Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spending More Time in the Garden

Now that the days are getting longer and warmer, I find myself spending more time in them getting things done that have been put off for too long.  I finally decided to start the entryway to the east side yard where most of the veggie beds are and so on Wednesday I built two planters to frame it. I used pine 2" x 4" and redwood fence boards, then lined the planters with weed blocker fabric to hold the soil in place and keep weeds to a minimum.  I couldn't fill and plant them until Thursday as WalMart was out of the brand of topsoil I prefer, both for price and the fact that it's produced locally.  I got the planters sited and levelled, then filled each with 3 cubic feet of topsoil and planted a Climbing Don Juan and a Climbing Pink Peace then placed on top of the soil for them to climb.  As the roses grow, I'll tie them to the trellis so that they circle around it, which should maximize coverage and blooms.

The planters frame the entry way.

Close up of one of the planters.

The tomatoes I planted are finally up and starting to get to the point where they'll need to be thinned to just 3-4 vines of each and the habanero is starting to send out new greenery after the hit it took during the freeze.  The asparagus beans are sprouting, as is the garlic.

Asparagus (Chinese yard-long) bean sprout.

Garlic greens coming up

Aunt Ruby's German Green, Black Krim, Mortgage Lifter, Sweet 100 and Roma  tomato seedlings.

The habaneros with an unknown tomato behind them.
I saw a couple of critters in the gardens that were kind enough to pose for me, a Two-spotted Ladybug and a Western Fence Lizard.

Two-spotted Ladybug, Adalia bipunctata.

Male Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis.

Threat display warning me to leave him be.

I also thought that since it's been just over a year since I planted the wheelbarrow succulent garden that it was time for an update on it's progress.  Several plants were killed by the big freeze we had in January, despite the fact that the planter was covered and so replacements had to be made.  Some of them came out unscathed or only partially damaged and are now recovering or thriving.  You also might notice that I added gravel mulch to give it a tidier look and help keep down the weeds, although that doesn't work 100% of the time.

The garden as it is today.

The poor aloe vera I bought at last spring's sale on the distreesed plant table is doing rather well despite some frost burn, as it even has a new pup.

Aloe vera showing damage and a new pup.

Another aloe with frost burn and a pup.

Graptopetalum paraguayense - Ghost Plant, in bloom.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring has Sprung!

The weather has settled down and is more or less normal for this time of year and the gardens are responding with wild abandon.  Leaves and flowers are budding, the birds are getting frisky and butterflies, bees and other insects are visiting the flowers.

Today I planted Blue Lake and Kentucky Wonder green beans to go with the Asparagus Beans I planted last week.  I also planted the following chiles: Costeno Amarillo, Red Bell, Datil, Cubanelle, Aji Limon and Chiltepin.

The fruit trees and grape vines are really looking good, but the Anna and Ein Shemer apples aren't on the same bloom schedule even though I planted the Ein Shemer specifically to cross-pollinate the Anna.  The Ein Shemer is just now blooming and the Anna is already at the stage where I'm culling the fruits to increase the mature size.

Anna apples after being culled.
Ein Shemer blooms about to open.
The weather hasn't been as windy as it has in years past and most of the nectarine blossoms have stayed on the tree, so maybe this year I'll finally get a crop.

Nectarine blossom being visited by a honeybee.
Hopefully this nectarine will reach full size.
The grapevines are loaded with the beginnings of fruit clusters.
The Eureka lemon is blooming and there's still a chance I'll get fruit this year.

The flowers have been showing their appreciation for the nice weather as well, with healthy growth and even some blooms.  Last year's hollyhock has done more than survive, it's thrived and on the 18th was nearly 5' tall with 12 flower stalks; today it's 6' tall and the first flowers have opened, though they're hard to see as they're lower on the stalks and hidden among the leaves.

5' tall
First hollyhock blooms of the year.
The salvias have recovered from the freeze; the red salvia is already in bloom and the blue, Salvia nemorosa, has buds the should open tomorrow or the day after.

Red salvia growing in the rose garden.
Salvia nemorosa ready to bloom.

A couple of the succulents in the wheelbarrow garden have decided to bloom as well, one of them being the basketball plant, Euphobia obesa, which it turns out has male and female plants, with mine being female.  I'm trying to find more specimens in the hope of getting at least one male plant.

Euphobia obesa in bloom.
Another succulent bloom.
The rosemary, moss rose and petunias all self-sowed last year and seedlings are beginning to grow.  I planted some poppy seeds provided by my friend Marie Niemann and noticed today that they've started to sprout.
Poppies coming up.
I also managed to get one of the amaryllis seeds to sprout and it's been planted in a small pot in my office where I can baby it for the next three years until it blooms.

Amaryllis seedling.
The ginger I planted from a piece I bought at the oriental market last year is starting to come out of it's slumber, the glads are now over a foot tall and the planter with the lavender and petunias is filling out nicely.

Ginger is greening up.
Glads are reaching for the sky.
Spanish lavender and petunias
Least we forget the importance of good bugs in the garden, here's a ladybug and a spiderweb I found recently (the web's builder was no where in sight).

Ashy Gray Ladybug, Olla v-nigrum.  
Spiderweb spun between two hanging planters on the back porch.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Update for W/E 3/14/13

Weird weather appears to be the new normal, as last Friday the 8th, we had 1.46" of rain, winds that destroyed all but one of my neighbor's sunflowers and two separate hail storms while the temperature struggled to reach 54, and then the last two days have set record highs of 95 and 97.  Despite the weather, things are getting done around Dove Manor and today I finished building and planting the raised potato bed.  Like the other raised beds, this one is made out of cedar fence boards and lined with weed block fabric, but it's larger than the others @ 47" x 51", or nearly 16 square feet.  I filled it with 7 cubic feet of topsoil, planted 3 lbs of seed potatoes, then covered them with 3 more cubic feet of topsoil.  As the plants begin to come up, I'll add more topsoil to encourage more potato production.  The bed will get afternoon shade, even in the height of summer, so the potatoes should have time to mature without worrying about the soil getting too hot.

The bed ready to be filled

The potatoes ready to be covered
Room for another 5-6 cubic feet of topsoil as the plants develop

I also added some color to the front yard with a large pot filled with 3 lavender plants and 18 petunias in 3 different complementary colors.  I had to fight the bees off at the garden center when I bought the lavender this morning, so they should attract plenty of pollinators to my garden.

When making my rounds this afternoon, I noticed that the eureka lemon is forming flower buds, so maybe there will be some fruit to harvest after all.  I also saw the first swallowtail of the year flitting from blossom to blossom on the nectarine tree, so I guess it's a good thing I didn't cut it down after all.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring are all around me, from the courtship dances of the birds to plants coming out of their winter slumber.  The various species of doves are beginning to try out their pickup lines at the singles bar otherwise known as the backyard feeders, the Anna's Hummingbird's are singing in hopes of attracting a single gal, as are the Curve-billed Thrashers and I saw the first White-winged Dove in months today.

In the garden, the grapes are starting to leaf out and the nectarine, which I've decided not to cut down, is beginning to bloom.  The Anna apple is in full bloom and even has a few small apples on it, but the Ein Shemer that I bought to cross-pollinate the Anna still hasn't even begun to bloom.  

I planted another 140+ gladioli yesterday and the ones I planted last month are already coming up.  I have around 250 glads in 15 different varieties (new varieties to my garden this year are indicated by an '*':  Black Forest*;  Blue Lagoon*; Comet*; Early Bird; Fiorentina; Firecracker; Flowersong; Grande Passsion*; Lavender; My Love*; Peter Pears; PlumTart; Sun Kissed*; Superstar and Traderhorn.

Four out of the five tomato varieties I planted back on January 28 have finally come up and the last one should sprout soon.

Lastly, the petunia that self-sowed has bloomed and revealed itself for all to see.