Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Then & Now - June Review

When we see our gardens every day, sometimes it's easy to lose sight of just how much has happened over the past few weeks. I decided to post some comparison photos to show growth for the month of June. I don't have photos from exactly one month ago, but I got as close as possible. Some photos were taken May 29 and some were taken June 5.

Note the black hoop for reference-

I don't think I'll end up adding the top board as they look about ready to bloom and foliage growth seems to have slowed.

The milk jugs are barely visible anymore.

This milk jug will soon be covered as well.

These were overflow potatoes. This is really supposed to be the grape area but I just planted it this year so the potatoes should not be in the way. The grape is in the middle.
Harvest totals so far:

Salad Greens- 7 oz
Radishes- 3 oz
May total- 10 oz

Salad Greens- 30 oz
Radishes - 4 oz
Peas- 31 oz
Strawberries - 8 (~1 oz)
Broccoli- ~3 oz
June total- 69 oz = 4 lb 5 oz

Total: 79 oz = 4 lb 15 oz

I have to estimate a little on the radishes, broccoli & berries as I'm only picking a small amount at a time. They weigh less than 1 oz, so I have added several together to estimate weight.

Wow, this is the first time I've added up the harvest list. I didn't realize that I had harvested quite that much. I'm also amazed sometimes just how much the garden has grown so far. I start to get impatient sometimes and there are days it seems like nothing has changed out there. Guess the proof is in the pics!!

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Xeriscape & Garden of the Gods

I had an appointment at the Air Force Academy today (did you know that gardening can give you "tennis elbow"?) and since I was on the west side of the city, I decided to stop at the Colorado Springs Utilities Xeriscape Demonstration Garden. I kept meaning to go last summer but never made it, so this was my first visit.

I wanted to share a few photos to help dispel the false impression that Xeriscape = Zeroscape. I see the misuse of the term xeriscape quite often. Xeriscape is not a sea of rock. Rock may have it's place in a waterwise landscape but it's really not the only option.

I only had a few minutes to preview the garden (I'll go back in a couple weeks with Mom while she's here) so I didn't get to really read the signs well. I know one of these photos is of a moderate water use garden (the 2nd one) but I think the others are all low water use. One of the principles of xeriscape is to group plants by their water needs.

So, here's the short tour:

One website I think is a great source of information on plants' water needs is X-rated Gardening http://www.gardencentersofcolorado.org/xratedgardening/perennials.htm.

Colorado Springs Utilities also has xeriscape information here-

I didn't have a lot of time before my appointment and on my way across town, I kept going back & forth, trying to decide if I should go to the gardens or to Garden of the Gods. I opted for the gardens but I ended up going to Garden of the Gods after my appointment. I was there for a picnic with my neighbors a couple weeks ago and with all the rain we had earlier this spring, everything is so green here this year. The contrast between the rocks and the vegetation is just so pretty.

For those who don't know, Garden of the Gods is a park on the west side of Colorado Springs with some unusual rock formations. When it was gifted to the city, one of the stipulations was that it would always remain free and open to the public. Today, I just drove the loop around the park, but there is also a very nice walking trail through the formations. It really is a beautiful park.

If you'd like more information about Garden of the Gods, visit their website http://www.gardenofgods.com/yourvisit/index.cfm.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Garden Update

Just a few photos of the garden today.

The spaghetti squash is cruisin' along. I'm trying to convince it to climb the ladder. Looks like the first female blossoms must not have been pollinated as they are yellowing and one fell off today. There are probably 8 more there already, so I'm not worried. I'm pretty sure I will have a jungle of spaghetti squash come end of summer. The pumpkin is following quickly along behind the spaghetti. At least they are both small fruit varieties (small wonder and small sugar).

When I ordered seeds this spring, I also ordered some seeds for sprouting. On a bit of a whim, I decided to plant some mung beans last week. I've don't know much about mung beans other than the sprouts are pretty good and it sounds like they're a bush bean. I've tucked them in along the edge of the squash bed, just to the left of the nasturtium in the above photo. We'll see what happens!

On the subject of beans, something is wrong with my bush beans.

At first, as the leaves yellowed, I thought it was the normal period where they get a little yellow after sprouting but they didn't get better. The front 6 squares in this photo are one variety, the first planting of beans. I plucked the worst leaves from the plant in the center square, but they were very very pale. If I remember right, the center plants were the first to sprout and the edges were later. I did plant a little early, so I'm wondering if it was still too cold for them. The greener ones behind the bad ones in the photo were planted a couple weeks later than these. If they yellow too, it may be a disease or a deficiency. This is a new bed this year, so maybe they don't like something in the layers.

Mmmmmm...... Tomorrow.........

I SHOULD have had my first ripe strawberry earlier this week. I checked the garden and saw the first blush of color on the berries one afternoon. The next morning when I checked, I was surprised to see a bit of almost ripe berry (so soon!) and was quickly disappointed when I saw that something had beaten me to it. It and it's 3 friends. I'm quite sure it was a bird since the berries had a slashed area in them.

I used one of the sheer curtains to cover the top thinking that the moving fabric would deter the birds. When I checked the next morning all looked good. When I checked that afternoon, the one ripening berry I had was GONE. The cap was there, the rest was gone. The strawberries are now completely wrapped. I have a piece of old sheer/gauze type curtain material my mom had in a trunk (probably for 30 years - who knows). It's about 20' feet long so even though it's not too wide, I can make a couple passes with it. It seems to be working as I have ripening berries under there that are still intact. Today, there was another that was nearly ripe. I couldn't take it- I ate it. It was so good... it reminded me of the wild berries we used to pick when I was young. I'm letting the rest ripen before I pick them.

The All-Blue potatoes in the ground are the first to bloom with Kennebecs soon to follow.

JustJenn, I made a point of smelling these this morning and I agree, they do smell good.
I'm very curious to see what's going on underneath all the potato foliage but I am resisting the urge to snoop until they're ready (or closer at least). I hope some of the blue or purple potatoes are ready when my mom comes to visit in a couple weeks. I'm crossing my fingers that at least something from the garden is ready while she's here. I'm afraid lettuce and peas will be done but I'm not sure what will be ready.

Speaking of fingers, I went to have my fingerprints scanned today for a background check (I'm getting my real estate license again and Colorado likes to check you out first). After she scanned all my fingers, she had to roll & scan each one individually. The computer compares the two scans and apparently tries to match a certain number of points. If it can't match a certain number, it rejects the match. The program rejected every one of mine from multiple tries. The first question she asked me when we were having problems - Do you do a lot of gardening?? Ok, so she tossed in "without gloves" or have you handwashed dishes for a long time? I guess it wears the fingerprints down enough to make scanning difficult.

I twice worked as a dishwasher many years ago, I worked at a flower shop for 6 years- about every job there was there but mainly in the greenhouse or design room, 5 years or so of sign work, I'm a pretty chronic hand-washer and I only started wearing gloves regularly in the past few years. Not lookin' good for these fingertips...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Calling All Garlic Growers!!

I have a question for all you experienced garlic growers. Is this a garlic scape? If so, what should i do with it? I hear they're tasty, but I really don't know what to do with it or when to do it. Also, does this become a bloom and need to be removed?

Your input is greatly appreciated!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Those Lovely Ladies

While watering the babies on the front porch today, I saw a terrible sight - gobs of aphids nestled into the tips of the little mums. Time for a little help from my friends...

The past few days, I've noticed a pretty significant population explosion of lady bugs. While pulling weeds in the back yard I actually have to check the plants so I don't squish them. They seem to be everywhere and thick. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. Either they really enjoyed the unusual spring moisture or somebody released them and they all came to my house! I even spotted some in the front lawn this evening.

When I saw the aphids, I went out back and caught a few of them. Several hours later, they were still trekking around the mums.

I was thinking I should mow the back weed-patch (we don't have a lawn back there yet) but I'm afraid it would be a lady-massacre if I did. For now, I'm just going to pull the tall and weediest looking stuff. We don't have many manicured back yards out here so if I don't mow, I won't offend my neighbors.

We are also having a population explosion of Miller Moths it seems.

Although CSU says the population is normal this year , http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/moths.html
they were the topic of a short blurb on the news tonight. These guys are everywhere at my house right now. When I open my front door, a flurry of moths come flying out. I've got them bouncing into the windows, flying into the shower, dying on the floor but I think the worst was when I put a loaf of bread into the 450* oven the other day, one must have been hiding behind the towel hanging on the oven door. I opened the door, he flew in. He didn't make it back out (well he did, but it was on the end of a spatula - something about fresh bread in a steamy oven with a moth at the bottom didn't seem yummy...).

I was happy to hear that they should only be hanging around here for another week or so.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ok, I don't want bears either...

I officially take back my previous comment (from the mountain lion conversation) when I said I'd almost rather have bears.


Small bear wanders into Colorado Springs home, shot by owner
By Associated Press
3:52 PM MDT, June 13, 2009

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A small bear wandered into a Colorado Springs home and was shot and killed by the homeowner.The incident happened Friday night when the 100-pound bear pushed its way through a heavy door into the house and started growling. The unnamed homeowner shot the bear four times with a Colt .45 revolver as it made its way to a staircase.

The resident called authorities after the bear died. Wildlife officials say the bear's hide will be used for educational purposes and that the shooting was justified.

Last week, a bear climbed through a window of a home in Cheyenne Canyon to grab steaks sitting on the counter. The homeowners found the bear and called authorities, who tranquilized the bear and relocated it 100 miles away.

___Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com

I know there were bears near our house in Alaska (we found scat in the lot behind us and the neighbors found it in their backyard) but they never made their presence known. We didn't even have problems with the trash there. The moose were more troublesome than the bears, and about the worst they did -other than drive the dog crazy (and give me a good scare for my pup's safety) -was strip the tops of all the raspberry bushes.

There are so many people here, the run-ins are probably inevitable.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Trellis Progress

I've made some progress with my trellis situation this week. I stayed with essentially the same plan but I changed how it's put together. My original plan was to build 4 individual rectangles to go over the bed. Once I built the first one, I felt it was not going to be sufficient once the beans & tomatoes started getting tall.

Here's what I ended up building...

While it looks very similar to what I had planned, I made some real changes to how I built it. This one is built in sections that run down the sides, not over the bed, which makes it much less dangerous (for the plants) during installation. The 4 uprights have a loop of pipe strap at the top which is how they're attached to the top horizontal piece. Having the uprights loosely attached made it easier to adjust placement (read: lots of wiggle room!). I marked where I wanted them on the side of the bed, attached with one screw to hold the height, straightened them out and added a second screw in the bottom. I then put up the other side the same way. I put the overhead cross pieces on last. There are 2 at the tomato end to run string from. There's one at the pole bean end just for visual balance and a little extra support. I'm going to run horizontal lines for the beans similar to the peas but a little more heavy duty (and neater) as they'll be there much longer than the peas.

I also decided to use my scavenged ladder for the Small Wonder spaghetti squash and Small Sugar pumpkins. The ladder is not safe for use anymore so it's got a new purpose. I picked this up free on Craigslist this spring. I also added a few cross pieces to it. These were also scavenged. They were attached to the stairs we re-purposed so I wouldn't have to jump off the retaining wall anymore (or go the long way around) to get to the garden. All last summer, I used a bale of straw as a step (still had to jump down, just not as far). By fall, my step was getting lower and lower...

Anyway, I have a little pile of these 2x2's from the stairs and I was happy to finally find a use for at least a few of them. This poor ladder will look like a jungle by fall I suspect. I did put a couple screws in each side to attach it to the bed so (hopefully) it won't come crashing down in a storm.

I still have to add something for the cukes, patty pan squash and watermelon (if they ever sprout - I had one weak start but it died shortly after transplanting) .

Speaking of spaghetti squash, here's why I was getting anxious about a trellis here...

I know, it's not huge, but it's growing pretty quick. It's sending out tendrils and if you look to the right of the photo, there's a female bloom about to open. Luckily, the bloom on the left appears to be male. I'm surprised how quickly this one bloomed. The spaghetti squash and pumpkin are the farthest along of my vining plants. The cukes & patty pan are hanging in but are smaller. The watermelon is non-existent. The zucchini seem to be starting to show some growth now as well.

The potatoes in the bin didn't put on a huge amount of height this week but they are filling out more. I'll add another board soon. I've added some straw to nearly all the potatoes this week. . Some are growing faster than others, but most seem to be in good shape. The only variety that seems to be doing poorly is Viking.

These are Red Pontiac, a late season variety.

When reading about growing strawberries, I read conflicting information about what to do with Junebearing strawberries. Some sources say pluck the blooms the first year, others say leave them. I even read that they won't produce the first year. Unless that last bit refers to runners that are sprouted in the summer, I'd call it false information.

This is one of the Honeoye I planted this spring. I decided to learn for myself what the best way to handle the blooms was. I plucked blooms off half the plants and let the other half go. I have 4-6 berries started on the ones I let the flowers grow. I'm planning to allow limited runners this summer. I want the bed to fill in but I want to (try to) avoid total chaos. We'll see how that goes...

Monday, June 8, 2009

It wasn't for nothin' after all

I went out to check the garden this morning and discovered I was wrong about how much support my peas required. They stood up fine on their own but today, our wind returned (and if the forecast storms show up, the wind will be much worse). I cringed as I saw the bloom covered tops bent over in the wind. I tried to think of something tall I could quickly put out for them. All I could come up with was my less-than-stellar trellis I started the other day.

It was a little tricky to move in the wind, but once I got the screws started, it wasn't hard to straighten and attach. I just ran some cotton string between the sides which was enough to straighten out the poor peas. They looked broken, but when I got them stood back up, the stems looked fine. I guess I'll find out in the next couple days if I'm going to lose any. It seems strange to me how often the wind manages to blow from the direction of the house (ok, it bounces off the house, but still...). Last year, the corn was usually flattened from that direction.

The trellis actually seems a lot more stable than it did before. I think it's because of the string holding the sides. I'm thinking I may be able tweak my plan a little and make it work. I'm still undecided though. Maybe tonight I'll check out some more options & see what I can come up with.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Back to the Drawing Board

The time is fast approaching that I will need to have all my trellis work completed. That also means I'd better make up my mind what I'm going to build! I have 3 beds that require some form of support. I thought I had two of the three figured out. Two of three has turned into ZERO of three. I was using the sticks for the rattlesnake beans and pickling cukes, up until I discovered the tree branches were rooting. For the other pole beans and tomatoes, I was planning to use a stack of 2x2's I have on hand (a freebie from last summer). It seemed so simple, too simple in fact. The plan was to build 4 sets of these...

This is not going to work. It's completely unstable and when there are plants on it, I think it could come crashing down during a good windstorm. Unlike some fellow gardeners who very much enjoy overengineering these types of projects (I'm sure this post will make at least one man in Alabama cringe) I tend to go with more of a "wing it with what you've got until you really know what you want" sort of method. Sometimes, it doesn't work out so well, so back to the drawing board it is. I also still need to decide how I'm going to support the vining plants. I've really got to get crackin', the pumpkin is starting to grow.

The potatoes are growing well it seems. I'll be adding the second board on my bin before too long now. I'm curious to see the differences in production between the potatoes in the containers, the bin and the ones in the ground.

Most of the tomatoes are doing well. I lost the one Roma, but the others are all hanging in. I have one little guy in here who's lagging behind but it was not looking well when I planted it, so it's at least an improvement.

The Galinas Gold Cherry which was the early leader in growth before transplanting isn't doing as well as it was. It has a little leaf curl and just isn't thriving like some of the others. It is still growing and is about to bloom again. Hopefully, it straightens itself out.

The black cherry (not pictured) which looked bad after transplanting seems to be doing well now.

These are the remaining Rattlesnake beans (since the bunny dug in behind them). I'm going to wait a bit longer to see if more sprout before I fill in the blank spots. I had them planted around the sticks that I had to pull out. Crazy trees.

On a positive note, the Sugar Snaps are SO close! Not much longer now- I can hardly wait!!

To those of you who use Blogger, I can't drag & drop anything in compose mode anymore (for the past few weeks) for some reason. Anyone else having this problem?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cold and Dreary Days

It's been a cold and dreary couple of days here in Colorado. Yesterday at 4 pm it was 43 degrees, windy and kind of rainy. Today at about noon, it was 43 degrees with a pretty good fog. It did clear out this afternoon for a little while and we made it to about 57 degrees when the sun came out for a minute.

Monday afternoon, until a nasty looking (and sounding) storm rolled in, I was making some progress in the front yard. I was in the midst of the dirt work to correct the negative drainage and start at a better (higher) ground level for the Jostaberry bushes -which will soon be the backdrop for my new flower garden. Because I was building up the ground level, I had to remove the downspout elbow and extension piece so I could work underneath it. I will also have to cut off part of the downspout so that it will drain correctly. Of course, this means it HAD to rain! I tossed a tote lid under the vertical downspout to at least slow the water down enough that it wouldn't wash away ALL the dirt I had just moved.

I'm starting to think that if we want it to rain, I should just have my neighbors put more gopher bait in the tunnel that leads to my yard. I moved their downspout the last time so at least the water doesn't run through the tunnel and puddle in my yard (with the possibility that my dog will drink from the potentially poisoned puddle).

It's supposed to be in the high 70's-low 80's the next few days, so I think I should be seeing another growth spurt soon.

I did remember to take a picture of the blooming stick a.k.a. my Saskatoon blueberry today. I put the chicken wire around it so the dogs don't run it over. It's so little, it's hard to see from a distance. I hope it produces a couple of berries this summer, just enough to find out how they taste.

Of course, Mr. Nosy was quite sure he needed to be involved, as usual...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Answers, Austrees & critters

I wandered out to the garden this morning to plant round 2 of the corn, a batch of yellow beans and some pole beans. I took a peek at the Rattlesnake beans and got a surprise. I'm quite sure there was a rabbit in the bed last night. The little bugger dug out a spot just behind the sticks in the picture from my last post, between the beans and one of the Roma tomatoes. I noticed one of the Romas wasn't looking good yesterday, now I think it's done for. I'll probably lose a few beans but I have more seed and it's early enough in the season to replant with no problem. I'm quite sure now that the previous mystery digging was a rabbit after all. It does still seem surprising that they didn't seem to eat anything. Today's digging looked like the digging in the mulch earlier this spring. I think I gave the bunny easy access to the bed by leaving a pile of straw flakes I had removed from one of the other beds when I planted it. I removed that pile today.

While repairing the bunny damage, I noticed more buds forming on the Austree trimmings. I figured since there was already disturbance in the area, I might as well check to make sure there weren't any roots forming on the sticks. I yanked one out and wouldn't you know, that sucker had roots on it!. Not what I wanted to see at all. I pulled out all of the sticks that showed any signs of green. I had roots starting on 3 or 4 of them, so now I need to come up with a new plan for them this week, before the beans & cuke get very big.

The critters were active the last couple days. In additions to the rabbit, I also found that the pocket gophers have been active on BOTH sides of the backyard. I'm used to finding evidence on the north side but today I had a busy digger on the south side as well. I found one Mountain Mahogany chewed off at the roots, and a second that may or may not have been a gopher casualty. It was headed for a third, nice, healthy little bush that's only about 6" tall. There was also a hole inside the fence. I hope it doesn't make it to the new fruit trees.

On the plus side, I did notice today that one of the two Saskatoons is actually blooming -which is surprising since they are really just sticks at this point. They're so small and hard to see, I actually have fencing around them so the dogs don't run over them. The second one is getting a few leaves now. I also am finally seeing signs of life from the Anne raspberries. I was starting to wonder if they'd ever grow. 8 of the 9 raspberry plants either have leaves or buds now. One Caroline isn't doing anything yet. I'm only seeing growth on one of the blackberries so far but I'm trying to be patient. The raspberries were all planted before the blackberries, so I'm going to wait & see.