In the Garden:
Lettuce seed planted late last fall in a cold frame took off in February and March.
It seems as if the saying, "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get," was written for me. All the indoor chores that were set aside as winter projects barely got started. And now we have summertime temperatures in March! I wonder what the Vegas odds are for snow in May. The result is that I have frantically been trying to make a dent in at least some of spring's garden chores in an out-of-control garden, including cleaning flower beds that have been ignored for several years. Certainly, I don't want to miss the chance to get vegetables growing, so lots of seed planting has been going on, too.
In the few moments of down time, two things that are fun and interesting at this time of year are: (1) making some assessments of the garden, and (2) trying to choose from among all the strange and wonderful garden gadgets and gizmos that appear in catalogs and garden centers. Following are some of both. Certainly, this is not an all-inclusive list, but hopefully you'll find ideas that will help in your garden.
Something Old and Something New
1. Of the vegetables planted last fall and covered with plastic cold frames, a mix of spinach varieties, corn salad, and kale all survived some very low winter temperatures and resumed growing with the warm weather. Of the kale varieties, 'Red Russian' did the best. 'Green Ice' and 'Buttercrunch' lettuce planted in October and grown under cover is now gloriously lush.
2. Although daylilies have not been my favorite plant in the past, I have a newfound respect for them. Of all the perennials in the neglected gardens, they remain the most indomitable. Daffodils, alliums, iris, hostas, clematis, spiderwort, and a few other old-fashioned perennials have also survived well, as have the shrubs.
3. Some people complain about the fact that hardwood mulch decomposes, but that's what you want to happen if better soil is your goal. Over time, the decomposing mulch, along with some additional fertilizer, will make wonderful soil for your garden that fertilizer alone would not accomplish.
4. Take heed when a garden tag or plant encyclopedia entry says "self-sowing" or "spreads by runners." For example, northern sea oats that went to seed is now a major problem to remove in my garden, and the spreading runners of kerria mean that it's being moved to an area where it can be mowed on all sides to keep it in check.
5. Keeping beetles from destroying squash, cucumbers, and melons is a major garden chore, particularly if you don't want to use harmful insecticides. One option is to use a product called Surround, which creates a powdery film that discourages insects from feeding. The billing of another one that is so outrageous that it just has to be tried. Salmon Plant Food from Coast of Maine (http://www.coastofmaine.com) is a liquid organic fertilizer, but supposedly it also deters cucumber and Japanese beetles, as well as deer, rabbits, woodchucks, and squirrels. That I have to see!
6. Worm compost shows up in any number of ways and products, including those from Terracycle (http://www.terracycle.net), which are completely odorless liquefied worm castings sold in recycled soda bottles. Currently, there is a garden concentrate formula, as well as versions for tomatoes, lawns, orchids, African violets, and tropicals.
7. For years I've been a fan of Build-A-Balls from Gardener's Supply (http://www.gardeners.com) for making cages to protect my blueberries from birds. Now they have a product along the same lines -- the Faux Bamboo Swivel Connectors -- which are used with plastic-coated steel Faux Bamboo to quickly and easily construct vertical structures for vining vegetables and flowers.
8. The Kinsman Company (http://www.kinsmangarden.com) has long been a favorite "gizmo" company of mine, with its English garden product slant. Of special note this year are the side-planting containers. These consist of a wire frame with a coco liner with pre-cut holes. They are available for hanging baskets and windowboxes, as well as for display on special columns, which they also sell.
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