Garden Diary 2010

January. I did nothing I can recall.  It was a cold month.

February.  I trimmed almost all of our trees, save the two maple a-west the house.  Those trees need trimming.  As for the trees I did trim, my aim was to thin them out.  I don’t want the Japanese maple to get too big, e.g.

Also, I planted seeds inside in small pots.  Tomato, bell pepper, anaheim pepper, basil, and cilantro.  Some I set under a light.  Some I set atop the HVAC registers.  I put only one seed to a pot.  I misted frequently to keep the soil moist.  Without exception nothing grew.

March. March was sort of cold but all-around forgettable.  I tried again to get my seedlings going.  I packed the soil less hard.  I put more seeds in per pot.  I dumped the register idea and kept them either under the light (12/12) or on a windowsill.  I had better luck.  The tomatoes started first.  The bell peppers I gave up on; let the pots dry out; watered them again for the first time in a while just in case and -bang- they grew.  I believe the generally increasing temps were the main difference.

Brook and I raked leaves.  I began to clean up outside, taking down all of the dead morning glory vines.  I put them into yard waste bags.  I gathered an old pile of various other yard waste into bags.  I swept the garage.

I planted some forsaken daffodil bulbs in pots.  Eventually about 40% of the bulbs came to fruition.  Ray suggested I packed the soil too hard on them; that I needed to think more about just filling the pot with soil but loosely, instead allowing the watering process (or rain) to pack the soil down gradually.

I took the yard waste bags (nine of them) to Belleville and dumped them along the lake on a windy day when my parents were in Arkansas.  By that time the bags held all sorts of yard debris.  The twigs and limbs of all the trees I trimmed.  Pampas grass.  Weeds.

March was a rainy, grey month.  Crocuses came up; daffodils came up but ours weren’t very good this year.  Might have to buy some new ones in October to put in.

It was probably during the last week of March — late by a week or two — that I trimmed back the butterfly bushes.

April.  I bought a few more seeds: mixed hot peppers, basil, chamomile.  But this time we are getting more sun and some warmer temps (it is April 18 as I write, and we have had 5-10 80-degree days already).  Using the windowsill and also just by setting them outside, I got the basil and hot peppers going.  The peppers really want to be warm to germinate and direct sunlight is nonpareil.  I am either misting seeds/seedlings with a spray bottle or now misting them with the garden hose at least once a day.

Tulips came on and are the best flowers to date.

Clematis darts up the fence as we look out the kitchen window.  Clematis along the back west fence is also off to a good start.  I attach it onto string to help it get going.

I start spending more and more time outside.  I take my shirt off after work and sit on the deck, with a beer, just letting the sun pound me and lick me.

But it’s a short honeymoon.  The green stuff starts around April 5.  Coinciding with them,  the blossoms appear on trees.  I guess it’s tree pollen.  Allergies hit, Brook’s worse than mine.

I decide to get proactive on this green shit.  We keep our windows mostly closed but still it finds its way in through the back door; on our shoes, feet; Squirt.  This is evident when I swiff.  The deck and porch are filthy with the allergenic green dust.

So I do something I’ve never done before.  I hose it all down.  I get both hoses out: black hose with signature series Vigoro nozzle on back deck; green hose with less cool nozzle out front.

Hosing the back deck turns out to be a breeze.  I find I enjoy it very much because it really is effective.  I use mostly the “FLAT” setting and push the dust away, away, and then over the side of the deck.  I do this first on, say, April 5.  Again on April 7, 10, 13, 17.  Quickly, though, I realize I am gripped in an arms rage.  Once isn’t enough.  You have to keep after it.  Especially when it doesn’t rain.

And so after a terribly rainy 2009 and a rainy January/February/March, I can remember maybe one real April rain through the 18th of this month.

I also hose down the front porch.  There are low areas from which water doesn’t really flow.  Some probably leaks down to the sub-porch, which I want to avoid.  But having a clean front porch is worth it.  I hose parapets, columns, chairs, the table, the swing, windowsills, the mailbox.  I find it very rewarding.

I have brought out the outdoor/indoor plants: three gerania are scraggly but alive; one is very shy of sun early and so I put it in partial shade; I chuck the oregano/chamomile in the window-style box.  I put Osmocote granules in the gerania.  I go through them all and clip the dead leaves and branches.  They are outside now for good.  From the basement I bring up the lavender and the rosemary.  I clean them up and feed them likewise.  They are happy to be back outside.

Some of the potted, very-late-start daffodils actually flower.  I water them not quite enough.

I bring out into direct sun some of my seedlings and also some of the not-yet-germinated seeds.  A couple of the tomatoes get burned in only a few hours’ sun.  So remember: for tomato seedlings started indoors (esp. grown under a light as opposed to in the windowsill) start out with only an hour of sun and build from there.

When nights are down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, I am not leaving the seedlings out at night but instead putting them back on their windowsills or under the light.  When night lows are not below 50 I will leave them out 24 hours.  I have them, though, in spots outside where they will not get direct sun all day, but only from morning through about one o-clock in the afternoon.  I am misting them at least once a day, or watering them in some fashion, trying to keep the soil moist.

I have by this time trimmed back dead branches from both hydrangea.  I cut as low as a finger’s width above the new growth.  I am also regularly watering the east-side hosta and peonies — I’m giving them water by hose, more than I’ve ever done.  They love it.

I have planted chamomile and garden coreopsis seeds in big pots to set around wherever.  The chamomile I intend to harvest for tea; the coreopsis I’ll cut for flowers inside.

I am watering the out-back azalea more than usual.  Same goes for the three azalea out front.  Around April 10 (about a week too late) I gets into the two garden plots and turn over the soil.

There was a good amount of our compost on top of each plot.  Some wasn’t so well so well composted.  I tried to take some of that out (corn cob).  With the big shovel I dig in as deep as I can, pull up, dump it over.  Leave it.  The soil is getting easier to work every year; een the bigger, side-garage plot which is a heavy clay soil.

The robins pounce when I cease this digging — worms crawl for their lives.  A week later I come back and try to break up any big clods left over (there are some very truculent clods in the side plot).  I throw in some 10-10-10 granule fertilizer and work that down.  A cucumber volunteers and I preserve it in the small plot.

I have a great reduction planned in what I’ll plant in the garden plots this year.  In the prime, small plot: one tomato, one bell pepper, and one cucumber.  In the side-garage plot, one tomato, basil, cilantro, maybe some lettuce, and then just flowers.  I try to make raised mounds or rows where all of this will go in.

Out behind the garage, I let the strawberries run.  They are spreading.  There are about a dozen flowers back there.  Some mint.  Otherwise, the hukurah Ray gave me last year is back with a vengeance.  Beside that, I tried to weed and then drop a bunch of wildflower seed on top of those weeded areas.

Brook and I move the woodpile and put it in the NW corner of our backyard, out of sight.  That gets rid of the wood in the garage and under the deck.  This makes me very happy.

Brook mows the lawn on April 10.  That’s the first time the lawn is mowed.  I sweep up.  She mows it again on April 17 and I sweep up.  The front yard is a disaster and an eyesore.  We don’t know what to do.  Brook bought some jaguar fescue and I’ll get it down but it hasn’t happened yet.

There are certain events that mark Spring’s progression and I want to run down what I’ve seen so far:

1)  Tree pollen:  April 1.
2)  Yarn doodles:  April 14.
3)  Whirly birds:  April 18.

Also sprouting by the second week are morning glories that I put down around April 1.  And wildflowers that I put down around April 1.  And some returning bee balm.  I have been watering these seeds and seedlings almost daily.

Weeds are starting to get unruly.  Hibiscus sproutlings wild strawberries, a whole shitload of others I can’t name.  To combat this, on April 16 I take the day off of work and go get eight lawn waste bags of tree leaf compost from Shaw Park in Clayton.  I spread it first on the garden plots; then around the back hydrangea, in and around the irises; around the morning glories; in the small plot at the back gate (note: a grape tomato volunteered in said plot and I have nurtured it; same thing happened last year such that it seems I don’t have to worry about growing grape tomato seedlings anymore).

I use some compost also out behind the garage on the hukurah, strawberries, around a few small sunflower seedlings.  I use a bunch on the west side of the house around the clematis, the butterfly bush transplant.  We see this area while standing at the kitchen sink.  The main idea is to keep weeds from going crazy there.

Brook and I go back to Shaw Park the next morning (April 17) and get just as much more compost.  We mulch the butterfly bush, the rest of the irises, and the whole strip of hosta and peony a-east the house.  We gets some of the hibiscus there as well.  Again, the idea is not just to provide a dynamite food source for those plants but also to aid us in our effort to reduce weeding.

April 21, 2010.  I stayed home from work today.  It is now 17:00.  I have been doing outside work since 7:00.  I started by sweeping the front porch.  It had a bunch of yarn doodles and tree pollen on it.  I then used shower water (via the lovely EBH) to water the small NW butterfly transplant, the western store-bought clematis, and the other westerly butterfly bush transplant.  I poured water from the purple bucket into the watering pitcher/pail so I have a more even application.

Then I swept up a whole bunch of whirlybirds from the back concrete.  I weeded the wildflower patch.  Then I de-whirlybirded the large garden plot; then I tried to work its soil, mainly trying to reduce clods.  The clods are mostly clay chunks that I’ve unearthed.  I then watered the result.

I then did a host of other backyard watering.  I will note this date, April 21, for the prevalence of a couple of other phenomena:

(1) hibiscus seedlings: I fucking hate these little bastards;

(2) mosquitoes and gnats: as I am outside at 10 a.m. no less the little fuckers are already going at me and I’m like, “It’s April 21st at ten in the morning, WTF!?”

So I digress.  But I continued on with my outside work.  I put in a second tomato seedling.  Yesterday, in went the first in the prime plot (the smaller one, full sun).  The one I planted today went into the larger plot, i.e. the side garden plot).  I also put in a bell pepper seedling into the gate plot where I removed the crocus and tulip bulbs (this marked the first time I’ve ever dug up bulbs to re-use).

In the tiny gate plot I’ve got one grape tomato volunteer and one bell pepper seedling.  That will be all.

In the prime plot I’ve got one tomato seedling (4/20) and now three apparent cucumber volunteers.  I will pull at least one of those cukes for the sake of crowding.

In the side plot I’ve got the tomato seedling I put in today.  Then I’ve also go three other mounds I built up today with the intention of planting in them:

(1) basil seedling

(2) bell pepper seedling

(3)  hot pepper seedling or cilantro

I have this year greatly reduced the amount of “stuff” I am trying to get into my garden plots.  I haven’t put down any lettuce, carrot, onion, beans, as in years past.  I might try *some* lettuce but it’s so much strain on my hamstrings to cull and pick.  We will see!

Also today I dug up all of the bulbs that I had planted in pots.  I worked all seedling pots so that they only had one seedling left growing in them.  I have two plastic pots on the deck (large pots) with

(1) a bell pepper seedling

(2) a hot pepper seedling

I cut a lower branch off of the decorative plum that was growing out onto the deck.  I’m not sure if it was “good for the tree” or not; I didn’t want it there; I cut it.

I culled chamomile seedlings.  I picked whirlybirds from the strawberry patch out back the garage.  I watered them.  There are a lot of potential berries out there.  Thirty?!

A bunch more whirlybirds fell over the course of the day.  You can’t even tell I swept them all up this morning!

April 23, 2010.  Rain today.  It rained last night, too.  This was the most rain in a 24-hour period in about two months, in my estimation.

A whole shitload of whirlybirds are out there.  Worse than ever.  So I haven’t done any watering the last two days.  I pulled my seedlings and potted flower sprouts out from the open.  I didn’t want splashing rain to dirty them.

Yesterday Brook took the day off of work.  She got a bunch more compost and spread it beginning where we left off, wrapping around from the side (hibiscus) to the front of the house.  She got most of the front, specifically the Japanese Maple, the three azaleas, the boxwood, and the front hydrangea.  She left off at the pampas grass.

She also got some limestone walking stones.  We will put them in soon, no doubt.

As for the events that are “coming of season” I want to note April 23 as the first day it feels at all “muggy” outside, no coincidence with the rain that’s moved in.  Still, I did a brisk 20 minute walk at work and I wasn’t sweating.  In any event, I’m gonna get the de-humidifier out soon.

Oh, three of the four azaleas are blooming; the pink/red azalea out back and the two pinks out front.  The red azalea out front is always the last to bloom.  It’s immediate neighbor to the west is struggling and might well need to be removed.  I walked “the grounds” yesterday before work, very pleasant of mind.   Haven’t been outside since.  Forecast for tomorrow is rain.

April 24, 2010.  Mid-afternoon.  The rain is here but it was so kind as to allow me first to get outside this morning and spread by hand the Milorganite fertilizer I bought for the lawn.  It is an organic, “no burn” fertilizer that I can apply at any time of the year.  I just went out with some in a small pail and scattered it like alms all over the backyard, trying not to toss it on especially weedy spots.  I didn’t spread any out front yet.  Nor on…or did I?  Yeah, I did spread it out front, now that I think again about it.  I’ve got a bunch left.  I’ll put more on in September.

I also began my hardcore, super-tedious weed and seed project out front and along the driveway.  I am mainly leaving the violets alone and focusing instead on the even weedier weeds.  I spent a couple of hours at least mostly going along with the forked-tongue weeding tool and then tossing seed on the areas I’d disturbed.

This is a slow process considering the amount of weeds out there.  I also weeded some sidewalk/driveway cracks.

Then I got out a rake and tried some macro-application (vs. micro via the weed tool).  So I would broadcast some seed, disturb a large swath of non-grass yard and then broadcast again and then try to stamp it down.

I don’t have much hope for the macro application.  I have to fix that front yard weed-by-weed.  And I need help from B (she has been helping out a lot).

So, yeah.  Now it’s raining.  I have showered.  I’m watching the Dodgers at the Nationals on MLB Roku.

What a pleasant afternoon.

The END.

P.S. Whirlybird Apocalypse 4/24/2010.

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