Friday, March 28, 2008

Polka-Dots and Mud!

I know I promised hummingbird info in my next post but...
I ACTUALLY DID SOME GARDENING TODAY!!! Apple~I'm sorry for the pain that this is going to cause. Look away now. LOL.

My hubby surprised me with a trip to my favorite store: The Backyard Farmer. Brian was able to offer me some great advice for my veggie garden and I had a wonderful time at the store. And I bought a new pair of rubber boots. Believe it or not, I never actually had a pair before! I always just wore my winter boots when working in a muddy garden. But not anymore! Now I have state of the art, old fashioned Wellies!
After we returned home, I slipped into my new polka dotted wellies and my other spring gardening gear~thermal sweatshirt, fleece hat, and cheap gardening gloves. After all, there is no sense ruining my favorite garden gear in the mud! As I worked in the garden several of my neighbors drove and gave the courtesy honk & wave. One even rolled down the window and hollared, "She's in the garden! It must be spring! WooHOO!" And it made me realize that my neighbors know me as the garden lady or the dog walking lady. Neither is an occassion I dress nicely for. They may never have seen the real me (you know~clean!). Just to be sure I don't make that same mistake here below I've posted both versions of myself. Clean and well... MUDDY!

Don't believe that I'm all that muddy? Just look at my gloves at the end of the day!

Don't you love gardening in the spring?

Backyard Farmer

There is a great debate over where you should and should not spend your gardening money. Many people feel that you should buy the best deals and they can often be found at big chain stores. Many others feel that you should spend your money at small local business because it does so much for your local economy. I can see the sense in both arguments and I have been known to shop at both large and small stores. However, if you ask me what my favorite garden store is the answer is quick and easy: My local small garden shop~The Backyard Farmer.

It's a family run business (yes, they still exist!). A few years ago the business was run by a different family and I shopped there back then too. But during it's last few years under prior ownership it began to lean towards wine making, orchard-ing, and pumpkins in the fall. Then one spring I heard rumors that it was closing and my heart went into my throat! I couldn't imagine not having this store nearby (even if I hadn't been a big spender there in a few years).

So it was great relief when I stopped in and saw Brian Sheley running the newly named Backyard Farmer. I instantly felt a change of atmosphere. This was a place for the gardener. I defy anyone to have a question that Brian and his friendly staff can't answer. And believe me when I say I've asked some WEIRD questions! They have everything needed for the backyard farmer or gardener. From bird food, bird houses, horse & tackle needs to seed potatoes, fresh (and I mean FRESH) produce, boots, tools, mulch, and soil additives, and yes, flowers. But they have something extra that no chain store could every carry. Spirit.

When you enter the store there is an instant feeling of community. It's like bumping into an old friend. It always surprises and delights me. During apple season Brian has been known to give each child a free apple causing immediate giggles followed by the quiet crunch that accompanies biting into an apple. And as you make your way through the store you will encounter the nicest member of the staff: Claire! Oh, she is sweet and friendly. She is so very gentle that every child finds a calm smile when she is near. I've often thought that I'd love to put Claire in the truck with my purchases and take her home too. And Claire is too wonderful to object but Brian would. So we say good bye to Claire and leave the Backyard Farmer until next time. And with a mouth full of apple my daughter will say, "Claire is a great dog!" And I agree and add, "And that is a great store."

So, if you live near my neck of the woods. Take a drive on US Route 11 to Adams Center, NY. Meet Brian and Claire and the rest of the crew at Backyard Farmer. You'll be so very glad you did.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bird Brain Gardening!

As gardeners we love to see company enjoying our garden as much as we do. From those neighbors who peer into our gardens with envy, to the mail man who pauses to enjoy the blooms near the mailbox. But how often do we get the satisfaction of seeing people enjoying our garden? Not nearly enough. That's why many of us become obsessed with the other visitors to our gardens: The BIRDS! Most gardeners end up enjoying the birds almost as much as they end up enjoying they're gardens. And I'm no different! Just this week I plowed over small children as I ran from room to room trying to capture a picture of a Cardinal! Our first ever! With that in mind I thought it was high time to address birds in the garden because any garden can be a sanctuary for birds. All your yard needs to do is supply is some very basic bird needs: adequate cover, food, and protection from enemies. And chances are you have most of these basic needs already covered. For the biggest variety of birds try dedicating 10% of your plantings to insure the safety and well being of your bird population.

Bird Brain Gardening

  1. Trees! Evergreens provide bird shelter year round and this is extremely valuable to your winter birdies (songbirds enjoy red cedars & other pines while Balsam firs attract chickadees, nuthatches, and finches~among others). Shade trees~even a young tree~is loved by most birds (oaks can attract mourning doves, jays, and flickers and maples are a favorite for evening birds like grosbeaks and purple finches).

  2. Shrubs! The single best way to invite birds into you yard is to have shrubby hedges. In addition to providing shelter they can be an excellent source of food for your winged friends. Honeysuckle, currants, gooseberries, and wild blueberries (if you're willing to share) are fantastic for the birds.

  3. Flowers and Herbs! If we love them then chances are our feathered friends will too. But just in case you really aren't sure here's a list of birdie favorites!
  • Asters
  • Cosmos
  • Forget Me Not
  • Foxglove
  • Lavender
  • Lobelia
  • Marjoram
  • Petunia
  • Poppy
  • Sunflower
  • Thyme

Did I cover everything? Ooops! Looks like I forgot our hummingbird friends. Look for ways to invite them into your garden in my next post.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Watched Pot Never...Sprouts!

Of course, I'm talking about tiny little pots that are littering every sunny surface available! It seems there are two kinds of seeds: the "OOOHH, They're UP already!!!!" and the "AARGH! What's taking them so long?"

Now, I suppose you really fancy-dancy gardeners will consult the seed packet to see how many more days you will have to wait before seeing a tiny seedling. But you know darn well, that I'm not doing that! No, I'm not no fancy-dancy garden gal! No, instead I want to check the seeds twice daily until I see signs of life. I like lifting the lid and seeing the tiniest of stems so new it's still white! I take all this peeking time to introduce myself to the plants. Yes, I do introduce myself! (I already told you that I'm not fancy-dancy!)

I say, "Hello there, babies! How are my little sweet things? Did you
know that you're going to grow to be big, healthy, and full of blooms?
Yes, you are! You're a real beauty I can tell."

Okay, the baby talk may not be necessary but the carbon dioxide can't do them any harm, can it? So I talk...and sometimes...just sometimes...once in a while...sing a little. So what? It's not crazy to sing to plants! IT'S NOT!!! People have been doing it for centuries.

So here's my question...Is it crazy to sing Rocky Top? After all it is a song about not being able to grow corn because well...the dirt is too rocky by far.

Wish that I was on ol' Rocky
Top Down in the Tennessee hills
Aint' no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top
Ain't no telephone bills
Once I had a girl on Rocky Top Half bear, other half cat
Wild as a mink, but sweet as soda pop I still dream about that.
Rocky Top you'll always be Home sweet home to me
Good ol' Rocky Top
Rocky Top Tennessee, Rocky Top Tennessee

Once two strangers climbed ol' Rocky Top
Lookin' for a moonshine still
Strangers ain't come down from Rocky Top
Reckon they never will
Rocky Top you'll always be Home sweet home to me
Good ol' Rocky Top
Rocky Top Tennessee, Rocky Top Tennessee

Corn won't grow at all on Rocky Top
Dirt's too rocky by far
That's why all the folks on Rocky Top
Get their corn from a jar
Rocky Top you'll always be Home sweet home to me
Good ol' Rocky Top
Rocky Top Tennessee, Rocky Top Tennessee

I've had years of cramped-up city life
Trapped like a duck in a pen
All I know is it's a pity life
Can't be simple again
Rocky Top you'll always be Home sweet home to me
Good ol' Rocky TopRocky Top Tennessee, Rocky Top Tennessee

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Innovation or Idiocy? Don't let your Relatives decide!

My husband and I are just a small part of a longstanding gardening tradition in our families. And to my husband vegetable gardens are a source of more than just vegetables. It's a connection to the past. At least that's my husbands idea. He lives by a very simple motto: Change is BAD!

So my wild idea of growing our vegetables in raised beds met with...Well...raised eyebrows.

My wild idea of not planting in straight rows met with Wild Skepticism.

My wild notion of using flowers mixed in with the vegetables to repel pests met with Wild Laughter.

And he wasn't alone. I've heard comments from all the "traditionalists". My Mom, My Dad, Aunts, Uncles. My mother thinks I'm a nut for planning on planting pole green beans. "Bush beans grow just fine and they don't need any support! Why go through the extra work?" Aesthetics? She just shakes her head. One relative even told me that I COULDN'T plant a garden without the help of a rototiller. I explained I didn't need one because I was using raised beds they answered, (like I was mentally impaired!) "Yes, dear, that's for your flowers. For a vegetable garden you need a rototiller." Eventually, I gave up and said, "I'll send you photos when I'm done."

There are many reasons why people don't like change. Many reasons why others are always looking for innovation. But I...I like the middle road. I am not trying something that is untested. I am not leading the way in gardening revolution. Neither am I bogged down in the "way it has always been". I am looking for my own gardening way.

I think that is how most gardener's do it these days. We read, we talk, we research, and we do it the way that we feel is the best way for our gardens.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Peppers...

After some dedicated gardener spent hours toiling away in the dirt planting the seeds, praying for sunshine, and protecting them from varmits! Yet, does the gardener get any recognition for the vital role that they played? No the only thing remembered is:

Peter Piper Picked
a Peck of Peppers,
Peter Piper Picked
a Peck of Peppers,
Peter Piper Picked
a Peck of Peppers!

Well, Peter just better stay away from my garden because if I see his grubby little hands on my precious peppers I might just get violent! I have just planted Burpee's Signature Big Dipper variety of sweet peppers. I find myself very being very protective over my little pepper plants (and they haven't even sprouted yet!). I have to ask myself why I am so emotionally connected to these tiny little pepper seeds. Maybe it's because of those childhood memories that flood back when I see the seed packets.

In my childhood home a Pepper seed packet meant only one thing to me...Pepper Relish! Mom's homemade pepper relish would make any plain-jane meal into a tasty treat! I realize now that my children have had this extrordinary treat only occassionally!!! I have done my children a grave disservice and this is the year that I WILL rectify the situation!

I vow this is the year when I fill my cupboards with the tasty treat and that we have stuffed peppers on a regular basis! This is the year when we mix fresh peppers in our meatloaf! This is the YEAR!
So if I am seen softly crooning love songs to a flat of soil with no obvious signs of life do not think me a mad woman! For I am the dedicated gardener upon which Peter Piper depends!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Forking in the Garden

Last year I discovered that a good Garden Fork is much easier for me to use than a shovel. The second I realized the true value of a Garden Fork I was hooked. I would go nowhere without this handy-dandy garden tool. But the garden fork I was using had been a hand-me-down tool and I managed to crack the wooden handle. My husband spent the remainder of the day calling me a "Brute" and laughing his butt off at me as I struggled with the Shovel (yuck!).

So then he took mercy on me and he found another old garden fork in the basement. I used the garden fork for weeks. Me & My Garden Fork. It was a wonderful arrangement until I heard that dreadful creak. Then a CRACK. Then "BRUTE!!!" And then laughter!

I was devestated. Thus, a search began for a garden fork that was unbreakable! I refused to look at any with wooden handles (I just couldn't handle anymore of his laughter!). Summer turned to fall, and fall into winter, and still no fork to be found. Finally spring arrived and I felt hopeful. I began the search yet again. I checked Lowes, Wal-Mart, K-Mart. Oh they all had garden forks but were they unbreakable? I had my doubts. So I searched on...and on...

At last I've found the Garden Fork I've been dreaming of. Where did I find this wonderous tool: Big Lots (baby!) for $15.00! Made of metal (even the handle) I doubt even the Brute could break this Gardening Fork!

And LOOK at the width of the handle! I can easily place both my hands side by side! And a place for my foot to fit "into" the fork. And there is a very wide foot plate too. But despite it's many obvious attributes there is one major flaw in it's design...Can you find the flaw?

It's PURPLE! While I'm fine with the color...Hubby vows NEVER to touch my Garden Fork. Which means I'll be the only one doing all the Forking in The Garden.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring is Officially open for Business!

At exactly 1:48 a.m. (eastern time) Spring threw open it's doors and announced it's Grand Opening! Or so they tell me...But here we've officially kicked off the Mud Season! Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Anything is better than snow.

While my neighbors aren't all as lucky as I am the general mood is improving as the community begins to see sure signs of spring. The Robins are back. There has been talk of Canadian Geese heading north (I still haven't seen them but I'm a believer...It's kinda like believing in Santa Claus! LOL). The deer are in the fields in groups of 30 to 40! And the local bank has finally switched their outdoor sound system from songs from the movie "White Christmas" to songs from Irving Berlin's "Easter Parade". Yes, Mud season/Spring has arrived!

Garden Girl Diagnosed

Well, after nearly a month, 2 mis-diagnoses and about 150 partial seizures we have finally received a diagnosis regarding my daughter. She has Generalized Epilepsy. While medications are effective for some people in controlling seizures the doctors warn us it will be an uphill battle to find the right medication for her. However, we are hopeful and satisfied that we will be able to help her through this.

Thanks to all of you who have sent your prayers, best wishes, kindness and comfort to us during this troubling time. I really appreciate it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Snow Recedes and the Cold Continues

The snow has begun to melt in spots around my cabin today but the cold has set it and it's bitter. I can see a bit of my garden and a lot of the clean up that I have to do. But I'm having a hard time concentrating on the garden right now.

We've received the results of Garden Girl's EEG. The EEG measures seizure activity in the brain. Unfortunately, her results were highly abnormal with 13 instances of seizure activity in 60 minutes. This is the same girl that we thought was perfectly healthy a month ago! I've started a new blog as a place for her and I to keep track of our thoughts as we begin this long journey: Seize the Day...A Child's Way.

In the mean time, I intend to celebrate any signs of spring. Such as melting snow and the return of the Robins! Yeah, they've finally come home~at least that's what hubby says. I haven't seen them yet. And the deer are back in the fields. There is even some sunshine today. It won't be long until spring really begins and I can't wait!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Water features for the Cheap! Like ME!

You can't walk through any garden nursery, home improvement store, or major retail store without seeing water feature paraphernalia. "It looks so easy" you might think. Then you start imagining your garden with the soft tinkling of water as a background. Thats when you say, "Honey, what do you think of..." Then reality sets in (usually in honey's voice). "First we need to dig, then place good construction sand in the hole, then we'd need one of those black pre-formed things...look at how much they cost! Then we need a fountain, which means we'll have to run electrical out there. This is gonna cost a small fortune! Maybe, next year." And you sigh and nod your head.

But water features don't need to be a huge backyard production or a huge drain on the budget! Featured in this month's issue of The Family Handyman is a 1 day pond & fountain that is simple and inviting. This article helped me to think a bit more creatively about water features. I guess in my mind I thought that you needed to get the biggest water feature available to really have a "beautiful" pond to rest by. While that would be nice if I ever win the lotto I really don't want to wait that long and so I've begun my search for all things water and budget friendly.

I am a true DIY'er. I love to find images in magazines, online, even from TV and then figure out how to make it myself for way less money. That's Why I've compiled a list of Cheap & Easy Water Feature Tricks:

  1. If it's waterproof it's a water feature in waiting! Cheap plastic pots, galvanized tubs, even buckets. Go wild but stay cheap! Use rocks, plant material or even mounds of dirt to "hide" the ugly part.
  2. If you don't want to dig a hole for anything...That's even better. Above ground water features offer even more flexibility. If you change your mind about placement it's easy to drain the water and move your feature to a brand new home. This can provide a whole new atmosphere in your garden...instantly.
  3. Solar Powered pumps. If you're electrically challenged or you're really craving a water feature at the far end of the garden solar powered fountains can be very useful. However, these must be in the sun to work. And prices vary but if you're saving money by using cheap plastic pots then you'll have a little extra to spend on pumps.
  4. Get Whimsical! Nothing adds interest to a garden more than the unexpected. NO, I am not insisting that you get a pink flamingo with water shooting from it's nostrils! Instead re-purpose other garden items such as the birdhouse seen below.
  5. Don't be afraid to wing it! Buy a pump and some tubing. Go home. Look at your favorite garden spots. Have a birdbath that needs some pizazz? Or a trellis that would look wondeful with some water cascading down one side? With a few simple changes anything can become a wonderful water feature.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

10 Cheap Tricks to Great Gardens

Let's start by saying that if you have the money to spend on your garden than by all means spend it! But most of us have to be budget conscious when we plan or prep our gardens. And having an inexpensive garden doesn't have to look cheap. And spending a lot of money doesn't always guarentee a beautiful garden. I like to think that what my garden lacks in cash I make up for in blood, sweat, and tears AND CREATIVITY! Here are some of my tips for a cheap and fantastic garden:

  1. Invest in longer living plants. Perrenials will give you a longer bang for your buck but they may not provide the instant WOW you're looking for. But still with a little patience perrenials will provide years of blooms.

  2. Choose disease resistant varieties. While there is always controversy over heirlooms versus disease resistant I always choose the latter. My reason is simply I hate to spray chemicals on any plants. Chemicals cost money so I'd rather spend the money on a disease resistant plant and avoid the extra work and worry of spraying.

  3. Join a Garden club. You know I can go on FOREVER about the benefits of a garden club but seed and plant swaps are invaluable! Also you know who to call when you have questions regarding your newly swapped plant.

  4. Visit your nursery on shipment day. This is a no-brainer but it took me years to figure out~LOL. Grab the healthiest plants before anyone else has a chance.

  5. Maximize your harvest by planting in Raised or Framed Beds. These provide better drainage and better soil opprotunities.

  6. Group your plants by how much water they need. While this just makes good basic garden sense it is often overlooked when it comes to saving money. Just think how much you could save on the water bill if your not running out to douse the whole garden everyday when it actuality only a few of the plants need that drink.

  7. Spend time in the Garden. If you don't have money to spend then spend time. After all, the more time you spend the quicker you'll notice pests, disease and other problems. And the quicker you spot a problem the more likely you can "nip it in the bud" so to speak.

  8. Be helpful. I've found many benefits to my garden by helping someone else in theirs! Anytime a gardener says, "I'm not feeling well" or "I have to scale back." Offer your services. If you can help the gardener my maintaining their garden while they recover from surgery or illness they'll be grateful. And more likely to share, cuttings, seedlings, etc. If you can't convince the gardener to continue with their large gardens offer to help them with the "heavy" work as they scale back. Then ask if you could adopt some of the plants they no longer have time for. Obviously, I like to be helpful even if I don't get anything in return but gardeners have big hearts so that rarely happens.

  9. Someone else's compost may be your really great garden. Don't be afraid to find plant material in odd places. I got most of my garden material for my backyard bed from a compost pile of a gardening friend. I have another friend who has 5 gallon buckets and garden shovels in the back of her vehicle at all times in case she spots a roadside "must-have".

  10. Don't be afraid to ask. A great compliment will you get you just about anything. Another friend was working in her front yard when a local exerciser called to her. "I really love that plant of yours. It's magnificent...What is it?" They delved into coversation. The next day my friend waited for this exerciser to make her way past the house again. When the runner came along she hurried out and gifted her with a small piece of the plant. They've been good friends ever since.

These are simple money savers that can really change the way you garden and the way your garden looks. Be choosy, Be helpful, Be thrifty, Be kind...and your garden will reap the rewards.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Salamanders eat Slugs?

I was lucky enough to talk with my good friend Apple yesterday on the phone. We mulled over the "Never-ending winter" and the feet of snow surrounding her home. I briefly mentioned how I live on a wind-whipped hill top and how my snow will probably be the first in the area to go away. However, it seemed just mean to talk about my "greener" condition for very long.
Instead the conversation turned to garden pests. In my opinion, snakes are the worst garden pest that there is. After all, there is only one garden pest that can make me leave the garden running and screaming, and quite frankly making a spectacle of myself. However, Apple loves her garden snake because since he's made himself at home under her hosta she has had no more slug damage. (BTW, I will never go near her Hosta again!) I was surprised to hear that she had slugs as my visit to her garden last year revealed lots of beauty and I didn't see a single pest. She then revealed that she has every garden pest imaginable. I was shocked!

We live within a half hour of each other and yet I have never had a pest problem. I've really only seen garden pests in books. Now, I've seen her gardens and we are members of the same garden club. I certainly don't have any more garden knowledge than Apple so what's the difference between her garden and mine?

The only odd thing about my garden is an abundance of salamanders and newts. I've noticed quite a few of the amphibians living in or near my gardens. I've often surprise them when I'm "fixing" the rocks that border my raised beds. But everything I've learned about Salamanders & Newts say they need to live near water. Why are they in my garden then? I have no water features. No swampy area. No bogs. No standing water of any kind. (Although I'm working on that water feature thing~heehee.) So why are they here? And are they my secret weapon to a pest free garden?

After some research (thanks much to NY Falls) last night I have found that salamanders do like to eat slow moving prey like slugs and snails. Never having seen either in my garden though I have to wonder what comes first the slug or the salamander?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bright Ideas for Spring: Annuals!

While we are all in different stages of Spring (some of us have feet of snow and some of us have lovely daffodils) there are still Spring chores that can and should be done NOW. I hear you "Snow" people groaning...Yes, even you have chores to do.

  • Sow hardy annuals in place or in peat pellets/trays indoors. If your lucky enough to have a green garden already... look between your perrenials as a chance to sow some "annual color". If you're unlucky enough to still have snow buy a new annual. Choose an annual that you have never tried before. Feeling outrageous? Choose a color that you have always wanted to try. Build a color scheme for your containers that has never been done before (at least not in your garden).

  • Begin to transfer your large seedlings to they're permanent home. Just remember to watch the forecast closely if your planning to put these seedlings outdoors. One frosty morning can do a lot of damage to these wee little ones. Northern Gardeners: Are your garden containers sitting in the garage or basement waiting impatiently (like you) for spring? Transfer seeds now and move them outdoors when the weather finally co-operates. In the meantime, place the containers around your home indoors. I've found that if I place containers near a lamp with a compact fluorescent bulb (the ones we're all using for energy efficiency anyways) the plants don't need as much "window" time. Just keep your lamp very close to your container and most importantly: Keep it turned ON!

  • Be prepared for frost! You may be past your frost free date or you maybe crossing your fingers and hoping. The best plan includes being prepared. Have garden blankets on hand to cover seedlings when a frost is in the forecast. While the neighbors may think you're crazy now you'll see the benefits later! Northern Gardeners: Remember that indoors your containers need more water because they can lose moisture to your "dry" house. So give your containers and seedlings plenty to drink.

  • Plant a Gift. Okay, so you're garden is done. It's perfect and you don't want to add or try anything but it's winter and you NEED to do some gardening. Why not start a few small containers to give away as gifts at upcoming bridal showers, baby showers, or birthdays. Never know what to give the boss? Aha! Now, you have a gift idea that is both inexpensive, memoriable, and meaningful.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Answers to some Dirty Questions!

Laura from Playing in the Dirt has come up with such a great little Q&A to help us get to know each other's gardening "dirt". I couldn't help but join the fun.

1. Why did you start gardening?
Why is such a hard thing to answer. My mom was a spring bulb person and occasionally planted a veggie garden when I was growing up. I guess I always figured that when I was a "real" grown-up I'd do those things too.

2. Do you remember the first thing you ever planted in a garden?
Daylilies. Not the store bought varieties but rather the bright orange roadside daylilies. I can't imagine ever having a garden without these ferocious and fierce flowers. I love me a plant that can't be killed!

3. Everyone goes through the Crazy Newbie Gardener thing: tell us about one of the silly overzealous things you did then:
Bragged! I was awful. I had this tiny little raised bed that measured 8 foot long by 2 feet wide in front of my deck. Everyday, I would call my mom to tell her the progress of every plant in my "garden". I think back to that tiny garden and can't help but laugh at myself. It was so small and pitiful and I was so very proud of it.

4. Favorite plants: what was your first favorite plant, and is it still your favorite? Do you have favorites that come and go, but one all-time favorite that you've always loved, no matter what?
My very first favorite plant was: Daylilies. Was then. Is now. Will always be. For more of my love affair with daylilies click here.

5. What's your favorite gardening or yardwork chore?
I love the planning, the dreaming and then the one sunny day when hubby says, "Let's get out there!" The kids are usually running around. Offering to help one minute...gone on adventure the next. By the end of the day the yard is littered with garden tools and jackets that have been used and tossed aside. Our new area is transformed but we can't celebrate because we're too tired, too stinky, and we've got to clean up the "debris" before sunset. Early the next morning, hubby and I standing by the window smiling at our accomplishment.

6. And your least favorite?
The weeding! We can put a man on the moon but we can't stop the weed invasion? Something is wrong with the world!

7. If a Magical Garden Genie granted you three wishes right now, what would you wish for?
Wish #1: For everypiece of land I ever need to garden on for the rest of my life to be completely 100% weed free.
Wish #2: To own every tool Hubby and I might ever need. Including the piping I'm going to need for my dream water features and the lumber I might need for my raised beds, benches, trellises, etc.
Wish #3: To have every gardening book that anyone ever recommended to me appear on my bookshelf the very same day.

8. You have ten dollars left to your name, and you get to spend it at a nursery. What do you buy? Drip hose. Without a doubt. You can never have too many drip hoses.

9. Tell us about one thing you learned about gardening in the past year:
The best gift a gardener can get is the friendship of other gardeners. I've learned so much from my "Gardening Friends". And because of that I find that what grows best in my garden is new friendships.

10. Will you be trying anything new this year? A plant you haven't grown before, or a new technique?
Veggies! This is the year. It's been researched. It's been planned. It's been dreamed. Just waiting for my sunny day and for my hubby to say, "Let's get out there."

Raving Lunatic~Please Ignore

I've already admitted that I am a Raving Lunatic today so please feel free to ignore this bit.

The End of the World Manifesto

I woke up this morning to yet another snowy day. The weatherman had predicted five inches yet we had received a foot! I could be upset with the weatherman because if anyone else failed to do his job correctly he would be fired but predicting the weather is not easy. Or so they tell us. Yet, I am not vexed with this man. After all, how can you possibly predict THE END OF THE WORLD!

That's right people! Unbeknownst, to us all, the World is coming to an End! Look around...does the person next to you feel dread at nearing the window? Is there a sense of hopelessness, restlessness, fear, and unease? That is the very cores of our beings shouting out that all is not right with the world. "How long can this continue?" we ask outloud. And quietly from the deepest part of our psyche we hear the answer that we hope is untrue: "Forever."

How long can we ignore the signs? The birds wander aimlessly north then south in a state of fear and confusion! The wildlife has returned to hibernation at a time when they would begin their search for food! The human species emerges from their shelter for the necessities only. These are just a few of the reasons that I am ringing the End of the World Alarm Bell!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

YeeHaw! Let's do the Veggie Two-Step!

Whether your a long time gardener or a first time newbie it's important to know your garden's likes and dislikes. Spring can be an excellent time to re-work your garden plans. A good rotation plan can be a seasonal dance in which crops move around the garden in what I like to call a Veggie Two-Step. But there can be both drawbacks and benefits to rotating your crops.

By rotating your crops annually or even semi-annually you can reduce the number of pathogens and pests that can occur when one species is continually cropped. Crop rotation can also improve a soil's fertility by alternating shallow and deep rooted crops. It can also help with soil erosion and who doesn't want to save their soil?

However, did you know that the crop that was there previously can effect the success of the next crop? It can be very confusing. So where does a newbie veggie gardener like me start? With the very basics, of course. Here is my basic Veggie Two-Step Rotation Chart. I hope you find it useful too.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Matchmakers Guide to Vegetables

I'll admit that I'm a matchmaker at heart. I love to see everything paired off. People. Pets. And now even my plants. I have been intrigued with the idea of Companion Planting ever since a Seeds of Change Newsletter filled me in on it's many wonders. While many people have practiced this form of gardening for many years it is a new concept to me. Yet it is one that I was instantly attracted to. Maybe because I prefer not to use chemicals. I refuse to use any insecticides in my gardening. I have small children who still occasionally put odd items into their mouths. I would be so worried if a leaf that I coated with insecticide in the morning ended up in my 3 year olds mouth in the afternoon. And Companion Planting can reduce the need for such chemicals. Don't believe me?

Leeks: Enemy #1 Onion Fly and Leek Moth.
Carrots: Enemy #1 Carrot Fly.
Here's the Matchmaker Magic: Once paired together the smell of the Leeks repel the Carrot Fly AND the smell of the Carrots repels the Onion and Leek Moth. I told you it was magic! No chemicals necessary. But how do you know how to make a Successful Match? Below I've attached a starter's guide to Matchmaking. While the guide is very basic you might find it helpful when questioning which plants will make a successful match. (Y for yes N for No)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

From Signs of Spring to the Ice Age

As a gardener there is nothing more frustrating than waiting for spring. Spring brings new hopes for greener days and dirtier hands. That's just one reason why I was so excited yesterday when I saw those tiny green shoots pushing through the newly un-snow-covered ground. I had a fleeting thought that soon I would be able to get out into the garden to start the process of spring clean-up. I had visions of adding mulch, of straightening stones, even of weeding! Oh the spring dreams that I had only 24 hours ago...

And now I've been thrust back into the Ice Age!
My poor lilac bushes!

And the newly added trees are bent under the weight of the ice.

Even my one and only "large" tree has been battered and bruised.

I remember that once upon a time it was lush and full...Those were the days!

Why does Old Man Winter mess with my mind this way?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Okay, so maybe I am being a bit dramatic but this the first time I've seen any sign of "garden" in well over 3 months! And it's ALIVE! Could this day get any better? But wait there's more? I don't believe it... Yes it's true signs of life in the greenhouse too!

PS~ My mom is mad at me because she lives in the woods and her gardens look like this:

HeeeHeee! Oh, I mean, jeez that's too bad, Mom! LOL!

I think I've been disinherited!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Spring is Coming!!!

Daffodils may be the first sign of spring for many but up here in the Snow-covered North this is the first sign of spring!

Spotted in the farmer's field that I live across from is a Deer! Pawing through the snow for possible spring greens! I wonder if she found any? Maybe she's just enjoying the balmy 46 degree weather (that is roughly 7 degrees for my Canadian friends). Having a heat wave...A tropical heat wave...

The Best Gardening Advice EVER!

When I was new at gardening I went to a meeting of my garden club distraught because all of these really lovely ladies had extremely lovely gardens...and I had just killed yet another unlucky plant! "What did I do wrong?" I cried. I received lots of gardening advice (which I avidly listened to and then promptly forgot). As the meeting neared it's end a short, cute, elderly woman grabbed hold of my arm. Margaret then proceded to give me the best gardening advice EVER! She said,
"You're a Mom and a Gardener
and you want to be successful at both.
But sometimes you are going to fail.
Which one would you prefer to fail at?"
It was like a weight had been lifted off of me! So what if I couldn't raise flowers and children at the same time. My children were my number one priority and the pretty flowers were just decoration for my children's world. As soon as I let go of the "need to succeed" I became pretty successful. Oh, I still have my weak spots...seeds and the unknown veggie garden but I became much more able to absorb the gardening do's and don'ts. Why is that~I wondered? I think it's because I realized that I didn't need to make a magazine-beautiful garden to be a "true" gardener. Instead, I just had to plant a garden that made me and my loved ones happy. And as we turn our attention to our "First Ever Veggie Garden Spectacular" (okay giving it a fancy name makes the kids get excited about veggies...and the hubby too!) we need a clear cut guide of when and what to do. Leave it to Storey's for yet another pearl of gardening wisdom.
Plant as soon as ground
can be prepared
Plant 1 to 2 weeks before
average date of last frost
Plant on or just after
average date of last frost
New Zealand spinach
snap beans
sweet corn
Very Tender
Plant 2 weeks after
average date of last frost
lima beans

I'm certainly not growing all of these crops on my first attempt but at least I've got a good "guideline" as to what I should be doing...and when I should do it!
Now if it would only stop snowing...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Dirt + Water + Seeds = 3 Smiley Faces

There is magic in the ...DIRT? Yeah! The Jiffy Peat Pellets may be an excellent way to start seeds but if your looking to get your kids hooked on gardening then "inflatable dirt" may be the best money ever spent! It was an awesome science experiment and a weird wonder of the world all at the same time. We got our hands a little dirty. Everyone had a part to play. The youngest (AKA: Wild Child) was in charge of placing the dry pellets into the tray. The middle child (AKA: Bear) added the water. And the oldest (AKA: Garden Girl) planted the seeds. You gotta love teamwork. BTW, if your wondering what I did...jeez...I dunno! What fun we had.
We got a good start today but we need more pellets. If it stops snowing I might run out tomorrow and get some. If I have time and energy. Why would I be running low on time and energy? Well...because today, before we could plant seeds, we needed to make a trip to Urgent Care. Given recent events you might be thinking that Garden Girl had given us another scare but you'd be wrong. No this time it was Bear and after a chest x-ray and some swabbing the doc determined that he has the flu. That's just what I needed! Upon coming home I took the temps of the girls and yes they have it too. Given Garden Girl's condition we need to keep her from having even a slightly above normal temperature as this can trigger another seizure. Like I wasn't worried before! Motrin, Tylenol, Thermometers, and Caffeine are my friends! And as long as I'm talking about friends:
To all of you who have been so wonderful and supportive,
Who have sent your best wishes and your prayers,
Who have given us your friendship during troubled times,
Thank You!