Category Archives: Flower Gardening

Sustainable Backyard Tour 2012

While I checked out the yards for this years tour, I thought I would snap some pictures to give everyone a little preview.  I’m very excited about the Carondelet area offerings!  The area I’m coordinating is south St Louis near the river.  Take a look at some of the fantastic things you will see on the tour if you follow my node!  There are gardens, up-cycled elements,  unusual plantings, chickens,  rabbits, solar power, and composting just to name a few elements of our area.

Click on the link to register to go on the tour.  This signs you up to receive a map a few days ahead of time.  Its a lot if fun and free.  Meet some great people, get some great ideas and come out June 24

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These are pictures of right now.  Think how great these yards will look in five weeks!

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Gardening with friends

I love to garden with friends.  With such a nice start to my week, my ambitions nearly exceeded my stamina yesterday.  It had finally become time to work on garden D.

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Its hard to decide where to put garden space.  Gardens are a strange thing.  They take up a lot of space physically and mentally.  For 6 months my girlfriend and I have been talking about what to do with this space.  I had to figure out what her vision for the space was and how I could fit in my needs. If you’re going to dig up so much space in a friends yard you need to make sure that friend will be okay with it. This is the biggest garden I’m putting in outside of my own yard.  The last thing I want to do is anything that would put a wedge in this friendship.

It was with some trepidation that I gathered up my seeds and went to my girlfriend’s house.  The worry was unwarranted.  My sweet husband manned the tiller and our friend Gary mowed the grass.  I admire my husband so much for being such an amazing machine.  It’s like he can’t even feel the heat of the sun beating down on him.  We decided to do four foot wide beds that were about 60 feet long.  Soon my girlfriend and I were raking out the dirt and planting seeds.

We worked away and about 20 feet down the third row look at each other and giggled.  We’d been discussing our plans for going to different farmers markets to sell vegetables and talking about the different vegetables we like.  She is full of ideas and hopes to plant enough garden to cut flowers to sell from.  The pleasant conversation and the working of the soil worked like magic on our souls.  When we looked at each other we couldn’t help but giggle at the wonderful time we were having.  Our work connected us and let us feel connected to the earth and everything around us.  We planted 3 rows of vegetables and thought about how much of it we could possibly eat.  Hopefully there will be enough to fill out a table at a farmers market after we have taken our share.

The day was hard work but we finished it with a sense of satisfaction. We also had the joy of knowing we had had a pleasant afternoon.  Sustainability is easier with friends and it’s a joy to achieve with friends.

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After this we sat with our gatorade and look at a book she had gotten at the library.  I was impressed with all the fantastic projects it had in it.  Easy simple ideas to really help around the garden.  Check it out at the link below.

Planted yesterday:

Some of these are the brand I planted and some are not.  They are the type however and I am providing these links for convenience sake.  It is late and hot for lettuce, but these two varieties are supposed to be better in the heat and we will shade the beds where they grow.

We are so excited to see what our friendship will grow and how it will grow.  I love gardening with friends.  Try it!

May Day Flowers

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Old Garden Clean Up

Today was what felt like the last day to get the side garden cleaned up before it became overwhelming.  It was one of those days where everything suddenly leafed out.

The greenhouse is full of flats now.  We got some shelves up this week.

The collards are up and transplanted to little newspaper pots.  The tomatoes are up too.

The parsley is coming up nicely.  I’ve never had much luck growing parsley, this is giving me hope for this year.

The pears have set a ton of fruit.

The peaches have set a ton of fruit.  We will go out and thin them soon.  We leave one of every three or the fruit becomes too heavy for the tree.

The apples are still in bloom.

The quince are blooming, unfortunately the tree has a bacterial disease and I haven’t found a supplier of the chemical I need to treat it.  I’m very torn about it.  I really like Quince and would like to have them but I’m not sure chemicals are worth it.

Last year’s collards are blooming.

Garlic is growing strong.

The peas are up, the trellises are up, and I just need to string them.

The chocolate mint survived the winter amazingly well.  I’ve never had such lush spring growth.

The Akebia is in bloom.  It’s worth planting these for the one week of amazing scent they put off in the spring.  I could stand with my head in this plant for hours.

The honeyberry is blooming for the first time since I planted it.

Lilies are coming up strong.

Apple mint has spread everywhere.

I leave violets in the beds.  I love them.  I’m on the fence about dandelions though.  Both have edible parts.

Tansy

Tons of sweet cherries have set on the shrubs.

The aronia will set tons of fruit, it’s about to bloom like crazy.

I’m about to have my first rose as well.

Today I got the remaining seeds in the mail as well as the spore kits from Fungi Perfecti.  The Three Amigos kit puts three edible strains of mushroom in the garden.  It’s supposed to help increase yield on your vegetables as well.  The kit needed to get put in the ground today which is another reason the garden had to get cleaned up now.

So, the cold frames made out of hay bales are down.  I put arugula, cress, and corn salad in the ground today.  Tonight I need to get the coleus and the remaining annual flowers in flats.  I will probably jump the gun and go ahead and plant the annual garden fruits as well.  I love ground cherries and want to get those going.  I usually order starts from Seed Savers, but this year I thought I would try to start them myself.

Hopefully, we will get the rest of the garden across the street dug in the next few days.   This mild spring is speeding things up in unexpected ways.

 

 

What are the flowers in your neighborhood?

Dwarf Iris – First Flower of the Year

Iris Cristata

Species Native to Missouri

3-6″ Tall

Each year I anxiously look forward to this flower.  I adore it’s bold appearance in my garden and know that it means soon I will be gearing up to plant my garden.  I think I picked this up at Lowe’s on the clearance rack years ago and planted it because it was a native plant.  I’ve been really impressed with this plant.  It doesn’t spread much, but I have it planted in a terrible location.  I have a trouble area of landscaping in the front near a Silver Maple.  Because St. Louis city yards are often quite small, the tree sucks up all the available water on our side of the street.  When the garden peaks in early summer you can see the further from the tree it gets, the taller and more lush it is.

This year when it is done blooming I am going to move it to the berry garden.  It’s a woodland plant naturally, and I think it will do well with the partial sun plants.  Soon the holly next to it will overwhelm it so it is time.

On a side note, the 2nd annual St. Louis Sustainable Backyard Tour is gearing up to take applications for hosts.  It is being held on June 24th, 2012.  If you are interested in more information and a link to an application, please drop me a note at jacquelyne@sew4cons.com.  Hopefully soon we will solidify more information and I can post a link.  Last year’s tour was a great time and I met a ton of wonderful people, if you use sustainable practices in your back yard, please consider participating.

The Garden Plan

Insert ominous music here….

So, last year I ran out of things to do outside in my yard.  Very depressing.  Of course that means this year I must have grand plans that may not be attainable.  The lot across the street is one that will test my resolve.  If I can do the 16 beds, I should be able to grow a complete potato heavy diet for four.  I also need to dig a bed or two for my nice neighbors to garden in as well.  They have no sun thanks to a gorgeous linden tree that occupies the whole of their tiny back yard and a strange deck built by an obnoxious bohunk previous owner that overlooks my six foot privacy fence.  Fortunately since the bohunk abandoned the city for renecky parts unknown I have had awesome neighbors in that house and don’t mind the deck anymore.

the lot from the south

Anyway a refresher on the lot (from another angle because I know you can’t remember from my blog entry I made an hour ago, lol).  So, I have some reservations about working over here.  As I said before, there used to be multifamily structures over here.  Those structures almost certainly had basements.  All the houses in my neighborhood have basements.  There are two holes about where I am standing to take this picture that the neighbor has been throwing sod into.  I will continue to throw sod.  What concerns me more is the sunken area at

the sunken spot

the back.  Fortunately I have no intention of building anything and I don’t think I will fall into the ground, but the difference in rain runoff and weight might affect the lay of the land and cause me some problems.  Right now the sunken area is limited to a spot in the back which is easy enough to deal with.  I need a good rainstorm though to see how the water in this area works.

My Mad Plan

So I have mad cad skills and decided one night to work out the garden plan in cad.  Pretty easy to do actually. They lack a polished look and have spelling errors I have to admit.  Across the street is heavily based on the four family garden from How to Grow More Vegetables buy it, it’s awesome.  I think there is a new version than the one on that link however.  Go visit the Ecology Action people they are the same folks and have years of experience with biointensive gardening.

Spring/Summer Side Yard

Summer/Fall Side Yard

So the mad plan is based on my wish list worked into 4 x 20 foot beds.  After laying things out across the street, I have found that up to four more can be put in.  I left one for the neighbors but really they could have up to five.  Two I would be hesitant to put in until we understand the underground nutso stuff going on over there.  I have to guess that the sinkhole is part of a basement that wasn’t bulldozed full.  The rest of the basements should still be under there.  I may check city hall for old building specs for that site.    Theoretically this will also impact drainage on the site, should be a fun year.  Until recently my side yard leaked oddly into my basement, but I think whatever the passageway was has filled in with sediment at this point.  That garden is also on an old building site.

Another note should be that I plan to freeze, can, and root cellar much of the harvest.  There are ways to plant to extend harvesting and some of that will happen, but mainly it works better for my brain to have things ripen at the same time.  I’m not market gardening which also impacts how to plan.

This does not negate my need to use other sites for gardening.  Winter Squash, Summer Squash, Cucumbers, and Gourds cannot be grown in more than one variety within half a mile of each other or they will cross pollinate.  I have three other yards I will be placing varieties of those in this summer as well. (Also, after the Thai Bottle Gourd fiasco, I’m not really allowed to have gourds in the side yard again, lol.  I don’t recommend Thai Bottle Gourds for urban gardening.)  Probably also grow some other herbs and peppers there as well.  I think peppers just need 10 feet, but the ant population on my lot make peppers difficult to grow.  I had much better luck last year.  Previous years have had too much insect damage.

Gardening 2012

Cold Frames

2012 cold frame experiment

With the recent abnorminally mild spell, I’ve officially started the 2012 garden.  A few years back, my brother got the jump on me by planting early peas.  I always like to err of the side of caution when planting, but this year, I’ve decided to try to optimize the growing season and be brave.  To that end I have already planted peas, swiss chard, spinach, and arugula.     If you are going to take risks it’s probably useful to do it in an educated manner.  These are crops that are good in cool temps, but that doesn’t mean that they will germinate in the ground this time of year.  I had planned to haul in fresh manure from a horse stable and make hot beds, but the economy being what it is I don’t have money for the gas.  I did however aquire some straw off of Craigslist for $3 a bale and had a good supply.  I checked a germination temperature list and cross checked the weather and decided to be brave.  We had temps in the 60s and 70s last week.  This particular garden area is nestled between my house and the neighbors house.

between the houses garden space

It creates a peculiar microclimate.  There isn’t as much sun in the winter due to the line of light being interupted by the neighbors two story house.   The sun and heat do reflect off of my two story home however and the ground is slow to freeze.  I’m not sure if the ground is warm enough for germination, but it must have been close.  I soaked the seeds ahead of time and went ahead and put them in the ground.  Using conduit pipe as a canopy, we covered the beds in clear plastic with a tarp on top of that for night time.  On days over 65 degrees, I open the whole thing up while the sun is on it to help it warm.  The straw bales and the plastic should provide a perfect cold frame and allow me to get a jump on the growing season.  Keeping it covered also keeps the chickens from nibbling off fresh shoots.  They live in the vegetable garden in the winter and won’t be moved out for a month or two depending on the weather. 
 
Chickens in the garden?  Yes. They eat bugs and scratch and scratch and poop.  This does some pretty wonderful work on my garden soil and hopefully cuts down on the bugs I will have to deal with in the spring.  Last year I had an amazing quatitiy of potato fleas and crickets.  Neither of them did a great deal of damage, but if I didn’t get to the tomatoes quick enough the crickets were more than happy to feast on them.  Potato fleas seem more like a visual nuisance than an actual nuissance.  I suspect they impact yeilds but I got a lot of potatoes so it was difficult to see any real impact. 
 
I met my neighbor for the first time last week as well and now have permission to garden in the empty lot across the street.  There is significantly more space there than I expected.  You would think I would have a grasp of it having looked at it for 9 years, but no.  It’s about twice the size that casual glances lead me to believe.
 
It’s a wonderful flat space in full sun.  Apparently there were multifamily houses on this lot 15 years ago so I have no idea what I will find as I go to double dig.  My plan is to put in 16 eight by twenty beds with the width of my mower in between.    If I dig two beds a week for the next two months I will have them in on time.  I’ve laid out two of the beds with a paint border and started digging but I broke the handle off my shovel.  Such a brute.  I took that as a sign and quit for the day and haven’t gotten back to it this week.  I still have four days.

my garden helper

This is my helper over there.  Dr. Trivia lives upstairs across the street next to this lot and is a big softee when it comes to cats.  As his four family has rotated occupants, he has taken in any abandoned cats. This one is as big as a terrier.  He is awesomely massive.  I haven’t figured out how many live over there, but I figure it’s built in bird and rodent control.  They are a sweet bunch of cats.  One did get in my chicken coop a month ago, but bygones are bygones and he hasn’t come back so hopefully it was a one time thing. 
 
I used inkscape to draw out my garden beds for both the side yard and the lot across the street.  I’ve planned out what seeds are going in for the Spring/Summer end and then the succession crops for the Summer/Fall end.  Also done is the buying times for when I have to have the seeds for planting them when I want to.  Of particular help to me has been the following books:
 
These are a fantastic resource and well worth purchasing. 
 
So, we are currently building our recycled plastic bottle greenhouse, digging the new garden, moving the old compost pile, and planning out when to buy seeds. 
 
February  garden task recomendations:
  1. Start seeds in cold frames, south facing windows, greenhouses, hot bedes.  Stick with cold weather crops.  Anything in the cabbage family will do well.
  2. Clean and mend your garden tools.  Paint handles, sharpen shovels, clean out storage areas.
  3. Repair raised beds, cold frames, potting benches.
  4. Gather pots into central location.  Sort by size.  Make a mental note of what you have on hand so that you waste less time and money in the busy upcoming months on supplies. 
  5. Sort out your seed stores.  Your envelopes should have a year.  Look up a seed viability table and get rid of seed that are too old.  It’s easy to waste space storing seeds that won’t come up and waste money buying seeds you already have that are perfectly good.  If you don’t want to throw those seeds away try your hand at some crop art!

I’m passionate about food security.  Start a garden and or buy local foods.  There’s a peace and joy to gardening.  If you are a food junkie like I am you will be amazed at the difference locally grown and organic foods can make to your cooking.  So yummy!