Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Nowruz, y'all

Nowruz is the Iranian New Year, celebrated on the first day of spring, precisely at the vernal equinox, which happens today at 6:21 p.m. Central Daylight Time this year. (You can read all about the wonderful traditions of Nowruz here, here and here.) Don't you just love the idea of New Year's being on the first day of spring instead of in the dead of winter? I do! So Happy Nowruz, and happy spring.

No delicious Sabzi Polo Mahi for me this Nowruz, but I do have a new raised bed for vegetables, on the south side of the garden shed. 7 feet by 3 feet by 8 inches deep--that's half a cubic yard of composty-growin' goodness right there.
New raised bed
My friend Penny suggested I put a bed here. I did have my compost bins here, but last Memorial Day, Penny and I were in my garden, talkin' bout gardening, and Penny mentioned the best squash she'd ever grown were in a bed on top of where her compost bins once were. My ears perked right up when she said that, because I've had very limited success in growing squash. Not so much the dreaded squash vine borer, but just low production from wimpy plants. So Penny said, 'why don't you move your compost bins over to that shady corner, and plant squash here in this sunny spot?' So I did. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to plant in the cinder block holes: something fun (or maybe something that repels squash vine borers!).

I also converted my 24-foot-long flower bed into a vegetable garden.
New veggie bed
This bed gets tons of sun, whereas my other beds get a few hours of morning sun followed by too much afternoon shade. So, I'm moving the cosmos, zinnias and hollyhocks elsewhere, and growing sun-loving veggies here. To ensure those crazy cosmos don't crop up in the midst of my veggies, I used the sheet mulching method that was very effective in stamping out weeds and grasses when starting my other beds, only this time I used corrugated cardboard instead of newspaper.

Finally, I erected cages around the tomatoes I planted.
Tomatoes in cages

The first to bloom: Juliet. It's funny, because I broke her stem in half when I planted her, and I thought I might lose her, but I put some rooting hormone around the break and stuck her back in the ground. She seems to be just fine.
Juliet tomato - first to flower

Seeds planted:
'Eight Ball' squash
'One Ball' squash
'Baby Round Zucchini' squash
'Costata Romenesco' zucchini
'Hale's Best' canteloupe
'Crimson Sweet' watermelon
'Sweet Delight' honeydew
'Contender' bush bean
'Blue Lake' pole bean
'Yellow Pole Wax' bean
'Purple Peacock' pole bean
'Scarlet Runner' pole bean

Whew! Lots of work, but hopefully with a nice payoff in a few months. What did you do on the first day of spring?

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What a difference a day makes.

This tulip clusiana bud...
Tulipa clusiana bud

...opened on GBBD, a few hours after I'd posted. And another tulip joined it, that I could swear didn't even have a bud the day before!
Tulipa clusiana

The blossoms open each morning and close every evening. They look like little eggs from this angle.
Tulipa clusiana
There's only two, so far. I planted, um, seven--I think.

And on the evening of the 16th, after my Foliage Follow-Up post, I harvested all this! Sixteen cups!
Fresh garden salad greens

Baby romaine, baby oakleaf, radicchio, curly endive, escarole and baby beet greens -- that's foliage you can eat!
Garden fresh salad greens

And we did. Yum!
Homegrown salad

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Foliage Follow-Up: March 2011

On the 16th of each month, Pam Penick at Digging invites gardeners to share their garden foliage for Foliage Follow-Up. Here's what struck me in my garden this morning: trees leafing out, annuals reseeding, leafy veggies and herbs, and perennials that have yet to flower.

'Indigo Spires' salvia.
'Indigo Spires' salvia

'Cedar Sage' salvia.
'Cedar Sage' salvia

Larkspur seedling from passalong seeds from Zanthan Gardens.
Larkspur seedlings

Pink gaura seedlings from a passalong plant from Annie at The Transplantable Rose.
Gaura seedlings

Heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata): a passalong plant from Rock Rose.
Heartleaf skullcap

Boxwood shrub.

Columbine (a box-store hybrid).
Columbine foliage

Italian parsley.
Italian parsley

'Bright Lights' chard.
'Bright Lights' chard

Carrot foliage: possibly Danvers 126.
Carrot foliage

'Green Magic' broccoli (Brassica oleracea 'Green Magic').
'Green Magic' broccoli

'Improved Meyer' lemon (Citrus limon 'Meyer Improved').
'Improved Meyer' lemon

Texas red oak (Quercus buckleyi).
Texas red oak pollen

Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa).
Burr oak leaflet

Visit Pam's Foliage Follow-Up page for links to more!

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - March 2011

Thank goodness spring has arrived! OK, so technically the vernal equinox is four days away, but you know what I mean: it's warming up, birds are nesting, and our plant friends are looking alive again, so I'm calling it. I'm so happy winter's over, I'm even trying to accept losing an hour to Daylight Savings Day more gracefully. (Trying. Normally, I whine for weeks.) On to the blooms! First, the roses.

'Lady Banks' was the first to bloom. She's covered in buds, but this cluster's the first to open. She's planted in a spot she could quickly outgrow. I fear massive trellises and pruning will be in order soon.
'Lady Banks' rose

'La Marne' was the second to bloom. I love her sweet, simple blossoms and her red-tipped leaves.
'La Marne' rose

'Old Blush' was the third to bloom. I spotted this blossom after dark on Saturday and shot it on Sunday.
'Old Blush' rose

I have six other roses that have no flowers--yet. 'Mutabilis' has buds but no blooms, and 'Carefree Delight', 'The Fairy', 'Chrysler,' 'Dame du Coeur' and 'Buff Beauty' have yet to set buds. All have put on tons of new growth, though, and look positively fantastic after winter's freezes (my, how I love my hardy, antique and Earth-Kind roses!). They'll be featured in April's GBBD.

In my garden, no March GBBD would be complete without a vegetable gone to seed. This year I have a lovely red bok choy that never produced enough choy for a proper stir fry. In fact, none of the bok choy I've planted ever has, but I plant it every year nonetheless. Aren't its blossoms lovely?
Bok choy flowers
(We're eating the rest of the cruciferous veggies, particularly the 'Packman' and 'Green Magic' broccoli, quickly, before it bolts.)

Next up, the bulbs. The Southern grape hyacinths were the first, but they bloomed last month, so they don't count toward this month's GBBD. 'Erlicheer' daffodils were the next to bloom, and while they're on the tail end of their short season, they're still going, as this picture testifies. I'd like to plant a million more of these--if I win the Texas Lotto, maybe I will!
'Erlicheer' daffodil

The summer snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum 'Gravetye Giant') were the second to bloom, and this is the first of the bunch, a teenager in nearly full shade. The newbies in full sun and the oldsters in dappled shade have foliage, but no blooms.
'Summer snowflake'

Last but not least, we have "the rest." The '"May Night' salvia (Salvia nemorosa 'Mainacht') is remarkable in that it's the first of my many, many salvias to bloom. Given its name, I guess you could say it's two months early. This is a passalong plant that's done very well, from my mother-in-law in Northern Virginia.
'Mainacht' salvia

The coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is fully leafed out and blooming. Hummingbirds will be soon be passing through on their return flight from Mexico to parts north, and this vine never fails to attract them. Unlike Japanese varieties, this honeysuckle won't attempt to take over your entire universe, or your neighbors'.
Coral honeysuckle

The four-nerve daisies, also known as hymenoxys (Tetraneuris scaposa) are back in full force after a brief winter lull. They've re-seeded everywhere and will bloom nonstop to the first hard freeze.
'Four-nerve daisy'

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Visit her GBBD page and look at what's blooming in March gardens all over the world.

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Time for Tomatoes!

The last average frost date for my zip code is March 15, and for the next several days, both daytime and evening temperatures will be above 50 degrees.
Time for Tomatoes

And you know what that means -- it's Time for Tomatoes! And just in time, because my transplants have been pressing their little leaves against the window, like puppies pressing their noses against the glass, wanting to Go Out and Play.
Like puppies pressing their noses against the glass,

Looks like I can let them off their leashes this weekend. This year I am planting three cherry tomatoes and three full-size varieties. That ought to be enough for two people, plus enough to share.

'Juliet' is a red grape tomato and 'Sun Gold' is a orange cherry variety. Both these varieties will flower and set fruit from May straight through to fall's first frost.
Juliet and Sun Gold tomatoes
In addition, I'm trying a Chocolate Cherry tomato this year. I've heard good things about it.

In the heavyweight category, I've invited the old, reliable 'Celebrity' hybrid back this year, and two heirlooms. I planted 'Cherokee Purple' last year, and was happy with it. It produced several tomatoes in the spring, took the summer off, and surprised me with a few fall tomatoes from a bug-ridden, drought-stricken plant.
Cherokee Purple tomatoes

In addition, I was excited to find a single transplant of 'Jaune Flammee' at, of all places, Central Market. I've wanted to grow this juicy, mid-sized tomato since reading about it on the Zanthan Gardens weblog.

Mmm! My mouth is watering. Yes, it's Time for Tomatoes in my garden. What's it time for in yours?

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Empty nest

Empty nest

Deep within the tangled vines of the coral honeysuckle, I found this little nest. I don't know what birds built it, or when, or if eggs were ever laid here. Its engineering is amazing. It is woven so securely onto the vines so that no wind could topple it. It is made primarily of the finest of twigs, but with bits of string added here and there, and surprisingly, part of a plastic grocery store bag is woven into it. The center of the nest is filled with soft brown leaves.

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Asparagus

Asparagus spear

Asparagus spear

Asparagus spear

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.