Saturday, January 30, 2010

Now I'm Getting Excited!!!

I know, I know. It’s only almost February. But that’s gobs closer to March and that’s almost SPRING!
Dee (my precious daughter-in-law) and I were talking a couple of days ago, about the garden of course. That girl is a genius. She is the real deal. They have just moved into what they hope will be their forever home on five acres. Already she and J. have put together (2)-4x4x4x4 compost bins made out of pallets and are happily going about getting them started. In the high country we call this bear bait, but most places it will work.
Now this is the genius part, they left the space of one pallet between the compost bins and will eventually have many more in a row against the fence line, all with one pallet space between them. All of these empty spaces are meant to be little green houses, using the heat that the compost bins generate naturally to protect the tender plants. All you need is clear plastic on two sides and the top, thousands of toilet paper rolls filled with potting soil, seeds and water and your garden is weeks ahead of schedule. I’m thinking that they might be to some extent, self watering.
You just roll up the plastic on warm days and keep them covered other times. Dee, being the genius she is, figured out that the soil would be too nitrogen hot in those spaces for seed to flourish in the ground thus the rolls(check a previous post about this great idea).
They could be rubber banded together for easier care and set into egg carton trays for watering. Like all the corn could be together.
Are you getting the idea that on the whole this is as close to free as you get in this life?!
The idea has endless possibilities. One of the best is -where do you put your deck and patio plants when winter come?
The play “The Little shop of horrors” comes to mind.
“You gotta Feed Me!”
You could actually walk around the house without fear of disappearing into the rain forest never to be seen again.
Bravo Dee!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Gardening Plaque

I received a handmade plaque several years ago which hangs above my desk; the bottom is a flurry of flowers and coming up each side is a sunflower standing proud all made of felt and embroidery. The plaque has the embroidered words “Tickle it with a hoe and it will laugh into a garden”.
I look at this plaque at least once a day and probably have done so since the day I received it; I’m still trying to figure out just what it means.
If you hoe something, don’t you cut it off, dig it up, do away with it? Or, when we hoe does it just pop up at another spot in the middle of the garden?
Does it mean we need to hoe to have a garden that laughs – a lot of gardens have made me laugh, the ones with 25 of that person’s favorite concrete ornaments, or the ones that obviously were planned by someone with an abstract vision – were they all hoed?
And, why was I the recipient of this gift – I hate to hoe and to be very honest I am a weed puller – I love to pull weeds, I love how the garden looks after I have pulled the weeds, I like the order of things when they are cared for. Was my friend telling me I needed to hoe and get finished quicker, or that they didn’t think I was a good weed puller, or was the gift because I love to garden, it mentioned garden, so I must love it.
And, do I love it? Yes, I do, I admire the felt flowers, the embroidery, the tea-stained linen it was made on, and even if I do not understand the verse I have certainly spent more time pondering it than most things!
And, so grows our gardens, sometimes funny, sometimes a mystery to be solved, a puzzle with one piece missing, sometimes neat and orderly and a week later a riot of blooms that make us wonder what the original plan was.
So, I leave you with these words, “Tickle it with a hoe and it will laugh into a garden”.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


This time of year I always find myself a little discombobulated. There are many things I need to do but nothing I really want to do. I always try to get the “need to do things” out of the way so I can enjoy doing the “want to do things.”
It’s too bleeping cold to even go outside, it’s too early for planting seedlings inside and the garden catalogs haven’t even come yet. Not much incentive to get to the “Need to do things.”
But….just when life is at its most boring something hilarious happens.
We braved this unbelievable cold yesterday when cabin fever drove us out to go anywhere, anywhere at all, just to get out. Our Puppies are having a bit of stiffness due to age and this frigid weather, so we went to the only pet store in our small town “Paws and Claws” for some chondroitin. They have very little in this shop so I was surprised to see a cage with a live animal in it up front. As I got closer I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Is this what I think it is?” I asked the teen age clerk. “It’s a Prairie Dog” she said brightly.
“NO KIDDEN! How much do you want for him?” This one isn’t for sale, but when we get them in the spring they will be between $300 and $400.”
“NO Waaay!”
Think about it! These things are big, mean and just an ugly brown. They spend most of their time in huge holes that wreck golf courses and they have no personality whatever.
Now compare that to cute little creatures that are a beautiful tan with white stripes. Playful and chatty in nature. If you would pay that for a Prairie Dog, what would you pay for one of these precious little fellows?
Think of it as a beneficent relocation. They are out of my rock garden, have good families and I am a gazillionaire.
Sounds like a “WIN - WIN to me.
Put out the word!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


You know, it doesn’t matter where you live – well, I guess if you lived on a tropical garden it might matter – gardening in the winter either is non-existent or non-fun. But there are many things that you can do in the heights of the gardening season that will make your winter gardening more fun, more colorful, and grab compliments from all those neighbors who will be so envious of your creativity!!
After the vegetable garden was in last spring – see previous blogs – and with a little energy left, I decided I wanted to reduce the grass in the back yard by half. We have an electric mower, and while it made a huge difference in my mowing – I could never get the gas one started, and I didn’t want to deal with a cord, so I just didn’t do it – just grass, a plain, green, flat yard of grass was pretty boring to look at. So, did I start with a plan – now you know that would not be the Queenly way to garden, so of course I had no plan – but –
The Maiden Grass over behind the garage was huge, I couldn’t see around it, I couldn’t see over it, and it was clogging up my view of what the neighbors were doing, sooooo I divided half of it into 6 clumps and took them to the other side of the yard, tilled about 4 feet out from the fence over there and plunked them in the ground in a wave-ish pattern. That neighbor is boring and nothing to watch anyway, so it also blocked a little of the view.
Next step, I went to visit my sister, and with spades and garden trugs, we went to the family cemetery plots all over the county and instead of digging up the peonies this year away from the stones and tossing them, we put them in the trugs (and only for a few minutes did I feel like a grave robber) and back home they came with me. I put those in between the clumps of grass.
Back to my sisters for boxes of lilac starts - she already had the dug where they were invading her yard, and fit perfecting in the space I didn't know what to do with in the front yard.
My sister-in-law had Bachelor’s Buttons taking over her beds in Vail. One summer visit and a week later I had dug up 4 boxes of the Bachelor’s Buttons and brought them home with me and yes, they too went along the fence.
My nephew had dug all the Iris in his yard and given it to his mother. She had other plans for the area where it was, so another trip to her house and I came home with three banana boxes of Iris – against the house on the other side of the gate. I actually thought planting all those might be the death of me. I have no idea what color any of them will be, so am waiting for my surprise this coming summer and hoping that they aren’t all the same color.
Wish I had more relatives that wanted to get rid of plants, I could about finish my yard, but have ran out of family resources for the time being.
I tilled in around the back side of the yard two rows wide, and have hopes for a wave of Hibiscus there this Spring.
As I look out the patio doors and squint hard I can see a row of burning bushes along the back fence – this will require another big-time massacre of the yew that is growing there, but I cut it down from 15’ to 5’ last winter, so I think I can manage to finish it this winter. I also see a dogwood and a smoke tree in my plans; I just need to squint hard enough to see where they might go.
If you have snow on the ground, put on your boots, button up your coat and tromp around in the yard, I can guarantee you; more ideas will pop into your head than you will have energy to do when the weather improves. Get a garden hose, and don’t hook it up, just take it to that problem spot in your yard and give it a toss, now does that look like an outline for a flowerbed or what!!!
And, when you are tired and it’s time to come in and get toasty, there are always piles of seed catalogs to go thru for next summer!

Saturday, January 2, 2010


One of the most incredible gifts DP ever gave me was this amazing blender. It is a sight to behold, white base with a frosted glass, tulip shaped globe with flowers etched in the glass. It has a place of honor on our counter and is admired by all. However, DP has this strange thing , he thinks that these kind of things (toasters, microwaves, blenders)should be used only for what the manufacturer intended, like food and Drinks. In my mind this is a very narrow and confining view of the world (and appliances).I tell you all this to set the stage for the important part this blender played in my rock garden.
All of you who have tried gardening on a steep hillside know that the most important thing is to keep water in your planted pockets long enough to soak the soil before it gravitates downhill. Dry rock stacking is just never going to be tight enough. Then I happened on this Wonderful book. The concept was a sea change in my gardening life. There was a formula. With this formula and variations of it I could make rocks and boxes and pockets. I had the power of the universe!!
The formula was very simple:
1part cement
1 part peat moss
1 part pearlite
And enough water to make gooey
All of this is cheap and readily available at your local hardware store…..except pearlite. All that money for that piddly little bag. It would cost a fortune to do what I wanted. Disappointment and frustration settled over me like a blanket. (Which is my best thinking mode.) I wandered the house and garden for days inconsolable.
While passing thru the garage one day I spied the (4)5ft tall bags of Styrofoam peanuts Lea had ordered. I usually averted my eyes because they made me think of the worms but today something clicked in my brain. What was pearlite but itsy little pieces of Styrofoam. I grabbed a bag and hauled it up the stairs.
My first thought was to put a handful of peanuts in a bag and beat them with a knife handle to make them itsy. This unfortunately seemed to ionize them and they floated out of the bag. There would be a capture problem here. Water was needed to stabilize the process.
My next thought was to pour them in a bath tub, fill it with water and go at them with a meat pounder. That thought was discarded before DP got wind of it and made a fuss.
Later rounding the corner into the kitchen, there it sat in a beam of inspirational light,
The Blender!
Surreptitiously, while DP was in the shower, I experimented and found the perfect mix. Two handfuls of loosely packed peanuts covered with water and the frappe setting. Pour the water off in a colander and WALLA!!!!
Tomorrow was DP’s golf day so I would have a glorious uninterrupted afternoon. As soon as the car was out of sight I was at it. Happily blending and tossing the result in a giant metal bowl. The wind kicked up a little so the garden looked like one of those snow globes with one pudgy elf and a polka dot cat and dog. I was blissful.
The project was not long underway when, there coming back up the drive, was our Car! In a panic I threw the leaf basket over the blender. DP quickly took in the scene, smiled and drawled, “What ya doin?”
I smiled broadly and said, “Nuttthhhinn……..”
His face said “Do I want to pursue this?”
My eyes said “You do not want to know.”
Don’t try this kind of silent communication at home. It takes years of practice to be effective.
With a nod and a grin he jogged up the steps and across to the door, as it was closing he stuck his head round and said, “Don’t forget to unplug the leaf basket.”
I Love This Man!!!