Sunday, May 31, 2009

Find of the Week: Plant Markers

Run, do not walk, to Target's One Spot area! I found these metal plant markers in the One Spot clearance for 30 percent off, which means I got a package of 5 metal plant markers for just 70 cents each. I bought my Target out of them--about 20 packages. Each package comes with a small permanent marker, too, so I have plenty for future marking! I stopped in another Target today, and their One Spot clearance is at 50 percent off, but no plant markers.

Usually I use popsicle sticks or something similar, but this was too good a deal to pass up. Plus they are easier to see (they shine in the sun!) and are a little more permanent. Who doesn't love a good gardening deal!

Finally...I Am Playing in the Dirt!

Yesterday I finally was able to re-till the garden quickly and begin planting. I had 8 sickly, water-starved tomato plants that needed to get into the ground and watered deeply. (I watered them a few days before my wedding, which was last Saturday, but busy-ness caused me to neglect the poor things.) Today they are starting to green up and stand a bit more upright. A couple of them even have teeny tiny tomatoes, despite being parched. These tomato plants want to live!

I know that some of you are probably asking, "So, why didn't you plant your garden much earlier? Sheesh, it's June 1 tomorrow!"

The answer goes something like this. Rain. Rain. Rain. No rain--ground too wet. Rain. Rain. Rain. No rain...oops, rain. No rain--ground too wet. Rain. Rain. Rain. Rain. More. Effing. Rain.

We were supposed to get the four-letter R-word today, but thankfully the weathercasters were wrong! So I schlepped out to Menard's to get some rabbit fencing,stakes, and more organic seeds. (I've seen bunnies in the yard, so I'm not taking chances.)

Apparently, I missed the Menard's-party memo. Everybody in the area was at Menard's, with not a single cart to be found. Courtesy dude, who is supposed to collect carts and bring them back to the store, looked lost. I finally went out and brought my own cart in. Then, people were in my way, driving on the wrong side of the aisles (you can tell what kind of driver they are on the road by the way they drive their shopping carts in the store). Sheer craziness. But I found what I needed and headed home.

I watered the poor little tomato plants (I read somewhere that they need a gallon of water each day--whoa!) and then set out to do some more planting. I got 12 zucchini plants in the ground and surrounded by grass clippings, 80 yellow onion sets, 20 white onion sets, and 20 shallot sets. (I don't think I'll need to buy onions the rest of the year.) I covered them all with grass clippings and watered them well.

By then, I was utterly exhausted. Too exhausted to manage planting anything else or put up the rabbit fence. Clearly I need to build up my stamina. I was able to get all the implements back to the garage, and now can barely budge from the chair where I am sitting, typing my gardening commentary.

Tomorrow I will start some more seedlings and hope to get some cucumbers and/or beans planted. Unless I can't get out of bed.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Post Where I Deflect Attention from What I Have Not Yet Planted

Last week, I stopped by Blaine's Farm & Fleet, hoping to pick up some raspberry bushes. They were out. I thought I'd settle temporarily for some prettily colored Caladium for some of the shady areas of the yard. They were out. It seemed like everything I wanted, Farm & Fleet was out of.

My friend Michelle recommended Lowe's. I think I mentioned in my previous post that I still find it odd to pick up plants and food and toilet paper in a hardware store. But I had to stop by Lowe's anyway for some lamp finials to put on the ends of rods on a Goodwill-purchased towel rack (no luck), so I figured I'd check out the plants.

I came away with more than I bargained for. Not only did I find a variety of raspberry bushes, but I also lugged home asparagus and rhubarb starts as well as a couple of different onion sets.

The same day, I planted the raspberry bushes--one golden raspberry, one red raspberry, one black raspberry--and a blueberry bush. (I know--you can't really see them in the photo--just the dirt for the holes and the dirt I didn't manage to scrape back into the holes.) Someone recently said that once the bushes start growing, they will "take over"--I can only hope! I love summer berries, and it would be nice to have enough to freeze for winter eating. We do have a couple of mulberry trees, so I'll try making mulberry freezer jam this year. (I don't do canning--too much hot, particular work for me. Freezing is more my preservation style.)

My question for readers is this: what is the best way to remove mulberry stems? Just pinch them off with your fingernails? (Of course, I've bitten all my nails to the quick, so I don't really have any nails to pinch with.) Use scissors or some other implement? What do you advise?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Creative Gardening Tools...The Green Tool Cart

I love looking for interesting ways to reduce waste by finding an object used for one purpose and reusing it for an entirely new purpose.

One of the things that frustrated me last year is that every time I gardened, I had to make several trips back and forth to my gardening tools. Now that I've moved, the distance from where we store the gardening tools to the garden is even further, and since I'm inherently lazy, I don't want to walk any farther than I have to. Besides...I'd rather spend more time gardening than carting tools back and forth.

Enter Organic Gardening magazine. I couldn't tell you what issue I saw this idea in, but I immediately latched on. It was a picture of a golf cart and bag being used to haul long-handled gardening tools, such as rakes, manual cultivators, and so forth. I loved the idea and, being a frugal shopper (most of the time), I found a golf cart in decent shape for $1.50 at a garage sale last summer. The problem was that I couldn't find a reasonably priced golf bag that was still in decent shape. Most of the garage sale bags still had clubs in them, priced at anywhere from $10 to $25 for the set--way out of my price range. I did see a few for around $5, but they weren't in very good shape.

Last weekend, though, I hit the jackpot! I went to a ginormous church garage sale and found a bag in very nice shape--almost attractive, actually--without clubs for...$1! I brought it home, strapped it onto the cart, and for $2.50--voila!--a tool cart! The bag has some nice long side pockets on each side for my medium-handled tools, a net on the front to hold in some small-handled tools, and another pocket on the front for gardening gloves, short stakes, and other small supplies. (See photo.) The cart works great for hauling all the tools out to the garden at once and then back to the garage. I highly recommend searching for a bag and cart for YOUR gardening!

Where the Dead Things Are

I'm not sure why, but lately I've been finding the odd dead thing in our yard. When David was mowing a couple of days ago, I walked out to the backyard and found a dead infant bird. It looked like it had been blown out of the nest shortly after hatching, although I could find no signs of shell or nest nearby. It was very light--I used a dandelion stem to roll it onto its back. It had little feathery wisps tufting its head and back, and its brain and stomach were blackened. The skin of the bird's belly was translucent and wrinkly, almost like tissue paper. There was something very sad about finding this little guy. Not only is it sad that his life was cut so short, but the fact that it was just lying there in a bed of clover without anyone mourning for it was just wrong. I wanted to pick it up and hold it, but at the same time, wanted to leave the bird in peace. I came back later to check on him, but he was gone. I suspect he became part of the food chain for another bird or small animal, only fitting, really. You might wonder why I took his picture--I know I did. Upon reflection, it seemed only right to do so as a tribute to this little one so he will be remembered. At one time he lived and breathed, and perhaps chirped a bit of bird song on entry into the world, making the world a more beautiful place.

On the same day, I was wandering down by our creek to see if I could catch a view of a frog, and I saw through the clear water...a claw! I did not think about possibly having crawdads in the creek, but it made perfect sense. You can't tell from the picture here, but the claw seemed a little blue or silvery. I had only ever seen crawdads that were red (we used them as bait on occasion when we were kids and went fishing with Dad, and sometimes we could catch them at the fishing hole and play with them).

Today I spied half a crawdad shell sitting in the rock next to our pseudo-creek (as opposed to the real creek that borders our property). I picked him up and put him on a bed of moss to photograph him. The inside of his shell is completely empty; his shell is quite hard and surprisingly thick. He looks a little pissed off, if you will pardon the expression, so my guess is that he wasn't very happy during the detruncation. (The severing occurs too far down the body to really consider it a decapitation, but I'm not really certain detruncation works, especially since truncate means to shorten...which means detruncation would probably mean something like the act of un-shortening, or the act of lengthening--which doesn't really apply here. Hmmm. Gotta love the English language.)

But I digress. He's really quite beautiful, even in his pissed-offness. He's a beautiful color, although I don't know if the silvery blue is his natural color or whether that's the color he turns because of his death or exposure to the elements or loss of blood or other bodily fluids or some combination.

So...calling all crawdad experts. What can you tell me about this guy? Or, if you're not a crawdad expert, what do you think?

A Tilled Garden is NOT a Putting Green

The forecast indicates we'll be getting more rain tomorrow, so David spent most of the afternoon tilling up the rest of the "putting green," aka "garden." I think he is trying to make a point by getting out his putter and a golf ball. He is practicing chip shots over and around the humps of wet soil he has tilled up--maybe sandtrap practice? Clods of dirt go flying. This is his last opportunity to play (golf) in the dirt before the garden is planted!

While he was tilling, I planted the three raspberry bushes and the blueberry bush I bought at Lowe's. (It seems wrong, somehow, to buy bushes at a hardware store. I don't think I'll ever really like the megastores.) If they don't die, aren't eaten by rabbits or deer, and don't get stepped on or flooded, then we'll have golden raspberries, red raspberries, and black raspberries, as well as blueberries. Of course, they don't usually fruit for up to three years, so it will be interesting to see how they do.

I also bought rhubarb starts, asparagus starts, white and yellow onion sets, and shallot sets, so I'll have to get those in the ground, too. The rhubarb and asparagus won't be viable this year, and maybe not the year after. And I STILL need to start my seedlings! Thursday. I will start them Thursday. No matter what...