Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Rabbit

We managed to keep deer, the groundhog, and the raccoon out of the garden, but the other day, when I went for the daily check, and to gather goodies for the dinner salad, I saw this cute little baby rabbit. I tried to corner it with absolutely no hint of success. He could squeeze between plants, through raised beds, and into narrow spaces faster than I could blink. I was wondering how it got in, since the last perimeter survey revealed no gaps. Maybe the kids left the gate open and it got in? But as I chased it towards the closed gate, I saw it jump right though the fence! It was so tiny, that it fit through the standard chain link fence. 2 inches wide?!

Trying to estimate the damage, I noticed that the pumpkin flowers were gone. Which I didn't mind so much, since I transplanted those out of guilt instead of throwing them in the compost bin.  The day after, I went to the garden center to try to buy what I thought was great idea to keep the rabbit out of the garden. I was going to put a net like the one I used to protect the strawberries from the birds, all over the fence up to 3 feet high or so. The guy at the garden center looked at me with pitiful eyes and told me, that's not going to work, they'll chew right through it. You need to use a critter repellent. OK, I
said. Here, this one you can use. Is that toxic? I asked. We eat what we grow there (except for the weeds, of course). You need to stop spraying two weeks before you plan to eat anything, he said, and you'll be fine. Ah, that's a nice solution, right?, I thought. We eat lettuce from the garden every day; I think it's not going to work, I said politely. Then he found a different one that you can sprinkle around the garden perimeter instead, and wasn't toxic. So I bought that.

I had to wait till the next day to apply it, and I noticed that the green-beans that I transplanted when thinning (yes, more guilt...) were chewed up, with only some green sticks left. But there was one plant
still standing with leaves and flowers. Now, to pepper the repellent around the perimeter, I had to "create" a perimeter removing the weeds that grew on the other side of the fence. Took a while, but I did it.

The morning after, it seemed that the repellent was working, but that evening... remember the green-beans plant that still had leaves and flowers? It was only sticks. Sigh. $10 later, the rabbit is still
having dinner on us.

We needed a different solution. We decided to buy some form of metal netting, like chicken wire, thick enough that they wouldn't be able to chew it, and small enough for the tiny guest to stay out the garden. After an expedition to Home Depot, and more $$, we have all we need. We now have to install it all around the fence.

Hopefully, this will keep it out for a while. At least until it starts digging. Now I wish I'd put chicken wire as garden floor! But I guess that rusts and decays too.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Why can't plants figure it out by themselves... why do I have to decide who stays and who goes... I never liked this part, and that's probably why my carrots tend to be small  and crooked.  I don't mind thinning lettuce, because we eat them in salads, but the ones that we don't eat are the challenge. I spent two hours doing what an seasoned gardener would have done in 15 minutes... I don't know why, but every single string bean sprouted, which should make me feel proud of my green thumb, however, ... I decided to transplant all those crowded green, red, yellow, and Roma beans all around the perimeter of the fence... You'd think that would teach me to put them in the compost bin instead. But, two days later, the transplants are doing great, and the ones in the original beds are happy to have more space to thrive. It seems like we'll have string beans to feed the whole neighborhood! Maybe I'll open a farm stand...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Done with Seeds

I finished sowing, at least for the Spring. I sowed cucumbers,  and summer squash of different shapes. I had no way to distinguish the seeds, except that some were smaller than others, so hopefully we'll get a few different ones. I also sowed romaine lettuce, and transplanted the onion seedlings and the eggplants. The eggplants looked worse than a week ago. Something (or somebody) is eating the leaves.  I need to check how they do in the next few days now that they are in their final home. Speaking of being eaten, something else is eating the leaves of the Roma beans and the string beans, not all of them, so I'm happy to pay garden tax, but I don't want it to get out of hand.

The annuals I bought at the Maplewood Garden Club plant sale are adding a wonderful splash of color to the garden. The petunias are happy in the hanging baskets, and the geraniums have such a velvety red, that it looks like the color bleeds out of the flowers.

The irises are at peak. It's a treat! And they are so fragrant... It is definitely purple week, between the clematis, the irises, some left over phlox, and the sage in bloom, it's a full display. See the pictures.

We've been enjoying salads with home grown lettuce. We have arugula, romaine, and a few more, but I forgot the names; well, one is called "small head",  which doesn't describe much, but the flavor is mild and sweet, and it is definitely my favorite. Can't wait for the tomatoes to be ready... they are only 3 inches high now, though...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Protecting the new transplants

Last weekend I transplanted the tomato plants and two days later they announced a thunderstorm, and after the storm the Roma beans that I had seeded were all exposed and sprouting. So I covered them all back with soggy soil.  Since I remember my experience from last year when most of the plants died water-logged before having a chance to get established, I decided to cover them with a large plastic sheet that I had bought for the poly-tunnel. So that worked out well, a bit messy with the water on the plastic, and the invariable spill into my shoes.  It was nice and toasty under the plastic... and everybody seemed happy.

Just when I was thinking, it is almost mother's day and the good weather is supposed to be on our side, they announced another storm ... again I covered the tomato plants, and also the Roma beans, and the green beans too. The storm wasn't so bad, but there was plenty of water to process, when I came back of a special function for prospective students at work (yes, on a Saturday... my gardening day). Since the temperature is supposed to go down to 43F overnight, I drained the water, and I decided to leave the plastic cover on... did I mention wet toes? I should have changed my shoes before...  I know.

The Maplewood Garden Club had its annual plant sale this week, and I went yesterday to get a few annuals for a couple hanging baskets, and I couldn't resist another trip today for a self-mother's day gift.
I got a beautiful gorse bush, that reminds me of our days in Edinburgh, and the walks on Blackford Hill.
I also bought a Crape Myrtle, hopefully this one is hardy in our zone, and it won't die like the ones we got from the Arbor Day Foundation.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Potatoes, tomatoes, ...

I had a 10:30 AM appointment for a 30-45 minutes visit and I left
after 3:30 PM... I'm too far from home to dash to the garden to brush
away my frustration, so I'll catch up with the blog.

A lot is happening. In early April the potatoes arrived, and a week or
so later since they already came with chubby tubers, I cut them in
pieces and put them in the ground hoping they wouldn't rot. It's
interesting how every seed potato seller tells you a different story
on how to deal with them. The one I used last year said cut them in
pieces, cover the cut surfaces with anti-fungal, let them dry for a
couple of days and then plant. The one from this year suggested to 

cut them and plant them right away. I guess there is more than one way to
do this right...

Obediently, I put them 2 inches under ground in 6 inch high furrows,
at however many inches apart. My dad would have brought the ruler, I
just did it translating from inches to centimeters and then convincing
myself that this high was about right.

I am experimenting with mustard meal. They look like cork worms. The
bag said how much you need per area, but it didn't say what to do with
them. So I just mixed them with soil before seeding the potatoes.  I
used two areas for potatoes, one in a raised bed and the other at
ground level. I used mustard meal in the raised bed only. Don't ask me why.

I didn't remember how long the potatoes were supposed to take to
sprout, and I waited, and waited looking a the lonely furrows
wondering if they were all rotten, or if I killed them with too much
fertilizer... but from one day to the next last week sure enough in
the raised bed there were green leaves coming through the soil (not
dirt, remember). My son and I were together when we saw them coming
up, and we started cheering and jumping. We had a good silly potato
time together, and then we watered the baby plants.

The ones on the ground level furrows hadn't come up yet, and I started
thinking: maybe it is too wet for them here and they are all rotten by
now... But yesterday, I saw the first plant breaking through the
ground, and then I remembered that I didn't put any mustard meal
there... Hey, fertilizers work!

All the leafy greens are sprouting, and with the heat this weekend,
they went from shy shoots to little plants in two days. The fairy
meadow is also coming up nicely, and in the flower garden the irises
and the lavender clematis are beautiful.

On Saturday I transplanted the tomato plants and leeks that I started
from seed.  I hope they didn't drown in last night's storm... I should
have saved some for later... Now I know from next year,  never put all
your tomato plants in the same basket.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fertilizing and more

I've been think about how to prepare the soil this time.  I need
to pay more attention to fertilizing.  In the past I used compost,  garden
manure and epson salts.

I've always had a green thumb, even my cooking experiments as a
toddler would end up germinating, my Mom says. But although I've been
successful with tomatoes and  green-beans, I don't get the best yield
especially in the leafy green department.

Looking at the past two seasons, these are the areas that need

- Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and chard. Granted, they are
  flavorfull, but I get small plants that go to seed quickly, or maybe
  I wait too long to harvest hoping the plant will get bigger and then
  they go to seed.

- Red beets too small. I won't compare with the store bought ones, but
 compared to the farmer's market, mine are pretty small.

- Zucchini and pumpkin: lots of flowers, but hardly any fruit. At the
  farmers market last year, they suggested it may be a pollination
  problem. So I'm going to plant some flowers that should attract more
  bees. Maybe some lavender plants and gaillardias. Those are always full of bees and
  butterflies in the flower garden. Hopefully the Fairy Meadow mix will bring lots of friendly bugs too.

Here is one of my all-times favorite pictures... Lunch time...
From Gaillardia

- Carrots: delicious but really small. The kids love to dig them out though.

- Corn: I'm not going to do corn this year, although I love the leaves waving in the wind, the ears are small, and it is a gamble against the squirrels that know better than I do when they are ready to harvest!