Getting there . . .

As you can tell from my previous post, Mother Nature has been keeping all of the gardeners in Southwest Wisconsin guessing.
It is probably safe to say that the cold weather crops from the hardy gardeners are in. However, even the almanac’s date of the last frost in this area, May 8th, may be pushing it. The high will be 72 degrees fahrenheit today but my seedlings are not hardened off and nowhere near ready to plant yet.

Strawberry and raspberry plants waiting to be put in.

Strawberry and raspberry plants waiting to be put in.

Green Pepper and Tomato seedlings.

Green Pepper and Tomato seedlings.

Instead I turned my attention to weeding the foundation gardens in the front yard. Unfortunately, this was a bigger job than it should have been because I wasn’t able to clean them out last fall. Under the watchful eye of my “boys” and four wheelbarrow loads later I was able to find the hosta plants I knew had been there last year.
Mack and Rascal are always with me when I'm working in the yard.

Mack and Rascal are always with me when I’m working in the yard.

Two hosta plants and some sad looking weigela bushes survived the winter and the weeds that were choking them.

Two hosta plants and some sad looking weigela bushes survived the winter and the weeds that were choking them.

The knock-out roses I had there last year just couldn’t survive the afternoon western exposure so I am turning my thoughts toward a combination of dahlias, cosmos, Yarrow, Gerbera Daisys and portulaca plantings for this season.

In the rest of the yard, I was pleasantly surprised to see an old apple tree with blossoms on it. Having seen what it looked like at the end of apple season last year, I was figuring I would have to put it on my do it list to be chopped down. And after waiting 3 years, my lilac bush has some beautiful flowers on it. (Too bad this website doesn’t have a smell button. 😉 )


Beautiful blooms this year.

Beautiful blooms this year.

As I said at the beginning, Mother Nature sure likes to keep me guessing. That’s what makes gardening so satisfying

Happy Gardening.

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A Waiting Game

Usually I start my seeds in late February so that they have a chance to grow a hardy stem and hold their own when I harden them off outside. This year I was busy with other things and missed my February deadline. I decided that I would just get the plants at the nursery instead, but a friend of mine encouraged me to start the seeds late. Evidently he knew something I didn’t about this year’s Wisconsin spring weather.

Two weeks ago it was in the 70’s. People were out in their yards raking the dead leaves and cleaning out garden beds in preparation for the new plants to be put in. Joggers were out in shorts and some of my neighbors pulled their deck furniture from the storage shed, hosed it off and put it out.

Then came the chill. The nights went down into the mid 20’s and the highs were struggling to meet 45. Each day I would go down to my basement where my seedlings were warm and cozy under a fluorescent lamp. I would turn them each week to keep the stems straight and ready for transplant.

Today it is raining and the temps have barely made it into the low 40’s. As much as I would love to put the seedlings little feet into some prepared soil, I know they are better off remaining in the basement. According to the almanac our last expected frost is May 10th. So I will sit on my hands another couple of weeks and continue to wait until the time is right.

In the meantime I am keeping myself busy by re-potting my indoor houseplants – a chore which usually waits until after I have the outside gardens planted. I guess the next chore will be to change the spark plugs on the rototiller and mower. When Mother Nature finally starts the outdoor growing season weather, I want to be ready !!

Happy Gardening

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Stained Glass Works By Rochelle

I have been making stepping stones with glass inlaid designs for close to 12 years now. In the last few years many people have asked me if I would ever consider making these and selling them. They can be rather time consuming – some of them have over 100 glass pieces in each stone.

I have gifted many of these concrete creations to friends and families. I started out using patterns but in the last 5 years or so, I get my ideas from magazines or suggestions from the people requesting the stones. They are a beautiful addition to flower gardens. When properly placed in the gardens you can step on them to get to your flowers without damaging the soil around the plants.

If you go to my facebook page, Rochelle Rochelle, and then click on the Stained Glass Works By Rochelle Page, you can see some of the 70-some stones I have made over the years. I do not have a website but check it out if you like. There is contact information there should you have any questions.

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Steady As She Goes

I have noticed over the years that no matter what is going on in my life – career, health, family and social time, the garden represents a “constant” in my life.

The garden doesn’t know that there are work deadlines approaching or that it is time for those often dreaded annual series of medical tests.
It doesn’t feel anxiety when a mother watches her child go from experiencing the joy and togetherness of snack and nap time at the Day Care or play dates, to the stresses and sometimes cruel alienation which can come when striving to “fit in” with the middle school crowd.
It doesn’t deal with the uncertainty when a recently divorced or widowed individual is contemplating getting back into the “social” scene and the sometimes uncomfortable feelings that go along with it.

The gardens in our lives have a methodical regularity about them.
There is Spring when the plants come out of a well-deserved rest with renewed vigor and strength. Their newly formed buds are a herald of the beautiful colors and textures that are about to unfold. The anticipation brought on by the seed catalogs that we have paged through during the cold and dreary Winter months that reward us with seedlings – longing to put their feet into the soil outside.
Summer when the fruits of our labor reward us with bright colored flowers, textures to test the imagination and freshly picked fruits and vegetables that truly nurture both our bodies and our souls. Fresh air, labor that gives back more than it receives and that feeling of true accomplishment.
Autumn when the colors of vibrant reds, oranges and yellows signal a slightly different set of plant families who thrive in the cooler weather and shortened days. A chance to preserve and enjoy the harvest of late summer and early fall when soon the ground will freeze and begin its rest for the next season.

Perhaps it would be best when our human lives become too busy, too anxious and too stressful to remember Mother Nature’s rules. There is always time for growth; for labor; for appreciation and for rest in our lives. We just need to learn how to find it.

Here’s hoping you find your “constant”.

Happy Gardening.

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Mother Nature vs. Me

This year has been a very difficult year for gardening so far. I didn’t get my seeds started until the end of March instead of the beginning of February. The long, cold spring has made it difficult to get plants into the ground without risking frost after planting. Then, once I got the plants in the rains came and came and came. At this point, the plants are in but are overwatered. A few good days of sun and wind will help tremendously.

I have tried something new this year. I planted sunflowers and according to the packet they will grow to be some 12 feet in height. Their seeds make great snacks and I love the way their heads follow the sun from sun up to sundown. They seem to be doing very well despite the soggy bed they are in.

Each day for the last seven I have looked at the garden from afar. There is no way to get into it to do any work and the beautiful red strawberries are just waiting for me to harvest. i am afraid by the time I get to them they will be mush instead. I had visions of making strawberry jam to have during the cold winter months, but now I don’t know how many more crops I can get.

Since I have a really hard time sitting still, I spent the last few days in my basement making garden stepping stones. These stones will be numbers 61 and 62 since I started making them some 8 years ago. Most of my friends and family have at least one or more in their yards.020


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A Season Like No other

Here it is – the day after taxes are due. Yesterday morning we woke up to a dusting of snow on our dreary brown lawn. By mid-afternoon the snow was gone and today while letting the dogs out I saw a beautiful green start for our lawn. Against the foundation of the house, my lillies are starting to pull up out of the soil. Not sure if I should uncover my roses as yet, since the temperature is still dipping into the 20’s during the night.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, I should be planting seed potatoes in another 2 days – however at this point, I’m not sure I could get my tiller through the soil, so that may have to wait some.

I got busy with other projects and missed my mid-February seed starting date. However, in talking to the local gardening center, they encouraged me to start from seed anyway. Not knowing what this month and next will bring, I decided to take them up on it.

I have purchased a large rectangular plastic box in which I will put old oven cooling racks in the bottom and fill my peat pots with potting soil and an array of seeds to plant. I found a 36″ Sunflower seed packet that will work perfectly with my one-year old grandson. I’m anxious to start him learning about soil, seeds, and the generous bounty to be had from spending a little time in the garden with his Mother and Grandmother.

As any gardener can tell you no two gardening seasons are the same. I KNOW this will be the case this year. I love learning new things and so I look forward to the challenge.

Happy Gardening!

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So Glad I’m a Gardener

We are under a Winter Storm Warning with ice, 4-7 inches of snow and high winds expected during the next 24 hour period. I have started receiving my garden seed catalogs in the mail and of course am making plans for the season to come. Next week I will be starting my tomato, pepper and broccoli plants indoors.

Living out in the country as I do, I always try to pre-plan for this time of year. I put away 75 quarts of canned tomatoes, tomato salsa and spaghetti sauce for this purpose. I also put up applesauce and apple pie filling – around 30 quarts. There is nothing that tastes as good as these farm fresh ingredients in the recipes. But I do have a concern that will need to be addressed very soon.

Despite having had a good crop of tomatoes, peppers and onions, I also ended the season on a negative note. There was a massive infestation of slugs and I was not able to treat the soil before Mother Nature tucked the garden in with a thick white blanket of snow. I know there is a good possibility that these voracious critters could have wintered over. I will be researching like crazy to see what can be done to prevent a “second coming”.

I understand that the gardener’s creed is to plant enough for all God’s creatures, but I’m not willing to sacrifice the entire crop to them this year.

I am in Zone 3 so if anyone has any suggestions I’m all ears !!

Take Care

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Giving the garden a rest

Two nights ago we had our first hard frost which was very close to the Farmer’s Almanac prediction for Zone 3 where I live. The day before I picked all the remaining tomatoes. Seventeen quarts later I had put up the last of the harvest for 2013. In my picking there were some green ones which made wonderful Fried Green Tomatoes for dinner.

Today I will be cleaning out the dead vines, A-frames and other vegetable supports. Because of an infestation of slugs late in the season, we have decided to burn the 30 foot round garden in the hope that these ravenous critters and any other possible soil-born diseases don’t winter over. Then the garden can rest for 6 months. I usually start my seeds indoors in February but I won’t put them into the garden until late April to May. This 6-month period gives me a chance to evaluate the soil and to do a bit of rotation on the planting sections for the 2014 garden.

In the meantime I traveled to Gays Mills, Wisconsin. Gays Mills is an area of Wisconsin where apple orchards, cranberry bogs and everything to do with apples abound. My favorite orchard in that region is a place called Sunrise Orchard. Check out the website and see what you think! I came back with 1/2 bushel of McIntosh apples. Apple crisp, apple pie, apple cake and apple sauce are all on the agenda for this weekend. There is nothing more wonderful than bringing out the homemade applesauce in February when the mercury dips to -10 degrees Fahrenheit here. These apples are gorgeous and very flavorful. Each apple is 4-5″ in diameter so I can expect to have 20-25 apples in a 1/2 bushel.

There will definitely be no need for scented candles today. The house is already filling up with a rich apple/cinnamon smell which will linger for several days.

Happy Canning!!

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Belly up to the bar, boys !!

As I said in my last post, we have been experiencing an abnormally wet season. This has given me quite a few new issues to deal with in the past 3 weeks. Almost overnight, my tomato plants were attacked by slugs. I had thought at first that it must have been a fungus caused by both the wet spring and summer and the fact that I hadn’t had a chance to trim back the non-producing shoots causing a blockage in airflow around the plants and fruit.

September 27, 2013 001However, a closer look revealed that many of the fruits had been attached from the bottom. Holes in the bottoms of the plants turned into a tunnel of nutrients for these little critters and I had to find a way to get rid of them – and fast. The vegetables that I grow during the summer months here in the Midwest are used for salads, spaghetti sauce, salsa and in cooking immediately, but more importantly I usually put up between 50 and 75 quarts of tomatoes and 25 pints of salsa. This will last the Fall, Winter, and maybe the following Spring for my family.

A family member told me that if I put out a saucer of beer near the base of the plants, I should be able to rid myself of these unwanted critters. I was skeptical, but decided to try it anyway. Realizing that snails are nocturnal, I put the beer out shortly before sundown. Two days later, I returned to the garden and found that indeed, she was right. There were 3 or 4 slugs floating in each of the dishes.

I have now had a chance to trim off all of the dead and diseased stems and to tie up the remaining fruit. I will continue to put out dishes of beer just to keep the slugs at bay.

At the end of the growing season, I will need to do a controlled burn of the vegetable garden in order to make sure that the diseased stems do not winter over to next Spring’s planting season. One of the facets of gardening that I really love is that each year brings a different set of issues and a chance to research and learn more about how nature feeds and nurtures both our bodies and our minds.

Happy Gardening!!

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So what is a CUBIT, Noah?

We have had one of the wettest Springs on record here in Wisconsin. According to the National Weather Service from Madison, we have had 13 inches of rain in the last two weeks. To put this in perspective, this is more rain than we usually get in an entire summer.

It’s not a good idea to be trying to work the soil when it is so wet, but that didn’t stop me from pulling up over 6 bushels of weeds from the vegetable and flower gardens I have. They didn’t even put up a fight! We have had about 2-3 days of rain per week, then it stops for 24-36 hours and then goes again. This, of course, causes more hassles than just a steady influx of weeds. We’re now dealing with fungal diseases so I’ve been pulling back the mulch to let the area around the plants dry out completely (or as close to that as I can get it.)

Curious enough, the rose I mentioned in a previous post is now blooming a gorgeous deep red flower and seems to be doing just fine. Constant spraying with Safer’s Insecticidal Soap has really been helping to keep the critters down as well.

Unfortunately, I didn’t post this entry when I actually wrote it the last day of June so it will have a July date on it. Sometimes, the list of things to do just gets in the way with me and now that we are well into July, the temperature has risen and along with it the humidity. Sounds like it is time to get another post in !!

Happy Gardening !!

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