Thursday, May 14, 2015

Spring has sprung a leak!

Don't get me wrong. It is hard to complain about rain, and I am not. I have had no water in the garage (yet) and have waterproof boots that can get me through the lake out my front door. If I can manage to be home and not working when actual precipitation is holding off, it will be a great time to weed, and boy are there weeds. Everything likes to grow in this weather. Tomatoes are escaping their cages, and the grass is begging to be mowed. Or pulled, in all the flowerbeds it keeps coming up in or sneaking into.

It is lovely not to have to add any water to the pond, despite the leftover hose that is laying there. It is more than topped off. The cannas are showing off and the mint has covered my stepping stones between the bog and pond, pretty - but one of the tasks on my list. Bog plants don't need all this rain, of course. They have fish poop water 24/7. Gator is hanging out and you can almost see the color shadows of fish. They get confused with rain - something is hitting the water, but there is nothing there to eat. Where's the koi kibble?
I have so many pictures and so little time. I promise to be back soon and post them, but I have done that before. I would rather spend the time out there before we hit triple digits, and as nice as this spring - actually, as nice as actually having a spring here is - it will come. Hardscape and roots in the ground have been my mantras this spring, and it is paying off. I have new pathways, 2 new retaining walls, new beds, and getting close to a new patio as well.

So many plants have either come out of long overdue 'temporary' pots and made it into the ground, or moved to bigger pots, or been taken from inconvenient locations and put into pots to share with friends. They are all loving this rain.

There are buds and little fruits everywhere. Mostly. I have some tomato plants almost as tall as I am without a sign of fruit yet, and others with clusters of green tomatoes coming along. The peppers are fruiting, the tomatillos as well (except for one...) and there are flowers on the eggplant. The potatoes are so tall, I can't keep up with burying them in leaves.

I was very careful to plant tomatillos 2 by 2 this year, after discovering too late before that the generally do not self-pollinate. The 2 green ones are doing great. And the ground hugging pineapple tomatillo is full of its tiny fruits. But the purple growing above it has empty flowers. Maybe the pollen only goes down? It is disappointing. And probably too late to find another plant to add to the mix. Anyone have a spare tomatillo?

One of the new retaining walls made a large bed behind the pond, and you can see it in the picture. It has grown in like gangbusters. I will, I promise, put up better pictures of it later. The right side has 2 tomatoes, 2 peppers, the purple and pineapple tomatillos, and some herbs and onions, and a green bean that thinks it wants to grow up the tomatoes. Most of it has partially buried tubs with bog and pond plants, surrounded by iris and daylilies and backed by a row of cannas that are already about to hide the fence. I had help to handle the stones of the walls - thank you, David! - but filling it all up was quite a big job for me, and that was all mine. (My cholesterol has gone down 51 points since November. Yeah yardwork!)

Maybe this weekend I can edit and add more pictures. We'll see. I have a couple of social engagements and I am not inclined to miss them. If it dries up enough to mow and I spend time weeding I may not have blogging time. At least until that summer heat hits, and it will be soon.

Cheers! And happy gardening.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is having a great start to their Christmas morning!

I haven't put up a tree in several years, but yesterday I brought in a little living Christmas tree and decorated it. (My ornaments are packed away, so I was scrounging from wherever I could find stuff, including a bowl of Mardi Gras beads.)

The dogs were unimpressed.

It is an Italian stone pine, and will find a new home outside soon after Christmas.

The yard has lots of color thanks to a clearance sale on pansies!

Hard to tell, but there are 4 flats in there. All planted now, mostly in big pots and hanging baskets, some in beds, giving so much color to the front!

Lots of Christmas stuff to do - have a great day!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Not gardening, but something else I do - eLearning

My day job is done sitting in front of a computer, making eLearning. I am a Senior Course Developer. One of the things I have been doing recently is writing blog posts on that subject, so I want to cross-reference my blog activities. I have been writing about a trip I took this spring to California to speak at a national conference. Part 6 of 9 went up today, and a new one goes up every Tuesday and Thursday.
I am still going on about the presentation content, but soon there will be Hollywood pictures - the conference was held at the Beverly Hilton, and I presented from the same stage used to award the Golden Globes. Cool, huh?
You can find them here:

In other news, it's hot.
But, unlike other years, I have only had to devote my Saturday morning to moving sprinklers around once so far this year. But it will be routine for a while now unless my little part of south Austin gets rain.
The bog is doing great - no water shortage there, just fish poop water 24-7. The white butterfly ginger is starting to bloom, and I am trimming back mint a couple of times a week, but that makes for some yummy mint tea. Everything has gotten so lush I will have to thin out more cannas and gingers, too. And my Texas Star hibiscus has had flowers daily, as many as 8 at a time and more buds all the time.

That's all today, just checking in until I take some more pictures.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Bog is Looking Good!

Here is an updated picture of the bog, grown back in from this spring. The very back corner is still a work in progress, as there are still old dead umbrella grass roots to be dug out of the rocks. But wow, it is almost a jungle again! I try to go out once or twice a week to make sure water flow does not get interrupted around the stones, thinning out the mint and pennywort. I had put purple stemmed taro back in, and while it is not the big problem the green is, it is still sending out runners, so I have to watch it. It has gotten quite large. The cannas are glorious, and soon the ginger should be blooming.

There is some string algae, but I figure it is cleaning the water, too, and as there are less open areas, it will recede on its own. Besides, it is easy to pull out. That's all for now about the pond...

I am happy to report, though that the couple of small rains that have hit my house in the last two weeks have my new rainwater collectors over half full. Yeah!

More later. Happy gardening!

Monday, June 30, 2014


This was a good weekend. Actually, so was last weekend, where I got lots of yard cleanup, mowing and trimming done in small increments, as ,my sprained ankle would allow. I still needed to put it up in the afternoons off and on this weekend, especially on Sunday, to help take the swelling down, but progress nonetheless.

I showed a sneak preview of the wicking garden some time ago, and have a couple of new pictures to show Sunday's progress:

Here is the reservoir done. The perforated pipes are almost covered by the rocks. I am so glad I used those, since I still needed 12-15 bags of rocks besides. You can see the edge of 4 cinder blocks I put in the center, just in case I need a really sturdy place to step.

I put a double layer of landscape fabric, and then added 6 bags of sand for the next layer. It does not appear to be enough. So I added decomposed granite, which I had on hand, to bring it up to the top of the water level - I'll post a picture of that next time. Then I folded the fabric back around the edges to make a big sand pillow between the rocks and the soil which will go on next. More pictures once the last stage with the raised bed is done.

Meanwhile, while I was working at the wicking garden, I had a couple of guys installing the totes I got for rainwater collection. They leveled, placed a thick bed of decomposed granite and tamped it down, and leveled cinderblocks to raise them enough for some water pressure.

The next stage will be a new gutter and the piping to direct the water flow into the containers, and hook up the spigots to a pipe with faucets for a garden hose. I am excited at the prospect of 550 gallons of rainwater capacity!

Looking good, guys!

And of course, the dogs wanted to help...

Well, maybe Aggie did. Cassie seemed unimpressed.
He is my willing boy, though. He could be called Barkis, not only because of the bark pun, but Barkis is willing. Read your Dickens.

So there you are, progress on the home front. I did some repotting and work on the bog, too, but those pictures will have to wait for another time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Just a quick post this evening to say that I am working on some posts but other parts of my life have been taking precedence over picture editing and writing. The bog is filling in nicely, although there is a good bit of string algae that I am not addressing yet. It is cleaning water, too, like the pretty plants. Some of the cannas are blooming, the frogs are jumping, the fish are happy and the water is clear. I saw a tiny baby toad - he couldn't have been more than a day or two past tadpole - maybe a quarter inch long.

The daylilies are still going, and other plants are blooming and I mowed so I can actually see them. Critters keep getting my tomatoes while they are hard green, and sometimes I wonder why I bother.

I want to write about passalong plants. Some of my favorite plants have history, and it adds to their charm. More on that coming up.

I have been hauling bags of rocks and sand and decomposed granite. You would think that would make me strong instead of tired, wouldn't you? It is a process, I guess, like everything else.

I will sprinkle some pictures along from the pond tour, too. That was last weekend, and it was wonderful and exhausting. So many beautiful and creative gardens and ponds to spark your imagination!

OK, it has been a long and busy day, and I am signing off for now. 'night.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rain, glorious rain!

The sun may be shining now but the rain isn't quite over. Big regret: not getting my new rainwater collection totes set up in time to take advantage. They would be full now. But everything else in the yard is pretty darn happy.

Like the daylilies by the driveway. Happy happy, and me, too, when I walk by them.

I did manage to backwash the pond filter before Monday's rain, so the pond could top off with rainwater, and boy, did it! The fish seem pretty happy, too.

Someone posted a 100 days of happiness challenge on Facebook today. It asks if you can be happy for 100 days. (I haven't checked to see if it means happy all day, or just going 100 days where you are happy at least once a day.) I don't think happy all day is an option for even the most determinedly positive individual, so I can try it. I can try to be happy at least once a day for the next hundred days. There is no downside.

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Not the Bog!

OK, I will skip bog and pond pictures this time, and show you the colorful strip beside the driveway. It is a narrow strip, and I have gradually been adding raised beds and improving the terrible clay dirt, and it is rewarding me with lots of color. The first picture is looking up towards the street, and you see red-leaved Swiss chard, cannas, daylilies, larkspur, artemesia, poppies, and cactus. It sort of fades off into the strong afternoon sun on the street.

Going toward the street, there is a poppy plant which today had over a dozen blooms open. In the past, I have had many poppies, but I let them reseed as they will with the larkspur, and this year there was only this large plant and a couple of tiny ones. From left to right the artemesia, larkspur, a few pansies at the end, yarrow, poppies, cactus, widow's tears, and the four o'clock that I finally have a name for. Last year I got a tiny plant at our pond society plant swap, and never knew what it was - annual, perennial, frost hardy or what. After it was almost eaten up by snails in a pot, I planted what bare remains there were in that still clay-heavy bed, and it prospered.

It gave me lovely little flowers that were yellow, red, and striped mixtures of the two. I really hoped it would come back, and so it did! large and robust, with two more beside it. It is covered with tiny buds, and I should be able to take some colorful pictures soon.

I love daylilies. As the larkspur gradually begin their decline, the daylilies are starting to open up. As you can see, there are many to come!

Swinging back to the side, I do enjoy the color palette of this bed of larkspur, artemesia, and yarrow, the soft colors and feathery foliage with that little punch of yellow. It always looks light and cool.

I am going to have to plant more poppy seeds for next year, just in case. I'll try to save seeds from this one. I love that red with the black center. I have a packet of California poppies, too, that was given to me by the owner of the B&B I stayed at in San Diego. I will have to write about that soon and show some pictures. It is amazing. If you love courtyard gardens, Mexican and vintage folk art, colors and tiles - check out Vintage Sol. 

And a teaser - my current progress on the wicking garden. It went on hold when I went to California to give a talk at a conference last month, and remained so with all the catch-up that happens when you go out of town for almost two weeks. And the bog took precedence. Now I am trying to rotate tasks a little more.

I need to buy more bags of rocks. I am using perforated drain pipe and river rocks in a hole with pond liner. I am leaving the middle cinder blocks, and the others are to keep the pipes submerged for now, until the next layer goes on. Once I fill in with some more rocks, I will put a layer, doubled, I think, of the landscape fabric from that big roll. Then something I picked up at the wicking garden talk at Emerald Garden nursery - a layer of sand, then another layer of landscape fabric. Then I get to shovel all that dirt back and build the raised bed sides. It is coming along slowly. I have limited energy and time. But there is progress nonetheless.

Garden on!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Well, the bog is slowly coming back together. I have planted cannas and ginger and lizard's tail, and mint and black-stemmed taro in pots. (black-stemmed is not as invasive, but still gonna keep it in a pot!) There are a few cannas and other plants in pots waiting their turn to be washed free of dirt and planted. I have had to build up rock walls around the stems to keep the wind from tipping them over, sometimes several times. If I keep that after they are well rooted, it will make for a bog of hills and valleys. That might be interesting. I saw a few tiny tadpoles in the bog, as well as the pond. Since the water doesn’t flow evenly over all surfaces back into the pond, I worry a little that they might get swept into a dry area and die. I may experiment and put some mosquito fish up there after I finish planting. There would be deeper holes and a shallow plain for them.

The red leaved canna does seem the most hardy, as that is almost all of the ones that survived. I have a very few others, but only one of the striped leaf that has the red and yellow flowers I so like, and a few green leafed ones. The ginger did pretty well. I have one tightly matted mass in a low plastic container that has holes all around the side that I have not managed to remove. I did soak and wash it carefully to remove as much dirt as possible, and then set it down into the rocks. I read that they do well rootbound. We’ll see.
The fish are ravenous this time of year, with the water warm but not hot, and spring in the air. Last year I had dozens of baby goldfish, although I have never seen baby koi. There were 6 or 8 baby shubunkins, which I was very happy about since they are favorites of mine. There is only one left. Three I found in the pre-filter, the rest have just disappeared. The rest are comets and comet crosses. A few have the deeper red of the one or two sarasa goldfish I had, and most are a mix of white and orange. The colors keep changing, though. There were a great many with black, and that has been fading away first, fairly typical of comets. Now the red patterns are shrinking so that I cannot tell them apart from week to week. I have a half dozen or so bronzy-black ones, quite vigorous and ranging from deep olive green to one that is almost black. All are hard to see, reverting to the wild coloration. However, there are one or two visible in this picture, on the left of the cinder blocks, along with a larger black koi.

You can see the approximate size of the fish by the cinder blocks stacked there as a plant stand, for a now defunct plant. Defunct after I got it off the bottom, anyway. Many of the bigger gold ones are large goldfish I have had for many years. I feed them and do a roll call, because if I can tell it apart from the others, it has a name.

The pond as a whole is clear, except when I am netting muck out of the deep end. Soon the water will be warm enough to get in and swim around with the fishes, collecting the empty pots and remaining water lilies that are on the bottom from the times the raccoons dumped everything off their supports. I am planning to tie pots down this summer so they can’t make such a mess without really trying hard. Meanwhile, it is clear to the bottom and I can watch the fish as long as I want. Or will let myself, between all that has to be done. Still, progress.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bog filter renovation

The bog had really gotten out of hand. I know it was because I had not kept up with cleaning it out, in combination with the previous winter's mild temperatures that left everything green and growing. This year's 24 degrees and other cold periods took care of that. In the upper left you can see the dead jungle of plants 6 feet high, hanging over all sides, and blocking access to the stepping stones. The dogs hunted in it, and I expect at night the raccoons did, too. You can see Cassie wondering where their playground went.

The three worst areas were the umbrella grass island, the green taro peninsula, and the willow tree. Never put these in your bog. At least not bare root and out of a pot. No, wait, not even then. They jump the pots and break them apart and totally disregard them. After all, they have fish poop water going over their roots 24-7. I mean, they are great plants if you can keep them contained. I didn't.

The green taro just sends runners everywhere and new growth pops up like that whack-a-mole game. It had made an intertwined mass several inches thick along with the cannas and other plants. The umbrella grass had made it's own island of decomposed plant matter and what turned out to be the most amazing three foot long red roots. It was such a solid mass that it took 2 guys with power tools and a pickax to get it out. Actually I hired them for a total of 4 hours and most of it was the bog cleanout. They were fromWellspring, and did a great job.

Here are a few pictures of the process. 

 This is the taro area. You can't see rocks or water - all is masses of entwined roots and muck. So much muck. 

 Here we have the umbrella grass island.  It was beautiful in the summers, over 6 feet high with huge circles of leaves like umbrellas, building it's own dirt with all the leaves from my neighbors' huge (female) Arizona ash that hangs over the pond, dropping thousands of seeds and leaves.

The guys are working hard. That stuff does not want to leave.

 The red roots from hell. These were at least 3 feet long, some up to 4 feet. And half as big around as a pencil. That umbrella grass is amazing. And gone from my bog forever. Bwa-ha-ha.

Three years ago I put a pencil sized willow seedling in the bog. Compare the trunk to the pipe fence post beside it.  Three short years of fish poop water.

That was all done a couple of months ago. I have twice since rented the pond society's pond vac and used it to remove a few bushels of muck. Well, before that I removed a few more bushels with my hands, mostly with roots and tubers in them, and spent hours teasing them apart to rescue cannas and butterfly ginger, and a little lizard tail and iris as well. I kept the as-yet unsprouted tubers in wire baskets in the bog where they made it through the 24 degree night that came a week or so after, but the ones I put into another shallow pan of sand and water froze. :( 

I need to take some more pictures for the next post, because last weekend I spent Sunday putting cannas, ginger and lizard tail back into the rocks of the bog. (Along with continuing to dredge muck from the pond proper, with nets. Ouch. Just call me the muckraker.) It was breezy, and the poor plants kept flopping over, so I had to build rock walls around each one to hold them up until the roots can take hold. Note that all of these plants have roots that are not too difficult to remove as needed. I placed them in drifts with room between, and have put a few potted plants in as well. A few black-stemmed taro which are not nearly as invasive as their cousins are in pots, and will stay in pots! I did buy some hydroponic slotted pots for water flow. There is some mint in pots as well, and I will need to keep an eye on that. I may add some corkscrew rush, but I will research any plant type before I use it.

Wow, all that and just about the bog. I will have to talk about the rest of the garden another time. I do have tomatoes and onions doing well, lavish displays of larkspur, and still lots of weed grass to pull. Life goes on in the garden.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Just a quick post to say I am alive, and gardening, although obviously not blogging... The fish are still swimming (although there has been a heron visiting lately, bad news!) and the dogs are happy and the fall garden has seedlings. Things are mostly alive despite the heat. I will have to do a post with pictures soon, to see if anyone can identify a plant I got in a plant swap that I would like to know more about.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wildlife interactions...

So I had a delay getting to my yardwork today. While having my coffee, I heard the dogs outside. Barking. Frantically, loudly, at a high pitch. Without cease. *sigh*

I had to go check it out. They were clustered around the gutter downspout by one end of the back porch.
Trying to eat the downspout.

OK, not really, just trying to eat through it to get to the clumsy squirrel which had slipped down and gotten stuck in it, near the bottom. The dogs were in full cry, the hunting blood was up. And those darn squirrels do tease them, so I can't really blame them. But the downspout not only had lots and lots of scratches, but some serious punctures as well. I think, given time, they could have eaten through it, at considerable risk to their mouths from the resulting sharp edges. Not good.

So I had to get the squirrel out, preferably without having to saw through my gutter. But first I had to pen up the dogs, in the house, closed doggy door and all. I could still hear them, just not at such volume. So I worked for awhile at the bottom of the downspout, as that seemed most likely. There was some decomposed leaf matter, and I dug that out. It was there because of the brick paver blocking the front of the downspout, there from when the dogs were little puppies and I was trying to block access to that narrow space under the deck. Did I mention that is where the downspout ends? In an inaccessible area a few inches high between decking and concrete?

This didn't work. The squirrel stayed. It did not sound happy.

So I came up with the brilliant idea. Help it climb out! After all, it sounded like that was what it was trying to do, but couldn't get a grip. I found a length of chain, and decided it should go down the downspout and provide a ladder for it. After some frustrating (and no doubt amusing had there been any onlookers) activity where the chain was not going where I thought it should, I decided that I needed my own ladder first. So I had to extract that and carry it around and set it up. Several times, trying to find a relatively stable foundation. Anyway, eventually I managed to get the chain to slither down the downspout, and tied off the string I had cleverly tied to the end so it didn't just fall on through. I waited awhile, no sound from the downspout. I guess I thought it would immediately respond to the rescue! It probably thought the dogs were waiting at the top. But after I went away for awhile and left it all alone, it must have gotten the idea, because when I let them out again, it only took them 3 or 4 minutes of frantic sniffing and barking and attempted downspout deconstruction to decide that maybe it wasn't there anymore. Peace at last, and only about 2 hours lost!

I did still manage to feed gardens and plant potatoes and some other good stuff. The pansies are so pretty, and there are some early roses and other flowers, the snowbells, some daffodils, and the citrus is about to bloom - little round white buds all over it. But I am not getting the tomatoes out of the greenhouse yet. Maybe next week.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Big excitement this morning!

I was just starting to head outside for the morning perambulation with the dogs through the backyard - Aggie had preceded me through their own door, and Cassie was following me - when I heard the yelping, the dog door slamming open, and be the time I turned around, a dark shape streaking through towards the back bedrooms. Cassie went hysterical, and tried to figure out where to go for a moment, then followed her brother.

Oh boy. I realized that Aggie had chased something into the house through the dog door, and followed them to the back bedroom, where he was wedged under a table trying to get behind some boxes of books. Cassie was frantically trying to wedge in with him, and both were in full cry. Such excitement! Well, for them.

I just thought about what he might have chased in.

I called a friend whose cat had brought a (live) rat in to play with and lost it for awhile in her house. So a rat was my first thought, and I wanted moral support. I had not actually seen anything but a dark streak when I looked around before, so no visual on the prey. We discussed setting a trap closed into the room with something wedged under the door. I thought about where the trap might be. Meanwhile the dogs had whatever it was pinned down in a corner behind the boxes. Loudly.

I left the room to start looking for the trap or something... after a few minutes, when I had left the field of battle and was in the entry hall, the sounds changed, and I looked towards the living room to see a largish dark shape at full speed through the living room closely followed by the pack in full cry. Out the doggie door to freedom! Although I still never got a good look, it appears to have been a longish-haired dark cat. Whew! No rats! And a cat is more likely to understand pet doors. It didn't run like either of the similarly sized wild animals it could have been (coon or possum), so I am fairly certain cat it was. I don't think it will choose to roam my backyard in the future, poor terrified thing. Not that the dogs would have hurt it - more likely the opposite. Aggie's only close encounter with a cat left his ear bleeding profusely, and he was just trying to say hello. But the chase! If it runs, they will chase it, without thought of what to do if they catch it.

They are still, hours later, roaming the house on patrol, just in case. It is good to feel so protected. :)

Meanwhile, I have tiny seedlings starting to show, probably the radishes, but bits of green nonetheless. I am so glad I planted last weekend, with this nice warmer spell to let things get started and rain Monday to really settle them in. Lots to do this weekend in leaf cleanup and so forth. I planted a couple of 6-packs of pansies also, some where the daffodils have just started to show in a couple of places, and a few around otherwhere. My confederate rose is leafing out again, confused and vulnerable to the next freeze. The little one in the front has never dropped it's leaves. They all had such a hard time of it over the summer. I don't know what reserves they have if we have a bad winter on top of it. At least this nice long wet spell has brought many of the plants back to life.

I had better stop writing and get outside!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

So, the pond. This is from a couple of months ago. A little willow tree, a tiny sprout, went into the bog in a pot last spring. It liked the 24-7 fish water, and either wind or one of those pesky coons knocked the more-than 15 foot tree over so it hangs over the pond. Cassie and Aggie are checking it out. Anyone want a willow tree?

The light freezes we have had so far have killed the cannas and taro and are working on the umbrella grass, and I hope soon to be able to whack most of it out, and have some maneuvering room to do something about the tree. Maybe this winter I can take an ax to the umbrella grass island and get it out of there for good. I love the bog but it has become a jungle, and needs renovating.

Another lovely day, back to the garden - planting and leaf mowing come first, since the weather is changing tonight. I may not get to the bog whacking today. (oh darn.)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Hey, long time no post!

But I am finally back. What incredible weather today - I have cleaned up the veggie garden and planted the winter crops. I put garlic in at Thanksgiving, late, but it is coming up nicely. Half is from some local garlic from the farmer's market, and the other half some good hard red garlic I bought at Sam's.

It is kind of a cleanout garden this winter. I had so many old and new packets of seeds, so for most of them I mixed them all together into ziploc bags. A bag of long carrots, radishes and parsnips, one of short carrots and radishes. A bag of six kinds of chard. Another of all the lettuce based mesclun and one of the Asian green mixes. Bigger seeds that need to be more carefully spaced I left in their envelopes, but all of them were sown with abandon, since some of the seeds are old and I don't know what will come up. It will be a surprise. And if I have to thin a lot, yeah! salads! If they don't come up well, I have lots of mesclun seed still, and assorted greens.
I still have a couple of raised beds to work on, still a bit shady since the ash trees still have about half of their leaves. I will plant chard and parsley behind the daffodil bulbs, and mesclun among them. Giant red mustard and kale in the other bed. It is nice to have decorative things to eat.
The dogs do try to help, so besides the inadequate fences I am laying coated wire grids on top of the seeds I am planting to discourage digging. (Yes, Cassie, I am thinking of you!)
Next, raking some more leaves and bagging for later composting. Maybe mowing them up first, that shreds them nicely and it is easy to empty the mower bag into the paper one. Sort of. I feel good about today's gardening, though. Last winter's garden did well, so I am hoping for more yummy spinach and arugula and greens.
Enjoy the day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

So really, what has there been to say all this summer? It's hot. I watered. Repeat.

Today we break the record from the twenties - longest stretch of triple digit days, and at least 10 more days of the same. *sigh*
Twice a week I water. Since my yard has so many little bits and pieces, I do about half at a time, so once a week for the whole yard, and some spot watering of pots and such in between. It is focused on trees and foundation, and some of the grass benefits. The little pots of bog plants around the pond dry out daily, but they are also wildlife (and dog) watering stations. My frog population has been decimated by the coons which hunt in the bog at night. The dogs go in there, too, and the other night they chased a baby coon out of the bog into the pond, where it was swimming around pulling over all my floating containers (laundry baskets) of floating plants. By the time I got them in the house and went back out with my camera it was gone.

Here is Cassie finding a cool spot on the edge of the bog.

 And both of them getting a drink from a baby water lily nursery pot.

So soon I will only be watering once a week when the schedule changes. I already miss gardening classes because I don't want to miss my watering time, now it will be my only watering time. I know - automate. I like the idea but find it too hot out to work on it! This is survival time as far as I am concerned - not innovation time. Some day fall will come, and it can't be too soon for me after this summer.

Stay cool. If you can.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Just to update a little from a previous post - the daffodils have just finished blooming, and the potatoes I planted in January are about a foot high. Lots of the seeds I planted before the freezes survived under row cover and germinated, but now I have tiny winter veggies where I am about ready to plant summer ones. Baby greens salads are on my menu - I can plant little summer things between and as they get bigger, harvest the greens and such. More later, back outside now!

Ah, spring!

I drove up from south Texas yesterday, and the roadsides down there are flush with banks of pink evening primrose, the first wildflowers I have seen this season. They are so pretty, and one of my favorites, but I have been pulling them out of one of my beds. The ones that come up with roots are being moved to some pots, because I do love them, but I had no idea they were SO invasive!
I have a long bed in front that parallels the curb, raised with a rock border which I dug out while working on the bed and digging in amendments. I have primarily agaves and succulents, a few other things around the edges. About a year and a half ago I transplanted 4 or 5 tiny scraggly stems of the primrose from my back bed, thinking it would be pretty to have a few wildflowers growing among the prickly pear and agaves... last spring I had a solid carpet throughout the entire bed of pink evening primrose. I let them grow and bloom, but then realized that everything that I had planted was being shaded out of existence, and regretfully pulled them up. At least what was above the ground. Because it is spring again and they are back thicker than ever.
I am not surprised, and they are still only a few inches tall, but I know what is coming. And, reluctantly but resolutely, I am pulling them up bit by bit. So far just the ones in the raised bed, leaving the ones coming up around the edges for last, since they will not be an immediate threat to my poor little plants recovering from the freeze. (Some things did OK, they did have row cover, but I lost about half of the bulbine, and my thread agave has only a green core.) I used a couple of bare patches revealed by the weeding to plant a couple of bluebonnets. The seeds I have planted have never come up, and I read that they just won't grow where they not grown before - maybe the soil needs some sort of inoculation. Perhaps the planted ones will provide that, and I will get returns next year. They will not grow so thick and tall that I will worry about the other plants - those primrose got a foot and a half tall! It is a good example of the old definition of a weed: a plant growing where you don't want it to.
Enjoy the spring!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

January gardening

Well, it said in the paper that you can plant potatoes now, so that is what I just did. Two small patches for now, in the garden where I had squash last summer. I finished a little cleanup in the raised beds, and spent most of my time putting those little wire fences around the vegetable garden areas to dissuade the dogs. They can actually walk through the wider spaces, so I was also putting little bamboo stakes there, and even some closer spaced wire panels in some area. I just need to use a better fence. They are 10 month old dachshunds with digging in their blood, and all that loose black dirt just calls to them. So I am putting more wire panels flat on the ground where the plants will come up. Hmm. Maybe just some chicken wire flat on the ground, and I can just leave it until harvest - that would work for most things. lots to try.

My daffodils are starting to peek up through the ground. Should be quite a show later in the spring. There are somewhere near 200, planted closely. Last year I planted a bag of 100, and they were lovely. I had to dig them up, and last fall I separated all the side bulbs when I replanted. Since each one had at least one side bulb, often two, it will be a sea of lovely daffodils! Even this time of year there are pretty things out there, though. There are still a few deep red leaves on the pigeon berry, and the yellow shrimp plant is covered with blooms. The bulbine is blooming as well, and in the greenhouse, so is my mother-in-law tongue, and some kalanchoes. 

Friday, September 3, 2010


It rained, it rained, it rained!

 Do I sound excited? It will be so nice not to have to spend Saturday moving sprinklers around in the morning and evening. The yard is happy, the dogs not so much. While they will run into the rain to answer a barking dog next door, a heavy dew can be enough to make them reluctant to wet their dainty little feet. It rained on Aggie and I on our walk this morning and he was glad to get home. I didn't really care. Wet is good at this point. Cassie stayed home as she is recovering from yesterday's surgery - she was spayed. Seems to be doing well, but needs to stay quiet for a few days.

The weather is projected to be very nice this weekend, low humidity and low nineties, with morning maybe down to the upper sixties! Since I don't have to water Saturday I can get some of the materials that have accumulated in my driveway to their proper places in the yard. I am recycling some concrete edging a neighbor was disposing of to define the pathways on my front beds, and still have about a quarter yard of compost under a tarp that can be moved to places it can do some good. Also some wood pallets to make another compost bin. I have been waiting for a break in the weather (and some improvement in my foot - plantar fasciitis) and it is here. The weather anyway; the foot I will manage.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

OK, still too hot.

I am concentrating on keeping things alive, watering mainly. I have cleaned some old stuff out of the veggie garden, and although I have some okra coming up, and yardlong beans and a few sweet potato slips I planted form the ones in my pantry, I am not really willing to plant more seeds in this heat - I don't know if I can keep them alive. May be best to wait a bit and concentrate on winter greens and such.  I am pruning back the tomato plants to see if I can coax them to start up again for the fall.

The little waterlily nurseries are shallow enough to need topping off almost daily. (Those are dishes with clay mud in the bottom and a few inches of water above. Great way to start baby waterlilies.)

The bog plants are huge, of course - fish water 24/7 and lots of heat. Lovely white butterfly ginger, so fragrant!  I am giving away some more pond plants Sunday. That should finally empty the little kiddie pool. I will then clean it out, put a few inches of play sand and water to cover it an inch or so. New puppy play toy for hot weather! Some of my trusty mosquito bits will keep it wiggler-free.

I have projects piling up, but can't take the heat. Even the mornings are humid enough to feel oppressive. OK, I am a wimp. After I get back from the morning dog walk I really don't want to go back out there. The dogs get precedence, coolest part of the day (and pavement!) for their walk. Aggie has bounced back very quickly from his surgery (hard to believe he has gotten old enough to be neutered!) and is full of energy and high spirits. Cassie has her appointment in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile we have our walk then hunker down and try to stay cool.

I am very pleased that one of the thunderstorms that popped up last night hit me with almost 1/2 of rain - that makes such a difference. Wishing rain to everyone that needs it - and a little more for me! Ciao now.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hot so hot so hot

I have two thermometers on the back porch, both in the shade. The one on the wall of the house reads a couple of degrees hotter than the one hanging from the lattice behind the potting bench. That one gets more air movement, but both are always in the shade. The 'cooler' one is solidly on 100 degrees. And it is humid.

Then there is the metal dragonfly thermometer hanging from the back fence where it is in the full afternoon sun. Almost at 120 degrees.

It is still June.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Painted Ladies. Isn't it a pretty name?

I planted these and Scarlet Runner, and Scarlet Emperor to climb the bean poles in my vegetable garden. I had heard that they produce beans as well as the pretty flowers, but so far just the flowers. They are so pretty that I don't mind. I have some bush Roma beans that I am enjoying, usually eaten fresh off the vine as I stand there and the puppies nose around. Cassie likes bites of green bean; Aggie has no interest.

I let a couple of my Ichiban eggplant get past me in the heat and they started shriveling. Bummer. But more are on the way, and the green goddess eggplant has 3 or 4 I need to pick. And more cucumbers, always more cucumbers - good thing I like them! Tomatoes are continuing to ripen. I don't expect more to set until fall, but lots of green ones are still coming along.

It is my watering day - back to moving sprinklers!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Water so that it will rain...

I watered well yesterday, so today I had a pretty good rain. No complaints - I was going to mow, but I can do that tomorrow.
The squash are about dead and gone, vine borers. I got some good crops off of them, but should be able to get more without those dreadful pests. I tried burying the vines to promote root growth, but I don't think it is working.
Aggie surprised me this morning. I had been at the back side of the pond filling some plant tubs, and was back by the front. Suddenly he came barreling across the stepping stones in front of the bog! He is the adventurous one. I am glad we are having lessons with the escape ramp. They will be splashing in the bog before I know it!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The puppies are helping in the garden...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I am so tired of the humidity. OK, I am looking forward to a few days of good rain, as forecast ;) and I do not forget last summer's extreme drought, but it should be comfortable to go out at 7am to the garden, not drippy. *sigh*

However, last week's rain has produced a lovely thick flush of rain lilies, and the vegetable garden is happy. I have lots of flowers, lilies, cannas, skullcap, daylilies, and more. Not to forget all of the scarlet runner and painted lady beans. In theory those produce green beans, but mine are just flowering. I have some asparagus beans planted in with them, though, and am getting beans on those and on the bush romanos in he cinder block bed. The tromboncino has a large squash hanging from the trellis, and I am trying to extend the life of my squash by burying the stems in mounds of dirt, to form new roots. A few of the vine borers finally got through.

With the impending rain I got out there and dug the potato bed. With one exception all the vines were essentially killed a couple of weeks ago by an overnight defoliation of hornworms. Hey! I think I just came up with a new term of venery: a defoliation of hornworms!

Anyway, it was fun digging them out - I kept going over the beds and finding more. I am sure I missed some. There were 4 with pitchfork wounds which I will cook today. None are large. A few had rotted - the reason I wanted to dig them before the projected rains. I had planted the aged sprouted remnants of a bag of russets, too soft to eat, so anything is a bonus, and the new potatoes taste so good, a different texture, yummy.

What really made it fun was deciding to let the puppies help. Probably a bad idea in the long run, as I have been trying to keep them out of the garden, but I removed the little (pitifully inadequate) wire fences first, and did keep removing them from the remaining fenced areas. They can walk through those little fences, so they are meant more as a deterrent/learning tool than a real block. I had to be very slow and careful with the fork, sometimes lifting them with the pile of dirt! They had a blast. Dig dig dig - they are doxies, after all - getting gloriously dirty.

Now that the bed is well dug, I will add in a little fertilizer and plant okra. I have been eating mostly out of the garden for a while, squash, green beans (usually eaten right there as I pick them) some tomatoes - lots of green ones coming along - as well as cucumbers and eggplant. And a few late snow peas. Between the yard work since I was laid off in February, and especially since I got the puppies, I have lost 15 pounds by eating better (lots of veggies and fruits), more outdoor time/exercise, and being too busy with puppies to remember to eat. It is 11:30am and I am just now finishing my morning oatmeal. It is a drop in the bucket to what I need to lose, but every drop counts.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Crinum is blooming, Asiatic lilies, guara, cannas are glorious in bog, daylilies and rain lilies, black and blue sage, some others…

Yesterday I ate from the garden: tomatoes (cherry), squash, green beans, potatoes, green garlic, squash blossoms (omelet) and picked a young cucumber but haven’t eaten it yet. Tromboncino that I shifted to a bigger trellis has a huge blossom open. Hope the work picking vine borer eggs and killing the moth I found pay off. No apparent frass deposits yet on the various squash.

Grass needs mowing. Even without actual rain the incredible humidity has kept things growing green. I have ordered these cool watering bags, 8’ x 9” with drip emitters you can place on them and stakes to secure the ends. I can set these up and fill them with my rainwater, and a little seaweed for a continuous drip. Looking forward to trying them out.

Sadly, the cardinal nest which I found in my crepe myrtle and took a quick (and too dark) picture of was robbed last night. Name your culprit – raccoons, possums and feral cats all roam (and defecate in, grrr) my yard and garden. I discovered it when my puppy started eating something on the ground nearby and I pulled it out of his mouth to discover a baby bird leg. The nest was only 6 feet off the ground, so vulnerable, I suppose. But I loved seeing the cardinals flying in and out of it.