Sunday, February 28, 2010
Just a quick update on my geranium post from last week - I have my first bloom already! Imagine my surprise when I looked at the plants today to check their progress and I find my first (small in size, but still there!) flower. A true sign that spring is on its way.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
As I was outside today, pushing around heavy, wet snow and dreaming of spring, I started to think about my square foot gardening boxes that are currently under mounds of snow. A number of years ago I took a class on Square Foot Gardening at Cornell Cooperative Extension. The premise of square foot gardening is how you can maximize your growing space for vegetables, herbs and flowers that you'd like to harvest. Mel Bartholomew is the genius behind this method and has written a great book on the subject. A few years ago I decided I wanted to add some veggies to my gardens but they are so full of perennials and herbs that I didn't know how I'd fit them in. I bought 'Square Foot Gardening' and made 2 - 2'x2' boxes that I use to plant tomatoes, Rainbow Swiss Chard, spinach, lettuce and wax beans. In the book is a great "recipe" for a soil mixture that plants love. There are so many advantages to Square Foot Gardens. Probably most important is the fact that you don't waste seeds because the book tells you how many plants will fit in each square food section, so you just plant that number of seeds - no thinning plants! Another advantage is that a square foot garden most times is a raised bed so there is no digging into the soil where you live - so those with rocky, poor or clay soil, this is the way to go! The beds are small, but yield a lot of produce and are easy to care for. I have started to think about adding 2 more 2'x2' boxes this year so that I can increase some of the crops that I like to have close to home. I mostly shop at farmers' markets in the summer, but having some fresh Swiss Chard or a tomato fresh off the vine truly is one of the miracles of gardening!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
I've been doing a bit more research on feeding birds since my last post. I now realize that the mixed, "all purpose" feed probably is not the best choice. Today I'm going to head to the store to get Black Oil Sunflower seed and see if I can attract some different types of birds. I know the squirrels will be a challenge because my feeders hang from my front porch and I cannot use squirrel baffles because I don't have the space. The pink coneflowers that I left standing all winter also are a good source of food for many small birds. The seed head of the coneflower stays intact throughout the winter and the stem is sturdy enough to withstand the snow and wind. This past summer I had lots of sunflowers scattered throughout my garden, which was a very happy accident thanks to the birds eating seed at my bird feeders. The sunflowers attracted so many birds and bees that the patch of these flowers became its own little ecosystem. I will intentionally plant more sunflowers this year because the return is more than worth the investment.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
We are getting a very slight thaw here in Western New York and with the slow move toward spring comes the return of many birds! As I was walking this morning, I heard clusters of little birds in bushes along my route and it sounded like spring! In my garden, I try to do whatever I can to attract birds. How and where I hang my feeders, what I fill my feeders with, what plants are near my feeders so that birds feel safe and have a place to rest while waiting for their turn at the feeder, having a clean and water filled bird bath, not using pesticides and choosing plants that act as a food source for birds are all birding goals in my garden. I wish I was better at identifying birds and do try to use my Peterson's North America guide, but I'm not very successful. What I do know is that I enjoy seeing birds flocking to my gardens, chasing each other from the feeders and bird baths and just resting in some of the landscape plants near the feeding stations. A new resource I've found is Cornell University's Ornithology web site. Check out the web site at www.birds.cornell.edu. More birding thoughts and ideas to follow.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Today is a fantastic day here in Western New York. The sun is brightly shining and for the first time in more than 25 days the temperature is above 30 degrees! This morning I took the opportunity to poke around outside to see how my garden and house were holding up. As I was looking around it occured to me that the plants I had left standing last fall added interest and shape to an otherwise white and buried landscape. As I add plants to my garden, I think about what is going to look good and add visual interest in every season. Every year I cut down less in the fall and let plants over winter. Seeing favorite plants poking up through the snow reminds me of their beauty during the growing season and gives me hope in the dreary days of winter that their beauty will return one day soon.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
The long, grey days of February are starting to last a little too long. At this time of year my thoughts wander to spring. I start dreaming of seeing green once again and the excitement that green shoots of daffodils and tulips bring. This is the time of year when I read every gardening magazine that I can get my hands on and pour over the seed and plant catalogs that arrive in the mail. I guess I have garden envy and am ready for spring. Every fall, when I put my garden to bed, I think to myself "My garden looks good and I probably don't need any more plants" but then comes spring and the gardening itch takes over. I start thinking about what plants I can add where, what I can dig out and give away because it's overtaking a part of my garden and what can I add to the garden to attract even more birds and butterflies. Because I have a small garden in a small "city" I feel like I need to do everything I can to attract a variety of insects and birds that more likely are visiting my friends' gardens in the country. Over this next month I'll do a lot of dreaming and planning, just waiting to get my hands dirty!
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Geraniums are truly amazing and under rated plants. Last November, as I pulled my plants from a large pot on my porch railing, well after frost had whitened my landscape, I thought about how hardy and gorgeous these plants really are. I find geraniums such a mystery - you pull them out of the soil in the fall, hang them in your basement without water, food or light for a few months and then in the dead of winter, they start to grow again! Last week I noticed new green stems and leaves growing in the dark basement and knew it was time to replant. This past weekend I pulled my 8 plants off of the nails they were hanging from in my basement, trimmed off the dead leaves and flowers and cut back the stems and replanted them all in the large pot that sits on my porch railing. They again have soil, water, food and light (and warmth - my basement is chilly!). Over the next few months these plants will leaf out, form flower buds and bloom, bloom, bloom - all before the plants are moved back to their outdoor home. All summer they will continuously bloom and continue blooming until I pull them out of the pot again in November - I really push the limits of frost and freeze tolerance with these plants and they have never let me down!
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I've wanted to start a blog for a while and always struggled with what I could write about. Well, I've got spring fever and my mind is focused on and obsessed with my garden - thinking about changes for this year, planning what new plants and other changes I'd like to make and the anticipation of what it will look like this year. I've been a gardener since I was a kid and would follow my Grandma Reardon and my dad around in both the vegetable and flower gardens. Gardening is in my blood and it's a great way for me to spend time outdoors and to commune with nature. I hope to document my garden, day to day, as it changes and grows and brings lots of joy to me as well as to my neighbors!