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Showing posts from April, 2010

Down to the Dirt At Last

All keyboard and no dirt makes Jill a very dull girl indeed!

I've burrowed into my gardening bag and liberated the seeds I harvested last summer on my morning dog walks. Little twists and packets of newsprint enclosing wilted blossoms and loose seeds: "8 ft hollyhock" is the scrawled ballpoint label on one packet; "rasp. small carnations"; and "mixed bachelor buttons."

Straw spears, woodland confetti, flattened blossoms -- all enfolding the magic of botany and blossoms.

Of the three of us, I think I'm the one who most craves flowers.  Flowers were what we grew in the gardens of my childhood: hollyhocks, my father's favorites; zinnias, marigolds and nasturtiums, the ever reliables; and bachelor buttons, which are bouquets within a single blossom.

Most of our first year efforts at flowers were a bust. Ancient gerbera seeds -- a luncheon favor that Karen had saved for years -- retired in the soil. The marigolds we planted to keep bugs off the toma…

New Garden Equipment Abounds

This may be a form of profiling, but I always had the image of composting vegetable gardners as being of the anti-consumerism, recycle and simplify-simplify-simplify persuasion.

But in the space of six weeks, our gardening equipment has expanded in size, type and sophistication.

We were given a baby tiller; a big, stacking compost bin; and a chipper. We found a deal on a folding, tough nylon wheel barrow. We bought the industrial pooper scouper to clean up after our dogs and the neighborhood cats who think of our garden as a the Kohler of the earth.

Kate macerated 75% of the garden plot, pausing long enough to transplant a volunteer tomato plant. She has the BunnyLuv waste straw carefully piled as mulch. She's been fondling saw blades and looking up at the termite infested branches of a tree leaning over Karen's garage.

The longer she looks the more termite and rot infested the tree becomes and the more necessary it is going to be for her to climb up on the roof of the garage a…

A Race with the Sun

The first year we tilled Fink Farms, I input into my iCalendar all the planting dates and when the first harvest could be expected according to the seed packets.

Nothing grew as expected. Sowed seeds eschewed seeking the sun. Dozens of seeds produced two sprouts. Sprouts moped about unresponsive to their seed package PR.

This is Southern California.  Planting "after the last frost" is not a functional instruction. Heat settles in like a yenta for a cup of tea and gossip. [We're still trying to grow cabbages, which those in the know call "cool weather" plants.]

Gardening feels like a race against the sun at this time of year. My potting soil has been long gone.  My seedling pans like empty.  And the guilt mounts . . .

Busy Bees Make Gardens Fruitful

Bees are the unthanked field help of a garden. Many people -- including my fellow gardener, Karen -- can't stand them and don't want plants that attract them in a garden.

On a recent dog walk, I saw a swarm of bees. It was an awesome sight. One bee is one thing, hundreds are something else.

Then this came across the potting bench:

"Unlike honey bees, Mason Bees create nests in hollow spaces like reeds and holes in wood and 'pad' them, as their name suggests, with mud from the surrounding garden.  Because mason bees will settle in and colonize in a friendly environment, you can encourage them by providing them a pre-built home like the Blue Orchard Mason Bee Nest available at High Country Gardens."

The nest looks like a piece of clay pipe with straws inside.  It has a natural, functional look that would go well in any garden.