Playing in the dirt.

Archive for April, 2013

Signs of Spring…Maybe

First up, some recent photos of the seedlings, which are growing sturdier by the day:

Arugula sprouts in a light green planter box.

Arugula in the indoor salad planter.

Chile peppers, leggy kale, and a tomato seedling in peat starters.

Chile peppers, leggy kale, and a tomato seedling.

Two tomato seedlings and a pepper seedling in large yogurt tubs.

Tomato, tomato, pepper, potted up to keep growing strong.

I also found some signs of spring out in the yard over the last couple of very nice days:

Tulip leaves about four inches high.

Tulip greening up.

Unknown groundcover wildflower with tiny white flowers.

Small groundcover wildflower; name unknown, flowers the size of a pencil eraser.

Small groundcover wildflower with closed pink flowers.

Small groundcover wildflower with closed pink blooms. When open, the petals of the quarter-sized daisy-style flowers are white and the centers are bright yellow.

Now? It’s snowing.

If anyone has any ideas as to the identity of either of the two wildflowers, please feel free to hazard a guess in the comments!

UPDATE: The white flowers appear to be Spiny phlox (Phlox hoodii) or another native relative.  My research this evening has also identified Scarlet Globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea, native) and Yellow Salsify (Tragopogon dubius, introduced, can be invasive) that I photographed last summer.  I hope it doesn’t take a whole year to ID these little blossoms!

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Ch-Ch-Changes

It’s time to tackle Grow Write Guild Writing Prompt #3, which is the first in what promises to be a very interesting series of posts documenting changes our garden spaces from the beginning of the season through the summer.

My garden is dry and brown right now, in part because three days ago, it was under a layer of airy, dirty snow.  We’re also back under a winter storm warning, so it might well be back under a layer of snow by this time tomorrow.  So, while my seedlings enjoy their continued respite from our harsh climate, my garden looks like this:

A raised garden bed with an A-frame cover next to it.

Last year’s bed and cover.

I set the cover on the ground for the winter, deciding that it would be less damaged by contact with the soil than it would be by being continually blown off the bed and into the fence.  (Wyoming is where the wind lives. It just visits other places.)  I wasn’t sure it was going to survive the winter, either way, so I’m pleased to report that it seems perfectly sound and able to withstand a second season.  I pulled chicken wire across the bed and stapled it down to keep the feral cats from using my garden as a litter box all winter, also with success.  The twine strung every almost-foot is broken in several places, but I expected to need to restring my spacing markers anyway.  I’ll pull the staples for that when I remove the chicken wire, and cut it into suitable lengths to leave for birds to use as nesting material.  The robins have started to arrive, but they’re squabbling about whose bright idea it was to return before it was done snowing.

This year, I’m expanding out a bit to the north, where there are few stands of the tough bunched oats to fight through:

Dry prairie with a fence and some assorted junk.

Oh, the places we’ll go!

The dirt pile in the background was pulled off the front “yard” of the other home on the property, after having been soaked in herbicide so the owner could put in a rock garden.  While the herbicide indicated that it should break down into a harmless form in short order, I don’t plan to trust that dirt pile until I see it covered in weeds other than the ubiquitous and invasive Salsola iberica, or Russian thistle, an ironic symbol of the Old American West better known to many people as “tumbleweed.”  The stuff will grow in the absolute worst conditions, in soil still toxic to most other plants.  I usually pull them up in the hopes of keeping their numbers down to a dull roar, but since they’ll help rehabilitate that soil, I’ll leave what grows there alone.

Some assorted trash has blown in over the winter and will need gathered up and disposed of as appropriate, and that ancient CRT monitor marks the resting place of a beloved house cat, for the entirely pragmatic reason of keeping the foxes out of it.

Don’t let the stark brown fool you, though.  The grass is starting to green up around the base, where the dead blades from last year offer a little protection from the unrelenting wind and freezing temperatures.  Since I took the photos, I have scraped off the top layer from the areas for two new beds, leveled out a “bump” across one of them, removed the monitor (it’s been a couple of years, so there’s no remaining risk) and filled the depression in with the excess I scraped off the two new areas.

There’s still a lot of work ahead, but the first bits are done, so there’s that much less still to do.

Making Haste Slowly

Very little in the way of new news to share, though there is one sprout in my salad planters as of Saturday’s quick trip to the office to check on seedlings, and there’s evidence that an eggplant is going to sprout.  Friday, I planted some more tomatoes and eggplants, in case something catastrophic happens to the first batch, and I planted kale.  This coming Friday, I’ll get the shallots started (from seed, so apparently not “true” shallots, which Teh Internetz suggests only propagate by bulb division).  The sprouts that came up this week are doing well.

Assorted sprouts in starter peats.

Assorted sprouts.

The Anaheims and onions are still visible in the far container, along with the lemon mint, with the Genovese basil and the so far lone Pasilla in the back corners.  But another Pasilla was suggesting it might sprout soon when I checked on things Saturday.  In the near container, from left to right are: Mexico Midget, Italian Heirloom, Opalka, and Beam’s Yellow Pear, along with the lime basil.

And because we’re gardening at 7200 feet, it was cold and snowy and windy all weekend, so I’ve not yet managed to get anything accomplished outside.

Tomato and Herbs

Just a quick post today, to show off the most recent arrivals.  Today brought a Mexico midget tomato sprout, and yesterday brought the herb sprouts (rows from top to bottom: Genovese basil, lemon mint, lime basil).  The herbs doubled in size over the course of my workday today.  Two herb peats have no-shows, and I’ll replant those Friday if they haven’t arrived by then.

Genovese basil, lemon mint, and lime basil sprouts in starter peats.

Herbs, herbs, herbs.

Mexico midget is an indeterminate cherry variety.  “Indeterminate” means that it’s a vine type that grows continuously and produces fruit over the course of a season, as opposed to the “determinate” bush varieties that grow to a pre-determined size and set their fruit all at once.  Indeterminates are good for fresh eating all summer and need trellised to support their long vines, while determinates are good for canning and freezing, because the whole crop is usually ready at one time, making for more efficient processing.

A Mexico midget tomato sprout in a starter peat.

Mexico midget tomato sprout.

Peppers and Onions

Peppers have sprouted!  Three little Anaheims greeted me this morning, pushing their tiny cotyledons against the damp plastic lid of the starter tray as if to say, “Let us out!”  So I did.

Anaheim pepper seedling

I’m a pepper! Wouldn’t you like to be a pepper, too?

The lone surviving Pasilla Bajio from the first planting is starting to peek out a bit, and might stand up by tomorrow.  Four replacement onions are also starting to sprout, little green-white loops not yet strong enough to lift the seed casing.

Three more onions collapsed past the point of recovery when the tray dried out too much over the weekend–hazards of starting things at work.  I pulled them and re-started them, but those will likely be the last that I re-start.  I’ve got a lot of other things to start and supplies to shop for and new beds to build!

Anaheim pepper and Yellow of Parma onion seedlings.

Peppers and Onions

Next Up!

Fortunately, I don’t expect perfection in my garden, because unfortunately, three of my eight Anaheim starter peats and a whopping seven of my eight Pasilla Bajio starter peats went moldy and had to be discarded.  In better news, two of the Anaheims are starting to poke up, though I hesitate to call them sprouts until I see some cotyledons.

(Weirdly, last year’s efforts included cucumbers, one of which sprouted cotyledons, which hung about for quite a long time just barely above the soil.  When I decided they were never going to become a cucumber plant and pulled them up, there was no evidence of there ever having been roots of any kind!)

Today, in addition to planting four more Pasillas, I started four kinds of tomato, eggplant, two kinds of basil, and some lemon mint.

I succumbed to “just one more” and bought two packets of marigold seeds (Brocade Mix and Petite Mix) and a packet of Yellow Canary Creeper nasturtium from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, who kindly sent me another free packet of Red Romaine lettuce.  I’ll be finding someone to give that to, since they already sent me one with my first order of the season.

The only other news for now is that none of the indoor salad has sprouted yet, which is not terribly surprising considering that I did not cover the planters to help warm things up, and I’ve marked out my new beds for the year with little stone cairns, so I can start clearing ground, now that we’re having some occasional warm days.  Hopefully my next post will include a picture of some tiny pepper sprouts!

Dream Garden

Grow Write Guild writing prompt #2 is “Describe your fantasy garden.”  I spend a lot of time in my fantasy garden, so please allow me to invite you to join me there today.

A stone path leads to an arch draped with flowering vines.  Two hummingbirds dance around and through, visiting tiny red trumpets.  Long rows of hedges meander away to either side, dotted here and there with flowers or fruit, and the low hum of bees floats warmly on a lazy afternoon breeze.  Benches tuck themselves into corners and cul-de-sacs to offer respite from the walking and the weeding.

Stepping through the arch, a five acre patch of vibrant life is bounded on all sides with hedges of various flowering and fruiting shrubs, broken in places by more festooned archways, mismatched in material and vines alike.  In the center, a grove of nut trees shades a sweet spring that trickles over small boulders to fill a small pond stocked with fish and water-loving plants.  Small green frogs plop into the water or catch bugs on the shore.  An enamel cup hangs from a nearby branch, and a trick of the light shows its fellows tucked about on handy twigs, inviting those who enter to partake.

Stone walkways wander among various beds, edibles and flowers interspersed.  Here, glass gem corn grows among feathery dill, and low bean bushes follow the curved south edge.  There, bee balm reaches high behind a bed of zucchini dotted with  dwarf nasturtiums.  Standoffish sunflowers pay their respects to Apollo in a bed all their own, and fruit trees cluster in several places, offering shade to beds of lettuce and and shy coralbells and hellebores, watching over hostas and trellised peas.

Shocks of tall green grasses poke up among root vegetables, waiting only time to turn golden and heavy with grain.  Everbearing strawberries offer sweet fruit, and elderberries make a thicket of potential marking time until they become jam or wine.

Beehives sit in opposite corners, as tiny commuters take to their traffic lanes, heading out to work at collecting pollen then back in again to put it up for winter as sticky sweet honey.  Hammocks sway invitingly among the trees near the pond, and it is there, dear reader, that I will leave you to your own devices, and you may feel free to roam about and sample the edibles.  I’m going to climb into that hammock right there and pull my hat over my face for a while.