Monday, October 31, 2005

Pacing or Procrastinating

Five days of flirting with first frost. There might have been a frost at my house, but it either happened after I went to work(Thursday, Friday and today) or while I was sleeping in (Saturday and Sunday). I wasn't about to get up and peak outside. My bed is too cozy warm.

However, even with those five days, I still have yet to get more mulch. I just kinda slept in too much on Saturday after a frivolous late night (video games), and I was too drained on Sunday from running around with my friends doing Halloween stuff.

Before the frost warnings arrived, I figured I was just pacing myself. There's an entire season to get moving. And the rainy weekends weren't worth stirring myself. But despite being in the frost zone this weekend, I sloughed it off. Why? It has to be procrastination. There's no other excuse for my laziness. I've got to spur ahead!

Why am I getting down on myself, because I need to do this! So, all of today gets to be spent in an endless pep talk to make sure I get my butt down to the yard after work today.

In other news, Friday I got the bird seed. Ten pound bag this time instead of 5 pounds. And I picked up a bundle of three ears of ornamental Indian maize for my front door. (I'll stop procrastinating and get a picture of it later. *wink*) I'll get to put it out for the birds later this winter.

And I'll leave you with a picture of some berries.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Not Much to Say Today

No frost today. Quite a bit warmer than yesterday, too.

Someone identified this plant for me. Yippee! It's Cleome or Spider Flower or Spider Plant.

I found this mushroom on my front walk. Some critter must of have left it there.

Other than that TGIF, in the extreme.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Close One

Winter has already been threatening the region. Frigid temperatures. A brutal nor'easter feeding off of Wilma. SNOW in the mountains to the West. They got about a foot. Eek! Damp chilly, crank up the heater kind of weather. And temperatures in the 30s this morning. Time to break out the winter jacket. :(

Then to top off the growing sense of Doom (tm), there was a frost warning for this morning. A frost warning! My heater was running all night and my little nose was still cold sticking out of the covers. The trace rainfall on the feeder was iced over, but that was it. The rain bucket had liquid in it, and there was no frost on the grass. So no frost today. Lucky break.

There was, however, that annoying ice film on my car windows. You know the kind that you scrape and five seconds later, the film has reappeared already. *sigh* And I had to fish the emergency scraper out of the glove box. I'm going to have to dig out the other ice scraper from where ever I put it.

And to top all that off, I ran out of bird seed this morning. I've been running low all week, I had figured it was soon last week. But today, I emptied out the container, including the dust. I have to go grocery shopping anyway. Checking my records, I bought that bag on August 22nd. So, it does last. There were a couple missed days and a couple days that extra seed was put out.

I just get a premium songbird mix. I think that just means they put a little bit of sunflower seeds in with the nyger/thistle. There's some cracked corn and a couple other seeds too. It's the bargin basement stuff. The finches, chickadees and doves seem to like it. I never catch the blue jay at the feeder, but that might change as the weather gets colder.

And a photo of one of the maples in my neighborhood. They're really going to start turning after this cold snap.

Yesterday's precipitation: early and late sprinkles -- trace

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


From the want list:

I just discovered this wonderful species this week. Sandy at My Garden posted a stunning picture of a maple leaf on Hebe buxifolia. I fell in love.

Hebe is a entire species of New Zealand native shrubs. And they all have adorable foliage and stunning floral displays. Digging around the Hebe Society's website displays the sheer variety of forms of this species.

It is available in the US and does well in this region. The only thing is it's shrub. I just can't find it in me to buy and plant shrubs while I'm renting. I'm not even that enthused about planting perenials, but must have peonies. Must have. *shifty eyes*

I'm trying not to put down firm roots in this place. I could be out on my rear at any point. I got scarred from the last place doing that. Not that my mobile childhood (because of my father's changing employment) gave me any great security. But that's probably why I crave it. This is the fourth place I've lived since I moved out of my parents home. I'd like to stay here for at least 5 years. Heck, I'd settle for 3 at this point.

But no, I think hebe will end up on my wish list for my house when I get around to being able to afford one. Along with all the other trees and bushes I crave.

For now, I'll make due with the shrubs already planted at The Little Blue House. Like my holly which has berries that are starting to turn red.

Yesterday's precipitation: chilly light rain -- 1.125"

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Plunge into Icy Waters

Well, I decided that October is getting pretty old, so I took the Peony Plunge. I ordered 6 unnamed peonies in a grab bag special from New Peony Farm. There are good reports on the Garden Web forums about it, so far. The New Peony farm has a money back guarantee, if what was sent isn't what you ordered, so these are probably just ones they can't "definitively" identify. You know how it goes, the tag gets smudged or lost. They always get smudged or lost. But the reports are fine healthy peony plants with up to 6 eyes. Those are nice plants from what I've gleaned in my reading. Quite a bargin.

That means I must get moving with the other half of the plan, which is getting a nice deep pot and soil to go in it. I'll have to convince one of my big strong friends to do a Home Depot run with me. They can carry that much dirt to the car and into the house....

Wilma is attacking the region after combining with Alpha and a low coming across from the interior. Unfortunately, the low is a cold low. Icy in fact. We're in the 40s. We're lucky. Up in the mountains of Maryland and West Virginia, they have their first snow fall. Brrrr! More rain through out the day. If it doesn't dry out this weekend, I'm hauling wet mulch. That's all there is too it.

I went around the neighborhood and took some more fall pictures last night. The maples are starting to go now. And the summac is almost done. I also tried to get some berry pictures. I think I'll spread them out a bit this time. So, I'll leave you with this picture of seed pods on a vine.

Yesterday's precipitation: late developing light rain -- 1.25"

Monday, October 24, 2005

What is Left?

So much of the time a plant is in a garden, it is not in bloom. So, you spend an awful lot of time looking at the plant, not the flower. So, it is important to pick plants that have interesting leaves. Something to admire when the flowers are gone. Or different plants with interesting foliage when the other plants no longer have their showy flowers.

Yes, you can spend your time rotating plants like those landscapers do, but that's expensive. Or you can stagger your displays. Which takes a lot of planning, and even then, weather and Mother Nature can foil your plans. But having leaves that put on a show of their own is quite lovely. Even outside of autumn.

One of the earlier plants I noticed, were Japanese maples. Then more recently, I started that long series of polka dot plants. And various foliage plants spotted in the grocery store that never made it into my cart. In fact, it was the leaves that caught my eye with nasturtium. Those cute little round leaves. And the variegation on some of varieties, very cute.

I like plants with interesting leaves. Something to look at before and after the flower. If I had more room (and more permanence), I'd be tucking lots of them into the garden. But I'm going to be lucky to have room for the plan as it is. And I don't dare plan bushes and shrubs and trees. But I'll remain vigilant for leaves with interesting shapes, or colorful variegation. That much I can do.

Edit: Saturday's precipitation: light rain tapering off -- 1/8"

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Assorted Updates

It's a good thing I'm sick. The rain just keeps coming down. The mulch piles would be sopping at the yard.

The berries on the holly out front started to turn this week. It's nice to seem them be redish instead of green.

The iris are still doing fine. No more squirrel holes. The wilting leaves are still wilting, but the fresh leaves have remained fresh. I don't think I killed any while moving them.

I'll need to cut my grass next week. The dandelions are standing out again. I like them, but when they are the size of a dinner plate, they're getting big.

Ants have huge anthills out front. The annoying thing is when you squish them, you get yellow clay all over the bottom of your shoe. It's like you stepped in something else.

My hibiscus isn't happy. I can't tell if it is because I sprayed it with that soap solution, or the flies which are less but still there, or the fact that it has gotten much cooler by that window.

The heat is slowly creaping on for longer and longer. First it was just to take the chill off when getting up. Now, it's to keep the damp chill away. *sigh*

Yesterday's precipitation: intermittant light rain -- 1.5"

Friday, October 21, 2005

Peony Lust

From the want list:

Peony lust is a relatively new thing. As in this summer. I was heavily feeling the lack of flowers over the winter in my old place. I was making up for that by buying cut flowers. In June, I picked up some peonies. They smelled heavenly. And I vowed there and then I needed some in my yard. Despite the ants.

But who wouldn't want the Queen of the Garden Flowers in which "Powerful forces reside in the blossom of a plant that glows in the dark on the night of a full moon. Seeds from certain Peonies emanate a pale light in the darkness. To contain that magic, the roots could only be dug during the night. If one were to disturb a Peony during daylight hours, Woodpeckers would appear and proceed to peck your eyes out."

However, there is one problem with this little obsession. Peonies need to be planted in the fall. To this end, they are only sold in the fall. Why is this a problem? One, I have to buy them now or wait for next year. Two, the bed I want to put them in is in the spot with the amphibian eggs. (Which were looking a little wilted on top last I checked.) Three, all existing beds are already full, or would need a ton of work.

Which leads me glumly to the concept of the great peony experiment. Why glumly? Because peonies are expensive and I dare not risk the peonies I want to such an experiment. Especially given the cost of the experiment. And peonies don't do as well when planted in spring. At least not that year.

So, the experiment, buy a grab bag of peonies. Buy a deep planter or tub. Buy enough decent soil (which will then be placed in the garden). Plant and overwinter in basement by sliding glass door for muted light and slight chill. In March, place entire contraption outside so peonies are subjected to the cold they need. Possibly in shed to protect from freezing. Plant when warm, and hope that they're not all early bloomers.

The question remains, do I go to extraordinary steps to have a chance of peonies next year, or do I just wait. *sigh* Any advice?

Edit:Yesterday's precipitation: scattered light rain -- trace

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Mutant Mint from Mars

Back in the day, I spent a summer working on Long Island. Driving around, I saw a series of the most humongous mint plants I had ever seen. They were straight and 7-8 feet tall! The horrors! Mutants! Which is actually true. They were near a reactor that had an "oopsie" with tritiated water the previous year.

Now, before visions of cartoon purple daisies rising up from the earth and using roots as legs and leaves as hand to come squash humanity are conjured up, let us remember that the true threat does not come from atomic zombie mint. No, mint is more likely to sufficate you, or more accurately, your garden.

Mint is a spreading plant, like several other herbs. In fact, in some locations, thyme is used as an alternative to grass. Herbs like to take over gardens. And mint is a prime example. Not only does it send out runners and eagerly reseed, but when the stalks get too tall and fall over, they put down new roots.

Several years ago, after that summer on Long Island and when I was still living at home, my dad let me have a small patch for an herb garden in an area that didn't grow much of anything. So, I picked up a pot of oregano, which behaved itself. And I splurged and bought a "fancy" pot of chocolate mint. $2.49, big spender there. I think the thought behind it was as cheap, natural breath freshner. The mint spread. The mint came back the next year, and the following years. My dad pulled out of the ground constantly as it reseeded endlessly. Finally, my dad gave up and is now using it as ground cover around his young spruce trees.

So, every time I think about planting decorative herbs, I remember that mint plant. The moral. Be very, very careful when you plant herbs. You might end up with more than you could ever use...

True story about radiation and gardens: My mom still likes to tell about the summer after the accident at Three Mile Island nuclear plant. The flowers were bigger and showier and the most brilliant display ever.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

More Pictures from the Wetlands

I took it easy last night. I only watered the rhizome bed. Need to keep the transplants moist. The squirrels seemed to leave the bed alone for the most part. There was only one hole, and that was at the edge of the garden. The squirrels didn't disturb any of the plants.

Fall has definitely arrived. It was flirting with 80 degrees yesterday afternoon. But this morning, my thermometer read 48 degrees. Brrr. The first frost will probably occur in the next 3 weeks. I'll have to gear up my mulching, if I ever get healthy. It is good news in a way, since a frost will spur the trees along for a nice autumn display. There aren't that many leaves changing around my place. It's still green and lush.

There are just a few scattered leaves that are rushing ahead of the display. And even these have bits of green on them. I found these two on my deck.

But there is one tree trying to put forth a display. Or rather two. The more showy one was in somebody's yard, so I didn't get a picture.

While the leaves might not be showing, that doesn't meant that the trees are that dull.

One-Eyed Maple

And then there are the seed poddlings on this tree.

I'll have to see about getting some more pictures. In the afternoon light. Or at least when it's overcast. Colors photograph better in indirect light. I'd better get out before the birds get the berries.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Rhizome Home

Well, I meant for today to be part two of backyard wetlands pictures. However, I did something utterly stupid yesterday, despite running what was later discovered to be a low grade fever, I tackled the irises under the stairs.

It was pretty ratty, even after I was double fisting weeds a couple weeks ago.

I thought that there were daylilies or lilies of some sort in there. I've changed my mind. Unless someone knows of a lily that has a rhizome instead of a bulb, these are all bearded iris. Everything I dug up was a rhizome. Unless there were some I missed. Which is possible under those hostas.

There must have been a lot of reseeding going on too. I found lots of babies that were far away from the main plants. And nearly every rhizome had a little fan of leaves on it. I didn't think they resprouted this late in the season. Unless they had mowed the area before moving out. That might have prompted new leaves.

I was sweating by the time I dug all those rhizomes out. I found several earthworms, including a big daddy nightcrawler. There were also innumerable pillbugs, a few things that looked like mealworms but not, a pupa of some kind, and what looked like a baby purple silverfish. So, despite being yellow clay, it's healthy soil. I added a mixture of reed-sedge peat, sphagnum peat moss, perlite, and washed sand. I'm not happy about the perlite in the garden, but this time a year you can't be picky.

I let the rhizomes sit out and dry for a couple hours. I had overheated enough. And there were a lot of them. For reference, that's a 39 gallon lawn and leaf garbage bag they're sitting on. Everything from old vetern rhizomes to tiny babies.

I admit freely, that I didn't follow any spacing recommendations when I stuck them in the ground. First reason, I hadn't prepared enough garden. Second reason, some were babies and I didn't expect them to do much next year. Third reason, I felt like it. I like crowded displays.

I had thought about adding a ground cover like nasturium to the bed next year. I'm debating that now. There was a lot of periwinkle running through the iris rhizomes, especially those actually in the hostas. And when I say through, I mean the runners were underneath the rhizome and the roots were intermingled. It was a colassal pain to separate them. Not even the mock strawberries were that big a pain.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Picture Days

This is going to be a photo intensive post. I'm off today and not really feeling healthy enough to do anything strenuous. So, after the 50th time of a little mystery pink flower winking at me from out back, I decided to go take some pictures and explore.

This is the little corpse of trees and bushes and other wild weeds behind my fenced in back yard.

This is the little pink flower that was winking at me. I thought it might have been a phlox until I got close enough to see it. I'll have to look it up.

Since I was out, I decided to take a bit of a walk and take some more pictures of what was out there. There were some interesting foliage plants.

There was another patch of that pink flower further down. I snagged some seeds and sprinkled them in one of the hosta beds.

I think this is a Joe Pye's Weed. I'm not sure. It just looks like butterflies would love it, if it wasn't in the process of going to seed.

I'll close out this post with some pictures of the creek that feeds this little "wetlands"/weed patch.

Friday, October 14, 2005


From my want list:

I am not a big fan of vegetables. I blame my father. He didn't like certain kinds of cooked vegetables, so we never had them at the table. And it was hard enough to get us kids to eat meatloaf (which had onion soup packets in it) or fish, which my dad did like, to force salads on us. I however adore the basics: corn, potatoes and tomato paste. I'll eat raw mushrooms, if they're provided, but they're usually not. Or I'll much the occasional leafy green thing, but that's a leaf here and there, not a salad of them.

Corn is hard to grow in a little bit of space and tomato plants are so finicky. Potatoes on the other hand are relatively easy to grow. I know because my dad, in a fit of curiosity tucked some eyes from potatoes that had been kept a bit too long into the ground and we got a decent potato crop. The experiment wasn't repeated.

But it strikes me that these would be easy enough to grow in a container. Especially since the container would also corral the tubers so that it would be easy to harvest them. A little research on the web, such as here or over here, reveals that they are, in fact, container friendly. Although, it should be a washtub sized container or a barrel container. Potatoes need room to grow. Most sites recommend planting seed potatoes, since they are certified free of disease and pests, but also because most supermarket potatoes are treated with a growth retardant. I guess nobody wants to buy potatoes with roots growing out of the eyes.

For starting seed potatoes, or any potato, place them somewhere warm in the house where they will get lots of light and warmth. After they start sprouting, cut them so that there are a couple eyes and a fair bit of starchy middle in a chunk. Let it sit and get a skin on the meat of the potato. Then placing 4-6 inches of dirt in the container, then placing the seed potatoes into the dirt, cut side down. Then mounding another 3-4 inches of dirt above that. If you plan to enrich the soil with organics, place it beneath the seed potatoes. It will burn your tender young plants otherwise.

After your potatoes sprout, add another 3-4 inches or let it grow out about 8 inches and bury the half of the stalk. The trick to potatoes is that they grow the tubers between the seed and the top of the soil, so adding more soil increases the harvest. Just don't bury too many of the leaves, the plant still needs light to have the energy to make nice big tubers. And make sure that the little baby tubers don't stick out of the soil. This can lead to them turning green and producing lots of toxins. If you see any peeping out of the soil, mound more dirt on to them.

Make sure you keep your potatoes moist. Not sopping, but make sure they don't dry out. And be careful not to let the leaves stay wet. That weakens the plant and makes it suseptable to disease. Water up until the leaves die back, then cease watering to let the tubers "mature" for harvesting.

Harvest can begin as early as 3 weeks after the flowers die for small "new" potatoes. Three weeks after the leaves die is a better choice for bigger potatoes. Use caution when digging up potatoes so you don't bruise or cut them with your spade. Or just use your hands to sift that dirt. Let the harvested potatoes dry out for a day or two, either on the ground next to the plant, or in the basement.

Then throw the dirt from the container into your garden. Don't reuse it for potatoes later. Or before letting it age for three years. Take the time to let potato specific diseases and pests die off or leave that soil.

An interesting note, is that potatoes, like tomatoes, are part of the nightshade family and can be poisonous. So, if your potatoes start looking green, pitch them.

Oh, and a side note: why do I restate information from websites? One, I want it in my blog so I can find it easy. Two, I don't trust the websites, especially from news outlets to remain up till I need them. I had a bad experience with CNN removing a nice sunflower article I wanted. Not to mention all the talk of domain name registration lapsing and the site disappearing. That happens too. So I try and "save" the information where I control its existance.

Yesterday's precipitation: scattered sprinkles -- trace

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Iris Care

Well, if it ever stops raining enough, so that buying a bag of compost isn't a back breaking task, I'll take care of those iris and day lilies this week/weekend.

Iris are great early summer bloomers and the Japanese and Siberian varieties are great additions to any water features. Judging by the leaves in my hostas, I've got bearded iris. I actually like bearded iris. My dad would find tons of these bulbs at the county yard and bring them home because my mom loves them. Their yard is a multitude of different colors of bearded iris. They are a tad finicky and my dad's lost some.

According to Breck's website, Bearded Iris prefer sunny spots, but don't mind shade. The Dutch varieties don't like standing water and prefer well draining soils. Although, the soil should be kept moist when the iris is getting ready to bloom. This bulb likes air though, and prefers to be planted at the surface, or just under it. It is recommended to mulch the bulbs in winter to protect them from ground heaving. Bearded Iris prefer being spaced out 8-10". However, they can tolerate being placed together with the fan of leaves pointed outward for a more showy planting. Just give the bulbs room to spread.

Be careful though, if iris clumps become too crowded, the blooms may suffer. The clumps should be divided in late summer, about a month after the plant is finished blooming. First, lift the rhizome out of the dirt. Then with a sharp knife, cut the younger sections away from the older, more central rhizome. The babies can be replanted immediately, although a day in the sun won't hurt anything and may help the iris in the long run. Brecks recommends throwing away the center rhizome if there isn't new buds coming off it, counciling that that plant is past its prime and probably won't flower again. I suspect that's for the next year, not the year you divide it, though. I'd rather err on the side of caution and give the plant another year to gain energy. Besides, unlike Brecks, I'm not trying to sell irises every year. *wink* And I don't need the best display on the block. I think that honor goes to the vegetable jungle two houses down.

Yesterday's precipitation: intermittent light rain -- trace

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Household Chores

Kept inside by the damp greyness yesterday, I still did a few plant chores. First, I ripped up a few sprigs of periwinkle/creeping myrtle from the weed bed underneath the stairs. I like it there, but it's hidden beneath everything else. Then I took those sprigs inside and planted them into the vivarium. Zeppe needs something green aside from the foliage in pots. And I didn't kill the trial sprigs of periwinkle, unlike the trial sprigs of mock strawberries. I'm just hoping it will grow.

The other thing was to pay some attention to my houseplants. I discovered that the philodendron has been over-watered. I poured out the excess water and will try not to repeat that problem. I still need to repot it. But I need to buy a pot for it. I want a longer one, so it will still fit on the ledge of the vivarium.

The other issue was little white flies on the hibiscus. Which forced a decision for my spray bottle. I had been debating what to use as an insect deterrent, soap or cayenne peppers. Since I still haven't gotten around to buying cayenne powder, I grabbed the soap. Hopefully that will take care of the bugs. I'll have to check again after work.

What I need to do is find a good book or website detailing various garden and indoor pests and what to spray them with. I know of a good alternative insecticide page. I'd like not to use chemicals near my turtles. The only problem with this page, is that it doesn't really identify the bugs. Granted, most have "descriptive" names, but that doesn't really help with identifying the pest, so I can pick the best remedy. There's bound to be something out there.

Yesterday's precipitation: scattered light showers -- trace

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Little Off of the Side

Yesterday, I hand trimmed the worst of the grass from the front steps. You know, those patches that you just can't reach with the lawn mower. I took my hand trimmer and went after them. It looks a little better. Doesn't help that the grass is already growing after all of that rain.

Then I went to tackle the back yard beside the fence. There was a lot of long grass between the fence posts. Fortunately, a lot of it fell over with the rain, which made it a little easier. What wasn't standing, didn't need trimmed. *insert mad laugh* Let's just say, I gave my hips a workout as I tried to squat and trim.

I chased dozens of little brown hunting spiders in front of me. It didn't worry me, since I was wearing my garden gloves. Spider bites itch more than mosquitoes for me. I'd have been more wary without my goat skin gloves. Hooray for leather!

Down about where the birdbath garden will be, I found some amphibian eggs tucked up against the fence post. This is a bad sign. Either that momma amphibian is really smart or is really dumb. I'm hoping she's really dumb. Amphibians spend the first part of their life in water, meaning ponds. That area is dry. The problem comes in if she's really smart. A lot of momma amphibians will put their eggs where vernal ponds will exist. Vernal ponds being those areas of standing water that occur in spring with the snow melt. (Although, most eggs are laid in spring when the vernal ponds are there.) The eggs don't look like they have gone bad.

Which means that area could be underwater come spring. *sigh* I'm really going to have to build up a bed for the birdbath garden. Excluding the area with the eggs. I covered the eggs back up and put some more grass over them. I'd like tadpoles or whatever baby salamanders are called. Although, I don't plan on having a habitat for them the following year.

But aside from that, I got the grass trimmed. My Zeppe boy was out and roaming the yard while I was trimming. Exciting adventure! Which won't be repeated today. It's so drippy. I had planned to either attend to the dying hostas or move the lilies and iris which are starting to brown or get load after load of mulch and perhaps a compost bin while visiting a local garden. But it's still dripping and the forecast calls for it to pick up later today. So, I guess that's more a to do list for later in the week and next weekend. I guess more quilting is in order for today.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Rain Check

My rain gauge isn't anything fancy. I bought a bathroom trash can and stuck it outside. Then I use a little plastic ruler to measure it. I wanted a bucket, but they had already sold out their stock at the end of the season. And all of the "indoor cleaning" buckets have uneven bottoms.

I wouldn't normally mistreat my Fiskar's ruler like that, but the nearly six inches by Saturday morning needed something a bit longer. I need to go buy something better, too bad I also missed the back to school sales. The almost two inches this morning was more in line for my little ruler.

And some pictures of rain on the deck.

The birds were really hungry today.

Yesterday's precipitation: steady rain tapering off in the afternoon -- 1.9375

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Biblical Proportions

I think I overdid it when I did my rain dance. Since the rain started, I've gotten over seven inches of rain! It's been a steady soaking rain, so there doesn't seem to be much damage or flooding here. Even the ponding has been kept to a minimum. The parking lot/street seems to have good drainage. All of the grass is very soggy, but that's just the sheer amount of rain. My front walk is having a little bit of trouble though. The last bit of the steps is lower than the rest and has been collecting water.

The hostas under the deck seem to be suffering drainage problems as well. I think it's just because that bed is isolated. I thought that it was the pipe behind them, but that's the overflow from the bathrooms, so that's not contributing water. If rain were more reliable, I could grow siberian iris here, it seems that boggy. I guess the hostas don't mind.

The run off from the rain spouts will be a problem though. I already knew that. There is a little ravine where the spout discharges. It doesn't photograph well, and aside from making it hard to mow, there's no problem with it. But the whole area along the fence is boggy today. Including at the foot of the yard where the birdbath garden is going to go in. I'll have to mound that high over the coming weeks. I've got all winter really to haul mulch. Current order of business in the mulch department is the beds I already have, not the ones I will have.

Still more rain on the way. This system till this evening, and then chance of showers through Monday. I guess I'll garden on Tuesday, if it's dry enough. More rain after that. At the very least, I can trim the grass around the fence.

Yesterday's precipitation: steady rain with heavier bands -- 5.875"

Friday, October 07, 2005

Storm's a'Coming

I read an anecdote on the web about how you can tell if a storm or bad weather is coming by the acorns on the oak trees. Basically, squirrels sense the bad weather and strip the tree of acorns.

That certainly seems true around here. Over the weekend, there were tons of acorns in the trees and on the ground. As recently as Wednesday night, the crown of the walnut tree was bent over from the weight of the walnuts. Last night, the acorns were missing and the walnut tree was standing upright again. Not to mention some squirrel had sat in my lantana pot, breaking some of the stems, and dug two holes!

Today is the storm. The remnants of Tammy and a cold front coming across the mountains have met up and are going to give plenty of rain to end our mini-drought. They're calling for at least 3 inches and there are flash flood warnings all across the region into the weekend.

With this rain, most of the nuts "stored" on the trees are bound to come down and wash into gullies and storm grates. So, it is smart of the squirrels to start tucking it away. However, it would make more sense if those squirrels could actually remember where they planted their caches. What good is stored food if you can't find it again?

I don't mind them tearing up the beds. I don't even try to fight them on the bird feeder. Although, I think the birds do that, if there's anything left after the birds descend. And the neighbors put out peanuts for them. Which I only mind when the squirrels throw the shells all over my yard making it a pain to mow. I do mind them tearing up my containers. Those plants have a hard enough time at the end of the growing season and being brought inside when the temperature drops. (They're in permanently now.)

In the end, I am just happy by the squirrels forecasting a good soaker. That means I can stop doing my raindance.

Yesterday's precipitation: scattered sprinkles early, scattered light rain in the evening -- 1/16"

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Making Aggie Cry

There are two choices to get from my back yard to my front yard, I either go to the end of the row with lower numbers or higher numbers. The higher number side, has several trees including a pine tree with exposed roots. This makes it extremely difficult to roll my lawnmower that way. The side with the lower numbers has no trees, although a steeper hill. I can do steeper hills. *wink*

So, I was a good girl last night and mowed my front lawn. I was rewarded for this. How was I rewarded? I found a toad in my front yard. I named it Agamemnon, or Aggie for short. It kinda developed from the toad at my parents' place being named Homer. Which given my ability to pick names, means that Aggie is a girl. I disturbed Aggie with my mowing and I snatched her up and took her in the house and put her in the turtle vivarium until I could photograph her and went out and continued mowing.

I think she's an American Toad, however, my expert herp identifier hasn't gotten back to me yet. Aggie is an adorable little toad, regardless. Unfortunately, she was also very frightened by these bizarre events. She was actually crying when I handled her. And panting in distress. I kept the photos to a minimum and put her back outside under the holly bush. Poor girl, I wish I had had some crickets or earthworms or mealworms to feed her to show that I was friendly.

After I downloaded the pictures, I went back to check on Aggie. She had already made her getaway. But while I was there, I discovered why my grass on the hydrangea side of the garden grows so fast and stays so green. That neighbor waters her lawn. I've got fringe benefits, I guess. I can't water my front lawn, I don't have a spicket out front.

If Aggie actually lives in my yard, she lives under my front step. There are the usual holes underneath the concrete from where the ground settles away from it. Which means that I won't bother doing anything to them. I will try and get a toad abode for her, and maybe set out a pot saucer with some water for her. I know, I know, overboard, but I want to take care of her and make her welcome. Especially after making her cry.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Lily care

I've got that bedraggled lily bed by the side of my deck stairs. Or is that under them? Either way, I need to dig up those bulbs and replant them in an orderly fashion. The lilies need dividing and removed from underneath the hostas. However, the plants are still healthy, which makes me loathe to do it. I need to do it soon, first frost is coming. Maybe the tops will go brown before then...

I wouldn't have chosen daylilies for the spot, except maybe Designer Daylily Custard Candy that Burpee's been hawking. Tasty. But as I was saying, lilies aren't really my thing. I enjoy the flowers, but the leaves are messy and annoying the rest of the summer. I'd have gone with iris if I wanted a bloomer like that. There are a few iris in that spot. So, I guess it works.

Now, while I'm procrastinating digging up the lily bed, I did some research on the care of lilies. Or daylilies rather. I found a good page on Breck's site. The spot does have a bit of a slope, and I haven't seen enough rain to tell how it drains, yet. There is also plenty of sun, so that should keep them happy, especially if I provide a better alternative to shading the roots than growing IN the hostas. Maybe nasturtium or that periwinkle/creeping myrtle which is already under the stairs in that excedingly weedy area.

I'm still debating with myself as to whether or not I want to improve the soil, or at least put down some real soil. They seem to be growing fine in the clay. They're making lots of little lilies, at any rate. Which is one of the reasons why I'm undertaking this little adventure. If I want to improve the soil, I'll have to buy soil. That's money I'd rather not spend. But I do need some more soil for the vivarium, so it won't go to waste. I guess I'll price a bag at Walmart and make the decision then. Basically, I've got till the ground freezes to move them. Or wait till next Spring. But that's a bit long to wait. I'd rather have it prepared this Fall. I've got a class in the Spring, and there are so many seeds and annuals to prepare and plant and weeds to keep after, so the more I have done now, the better.

I do need to mulch them after I put them in, so more trips to the mulch pile. I wish I could haul more home at a time. But small car and small bins kinda squash that idea. I'll also need to plant them so that there's about an inch of soil above the tuber. Hopefully it won't all wash away. And the site says to fertilize after peak blooms, well, I don't think that's going to happen, unless I get some really good compost going. Which reminds me, I need to see about getting a compost container on Tuesday when I'm off....

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Hide the Ugly

Remember the dreaded cable I wrote about?

This is a before shot of the area we have to work with.

Last night, I started to do something about it. I took the grass clippings that were still in the lawn mower and started to lay them down where the new lily tuft bed will be. Then I mowed the back yard to get more grass clippings. I should have started this when I had all those bins of grass clippings. Oh, well.

After I was done mowing for the day and used up all the grass clippings I produced, I took what was left of my mulch and created a line at the edge of what the garden is going to be. Then with the remainder, I put it over what grass clippings I could. It's not that wide of a garden, but that's not the point. It's just supposed to be an edging of lily tufts and probably pansies, petunias and possibly marigolds. We'll see which low plants get tucked in there. Maybe those wave petunias, or possibly the trailing ones, hmmm.

This is how it looks after I quit for the day.

On the schedule for tomorrow is harvesting more grass clippings. And I'll have to pencil in a mulch run after work this week, in addition to Saturday morning. I'm a bit distracted this week, I got a new quilt frame and want to play with that inside. Distractions, distractions. And the rain keeps getting pushed further off into the forecast, so I don't have that excuse to stay in. Bummer.

Monday, October 03, 2005


I was the girl who would sit in the dirt to garden. Or lay down to get at dirt level. I'd dig and have a good time playing in the dirt. Mind, this was the garden I was allowed to play in. Later, I'd lay on a tarp to dig holes for pansies and the like.

I was the girl who would go out into the garden in a pretty yellow outfit and get it dirty. Then when my mom would yell at me for getting my pretty yellow outfit dirty, I would get up, go into the house, change and go back to playing in the garden. (Which is why they later convinced me that tarps were fun to sit/lay on while gardening.)

I was the girl who would go inside several times during gardening and clean up. I'd get my hands dirty, then go clean them, then feel like going out and getting them dirty again.

And today, I find myself sitting down on the ground to do any gardening. Only now, it's because I destroyed my knees in gym class, so that sitting is easier than kneeling or crouching.

And today, I find myself choosing old or less liked colored shirts to wear outside for gardening, first. Although, they tend to be light colored shirts, like beige or oatmeal.

And today, I still find myself washing my hands when I think I'm done with gardening to get the dirt and plant stains off. And then get lured back outside. I also find myself teasing bits of dirt and mulch out of my nails after I finish. Sometimes for days at a time. Even when I bother to wear my gloves.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Tote That Mulch

So, I hauled enough mulch this morning to finish off the front beds. Not bad considering that only two little blue containers fit in my car at a time. I say little, in the way that they're half the size of a regular garbage can you put out to the curb. Then again, I can actually lift them and walk a distance when they're filled with wet grass, so I'm not sure what I'm complaining about, other than the size of my car.

Dry mulch on a dry day with dry sinuses is not fun either. I've got a ton of dust up my nose and no way to clear it out. No rain in the immediate forecast. Well, it will give me enough time to prep the back for the new beds, and trim the grass again. Too bad I pick up my new quilt frame from the UPS facility Monday afternoon. That will set me back even more.

But back to the front bed. It took a little bit of doing. I had to get around all those tall bushes, and under all those low growing, spreading plants. I didn't want to kill the ground cover just yet, so I pulled a few sprigs out from under the mulch. Mulching around the holly bush was definitely not fun. There are quite a few leaves with the normal holly sharpness on them.