March saw frost again! All part of the gardening game, right?!?!

I have garden journal I’ve been keeping. I’ve always loved writing in my diary, so this is just a quick jump away. I write down my list of varieties planted, when and where. Each time I’ve added compost/mulch, when and how much fertilizer I add and to what (some things like more of something else than others). I fully accept that this first year is a good ‘starting experiment point’ in which to improve upon next year. Calendar’s already marked for pea planting mid to late February next year!2011 Garden Journal

I’ve been mulling over tomato (can’t believe I’m willing to go back there) plants to plant, along with maybe a pepper plant for nostalgia’s sake; then I also have on my groovy list cucumbers (which was another lesson that I planted too early when it was nice those few weeks), squash (although what I have planted is still doing well), zucchini, more green beans, cantaloupe and I’m even considering eggplant (we grilled some last year and really enjoyed it).  That’s a mighty lofty list! I figured I’d get all my experimenting done this first year before refining my list for fall or next year’s garden. As you know, I’m not one for waiting….

So how to bide my time on pleasant days – prepare some more garden space. It looks like I’m going to need it! I think this weekend I’ll rent a mac-daddy roto-tiller and till and condition some soil on the edges of my raised beds. I think I’ll also try to turn my unsightly dog pen into a beautiful trellis of summer veggies, who knows, our dog BJ might actually become a dog-aterian! ha!! Plus if done properly, it’ll give him some great shade from über hot summer days that are sure to be around the corner.

I’m also going to visit a couple of expert gardening places over the weekend – mom and I have planned an awesome, no kids or hubbys invited – 24 hours together starting tomorrow afternoon! Lots of gardens, nurseries and landscape places are on our list to visit. (Mom is threatening taking a stock trailer along with us – think the valet at Nona’s will be willing to park that??) Watch for us over the weekend to post more images!!!!

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Dear Lord, Please Send Us Some Rain!

The last 4 or 5 days have been cold and drizzly.  We got a total of .02″ of rain.  That’s a couple of drops in the bottom of the gauge!  Here at our place, we have had less than .75″ of precipitation since October 1, 2010.  Grass and wheat are really suffering. The rainy-looking days were encouraging, but today the sun is out and we’re expected to have 80 degree weather for the next few days.  Beautiful, but dry.  Where’s those water hoses?


There’s nothing better to fill up a flower bed during drought than Lamb’s Ear.  Here’s some of mine loving the slight moisture we received.  Other “dry-country” plants that I love are ornamental sage, Russian sage, and Sedum.  I’ll gather some pics and share them in another post.

Have you ever planted something, got seedlings, and then wondered, “What are weeds and what are desirable plants?”  Here are a few of my seedlings. . .


This is spinach.  Here are three seedlings close together.  I’ll probably pinch off one or two of them.  I’ll have to be careful not to damage the others.  If it pull them, I just might uproot them all.  You can see here how dry it is.  These were watered when planted, and I also watered them shortly after this picture.  See how the seedlings popped through the cracks?  It’s so dry here, I’m having to keep the soil watered to get a “stand.”

In a tiny backyard garden, I would suggest that you “work up” (loosen) the soil where seeds have been planted, but in a garden the size of mine, I would be doing that 27/7 and still not be through.  Mulch would also help that problem.  After watering, adding a thin layer of fine mulch would solve the problem.  Just don’t get it too thick or it will choke-out the seedlings.  After the seedlings get bigger, more mulch can be added and it will keep the weeds down.  I’ll add mulch to these when they get bigger.


Here are some of my lettuce seedlings.  If you’ll look closely, you’ll see some purple seedlings.  I almost pulled those out before I thought.  Here, we have a big problem with “careless weeds.” That’s our general Oklahoma term for Pigweed, Ragweed, and Careless Weed.  When these weeds are seedlings, they are purple, and I just naturally go after anything purple, but the seedling of the careless weed is more like the one below.  (that’s actually a picture of an Amananthus caudatrus- – -(a non-weed cousin).  As it turned out, those purple seedlings are a different variety of lettuce I had planted in the adjoining row.  This pic came from http://theseedsite.co.uk/seedlings.html (a very comprehensive database of seedling pictures.)

 

Amaranthus caudatus
Love-lies-bleeding


The seedlings above are basil that are growing in my garden shed.  This is the first year I’ve done a variety of herbs.  I always do dill and spearmint, but have not tried the others.  I had been buying fresh cilantro for years, and it finally occurred to me…Why?”  So this year I’ve planted basil, sage, cilantro, parsley and oregano to be later moved to pots on my deck and if there’s any over-flow, I’ll put them in my garden.  I’ll plant my dill among my tomatoes later. 

Did you know that dill attracts the big green tomato worm?  If it is planted near tomatoes, the worms will go to the dill and can be picked off easily.  They’re so much easier to see on the dill because the worms are fat and the dill is skinny.  I don’t use a lot of dill (only for pickled okra) but it’s a very handy tool for controlling those worms!

Oh my!!  I just have to go out now and dig in the dirt.  It’s my therapy!!  Happy Gardening!!!

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Where Did Spring Go? & Planting Trees

Last week I was having SO much fun running around in jean shorts and tank tops–Hoping no one would notice my white legs.  Hey, off the subject, but I’m SO fair that when I bust a zipper on tight jeans, it’s like popping open a can of refrigerator biscuits.  Soft, white blobs!!  Sorry that’s definitely TMI!! teehee

The last three or four days, I’ve gone out in sweats and a jacket to water my newly planted trees.

Numero Uno rule for newly planted trees- – -try to float them out of the ground the first year.  Water, water, water.  So every morning I change the water on the new trees.  I let the hose run at a trickle and leave it on each tree for several hours, sometimes overnight.  It not only soaks the tree, but the ground around it and that invites those baby roots to shoot out and explore into the distant universes, uh soil that is.

Now back to HOW to plant the trees. . .

Since Joe and I are fortunate enough to have a “toy” to help dig our holes, it makes it a LOT faster.  Before we got “Johnny” we did it the old fashioned way–with shovels.  But when we moved into the  middle of the alfalfa patch, we knew we’d need a lot of help, and Johnny is our man! 


We use the post hole digger to dig three holes close together–kind of in a triangle.

WARNING:  with no rain for 4 months, we didn’t realize just how hard the soil was, so right at the beginning we BURIED the post hole digger.  Just knowing we had done something terribly wrong, we told NO ONE and proceeded to DIG it out with shovels.  That digger is 4 feet long, and we dug all of 3.5 feet down and around it.  Talk about a honkin’ big hole!!!  Anyway, we found out the next day that is a common problem and now have some hints to get it out without all of that digging or just unhooking it and leaving it there for a yard ornament.  Contact me if you have this problem before I post about it.

After the three holes are dug, we clean out the hole.  I use a shovel because that’s what works for me.  Joe prefers post hole diggers.  I think it’s a guy thing.  Maybe post hole diggers are just more manly than shovels!

To determine how deep to make the hole, I measure with my shovel.  Remember you want the base of the potted dirt even with or slightly above the soil line.  Otherwise, dirt will cover the base of the tree and cause rot or insect damage.

Now, I put something across the hole to make sure the hole is deep enough.  It’s hard to guess when all of that soil is everywhere so a somewhat level object helps see the soil line.


Then I place the tree in the hole. 

WAIT WAIT WAIT.  Take that tree out of the hole and using a sharp knife, slice the side of the rootball in three different places, vertically, not deep.  That cuts the roots running AROUND the rootball and allows them to seek new territory and not continue to run in a circle.  If the tree is terribly root bound you might want to slice an “X” in the bottom of the rootball.  Don’t worry, it won’t kill your tree, but will definite help it. 

Now, I fill around the edges with soil, but am careful not to build soil up around the roots.  It’s usually so dry here, I sometimes make a ridge around the outer edges of the hole so it can hold more water instead of running out into the grass or garden.

Happy tree planting. 

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Pretty Memories

I have all sorts of memories of my grandparents and great grandparents from when I was a child. I can remember sitting on top of my great grandmother Velma’s red formica counter top as she canned her summer jellies and jams, or of my great granddaddy Estes who would gladly take me out into his orchards or large garden and show me how to pick that mornings harvests. (So I guess it’s really no excuse if I can’t have a successful garden looking at how I have two generations worth of teaching ha ha!)

This weekend, I came across a little trinket that sent me whirling back memory lane. I came across this cute little plant mister. My Nana used to have a little green mister similar to this that she’d keep on a shelf. I found myself many summer days when I would stay with her filling this thing up and ‘watering’ all sorts of imaginary plants – perhaps some African Violets she had planted here and there inside the house. Looking back, I’m sure she cringed when she saw that thing in my hand and some sort of watery mess that would need to be cleaned up.

My grandmother used to keep a little mister similar to this on her window shelf

But this little find I felt was worth sharing and taking you back down my own pretty memory lane.

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First lesson learned…

So our March here has been unusally warm and cozy; in fact just last week, we enjoyed a nice 90 something degree day. So a few weeks ago on a whim that the weather had been so pleasantly warm – even though it was not a typical March – I planted a few summer favs like green beans and a few summer squash. I was amazed at how quickly the beans responded to the warm weather and have since flourished in my garden. You can only imagine my surprise this weekend when I wake up to a fridged 40 degrees and then didn’t see much warmer (48 degrees) by the end of the day.

So a quick afternoon call to my knowledgable mother resulted in finding a few old sheets and blankets in hopes that I might salvage my pretty little beans. I wrapped my little beans as best that I could and have crossed my fingers. I have also checked the 10 day forcast for my area. For the rest of the week, I’m looking at at low’s of 38’s and highs in the low 60’s  – then back to balmy 70’s and 80’s for the weekend and beyond.

Beans covered in two layers of sheets to protect them from this weeks cold snap

To my pretty little green beans, I’ve learned my lesson and I promise, in the future, I will not allow myself to get giddy over the unseasonably warm weather and plant you before you’re really ready.

On a side note — my peas, carrots, lettuces, spinach and broccoli’s are LOVING the cool weather – in fact, I do believe I’ve seen more growth from them in the last few days than I have in the last three weeks since they were transplanted/seeded!!

You can see just little heads of the peas starting to come up

Broccoli, spinach, lettuce and radishes are loving the cold weather!

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First Farmer of the Land

“The farmer peered through his square eyeglasses and patiently counted the seeds.  There are 8925 seeds to a pound of barley, he concluded.  Red clover numbered 71,000 seeds to the pound, and the tiny seeds of timothy figured 298,000 seeds to the pound.  Straightening up from this wearisome task, George Washington peered out the window over Mansion House Farm, and across the river to River Farm, and thought about how this information could help improve his plantation.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve had 4-H and FFA students and my own children begin a speech with this paragraph.  It seems to bring the Father of Our Nation down to our level when you think of him sitting there counting all those seeds.  He was indeed, The First Farmer of the Land.  I’ll be telling you more about him in the future.

But Washington inspired me this week when I looked out across our lawn and  . . .

There were HUNDREDS of dandelions!!  WHAT HAPPENED TO MY PRE-EMERGE???
I wondered, “Just how many seeds are these little boogers going to dump into my grass when they mature?”

 

So. . . I decided to find out.  I picked one seed head that had not opened completely so it would be really full of seeds.

I got out my “cheaters” that magnify about 60 million times, and I. . .COUNTED!!!

Would you believe that this one little dandelion head had 154 seeds?  Look at them!!  I put them into groups of 10.  Not an easy job because I had to hold my breath so they didn’t go blowing all over the place, and they kept sticking together.  My curious cat didn’t help either when she jumped on the table.

Now if each dandelion plant makes 6 flowers, that ‘s almost a thousand seeds per plant.  I know I have several hundred plants in my yard!  What am I gonna’ do?

My first step is to have Joe mow the yard really short.  (He won’t let me near his zero-turn mower-that’s HIS toy.)  Anyway, I’m hoping that would get rid of many of the currently blooming flowers.  Now I have to chop, spray, or ignore the remainder.  I choose to ignore!  They can just disperse their seeds!  I’ll try the pre-emerge again next year, and right now, those little yellow flowers are telling me that is really is spring!!  After all they’re kind of cute and it’s fun to blow the seeds away with the grandchildren, and I can tell them how I counted the seeds just like George Washington!!

Keep on a-smiling even if ole George didn’t!  Bye now!

 

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Grow Up!

Two nights ago I saw just a show and at the end, this yard, with grass much like mine – non existent – was gorgeous! Beautiful hanging vines from uniquely built trellises just added this awe-inspiring beauty as a privacy screen and backdrop. Now while we live out in the country, we do still have a couple of neighbors – albeit there about 100 yards away (give or take). I’d still like a little bit of privacy, but the yard, at this time, is just too darn big to fence in.

I loved the idea of creating beautiful screens – but in my world, I need them to also be functional as well as attractive. I told my darling husband my plans one morning and in his most supportive voice I hear over the running morning shower…”you want to what?”

“I want to build a tepee. I want my green bean vines to grow up them. It will be so pretty,” I replied back to him.

“Why not just get those trellis things we saw the other day, they’re already built for you.” his voice of reason quipped.

“Because MINE will be PRETTY.” – smiled back at him. And for ME, that was the end of the conversation. He had been duly warned and informed….the rest was up to me.

So, I ventured out to Lowe’s, grabbed $40 worth of wood, supplies and tools, swung by the bulk dirt place, bought $13.07 worth of dirt (1/2 cubic load) and excitedly headed home.

After nearly 2 hours of working a drill and skill saw – which both mom and my husband couldn’t believe didn’t end up in a trip to the ER – I had myself two great new add-on’ additions to my raised garden bed with three attractive features built-in. Or at least they WILL be attractive in a few more weeks. I like to think positively.

The benefits of ‘growing up’ a.k.a. vertical gardening:

  • increased harvest from a smaller space
  • Less chance of soilborne diseases
  • Less watering and feeding required
  • Little or no weeding needed
  • Cleaner produce
  • More air circulation, so less mildew
  • Plants are easier to reach and care for
  • Easier harvesting
  • Can cover an eyesore and/or provide privacy (my personal fav)
  • Less accessible to pets and some garden pests

Over the next few months – I fully intend on increasing my vertical gardens and hope to add things other than veggies. Here’s a quick helpful rundown of things that love ‘growing up’ :

  • Pole beans (‘Blue Lake’, ‘Kentucky Blue’, Scarlet Runner bean)
  • Cucumbers (Diva’, ‘Fanfare’, ‘Saladin’)
  • Eggplant: ‘Fairy Tale’, ‘Hansel’
  • Nasturtium (‘Moonlight’, ‘Spitfire’)
  • Pumpkins (‘Baby Boo’, ‘Batwing Mix’, ‘Wee-B-Little’)
  • Tomatoes (‘Celebrity’, ‘Early Girl’)
Posted in Vertical Gardening, Water Conservation | 3 Comments

Never Be Intimidated!

 Oh my, I cannot believe I feel even a little intimidated by doing this Blog.  I was a pioneer in computing!!  I moved 16 computers (the total number in our entire school) to my husband’s classroom every Thursday night for 2 years to teach farmers and their wives how computers could make their lives easier.  I’ve taught people from 2 to 92 how to use computers.  I’ve followed every computer advancement since the early 80s to the latest Internet Browser, operating systems, and photo editing software.  I WILL NOT be intimidated!

Now that this new endeavor understands just how I feel, I will forge on with confidence!!

I just have a million things to share with all of you, but I’ll start with a bit of current info everyone should know.  PLAN before you start.  YES I did that 5 years ago when we built a new house in the middle of an alfalfa field, but. . .maybe. . . I could have PLANNED a little better.  I remember when I planted this stuff, I thought, “I’ll just move it when it gets too crowded.”  Right!!

 
Crowded Front Berm

This is last summer (2010)  I took this pic to remind me that this spring I HAD to do something.  That poor little dogwood is being squished by that Knockout Rose, and you can’t really see it, but there is a Firepower Nandina behind that dogwood.  Yes, it is literally under the rosebush.

Yesterday, I pruned, correction, PRUNED the rose bush.

Can see the little Nandina?  Now I can get in there and dig up the Nandina and the Dogwood to relocate them.  I really had wanted to move the rose bush, but I would have to cut it WAY back and it is just so gorgeous all summer.  I would really miss it in that place anyway.

I always prune my roses in Feburary or March.  It helps keep the winter kill to a minimum.  Of course with Knockouts, there’s not much worry.  They are the best, most hardy rose for just a pretty flowering bush that there is.  And in our weather that ranges from -10 to 110 degrees, I need something that just can’t be killed.

This is one reason I didn’t want to cut back and dig up the rose!!  Heavy leather gloves and long-handled loppers are important.

  

I completely filled up my Mule with branches from just one rose bush–yes I have more than one that is extremely overgrown!
My Mule is one of my favorite “toys.”  We got it to take to the mountains, but I’m about to wear it out here in the yard.  Did I mention that my yard and garden is a couple acres?  Then I also care for the peripheral area that borders the cow pasture.
This is our East fence where we planted trees yesterday.  It’s also where I backed into the hotwire (Okie for Electric Fence) and shocked my bee-hind.  I yelped to say the least. 

The Girls

Here are some more of our family members!  If you look closely, you can see Lady of Liberty’s head sticking out of the grass.
I’ll get back here in a day or two and show you how I plant trees in this dry, hard ground here.  BTW, we have had only 3/10 of rain since last October.  Bye now!
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Because everyone needs friends

There is absolutely no better thing in life that chatting with your best friend in the whole world. You know – that one person who knows you nearly better than you know yourself – those silly little gossip sessions or catching up after not seeing each other for a few days. Everyone needs at least one of those people in their lives!

Well, I got to thinking about that very thing the other day and figured that my little garden babies needed a few friends as well. Since we live out in the middle of next to nowhere (again by my choice) hardly even the birds know we exist out here! So…in my own redneck, frugal way, I went to our discount store while grocery shopping and spent a whopping $2.37 on friends for my garden babies.

Hopefully they’ll do their part in making better garden compost and keeping the garden soil nice and loose! Welcome new little friends!!

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When you follow the instructions…

 

I would always like to pride myself in saying that I carefully read the labels on products I buy and follow the directions to the letter, but my antsy side creeps in and I often find myself thinking I’ve read everything clearly only to find out much later – usually too late – that there has been some key, vital important detail that I have skimmed over. But not the case this time!!! I’m beginning to think vegetable gardening is a much more exact science rather than a haphazard hobby…at least if you want successful results that is.

one of the first seedlings from the peas I just planted on 3/20!

Looking very closely there in the middle you can see one of the first little seedings from the heirloom garden peas I just planted 3 days ago!! I made sure and not only did I follow the instructions on the packet, but also did a little research prior to planting just for good measure. (I learned my lesson on the carrots). I planted my little round seeds just about a 1/4″ deep and covered with great compost soil and watered it in. And poof! There’s a seed right there – can’t wait to see what else today’s nice sunshine will bring up!

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