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April 17, 2005

Posted by Teresa at 03:34 PM * 168 comments

My god, I’m exhausted. Bring me water, bring me Ibuprofen, bring me coffee and beer. I’m grimy, too, and I think I may be sunburned. And however did I get that deep bloody scratch that spirals down my left calf? I don’t remember doing that.

I have clearly overdone it. Oh, my back. Oh, my feet.

Oh, but my garden.

Comments on Spring:
#1 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 03:58 PM:

I gotcher arrows of desire right here. Chariot's observing alternate-side parking.

#2 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 04:04 PM:


#3 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 04:04 PM:

...and was a ga-ar-den
Planted there...
In Brooklyn's green and pleasant land....

#4 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 04:30 PM:

And you know you'll be back out there doing more tomorrow. :)

#5 ::: Jean Dudley ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 05:25 PM:


I won't be planting a garden this year.

Live it for me, dear!

#6 ::: JamesG ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 05:53 PM:

bring me coffee and beer.

Why slow yourself down trying to handle two seperate beverages when you can try something like this:

B-to-the-E (BE), Budweiser's newest entry in a long line of innovative beers by Anheuser-Busch, is a distinctive new product for contemporary adults who are looking for the latest beverage to keep up with their highly social and fast-paced lifestyles (should included gardening here).

As the industry leader, Anheuser-Busch is the first major brewer to infuse beer with caffeine, guarana and ginseng. (I had to read this one twice, because I thought it said guana instead of guarana) :)

#7 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 06:14 PM:

I was offered a sample of "B to the E" and all I can say is that it's B to the S. I think some Anheuser executive must have been visiting Brazil and spilled some Guarana soda into his Brahma beer. Yum. (Brits who mix ginger ale with their beer may feel differently.)

If you want coffee with beer, try a nice taddy porter - lots of coffee notes, but no cafeine.

#8 ::: Kate Yule ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 07:15 PM:

Good for you!! Teresa, I'll be staying with Lise the weekend of April 30. Might I come by and see the garden?

#9 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 09:12 PM:

Good, another reason to avoid Anheuser Busch products.

Guarana causes, urm, tummy troubles with me. Which has given me a great suspicion of all herbal/exotic/sports/etc. drinks. Just guarana but it's used in so many of them that I finally said, "what the hell" and stopped drinking them.

#10 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 10:07 PM:

Happy is Teresa when all is green and she can potter in her garden. Shall I send along a case of arnica?

Our garden is terrifyingly verdant--as if it woke up last week and said, "Damn, it's been raining for months! What are we doing, hanging around here? Bust out all over, dammit!" We have lemons the side of a baby's head, and the birds-of-paradise and the irises and the calla lillies are having a turf war. I'm afraid to go out there for fear that I might not return...

#11 ::: Senseless ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 10:13 PM:

I bet it's a good exhausted you feel though.

All those Endophrins being released.....

#12 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 10:41 PM:

Coffee? Beer? How about some Absolut and Lemonade? A seven and seven? Bourbon old fashioned, with Maker's mark...?

No gardening here, yet. First order of spring cleaning, to get the old water-heater out of the cellar and out to the curb for the trash collectors...and then to take the wagon down to Scituate to collect at least 15 to 20 more stones for the completion of the little hobbit-sized stone wall I'm building in the back yard.

Sure to be a great conversation piece....

#13 ::: Lucy Huntzinger ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 10:54 PM:

My hands are all over scratches and punctures from weeding the roses. Buff Beauty is flaunting big peach-tinted blossoms, Full Sail has many pale buds, and Ballerina is fighting the blue plumbago with its pink and white skirts of blooms. It's glorious.

#14 ::: claire eddy ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 11:13 PM:

Oh good lord, child. You did what I did cleaning on Friday, you did.

But good on ya. I have found out that I and the young man may be free next weekend to muck out your garden some more.

So sez I...

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 11:46 PM:

Do chariots count as commercial vehicles? Because if they do, we're going to have to get that thing off my street and park it on one of the north/south avenues. It's all right during daytime, but at night they'll ticket for it.

Jill, part of one is planted. Today's big task was building a compost bin into the back corner fence, then removing to it the vast quantities of mulch that previously covered the back garden. Under the mulch was a uniform layer of landscaping fabric, much of which has been shaken out and folded up and deposited on top of the mulch.

I'm going to try something old-fashioned here: ASCII art. If it looks spazzy, put it into a non-proportionally-spaced font.

Top is north.

The Hs are the rear entryway, which leads down into the basement. The rows of Xs at the top are the rearmost area of the garden, next to the back alley. It's the highest area of the yard. The areas indicated by periods are paved -- the walkway that runs around the garden, and the porch right next to the house. The porch is the lowest area; there are stairs up to the walkway.

The gardenable areas are the big central square, the two side strips, and the rear area. The thing in the middle is a weeping cherry, currently in bloom. The thing at upper left is the new compost-catcher, and as shown is not to scale.


The eastward (rightward) side-strip is planted in little blocks of different kinds of basil, separated by chile pepper plants. There's an additional block at the top that's planted in dill, and one at the bottom that's planted in salad burnet, Sanguisorba minor.

The basil's one of the most important things in the garden. I can get decent tomatoes if I'm willing to pay an arm and a leg for them, but the standard commercial dried basil you get in grocery stores is crap. If you grow and dry your own basils -- Genoese, cinnamon, and lemon are essential to the mix; don't use Thai -- then crumble them together, the result is so much better than commercial dried basil that you might as well call it by a different name.

Purple basil's pretty, but it's touchy and slow-growing. There's a reason most plants on this planet opted for green rather than purple.

The area at the rear will be devoted to tomatoes, though I'm thinking of planting a single row of nasturtiums at the edge where they'll hang down over the retaining wall. There'll be beans along the rear fence, and tall sunflowers on either side.

Assuming everything grows.

I keep trying to think of a way to work some rainbow chard into the overall design.

The center square is mostly ornamental. Toward the NNE I've put in red and yellow King Humbert cannas and a bunch of big spiky dahlias, and tomorrow will add some Asiatic and bicolored lilies plus the seeds for various suitable annuals. South of the cherry tree I have pencilled in some deep-pink City of Portland cannas, Oriental lilies, a Sarah Caldwell polyantha rose, maybe some pastel glads, additional daylilies around the tree, an elephant-ear caladium, and more seeds for suitable annuals.

The area already contains various rosebushes, a lot of chocolate and orange mint, a splotch of houttuynia, and more pachysandra and tradescantia virginia than I can find in me to love.

The westward side-strip is already occupied by a bunch of hybrid tea-roses that came with the place. Not liking them has enabled me to do some admirably strong-minded (but not terminal) pruning. I'll probably tuck various herbs into the spaces between them, put the rest of the glads along the fence they back onto, and maybe put some nasturtiums along the walkway edge.

I have no compunctions about crowding plants I don't like. Big leggy high-maintenance disease-prone non-self-cleaning hybrid teas, all ranged in a row directly underneath my pulley washline where they snag my sheets, are not going to get as much encouragement as a noisette or polyantha or hybrid rugosa.

Aconite: Very likely, assuming I can move. Today I kept going a couple of hours past the point where I stopped being able to get up off the ground unaided.

So sorry, Jean. What's happening this year?

Kate, of course you can. If time and circumstances permit, we might even fire up the barbecue.

Lucy, Mad, I envy you your climate. We're still getting revved.

Mad, you're making me nostalgic. I grew up around bird-of-paradise. Granny always had it. She had great taste in plants.

Did I remember to tell you that ponderosa lemons make great marmalade? In the latest batch, the one that was about 40% Sevilles and 60% ponderosas, they were almost as good as citrons.

#16 ::: Lisa Williams ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2005, 11:59 PM:

I've got my plants hardening off outside now.
When I'm done, I'll have a full flat of lettuce, plus basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, mint. Peppers and tomatoes will come later.

I have a lot of legacy plants; an old rose I trellised last year, a lilac, etc. Out in the main yard we have a "dwarf orchard" around the edge of dwarf variety fruit and nut trees: pear, apple, chestnut, and a cherry tree that forgot it was a dwarf tree.

I keep trying blueberries and failing but we do have raspberries.

I don't have a lot of space. The one big thing I did that increased the yield of my garden was to go to garden boxes -- basically, 2X4s with preformed metal corners that they slide into. I have two four foot square boxes for the vegetable garden. With the boxes, I can fill the whole darn thing with peat moss and add just enough topsoil so that it doesn't all blow away. Plants love it.

#17 ::: elizabeth bear ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 12:05 AM:

*sends scotch and a hand massage*

I'm with the .jpg crew. *g*

#18 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 12:28 AM:

We jackhammered the bottom of our swimming pool (which we never used for swimming, and constantly had to throw money and chemicals at) some years ago and filled it in (having 115 tons of dirt, in 25-ton installments, dumped on your front carport and moving every ton of it through a narrow side yard with a wheelbarrow is, ummm, an interesting experience), and have been slowly putting in beds of flowers and bulbs (and a laurel fig tree as the formerly-known-as-pool's centerpiece) to make it a garden/sanctuary. (The ground's close to fully settled by now, so I need to start putting in ramps and paths for Hilde's chair in the next year or two. And a pond.)

I used the narrow space between the north edge of the pool sidewalk and the block wall for a small vegetable garden. Since this gets full sun, except for partial shade from the tree, I found the first year that almost everything got blasted and burnt out by the Arizona summer sun hitting both directly and reflecting off the wall. I put up a number of white trellises this year to see if they'll break up some of the heat from the wall.

I've got tomatoes (Opalka and Brandywine), some mixed sweet pepper plants and a few Anchos, some Thai eggplants, burgundy okra, Dragon carrots, and Delicata squash. And a Reisenstraube tomato plant growing in a hanging pot (very, very slowly; supposedly it'll eventually produce hundreds of itsy-bitsy tomatoes, but at nearly three months, the seedling's still only about an inch high.)

(I recommend the Brandywine tomatoes, by the way. Vigorous, fast-growing, quite disease-resistant for an heirloom variety, and since they're not a hybrid variety, seeds can be harvested for the next year's planting.)

#19 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 01:33 AM:

"We jackhammered the bottom of our swimming pool (which we never used for swimming, and constantly had to throw money and chemicals at...)"

Ah yes. I'm tempted to do the same. The worst of it is it was a nice hilly slope once, then a vinyl-sided pool, now a concrete monstrosity which nobody swims in and which costs upwards of $100/month to care for.

#20 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 03:26 AM:

I think the issue is whether the Brownies or the FDNY have the authority to ticket and tow chariots of fire. And you probably wouldn't want to be the person booting one.

#21 ::: Soli ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 07:00 AM:

Was Sunday some planting holiday I was unaware of? Yesterday I purchased herbs to grow on the deck (living in a condo where you aren't allowed to grow food SUCKS!), but I'm so happy and already talk to them and want more!
Not only that but at least two of my friends in different parts of the country were planting yesterday as well.

#22 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 08:00 AM:

My chives from last year, in my back-balcony herb box that I left out all winter, are alive again. Nothing else is, but the chives are sending up little bright green shoots. It's amazing how green green is, after there hasn't been any for a long time.

I'm not planting any basil out yet because we're still getting below freezing some nights.

Incidentally, rather than drying them, last autumn I stuffed all the basil and all the thyme into separate bottles when it started to get to the end of outside-growing time, and then filled the bottles with olive oil, and have been happily using them as flavoured oil all winter.

#23 ::: Steve Thorn ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 08:28 AM:

It must have been something in the water this weekend.. I was out building clothesline poles and arbor fencing for grapevines while the wife spread out 1280 lbs. of topsoil and planted a van-load of flowers out front. Looks really nice.

#24 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 08:59 AM:

Teresa: Today I kept going a couple of hours past the point where I stopped being able to get up off the ground unaided.

My sympathies. I did much the same, and spent the evening dealing with muscles in spasm. Today is Arnica Day. Because, you know, I have to get those foxgloves in...and transplant the columbines...and thin the daylillies... If anyone's in desperate need of daylillies (most seem to be 'Stella D'oro'), or would like to trade plants, please e-mail me. (Teresa, if you're looking for good homes for those excess spiderworts, I promise to treasure them.) The e-mail address given is real--just correct the anti-spam measure in c0m.

Regarding superior varieties of herbs: Thymus vulgaris 'Orange Balsam.' Heavenly.

#25 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 09:43 AM:

Spring has come to Ann Arbor, too!

This past weekend I also kept going a couple of hours past the point where I stopped being able to get up off the ground unaided. I pried bricks (oh so many bricks...more bricks than I ever realized could be there) out of our back patio where spousal-type will soon build a deck. We're going to move the bricks to the front walk.

The weekend before I became rose food, in pruning a fifty-year old and incredibly out-of-control rose hedge that came with the house when we bought it. Spouse won't go near her except when I really need help (with, say, the seven feet, eight feet, ten feet tall tendrils, or the branches that are three inches in diameter), because he's a bit concerned she might eat him...the sunburn from that effort is now peeling and the scratches are healing.

Oh! And now I'm in my office and after reading everyone's gardening stories, I want nothing so much as to go home and dig and dig and dig...

#26 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 09:54 AM:

This is a wonderful time in South Florida, as soon it will get too hot and things will begin to wilt unless you pay LOTS of attention. But now...The French lavender and oregano smell heavenly (I use ground -creeping oregano as a weed suppresant in my flower beds and it works a treat!). The gardenia is bursting out all over, and the dwarf gladioli and the dinner plate dahlias are starting to make their appearance. The hibiscus are being hibiscus and the roses, which were severely pruned two months ago, are starting new growth everywhere. In the back garden, the tomatoes, green peppers, and assorted lettuces are already being harvested; and the zucchini will go in this week.
I too am a little sore, but my heavy backbreaking work came last month.

#27 ::: shosh ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 10:09 AM:

In Minnesota, my peaches and zone-marginal sweet cherries are in bloom. It's 71 today. Of course, that doesn't mean it won't snow yet in April. Or May.

#28 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 10:18 AM:

Since it's on the Internet, it's true that the world's largest rosebush is in Tombstone, AZ, right?

#29 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 11:13 AM:

fidelio, that is WAY bigger than ours, but has had the benefit of better care, methinks. Ours was in a tangled shambles when we took possession. I can see, though, the potential for ours to look like that! Thanks for that link, as that gives me ideas as what to do with her, now. The great news is that the cuttings from our bush are incredibly hardy and take with no trouble at all, so in a few years she'll have children all over the yard.

#30 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 11:28 AM:

Teresa, I did send you a jar of Miss Tolerance's Best Marmalade, didn't I? 70 percent Ponderosa lemons from our tree and 30 percent Meyer lemons.

I'm envying you your basil, the only plant I ever successfully nurtured from seed to leaf in NY; our garden gets very spotty sun, and last year's basil withered and died. I'd consider ditching the birds of paradise and callas and putting in herbs along that wall, except that I have absolutely no certainty that they'd actually take. We're on the cusp between the sunshine of the Mission and the fog of the western part of the city, and it's difficult to promise a plant that it will get all the sun it wants. In our apartment in NY the basil window faced south and got all the sun that was available, and it throve.

Saturday I did have the same =sort= of day, in terms of result (ie., not being able to move without assistance): cleaned out the refrigerator, the garage, painted the front door, etc. Spring nest clearing.

#31 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 11:39 AM:

Sigh. I wish I could grow edibles in my garden. Hoboken is too toxic, unfortunately. Even with imported soil over a thick plastic liner (which we have to keep our flowers from dying) it's not really safe. Chromium and like that.

Basil is best FRESH. Myself I used to make pesto during the fresh basil season and freeze it. Frozen pesto made with fresh basil is still way better than never-frozen pesto made with dried basil IMO. And you haven't lived until you've eaten a red sauce made with chopped fresh basil. Yum. Not to mention a spicy Thai chili sauce, which is good with tofu but I suppose you could make with meat. (Note: Thai sauce not Thai basil. I'm not sure why Teresa says Thai basil is no good but I trust her.)

Teresa, I know you know nasturtiums are edible (in my opinion also tasty). If you want to eat them I'd keep them away from the walkway, but you probably don't.

It's pear blossom season in Hoboken, which is so full of pear trees that they won't let you plant them any more for fear of a pandemic should they acquire a blight or parasite. They're at the snow-white stage now. Gradually they'll turn pale green, then...but I'll write that up on my LJ.

#32 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 12:15 PM:

Xopher, I love the Thai basil. (Here I make the assumption that the basil used in Thai restaurants is Thai basil. It will not surprise me to learn otherwise. Teresa, after all, was the one to clue me in on chicken broth in Hot and Sour Soup. Whodathunk?)

On the eating of flowers: avoid Daffodil bulbs. All my detective novels agree that they're poisonous. (BTW: The flowers that bloom in the Spring (tra la!) had nothing to do with the case.)

#33 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 12:27 PM:

Kimberly, the rosebush in Tombstone is all the more impressive to me when I consider that it's in a desert, although at least down in Tombstone they probably don't have to worry about coldkill. I've heard a theory to the effect that the bush has sent a deep root down into an old flooded mine, which might help explain why it's managed to last so long. Apparently, the flowers are smaller than on a typical Lady Banksia, though.

Can you imagine the playhouse a bush like that would make for children?

#34 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 12:47 PM:

Thai basil no good? I don't think I caught Teresa's mention of that, and Google's not returning anything that seems relevant. Teresa, what do you dislike about it?

Does anyone have any experience with Vietnamese cilantro aka Rau Ram? Apparently its flavor is similar to cilantro/coriander, but it resists bolting. I've never been able to keep a coriander plant growing longer than about 3 weeks before it bolted, so an alternative would be most welcome.

#35 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 12:51 PM:

Sure, gardening is great fun until you find one of these in your yard. :) (j/k)

Havne't used arbnica much on muscle pain, but it is amazing on bruises.

#36 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 12:57 PM:

Rereading I see that she didn't actually say it was no good, just that you shouldn't put it in the mix when growing basil in your garden. There could be many other reasons for that.

Lexica, what's bolting?

#37 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 01:14 PM:

There could be many other reasons for that.

Ah hah. Makes sense, although I read it the same way you did initially.

#38 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 01:28 PM:

Bolting is when a plant prematurely produces flowers and seeds. Cilantro is one of the most extreme bolters I've encountered - one day the plant will look fine, but 24 hours later it's far enough along in the flower-to-seed process that the leaves become unpleasantly bitter.

Hot weather is supposed to trigger it, as is stress. Since summer in Oakland isn't usually hot, I think stress must be the main culprit. My herbs need a therapist, I guess.

#39 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 02:43 PM:

Well, how often do you talk to them? I might also offer them a pillow to punch when they get frustrated.

Seriously, thanks for the explanation.

#40 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 03:05 PM:

Madeline: I have been in an urban Central Coast excessively shady, heavy-soil garden for coming up oin thirty years now (it has goitten shadier over the years partly because I planted fruit trees wherever there was sun), and here are my surefire recommendations:

Almost any salvia, never mind what the cultural notes say: they're all much more flexible than they get credit for.
Violets, and anything related to them, as long as you put deep barriers around v.odorata or you don't mind your whole garden being violets.
iris -- if you have a little light during the day, it doesn't have to be much.
nasturtium -- but in our area, you need to understand that it will become invasive (in the yard, they don't seem to take over the roadside)
I'd recommend vinca except that it is a pest.
Blueberries can handle a little shade.
greek oregano can tolerate a little shade.
I just got a gorgeos little plant called "claytonia" which is native.
roses can tolerate a little shade.
wisteria likes shady feet.
species fuscias mostly don't get fuschia mite.

#41 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 03:11 PM:

Lexica, I think bolting in our area is more often caused by water irregularities than actual heat.

fidelio, the regular Lady Banks white rose has flowers about an inch wide, just as they describe it on the site. The white Lady Banks is the fragrant one, though the yellow is prettier. Also, many European deciduous plants have shorter lifespans where the winters are not cold, because they don't go dormant long enough and they get stressed from the lack of rest.

Soli, is it a condo rule that you can't put out a pot of cherry tomatoes?

#42 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 03:54 PM:

Lucy, lots of condos have rules against growing "crops." My dad got busted for cultivating tomato plants when he lived in a condo. (Condo living was not a good choice for Dad - it brought out all of his libertarian/passive-aggressive traits - he left a Christmas wreath on the door for months just because he knew it bugged people and was against the rules).

#43 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 03:57 PM:

In that case, my aunt's bush is either not a Lady Banks, or is an sport--the flowers are in the 2+" range--still on the small side, but not teeninesy. I'm still amazed that the one is Tombstone is both so large and so old--I've seen plenty of old plantings here and there, but nothing that old that hasn't been badly nipped back at least a time or two.

#44 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 03:57 PM:


Can you grow a pot of basil in a window? I grow my basil and parsley in a planter box that I bring in over the winter, and, assuming I remember to water it (it gets put in a basement window), and assuming cats don't get into it, it does okay. I'd think it might do well enough in a pot indoors to give you fresh basil when you desired it.

Especially if it had good light and regular watering and not feline interference.

It's not the same as being able to grow it outside, but far better than nothing.

And I join the crowd in requesting that our hostess provide pictures of all the lovely growing things.

#45 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 04:07 PM:

Andy Perrin: On the eating of flowers: avoid Daffodil bulbs. All my detective novels agree that they're poisonous. (BTW: The flowers that bloom in the Spring (tra la!) had nothing to do with the case.)

All parts of the daffodil are poisonous; it's why you can grow them even in mole-, goundhog- or deer-infested areas. The sap not only irritates skin (and eyes!), but will cause your other flowers to wilt in a vase, so you can't use them in arrangements. Kewl.

Lucy Kemnitzer, one friend of mine got around the "no-crops" rule by growing "ornamental" hot peppers, "ornamental" herbs ('Spicy Globe' and 'Purple Ruffles' basils, frex), and scarlet runner beans "for the flowers."

#46 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 04:19 PM:

John M. Ford:

"whether the Brownies or the FDNY have the authority to ticket and tow chariots of fire"

Alternate Side of the Via Dolorosa Parking is Suspended.


Our Brazillian Floss Silk Tree (Chorisia speciosa?) just started popping its pods and drifting floss silk onto our garden, caught on the thorns of the Mister Lincoln roses. Related to kapok. Could stuff pillowcases with it, I suspect. Not edible. Our dog eager to grab a fallen pod, or fragment of pod, in a vegetable-animal "go fetch" game. But she's annoyed that the tree wont run around the yard and chase her. Triffids...

#47 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 05:09 PM:

My sister got around a "no crops" rule by growing flowering kale.

I'm overrun with chives. My garden looks like a green crew cut.

#48 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 05:10 PM:

Michelle K, I might actually be able to grow basil entirely indoors. I have a skylight, currently choked with spider plants. Perhaps I'll hang pots of basil instead. Thanks for the suggestion!

#49 ::: Sarah G ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 05:13 PM:

I have questions for this group of almost disturbingly knowledgeable gardeners.

I have no garden of my own, being an apartment dweller with no attached land. I do, however, have a roughly 4’ deep x 11’ wide x 10’ tall balcony with an iron bar railing about halfway up on the 11’ wall that’s open. (The other three walls are brick or sliding glass door and windows.) It gets about 4 hours of direct sunlight a day. The landlord has also put black netting with roughly ¼” holes across the entire opening in an effort to keep out the pigeons that liked to roost messily on the balcony.

I have no idea if this is possible, but I want to plant something that could grow up the railing/netting and maybe even flower and photosynthesize, and whatever else plants do. Obviously there’s no actual soil currently on the balcony, so I’d have to plant it in pots or trenches. Are there plants that could grow up without needing a lot of root space? If so, any suggestions?

I’m also interested in herb pots, as they sound a bit easier (they’re okay in windows?) and hopefully a little harder to kill. Any and all advice is greatly appreciated. I’m a little worried that my complete lack of gardening experience is going to translate into accidental herbicide, and so far the gardening catalogues have been more confusing than reassuring. Thanks!

#50 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 05:48 PM:

Aconite, you'll trade Stella d'Oros? For spiderwort?

Where do you live?

#51 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 06:03 PM:

fidelio and Lucy K: My bush flowers just like that: giant bush, wee little roses, white, and very fragrant! Because of its disheveled state, there were very few blooms last year, and because I had to prune a lot, I'm not expecting much this year. BUT now I feel like we're heading in the right direction, although I'm not sure how J. felt about the email, with the link to the bush in AZ, stating, "Honey, I've figured it out! You need to build me one of these.

But I know very little about gardening; I just sort of wing it and try to learn a little more each year. Our big task this year is to save the lovely holly-looking tree that was growing in a trellis by the front porch when we moved in; it caught some sort of mite-ish disease last year and the branches got all soggy and speckled white. We're just hoping it comes back this year, and if not we might call a tree doctor.

Teresa: Every year I need a few consecutive weekends in the spring in which I spend at least one day thoroughly exhausting myself in the yard. My arms were so sore after my date with the patio bricks, but I couldn't bring myself to stop, even after my bicep started to quiver and my grip gave out a few times (although I was glad I missed my toes with the bricks I dropped that way). It is my favorite spring purge. Hard, hard manual labor, borne of love and (sometimes, if I get lucky) resulting in blooms and vegetables. Also, as the bricks came up, I could see my progress--which is very satisfying, and not always the way it goes in litigation.

#52 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 06:10 PM:

Here in Northern Virginia, my ugly azalea bushes have started to bud.

I own a condo and there are people who grow things on their balconies, but my balcony faces north and there aren't many things that grow in complete total shade.

#53 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 06:17 PM:

Okay, one more thing (sorry for the thread monopolizing!)--Making Light is clearly the source for my quest to learn a little more every year. I just googled Stella d'Oros, and found out that I have a beautiful batch lining my drive-way! Hurrah!

And, believe it or not, another google later and I have to say that it looks like the blue/lavender flowers on one side of my front porch might be spiderwort.

#54 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 06:34 PM:

Bruce: I know that feeling (the moving of tons of crap (in my case precisely crap) because we have horses. These days they are 200 miles to the SSE, but when they were a few hundred yards away (and they will be less than that again, someday).

Four horses (it's more now) go through about 200 lbs. of various hays in a week. Which has to be collected. Before the present system of composting beds was perfected (and when I was the only shoveller of same) I probably moved more than enough manure to fill your swimming pool.

Then, some months later, I'd dig into the pile (20' x 6' by 8' [in X,Y and Z]), which was an adventure in geology by analogy (I could see which weeks/months were which by the sheeting, a la sedimentary accretion, as well as the effectsof pressure, heat, and moisture on each layer) and haul it, a few hundred lbs at a time down the block; approx. 1/4 mile, to the garden and turn it under.

I wish we had good luck with brandywine, because Maia's mother loves them (though she can barely abide the smell of tomato herbage, so it is left to me to tend the plants) but where we were/will be, they are finicky as all get out, and in a good year produce maybe four lbs. of fruit per plant. In a bad year, they don't bear at all.


#55 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 06:41 PM:

Xopher: Agree on Basil. I have come to the decision that barring fresh, I do without (though I may try Teresa's recipe. Have to by more basils... darn).

Have you thought of planters? I have three half-barrels (used to house wine) with grapes, as well as varied alia, and some lettuce.

If it weren't that shipping them to you would cost, a lot, I'd offer to get some for you. Barrels with an equatorial slice are $10. There is a shop here with polar halves for $40, but I'll bet I can get whole barrels for not much more than $20-25, and you could arrange to have them sliced any way you wanted.

I'd think that taking off 1/3, from top to bottom, would allow for the planting of even such things as peppers, which have extensive root systems.


#56 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 06:54 PM:

Sarah - you might be able to get a clematis (fairly rapid growing, vigorous climber) to skedaddle up your netting.

#57 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 07:15 PM:

Kimberly: I just googled Stella d'Oros, and found out that I have a beautiful batch lining my drive-way! Hurrah!

Talk about learning something every day. This gives me visions of a driveway paved in Anisette Toast with decorative borders of Breakfast Treats and breadsticks.

Somebody airlift some out here while I go get a glass of milk.

#58 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 07:28 PM:

Larry: That was precisely the sort of thinking that led me to believe I needed to google. "Teresa wants to trade spiderwort for breadsticks??!?"

Only now I'm hungry, and I've flowers but no breadsticks.

#59 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 07:37 PM:

Sarah, what's the light like when the sun isn't shining there(deep or bright shade)? And when the sun is shining, is it morning or afternoon? That makes a big difference: morning sun is gentle, afternoon sun is glary. And what's it like in terms of temperature? And does any precipitation get through the netting?

If it doesn't get cold out there, you could fill the whole thing with sweet potato vines in a couple of years. And there's a morning glory for almost every purpose -- temperature, light, annual/perennial, blue red or white flowers. Oops -- those are almost the same thing!

I'll have less ridiculous ideas when I know more.

I've heard good things about clematis, but I think it's only recently made it into my area, because before last year the only place I ever saw one was in a magazine photograph.

Fidelio, I couldn't find on google a confirmation of this idea I had that there might be other varieties besides the classic yellow and white ones which might have bigger flowers. But. Lady Banks is, as I remember, an ancestor of many hybrids, and I'm wondering if your aunt's rose is a hybrid with a banksiae parent?

#60 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 08:02 PM:

Just so you all know what I'm up against in my quest to learn about gardening, I provide this transcription of the short conversation I had, just now, with spouse J.

K: Guess what!! I found out what those flowers are on the side of the house!! They are day lilies!! Stella d'Oro day lilies!!

J: [raising left eyebrow] No, they aren't.

K: Yes, they are, I saw them online. I googled them and they look exactly the same.

J: No, they aren't. They're daffodils.

K: You're out of your mind. I'm going to look right now. I just saw them online right now and they look the same. Are you sure? [walking to window]

J: Hon, trust me, they're daffodils. This I know.

K: [looking out window, biting lip, and squinting] [little yellow flowers look nothing like picture on google, except that they're, well, yellow] oh.

J: Hmmm-hmmm.

I haven't the heart to go look at the little lavender-blue flowers by the front porch.

#61 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 08:28 PM:

Lucy: Wow. I am not such a gardener (nor is our back yard big enough) that I could take all your suggestions, but I'm copying down the list and heading to the nursery...

#62 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 08:53 PM:

Sarah G: Speaking from experience, there are a few other things you need to take into account when planning your balcony garden.

Can your balcony support the weight of the filled, planted, and wet planters? This one is critical.

How high up is your balcony? The higher you are, the more likely your site is to be a zone or two colder than your ground-level location is rated. This will affect which plants can survive there. If you're only a couple of stories up, no problem. If more, you'll need to take that into account.

How windy is your balcony? If very, you need sturdy climbers with tough leaves so they don't get dessicated and shreaded.

How sturdy is the support you want the plants to grow on? How much weight can it hold?

If you want to e-mail me, I'll see if we can find something suitable for you.

Teresa: Yes, happily. Daylillies grow rampant here; spiderwort less so, and I have semi-woodland to fill in. I'll e-mail you with my location.

#63 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 09:02 PM:

I would admire to visit your formally bedded garden, but probably wouldn't want to garden where so much was replanted every year. On the other hand, if I lived in a city and were lucky enough to have a garden plot, might be different.

Basil: a person could plant a variety and compare/combine them. I include some Thai in each year's assortment, but that's because I've developed a taste for pesto with a sharper note of anise. And by all means try straight lemon basil pesto with fish (odds are you'll plant more lemon basil, if you like fish).

There's pesto made with dried basil? It's a funny old world.

Roses: I'm betting the "large-flowered Banksia" is Rosa x Fortuneana (or Fortuniana, have seen both spellings). In habit it's effectively a Banksia, I think the leaves are bigger; the flowers are white, scentless, a little wider and less formally shaped. I'm not aware that the Banksian roses have been extensively used in hybridizing but my understanding is, this one is a [?natural] hybrid of Banksia with China.

I once described Stella de Oro (look it up, that's the registered spelling) as a daylily with the soul of a marigold. In revenge Stella refuses to grow for me (that's after I noticed there's a place for a perennial with the soul of a marigold).

Michael Bowling
(Hi, Ambar, Beth Meacham.)

#64 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 09:04 PM:

Madeleine -- I must admit that I am a lazy gardener though I have planted some demanding things because I have romantic notions that I will suddenly become responsible. Most of those plants you can't kill with a stick -- if you live in our area. Did I remember to warn you that borage also takes over?

My own yard is not large, either, but I also tend to plant small numbers of each thing and lots of kinds of things because I'm sort of scatterbrained and I get attracted to plants the way a magpie does to shiny things. OOh, looky there! I'll say.

Also, you should look out for displays by Shepherd's seeds, Renee's Garden (both founded by Renee Shepherd, and I don't know why she went from the one to the other), and Annie's Annuals (and Perennials), all of which are in our area and produce seeds and plants which do especially well here.

ooh, shiny websites:

I'm too easily distracted to be a reliable seed nurturer, so Annie's is better for me than Renee's.

#65 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 09:05 PM:

my garden concept has deteriorated over the years. I used to plan things. Now I just take a handful of whatever hasn't died and move it to a bare part of the yard.

It's efficient, anyway.

#66 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 09:51 PM:

Meanwhile, over here, autumn has finally arrived, the mornings have become crisp, and the sun has started to rise at a more civilised hour. Life starts to move again. We await the rain.

#67 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 10:29 PM:

cmk: So it is, and so I've managed to botch it in two different ways today. Urk.

Regarding gardening websites, Dave's Garden has an excellent site for searching out mail-order companies and checking their reputations: Garden Watchdog

#68 ::: Sarah G ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 10:31 PM:

Wow, thanks for responding so quickly. Ok, here goes:

Jill: Any plant that skedaddles is a plant I need to own.

Lucy: My balcony gets morning sun and then bright shade. I live on the side of a hill and the balcony faces the back of it and gets a fair amount of reflected sunlight. I'm also in Seattle, so yes, precipitation both occurs and gets through the netting. It doesn't get terribly cold here, the low is about 35 degrees F in the winter.

Aconite: Luckily, my balcony is solid concrete and very sturdy. Good thing too, as I'm six stories up. Also, because it's enclosed on three sides it doesn't get too windy. I'll email you more info about the general layout.

Thanks so much to everyone for their help!

#69 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 10:47 PM:

Aconite wrote: How windy is your balcony?

D'oh! NOW I understand why my bay tree perished of thirst. (At the time, I thought it was in trouble because I was overwatering it-- sure, it LOOKED like it was dehydrating, but I "knew" that was impossible. After all, since the plant is native to the area, it would expect seasonal desert conditions...)

#70 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 11:03 PM:

Ahhh, yes - the garden's just starting to emerge from the dull filth of late winter - and I should really get some cleanup done. I'm still trying to find a company that'll trim my (very large - ~14.5' circumference) maple tree for something that doesn't leave me twitching and muttering about highway robbery, on the theory that less canopy might mean more garden, and a healthier tree.

Stephan Zielinski wrote:

(At the time, I thought it was in trouble because I was overwatering it-- sure, it LOOKED like it was dehydrating, but I "knew" that was impossible.

I thought that I was overwatering some of my houseplants, but it runs out that my smallest cat has learned the knack of balancing on the larger indoor flowerpots and peeing! No wonder the plants expired :)

#71 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:25 AM:

Sarah, you're fortunate. Morning sun and afternoon shade is the best part-shade combination. Also you're fortunate that your balcony is in Seattle, because your climate is a reasonable one (colder than strictly necessary, but not entailing complete shutdown of botanical operations for several months of the year).

According to a quick google, you're in Sunset Zone 5 (I'm in 17, only in a less-foggy version).

But, since your balcony will be warmer than a completely outdoor garden would be -- the building will warm it up -- you can grow things that might be challenging completely outdoors.
Sunset has had articles about growing subtropicals in Seattle.

You know what, though? I'd suggest going to the nursery and looking at the plants, because it's more fun than deciding in advance what to get -- you'd be surprised what you might find.

Maybe guava or passion vine would work, given the warmth of the building. Maybe not. Ivy is a nasty piece of work -- it tears brick buildings apart with its little fingers. Wisteria would get out of hand and is leafless in the winter and only blooms for about a month in early spring. I might think of an actually useful suggestion sometime -- meanwhile I think the best suggestion was Jill's clematis one, though I have never lived with one.

#72 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:24 AM:

Sarah, one last thing before I go to bed:

look at this

#73 ::: liz ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:43 AM:

aways back, Bruce said:

"having 115 tons of dirt, in 25-ton installments, dumped on your front carport and moving every ton of it through a narrow side yard with a wheelbarrow is, ummm, an interesting experience"

The rule of thumb goes like this. Big contractor's wheelbarrows are said to hold 3 cubic feet, but overloading with too much material is a baaaad idea, so let's say 2.0 cubic feet, max. Dirt is probably about .9 to 1.0 tons per cubic yard (1800 to 2,000 per 27 cubic feet) = 66 to 74 pounds per cubic foot? Hmmn. That seems about right. Suppose you can schlep 2 cubic feet per load, it would mean about 340 wheelbarrow trips per 25-ton load....

The horses each produce about a cubic foot of manure, weighing about 45 pounds (MOL).

WTH does this have to do with container gardening? Well, fresh manure is a pretty good rule-of-thumb stand in for damp loamy soil. If you have a 24" pot that's 20 inches high, that's about 5.3 cubic feet of dirt needed, which is about 240 pounds when wet. Your average balcony ought to be able to withstand one or two of those.....but how many?

Other topics: clivias are expensive, but very satisfactory shade plants in moderate climates. They flower best when rootbound, too. I wonder how vinca would do as a pot plant...I have some vinca minor that is very well-behaved and flowers in the shade... There are some peachy-colored, fragrant roses that have gone feral, all throughout San Mateo county. I'm taking cuttings. Own-root roses take a while to get established and then are hard to kill; if you are out and about and see a feral rose, I don't suppose it would be ill manners to cut a cane (but not in the parks, please).

#74 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 06:13 AM:

Sarah, Sweet pea (Lathyrus) is quick and showy, and will shoot six foot or so up your netting out of a smallish pot on your baclony.

You can grow it from seed this summer if you start now (or soon), and it is very satisfactory for a novice gardener, as it grows fast and has lots of pleasantly scented (if short-lived) flowers.

Clematis can be a bit of a heart-breaker in my experience, dying suddenly for no apparent reason just when you get fond of it.

On looking up Stella de Oro, I see that I have three of a similar day lily named "Eenie Weenie" in the front garden.

Like Lucy, I have a small garden, and prefer a few of a lot of things rather than a swathe of any one thing, mostly so that I can have at least a few flowers out there at any time.

Right now the Tulips, Glory of the Snow, Grape Hyacinth, Anemones and Pasque flowers, Phlox, Periwinkle, Primulas, Bluebells and the last of the Narcissi are out, along with the Arenaria and the Rock Rose.

#75 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 06:57 AM:

I think the more recent clematis hybrids might be a bit sturdier - it also does most/all of its growing in cooler weather, so plant soon if you want it to get some serious height!

Our local home/garden center carried a dizzying array of clematis last year - already started, with a good variety of colors and sun/shade preferences. We bought four of them, and three out of the four are thriving (the fourth might have ended up prey to local marauding deer).

#76 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 07:00 AM:

Can I make a pitch for They sell heirloom seeds, so you can pick a plant that actually grew wild in your zone (and besides, heirloom seeds).

The seeds and plants I've bought there are also remarkably hardy without pesticides.

#77 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 07:30 AM:

Sarah G: take a look at Ipomoea x multifida, aka cardinal creeper. Does well in warm climates and part shade, and hummingbirds love the flowers.

julia, are you familiar with Seed Savers Exchange? All heirlooms. SoC is, strangely, now selling seeds for which the original source is SSE.

They sell heirloom seeds, so you can pick a plant that actually grew wild in your zone

Heirlooms aren't necessarily native to areas they grow well in, and many never grew wild at all. They tend to be very well adapted to the particular regions they were developed in, though, and as you pointed out, well adapted plants are happy, living plants.

#78 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 08:39 AM:

If you have a skylight, you might be able to grow other herbs as well. Parsley should do fine, as should Rosemary.

Sarah G,
Depending upon what you want, I've grown Morning Glories and Sweet Peas in containers, and they should climb and flower all over the place, but you'll have to replant them every year. Though if you wanted a clematis for long term, you could plant sweet peas or morning glories to give you something to look at while the clematis is taking hold. You can also get clips(? hooks? metal things?) that allow you to hook the planters to the top of the rail, and then you could have hanging plants as well.

Are Stella d'Oros the ones that bloom repeatedly all summer? If so, I have several that bloom from mid spring through early fall. Unfortunately I'm not near New York. We have also inherited some of my husband's great-grandmother's lemon lillies, which bloom only once, but are a lovely shade of yellow, and spread quickly. We've only had them two years but they're already filling up their alotted space.

#79 ::: LeslieS ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 09:39 AM:

There are two sorts of clematis - the summer blooming - big, showy flowers in a range of colors like dark purple (jackkmani IIR) with somewhat sparce growth generally and sweet autumn clematis. The latter produces tons of tiny white very fragrant flowers - here in SE Michigan starting late August until frost. I have one that spreads more than 30 feet along a fence - and this sort gets hard pruned after hard frost. I don't know how it would do in Seattle in a balcony but it is a profuse and aggresive grower.

Since you sound somewhat shaded another possibility might be silverleaf - which also produces copious tiny white flowers. I think the idea of going and looking and asking about plants is a good one though. hmmn - honeysuckle or sweet potato are both pretty....

I also spent the weekend in the garden and have the battle wounds to show for it - the big rosebush clearly resents being pruned!

#80 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 09:52 AM:

It's entirely likely that my aunt's rose bush is a banksia hybrid of some sort--she's an old-fashioned southern gardener, of the sort who's more likely to get her plants from friends and family than by actually buying them somewhere. She almost certainly got this rose, along with a couple of others she has, from someone who needed the space. She's also a major daylily maven, and whenever I visit her, we have to do a review of how what bloomed last year, and what's new this year. She has friends who are hybridizers, so she has a lot of odd daylilies you'll never see in a catalogue.

[BTW, Kimberly--daylilies are a summer flower. I'm not sure when the start/peak/end of the flowering season is for you, but down here in Tennessee they start sometime in June, and peak in mid-July, with many continuing into late August or early September, depending on individual habit. My aunt, who lives in Mississippi, prefers to divide hers either in February (if it's warm) or March, before the scapes that bear the blooms form or else in the fall, although this latter needs to be done early enough they have time to establish themselves.]

Almost every major city, and many small ones, has a daylily, or hemerocallis, society or club, and if anyone here would like daylilies, you need to hook up with these people. Daylilies need dividing regularly, and daylily lovers tend to keep acquiring new daylilies, without always gettng more space to plant them in. Therefore, they end up with perfectly nice daylilies that need loving homes, because otherwise--*gasp*--they'd have to throw them away!!!1! Most local clubs/socieities have swap days, where you can get daylilies for free, or for a small donation to the local club, or whatever. Many nice daylilies could come and live in your garden at a greatly reduced cost this way.

On the famous, nay, notorious Stella de Oro daylily: Although my aunt rarely ever buys daylilies, she does get catalogues from the main growers, and the pricing follows a standard format--the newer the introduction, the more the plant will cost; a new introduction can run around $500 or more, with a steady decrease in price the older they are. I have never seen Stella de Oro for more than about $3.95/6--my aunt jokes that they're only charging for the labor to dig the damned things up, as this variety is one of the most prolific, and will spread through the yard faster than bird flu in Hangchow. They're pretty, shorter than most daylilies, and are even harder to kill than most of the hemerocallis clan--but watch them closely.

#81 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 09:58 AM:

liz: Fresh manure (horse) is a decent amendment, in moderate quantities, but a poor substitute.

It will compost, all on it's own, if it's present in bulk, and kept damp. It will also, without turning, go anaroebic and develop 1: a sulphurous reek and a lethal environment.

But composted, at that point it becomes really useful, and one can arrest the composting at various points (or amend with things, like branches, chipped wood, green plants and paper to get a different texture at the back end), so as to create just the stuff one wants.

This is, however, much easier to do if one has a steady supply of manure, and some space to do the composting. Right now the problem at the horses is removing the finished compost, since I'm no longer there to spend 12-16 hours a week on the garden. Sigh. I'm making do with a small patch of sand.

Strange sand too, about a two-miles inland. A fair bit of organic matter (not enough to make it sandy soil, more like soily sand) in the top couple of inches.

So we're importing compost. I'm amending it in patches and have little plots of carrots and leeks and onions. Pots of herbs and bonsai. Patches of poppies and alyssum (which I'm slowing replacing. Spots of marigolds (against the snails) and my grapes.

I'm curious as to the period you think each horse is taking to generate the cubic foot of manure.

#82 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 11:24 AM:

Terry, thanks for the ideas on barrels. I'm not sure how that would work out (I'd feel obliged to consult my fellow owners on putting something the size of a barrel in the postage stamp - um, yard).

Michelle K: On those rare occasions when I use parsley or rosemary, I'm satisfied with what I can get in the store. I don't use that much of them on any given occasion. On the other hand, one can never have too much basil; some of my pestoing projects have been endangered by my nibbling the leaves instead of dropping them into the swirling olive oil. I've been tempted on occasion to make a salad with basil leaves.

In fact, there was an Indian guru - I think her name was Amritananda - who was famous for fasting on nothing but basil leaves and water for six months. That sounds unwise to me, but not like a huge hardship...except that you'd probably never eat basil again, and that would be a tragedy.

#83 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 11:32 AM:

Terry, take heart -- emended sandy soil is excellent for a lot of things, especially root vegetables which I could not grow without a lot of backbreaking labor:

"clay on sand manures the land, sand on clay is thrown away"

I forget where you are -- but inland sand is not really uncommon, since it just marks where any sort of water used to be: and two miles is not far inland. What's funny is going up to the first line of ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains, say five to ten miles inland and 1000-3000 feet high, and then finding sand and the remains of not all that ancient sea life. Funny, but normal.

And since we've brought up native plants, for those in my area a fun place for a day trip is
Yerba Buena Nursery. I say day trip because even if you live on the Peninsula, the nursery is up a long windy road and down again, and the grounds are huge. I always want to come home with a kajillion plants, most of which are not suitable for my yard, but sense always prevails so far.

For wallflowers and ceanothus alone, you could spend hours. Not to mention ferns.

#84 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:53 PM:

Fidelio, I for one *want* my Stella D'Oros to spread out more. More flowers, less grass to cut. (Most of my front yard is a steep slope.) Plus they're nice to look at. I have other daylilies too, but Stella's a favorite because it reblooms. Around here it starts in late May or early June, around the time the irises are quitting, and go on most of the summer. Last year, being wet, one of my Stella clumps was blooming on Halloween.

Kimberly, there are lots of lavender-blue flowers this time of year: violets, phlox, periwinkle, and several weeds. I seem to have them all in my yard.

Also yellow ones: daffodils (two different kinds -- one bright yellow, one paler), tulips, forsythia, and of course dandelions.

And the blossoms on the pear and apple trees. The apple blossoms are pale pink.

I just was thinking this morning that I need to thin the daylilies near the tulips because they're crowding the tulips out. Those daylilies -- old, orangy ones, not Stella D'Oros; they came with the house -- aren't blooming yet, but their leaves are pretty high already. I used to have a dozen or so tulip flowers this time of year. Now I have one. One.

The iris leaves are coming up, too. And the lilacs have buds.

I also have some more things to plant: irises -- yeah, more irises; I love irises --, anemones, and some tulip bulbs that I will try to not put too close to the daylilies. It's supposed to rain later this week and I may do it after that, when the soil is moist. It's also a good time to pull up weeds like dandelions; the roots come out easier when the ground is wet.

And once the forsythias quit blooming it will be time to prune them.

#85 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 04:09 PM:

I think bolting in our area is more often caused by water irregularities than actual heat.

Oh, yeah, that would explain it. I am woefully irregular about watering the garden.

The Garden Watchdog is a good site. I wish I had paid more attention to the comments about Richter's Herbs before I ordered from them. I certainly don't intend to do so again.

#86 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 05:35 PM:

When we lived in Edmonds, WA, Mother grew an entire wall-worth of sweet peas on our west wall. I cut flowers every day. She even grew them here in NoVA before there were the hardy versions. I generally kill plants, but Mother could grow anything.

#87 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 06:24 PM:

Weird garden serendipity:

I recently went to a Flower and Garden Show. I was in the middle of writing a book that specifically mentions forget-me-nots, a red gladiolus, and very large beanstalks. I went past this one booth advertising Giant Beanstalk Beans, and decided it would be fun to grow some. So I take them to the counter. There are little packets of bulbs for sale, with a sign: "Red gladiolus, $1. I laugh and get those too. The booth owner rings them up, staples a packet of seeds to the receipt and says "By the way, these come with free forget-me-not seeds."

What are the odds?!?

#88 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 07:01 PM:

Lucy: Just south of Pismo. I know inland sand isn't abnormal. The place in Arcadia has great swaths of sand, all washed down from the Angeles Crest. That's some thirty miles inland.

And the shallow slope (I don't think we're more than 30-40 feet above sea level) doesn't make the beachy nature of it strange. There are road cuts, more inland, and more upslope which are pretty much pure sand.

The problem is (and my carrots, leeks, onions etc, are all happy enough, though the leeks in more dirty soil are growing faster) the drainage, as well as the poorer nutrients. I have to be more attentive to water or they will dessicate.

Flip side, if I water too often they won't reach down to the area which is actually holding water.

Xopher: If you do get to use barrels you might take that as an excuse to hit the wine country in New York. They may have much better deals on half-barrels. Here, where I know I can get them for $10 they run $25-40 in a hardware store or nursery.

A truck and a reason to take a weekend in the country and you can justify the savings.


#89 ::: Lenore Jean Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 10:50 PM:

Xopher, as a fellow owner in your building, I can tell you that there are already four barrels in the back yard, only one of which has anything successfully growing in it at the moment (it's a sedum, which has so far returned for five years). You're welcome to plant in any of the others. They obviously were filled originally with purchased soil, though that could be changed out for fresh if you prefer.

We have blooming tulips at the moment, with more on the way, and blooms on the periwinkle. We've cut our ivy way back (it was invading the yard bigtime). The dog downstairs seems to have dug up the honeysuckle and most of the lavender. Grumble.

Our female holly has grown so large that all of the bulbs under her are now in shade, which they don't like so well. There are asiatic lilies on the way under there, and day lilies, I think. The irises are also coming up on the North wall.

Our philosophy is to plant things that don't require much care, as we prefer looking at the yard to actually working in it!

#90 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton, only really angry) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 10:53 PM:

Lenore, Terry is talking about actual barrels, cut sideways and used as garden plots. I know we have the small vertical ones.

Time to take a scythe to the holly monster again! (I love this part.)

#91 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 10:54 PM:

Whoops, I'm not really angry over here. That's over in the habeas corpus thread.

#92 ::: Georgiana ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 11:01 PM:

Teresa is the pain and the bloody scratch some sort of sacrifice to the garden to ensure plenty?

Xopher I am impressed that you can go from really angry in one thread to calm in the next. When I am as upset as you have every right to be I take quite awhile to calm down again. Of course you are talking about taking a scythe to something so perhaps I speak too soon...

#93 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 01:52 AM:

Terry, I think our soil conditions are the exact opposite. I have clay on a high water table. It's hard to grow root cropos -- they tend to rot. But I never water the fruit trees in a normal year except maybe once in July and once in August and if I didn't always have new plants going and stuff in pots I wouldn't have to start watering at all until June or so.

I bought these cute little shade lovers called Claytonia sibirica and planted them in this corner that used to support Greek oregano until everything grew up around it. I decided the corner was a good plant to put the miner's lettuce seeds I bought on a whim. Genus of the miner's lettuce: claytonia! More serendipity. The sibirica is, according to the label from Annie's, a native of the Sierras, despite its Asian-sounding name.

Burble. I just wish that pineapple sage would bloom later in the year, you know? It's winding down, and so is the jasmine, and the Belle of Portugal rose is done, and the wisteria . . .

#94 ::: liz ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 04:17 AM:

Terry -- the cubic foot of manure for the average horse is 24 hours, MOL. When I had a backhoe we composted the shavings/urine/manure result of 5+ horses. Now I am proposing to have my friends at Wheeler Farms do the job.

There is a famous road, Sand Hill Road, in San Mateo county -- famous for the sandy soil, as the "bedrock" is this friable sand "stone".

Oh, and forget me nots? I adore them -- in somebody else's garden. The seeds are brutal in the cats' fur. Especially perverse Mr. Natalie, who likes to lie in the gone-to-seed bits and get all matted in his, well, armpits I suppose. And then it is a job for the hundred-armed goddess to get the mats out.

Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) might do well as a climbing plant for you, if it is hardy enough. I'm quite fond of it. The bloom is in May, here, usually, but the glossy green leaves are attractive all year long.

#95 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 06:23 AM:

Liz, thanks for the warning about cats and forget me nots! We have 2 cats, and one's a Maine Coon. That could get messy.

#96 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 10:26 AM:

there are lots of lavender-blue flowers this time of year: violets, phlox, periwinkle, and several weeds. I seem to have them all in my yard.

[sigh] Okay. I've steeled myself. Today after work, I'm going to go out and take a digital photo of the little lavender flowers. When I do get the livejournal thingie goin', I'll post it, and someone can tell me what they are.

Thanks to everyone who posted things about my heretofore unidentified flowers. And it's raining in Ann Arbor today!! We've had some beautiful days, and after our neverending winter I hated to complain, but the ground here in Michigan most definitely needed some wet. So perhaps now more unidentified flowers will come up. Two apricot-colored tulips came up last week!

#97 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 12:22 PM:

Liz, sand hills is what we've got, and mud hills, up to the ridge, with only chunks of limestone ("marble") and granite and stuff like that. It's on account of the Coast Range mostly being not all that ancient sea bottom pushed up by the successive arrival of floating debris from across the ocean. So you have Sand Hill Road up the peninsula and sand quarries all through the mountains.

My mother in law who lived in Menlo Park and Palo Alto said you either get sand or dobie (short for adobe soil, heavy clay that goes rock hard and splits when it dries).

#98 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 12:55 PM:

Georgiana, actually I'd come over to this thread to read and write about something that doesn't make me angry, in hopes of calming down. It pretty much worked, though I must say the thought of hacking something apart WAS pleasant.

#99 ::: Sarah G ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 01:15 PM:

I have a trip planned to a local garden store/nursery this weekend that I'm very excited about now that I have a little background knowledge. Thanks so much for all the suggestions, I know what part of the store I need to look around in now. :-)

#100 ::: Georgiana ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 09:10 PM:

Xopher, you're a good sport. I had come here from the site I moderate for much the same reasons. I was fleeing from a pretty nasty interaction that left me too agitated to calm down so I thought I would come here and see if anyone had left advice that would be useful for someone who wants to try container gardening and is essentially too sick to stand for more than three minutes but has a set of really wonderful sons who would like to help.

I'm renting a condo with no real yard, just a patio that opens onto the commons. I'm thinking I could do something with the edges of the patio area. I have tomatoes in mind and I very much want some herbs.

The barrel information is particularly appealing.

Many thanks to our hostess for providing an oasis in times of stress.

#101 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 10:31 PM:

Georgiana, basil grows wonderfully with tomatoes; they both like the same conditions, and of course they taste lovely together, too. There are some perfectly fabulous grape/cherry/currant tomatoes that grow very well in containers. Look up Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds ( for one source. Cinnamon basil is beautiful; the tips are a dark purple, and when the plant finally goes to bloom, the flowers are orchid-colored.

Tarragon also grows well in containers. French tarragon is the only kind worth growing; Russian tarragon tastes like grass you'd pluck from your yard. You cannot grow French tarragon from seed; you have to get it as a plant. And let me shamelessly plug 'Orange Balsam' thyme as the very best thyme you can grow. Rosemary does well in containers, too. MInt is happy in moist semi-shade, and it's best to grow it in containers because otherwise it will go everywhere. Oregano is another herb happy to be potted up. Greek oregano has more bite to it than the other types.

How old are your sons? What kind of help can they give you?

#102 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 11:15 PM:

Due to a lovely missive from the city (probably prompted by a complaint from the realtor next door selling their house), we gotta paint a small corner of our house (where there's a splash zone because of a gutter overflow) and the whole garage. I'm spending the next couple of evenings/part of Saturday morning removing dead/living foliage and the f-ing pieces of scrap wood our lovely neighbors to the east hoisted behind our garage when they built their new garage. I started to have a go at it tonight, but decided gloves, real shoes and probably a hat and better weed cutter -- we have vines going up garage sides-- would be the better part of valor. I'm certain pain is going to be involved, but I'm leaving the weeds on top of the retaining wall to discourage yard-to-yard passage of the various migrant thug youth that sometimes go through.

The good news is that we have actual sanding/painting help from Margene's daughter, son-in-law and a friend, onSunday. Thank goodness for Home Depot rentals.

Of course, I'll be cooking Sunday, with Jim being the grillmaster. Steaks were promised and we're extremely grateful. (p.s., at least our local Costcos carry the BEST beef I've seen outside of real butcher shops, which are oddly few and far between here in the barbecue capital of the world.)

#103 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 05:24 AM:

re basil and tomatoes: basil also discourages snails, who love to eat tomatoes before you're ready to. It's really wise to grow them together!

#104 ::: Lenore Jean Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 10:11 AM:

Xopher - ah. Well, let us know where you'd like to put them. It's probably cool.

As to the holly, John and I are easy about its height, but would like to see some of the bottom branches lopped off to give the bulbs under it some room to grow.

Everyone - Any ideas on what to put in our patio planting barrels, then? They get varying amounts of sun and shade, depending on the barrel, and of course have more problems with water because they're pots. The successful sedum is in the northernmost barrel, which would get the most sun, I think. (The yard is fenced, which creates shadow. It's about 60 feet long by 25 feet wide, with a small patio at the eastern end next to our building, which is four stories tall and creates the other shadows in the yard. Right now (10am) the Southwest corner is getting sun, as the sun is in the southeast, creating shadow from the building. Most of the center of the yard is covered with red cracked rock (the developer's choice, not ours).

#105 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 11:16 AM:

basil also discourages snails

A limited but definitely contrary observation, based on the assumption that snails and slugs have similar dietary preferences: here in the Sacramento Valley, slugs can wipe out a new planting of small basil seedlings overnight.

I admit I was shocked, as I'd thought the basil would be too aromatic for them.

#106 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 12:23 PM:

Liz: that sounds about right. I was filling a couple of barrows every couple of days.

cmk: I don't know about basil. Mine has, so far, not been discovered by snails, but something has elected to eat the marigolds I put out to deter said snails. I've been culling them by hand, a few score every couple of days.

Aconite: My tarragon is hating life. The thyme in the container is happy as a clam, the tarragon sad and wilty. Which is a pity, because I like tarragon, at least as much as thyme, but when I think I might want to cook with it, the market is invariably out.


#107 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 12:50 PM:

TK - Wow, something actually ate your marigolds - I thought pretty much nothing liked to eat marigolds.

Xopher - while you're planting basil with the tomatoes, throw some marigolds in with them. In theory, they'll keep most of the pests away. This worked for me in Brooklyn, except for the year we got hit with tomato hornworms (ugly caterpillar things that devoured a couple of near-mature tomato plants right to the ground overnight).

The one time we had slugs, my grandmother decided to try out the salt cure, so she dumped a mound of salt on a slug that had already been tossed out of the garden and onto the concrete. All that remained was a tiny, dessicated pellet.

#108 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 03:11 PM:

Larry: yeah, you and me both. I think them attractive enough, but not really worth the stink.

We,however, have an hellacious snail problem, so I opted for them (better than poison, we have cats and kids, and I want to eat the root veggies). Imagine my surprise to see stems where leaves had been.

I am amused at how possessive I am over plants I didn't want.


#109 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 03:18 PM:

Terry Karney: Is your tarragon more than two years old, by any chance? Around three years and older, they all seem to sulk, and need to be divided. This appears to be true regardless of the size of the plant. I don't understand why. And I had one that just never did well, no matter what I did for it. Perhaps some are just poorly from birth, or parthenogenesis, whichever.

Lenore Jean Jones: What is it you want from the plants in the planters? And what's your climate like, in terms of heat/cold, humidity, and precipitation?

#110 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 03:51 PM:

What's that creature
Dining on the marigolds?
I am not
Sure what I've got
Or what its habits are
Does some feature
Make them seem
The salad cream
Seems to me
Should only go so far.

#111 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 05:02 PM:

Lexica lamented:

The Garden Watchdog is a good site. I wish I had paid more attention to the comments about Richter's Herbs before I ordered from them. I certainly don't intend to do so again.

Hrm. I'll have to go look - I've had no issues with Richter's in the past, but it's been a few years since I last dealt with them. Their plants grew well for me.

As far as container gardening goes, I've come to realize that if I don't have containers that are big enough to cope with my forgetting to water them for a week-or-so, there's just no point to having them at all *wry grin*

#112 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 05:35 PM:

I ran across this elsewhere and it seems to fit the topic: Rootcubes.

Low-density foam block formulated for seed germination. Must be watered down prior to seeding. Each sheet is pre-scored for easy removal of a single cube, block of cubes, or strip of cubes, thereby delivering maximum flexibility in plant spacing. Also, each cube has been pre-punched with a dibble hole for quick and easy seed or plant cutting insertion. Best of all, this media is ready to go and easy to use. Simply wet it down and start seeding or sticking your cuttings.

For $5.99 plus S&H. Hmm. Even my marked lack of ability to grow things is tempted by this.

#113 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 07:17 PM:

Georgiana, I know two people who completely maintain their raised-bed gardens from wheelchairs. That may not mean you can, for example, if I lean too far forward, I fall out of chairs. Container gardens are a smaller version of raised-bed gardens.

#114 ::: Lenore Jean Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 08:41 PM:

Aconite, we're in Hoboken, NJ, across the river from Manhattan. In our yard I've had chrysanthemums come back sometimes, although technically our climate is too cold for them to winter over. The yard is somewhat sheltered, in other words.

There's plenty of humidity, but the reason the one plant that has survived in the barrels is a succulent is probably that they don't get enough water. We don't go down and water on any regular basis, preferring our plants to live on their own or die. I'm perfectly happy to have things without blooms if they survive, but I don't have anything against blooms either.

We also have containers, shallower ones, around two air conditioner compressors next to the building. Those get even more dessicated due to the airflow from the compressors. They're also much shallower containers (long rectangles).

The rest of the yard has contact with the water table (once plants are well enough established, anyway), so there's less of a water problem elsewhere.

#115 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 08:01 AM:

Lenore Jean Jones: If lack of water is the main problem wrt container gardening, try the water-retaining gels that you mix with the soil. I don't baby my plants, either, but container plants need a bit of extra care. If you're truly hardline about "absolutely no fussing," try something like rain lilies (Zephyranthes), which are adapted to periods of drought and which bloom when it rains, or California poppies, which are really tough.

I don't know what Hoboken's climate is like; sorry. Your best bet may be to go to a good garden center and ask what grows well in your area.

#116 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 02:30 PM:

Sometime next month, if all goes well, I will have a garden of my own for the first time ever. At the moment it's a 20ft square (ish) lawn of new turf and nothing else, surrounded by fence. So I get a free rein. It might be too late to do much with it this summer - I don't know, I'm just a novice - but next spring I should be joining you in the quest to make beautiful things grow.

#117 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:05 PM:

My spearmint and lavender wintered over! Yay!

#118 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:20 PM:

Mazeltov! So did my mint, and the bumblebees are as big as I've ever seen them.

It's coming on to rain for a few days. I may put on a poncho and muck about anyway.

#119 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:27 PM:

Homer Simpson: Mmmmmm. Bumblebees in Mint Sauce....

#120 ::: Lenore Jean Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 06:03 PM:

Aconite - sorry, I'm not sure how to describe the climate. I guess like NYC isn't good enough, huh? We get snow in the Winter, but it doesn't usually stick for too long. We had an 80-degree day this week, but this weekend we're expecting highs in the 50s. Occasionally a summer day may hit 100, but that's unusual; 80s and 90s are not that unusual, at least in July and August, and it will also be quite humid. We get a decent amount of rain, but can't compete with Seattle. Hot days lead to thunderstorms.

Do you know where to get those gels? I've heard of them, but haven't successfully found them (not that I've tried real hard). Thanks for the tips on Zephyranthes and Calif poppies; I'll look for them.

#121 ::: Georgiana ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 05:07 PM:

Aconite - thank you for the information, it is very much appreciated. My sons are Chris, 21; he is the one who does all our shopping and errands for us. Cullen, 15 (he met a member of this community, John M. Ford at Fiddler's Green last year) and quite geeky and interested in things of a growing and cooking nature. We used to rent this house on three acres and he planted all of our tulips and our roses for me. Cam, 13 in three weeks, likes to experiment around with new things. He also likes to cook and has been experimenting with adding dill to a variety of dishes. I'm thinking it would be fun and interesting for them as well as for me.

Marilee - wow, that is really good to know. For a long time I didn't think "how can I do this in a new way?" I just thought, "I'll do that when I get better." Now that it is two years later I think it is time to continue hoping and working towards getting better but at the same time to be practical and start rethinking my approach and learning new tactics. Does that make sense?

#122 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 05:57 PM:

"Homer Simpson: Mmmmmm. Bumblebees in Mint Sauce...."

And Crickets with Lavender, Slugs in Chive Butter...

According to my mom mint's simple to grow, but since I've killed an air fern I'm thrilled when ANYTHING I plant grows.

#123 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 06:10 PM:

Georgiana, my brother went through a "rosemary" phase -- putting rosemary in *everything*.

You're describing what the doctors call "accepting your disease." I kept planning to go back to work until I had the second renal failure and that was when I realized my life had changed for good. I still have to re-evaluate like that.

For example, I usually have bird-feeders up on the balcony/porch because the cats and I like watching the birds & squirrels. But I got grain moths in the storeroom and the feeders, so I keep telling myself that I need to find a warm day when I'm up to clearing out the seed storage bin and the feeders and then clean them and then put new seed in. I realized last night that at this point, I need to subdivide that more. I can clear bin & feeders or any subset on one day. The next time I feel up to it, I can clear more or starting cleaning subsets, etc. Just because I was able to do that kind of thing all at once even a few years ago (and wouldn't have thought twice about it when I was well), doesn't mean I can do that right now. (My BP is lower than usual and I don't think I lost any more weight, so I'm dizzy a lot of the time.)

#124 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 07:14 PM:

Lenore Jean Jones: For the gels, try local nurseries and DIY shops first, because it's silly to pay shipping if you don't have to. E-mail me if you can't find them (leave "spamtrap" in, but correct "c0m" to "com"), and I'll go through my catalogues and see what I can find. Plantwise, some other good ones for you may be eastern North American native plants like coneflowers (Echinacea), Rudbeckia, columbines, and Jacob's ladder. Lots of nice native shrubs, too--blueberries are pretty, and the berries are a great bonus, if you can beat the birds to them. Those should grow well in your climate. For containers, you can also look at agaves and succulents like houseleeks (hens-and-chicks), as well as plants with silvery foliage (artemesia and santolina, frex). They'll need regular watering until they get established, but after that, they're pretty tough. I hate dragging out the hose, so I use drought-tolerant plants and mulch well.

Georgiana, it sounds like your sons can do a lot around the garden, so you all should be able to come up with a setup that lets you grow anything that takes your fancy. Tell Cam to plant extra dill for the butterflies--it's worth it.

#125 ::: MichelleDB ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 08:29 AM:

If you make your raised beds 2 feet wide (instead of the frequently seen 4 feet), it may be easier for you to reach as far as you need to without toppling out of your chair. (I'm not in a wheelchair, but I, too, garden sitting down. It was very frustrating at first until I realized I had to adapt the garden to fit me. Now my beds are long and thin. I work up one side and down the other, able to reach the middle just fine.)

You (or your sons) could also make really raised beds that you could scoot your chair under while you're working. I'm thinking of a table that's two by eight feet long with six legs made of 4x4's, a 2x4 apron bolted on with 3/4inch plywood on top and 2x10's for the frame to hold the dirt. Some drainage holes in the plywood and you're set to go.

#126 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 06:42 PM:

Has anyone here ever heard of Corn Salad? I got some to plant on a whim, but I've never heard of it before.

#127 ::: Georgiana ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 07:00 PM:

Marilee - I'm sorry to hear about the renal failure. It sounds absolutely horrid. Aren't you glad for the internet? I shudder to think what life would be like without it. If you lived anywhere near me (I'm in Maryland) I'd send my boys over to help with the feeders. On the first Sunday of every month my two oldest go to the home of an elderly artist and do things around the house for her, trimming the hedges, fixing things, they even put a skylight in her shed for her.

Aconite - ooh butterflies sound lovely. I will pass on the message, thank you very much.

Michelle - thank you for the terrific idea. I've never heard of such a thing but it sounds useful and logical.

#128 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 09:34 PM:

Corn salad is mache (should be a widget over the a), aka lamb's lettuce (Valerianella locusta), a European salad green--a cool-season plant, if memory serves (I've had no luck with it). Said to be quite special in a delicate dressing.

Raised beds on average decrease maintenance; planter boxes on legs sound super, as a way to garden from a wheel chair, but I suspect would increase maintenance: I would suggest not attempting them without drip irrigation, for one thing.

#129 ::: Lenore Jean Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 09:35 PM:

Aconite - thanks for the advice! I've been saving it all, and will (hopefully) use it.

Right now my husband and I are dealing with bad colds, so we're not doing much at all. Frustrating.

#130 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 10:20 PM:

Thanks, cmk! I've looked it up, but seen so many different opinions I wondered if I was reading about the same plant-everything from it's a hard-to-grow delicacy to it's a weed that some people use as an inferior substitute for real lettuce.

On a related note, is wooly thyme used the same way as regular thyme? It and the spearmint are battling to take over my "herb garden."

I'd throw some away, but I hate just killing thyme. ;>

#131 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 12:26 AM:

You can use all the thymes interchangeably and if you're really sensitive you'll notice a difference in the final food product. I have a little trouble keeping it going: unlike the other herbs I grow it gets cranky if you don't water it regularly. Which I take personally. I shouldn't have to water things like that but twice a summer or once a summer month at most. Especially since thyme also curls up its toes if the ground gets soggy.

The other perennial herbs don't get watered, and they're okay.

#132 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 10:41 AM:


This is my first year with a full vegetable garden in my new place, and I need advice on mulch. Straw worked perfectly well on the beds until spring storms started coming though. The winds scoured the straw off and then dried out the soil.

Bark chips and the like would be heavy enough to withstand all but the worst winds, but I have two main concerns about those: pests (imported on the bark and already in my garden) and nitrogen depletion. Shreaded hardwood is a haven for slugs, which are bad here. Pine needles would blow around as much as straw. Plastic is right out, as the heat underneath would solarize the soil. Landscape fabric won't work in intensive beds. Recycled rubber seems a bad choice for an organic veggie garden. Stone mulch isn't an option, for several reasons.

Any ideas? Or should I get to work building a windbreak?

#133 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 12:00 PM:

Whose idea of a bad joke was it to send this snow and freezing rain?

And I LIKE snow in the correct time and place.

#134 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 12:15 PM:

Lucy Kemnitzer:

"You can use all the thymes interchangeably."

That's what they mean by Thyme Travel and Alternate History, right? And a new interpretation of the "spice" in "Dune."

#135 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 12:55 PM:

Hmm, it occurs to me that several people in this thread might enjoy this book, which contains just about every possible time/thyme pun there is. And there are a lot more than most of us would expect.

#136 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 01:35 PM:

And it's a fun read in general.

--Mary Aileen, proud possessor of a black thumb

#137 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 01:41 PM:

I'd throw some away, but I hate just killing thyme. ;>

Definitely losing my grip: must have read that four times as registering your dislike of killing things. Sets quite a different tone.

There was a piece in the New Yorker not long ago summarizing not-that-sucessful efforts to commercialize corn salad by developing a mechanical harvesting system (which requires modifying the plant as well as the machinery).

Any ideas? Or should I get to work building a windbreak?

If you have that kind of winds with any frequency through the growing season you're going to want windbreaks, yes. For the long term you might think "plant" rather than "build" depending on the space available.

In the mean time you appear to be on the right track in looking for something organic but less bulky. If your straw comes in bales and it fits the geometry of your garden layout, you might make it more substantial by leaving it in "flakes" rather than shaking it out. You could start planning for next year by getting organized to compost some straw this fall, anyway.

But in principle you can mulch with anything (specific examples I don't think you mentioned: newspapers, cardboard, old carpets); the problem, as you've recognized, is to know what unintentional contributions, whether biological or chemical, the mulch is making.

The traditional method for dealing with nitrogen use by the decomposition of the mulch is to apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer under (all right, before) the mulch.

#138 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 05:08 PM:

Well, I don't like killing things either, but when the things are plants, I usually do. My whole family's full of farmers, gardners, florists...and then there's me.

Ack! I planted all my seeds, and it SNOWED on them! My track record continues.

#139 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 09:55 PM:

Georgiana, I try to convince the doctors that I get plenty of socialization online, but they prefer face-to-face meetings. I do that once a month with the SF discussion group at the library.

I live in Manassas, so I'm not that far, although I'm sufficiently independent that I like to do as much myself as I can!

#140 ::: Georgiana ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 11:04 PM:

Marilee - I'm sorry I didn't mean to imply that you couldn't do it. I was just thinking it sounded sufficiently complex that I would pass it off to my kids if it were me.

Are you going to Balticon by any chance? Or the MD Sheep and Wool Festival in a couple of weeks? We're going to Sheep and Wool on the eighth and I am already daydreaming about what kind of yarn I am going to bring home. I'm also trying to remember what types of plants I have seen for sale there. Green is only so helpful...

#141 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 02:57 AM:

Mache is part of at least a couple of the baby salad mixes put out by Earthbound Farms (and several local small farms). I don't get the impression that it is particularly hard to grow, at least in the lettuce-growing region where Earthbound is (Salinas Valley). -- Earthbound supposedly distributes their salad mixes all over the country, but I don't know this for sure.

As for commercializing it by utilizing machine harvesting, that's just puzzling. Agribusiness is plenty commercial in the green vegetable industry, and most of the harvesting is done by hand as far as I can see. Just drive around any morning of the week and you'll see the farmworkers out there with specialized knives, bending over the crop. I think I've seen photographs of harvesting machines for iceberg lettuce, but I've never seen any kind of vegetable or fruit harvested except by hand. -- Indicating, I think, that workers are cheaper than machinery.

Earthbound is "organic" in that they don't use pesticides, but they otherwise carry on the usual industrialized farming techniques. I have this feeling that I've read that they have somewhat better wages and conditions than average, but I can't swear to it.

#142 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 06:30 AM:

Earthbound might've been the name on the seed packet, in which case their seeds have made it to Upstate NY.

#143 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 07:04 AM:

Georgiana - the festival looks truly cool: we have a Sheltie and would love to see the working dog demos. Thanks for the tip! (We live in the Rockville area). We have a baptism to attend on Sunday, but perhaps we'll scoot over there on Saturday.

#144 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 09:35 AM:

Earthbound as far as I know doesn't produce home gardening seeds, but organic produce for chain grocery stores and major distributors.

But there are a lot of seed companies with similar names.

#145 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 10:35 AM:

Well, that New Yorker issue now belongs to the Friends of the Library, but the point I recall is that while it's easy to "harvest" mache and come up with a handful of tasty leaves (I did remember, after writing, that it's a seasonal component of some of the locally grown greens that I buy).

The challenge seems to be, to come away with a showy little intact rosette. There was a great deal in the article about commercial harvesting and washing of salad greens by machine, with specific reference to how Earthbound Farms has taken over the organic salad greens market (local hand operations can't compete with their economy of scale).

I am extremely familiar, though not on a personal basis, with tomato harvesting machines for one example.

#146 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 02:19 PM:

I have seen articles about machine harvesting too, but I drive through fields in the Salinas and Pajaro valleys kind of often and I never see them. Same for tomatoes in the Central Valley, though I go there less often, and I could easily just consistently miss them and only see the people with the knives and sacks. You do see these big machines in the fields where the tomatoes are processed after they're cut and dumped and before they're taken to the sheds.

I know th at vegetable combine-things exist, I just doubt, from what I've seen, that they dominate the market. There are a lot of automated bits to the industry, but what you see out there in the fields is men and women bending over with knives and sacks.

And the rosette thing clears up the dissonance completely for me -- you don't get mache in the little rosettes from the big companies -- you get little baby individual leaves in the bags of mixed stuff. I've seen the rosettes, but only at the farmer's market.

I've just been reading about the ways that machine harvesting developed and changed the grain growing industry (in California, in the world's best history book, Beasts of the Fields, A Narrative History of California Farmworkers, 1769-1913 by Richard Steven Street. It's all extremely interesting, even when it's appalling.

Earthbound exists in this context of industrialized agribusiness in California. Economies of scale only begins to express the difference between this kind of farming and the small farm, or the peasant farm, or the collective farm, or any of the other ways to organize agriculture.

The link above goes to their homepage which does not answer the specific questions I have about their operation but you can get an idea about at least how they would like to think they operate.

For an exercise in comparison, here are some other agribusiness homepages:

Tanimura and Antle -- the last I knew Bud Antle was one of the vilest of the lettuce employers
Driscoll's a major berry grower
Dole is the only one of these to mention their labor policy, which seems to support the farmworkers' unions -- but Dole has a nasty history.

More on the actual topic of the thread, though, yesterday I planted the flowers I bought for the seder -- blue nemesia and yellow linaria and blue and yellow violas.

It's almost summer, here -- some of the hills are turning yellow.

#147 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 03:50 PM:

Same for tomatoes in the Central Valley, though I go there less often, and I could easily just consistently miss them and only see the people with the knives and sacks. You do see these big machines in the fields where the tomatoes are processed after they're cut and dumped and before they're taken to the sheds.

Um, when were you last up here?

I live in Yolo County (have done for 25 years). I see lots of people out with hoes in the tomato fields, but I'd swear I've never seen hand harvesting. The big things I see out in the tomato fields are loaded gondolas waiting to go to the processing plant.

That said, I am talking about canning tomatoes: I don't know of any grown around here for selling fresh.

But as to being almost summer, yep indeed.

#148 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 04:09 PM:

Heh. I see the giant centipede achieved Particles fame. *pets the monster*

#149 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 05:24 PM:

Georgiana, I didn't take offense, I just like to try things myself in case I can do them. I live on disability so I only go to two cons a year: Minicon and Capclave. Since I can't walk on grass, I don't think the wool festival would be very practical, although it sure sounds interesting.

#150 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2005, 12:59 AM:

cmk, I bow to your greater intimacy with tomatoes. But I stand by my observations of salad greens, cole crops, artichokes, apples and berries.

Lots of machinery in the field and the cooling sheds, but not replacing the people with knives and sacks, down here.

As a Californian, you should read that Beasts in the Field book, or any given hundred pages of it anyway (it's really huge, but it's so well written that it doesn't daunt much). It's more revealing than that geology book with no maps, drawings, photographs, or graspable facts that everybody keeps raving about (Assembling California? I think that's what it's called, and it let me down with a thud, because I read it to actually learn something, not just be dazzled by some flashy prose).

#151 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2005, 11:04 AM:

Scientists Discover How Plants Disarm The Toxic Effects Of Excessive Sunlight

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Date: 2005-04-26

MADISON - A newly discovered pathway by which cells protect themselves from a toxic byproduct of photosynthesis may hold important implications for bioenergy sources, human and plant disease, and agricultural yields, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison bacteriologists announced Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Plants turn energy from sunlight into bioenergy through a chemical process called photosynthesis, which also produces oxygen in its breathable form. However, photosynthesis can also generate an alternate form of singlet oxygen, which is a highly reactive and toxic substance that destroys biological molecules.

"We've discovered a pathway that cells use to turn on certain genes and respond to singlet oxygen," says Timothy Donohue, a professor of bacteriology in the university's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and lead researcher on the paper.

"This finding should make it possible to modify plants and other photosynthetic cells to avoid the toxic effects of singlet oxygen, which could impact agriculture and the treatment of human and plant disease, and aid the effort to create alternative bioenergy sources," Donohue says....

#152 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 07:58 PM:

Hey, I think that mache is growing! SOMETHING is growing more or less where I planted it, anyway.
I even think there's a pea plant coming up already, too.

#153 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 11:20 PM:

Melissa: Hooray! Brava!

#154 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 01:07 PM:

"singlet oxygen" - is that the rough, working-class oxygen, sweating hard with its shirt off?

#155 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 01:26 PM:

We got lots of stuff growing, mostly that I don't want. In fact I had to de-vine the garage so we could paint it a couple of weeks ago, whatever the vines are (one of our painting helpers says they're poison oak, I don't agree, then again I ALWAYS wash up after doing any weed pulling) plus the honeysuckle that's gotten a good start. Once we're completely done with the painting, I'm going to RoundUp the heck around the garage so it doesn't become a scary jungle like it did last year. (oh, and I found a long-dead stray cat.... eeeuw. chopped off a clump of verdant honeysuckle, there it was hidden by the leaves.)

#156 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 02:17 PM:


No, silly. Unattached, unmarried, not dating. As opposed to Doublet Oxygen, wearing one of those cute close-fitting jackets, with or without sleeves, as worn by European men between the 15th and 17th centuries.

#157 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 02:54 PM:

Actually it's Oxygen ready to wrestle you to the ground.

(Bonding jokes omitted here as too risqué for a family blog.)

#158 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 03:39 PM:

(Bonding jokes omitted here as too risqué for a family blog.)

If bonding jokes are out, I suppose I can't post my musings on ozone. Three Oxygens, a double bond, and a single bond, folks. I leave it to your imagination.

#159 ::: Brian Ledford ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 04:01 PM:

And any references to the simile chosen by Lubert Stryer to describe a hydrogen bond in his classic text, Biochemistry (3rd edition or earlier) are right out.

#160 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 05:12 PM:

Thanks, Aconite!

And today there are TWO pea plants. I must've swapped gardens with someone who knows what they're doing.

#161 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 10:40 PM:

oh, and I found a long-dead stray cat....

You know you've let the yard go when you find bodies in the foliage.

#162 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 09:30 AM:

The glads are growing! Hooray!
If this keeps up it'll ruin my reputation as a lousy gardner.

#163 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2005, 02:41 PM:

If anyone is curious, the mache turned out very delicate and slightly bitter. And pretty-pale yellow-green with gold tints.

#164 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 11:38 AM:

Branch from the past discovered in Catskills
State Museum employees unearth massive fossil of prehistoric flora

By PAUL GRONDAHL, Staff writer
First published: Tuesday, May 24, 2005

"ALBANY -- Earth's oldest tree wouldn't turn heads at your local garden center these days."

"It was spindly and stood up to 30 feet tall. Its trunk was studded with nubs of dead branches. Its crown hadn't evolved into leaves yet -- it featured a web of twiggy appendages. It produced spores instead of seeds."

"Any aesthetic shortcomings might be forgiven for a tree that's 380 million years old."

"The prehistoric flora, which resembles a stunted modern-day tropical palm tree, predated the dinosaurs by about 160 million years."

"Behold Pseudosporochnus..."

I'd rather have one of these in my garden than a amber-mosquito-DNA Dinosaur...

#165 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2005, 12:51 PM:

Altadena's Official Tree (Cedrus Deodara) and Flower (Eschscholtzia californica). Why. With photos.

My Chorisia speciosa is currently putting fuzzy balls of fluff all over my garden.

#166 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2005, 10:56 AM:

At Long Last, Scientists Figure Out How Plants Grow

Scientists have known since 1885 that the plant growth hormone auxin exists. They've known of its dramatic effects on plant growth and development since the 1930s. But only now do scientists know how it works.

In this week's Nature, Indiana University Bloomington biologists Mark Estelle, Nihal Dharmasiri and Sunethra Dharmasiri identify TIR1 as the protein that, with auxin, influences how and when plant cells grow and divide. In the same issue, scientists in the United Kingdom report a virtually identical result.

"How auxin works has been a holy grail in plant science," said Estelle, who led the research. "This was something even Charles Darwin considered, if only in spirit. That we've all been trying to figure it out for so long makes this latest discovery very satisfying...."

#167 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 12:48 AM:

I see really illiterate, possible spam here. Though I can't quite figure out what it wants.

#168 ::: Xopher sees SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 12:58 AM:

Semi-nonsensical text, link to commercial website, ancient thread.

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