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Showing posts from March, 2012

Future Plans: Cutting Beds

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Now that we don't have a phone or a plant on this table in the living room, we decided that it always needs flowers:

These are tulips that Tiegan picked out at Tendercrop a few weeks ago. They always have flowers (many they grow themselves), and it's kind of luxurious to pick up a bouquet every other week while grocery shopping.
Still, spending the cash on flowers (which I do find totally worth it) could be alleviated it we just had a cutting bed. I had started one at the Red House, but many of the perennials in it were just starting to fill out when we moved, so I'm not sure exactly how it turned out. (It was arranged by color, by the way, which was totally awesome. I'll have to dig up some old photos for another post.) I do miss being able to run outside and bring in lots of flowers whenever I feel like it, so I think some cutting beds are in our future here.
But where? We thought about saving a row in one of the quadrants for annuals, but when we worked out those p…

Fruit Tree Update

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It may be too early to offer a solid verdict here. We won't know for absolutely certain if the blossoms survived until they swell into baby fruits in a few weeks. So far, though, things look okay. First, the apple tree in its tent:


It was fairly warm in there when I poked my head in this afternoon, and I think this tree should be fine. The tent managed to stay up in the wind, and with the heat and coverage I think it should do okay for the next couple of cold nights (which aren't supposed to be quite as cold as last night). A closer look at the state of the blossoms:

To my eye, these seem unscathed, so I'm feeling pretty good about the prospects for the apples.
On the other hand, it looks like the apricot blossoms got some frostbite in the wind and the cold:

It's not terrible, but you can see that (despite the lights nearby), some petals are brown and dead. I am somewhat hopeful, though, because I didn't see any blossoms that lost all their petals (that I could te…

Freezing Our Blossoms Off

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Remember when it was in the 80s for two weeks and everything burst into bloom while I was at the beach?
Well, yesterday the temperatures plummeted, and in our backyard the low hit 25 degrees. That wasn't just a kiss of 25 and a quick warm-up when the sun came up, either. It was down to 32 at sunset, so it was at or below freezing for at least 12 hours last night.
Did I mention winds from the north gusting to 40 mph?
We knew it was coming (well, except for the winds, although given the windyweatherhistoryhere, I suppose we should have expected that as well), so I was researching how to protect our tender fruit trees over the weekend. Because they are big (well, in general — ours aren't actually all that big yet), fruit trees are harder to protect than other tender plants that are low to the ground and can just get covered up. For example, our cold frame is easy:

Notice, though, that this time we used some leftover bricks as weights so the glass wouldn't blow away and smash …

The Verdict in the Crocus Case

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A week ago, I was kind of excited about the crocuses that were popping up in a few spots in the perennial border. It's hard not to get excited about such an early bloomer — they command an out-sized portion of attention for their size since there's nothing else around to look at when they open. 
Now that I've moved beyond my initial, culturally ingrained cooing response, I've been able to focus more clearly on the problem with these crocuses. First, they are messing up my color scheme:

In this picture you can see how the random assortment of white, purple, and purple striped crocuses clash with the blue Siberian squill to the right of the photo. This might look ok if there were lots of shades ranging in that cool zone of blue and purple, but my plan was to work with yellow, orange, and blue. And the beauty of all those little squill bulbs is that they are a real true-blue. If you are at all a fan of flower gardening, you know how hard that is to find. And I don't w…

While I Was Out

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The past two days were just too beautiful to do anything but go for long walks in the sunshine on Plum Island:


I don't think it's possible to overstate what an incredible gift this week has been. I guess if you live below the Mason Dixon line it might be hard to understand, but an 80-degree day in March in northeastern Massachusetts is nothing short of miraculous.
Anyway, while I was dipping my toes in the ocean with my kids, stuff happened while I wasn't really looking, including the following:


Our granite steps finally arrived! We never got around to ordering them when we finished all the bricks, but now that they are in place, it looks like they've always been there. Kirk muscled them into position while I was at the beach, so that was a doubly nice surprise.  

Along with the delivery of our back steps came another giant pile of dirt from Landscaper's Depot. This is another mixture of half loam and half compost, and we need it to fill the remaining quadrant of …

The Tulip Wars

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As we started out on our hike last Sunday, we noticed something strange in the front yard:

Can you recognize the furled, pointy leaves sticking out of the still-dormant grass? There are actually two in the photo above — you have to look carefully sometimes to find them.
Those are tulips, and they were popping out of the lawn all over. Hmm … any guesses on how they got there?
Squirrels, I tell ya. Goddamned, no good squirrels.
So it looks like they got a hold of a lot of our tulips last fall before I covered them up. According to the post that I just linked you to, I planted 100 tulips last fall. Well, I counted the ones that are up so far, and there were 13. Not good.
So I spent yesterday afternoon doing a search and rescue over the lawn, pacing up and down with my eyes on the ground to dig up all the tulips that the squirrels had replanted. Some were easier to find than others:

By the time I was done, I had 17 in my bucket to replant. Now, there's no telling if these are all my o…

Overnight Results

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So far, the aquarium water fertilizer seems to be doing the seedlings a lot of good:

This is just a day or two after I gave the broccoli and cabbage a teaspoonful of diluted aquarium water, and the results have been pretty impressive. You can see in the broccoli seedlings above that the real leaves are much bigger than they were before I fertilized, if you compare it to this photo taken the day I was working on the aquarium water thing:

Ok, so I admit that this picture is taken from farther away than the first one, but if you click on it to enlarge, it's pretty clear how much smaller these seedlings are before they got the magic aquarium water treatment. If I were more scientific, I would be measuring and taking daily pictures from the exact same distance, but I'm not. Maybe that would be a good science project for one of the kids next year.
Anyway, the point is that, so far, that tiny bit of fertilizer is working out. Maybe by next weekend I will need to thin out some of the…

A Summery Spring Salad

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Today was an absolutely gorgeous day here in Newburyport: 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. In the morning we hit a local nursery to see if they had any herbs we could plant (we need to transplant some to their new locations in the back of the garden as well). To be honest, we were trying to find something to do in the garden. Alas, all they had were some flats of pansies. It really is too early to expect to put out plants yet in Massachusetts, and this probably spared us a lot of trouble protecting things when (if?) temperatures settle back into some kind of normal range. 
There's just not much to do in the garden yet, so we took a hike on a local trail (which was amazing, by the way, drowned fisher cat and/or beaver and all). When we got home from our little five-mile trek, we had dinner on the patio. And not just any humdrum, mid-March dinner: burgers from the grill and salad picked fresh from the garden. Check it:

That salad contains some of the kale, mache, and spinach …

Seedling Check: Aquarium Water Fertilizer

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Last weekend I started some tomatillo seeds. These plants get big and bushy and are quite prolific, so we only have three plants in our garden plan. I planted three seeds each in three yogurt cups to hedge our bets:

They are in a black cake pan to try to give them some extra heat, since tomatillos need really warm temperatures to germinate — even at 75-80 degrees, it can take two weeks for the seeds to sprout. Nothing is going on yet, but that's not surprising since our indoor temps are likely around 65 degrees, and maybe 70 in that window on a sunny day. These seeds aren't exactly new (maybe three seasons old?), but we store them very carefully in an airtight container in the back of the refrigerator, and that has served us well for saving seeds in the past. Hopefully this is just a matter of being patient for another week or so. 
The rest of the seedlings are doing well. The leeks we started two weeks ago have sprouted and are stretching up to the sun:

The onions, broccoli,…

The Salad Cold Frame

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Lest you think this past weekend and all that sunshine has only been about flowers:

We also moved the cold frame and planted it with some cool-weather salad veggies. It is in a row along the patio that will actually mostly be fallow this year. Part will be planted with strawberries, but we are phasing those in, so there is space for an early cold frame here where it won't affect anything in the planting plan later.
Anyway, we put three rows of carrots (Danvers Half-long) along the back where the frame is tall, then in front of that a row of radishes and a row of beets. In front of all that are mesclun and spinach, which take up about the whole front half of the cold frame. 
With our extra-warm weather, the cold frame is nice and warm, so we are hoping for quick germination and growth to tide us over until the rest of the garden is really up and running. I went out today to check the moisture, and it was quite warm inside, even with our foggy, 40-degree day today. Next year we wil…

Perennials Popping Up: Afternoon Update

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So it turns out those rogue crocuses are varying shades of purple.



They are pretty, and welcome in the spring, but not exactly part of my ever-so-carefully planned spring color scheme. Since they are up at the same time as the squill, I'm mildly concerned about a color clash. The squill is much more blue:

If you look carefully, you can see how the ribbon of blue is starting to fill in, with its curve echoing the curve of the brick path. These should naturalize pretty quickly, which will hopefully fill in like a little blue river along the edge of the border. In my original plan, these were supposed to be blooming along with the daffodils, which obviously isn't happening (although I think it should — I saw it in action last spring). I'll give it another year to see if the timing is off because of the warmth, or if those crocuses will forever clash by blooming at the same time as the squill.
In other news, our apple tree has broken its buds:


So far only this tree has begun …