Wednesday, April 06, 2011

30 Days In The Gardener's Garden: Day6

Here comes the rain!  At least, that's what the 'meteorologists' are saying.  On cool cloudy days, I make a concerted effort to do just one thing here at Xericopia - OBSERVE.  This is still, in my book, the most important garden practice of all. Plus, why get all sweaty and dirty when the weather is so nice.  

(serenity now, serenity now...)

I noticed my squash seedlings are making an entrance into the garden.  Lots to plant and plenty to share (wink wink, nudge nudge, know-what-I-mean).  
(Summer squash making their appearance!)

I have sunflowers galore, and the season is just getting started.  These things come up like weeds everywhere (but not as bad as the hollyhocks). Sunflowers are perfect for simple bouquets around the house with lavender or penstemon or snapdragons.  And, the flower petals are edible, so great for salads.  The seeds I leave for the birdies in the garden (sparrows, finches, verdins, toehees, oh my).

(The sunflower garden is showing off)

Each year I have more and more of these red roses.  Originally, I acquired the plant from a project in 2006 where I dug up the root stock. It only took it two years to start blooming and hasn't slowed.   It only gets about 4 hours of sun, doesn't get fertilized, and not a whole lot of attention.  I wonder if I talked to it more often if it would produce more roses?  Something new to explore...

One neat surprise I discovered was another cauliflower.  This was a bit hidden in the sunflower garden until the leaves got big.  I couldn't quite recall what it was (broccoli? cabbage? brussel sprouts?).   But, like everything else in the garden (including weeds!), just wait long enough and it's sure to bloom.  Then you can figure out what to do with it. 

(yummy cauliflower - ready for roasting with carrots and chard!)

With more rain expected in the weather forecast, expect more eye-time and smiles around Xericopia. (now go plant some seeds!!!)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

30 Days In The Gardener's Garden: Day5

It's hot!  Well, kinda really warm.  Especially if you're outdoors for more than 30 minutes - try 6 hours.  The forecast called for 87* degrees, and the nice breeze out seemed promising.  I had tree pruning scheduled for my HUGE pine trees.  The guys at Tree Amigos were johnny on the spot and on top of things, literally.

(Andy out on a limb)
I felt inspired, and off I went to do my own band of crazy pruning.  First stop, bougainvillea.   The frost of 2011 left me with a mess-o-dead-stuff.  This was just 2 of 7 bvilla I had to tackle.

(from this...)

(to this!)

After that (and some gauze, witch hazel, bandages, few tears...) I dove into the dubious task of removing my tevitia trees. They got pretty zapped, and that was enough to nudge me to action.  I plan to replace them with white lady banks roses.

(I'm kinda diggin' the open look...for now.)

By this point I was pretty pooped, and so were those Tree Amigos.  So, from the garden to the kitchen I whipped up some tasty refreshments.

(Here's to a day well done)

Monday, April 04, 2011

30 Days In The Gardener's Garden: Day4

Got a late start today, and I really wasn't excited about the heat - forecast for 87* degrees - which is still way warm for early April.  So I kept my garden time pretty short.  I had to get my tomatoes planted!  After a quick 20 minutes of watering, I started making room for tomatoes.  I chopped down the spicy mustard, pak choi, and a couple of romaine lettuces.

(elbow room for my new tomatoes)

Here's one tip that some gardeners miss.  When your plants are done, DON'T rip them out of the ground.  Cut the plant away, then cultivate the roots into the soil.  Why, you may ask?  The roots are pulling nutrients from the soil, and, therefore, are full of nutrients.  I like to bury the old root stump so it can decompose releasing all those nutrients back into the soil.   I also dump a scoop of fresh compost in the hole to expedite the process.

(root stumps packed with rich nutrients)

Since I'm sharing tips, here's one of my favorites.  When planting tomatoes, bury 'em!  Literaly.  You'll notice at the base of a tomato stem some bumps or nodes.  When in contact with soil, these nodes will produce roots.  So, you can double or triple the roots, making a stronger more productive plant.  (This can also work with peppers and eggplant.)

I remove the few lower leaves on my tomato, lay it down into the planting hole (1"-2"inches deep), and cover it up.  The plant (above ground) will grow vertically with no issues.

 (making a cozy bed for tomato)

I planted five tomatoes today, with many more to come (8-12 more) once I make more space (and planting beds).  For the meantime, I took my pile of cuttings and headed across the street to see some new friends.

 (bygone pak choi, chard, mustard, nasturtium, and mint)

With a pile of old veggies for friends like these...

(Bagby Lady Birds!)

You can score a nice batch of these!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

30 Days In The Gardener's Garden: Day3

It's Sunday, time to relax!  In a minute.  First, I had to harvest some fresh strawberries!  My first [successful] attempt at growing organic strawberries, and I'd say I'm impressed ("Nice work Vynnie."  "Why, thank you, Vynnie").  I got to them just in time too; a baby earwig was already at work on one of them.

My wife and I made a day of it, just on the patio.  Fresh strawberries, french press coffee, a nice breeze, and a whole lot of happy nature. 

(snapdragon, angelita daisy, lavender, penstemon making smiles)


Saturday, April 02, 2011

30 Days In The Gardener's Garden: Day2

The good thing about today was that the garden schedule was all scheduled; I spent  most of my garden time in gardens elsewhere, at the Art&Flowers Garden Tour sponsored by the Phoenix Art Museum League.  (Some of my own handiwork was even on display, below)
(xeriscape oasis nestled under a palo verde tree)

(a spectacle of columnar cactuses on display)

One of my favorite features on the tour was this eclectic garden with recycled metal works, an edible garden space, a huge rooster sculpture, and some very shy chickens.
(welcome to Cluckingham Palace!)

The tour showed off some cool houses and amazing gardens. It was nice to meet the homeowners and get some back story on the evolution of each garden.  I also ran into my ol' pal Thomas Park of Xerophytic Design who created an amazing space for one happy resident of the Willo Historic Neighborhood
 (Thomas showing off his genius use of materials)

It was an enjoyable day, even with the almost 100* degree heat.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
(frontyard bed brimming with goodies!)

All inspired from the garden tour, I had to get outside (after a large iced beverage) and do some stuff.  Most pressing was the need to 'bump-up' my tomato seedlings to full grown plant status.  In the plastic container below (a re-purposed lettuce tub) were 16 little guys waiting to exhale!
(time for some elbow room)

It was a delicate process seperating some of them completely bare-root (don't worry, they will survive).  Tomatoes are great because they are such durable plants.   I also had a batch of tomatillos as well.  They will live in 1gal cans for a couple of weeks as I find new homes for them all.
(graduation day!)

My final effort of the day was harvesting seeds.  Lots and lots of seeds.  Pak choi, kale, spicy mustard, red romaine, arugula, broccolini, and cauliflower.  Best way I've found for collecting seeds is using paper bags.  Let the seed pods on the plant get as large as possible to where you see the bumpy texture of the seed inside.  Cut the stems off the plant, fold them in half, and stuff them into the bag.  The pods will dry and pop open releasing the seeds.
I label the bag with the plant name (pak choi), date harvested (2011APR02), and the source from where I originally acquired the plant or seeds (a Seattle gardener).  These will store in a dry cool place until after summer (about 6months).
(bok choi - bag it and tag it)

Lastly, I took some time to observe; 2 butterflies, 1 nosy carpenter bee, 1 male hummingbird, 3 (now dead) mosquitoes, and 1 surprising new bloom...
(here come the hollyhocks - finally!)

Friday, April 01, 2011

30 Days In The Gardener's Garden: Day1

100* degrees (officially).  Was this an April Fools joke?!?!
Yep, we're already there into the triple digits and I haven't even planted a single tomato yet.   My morning was pretty much consumed with crisis management.  My usual routine of watering my container plants and checking on my starter seeds, included moving all my flats to more protected areas (not that I have much of that).

 (spinach, sweet peas, tomatoes, and more!)

To keep everything extra safe (hopefully), I also set up some quick shade.
(I prefer using frost fabric for shade cover; lightweight and easy to handle)

With things watered and covered, I could proceed with my favorite garden chores - observation and mental journaling. 
  (broccoli re-sprouting after initial harvest - now it's a broccolini)

 (buddleia wooly butterfly bush - perhaps my favorite plant in the garden)

By the time I returned home from a long day out in the sun, the day had topped out at 102* degrees in central phoenix.  Everything was now relaxing in the setting shade with no casualties to speak of.   Whew.  Hello summer (yikes...).

Spring Is Here...

It's springtime - or as I like to call it, "pre-summer" - and things are happening here at Xericopia. 

Click on the link below to see more.
Springtime at Xericopia