What A Difference A Year Makes !!

Re-reading through my previous posts, I came upon one I had written in July of last year. At that time I was really hoping that we would be getting some rain. The very thought of my TroyBilt tiller trying to cut through the dry, crusty ground was apparently too much for it. I remember trying to start it several times and each time I would get it going and shut off the choke, it would die. I know this is quite absurd, but I think, in a way, this machine was trying to tell me that it had no intention of fighting with those soil conditions.

Fast forward to almost a year later and every day for the past 9 days has either had rain, thunderstorms, high winds and rain or hail in the forecast. YIKES!! I started seeds in late February and those tomato, broccoli and pepper plants are all but growing out of the tiny 2″ X 2″ containers I used in the beginning. They have “hardened off” on my front deck now for a good week and are just itching to get their roots into some soil.

With a little luck this weekend might be my chance to get them in. However, in the interim between the first tilling of the 30 ft garden and now, I’ll need to go back over it and then rake the weeds out before setting in this year’s crop. At the end of last year my 2 foot fencing had seen better days and so I took it off the posts (between raindrops) this year and replaced them with 5-1/2 foot posts. I’ll be recycling the 2 foot fencing and putting up 3 foot fencing for this year. I am seeing quite a few more deer this year than last and even though all but the smallest ones could easily jump the fence, I’m hoping to have a little something left for canning in the Fall.

I’ll try to put up a few pics in the process. Nothing makes me feel better than to see a before and an after of the work done. It’s my own “pat on the back” I guess, for a job well done.

Here’s hoping your gardens are in and flourishing !!

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Learning Never Stops – Thank Goodness !!

006Spring 2013 005Even though I am now retired after over 35 years as an educator, I am inspired by the fact that I learn something each day. For me this is a very special part of my life and what better way to continue with my education than to involve myself in something which I enjoy so much – my gardens.

It is the 1st of May and yesterday was GORGEOUS !! I spent most of the day in the gardens; pulling the mulch “blankets” off the knock-out roses, tilling and clearing off last years debris. I was pleasantly surprised to find some quite healthy buds in a bright red color peaking out of some of the old cane.

I have one mystery to solve with a rose which bloomed beautifully the first year I planted it, but since that time it has nice foliage but no blossoms. In an effort to revive it I have been pouring over rose books, blogs and how-tos for the past couple of months. At this point, I think the combination of sun exposure, adequate air flow and the soil itself are having a negative effect. A few years ago I had a garden which was rectangular in nature where I had planted quite a few of my vegetables. These plants were the heavy feeders like tomatoes, rhubarb and green peppers. Over the years, I had depleted the soil and no matter what additives I tilled into it at the end of each growing season, I just couldn’t get the soil healthy enough to raise crops. It was obvious that this space just needed a rest.

Eventually, I gave up on it and created a 30 foot diameter garden, much closer to the front door of my house, where I have had quite a bit of success. Perhaps now that it has had 3-4 years to rest, it would make a good place to transplant that rose. In addition to that, I have several different kinds of lilies that I inherited from my parents that are in severe need of thinning. I envision a very nice semicircular garden near the edge of my property where I can display all of these. The bright red to soft yellow colors of the lilies and perhaps a few annuals in blues and purples will be beautiful.

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Waiting on You, Mother Nature

It is the first week in April but you would never know it to look outside. Yes, we have rain – and PLENTY OF IT, but the temperatures are hovering around the freezing mark.

In my basement are the fresh starts of tomatoes, peppers and broccoli just “itching” to put their feet into some permanent soil. According to the Almanac, our last expected date of frost is May 10th or basically right around Mother’s Day.

The soil has been resting for about 6 months, but will need to be given a swipe with the rototiller to loosen it up and to add nutrients for this season’s growth. At this point, I don’t foresee me getting into any of the gardens until probably after that.

The more I garden, the more I realize that patience is a huge part of my gardening arsenal. I can prepare, research, plan, sketch out new areas for plants I want to add, start seeds in February that will be ready for transplant in June, but if Mother Nature isn’t ready – everything comes to a halt.

In a way, this is just fine by me. With our fast paced lifestyles and busy schedules, it gives me an opportunity to slow the pace down and get back to what really matters in life. Ironically, most of my friends feel the same way. They work very hard, have families that keep them hopping, but when it comes to gardening we are all of the same mind – care for the earth and it returns to you a richness that is priceless.

I always got a kick out of my Grandmother. She was a very religious woman with a strong faith in God and pleasant demeanor. But, like all of us, she had her moments when circumstances would overwhelm her. In a moment of sheer frustration, she would tilt her head to the heavens and say, “Give me patient, Lord; but HURRY !

Happy Gardening !

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I will be the first to admit; I am a Midwesterner, through and through. Born here, raised here and expect to be buried here. I love the change of seasons. I know. It’s not for everyone. But when I hear people speak of their Holiday traditions, it just doesn’t click with me when they decorate their palm tree with small white lights while in their shorts and flip-flops.

Give me a foot of snow, the temperature dipped below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and the whole neighborhood is out shoveling their lanes and driveways while we catch up on what’s happened with everyone.
No, I’m not insane, I’m a Midwesterner.

Letting my cocker spaniel outside to do his business. He temporarily disappears from sight; romping through snow that hides everything but a little black nose.
Hey, he’s a Midwesterner.

Part of the mandatory arsenal for every car from November – March – jumper cables, a coffee can full of sand, a shovel, a candy bar, a log chain and a flare. “What?” you say.
You bet; that vehicle belongs to a Midwesterner.

Car shopping in a blizzard so the salespeople don’t harass you while you’re trying to read the sales sign taped to the inside of the back window.
You bet, I’m a Midwesterner!

Using your snow machine to get to church on Sunday. (Since I’m the organist this is a given!)
You bet, Lord! I’m a Midwesterner!

Trodging through the snow with family to find the perfect Christmas tree to bring back to your living room for a fresh pine scent for the holidays.
You bet. I’m a Midwesterner!

Stacking the latest seed catalogs you receive in January in the bathroom next to the throne so that you can leisurely relax while you pick the seeds for the planting of next year’s garden.
Um hum. I’m a Midwesterner.

Splitting wood and setting it next to the fireplace for the next fire to take the chill off the room.
You’re right. I’m a Midwesterner.

I know, it’s not for everyone, but once the ground starts to thaw out and the first crocus pops through the dirt and I see the first sight of a robin looking for worms, I get out the rototiller and the seed packets and get togettin’ on what we all wait for – gardening season once again.

Happy Winter Everyone – whatever yours may look like !!

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New Beginnings

I am very excited to let you know that very soon I will be starting a business using much of the garden art glass items I have made and placed around my property for many years. As I entertain guests and invite people into the gardens to see what is growing, I have been encouraged by many over the years to share the craft of glass stepping stones. Since retiring from teaching, I have had quite a bit more time to devote to this hobby and so now I will begin offering the stones and other “garden art” on a website which is in the works as I sit down to write this post.

Along with the stepping stones, there will also be outdoor garden twirlers and sticks. Many of these I have pictured on some of the older posts on this website and also on my blog which can be found at gardenart-teddy.blogspot.com. With each new year comes different creations along with some of the “tried and true” ones I have had for many years. This is all outdoor glass.

In the past 20 years, I have refurbished glass items for the home as well including transoms, windows and sidelights. With the current trend towards saving historical buildings in their original state, this has become very popular and one of my favorite work assignments.

I once had a client bring me a box of glass she had in her attic. When I asked her what this had been, she dug down in the box and found a picture of the transom where it had originally been in her uncle’s home. Her intent was just to give me the glass to use, but after discussing the contents of the box and the picture, we decided to rebuild the transom. The “new” transom hangs between her dining room and parlor – keeping a window to the past of the memory of her uncle’s old home.

As I get closer to the launch date, I will provide a link to the website where you can see some of my work, order glass items or contact me with a special project you have in mind.

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Nature’s Best

On a recent visit to a friend’s home, I was introduced to a very new and different kind of Christmas ornament. The mainstay of materials is actually barbed wire. As unorthodox as it appears, it is really quite inventive. Once the barbed wire is “tamed” into a circular design, different natural items can be added to it. I have seen it adorned with cranberries, western handkerchiefs, holly and a number of assorted materials.

This is a true testament to the ingenuity of folks who are just looking for the “right touch” to decorate their homes. These folks are farmers and ranchers and it makes perfect sense that something that is so utilitarian can also be made so beautiful.

I will be walking my land here in the next few days to see what I can find that might make a festive door or table ornament. Thank you Mother Nature for the abundance of possibilities !!

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Rain Dancing Anyone?

If you have been following my blog for awhile you will understand that the weather is such an important factor in the success or failure of a gardening season. We are heading into our 48th day of no measureable rainful for this growing season. Add to that temperatures in the triple digits and you have a formula for disaster. Most of the farmers around here are searching out other sources of feed for their cattle and turning what is left of their fields into silage. The silage, however, does not fulfill all the nutrients that are needed in order to sustain the cattle this year. Farmers are networking with neighboring states just to get enough feed for this season. We are not used to droughts and have no “plan B” on board – such as irrigation systems.

My gardens have been watered on a regular basis to keep the tender seedlings from wilting under the sheer heat of the afternoon sun. The cucumbers are loving this heat and my tomatoes are doing well also. The dill that was planted for fall pickling is struggling and so I must shield it from the sun a few hours each day.

Early morning waterings at about 5-6 a.m. seem to work the best. I don’t water in the evenings because the combination of high humidity and cooler temperatures at night seems to initiate a growing frenzy for fungus.

After suffering through both black spot and an onslaught of aphids, my roses seem to have perked up lately and are now deserving of their given name of the “Knock Out” rose. I used a good dousing of Bayer brand herbicide/insecticide. Beautiful bright red and deep pink blooms are covering the plants and it is a welcome sight. With 5 acres of land, there is no way to water the lawns, so I treat myself to a garden tour as my feet crunch over the brown, dead grass on the way.

As our US Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Vilsack, has said. “If I could do a rain dance – I would.”

Please start practicing Mr. Secretary !!

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The Latest Technology in Solar Power

It seems as though we are always looking to find ways to use solar, wind and water to improve our lives. Being able to coexist AND benefit from the forces of nature has a positive effect on the quality of our lives.

By the same token, we are always told that to plant a vegetable garden that will prosper, you need to seek out a plot of land that receives at least 6-8 hours of sun each day. Coincidentally, the same benefits the vegetables enjoy can also be translated into energy benefits for humans.

I came upon this video and wanted to share it with you.

The Latest Technology in Solar Power

click here for more information

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Unlikely Tool for the Gardener

I have been experimenting with the idea of adding raised beds to my garden. When I tour our local arboretum I have seen many different “variations” of the typical raised bed – some with stone (limestone is very abundant in our area), others with brick pavers, some made of redwood, etc.
After having priced out the cost of buying the pre-made kit, I decided it was time to purchase a compound saw in order to be able to create both notched and 45 degree angle cut beds.
The Hitachi C10FCH2 caught my eye.

This has been one of the best investments I have made. As the demonstrator suggests – it is lightweight and easy to carry from location to location and still packs a punch of power.
As I said, it may not be the first tool you might think of, but it should definitely be included in your gardening arsenal.

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To Seed or Not To Seed ???

My father was my inspiration when I finally moved into a home with a yard big enough to plant a garden. I remember him pouring over gardening seed catalogs until he could barely keep his eyes open at night. He wanted to find just the right variety with the right exposure, disease resistance, height and spread dimensions and germination time. As an architect, I would expect nothing less of his preparations. His gardens were always meticulous and his notebook full of daily entries has continued to be an inspiration to me.
I happen to be partial to a certain group of seed companies and have pledged my allegiance to them for 30 years now. It may appear pompous on my part, but I can tell, when I’m biting into a freshly picked Big Boy Hybrid from Burpee Seed Company that this is exactly what I waited 80 days to treasure.
I have made my trips to the Big Box stores after the deer got into my well-planned rows of seedlings and left nothing but footprints and . . well, compost for next year’s gardens in their wake. When these plants are first brought out and assembled nicely in rows or on tables, it is easy to pick them out of a “line up”. But, over time, as these plants are picked up, inspected and repositioned in another zone of the gardening fare, it can be downright impossible to figure out why there is a plastic “California Wonder” stake stuck in the broccoli plants.
As for me, call me a “snob” if you wish, but I figure when you get to be my age, you are entitled to play favorites. I’ll start my seeds in February under the fluorescent lights, thank you very much!
Happy Gardening!

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