Friday, March 30, 2012

Pictorial record of birds at my backyard feeders

Since installing the 3 bird feeders in the backyard, I've seen the following species partaking in the feast:

House Sparrow - Passer domesticus 
Mourning Dove - Zenaida macroura 
House Finch - Carpodacus mexicanus
Eurasian Collared Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
Inca Dove - Columbina inca
European Starling - Sturnus vulgaris
Great-tailed Grackle - Quiscalus mexicanus
Curve-billed Thrasher - Toxostoma curvirostre

Additionally, Anna's Hummingbird - Calypte anna have been coming to my backyard hummingbird feeder.

Today I decided to start a pictorial record of each species, with photos of both sexes where easily identifiable; here are the ones I've taken so far.

House Sparrow: female on left, male on right

Mourning Doves - sex not easily determined

House Finch; male

Anna's Hummingbirds; male with back turned and female sideview
By far the most common bird is the House Finch, followed by the House Sparrow, then the Eurasian Collared Dove, which is ironic, since the latter two species are non-native invaders.

All pictures except the hummingbirds were taken through the family room window using a digital camera and the photos were cropped to make the bird the focal point.  Additional photos will be added as the opportunity presents itself.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Garden Grows

The garden grew today in several different ways; I noticed the first tomatoes on the Sweet 100 and Roma vines that survived the Winter and I built the third raised bed and put it in place, but lining and filling it will have to wait for tomorrow.  The Red and Thompson Seedless grape vines are in their third year in my yard and are already preparing to flower, even though the new vines are no more than 2 feet long, so this looks like it may be the first year for a harvest.

The flower pots on the solar lamp post aren't on a drip system and I've been having problems keeping plants looking good in them so today I decided to try succulents; I planted them with Othonna capensis 'Little Pickles' which should cascade down from the pots; as a bonus, their flowers look like miniature yellow daisies.  I'll be planting another flowering succulent in Butch's baskets in the next few days; the low water requirements of succulents are making a convert out of me and I guess you could say I'm getting sucked in by succulents.

I also noticed that not all of last year's flowers met the same fate as the daffodils, as one of the daylilies and some of the Firecracker Glads are coming up. The Asian Lily I bought last Spring is almost ready to bloom, maybe even in time for Easter.  The Asian Lily bulbs I planted this year are barely coming up, so I don't expect them to bloom until late April at the earliest.  The roses that were planted last spring and bloomed sporadically throughout the year look like they're ready to put on a show this year, with multiple buds ready to open on each one.  As you can tell from the picture above, it's time to reseed the bare spots and start watering the lawn.

Got my new composter delivered by the City today and for only a $5 deposit it's mine to use as long as I want.  I'll be turning the old one this weekend and use some of the contents to get the new one started.  I'm going to pay a visit to the horse owner on Saturday for some manure and also plan on talking to the produce guy at Fry's about getting unsaleable produce for composting; The guy I talked to earlier said they usually sell a big banana box full for $1 as turtle food.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New water line is done, yeah!!

Got the new water line completed and after a few missteps (I forgot to glue a few joints and the connector to the hose bib was faulty and had to be replaced) it passed the leak test.  Installed the 4 station timer and ran 1/4" drip line to the 2 completed/planted raised beds, then ran soaker line in a "U" shape directly on the soil between the 3 rows of plants in each bed so that everybody will get water directly to the root zone, then covered the hose with mulch.

I connected the new line to the existing hose bib using a "Y" connector so I could still use the hose.  The timer in the picture is used to water the potted plants on the front porch.  I then ran the line up against the house at ground level and used wire stakes to keep it in place, making it easier to make future repairs when needed.

The line was raised to about 1' up the wall past the point where the new gate will be, so that I can add more raised beds and place them right up against the house.  The 4 station timer is heavy, so I used a "T" to run a piece of pipe with an end cap to the ground to support it.  It will be in between 2 raised beds which are not yet built, but will be soon.  

Here are some photos of the tomato and sunflower starts in the seed greenhouse; looks like the next project after planting the grapes will have to be getting the sunflower bed done.

Lastly, here's a picture of the latest gnome refugee to arrive in my yard which has become a gnome sanctuary of sorts.  This guy arrived after being purchased from my not-so-secret source for many of the antiques and collectibles in my collections,

Monday, March 26, 2012

Weekend Recap + 1

Didn't get much done in the garden this weekend, as it was time for some Spring Cleaning in the house, although I did manage to get in some "junkin" at the flea market held in the parking lot of a local antique mall, plus a stop at Saver's.  At the flea market we bought a Fiesta Disk Juice Pitcher in yellow for $30 ($75 retail), a vintage 3 drawer dresser with hutch for Kaleb's room in the new house they'll be moving into next month and this Hoosier Boy Greenhouse Tomatoes vintage cardboard basket for my basket collection.

At Savers I found a vintage vase and although the price tag covered the maker's mark, for $4.99 it was a piece I wanted.  After getting to the car and removing the price tag, my wife and I tried reading the maker's mark and finally after several minutes, we realized to our delight that it was a Weller piece and not a California pottery piece as I first thought.  We've been collecting Weller for several years and this is a great addition that now resides in a glass case with the rest of our Ivoria pieces.

Went out on my morning rounds today and found that the daffodils and tulips in the bulb bed have begun blooming.  So far all but one of the tulips is red and the other is light purple, so I'm hoping there will be other colors in the days to come.

Spent the time between the end of the work day and time to go to coach T-Ball to mow the back yard and start putting together the PVC components for the new water line to the side garden.  The line will end in a timer controlled four outlet spigot with each spigot able to have its' own time settings, allowing me to water 2-3 raised beds at a time without worrying about diminishing water pressure.  Each bed will be outfitted with 1/4" soaker hose so all the plants will get watered without having to flood the bed and since the hose will be covered with mulch, watering time and intervals can be minimized.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Birds, blooms, a bowling ball and Larry

Put up a bird feeder in the backyard and had lots of guests at Cafe' du Stephan all day long.  Kaleb's new favorite thing to do is look out the window at all the birds.  We had lots of House Finches, House Sparrows, a Mourning Dove, an Inca Dove and a Ring-necked Dove. At times there were a dozen birds vying for the six feeding stations, so I went out and bought a 2-pack of feeders at Big Lots for $6 and 9 lbs of seed for $5, as they went through about 3/4 lb today; I'll put them up in the morning.

Toured the yard and took pictures of the some of the blooms, here are the Dollar Store roses, still going strong; the Red Salvia that I planted last year and trimmed back a couple of months ago, coming back very well and the mystery rose that definitely is not Climbing Don Juan, but is very pretty anyways.

I've been planning to turn a bowling ball into a penny covered gazing ball and bought some Krylon Fusion Hammered Copper spray paint to paint the bowling ball, since the pennies would leave gaps where the bowling ball would be exposed, but after three coats of Krylon, I decided it looks great as is.  I placed it in the middle of the bulb bed on a candle holder I found at a yard sale; total cost of the project was just under $10.

Lastly, here's Larry, all ready to take in the remaining Cactus League Spring Training games for 2012.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Update on seedling greenhouse, etcetera

Saw him on my lunch rounds yesterday

The weather has been running hot and cold lately and since the greenhouse isn't heated, I think that's what delayed the sprouting of the tomatoes and peppers.  The tomatoes are now coming up with a vengeance and I think I'll have some extras for the Seed and Plant Swap next month, but the peppers are still being reticent and only grudgingly sprouting within the last few days.  Warmer weather is forecast for the next week, so hopefully that will spur everything to action.

I bought 3 blueberry plants at WalMart today and I was surprised they had any, since two weeks ago all the store were sold out.  Also went to Home Depot and bought the materials for the next raised bed, as I'll be needing it for transplants soon enough.  We got about 1/3" of rain over the weekend, so it should be easier to finish digging the post holes for the grape trellis and the planting holes for the grapevines.

The bulbs continue to come up and some of the daffodils look like they'll be blooming soon, just wish I could find something to keep the cats from using the beds as their potty.  Orange peel hasn't worked as advertised, so mothballs may be next.

The roses are getting ready to bloom, in fact one already has and either I grabbed the wrong plant or it was mismarked, as the bloom is yellow and it is supposed to be a Climbing Don Juan, which is deep red.  It's pretty though, so I'll definitely keep it, but now I need to get another CDJ, as they will be used to flank the new side garden gate when it gets built (Yet another project on the list).

Despite making innumerable rookie mistakes, I did manage to get 1 of the rose cuttings from my father-in-law's yard to root and it even rewarded me with this bloom.  Guess the next time we visit, I'll have to take the bud vials with me so I can try again.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Larry and the Gang

Larry, Sal, Mr. T and Marty marching in the South Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade

Larry and his friends Sal, Mr. T and Marty got a special invitation, courtesy of Kermit, to march with the Highland Pipers in the 2012 South Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade on 3/18.  They felt extremely honored and it was a great way to cap off a weekend full of sightseeing and partying.  Thank you, Sue Langley of  for providing the photo.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wheelbarrow succulent garden

As I noted in an earlier post, I got a free rusty wheelbarrow from my next door neighbor with the intent to turn in into a succulent garden.  Towards that end, I went to Home Depot and bought a 60 lb. bag of play sand and a 2 cubic ft. bag of potting soil.  I drilled a few drain holes in the bottom of the wheelbarrow and covered them with weed blocker fabric so the soil wouldn't fall out, then poured in the potting soil, sand and some vermiculite, mixing vigorously to create a light, easily drained planting mix.  I visited the Desert Botanical Garden's Spring Plant Sale this morning and purchased a few plants; here are some photos of the sale:

There was a large area devoted to cacti, succulents and plants for use in landscaping.
Finally found the area I was looking for.

Here are some of the succulents available for purchase.

Even more choices!!
I wound up spending $15 on a Haworthia coarctata v. coarctata greenii, an Aloe vera, an Astrophytum myriostigma and an Euphobia obesa "Basketball Plant".  At $4.75 each, other than the Aloe, which was $1.75 due to its' less than prime condition, I decided to try Home Depot for the remainder of the plants; I spent about $30 there for 11 more plants and bought the following specimens:

Sempervivum calcareum 'Oddity' - Hen & Chicks 'Oddity'
Aeonium psuedotabulaeforme - Saucer Plant
Senecio vitalis - Narrow Leaf Chalksticks
Crassula obliqua 'Tricolor' - Tricolor Jade Plant
Graptopetalum paraguayense - Ghost Plant
Aeonium arboreum atropurpureum - Black Rose 'Zwartkop'
Crassula argenta cv. 'Gollum' - Jade Plant 'Gollum'
Crassula marginalis rubra 'Variegata' - Crassula Calico Kitten
Kalanchoe millotii
Echeveria Hybrid 'Doris Taylor'
Haworthia 'Black Gem'

I took a piece of driftwood I had, cut it to fit into the wheelbarrow and drilled a hole in one end to plant one of the succulents in; here's a picture of the finished project.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bulb bed update, etc.

The new bulb bed is showing lots of activity, with nearly 1/3 of the bulbs already up, even though it was just planted a little less than a month ago.

Found this nice little apple nestled in the Anna tree; it's about 1" in diameter; the tree isn't blooming as much as it did last year, so looks like production will be less than 1/2 of last year's, unless it's just getting a late start.

The nectarine tree is blooming nicely, though I haven't noticed any fruit yet; the lemon on the other hand has quite a lot of fruit, which makes my wife happy.  The grapevines are waking up and the Ein Shemer is getting its' first blossoms.  Last year's Asiatic lily is looking to bloom soon, as are the climbing roses.  The Dahlias are coming up and over all it's starting to look pretty good out there.

I'll leave you with a picture of one of my cats on her favorite perch, the playset in the backyard, where the  Queen can survey her domain.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Who knew Larry was Irish?

Larry's all ready to head of to Boston with his good pal, Kermit the Frog; they'll be meeting up with Larry's scarecrow friends Mr.T, Marty and gal pal Sal for some green beer and good times.  Hopefully it won't be as "eventful" as their recent trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, when a certain someone wound up needing to be bailed out (we're not naming names, but she knows who she is).  Kermit says he'll be their chaperone and everyone will get back in one piece; hopefully he can ride herd on this bunch, after all it can't be any harder than MC'ing the Muppet Show, can it?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Weekend in Review

Had the granddaughters, Morgan (9) and Kathryn (12) over on Saturday to help in the garden.  Morgan came willingly and Kathryn only came because there was nothing to do at home; guess which one lasted the longest? Morgan didn't last more than 30 minutes before she needed a break, but Kat wound up helping for about 1.5 hours.  We turned and sifted the compost, getting about 10 gallons of the rich black gold.  Then we took a lunch break and afterwards Morgan decided to help again as I dug a hole to plant the Pomegranate I got on clearance @ WalMart last Fall for 1/2 price since it had shed all its' leaves and looked like a bunch of sticks coming out of the pot.  I waited this long to plant because I wanted to be sure it would survive and I also wasn't sure where I wanted it. She enjoyed sifting the soil and using a small shovel to help dig the hole and as soon as the hole was done, she wanted to fill it up again, but I convinced her I needed to line it with weed blocker and rim it with edging first.  Here it is all planted and mulched, looking good and holding the promise of fruit down the road.

The girls spent the night and this morning Morgan and I went to the park to practice fielding grounders and throwing, since she's playing Little League Softball for the first time this year.  After I took them home and spent a couple of hours doing more "family time" stuff, I got back home and decided to take the neighbor up on their offer of the use of the roll up dumpster they rented, so I disposed of the busted block and cement from the side yard gate demolition I did a couple of months ago; nice to have good neighbors.  I guess this is  the thanks I get for sharing excess herbs and produce from the garden with them.  Next, I took down the old microwave from over the stove, as it literally blew up recently, and it went into the dumpster as well.  Replaced the microwave with a range hood, as we'd already bought a new microwave that has an oven drawer for making frozen pizza, cookies and other baked goodies.

I was talking to the neighbor when her son came up with an old rusty wheelbarrow that was destined for the dumpster and I commented that she should save it to use as a planter for her succulents. She said she didn't have room for it, but I was welcome to it, so it's sitting in my backyard waiting to be planted.  Next weekend is the Desert Botanical Garden's Spring Plant Sale and hopefully I can find some nice, reasonably priced specimens for the wheelbarrow.

I took a stroll around the yard and snapped a few photos:

Tulips from bulbs bought @ the 99 cent store

The hyacinths from the 99 cent store (the feet are Larry's, not mine)

"Eureka" lemons on the tree I planted last year; the fruit get can get up to 1/2 lb ea.
I spent the last 2 hours of daylight cleaning up the area where I'll be planting 3 Black Monukka grapevines and got the first post into the ground for the support structure the vines will be trained onto.  Black Monukka is a seedless variety that should complement the Thompson Seedless and Red Flame Seedless vines I already have.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New on-line magazine

Found this link on Facebook for a new on-line magazine, "GARDENERS on the go!" coming April 1 and thought I'd share it with you.

Click on the link and sign up to receive this free on-line magazine.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Random things I did or found today

I couldn't wait for the seedlings to be ready, so when I went to Home Depot for more cedar to build the next raised bed, I picked up some Walla Walla onion starts, 60 of them, and planted most of them today.  I also planted 6 tomatoes that sprouted next to the compost, so I'm not sure what type(s) they are.

The paperwhites I planted in a hanging basket in the back yard have started blooming, even though they were planted after the ones on the front porch; guess the sun is stronger in the back of the house.

The invasion of the gnomes continues, as this little guy showed up to serenade the plants on the front porch.  Found him at Hobby Lobby and couldn't resist, as he is so "me" with his Hawaiian shirt.

Started the second planter and got the first level done, then had to take a break to play with my grandson, Kaleb, so I guess I'll finish it tomorrow.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Happenings for the weekend

I actually got to spend some time working in the yard this weekend instead of just shopping and doing family stuff.  I got the first raised bed built for the side yard salsa garden; the following photos show some of the steps involved:

I used 5.5" x 6' cedar fencing for the bed frames and 1" x 2" pine for support,  The pine was cut into 18" lengths and one end was cut into a point to make stakes.  The frames were made by cutting 4 pieces of cedar down to 5'5" for the sides and 1 piece into 4 18" lengths for the ends. The cut pieces were then assembled using corner braces and 3 screws to strengthen each butt joint.

I placed a frame where the bed was to go and leveled it front-to-back and side-to-side, then the second frame was stacked on top of the first to get the desired 11" height.  I then pounded the pine stakes into the ground to keep the sides from bulging and screwed the stakes to the frame to fix it in place.  Next, I lined the frame with weed blocker cloth, using a staple gun to secure it to the frame.

I filled the frame with 2 wagon loads of dirt left over from the bulb bed and 3 cubic feet of compost, mixing them together to get the perfect growing medium for the seedlings that are growing in my greenhouse.

Until the others are all built and ready for planting, I covered the frame with weed blocker fabric to keep the cats out.

Next, I took a tour of the yard and found the following blooms:

The Grape Hyacinths are finally blooming, though they're not very conspicuous; not sure if it's due to the source of the bulbs (99 cent store) or if I didn't feed them enough.

The nectarine tree is beginning to blossom and hopefully this year I'll actually get some edible fruit; wonder if it knows this is its' last chance before the chainsaw cometh?

The Anna apple has been blooming for a few weeks, but as usual, the first blooms don't produce fruit, yet today I noticed the first swellings at the base of some buds, so soon I'll be thinning down to 1 or 2 apples per bunch so that I get a  better, larger harvest.  I usually wait until the apples are at least 1/2" in diameter, as sometimes what looks like a viable apple doesn't turn out that way.

Finally, I spent about 2 hours weeding the front yard, until dusk made it impossible to continue.