Tuesday, February 26, 2002
Cold Weather Coming. good thing i didn't get impatient and try to put any seedlings out over the weekend. we're expecting record lows (20s) tonight and tomorrow night.
Cats vs. Seedlings. no (noticeable) losses to hungry cats yet, but they have sat on a few seedlings. and for some reason one of the cats is barfing more than usual. we haven't witnessed any seedling snacking, so it could be entirely coincidental, or not - two barf incidents have occurred in close proximity to the seedling trays...
Monday, February 25, 2002
Lazy Erica. despite the fact that it was a beautiful weekend, i did absolutely nothing outside. i did finish potting all the tomato and spinach seedlings, but that was pretty much the extent of my gardening activity for saturday/sunday.
the only vaguely outdoorsy thing i did was to wander around the backyard looking for additional places to put all my plants once they're ready to go out. i decided that the ixora under the sunroom windows should be relocated to the side fence beds. i think they'll be happy there, if not i won't worry too much. the bed under the windows is perfect for tomatoes and sun-loving herbs. there is also a small bed by the side door that would be a good home for some smallish herbs. they'll be sharing space with a crape myrtle and some lily-things, but i think i can make it work.
Pictures? i know, pictures of all the happy seedlings would be fun. but the camera and the computer have a love/hate relationship, and right now they're in a hate cycle.
Friday, February 22, 2002
The Fun Never Ends... last night i potted up more tomatoes, spinach, thyme and savory. i now have 40-odd little pots, each with four or more seedlings.
it's still too soon to put anything outside - the rain yesterday afternoon/evening would have smooshed any poor seedlings unfortunate enough to be out. and we're supposed to have a cold front come through next week. i just have to remember to be patient.
this weekend i hope we'll finish clearing out the jungle. it was more work-intensive than i expected last weekend, but darin has volunteered to help finish the job.
i haven't even started my lettuce seeds. that may be a problem, since lettuce is apparently a cool weather plant. okay, maybe it isn't such a problem. i have 1000+ seeds so even if i toast a few in the houston heat, i can always try again next season.
Thursday, February 21, 2002
Too Many Tomatoes? i may gone overboard with the tomatoes. i bought two varieties - amish paste and brandywine - for a total of 100 seeds and made the "mistake" of trying to start them all. very nearly all of the seeds have germinated. even after i move them outside, lose a few, and thin out the weaklings, i'm going to have a lot of tomato plants. darin may be getting more practice making sauce than he expected. do squirrels eat tomatoes?
Potting Progress. last night i transplanted about 40 tomato seedlings into eight pots. also transplanted five pots of spinach (i love spinach) and four of sweet peppers.
there are now two trays of potted seedlings in the sunroom. one is perched safely on top of the plant stand. the other, well, it is within cat-reach. we closed the doors to the sunroom last night to keep the cats out, but i hate to lock them out of the sunroom during the day because it's one of their favorite sleeping/outdoor watching places.
Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Miscellaneous Updates. i got home too late last night to do any transplanting, maybe (hopefully) tonight.
this morning i checked out the corner formerly known as the jungle. i'd been worried that it would turn into a mud pit since it rained off and on yesterday and last night. but all is well - it seems to drain nicely. nevertheless, i definitely want to add a couple of inches of soil/compost. this brief period of rain was by no means a true test.
Fig Tree. i've started worrying about how much shade the fig tree will create once it leafs out. it may render about 1/3 of my prospective garden too shady for some of the herbs and veggies i'd been planning to put there. not to worry too much though, there are plenty of other spaces i can use. and i know that this first garden attempt is highly experimental anyway, as i learn what works and what doesn't.
Tuesday, February 19, 2002
Herbs Galore. a quick check of the seedlings this morning revealed that the thyme and winter savory are approaching 100% sprout rate. lots and lots of 1cm high seedlings. egads. tonight i'll try to move them into pots before they outgrow the current environment. i'm not even sure what winter savory is, but it sounded so good in the catalog.
this is part of what i enjoy about growing things - it's almost like christmas every morning when i check the progress of all the seedlings. the same is true when i check the yard plants - new leaves, new flowers - it's all happy and cheerful!
Sunday, February 17, 2002
Progress in the Jungle. i'm about half done with the clearing. darin helped by digging out one of the sago palms. i measured the area this afternoon - it's approximately 11' front-to-back and 18' wide. that's a lot of asian jasmine. the good news is that the soil is in pretty good condition. i can push a pitchfork in about five inches without much effort. even so, i think we probably will add some compost, and possibly sand, before all is said and done.
in addition to the earthworms, frogs and a couple of lizards, i've also found some very interesting "lost objects": the skull of some antlered animal, i'd guess it was a deer, but it seems too small; a pair of interesting antlers/horns with no skull attached; 3 wooden lawn croquet balls (somewhat rotted); a wire topiary form shaped like a deer (no head, and the skull is proportionally too small to substitute); and two medium-sized plastic balls. my theory is that the skull and other antlers were once hung on the fence. i found the objects immediately at the base of the fence, and there are, in fact, a couple of nails sticking out of the fence at about an appropriate display height. oh yeah, also found one garden hose and most of a large terra cotta pot. all of this was completely hidden from view by the asian jasmine (the topiary was on its side).
Seedlings Galore. tonight i transplanted 4 more pots of basil for a total of 40 basil seedlings. i also potted the mint and chives, as well as some of the savory, thyme, tomatoes, spinach and coriander. all told, i have 19 pots of seedlings in the sunroom.
Mexican Heather Propagation. the plumbago didn't seem to appreciate my attempts to root it in water. however, two sprigs of mexican heather do look very promising. one has visible roots growing; i can't see the roots on the other sprig, but the leaves remain fresh, so something is happening.
Saturday, February 16, 2002
Shrub ID (Tentative) - Redtip / Redtop. i'm pretty certain about this one, but i haven't seen the flowers yet. we have two smallish ones under the sunroom windows, one by the east fence in the backyard and one by the driveway.
Tree ID - Carolina Laurel Cherry. we have one of these against the back fence. ours is about 15' high and 10" diameter. it's an attractive tree and is about to start blooming which should make it even nicer to look at, but i'm not too excited about having such a poisonous thing in my yard. now i know why it still has plenty of berries - too bad the darn squirrels won't go for it.
Weed ID - Asiatic Hawksbeard. obviously a weed. i usually find 3-4 of these to pull every time i set foot out the door. but i thought it was a small dockweed. apparently the "bane" of houston gardeners. oh well.
fun saturday night, eh?
Plant/Weed ID - Annual Bluegrass. we have this, too. also behind the garage. i knew this was something i didn't particularly want and have been pulling it up as i see it. fortunately, it doesn't compete well against whatever "real" grass we have elsewhere in the yard.
Plant ID - (Mock) Indian Strawberry. one mystery plant/weed down; many still to go. we have a lot of this growing/taking over behind the garage. i'm not sure whether - at some time in the past - it was intentionally put there, or if it just moved in on its own. since it's between the back of the garage and the compost pile, it's not too high on my list of things to clean up. i'd been kind of hopeful that it was true wild strawberry.
More Seeds Started. forgot to mention in yesterday's post that i started more seeds thursday evening: rosemary, thyme, coriander, winter savory, tomatoes, spinach and sweet peppers. signs of activity already from the spinach, thyme and savory.
the basil seedlings that were potted thursday appear quite happy. they're sharing a tray on top of a plant stand in the sun room.
Tackling the Jungle. i've come inside for a break after spending about an hour and a half in the jungle working to clear out the asian jasmine. not much progress to show, i've only gotten through about 1/10 the area. ugh, i really dislike asian jasmine. it's a perfectly good groundcover, but i don't want this piece of ground covered by it anymore.
i took the photo while standing in the back corner of the jungle, looking through it towards our back deck. the fig tree - center - will stay. all else will be removed. last fall, when we moved in, there were about a dozen medium- to large-sized elephant ear plants. i cleared those all out a few months ago, but missed one and left the "grandfather of all elephant ears." but even their days are now numbered.
Friday, February 15, 2002
Transplanting. last night i moved 24 basil seedlings into temporary pots - 6 pots, 4 seedlings per. more of the basil will be ready for potting this weekend. darin is excited - and perhaps a bit overwhelmed - by so much basil. needless to say, i'll probably end up inadvertently killing a lot of it.
the chive seedlings aren't quite ready for transplanting; they're still sort of doubled up on themselves as they emerge from the seeds. the mint seedlings are standing upright but are so delicate and fine that i'm not sure i can move them from the germination bed into pots without serious damage. i may just end up "planting" the towel they're on.
darin and i will be making an excursion to wal-mart and/or our local home improvement store this evening to peruse "serious" gardening tools. i have every intention of tackling the jungle this weekend and starting to prepare it for a new life. more on that later.
Wednesday, February 13, 2002
Houston, we have Seeds. alas, i probably won't have time to do anything with them for a couple of days. but when i do finally have time, i'll be starting a variety of herbs (in addition to the basil, chives and mint i've already got going) and a few vegetables (tomatoes, spinach, peppers). i have no idea how successful this will be.
speaking of the existing seedlings, they had a bit of a set-back a couple of days ago - monday, i think it was. i've been keeping the covered tray that they are sprouting in on top of the fridge - it's warm and out of the way. however, that location has also become a prime cat perch recently as we've been experiencing a coolish spell. turns out that there isn't quite room for two adult cats and a tray of seedlings. so the tray got bumped off - so to speak - and a small number of seedlings were lost between the cabinet and fridge.
Monday, February 11, 2002
Weekend Update. i was feeling a bit under the weather all weekend and was completely unproductive. which is a shame since saturday's weather was perfect for being outside.
Friday, February 08, 2002
New Links. thanks to chuck for pointing out a couple of interesting sites - The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Buchanan's Native Plants. too bad darin and i already have plans for tonight, otherwise i'd like to attend the "organic lawn care" presentation at buchanan's.
seed order has not yet arrived. maybe tomorrow?
Thursday, February 07, 2002
Seedling Update. the basil is going all-out. the "sprout rate" as of this evening appears to be ~80%. i'll be transferring this batch from paper towel to soil this weekend. darin laughs at me because i check the seeds a couple of times a day, but they are coming along so quickly that you can really see a difference from morning to evening.
somehow, i doubt our parents get quite as excited about seed updates as they would about grandchild updates, but this will have to suffice for now.
Gardening Philosophy. eventually i'll write about this, but here's the short version: i don't believe in coddling plants. i do believe in native plants.
Sprouts. this morning it looked like ~60% of the basil seeds were sprouting and ~40% of the chives. no sign of life from the mint, but a quick websearch indicates that mint germination requires about twice as long as basil and chives (10 days, or so). some of the basil seedlings are showing plumule.
hopefully, hopefully my seed order will arrive tomorrow so i can get those started.
last fall's chives are hanging out in the sunroom until i decide where to put them outside. in a perfect world, darin and i will start preparing the jungle for rehabilitation as a flower/herb garden this weekend. that task (chore) may take a while.
Tuesday, February 05, 2002
Rain & Seeds. it's been a drippy, dreary, cold sort of day. but it is, after all, february. and this is houston, so it shouldn't last long.
the herb seeds are germinating. as of this morning, 10 or so basil and a comparable number of chive seeds were showing teeny, tiny sprouts. whee!
Monday, February 04, 2002
Sunday. on sunday i started thinning the liriope/lily turf circling two of our backyard trees.
the plumbago i pruned last weekend is putting out lots of new growth and looks great. i took a couple of cuttings from it to try to root, along with the mexican heather.
we have two miniature roses in the backyard - one looks great, nice and bushy, i pinched the tops back a bit to encourage it; the other mini has been pretty sad since i discovered it last fall, lost in all the groundcover gone amok. i think the outlook for this one was greatly helped by the removal of the playset that had been shading it and the creeping groundcover that had buried it. in fact, it was while i was cleaning out all the creep that i discovered the "lost" rose. this one still looks very scraggly, but it is beginning to put out new growth, so i'm hopeful that it will pull through.
The Jungle. speaking of creeping groundcover, the southeast corner of our backyard is what i refer to as "the jungle". the centerpiece (and the only thing i care to keep) is a very nice fig tree. the rest is a mess of some aggressive creeping vine (no, not kudzu; i recognize it, but don't know what it is, need to take a piece to a nursery for ID); elephant ear and some spiny, tropical-looking plant. there are also two huge pots of asparagus fern. these will get relocated. hmmm, maybe they can go by the front walk.
darin and i talked about the jungle yesterday and he agrees with me that it all must go (except the fig). i think it gets enough mid-day / afternoon sun for some veggies and herbs, so last night i ordered seeds! i probably should have started seeds (indoors) a few weeks ago, but i'll see what happens.
Sunday, February 03, 2002
Saturday Chores. i spent yesterday afternoon cleaning out the beds beside the driveway and by the front door. mostly this meant lots of leaf-raking, a bit of weeding and thinning lots (and lots) of liriope (aka lily turf). i also cleaned up the two mexican heathers by the front door. they seem to have established themselves very well since i put them in last fall. one is even blooming! this is what i love about being in houston. i saved some of the trimmings from the heather and am trying to root them.
Friday, February 01, 2002
Starting Seeds. sweet basil, spearmint, chives. took the seeds i bought last fall out of the fridge and spread them out on damp paper towels. now i'll just let them sit for a couple of days.
Save the Chives. i mentioned that i had started some seeds last fall and lost the seedlings when i left them out during a cold spell. actually, not everything died. the chive seedlings, which have been sitting in the garage for the last month or so, are still green, though a bit droopy. looks like i have about half a dozen little plants. i've brought them back inside (tonight's low will be in the 30s) and will try to pep them up before putting them outside for good.
Herbs from Seed. tonight i'll be spreading herb seeds (basil, chives and mint) on damp paper towels to encourage them to get started. i did this back in september/october, got everything started nicely and transplanted into small pots, then left the poor things out in the cold. it doesn't get very cold in houston very often, but there is the occasional cold snap. i promise to be more responsible this time.
i do have ulterior motives - darin has promised to make basil gnocchi for me if i get a couple of good basil plants going, so wish me luck.