Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rue, geraniums, and thyme

Okay, and the usual gang of mosquitoes too.

Still, I'm pleased with the progress so far. The main round of planting, both starters and seeds, are safely tucked into their beds beneath various ghostly (ghastly?) protective layers of wire cage material and row cover or plain plastic screening.

I'm slowly digging out the mint that's in the way and freeing up the other beds. Today was just about watering in the new seeds, using the small grass-clippers to nip down some of the grass taking over the walkway between me and the nearest water spigots, and to plant a few geraniums (one rose-scented, one "Pinto Red" that's in flower now), a rue plant (I'm fond of it; I blame my mother for that! ) and some creeping thyme.

Plus, by planting the new ones, I've thoroughly inconvenienced the local chipmunks. Always a good thing to keep them on their toes. ;)

Posted from my iPhone...

Friday, June 4, 2010

I regret to report that Eucalyptus oil

...is not that effective when there are that many clouds of mosquitoes. I managed to get the door part of the gate nailed together, at least, but not a whole lot else done. It was pretty brutal. I may try to switch to an early morning routine - not sure how much of this I can stand, given the bites I've endured every time I'm out there. Apparently part of the reason the bugs are so numerous is that we've had a lot of rain (therefore more standing water and larger vernal pools as breeding grounds) but also we're still suffering from a significantly reduced brown bat population due to the White Nose Fungus syndrome. June and July are the season when mothers have their little ones, so they tend to stay close to their roost while they're nursing the little ones, but the males usually have several roosts. If you've decided to install a bat house in your yard this year, don't get discouraged if you don't think they're taking up residence; apparently the females are more choosy than the males (pups to rear) and the males flit around a bit. Keep it up through at least a year so they get a chance to get used to it's presence. It took a couple years before my aunt & uncle's bat house got settled, but now they have regular resident bats there.

That's all for tonight. See you around the gardens!

- Posted from my iPhone...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mending the fence

Got a fair amount of maintenance done tonight at the plot. Attacked the bittersweet that's been colonizing the fenceline, yanked out a lot of mystery tubers that grow 3' tall (hmph. If only my veggies would be so vigorous right?!) and mowed somed of the grass coming up in the walkways. I cleared out one of the smaller beds and that'll be my flower garden - it's already got columbine growing there so that's a good omen for the kinds of flowers I'm fond of. Then finally I tackled nailing up the chickenwire (and what's with the sudden enthusiasm for calling it "poultry fencing"?!) to complete the rest of the back fence. My neighbors in that direction look as though they've given up, which would be too bad, since they're awfully nice, but given that they have a new baby, I can only imagine: probably something had to give, time-wise. I'll be pleasantly surprised if I see them return though. Lots of other people (including the new gardeners working overtime to put up their fences while sorting out their soil, laying mulch, prepping beds, etc) are really doing well this year. It's fun to walk through and admire everyones different gardens and little spaces to sit and enjoy their garden. I'm personally slightly envious of those who have arbors set up - I'm hoping to get one set up for myself later in the summer, but obviously a lot of other things could get in the way of that getting built.

The little plants starters I laid in this weekend are looking alright, and in addition to the cage, I laid some of that white cloth over them to keep the bugs and other critters off. It makes it a little less cheery to look at, but I'm hoping it'll increase my chances of getting a yield from my various little plants. I forget what that stuff is called, but I'd saved it from last season, and I find that exclusion methods seem to work best for me. Too bad I can't set up an entire enclosure of that stuff: it would be nice to avoid the mob of mosquitoes, but they really like me this season. Oddly enough, I've been reading this book about color, pigments and dyes in art history, and it mentioned that one of the very non-mysterious reasons ancient peoples tended to paint themselves with ochre is that it tends to protect one from insects. Not so dumb, huh! Granted, I have no idea where to obtain some of that rock, and even were it easily obtainable in the raw form you still wouldn't catch me painting myself up with it to go gardening. On the other hand, given how covered in dirt I come OUT of the garden due to all my swatting at the pests with my dirt-covered gloves, maybe it's all the same?!

So next visit should include the new gate, some mint-mulching (works so far), some seed planting, and a little more digging. That's the news from plot 78B - keep digging and drop by if you're in the neighborhood.

- Posted from my iPhone...

So many birds,

...and I wish they'd eat more mosquitoes, but who's complaining? Okay, it's true. Now that my arms and neck are devastated by the clouds of mozzies that assaulted me at sunset, it's true, I'm complaining. A little.

On the other hand, I really enjoy the sheer number and variety of birds that I see and/or hear at the allotment when I stop to rest a moment.

For your amusement, and from the safety of your computer terminal so that you don't have to brave the mozzies...a list of the ones that I know about. There are others that I'm still identifying by call and by plumage, but since I can link to a photo and recording of their call (Thank you Cornell Ornithology lab):

The usual suspects:
Blue Jays
barn swallows
tree swallows
sparrows of various kinds

More often heard than seen:
red-winged blackbird
mourning dove
yellow throat warbler
yellow throat vireo

More often seen than heard:
Brown-headed Cowbird
red-tailed hawk
Baltimore Oriole

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Thunderstorms, weeding, and planting

So, at last, an update. I seem to be an intermittent blogger these days, my apologies to those of you who check in regularly: you must be saying "now, why don't she write?" - but obviously the usual excuses of "busy" followed by "too tired to write at the end of the day" apply. You know how it goes - I imagine most of you are in the same boat, (and surely this spring, 'boat' is an accurate metaphor).

Much of my energies this spring went into fence building and repair, as seen in my previous post. I had a number of projects come up in the past month that derailed me from getting to the garden plot while it was still light out, and I admit I'm just not quite dedicated enough to wear a headlamp, so what can I say? I did have some success with seedling starters at home this year, much to the dismay of my ever-mischievous cat who was really disappointed that one of the windows was blocked by a large, large new set of wire shelves that housed my little green babies.

One of the things that was driven home while I nursed the seedlings along was that although in spring it provides great sunlight, once the trees surrounding my building leaf-in it becomes shady there. I supplemented the light with those little fairy-lights, and they don't seem to mind the substitution, although I think I should add more lights.

Successes: some of the heirloom tomato seeds I started have thrived, as have the bok choi (白菜) and even the hot peppers. For reasons that remain mysterious to me, and probably have to do with the soil in the container I grew them, my beans didn't thrive - they grew right up and then suddenly keeled over and died. I'll just direct plant them this week and see what happens. I do love beans in the summer.

I feel like I cheated a little, but I bought starter flats this year, which I don't normally do. I had an urge though, and there you are. I used starters to plant a couple other varieties of heirloom tomatoes (some 'black cherry' and another beefsteak variety), some green bell peppers, red cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, zucchini, and I also bought some herbs to intersperse and add to my herb garden: tricolor sage, pineapple mint, and English thyme.

Another trick I've started to employ is that - since I have such an abundance of mint that springs up everywhere (as members of the mint family are wont to do) and honestly I don't drink mojitos THAT often (!!!), I decided that I'm going to simply remove the mint heartlessly when it intrudes, and use it to mulch around my tomatoes, etc. etc. - see what that does for the various plants.

There are still two "beds" that want weeding and opening up, so there's work ahead, and I have designs on the corner that used to house my would-be cold frame, and I think it needs to turn into a rock garden, with both herbs and flowers. Plus, I have to finish my new gate, so I think there will be hammering noises coming from my plot soon enough.

That's the news from plot 78B... see you around the garden!