Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

Spring II

March 14, 2012

It has been ridiculously warm this past week, with temps in the 70s.  I responded by biking to work on thursday and wearing shorts at the office.  Nature responded more dramatically.  The frogs across the street were calling wednesday evening and every evening since.  Mendota and Monona are free of ice.  Crocuses appeared sunday morning and lost most of their petals by this morning.  The chives were growing so fast I could see it through the kitchen window while washing dishes.  Song sparrows have appeared across the street and killdeer are all over the landscaping at work.  This morning the neighbors forsythia bloomed.  We seeded one of the beds with spinach and lettuce seeds last weekend and if this weather keeps up they could be sprouting right now….ok, two so far.  But that’s really fast.

Thursday’s riding thought….”Greatness occurs in garages at night.”  A reference to the Palo Alto garage that served as a workshop for Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard.  Also known as the birthplace of silicon valley. 

The HP Garage in Palo Alto

We’re not all going to found industry-altering companies, but we can all turn off the tv, go work on our own projects, on our own quiet benches.  Building something, creating something, solving something, writing something, painting something.  Reversing one trend, of Americans as consumers to Americans as creators.  And another trend of work as pointlessly collaborative dissonance to work as resolute, intense, silent engagement.



New Day, New Decade

January 2, 2011

In 2010 I learned that writing about urban ecology is much easier done in the winter than the spring and summer simply because during late spring and summer I was “too busy” to write.  This is, of course, total bullshit.  There was plenty of time to write, I just didn’t.  In 2011, my goal is to write one post per week and on the first day of January which arrived here with a cold, hard wind, that seems like an easy task. 

My overall goal for 2011 is less ideas, more action.  My mind has fallen into a state of input-addicted, multi-tasking, disarray and I need to fix this by focusing on output via creating, writing, building, and growing.  With any luck, this will help rewire my brain so it functions effectively again.

To recap the last 8 months of 2010, it was hot as shit with horrible mosquitos which are my top two excuses for the garden falling into a greater state of disrepair than I would care but there were some successes.  The tomatos did very well in Liam’s yard. The sorrel came back and looks well established.  The hyssop sprouted and even bloomed and should come back thiicker unless Liam pulls it all out while the converting the old dogrun to a chicken run. The Canada Anemone should be fine and another clump I put in 2 years ago completely overran the English violets which was too bad.  The pole beans did well  but the lettuce was not particularly great as even though it was supposed to be a mixed bag of seeds, 90% of what actually grew was a very peppery. arugula-like green – I’ll need to get a new mix this year.  The biggest disappointment was that no mushrooms whatsover grew.  I think the logs that I drilled the spored dowels into must have dried out which prevented the oysters from growing.  They could still grow this year though.

On the efficiency-front, we got a letter from the city offering us a spot in a pilot program to get a low interest loan from the city for energy efficiency improvements. Using the report from our home energy audit as a guide, we got bids from 2 local contractors for work I’ll detail later if we get approved.

Guerrilla Restorations

April 24, 2010

This past weekend was a major gardening weekend.  Saturday April 17th my daughter and I went down to a huge nursery 10 miles south of town.  I purchased 4 sedges (Carex plantaginea), six wild gingers (Asarum canadense), 3 Siberian Irises (Iris siberica), and a pair of English violets (Viola hybrida ‘Etain’).  Most of the plants went in the front garden.  The exceptions were the wild gingers.  Those went on the north side of the garage where I am trying to reclaim.  These didn’t go in the giant weed patch / dog run but between that and the garage, intermingled with the Columbines that I transplanted from other places around the yard.

Sunday morning I dug up the prairie plants on the south side of the garage and decided to plant them in the greenway across the street from our house.  There is about an acre of land that is neglected by the city but used as a walking area by the neighbors.  The open field is primarily inhabited by reed canary grass and a variety of other common weeds so I doubt anyone will mind that I planted 20 prairie plants out there.  Rudbeckias, ironweeds, monards, spiderworts, and sunflowers, etc.  People probably thought I was crazy as they biked along the bike path that traverses the greenway and saw me digging holes in the middle of a field with a kid on my back.  At least one neighbor was into it, though.  I told Steve what I was doing an he offered to raise plants in his backyard and then transplant them. Maybe I’ll post something on craigslist and see if anyone else wants to contribute….

Steve also told me that our mushroom kit order had arrived.  I purchased 6 dowel plugs that will grow Wine Cap Stropharia and about 100 dowel plugs that will grow oyster mushrooms.  The stropharia plugs are 2-inch dowels that are covered in mycelium.  These you just jam into the ground in an area full of decomposed wood chips.  I planted(?) those on the north side of the house.  For the oyster plugs, I needed to drill inch in holes into the logs I picked up this winter from where the crews cleared the railroad right-of-way.  After drilling the holes, I just tapped the dowels in with a hammer.  since they were wet and covered in mycelium, they fit in very snug-ly.  Now I need to water my mushroom logs.  Go figure.

And as a prelude ti this weekend’s activities, I received 30 Canada anemones (Anemone canadensis) in the mail from a nursery.   These will replace the prairie plants I moved to the greenway.  They’ll stay nice and low and they have a nice long bloom time. They also spread nicely.  I also received the Lavender hyssop seed with the anemones.  Liam has most of the weeds and topsoil removed from the dogrun / weed patch so these will get planted soon.

Out Like a Lamb

April 5, 2010

It’s the end of March / beginning of April and the weather has been mostly warm and dry with a few showers today.  The crocuses have peaked and the daffodils are in full bloom.  The chorus frogs are singing away and I just saw 2 bats fly over my head this last week one evening when I was out front talking to my neighbor Lenny.  The ice on the lake went out 2-3 weeks ago and last two weekends I saw several loons out there, resting on their way north.  Last week also saw the arrival of blue jays, goldfinches and tree swallows.

I planted peas back on March 14 and then, assuming the seeds weren’t viable or that the squirrels dig them up, planted one more at each stake.  Now it looks like the ground simply wasn’t warm enough as they all seem to be coming up.  I haven’t grown peas before and am excited to see how this turns out.  I sowed a variety that only grows 2 feet high but still requires support.  I purchased 3 foot ong pieces of bamboo and then sunk those into the ground in pairs bound at the top so they form upside-down V’s.  Since I am doing this in a 4’x4′ box, I only had room to erect 4  pairs of stakes.  Initially I sowed a pea on either side of each stake and then added a third just underneath.  I’ll probably have to thin these out so that only one or two plants is growing up each stake.  And there might not be an advantage to having two pea plants compete for the same stake if they just interfere with each other.

Yesterday I was out in the garage pulling nails when I noticed a few pale, pathetic looking plants trying to grow in some clay pots I have.  It turns out that these were sorrel plants that I started from seed in the pots last year.  I was completely negligent of these things and they dried out and wilted a number of times over the summer.  When winter arrived, I moved the frozen pots with the scrawny leaves into the garage.  There they sat dormant until recently when the warmth and the faintest amount of light triggered another hopeful attempt at a better life.  And their persistence has paid off as I transplanted them into the bed with the peas.

Of course, to make room, I had to pull out the tiny columbine seedlings that must have drifted over from the bed to the west of the pea bed.  These were moved to the north side of the garage which is a five foot strip of bark chips between my garage and a chain-link fenced-in dog-run/weed patch in Lenny’s backyard.  As nature hates a vacuum, I figured I should start planting things I like as a defensive move.  That’s how some hostas ended up there and why I will be seeding the dog-run with lavender hyssop, Agastache foeniculum.  Native to the eastern U.S., I’m actually only familiar with it in planted settings rather than in the wild.  A nearby coffee shop has a dense stand of it in the backyard.  It has a long bloom period and is very attractive to bees and hummingbirds.  I just found out my other neighbor’s backyard beehive didn’t survive the winter and he had to replace the bees.  Hopefully this will create a strong nectar source for the bees.  and then maybe I can get some honey!

Lavender hyssop from Prairie Nursery.

As I was planting little bits of columbine along the dog-run fence, I couldn’t help but notice that the weeds in the dog-run were already getting thick.  A co-worker had confirmed to me that vinegar is an effective herbicide, especially early in the season.  He explained that the vinegar doesn’t poison the plant as most herbicides do.  Rather, it burns the leaves, leaving them wilted and unable to perform photosynthesis.  So I sprayed away this morning.  Dandelions, creeping charlie, and garlic mustard.  By the time I checked back this afternoon, the dandelions were already looking wilted.  I’ll keep this up every couple days until the seeds arrive in the mail.  with any luck, the hyssop will establish and bloom like mad.