Forgetfulness in the Garden

As soon as it was warm enough, I was out in the garden digging around. I had a few hardy perennial seeds to put out, and decided last year to consolidate two or three beds into one big one so still had a few things to move. There was also a tall, floppy sedum that

the consequences of bad (read: no) garden planning

The sedum ended up on top of a hosta. Now I’ll spend the summer seeing which one dominates.

needed to go from the center of the garden to the outskirts.

Anyway, there was almost immediately a problem: not everything was up and I had exactly zero markers. Deciding to rely on memory alone (yes, yes, laugh if you must), I planted some asparagus, moved the sedum, scattered some rudbeckia seeds, built a grape arbor, and moved some raspberry plants.

When it became obvious that markers are a necessity in my garden, I started researching different ways to make them (because of course I don’t want to buy them — that would be money that could be spent on plants!) There are some great ideas out there, and I just happened to have a bag of old silverware.

Flattening spoons and stamping names of plants on them seemed like a lot of work, so I decided to just stick them utensils in the ground next to the plants as they came up. Forks marked the hostas, for example. Immediately, my husband started listing off all the reasons this was a terrible idea (mostly he thought the dogs would pull the silverware up and scatter it all over the yard and make mowing hazardous). I ignored him and proceeded to plant spoons and forks all over the garden.

A couple of hours later, I was walking around, staring at the ground, looking for anything new popping up (I spend hours doing this every spring), and noticed that a fork was missing. The inevitable “I told you so!” was not long in coming…but then I found the fork — buried all the way in the ground. Someone had stepped on it!

Clearly ONE piece of flatware would not do the trick. The next week I planted a small

Spoon markers

Spoon markers

patch of onions, and used spoons to outline it.

While this works great for the onions, it’s not really practical for each hosta, coneflower, peony, and other perennial in my garden. The search for effective, attractive, and free markers continues!

Belle’s suggestions:
Try knives and write on them with a paint pen or a bit less attractive but  functional: plastic slats from window blinds and write on them with nail polish pens.

 

 

Potato Tower

The end of an odd winter..Spring is here.
The morning air is crisp, the sun is warm, and baby plants are stirring. And with temperatures hovering around 50 degrees or so, it’s time to put out the potatoes here in Tennessee.
You may be familiar with our last potato tower experience, or maybe not.  It was nothing to write home about.  For one thing, I used grocery store potatoes. That’s a big No-No but I had to find out for myself.  Grocery store potatoes are treated with anti-sprouting agents and as you can guess, i ended up with a big pile of – Nothing.
This year, I am using certified seed potatoes and my towers is made with a combination of compost and straw.

Here’s whPotato Towerat you’ll need:
~ cardboard
~ a cage. I used a stretch of fencing joined in the round
~ straw
~ a bucket-full of compost
~ seed potatoes

potato tower step 1

Start by setting up the cage on top on the cardboard,  this will go a long way in keeping the weeds out of the potato tower. Next, add a thick layer of straw to the bottom of the cage, top the straw with your 2/3 of your compost.
Potato Tower step 3
Push the seed potatoes into the compost and cover with Potato Tower step 4the remaining compost.  Top with another layer of straw.
Once the potatoes sprout out, keep adding straw to the tower, keeping about 4 inches of greenery exposed at all times.  Stop adding when the plants set blooms.

So far it’s looking good, don’t you agree?

Growing Grapes: A Beginners Perspective

Guest column written by Dava Stewart

For several years, I looked at grape vines in seed catalogs. I read about raising them, and

seedless red grapes

Seedless grapes, variety Mars

felt my skills might not be up to the task. Then, four years ago, my dad brought me a plastic bag with a bare vine in it. I have no idea how long it was in the bag before he brought it, but it took me a few days to get around to planting it. My hopes were not high.

But, that spring, it turned green and started growing like crazy. I had a gate from an old chain link fence and stuck it in the garden for the grape vine to climb. That first year, it covered the gate, and seemed happy and healthy.

The next spring came along, and the grape vine continued to thrive. After a little more reading, I did some careful pruning. I went out and checked every couple of weeks to see if there were any flowers or evidence of impending grapes.There never was. I read some more. My dad expressed the opinion that the galvanized fencing on the old gate was bad, and that’s why there were no grapes. Belle has since explained to me that grape vines have to be 2-3 years old before they begin producing.

Third year: I took the vine off the gate and planned to move it to a different location (it was a year of moving the entire garden). The key word in that last sentence is “planned.” The move never happened. As summer ended, I found three fat, sweet grapes on the vine! It was sprawling everywhere, tangled with grass and weeds, and in a completely messy area of old garden. There may have been more than three grapes, and I just couldn’t find them for all the mess.

This spring the story of my grape vine will continue. Maybe moving it (finally!) won’t mean three more grape-less years. But if that’s the case, so be it. Watching for grapes is almost as much fun as eating them!

 

Do-it-Yourself Felted Flowers

I love flowers, in the garden and as decorations on some my knitted projects.  I always get lots of looks, comments, and questions when I wear my flower cowl. I admit, it’s rather unusualFlower Cowl with randomly felted flowers sprouting between the stitches.
So here’s how they are done.  You’ll need:
1. large size crochet hook
2. 100% wool yarn (not superwash) in colors you like
3. a bowl, hot water and a little soap
4. another bowl with ice cubes

Crochet loose circles. Use one color yarn for the flower center, another for the petals. Mix and match stitches as you like when you go around in circles to create a flat flower, about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter.  Take some loose threads and weave them through the flowers.  You will end up with something looking similar like this:

Now comes the fun part!  Put a squirt of dish detergent into the first bowl and add hot water from the tap.  Immerse the flowers and stir them around.  OMG – they are expanding.  Don’t worry.   Get your second bowl ready with ice cubes and a little cold water.  Pick up a flower and roll it in your palm, hard, into a little ball, toss it back into the hot water.  Repeat with all your flowers until they have shrunk and felted to the size you like.  Toss into the ice water and swirl around.  They are a bit big still? Repeat the hot water, rolling in your hands, followed by a dip in the ice water treatment.  Don’t worry, you won’t hurt them.  Roll them hard!  Once you’re happy with the flowers, set them out to dry.

Felted Flowers

Attaching the felted flower

You may like to sew them on as a finish, however, I like to knit
them in as I go.  I use a crochet hook to pull a loop of the working yarn through the back and then knit that loop loosely together with the next stitch on my needle.

Growing Citrus Trees from Seeds

Meyer LemonsMy mother-in-law sent some Kumquats (C. japonica) and Meyer Lemons (C. × meyeri) fresh from her garden.  They were beyond delicious!

You are probable familiar with Meyer lemons, their sweeter, less acidic flavor is a favorite for lemon cakes and fresh squeezed lemonade. Kumquats, on the other hand, may be a type of fruit that you have passed up.  Bitter centers and huge seeds!  Yuck! NOT!

Kumquat fruit may look like a mini orange but unlike oranges, when eaten raw, one eats the peel and outer flesh only.  The whole fruit can be eaten cooked and is mainly used to make marmalades and jellies.lemon2

Best of all, both of these delicious fruits can be grown from their seeds.  It’s easy peasy as one of my friends likes to say. The most important (and tedious) part is removing the fibrous coat from the seeds. I use a sharp knife to peel away the white coat and end up with the naked seeds (top).

All that’s Citrus Seeds in Potleft to do is pucitrus seeds in pot covered with plastic bagt them in a pot and cover with a plastic bag.  The bag holds in moisture and has to be removed once the seeds start to sprout.

It will take about 6 weeks in 65+ degree temperatures until sprouts appear.  Once there are a couple of leaves, I transplant my future citrus trees into small pots (3-4 inch size, front) after about 6 months, the seedlings are ready to move along into a quart size pot (back) and, hopefully, in about 3-4 years time, fresh Kumquats and Meyer lemons will be ready for harvest.

Citrus Trees

Citrus Trees from Seeds