Trials and tales of a not-so-advanced gardener--both in the dirt and beyond.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Delicious Smells

This week has been the best for opening the windows (well, it was, at least, before it got too chilly). Here's why: the lilac bushes a blooming! And, my are they doing it well. This year they got to bloom and smell and everything--where as last year a terrible frost came and destroyed the buds. They've grown to be almost as tall as my upstairs windows, so the spring breeze made my house smell wonderful.

I even cut some and took it to work. Co-workers were happy to look at the tulips and smell the lilacs. This is a change as they typically complain about gnats flying around (supposedly from my potted plants). **On a sad note: I had to say good bye to two lovely indoor plants this week. One just never looked the same after vacation and all of the leaves were droopy and yellowed. The other had spider mites--something I wasn't ready to deal with. I took them to greener pastures and wished them well.
I'm starting to get antsy about buying plants. I know I shouldn't I need to wait until after I move. There is no reason to do it now...but every time I pass a garden center I hear them calling me. They keep telling me to come and buy them! I've already picked out a couple of amazing house plants at Habig's in Nora. I won't blog about them until I have them in my possession, though.
Update on the seedlings: many have died, many have starved, many have been cut at the throat due to space constraints. I know this is all for the best in the long run, but it is sad to have to see them go. I think we're going to need some pots for planting before the big move.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tulip Thief!

So at some point today between when I came home around 3:30 pm and when I left again around 7:30 pm, someone or something decided it would be a good idea to pluck the heads off of 10 or so of my tulips! Why would someone do this!?!
I don't know who or what would do this. But if I found out, I can promise that I'll track them down and break their grubby fingers/paws/mitts.

Do you think it would be a squirrel? Like this guy in the picture? You'd think they wouldn't just pull off the flower and only strategically get some of the flowers around the edge of my yard.

In the words of Stephanie Tanner from Full House: HOW RUDE!!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

When it's all worth it

Earlier this week, I came home one day after work and it was one of those days when you know the work you do is all worth it.
It was a perfect day--warm, sunny, not too hot, and plenty of flowers blooming in the yard. On this spring day, I was particularly proud of my spring bulbs and knew that all of the hard work of digging, separating, and re-planting last October was worth it.

These pictures don't nearly do it justice, but hopefully you can get a sense for what it looked like. I was particularly happy with the tulips on this day. The daffodils are almost all done at this point--wilty and brown. But all of the tulips looked great! There are still some buds to come, too.

Other happenings on this nearly perfect day included reading in the hammock and a walk around the block with Whitney (we made sure to stop and look at other people's yards, too).

Not sure what these guys are, but I have a couple in the "extra" bulbs bed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Even the New York Times says to grow a garden.

Sunday's New York Times Magazine had an interesting article, in The Green Issue: Why Bother?. It's a long article, but basically boils down to suggesting people grow a vegetable garden. (Thanks to Tod for sending it my way...)

It battles the idea that no matter what you do--become a locavore (eating only locally grown items), buy a hybrid, install solar panels, etc--there is always the possibility that someone is "undoing" what you've just not done. We are already in this mess, so Why Bother?

The reason why: "If you do bother, you will set an example for other people. If enough other people bother, each one influencing yet another in a chain reaction of behavioral change, markets for all manner of green products and alternative technologies will prosper and expand." So basically create social change.

I've seen this happen to me in the past year, for example. Historically, I've not been particularly interested in recycling, "doing my part for the environment" or considered my "carbon footprint"--now I recycle everything I can. This includes creating a spot at home to keep recyclables: plastics, newspaper, aluminum cans. Towing cardboard to the Wal-Mart parking lot (the only place in town where I can find it's accepted). Carrying reusable fabric bags, recycling the plastic bags (when I forget to get them) is something else. Now there is the crazy idea of composting leaves and coffee grounds so they don't go into the landfills. I'm using cloth napkins at dinner and cleaning with old rags instead of paper towels. Spring is finally here and so is the opportunity to bike to the grocery, the pool, to lunch as well as work. Two years ago these things would be the last on my mind, but now I am consciously thinking of them everyday.

But how much of what I do matters?

The author states that while it seems like a "why bother" state, planting a garden might be the key to getting out of it. "At least in this one corner of your yard and life, you will have begun to heal the split between what you think and what you do, to commingle your identities as consumer and producer and citizen. Chances are, your garden will re-engage you with your neighbors, for you will have produce to give away and the need to borrow their tools."

Trowels up! Go grow something! :)

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Bloom Day I missed and Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day! I am posting a few days late to Carol's Bloom Day--partially because I've been busy, but mostly because these pretties didn't appear until just after the 15th. I couldn't not post all of these pictures. So it works out perfectly that today is Earth Day.

This is why I love bulbs: your hard work and effort from fall comes full circle in spring when your flowers are in full bloom, filling your yard with their sweet scent and vibrant color.

Daffodils are planted around the the huge tree in my front yard. These were some of the first bulbs I purchased and I've not touched them at all since. They just keep multiplying with no fuss.
Some yellow tulips along the sidewalk.

Creeping phlox along the side yard. These look a bit more white in the picture than they really are. They are actually a light purple. I love this ground cover because in the spring it's almost all flower, but then it looks like a bed of pine needles for the rest of the summer and fall.

More ground cover: this time creeping myrtle or vinca vine or periwinkle (
Vinca Minor). Mark the neighbor has an entire corner of his lot covered in this.

New this year--more tulips. These are even more beautiful in person than the picture can capture.

And the last of the tulips. At least those that are blooming now. I forget the name of these, but they are just the right pop of color right in front of the house by the steps.

Finally, these are called Grecian Windflower (Anemone blanda). I planted these in the fall of 2006 and was pretty unimpressed last spring--this year, however, is a different story. They have definitely quadrupled their number of blooms. This tuber is good to put under taller spring bloomers since it stays closer to the ground.

Friday, April 18, 2008

What have I done!?!

First, the good news: tulips have appeared! Pictures will be posted soon.

Bad news: So I took the domes off of the plants earlier this week and they seemed to be doing fine. Last night I came home to check in on them--the pots were dry, half of the seedlings were wilty, some were brown. I think I just killed a large number of my seedlings--I just didn't pay enough attention.

Instantly, I went into panic mode. I grabbed water, grow lamps, and the plastic domes. I've recreated the sanctuary that my little guys were so used to in hopes of keeping some of them alive.

I've been so preoccupied this week with the stress and anxiety of buying my first home that I let these guys suffer.

Speaking of adding stress to life---here are a couple of things I have to consider regarding "the move" which is supposed to happen late May:
  • Which plants to take from the rental...I've spent tons of my own money on my flowers (mostly bulbs) in my yard. Mom thinks I should leave everything there; everyone else says I should take them. But what to take and what to leave is a difficult choice. Ensuring that they won't die in the move is important, too.
  • What about my seedlings? It will be after the frost date, but do I put them in bigger pots, harden off, put in the ground--all before leaving and then take them with me?

Aside from moving all of my stuff, I have to consider moving all of my plants as well. Oh..there is so much to do in 6 weeks!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Oh where oh where are my true leaves?

It has been several weeks now since my seeds have germinated and I am anxiously awaiting some true leaves to appear. The magic happened--but now I feel like we're in a stand still.

The squash and zucchini are getting some (but they are getting too big for the peat pots). I did notice that the cilantro is getting it's first real leaves, too.

I just read on that I need to remove the plastic domes to allow for better air flow. Done.

Now to learn about when to thin back and harden off.

Oh and the black-eyed susan still hasn't germinated. It says it could take up to 30 days to do so, so we've got another week or so until they should appear. I might have put too much soil on them to germinate, since they require light.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

First House!

Oh and I forgot to mention...I put an offer on my first house today! I'm a huge ball of emotions and can't wait to know if/when I'll get it.

The best part: it's a whole new canvas--inside and out--for me to make magic!

The muscari are here...and so is the cold.

Despite the dreary weekend weather, the muscari have made their appearance in my yard. These are some of my favorite in my yard. The look like they are cascading down the hillside.

Before some of the Orr Fellows came over for a pitch-in Saturday evening I was able to go capture some of what was blooming outside and bring it in. (The tulips are from Kroger...none are blooming in my yard yet...although there are many buds which will soon become flowers!)

Mom said it's supposed to get below 30 degrees tonight. I didn't cover's hoping it doesn't kill everything.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Argh the rain

Dear Nature,
I understand that you are trying to make up for last summer when you forgot to give us rain (for basically 2 months), but enough is enough already! We don't need more rain! Half of my freakin' irises have no dirt around their roots because it's all been washed away.

Please, save the rain until mid-summer when we will really need it.

Oh, and since I'm writing--what is up with a high of 47 on Saturday!?! I mean a Tuesday, maybe I'd understand that, but a SATURDAY!

Yours truly,
Washed out.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Weekend fun and my first fallen soldiers.

Finally the weekend weather was on my side. It was decided that the swing hammock I picked up late last fall needed to be hung. Here was the challenge: the huge tree in my yard doesn't have a branch lower than 20 or so feet. The lowest branch, however, does branch into a V, which I thought was the best place for the hammock. I bought a chain big enough to support a person's weight and my thought was to run the chain through the V and hang the hammock. Sounds easy, right? Well yes--but the weight of the chain was too much for me to just toss up over the branch. Enter Neighbor Mark (who without fail has assisted me with countless projects, garden suggestions, and simple, good-neighborly know-how). I asked him to borrow a ladder. He did even better: a ladder and a rope with carabiner. I believe there were about 15 attempts from the top of the ladder to lob the rope up to the branch and have it land in the right place. After hanging it too low the first time, we succeeded the second time. I can't wait to enjoy a read in the sun soon!

I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the seedlings, namely the sunflowers, who lost their battle to make it to the yard. They (like the bachelor buttons on the left) have outgrown the tops of the seed trays. So I decided to take them out and sit on the top shelf of the green house. Within less than 24 hours, the seedlings were limp and wilted. What have I done!?! I've learned two valuable lessons here: 1. Learn what seeds to start indoors in your zone and what to sow directly in the ground. has a pretty good list. 2. Don't start sunflower seeds indoors in zone 5--they grow too quickly.

On a positive note, I did notice some pepper seeds have germinated finally. I think the only seeds that haven't popped up are the black-eyed susans.
The next challenge is figuring out how to get these seedlings big enough to take on the world.

The first daffodil!

Finally, we have a daffodil! It was a gorgeous weekend, in the 60s, sunny and has stayed warmer since then. I think we'll have a number of blooms around the yard soon. WELCOME SPRING!

Friday, April 4, 2008

I've made my order

I got sucked into the deal from Michigan Bulbs--I made an order of $40 to save $20. Mom picked out a couple that she wanted, including the Barlow Mixed Columbine (also called Granny's Bonnet--it looks like two flowers combined into one) and Coral Bells. To the order, I added strawberries, Golden Marguerite Daisy, and Bush Delphinium. They were all buy 3, get 3 free so it seems like a good number of plants for ~$30 (including shipping).

I tried to order these online, but there was a problem with the coupon code. They took care of me on the phone, though. I'll be interested to see how large these plants are, if they are bareroot or potted, and what they look like when they arrive. Previously I've only ordered bulbs from catalogs.

Speaking of which, today my Twinkle Toes arrived from Breck's--these were part of my fall order. Had I realized before ordering that they need to be lifted in the winter, I probably wouldn't have ordered them. I really don't like needy plants. Having to dig them up (also called lifting) in the late fall is under the category of needy in my book. But maybe they'll be worth it. Based on the pictures from Breck's, they look like they'll be fun flowers. (I'll take a picture of mine when they bloom for comparison.)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

To compost or not to compost

This week has been a whirlwind for sure--I'm excited tomorrow starts the weekend. And the best part: Sunday's high is 65! Sounds like possible top-down weather in the car...FINALLY!

Recently, I've been thinking about starting a compost pile. Sounds like an easy decision to make, but you have to consider where to put it, if it's going to take a lot of time to keep up, and, most importantly, what kind of container to use. Tons of sites are happy to sell a $300 composting bin, but that seems a bit excessive for creating "dirt."

Making compost requires "green" (nitrogen-rich items, like grass clippings and kitchen scraps) and "brown" (carbon-rich items, like leaves and cardboard). The benefit of making compost is the rich, humus that is created and the refuse saved from landfills.

Items to avoid putting in a compost pile: meat/dairy scraps, slick color newspaper pages (the black and white are okay), treated wood, oils, sunflowers (they are toxic to other plants), and pet waste.

Interesting things I didn't know you can put in a compost pile: coffee grounds/filters, hair, eggshells, cotton or wool fabric, and dryer lint.
Coffee shops will even give you their coffee grounds for free. Some, it seems, have them out for you to take a bag full. Starbucks calls this "grounds for your garden." I learned this from Anthony over at The Compost Bin.

It seems like it will take roughly 3 months to get some good, rich compost that can go in the yard. Perhaps all of the work is worth it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Pesky Catalogs Tempting Me Again

I'm constantly receiving catalogs from nurseries and bulb companies. They lure me to look because they are offering me a coupon or 50% off or something. And I'm almost always certain to buy it! Almost all of my bulbs have come from Breck's. They say my tulips are shipped from Holland, but who really knows. This time it's Michigan Bulb Co. I just got a catalog from them with $20 of free gardening products (with an additional $20 purchase, of course).

So, now I'm going through the BOGO (buy one, get one) pages to see if there is something out there that will add happiness to my garden. Sooner or later, there will be no more room!

I think I'm going to see if Mom can find anything she really likes. After all, we have a blank canvas at her place.

Starting Seeds

I decided to try to start some plants from seeds this year to see if I could do it. For my birthday, Mom and I purchased a ton of seeds, peat pots, seed starter and trays for the pots. Mom also picked up a "greenhouse" for me, which is basically a metal shelf with a plastic cover. In my opinion, I've got a pretty sweet set-up here. I've mounted my grow lamps on the greenhouse shelf, which sits in front of an east-facing window. I haven't put the plastic cover on it yet, but will once my seeds have outgrown their current location. is a good online resource for plant guidance. I liked the article on starting seeds.

Here's the list of what we planted:

Green Peppers
Mixed Peppers
Cherry Tomatoes



Bachelor Buttons
Sweet William
Marigolds (seeds I saved from my flowers last year!)

Shasta Daisies
Black-Eyed Susans

I think that's everything--200 pots in all!
I've already learned that some of these should have been sown directly into the soil. But, since it is my first year to try this, I'll give myself some room for error. If you'd enjoy any of the above mentioned vegetables (and maybe even some of the flowers), let me seems I might have a surplus soon. :)

So in less than a week, we already had sprouts!

The bachelor buttons (aka Cornflower) were the first to pop up out of the soil. Now, almost a week later basically everything has germinated. The sunflower seeds are hitting the top of the container. There are only a few things that haven't sprouted--the peppers and some of the herbs.

Here's what the entire set-up looks like.

I've acquired part of the 3rd bedroom to do all of this. I found the basement to be too cold for the seeds. So you can see the condensation forming on the top of the flats. I haven't had to water the pots too much, just a light mist from a spray bottle and some water in the bottom of the flats.

*Thanks to Jason for coding assistance on formatting my blog posts!