Gardeners of AW, unite

Chris P

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I'm trying roses for the first time. We pulled out some overgrown and dying yew, dwarf holly, and euonymus from the side of the driveway. I hope the roses add some variety of color, but we do have horrible soil--kind of a pale orangey clay. I'm now wondering if I should have dug the holes much bigger and deeper and replaced more of the soil with something that drains better.

  • My green beans and edamame are getting big enough to not be so vulnerable to the slugs and bugs.
  • The sweet corn is getting to the one-foot height. As an Iowa boy who grew up running through endless fields of "cow corn," these corn leaves are looking thinner and more delicate than I expected; more like grass but I suspect that's just the variety.
  • The raspberry plant I thought didn't make it is coming up from the roots, so yay for that!
  • Grapes: just a few flowerhead that haven't yet bloomed.
  • Thai eggplant is a bust (but I found a local Indian grocery that sells them!)
  • Onions and garlic are kaput. The tops were all but died down and the garlic bulbs were starting to split. None of them got much bigger than a shooter marble, and I noticed pupae of onion maggots in some of the onions. Live and learn! First time gardening in a new climate is always an adventure.
  • The transplanted azalea from last winter is thriving! Of course the blooms weren't anything spectacular this year because I cut it back so much to move it, but next year should a stunner.
  • Some new shoots of the asparagus, so they seem to be establishing nicely.

Also, how do you pronounce euonymus? Yew-ON-e-mus? Yew-o-NIM-us? I've only ever seen it written, and never heard it pronounced.
 
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mrsmig

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I've never had the patience (or courage) to try roses. My former next door neighbor had a plant that started sending up shoots in my yard, but the flowers weren't very pretty. He eventually dug the whole thing up before he moved.

I posted my remaining eleven tomato seedlings yesterday on Facebook Marketplace and NextDoor, at $5 each. I got a surprisingly good response. and have a buyer scheduled to pick them all up this morning. I usually recoup at least my seed costs that way.
 
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Catriona Grace

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The one thing that they despise are wet roots, they need well drained soil. Were they in really nice soil?
We have clay soil that has been amended by decades of adding organic matter, and I didn't overwater, truly. I think it's a personal thing and rugosas just hate me.

I love the tomato fortress and castle. It reminds me that it is time to put up the strings of CDs across the entrance to the backyard to keep the deer out of my roses. This year we have three dogs, two of which spend time in the yard as well as the one who is sure she belongs in the house, so hope that will deter the miserable rose eaters, too.
 
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Brigid Barry

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We have clay soil that has been amended by decades of adding organic matter, and I didn't overwater, truly. I think it's a personal thing and rugosas just hate me.
Them hating you is questionable. They unalived themselves because they want sandy soil. Even without overwatering, the clay and organic matter stay wet and rugosas hate that.
 

Catriona Grace

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Them hating you is questionable. They unalived themselves because they want sandy soil. Even without overwatering, the clay and organic matter stay wet and rugosas hate that.
hmm. I like that term "unalived." Maybe I'll bring in a bucket of sand next time I get a rugosa and plant it therein. Clay augmented with organic matter doesn't stay wet in this country, though. Too arid. I down put a gallon of water per rose (not counting rugosas) three times a week during the summer to keep them satisfied, and they'd probably drink more. The organic stuff keeps the clay from forming a pavement and allows for better drainage, but wet soil is generally not a problem here. Compacted soil can be.
 
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Brigid Barry

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Irises are blooming, we have spaghetti squash volunteers all over the place. Teeny tiny pears on the tree and found some volunteer morning glories.

We have (presumably) wild raspberries growing in the yard, in full bloom. I counted at least six different types of bees, there were probably a hundred of them swarming around on the raspberry flowers.
 
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mrsmig

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The last of my smaller garden jobs are now complete. I may plant one more grow bag of sweet potato slips, but basically everything that was going into soil is now where it needs to be - in the actual ground or in containers.

Naturally, this means the local critters have stepped up their game. My main veg garden is against my neighbor's chain link fence, and in the past I'd hung bird netting along that edge to keep the deer out. Over time squirrels tore it to tatters trying to climb it, so I pulled it all down since the deer seem disinclined to jump the fence even though they've chewed my neighbor's tasty hosta down to the ground. (I think there are too many obstacles in the veg garden - supports, containers, trellises, etc. - for them to jump safely.) However, some bright-eyed buck discovered he could lean across the fence to access the closest tomato plant, and nipped off its top. The thing is already setting fruit, it's a determinate anyway and I have five more of that particular variety, so I wasn't devastated, but I wasn't going to tempt fate, either. So yesterday the husband and I secured deer netting across that side of the garden. I was afraid it was going to look harsh (the bird netting was almost invisible), but it's surprisingly neat-looking and much sturdier than the netting.

This morning it was clear something had been at my potted plants on the deck - I think the gray squirrels and the crow population are equally to blame. The squirrels dig, and the crows pull out seedlings and plant tags and generally make a nuisance of themselves. So I'm going to have to net the plants, too.

:gaah
 
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Unimportant

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We're considering growing rice. Half our paddock is under several inches of water. We've had bucketing rain (accompanied by the delightful thunder and lightning that keeps our dog awake and howling all night, hail, and, to complete the trifecta, an earthquake). The thunderstorms have been on and off -- more on than off -- for three days, with a few more days to come.

We will pick our first broccoli (it's the start of winter here) and cauliflower today. I'm already salivating. It's been a month or two since we've had anything fresh other than silverbeet and pumpkin, since late autumn is that in-between season where the corn and beans and tomatoes and zucchinis exist only in the freezer, but the brassicas are still little fist-sized promises of goodness taunting us every time we walk past.

And on the meat side:

We're having to get our fencing completely replaced -- some of it is original concrete posts dating back nearly a century, and most of it is at a mishmash of barbed and straight wire ranging from 20 years old to older-than-me. We've had a few quite distressing escapes onto neighbouring properties in the last year. (It's not much fun to be awakened by an understandably disgruntled bloke wanting us to get our steer off his airstrip so that his plane can land.)

So that means
we have to get all the cattle off the property. Our two and a half year old steer, Calfington, was destined for the freezer this month regardless; he will feed us for a year or two (depending on how much we give away, which is usually around a quarter of it to various friends, neighbours, folks in need, etc). But our retired house cow, Elsie, also had to go. We've had her for at least twelve years, though she hasn't reproduced/produced milk in five years or so. But she was great at eating all the weeds and leftovers from our garden and our neighbour's garden and at mothering the young beasts we got in to rear for meat. She was a good little Jersey.

However, we didn't have a lot of options, and I figured in the end it was better to cull her while she's healthy and get the meat (just mince and sausages, most likely) than to let her die of old age with pain and illness and then having to pay someone to take her away and burn her carcass. So last week the homekill man came out and I said goodbye to Elsie as well as Calfington. The man did say she had a lot more fat on her than he expected, and the carcass looked in a lot better shape than he expected, so we may be able to get some stewing meat, possibly even steaks, instead of just mince. [Waiting for the butcher to confirm.] But since she had a pretty cushy life, being extremely well fed and not having to walk miles back and forth to a milking shed every day, her meat would naturally be better than most of what you can buy in the grocery store (which tend to be dairy culls averaging 7 years of age).

We will end up with a metric shedload of meat, obviously, hence our buying a third freezer this month. Probably about 140 - 170 kgs per beast, so a total of 700 lbs of beef. But the meat we'll end up with from Elsie, even if it's just mince, would retail for about three times what our butchering costs will be. So it's all a good investment. And we'll have a lot of meat to share -- in addition to friends and neighbours, there are an awful lot of food banks around here. We're in the fortunate position that we can afford to do this and give most of Elsie away to folks who need it. So that makes me feel better about our decision in the end.

We'll be good -- as long as we don't have a power outage for long! It's always a bit of a gamble to rely on freezers.
 

Brigid Barry

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Sounds like a lot of adventures happening. My gardening (I feel) is the entirety of my yard and everything that entails. The husband is playing with his chainsaw and taking down limbs that might come down on the new chicken run I'm putting together. My rooster is a delicate flower and I can't have him in the house again because it's too cold.

My adventure for this year is pressure canning, we don't seem to have much luck with freezing so it's fast and easy to wash and pressure can vs pickling. The zucchini and squash that bury us and we can't eat it fast enough, and the potatoes I'm looking forward to trying.

So much to do, so little time.
 
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Unimportant

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My gardening (I feel) is the entirety of my yard and everything that entails.
Yep. Sometimes it's the mowing and weeding, sometimes it's pruning the fruit trees, sometimes it's planting out vegetables, and sometimes it's vascillating on the decision as to whether or not to rip out that climbing rose and its two progeny, which (on the good side) bloom prolifically 9 months of the year with little open pink and white blossoms that the bees absolute love, but also which (on the bad side) grow rampantly and have such vicious thorns that trying to mow or even walk around them results in ripped skin. (Obviously, I'm still undecided on that rose.)
My adventure for this year is pressure canning
I don't know why I'm such a danged chicken about trying it. In my head I know it would be a really good idea -- less reliance on freezers, and easy to make an immediate meal if I've forgot to get anything out of the freezer. I reckon it would be brilliant for stewed beef etc. I'm happy to make pickles etc that don't require pressure cooking, but not veg/meat. I guess I'm afraid of food poisoning? And of blowing up the kitchen. Also I'd have to get in a load of jars etc.

I've put that onto "when I retire" list. I'm lucky that several years ago when the lab was undergoing a large clean-out and consolidation, the techs found this ancient pressure cooker that they actually used to use to sterilise items for surgery/cell culture, like an old fashioned autoclave. They were going to throw it out so I rescued it. I just had to buy one little part, which amazingly was still available, and the thing should work. So someday...
 
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Helix

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I'm going to shamelessly slip this gardening story of mine into the thread:


In actual gardening news, my potted plants are getting hammered by an interesting collection of caterpillars (mostly tussock moths, Orgyia), which are in turn getting hammered by parasitoid wasps.

I managed to get my hands on some plant species that aren't widely cultivated, including one that I have never seen before -- Melicope peninsularis, which only grows at the very tip of Cape York Peninsula and the Torres Strait Islands. If I had my own garden, they'd be in the ground and growing like crazy. *sigh*
 

Brigid Barry

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@Unimportant You are not alone in your fear of the pressure canner, a lot of people are and I'm pretty intimidated myself. Use it wrong, it goes boom, or use it wrong and botulism.My fear, crazy as it is, would be that I ruin the food but think it's good. But if you use it right, all of the things that you said.

I'm new to the whole thing but I'd argue for just buying a new canner intended for food. A web site scared me into thinking a dial gauge canner (mine was $130 vs weighted gauge, at over $500) was going to be difficult to use. Not the case, and it took me no time at all to find the setting on my stove that would maintain whatever pressure it's at. The lid locks on and I'd have to do something incredibly stupid for the thing to explode. I follow the directions exactly and I know I have a good seal becuse the moment I open the canner the (very hot) jars sealed. They'll build a better idiot, but the one I got was pretty idiot proof and even included a ton of recipes.I have a few delicious soup recipes that I'm looking forward to canning.

I have so. many. jars. When my husband and I got married I had them for our centerpieces, knowing that I'd be able to reuse the jars. Some of them I have no idea where they came from. I have dozens of quart size and they're more or less useless because the water bath canning recipes don't usually call for quart. But I can use them in the pressure canner.
 
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mrsmig

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::raises hand::

Count me as another who's fearful of pressure cookers. I tend to pickle or freeze instead, but I think if I could spend an afternoon with someone who knows how to pressure can, I'd feel more courageous.

Speaking of freezing, yesterday was dreary and damp - a perfect day to make a big batch of soup for the freezer. I made about a gallon+ of cabbage soup and about half that of sweet potato soup. Now I need to clear some space in the freezer for all those quart containers. While I did that, my husband picked the last of our tart cherries. We got about ten pounds of pitted cherries off our single tree this year, so there will be plenty of tart cherry pie in our future.

I'm expecting to harvest my garlic in the next couple of weeks - just in time to make loukaniko, a kind of lamb and pork Greek sausage with garlic and orange zest that's perfect grilled and served with rice, salad and tzatziki.
 
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Brigid Barry

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I want to make more soups. I have a garden veggie one that everyone likes, and I invented a baked potato soup. I think once upon a time I did a split pea that was really good. Soup can be such a hearty and healthy meal. I make one called Moose Soup, which contains no moose, just enough garlic and onion to choke one. 😂

If my calculations are correct, we have four pears and one apple this year. Hoping I'm wrong. Pre pressure canner I would have said that we're going to have more spaghetti squash than I know what to do with, but now I know exactly what to do with it. My sprouts all died and I thought the experiment was over but we now have volunteers EVERYWHERE so we're letting them grow. Husband's tomatoes and potatoes are happy, and we have a random potato growing in the front yard. Last year it was a tomato. No idea where these volunteers come from.
 

mrsmig

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Coincidentally, there's a thread here at AW which has some good recipes: The Soup Thread.

And that reminds me: I have a recipe for okroshka (a cold cucumber soup from Russia) that is soooo good and I should share there.
 
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Alessandra Kelley

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So this morning I was out in the prairie out back (Really it's our tiny back yard but it is amazing how many different wild plants we can fit in there for the butterflies & honeybees) taking out some unwanted little tree sprouts and a few unwanted weeds and I spotted a pretty and showy large yellow wildflower new to me.

Took some pictures (I notice my phone camera cannot handle the intense blues of the spiderwort nearby, depicting them instead as washed-out violets) and looked around a few wildflower sites and apparently we have a couple of yellow salsify, also known as yellow goatsbeard, western salsify, and wild oysterplant, Latin name Tragopogon dubius.

That last made me chuckle, because my family all felt the flowers look fake, like something out of Dr. Seuss or Star Trek ... and that is a very Star Trek sort of name.
 

Unimportant

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My vote is for Brigid to video her pressure canning and make you tube tutorials for us to learn from.

No, Brigid, no need to thank me, I'm happy to volunteer you for this :)
 

ElaineB

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I use the term gardener quite loosely for myself. My wife is the gardener. I’m the labor. But I love what we’re doing with our property. I live in Massachusetts, so we’re heading into summer (we always seem to skip spring entirely and go right from 50 degrees (F) to 80. Four years ago we moved out of the city and onto six acres of pretty much ignored land. Half is woods that will stay ignored. The rest a lawn next to the house, one raised bed (largely in the shade, curiously) and a bunch of tall skinny white pines after a thinning by the former owners to let in more light.

Our focus is restoring the landscape to support wildlife—birds, bees, critters. The place came with a nice lot of blueberries. But also a damn lot of mice and voles. Oh, and deer. Can’t forget those. We (and by that I mean the gardener in the family who researches everything) focus on native species and understory. Mass. has a lot of woods and a lot of farm fields but not a lot in between. As I look out my window (which is often and really messes with writing fiction set in the future on a spaceship) right now the mountain laurel (“laurel hells,” because it makes the woods impenetrable) are blooming and there’s such a variety of textures and colors of the greenery, it makes me smile.

I nearly stepped on a hermit thrush nest, found an ovenbird nest, have had a fawn hidden away by its mom. Beetles are devouring the pines that have fallen since we arrived (split ones that should have been taken in the thinning but weren’t). Woodpeckers and bears are doing their thing, stripping off the bark and digging for larvae. Other nests near the house: eastern towhee, catbird, robin, phoebes (they return every year to the nests over the living room or bedroom windows). Warblers too. A house wren is pleading for a female to keep him company. The past two years, he’s started a nest in our internet satellite dish, which the females have promptly scorned. I took down the dish this spring since we finally got wired for high speed, and I think he’s pissed at me. Today I overspent for a birdhouse to make it up to him.

We’ve planted … well, I’ve lost count, dozens of shrubs, each of which (or groups) have needed chicken wire cages around them to keep deer out (which is where I come in). Thing is, the birds like the fences, which are four-feet high, making me think they really want this mid-layer.

We also added four raised beds for veggies and seedlings my wife propagates from the two big pollinator gardens we put in. What’s left of “lawn” I mow low paths through and keep the rest high to promote native plants. We spend a lot of time pulling nonnative invasives. Someday we’ll get too old to keep up and entropy will take over, but in the meantime, I’m going feral and find it hard to visit friends back in the city and suburbs.

But there’s always the bald-faced hornet buzzing my window to remind me that it can’t all be wild. I’ve already taken down two early-stagge nests and had hoped I’d killed the queen with the second one, but this buzzing, big, dark thing at my window makes me think she’s checking out another spot.
 

Catriona Grace

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Spring garden is just beginning to pass perfection with the gentle fading of the deep pink peonies, but the lilac phlox, orange poppies, and purple iris continue blooming full tilt. I'm beginning to shift focus to the roses which are coming along beautifully. The early bloomers should start flowering in a week or three. Time to add fertilizer.
 

Brigid Barry

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But there’s always the bald-faced hornet buzzing my window to remind me that it can’t all be wild. I’ve already taken down two early-stagge nests and had hoped I’d killed the queen with the second one, but this buzzing, big, dark thing at my window makes me think she’s checking out another spot.
Bald faced hornets are good because they eat insects (even eat the horrible yellowjackets who have stings like a hammer to the face), and they leave you alone as long as you don't aggravate their nest. We had a volleyball sized nest in our maple tree (beneath which the clothesline is run in a well trafficked area) and we walked under it for MONTHS and never knew it was there. No one was bothered.

We have bird houses all over the yard and the ones on the fence are very popular. All of the houses are occupied every year.

By letting our yard go wild, it gives the deer enough to munch on that they leave the gardens alone. My husband's puny fence isn't a deterrent as much as all the yummy weeds are a distraction.
 
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ElaineB

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Bald faced hornets are good because they eat insects (even eat the horrible yellowjackets who have stings like a hammer to the face), and they leave you alone as long as you don't aggravate their nest.
I do leave them alone as long as they aren't attached to the house. I first learned of them when a contractor was stung. I'm told these are the ones who shoot for the eyes. In some ways yellowjackets are worse because they live in the ground and you can walk on them before you know they are there. And then hell breaks loose.
 

Brigid Barry

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I do leave them alone as long as they aren't attached to the house. I first learned of them when a contractor was stung. I'm told these are the ones who shoot for the eyes. In some ways yellowjackets are worse because they live in the ground and you can walk on them before you know they are there. And then hell breaks loose.
We had an underground nest at my previous house. They went after the dog, then they went after the kids, then me. Because we were 30 feet away. Nasty little f**is. I went inside and had one stuck in my bra and it kept stinging me. I did a little dance and said a lot of words that I told my kids to never repeat. 🤣

Penn State says as long as they're farther than 10 feet from your entrances, but I assume that means "if they're 10 feet from where you need to be".
 
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