Thursday, February 25, 2010


I've laminated one of the countertops. I built the base from two layers of MDF giving me a 1.5" thick base. The laminate is a slate gray with mottled brown colors. I would have liked an actual texture, but it was too expensive. The laminate has been laying on the dining room floor since late August. I'll get to the other two, smaller countertops when I get back from Florida.

I'm not done with the one above. I still need to clean some contact cement from the edge, scrape the sharpness from the overlap, hook up the sink, and attach the whole thing to the base cabinets. I'll try to get to that on Friday. If not, next week. I should have three days off when I return. The floor will eventually be stained Ebony. I've tried a lot of things to remove the water stains, but it's just too deep, too old, and too much. No idea when I'll get to that, with the weather warming up and all.

Remember what it used to look like?

I've also sown my tomato seeds. The extra cup became Beefsteak. I have seeds left over of all but two kinds. There's always a need for contingency where tomatoes are involved.

Can you believe it's only 24 days til Spring?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


It's time. I'm starting my tomatoes this week. I haven't sown the seeds yet, but I did prepare the mix, containers, and bottom heat contraption this morning.

First, I screened some perlite to remove the smaller pieces. The dust is too fine and causes more problems with water retention. I want coarse perlite. Since it's unavailable locally, I just toss the tiny particles into the compost bin.

Next, I used two blocks of dried coir. This is coconut fiber instead of peat moss. I like it better since it doesn't hold as much water as the peat blocks or mixes. I really only needed one. I should have done a simple calculation. Two blocks makes 8 quarts of material. I needed four.

Adding water makes the coir expand. I mixed in the coarse perlite for drainage and tossed it together.

In the other chamber, I have a strand of Christmas lights that will provide heat. A piece of screen keeps them in place.

On top of the screen, I added 20bs of cheap, clay cat litter. This is not the clumping kind. The cheaper, the better. The lights will heat the cat litter creating an even bottom heat. I used sand last year, but found it wasn't sterile. This should be much cleaner. It smells better too.

The 24 cups are filled. I only have 23 types of seeds, so one will be a duplicate. I'll probably do a couple beefsteaks since these are big tomatoes and great for slicing. I only have a few seeds of each, so for now, I'll sow 2 from each packet. I need to have some in case something goes wrong while I'm away this weekend.

The entire contraption is covered with another clear container to hold in humidity. Once I've sown the seeds, it'll be placed on the bottom rack of the light shelf. The seeds should germinate in 7-10 days.

Last year, I grew 8-12 varieties, depending on who you ask. This year, I've deliberately chosen only indeterminate types. These can be staked so that they take up less soil space. Some recommendations I've seen claim that they can be grown in a single square foot of space. I'll do a little better than that giving them about 2 square feet each. This year's varieties:

Ozark Pink
Granny Cantrell
White Currant
Mortgage Lifter
German Johnson
Yellow Jubilee
Roma Paste
Striped German
Hawaiian Pineapple
Black Krim
Green Zebra
Green Zebra
White Queen
Yellow Pear
Brandywine Yellow
Cherokee Purple

Yesterday, I napped a good portion of the afternoon. I woke up early this morning. I sowed 36 2-liter containers of less hardy varieties of seed.

Alyssum "Maritimum"
Achillea "Colorado Mix"
Coreopsis "Mahogany Midget"
Datura inoxia
Blue Fescue
Red Texas Star Hibiscus
Texas Bluebonnets
Inula Magnifica
Painted Daisies
Pink Muhly Grass
Rudbeckia "Prairie Sun"
Creeping Thyme
Tuber Vervain
Apache Sunset
Apricot Sprite
Golden Jubilee
Honey Bee White
Pink Pop
A mix from white/purple plants I grew last year

It's 41 degrees and raining. I'm going to spend the rest of the day working on projects inside the house. It should be my first day of vacation, but I've got to work tomorrow because of three large shrub orders that are scheduled to arrive. On Friday, I'll be leaving for Florida. When I return, the tomato seedlings should be popping up. Carla will be looking after things while I'm gone, including feeding the cat.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Weeding and such as...

It rained yesterday. My rain gauge cracked and split at some point over the last week, so I can't tell you how much we got. There's no water in the basement, so I'm assuming less than 1 inch. The ground in soggy wet this morning, so I've decided to spend some time weeding in the back meadow, trying to remove as much periwinkle as I can before the Robins force me to move elsewhere. I worked on a small portion while my second cup of coffee turned cold on the bumper of my truck. I'll get to the rest of it in good time. I've got lots of plans for the day.

I was up early, having gone to bed about 9pm. The trip and training session to Winston-Salem had worn me out. Lots of new ideas for the coming year in the Garden Center are still swarming through my head. I'll need to put them down on paper as soon as I'm back to work on Thursday. Yes, my vacation starts tomorrow, but with two large shrub orders scheduled to arrive the day after tomorrow, my own schedule was switched to facilitate putting the plants where they belong. At least the store will be ready for the weekend. I hope they have nice weather. I won't be here. More on that later.

Before heading outside this morning, I checked the 4 Marseilles fig cuttings in the cloner. I moved them all here rather than trying to root them in the orchid mix. I'm determined to have this fig in my yard by summer's end.

The Black Mission fig I showed yesterday, which may or may not be properly labeled, has grown even more roots in the last 24 hours.

Heading outside, the little bluestem grasses I transplanted into the meadow garden has new green growth.

So does the spirea in the shrub island. This one was transplanted last summer right after I built the bed. It needed more sunlight than it was getting in its other location. I hope it's covered with blooms this spring. I'd like to root more of these.

Ditch lilies by the mailbox are putting out lots of new growth too. We'll get another couple of hard freezes that will burn this foliage, but that's what happens every year. It didn't seem to affect them at all when it came time to bloom.

On the slope, about 2 dozen of the 200 daffodils I planted this winter have sprouted.

The red maples by the street are starting to bloom. All they needed was a little warmth. The flowers are tiny and red, mostly insignificant. You can only see them if you know what you're looking for.

By the garage door, at the top of the retaining wall, I've finally realized what these are. In the fall of 2008 I received some Carolina Cherry Laurel seeds from a City-Data user. She also sent some hardy palm seeds. I cannot remember, or find in any of my notes, the name of this palm. She told me it reseeds for her and she moves the babies around the yard. I'll transplant these to the perennial bed where I have other tropical-like foliage in another few weeks.

I pruned the fig I grew from cuttings this year. I stuck the branches where I want them to grow at the corner of the yard along the street. I did this with butterfly bush last year and had great results. I'm hoping the crape myrtles and this fig do the same. The crape myrtles I've done are Dynamite. It's a dark red mid summer bloomer. The cuttings inside in the orchid mix have leafed out, but no sign of roots yet. Patience, grasshopper.

And then, I pruned the double pink Althea I purchased last year for a song on clearance. The soil they were potted in was mostly bark and these were always wilted in the Garden Center. We marked them down. I bought the last one just as someone else came in looking for them. You snooze, you lose.

The limbs of the althea were also pushed into the soil around the Neighbor's Corner. I've already got seedlings of the purple and white single vartieties back there. Crape Myrtle seedlings, Ligustrums, Loropetalum, and lots of other huge shrubs are being forced to compete. The winners will shield the backyard from the prying eyes of neighbors. The losers will be removed at some future point.

It's still foggy. At 47 degrees, I'll be working sleeveless in a couple of hours. Tomorrow, more rain is in the forecast. I'm preparing to do some work inside. I'm just not sure what my focus will be on, yet. I'm guessing the kitchen.

Monday, February 22, 2010


It's 39 degrees. It's dark. Rain is expected this afternoon. I'm traveling to Winston-Salem today with my coworkers for a district wide training session.

Sunday afternoon, I moved all the plants under lights to the rolling rack. Now that the daytime temperatures should be reaching the mid to upper 50s and higher, I want to be able to move them in and out each morning. They'll remain inside today, since I have to leave before daybreak and it's still a little too cold for them outside at the moment. I did hose them off to remove as many spider mites and aphids as I could.

Five days ago, the fig I stuck in the cloner several weeks ago was potted up. I was curious.

Looking at the 10-day forecast, I'll probably move everything back to the light rack Wednesday. I've got a trip planned for this coming weekend. I start my vacation in a few days. Carla will be coming by to check on things, and feed the cat while I'm gone. I plan to start my tomatoes inside soon. When I return, I should have seedlings. Mmmm, tomatoes.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A skippadee doo dah day.

It's only 59, but the sun is warm. The owls were back this morning when I left for work. I think I heard some smaller hoots with them.

The daffodils are basking.

The crocuses are exploding.

I don't know the name of this weed, but it blooms blue and I love it. It grows everywhere.

Tulips? I haven't planted tulips for 2 years. I wonder if they'll bloom?

Shine on me sunshine, walk with me world, it's a skipadee doo dah day.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

English Ivy and Vinca major

Some time ago, when another gardener had possession of this yard, she planted these ground covers. I'm sure she never expected or intended them to take over the entire neighborhood. In the almost 20 years since she's lived here, it has spread to cover more than an acre of woodlands. When I purchased the house, I knew it was there. I should have turned and run. I thought I was up to the challenge. Over the past two years, I've done a good job of slowly moving the edge of the yard back to where it may have once been. This coming week, I'm hoping to take another large bite out of one, possible two areas.

The first is the area behind the meadow. If I'm to plant anything along the "path" I've created there, I have to remove the Vinca major that covers the ground. I'd like to plant my Miss Huff cuttings. This area receives nearly full day sun in summer and dries out considerably without normal rainfall. I'll scatter some of the 125 rudbeckias here too.

Here's a closeup of the full area. Already, there are some shrub cuttings that were rooted and planted last spring. Butterfly bushes from wintersown seed have struggled here. I doubt I'll save any of it aside from the one rooted gardenia. I may move it to a more hospitable place.

The second area that needs to be tackled is the gully proper. I've already removed considerable privet from this area. Euonymus and English Ivy take up most of this space. There's a row of nandinas that grow in and out of the broken, stacked concrete retaining wall someone built ages ago. Bats make their residence here in the summer. I don't want to disturb them, in case they are hibernating.

I know I can't tackle all of this area, given that the Ivy covers everything all the way to the street, but I want to get a start on it. I might need to bring in the heavy chemicals for this one. We'll see how the other area goes first, since I'm not even sure what to do with this space yet.

Whenever I run across someone thinking of planting this in our area, I always advise against it. I beg them to come take what they want from my yard rather than purchase such a significantly invasive plant. They just laugh. Give them 5 years. They'll be back asking how to kill this stuff.

And your little friends...

It's 57 degrees. The Garden Center is jumping today. I love talking about plants.

The Perennials Are Coming!

They arrived at the store yesterday: candytuft, creeping phlox, hardy ferns. It's going to be a busy day. It's 25 degrees.

Friday, February 19, 2010

So close...

It's 57 degrees.

Looks like we made it....

There you are, lookin' just the same as you did, last time I touched you.

Cuttings struck and planted in 2009.

Mophead hydrangea

Oak leaf hydrangea

Snowball viburnum

Vitex "Shoal Creek"

Red Pussywillow

6th St Fig

Boxwood euonymus

Others that look like they made it: Elaeagnus x ebbengei, variegated weigela, forsythia, lots of gardenias, redtwig dogwood, white pussywillow, and brugmansias.

Not everything was as fortunate. There should have been a vitex cutting here.

I'm not being naive. Winter is not over yet, but the coldest weather should be well behind us now. It's going to be a beautiful weekend.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wintersown Germination.

In the hoophouse:

Ox Eye Daisy
Salvia Blue Queen
Dianthus Firewitch
Orlaya Grandiflora
Salvia officinalis
Dianthus knappi
Echinacea Harvest Moon
Rudbeckia triloba
Great Blue Lobelia
Dianthus Depford Pink
Monarda fistula
Penstemon Husker Red
Coreopsis Mahogany Midget
Pink Touch Me Not Impatiens
Siberian Wallflower
Lavendula Augustifolia

71 2-liters have germinated:

Red Mexican Hat - 2
Shasta Daisy White Knight
Diathus Firewitch - 2
Phlox Laura
Siberian Wallflower - 2
Chloeme - 2
Queen Anne's Lace - 2
Rudbeckia hirta brown - 2
Orlaya grandiflora
Rudbeckia hirta Cherry Brandy - 2
Drummond phlox
Evening Primrose
Ox Eye Daisy - 3
Red Lychnis
Great Blue Lobelia
Lavendula Augustifolia
Bronze fennel
Buddleia White - 2
Obedient Plant
Hardy Geranium Brookside
Gaillardia yellow
Blue Flax
Echinacea purple - 6
viola tricolor
Touch Me Not
Buddleia purples
Golden Margureite
Chrysanthemum Robinson's Red
Marsh Mallow
Columbine purple
Rose Campion pink
Pearl Grass
Dianthus Depford Pink
Rose Campion white
Salvia Blue Queen
Culver's root
Garlic Chives
Double Red Monarda
Rudbeckia hirta
Bamboo white dragon
Verbena hasata
Malva mauritiana
Verbascum Wedding Candles
Verbascum Milkshake
Salvia Lady in Red
Dianthus knappi

Germination in the hoophouse has been good. I was expecting better, but I'm not going to complain. Just a quick count tells me that so far, assuming 4 hunks of seedlings per 2-liter and 8 containers of each in the hoophouse that should net at least two hunks, I've got about 556 holes to dig. This doesn't count the 125 Rudbeckia hirta cups that have sprouted and will need to be divided into at least 2 clumps at planting time. If I manage to get it all planted out, it will be beautiful. I still have about 100 tender/annual varieties to sow. I'm a long way from being done.

While checking on my containers, I moved the sprouted ones forward. I'll be watching for the second set of leaves before planting out. Doing this early reduces loss and makes for hardier plants. I used this same method last year with decent results.

I took some time this morning, after the wood was split, to pull back some of the leaves on the perennial bed. The soil is very wet. It needs to dry out a bit before I can plant. Hopefully, the sun shining on it with the light wind we're having will help. The low humidity certainly will. I shredded the leaves and scattered them in the meadow. This spring, I'll shred more leaves from across the street to put back down to reduce watering and continue to add to my organic mass.

I found two new crocuses under the leaves by the street.

Another Montauk daisy is coming back to life near the driveway.

Golden Jubilee at the birdbath is that beautiful purple that will turn lime green as it warms up. This one was self sown.

I planted all eleven of the penny nandinas. One was tossed into the woods. Five went into the beds behind the house. The other five went into the shrub island near the meadow. They all look sad right now, but each had fresh growth under the cold damaged leaves. One was suckering all around the edge of the pot.

I also planted out my cabbages. The carrots didn't germinate well, so I will probably wait until fall to try again. The peas didn't sprout either. I sowed the other half of the pack in place and covered the bed with plastic. The 8 plants in the background are Foster Hollies. They were a penny each too. The leaves are all brown, but the pith is still green. I'm going to wait before declaring them dead. Three tea olives were also part of that bunch. I've got them in part shade near the hydrangea bed beside the driveway.

Everything in the hoophouse and the 2-liter containers got a drink of water. I disturbed a couple of stowaways in the hoophouse.

It's 48 degrees and still sunny. I'm done. I need a nap.