Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hanging strawberries and tomatoes

Most of my strawberries and tomatoes are in the ground, but I wanted to try some in hanging baskets for fun and to see if they're less affected by pests and diseases. I had some old wire baskets lying around that seemed like they'd be big enough.

The baskets held a surprising amount of Black Gold organic potting soil, so I don't think they'll dry out too quickly on hot days. I'll still need to check them daily, but that's true of all my pots.

The strawberries look a little sulky because I transplanted them from established beds. They should perk up in a day or two. I wouldn't normally transplant strawberries when they're forming fruit, but this was all done on a whim.

The tomato is 'Sun Sugar' and should cascade nicely over the edge of the basket.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Wind chime listening station

This is so cool... this is how online shopping should be... Wind Chimes Pavilion has provided clear audio clips with each wind chime they sell. This makes sense since they sell hand-tuned chimes to the tune of Brahms, Verdi, Bach and more.

Check it out. You'll be impressed. I'm excited because I think I might actually be able to find one that doesn't drive me bonkers.

Have a listen.

Tomatoes with sweet pepper and basil-infused escargot

Got most of my tomatoes planted yesterday and hope to finish today if it's not raining. I also planted most of the plants I bought at Annie's and B. Hort. I have to say, things are filling in nicely in certain parts of the garden. Gaps remain, but don't they always?

Snails feasted on my bell peppers and basil over the last few days. Nothing left but leafless sticks. I checked on them first thing yesterday morning and found a large snail family sucking on the bones of my pepper plants. A couple older snails were leading the very slow getaway.

And no, I didn't kill a single one. Why? Because I am cursed with a fondness for all things tiny and cute. Have you looked at a baby snail lately? Exceedingly cute with their tiny antennae... or eyeballs... or whatever those things are... innocently searching the air. I relocated them. I have used Sluggo in moments of desperation, but I don't like witnessing the carnage and my dogs like to eat Sluggo pellets. Pet-safe or not, I really don't want them to have to digest a belly full of iron phosphate.

The perfect solution for borderline Buddhist gardeners like me is the barrier method. The problem is, that nifty 100-foot roll of copper snail barrier I wanted to buy at Berkeley Hort. the other day was 50 dollars. 50 dollars for snail fencing? I don't think I can justify that purchase at this juncture, so I'm trying to find something inexpensive around the house that will help my veggie and herb starts make it past infancy. I'm thinking bottomless milk cartons with the warning "Molluscs Beware!" written in dripping red letters. No... written in salt (if such a thing were possible). Large strawberry baskets might work too. I have none, but they might work. There's got to be something we normally recycle or throw away that I can use. Any ideas?

Anyway, replacement peppers and basil are being arranged.

Great news! Peaceful Valley Farm Supply sells 20 feet of copper snail barrier for around 13 bucks. Sold!

Holy guacamole, look what else they sell! This is exactly what I was fantasizing about and they're only $2.99 each! Just my luck that my only realized fantasy involves garden pests and not Liam Neeson, but oh well. At least I'll have reality-based peppers and basil this year thanks to copper barriers and the new Plant Defender.

Monday, April 24, 2006

East Bay Nurseries Day Trip

Went to Annie's Annuals and Berkeley Hort. Yesterday. Gardening nirvana... and a financial nightmare. I did enough Visa damage that I'm thinking it's a good thing there's an hour and forty minutes between me and my favorite East Bay nurseries.

I was expecting rainy weather so was pleased with intermittently overcast skies and a bit of wind.

The raised demo beds at Annie's, amended with grape-seed compost, are looking incredible, as are the display pots at Berkeley Hort. Bought all kinds of fun stuff, traffic was a breeze and I didn't get lost in lovely downtown Richmond this time. I didn't even get lost in Berzerkely, city of invisible street signs.

New at Annie's: a chicken coop with fancy chickens, a rooster, a bunny or bunnies and some other bird I can't remember. Very cute. There seem to be more pinky/purply flower murals, as well as some new wagons with very cushy handles. Free cans of soda too!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Flower Explosion

Sunshine has returned (for the most part), Spring is really here, and everything looks fresh and perky and colorful. Enjoy it, because the dusty dog days of summer are lurking around the corner.

Happy Earth Day

President Bush is in Sacramento today to help celebrate Earth Day by visiting the California Fuel Cell Partnership demonstration facility in West Sacramento.

In addition to his expected praise for alternative fuel sources (ahem), the Texas oilman (ahem, ahem) strongly feels “... the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.” So do I, Mr. President. So do I. Well, probably not salmon, trout or tuna, but definitely other species. Someday. Maybe. One can only hope. You're such an optimist, Mr. President, I'll bet you can envision a world in which, one day, cars are powered by the renewable fin power of peaceful fish. Peaceful fish that are paid a living wage and whose children attend better schools. Better schools for schools of fish! Dare we dream this American dream?

President Bush also makes the bold ecological statement that "It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it." Really gives you pause, doesn't it?

Happy Earth Day.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Barbara Martin Says Earth Day Should Frighten You

I agree. Here's her timely blog post.

Are you celebrating Earth Day every day? Sometimes it's hard to do it every day and in every way, but we can all take little steps that will have a lasting effect. Earth Day's a great day to buy a worm bin or start a backyard compost pile, plant a tree, sign up for a creek clean-up, or send a donation to an environmental organization.

Nature Conservancy
Sierra Club
Sacramento Valley Conservancy
California Oak Foundation
California Native Plant Society

When I was a kid growing up in Sacramento, I remember playing in the field next to my grandparents' house in the Arden area. The field had a creek, tall grasses, ladybugs, polliwogs, frogs, turtles and snakes. Then came the Alta Arden Expressway. The creek was dammed. Then came the developers. The field of my childhood, where I learned about bugs and flowers, cardboard forts and first kisses, is now a parking lot and more homes.

The other day I visited the Sacramento Valley Conservancy's Deer Creek Hills Project near the Rancho Murieta gated housing community, country club and golf course. I was very startled to see a turtle at Deer Creek Hills. Was it alive? Yes! Was it a real turtle just like the ones in my old field? Yes... only Deer Creek Hills is teeming with much more wildlife and unspoiled beauty than my nostalgia-blessed suburban field. Is this turtle safe? Probably, because it's living on protected land. Are developers itching to build new homes all around it? Is the pope Catholic?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Deer Creek Hills Bird & Wildflower Walks

Date: Saturday, April 22nd
Time: 9:00 a.m.

Birds and Wildflowers of Dry Creek Hills Hike

"Hikers should meet at Latrobe and Stone House Roads (north of Highway 16 or Jackson Rd. and west of Rancho Murieta). Both roads can be accessed off of Jackson Rd. Carpooling is strongly encouraged since parking is limited, and all vehicles should park on the dirt portion of Latrobe Rd. Weather is unpredictable, so please bring layers of clothing for all weather types. Water, light snacks and a hat for warmth and shade are also suggested. There is active cattle grazing at Deer Creek Hills, and the conditions of hiking routes vary and may include stream or fence crossings and uneven terrain. Heavy rain and/or wind cancel hike/ride. Please RSVP at 916 216-2178 – tour size is limited for your enjoyment."

Don't miss this beautiful and informative walk led by local birder Ed Pandolfino and other naturalists. Just minutes from Sacramento!

Brought to you by the Sacramento Valley Conservancy

birds from top to bottom: Western Kingbird, Lawrence's Goldfinch, Western Kingbird and Barn Swallow

Why I love garden blogs

I've been asking myself lately, "Why do I garden blog? Why do other gardeners blog?" and I have come to the conclusion that we do it primarily because we've been given the opportunity to show what magazines and newspapers don't-- real gardens. I read a lot of garden blogs and see more popping up every day and what keeps me coming back are the daily triumphs and tribulations of people doing their own gardening. I have learned so much from other garden bloggers and the more I read, the more excited I become about gardening (if that's even possible).

I often have the uncomfortable suspicion that gardens celebrated in magazines, on TV and to a lesser extent in newspapers are not maintained by the people who own them. There's just something missing. There's a unique joy in personal garden blogs you don't see anywhere else, not to mention the fact that blogging beats all news media in terms of freshness.

Your first rose of the season is blooming this morning? Blog it in real time. Snails are eating your prized dahia? Blog it in real time. We share your pain and we might even be able to pass on a snail-proofing tip you can implement mere minutes after you discover the little buggers munching away. You just made your first salad from greens and edible flowers you grew yourself? Blog it and thanks for the vicarious thrill. Salad for two, but enjoyed by hundreds and immortalized forever on the web.

Garden blogs are welcoming. They're a way of saying, "Howdy, neighbor! Come have a peek over my fence and see what we're growing here." They're a way of sharing your love of gardening with "neighbors" all over the world who also happen to be avid gardeners. Not all neighbors are. Most of mine cut a monthly check to landscapers, so I rarely have an invitation... or reason... to peek over their fences. Garden blogs help gardeners connect. I suspect most of us have more dirt in our keyboards than your average blogger. I suspect most of us have more plant tags on our desks than your average blogger.

I also garden blog to help me remember what I planted, when I planted it, and what it looked like in bloom. Even more exciting, I can show you what it looked like when it was ready to eat! I'm growin' my own dang food here... you've got to see this! This is my public blog, but it's also my personal diary. And because there's so much going on locally in the way of gardening events, it's hard not to want to make note, and as long as you're making note, you might as well share with other gardeners... of all thumb colors.

I still can't get over the fact that Blogger hosts my blog for free and allows me to upload as many photos as I want. Thank you, Blogger. Blog on, gardeners!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Spring has sprung

To fill in the front of this border, today I planted some greenhouse-raised annuals-- 'Apricot Chiffon' California poppy and Salvia 'Blue Denim'. I had first seen 'Apricot Chiffon' poppies blooming at Annie's Annuals. But at $5.95 a pop, I'm glad to have found a seed source. Just this little section required 23 plants. That's $136.85 in Annie's currency. Seeds were $2.35 from Territorial Seed Company. Now normally I simply broadcast California poppy seeds in autumn, but hybrids like 'Apricot Chiffon' never come up (for me) while regular old Eschscholzia
californica always does. Go figure. Anyway, these hybrids are a spectacular pinky peach color and are stunning combined with something blue like 'Blue Denim' Salvia from Select Seeds. I'll try to post an updated photo once these babies fill in. I'll be on snail patrol tonight. I can apply Sluggo, but my dogs like to eat it. Even if I sprinkle it when they're not around, they make a beeline for it as soon as I let them out. Little rascals.

With the break in the weather, I've been trying to fill in some gaps in the garden. The fence is an eyesore I'm hoping my princess flower shrubs will cover, but they defoliated after we had a few winter frosts. Still, they've grown to about four feet tall from the little 4" inch babies they were when I plunked them in my shopping cart at Whole Foods last summer. On impulse, of course. Despite their frost-induced nudity, those purple flowers and fuzzy green leaves make P.F. shrubs worth the wait.

My "heuchera/columbine bed" has grown rapidly in the last few days.

I'm cuckoo for heuchera...

Late afternoon light illuminates reddish grasses and grasslike plants like Stipa arundinacea and New Zealand flax.

I had to flip my Smith & Hawken firepit over so it wouldn't collect rainwater. With the change in weather, I might be able to flip it back over soon. Woo hoo! It doubles as an outdoor grill.

Posted by Picasa

Passionate about Passionflowers

I'm crazy about passionflowers and was looking online recently for non-rampant cultivars or species. In the Sacramento area, the more cold-hardy forms can do a little too well under certain circumstances. This one, Passiflora tulae, attracted me with unusual form, clear pink and orange color combo and modest growth rate. Kartuz Greenhouses specializes in rare and exotic plants and offers a nice Passiflora selection, including this P. tulae. I'll report back on how it performs in my garden.

(Photo is from the Kartuz Greenhouses website)

Somebody Pinch Me!

Sacramento Bee reports "Wet weather finally coming to an end"!!!!!

A few things blooming this April morning...

Geranium and Viola with Santa Barbara daisies in the background.

Pink hellebore

Columbine 'Clementine Rose'

Ooh, sideways orange pansies and purple Nemesia!

Yellow Lady Banks rose

'Lavender Mist' Scabiosa

Posted by Picasa