Is it really mid-September?

The morning haze and temperatures in the mid-fifties indicates that it is indeed mid-September! But, how can that be since it was only a few weeks ago that the soil was warm enough to seed zinnias and plant out tomatoes? At least that’s how it feels. I don’t think that any summer has gone so quickly as this one. So let’s do a bit of catching up, because I’ve been a terrible correspondent.

The “Big Dig” area fills in

First of all, the area where the “Big Dig” took place last spring has filled in acceptably. It needs tweaking of course, but it hasn’t been the eyesore I expected and dreaded. Some low catmints were added along the sidewalk, and more blue salvias. Hopefully those will all come back next spring. Some “Crystal Beauty” celosia were planted in this area just to be isolated from other celosias so the seed can be harvested. Glad I did that, because that variety isn’t listed in the new catalog for the coming year! And, I do like it. Nice straight stems; a creamy fan with just a blush of apricot/soft orange across the ruffly top. It goes so nicely with lots of other things, like the “Queen Lime Orange” zinnias and a couple of peachy dahlias, talinum, etc.

There were a few usable glads…

Next, the glads. The battle with thrips was fought all summer, and although I won a few skirmishes, they won the war. Of the 800 planted, maybe 100 were harvested and usable in bouquets. Now I’m worried that they will winter over in the soil and attack any number of crops next year. Apparently they are very fond of peas. Only the bulbs planted behind the blackberry row were okay. All those planted later in the potager were UGLY!

Some of the over 350 bouquets delivered for GKP!

The Growing Kindness Project has been a joy/trial/rewarding/draining. It seemed when there were lots of flowers, there were few names, so I just randomly gave bouquets away to strangers or people in the hospital parking lot, nursing homes, harried workers, etc. When there were few flowers, I was inundated with names of struggling people. I’ve learned a lot about my community in the process. And, I’ve learned a LOT about growing flowers for cutting. What fun that has been, and actually making the bouquets is so satisfying for my creative side. I admit to falling into the “pressure” of producing … feeling that if every flower wasn’t harvested and delivered I was somehow failing. Finally a couple of weeks ago, I told myself sternly that no flower was really wasted because the bees, butterflies, beneficial wasps, hummingbirds, moths, birds and ME were enjoying them!!! And, happily there have been people in the community that stepped forward to help deliver, because that is really the time-consuming part. The lonely shut-ins want me to stay and visit; the frail are very slow to answer the door so patience is required. Sometimes it takes two or three visits to find someone at home. I spent a lot more time on the road than I wanted. Peeling labels off water and soda bottles and cutting their tops off fills any “tv” watching time, but even that is rather satisfying.

I baked pies all week for the 4-H fair, and that was fun. I also made all the floral arrangements for the Ladies Afternoon Tea, and also for the “Bee Bash” event just a week or so ago, where I was also the featured speaker. Yes, I’m doing more speaking again so that has taken some chunks of time to take photos, produce the Power Point presentations, and actually go to the events. And, I joined a Home Extension Club which has also turned out to be more time-consuming that I expected, but I’m enjoying that as well.

The Cutting Garden in late June

So, my focus on flowers this year did not mean that there were no veggies or melons, etc. There were plenty, but it may surprise you that given my propensity for record-keeping in great detail, nothing was weighed or noted! But, we had plenty to eat and still gave produce away occasionally. Even the Bloom Journal has big gaps, sigh!

Currently, there are still bouquets to make and deliver but the flowers are slowing down except for the dahlias. I should have made more succession plantings of zinnias and sunflowers, and between the thrips and cucumber beetles a lot of flowers right now are not usuable. Lots of clean-up and dead-heading is going on now, as well as plans for the fall bulb plantings. Yes, I’ve ordered more than 2,000 more bulbs…lots and lots more daffodils because those early spring bouquets were so easy and fun, and because I really like them and more tulips for cutting. Next year, the potager will be 2/3 flowers and 1/3 food. The big Geo seed order has already arrived and there will be some new flowers to fill in bloom time gaps, and more of certain colors to go with this or that. We can talk about all that later.

So, still alive and very well. We finally got some rain last week and that has lifted everyone’s spirits. The area crops look surprisingly good despite the lack of rain. My mother is doing well…busy canning tomatoes and freezing lima beans and freezer slaw, and keeping all her gardens weed-free and pretty…at almost 97! Hopefully, it won’t be so long before I write again. Thanks for being patient! Hugs!

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Will there be any GLADness?

The first gladiola order…

Way back in winter, when garden daydreams grow larger and larger and the Growing Kindness Project plans were escalating, I ordered some gladiola corms. The first order was simply a standard mix of white, pink, orange, “blue” which is always more purple, green, red, and yellow. I also ordered some of the “dwarf” mix called “Glamini,” which are only supposed to be 24-36″ tall and might be better in bouquets. I’ve never really grown gladiolas, other than a small trial of “hardy gladiolas” two years ago which did not please me because a) they were all shades of pink or red and b) they weren’t hardy, at least where I live.

As my dreams grew and the lists of bouquet combinations multiplied, I decided there was a need for more glads so more white, white with green, white with yellow, green, white with purple for early summer were ordered. I had dreams of summer and fall bouquets, because I planned to succession plant but when I ran the numbers, I felt I needed yet more gladiolas, so another order was placed. White goes with everything, so another 100 were ordered. And the “Merlot Ice” and “Blue Isle” were added to go with the burgundy of fall-toned sunflowers and the dahlia tubers also ordered.

Then I read a post about planting glad corms early indoors in crates! Could I have some of the dwarf glads in pretty pastels to go with late tulips, hellebores and other spring crops? Why not give it a try? So another order for Glamini corms in soft pastel colors was placed.

As you can see, it was revised and revised again!

I spent hours making a planting schedule, working out the colors that needed to be planted to go with the crops that should be available at that time. Glad corms take about 90 days to bloom, so I planned weekly plantings. I added more green to go with the green centered early sunflowers and “Plum Tart” to go with the burgundy tones of autumn sunflowers and more burgundy dahlias.

I was SO organized and pumped up, ready to be filled with “GLAD”ness! There were 800 gladiola corms headed my way! All I had to do was plant them and wait to harvest. I prepped my crates and was ready to go, watching the calendar for my first planting date of April 1st.

The first scheduled planting day arrived, but sadly no gladiolas had! Shipping was running much later than usual. I was chomping at the bit, so on an errand run in town I ventured into the local Menard’s store and sure enough, there was a luscious, tempting display of bulbs. I picked up three packages: a rosy white-throated beauty called “Rhapsody Lavender,” a fancy purple one called “Vista” and a lovely peachy “Princess Margaret Rose.”

The corms from Menard’s…

So, I planted the first crate with some of each color and put the rest of the bulbs in a box in the basement. As the orders began to arrive, I planted the second, third and fourth crates as scheduled and put the leftover corms in the box. The corms sprouted and grew. When the weather settled I moved them onto the patio.

Crates 1 & 2 are close to St. Francis. Crate 3 is the red one just with a few sprouts. Crate 4 is newly planted to the right along the wall.

As always, this was a very, very busy time of year and other than watering when needed not much attention was given to the corms. But then it was time to begin outdoor in-ground plantings so I took a box of glads out to the field to begin planting. I began with the “Princess Margaret Rose” because I knew she was going to be one of my favorites, but when I pulled a corm out of the package, it was covered with tiny gray aphid-like insects. I could see that the new shoots emerging from the corm were already damaged from their sucking. Drats! A quick check of the other Menard packages found those bulbs also covered with insects and a few had migrated to the packages from other companies. I threw away those from Menards and put the others in a container with diatomaceous earth, gave it a shake and let it sit. Then I went to check the crates.

Too bad, so sad!

By this time, all four crates looked like this…brown and white streaked leaves. Crate 1 was the worst, but since all had been side by side for weeks in the basement and usually outside as well it was no surprise that all four were infected.

Fortunately, since there were too many corms for one box, about half the orders were in another box and hopefully they are not contaminated. Nothing was found upon inspection, but then the newly opened packages from Menards had looked fine, too. Of course, I hadn’t been really looking for anything, and the lighting in the basement is not that terrific in the cool storage area where the bulbs were kept. I’m guessing they are thrips, which are notorious in gladiolas. They can come from the soil, but since I used sterile potting mixture I doubt they came from the soil.

So, now I wait and see if Box 2 corms were okay. And I’ve planted some of the corms that were treated with DE in another, separate area to see if they produce any blooms as well.

The question remains…will there be any GLADness?

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To the rescue!

The South Path finally mulched!

Just when I thought I couldn’t shovel and more another wheelbarrow load of mulch, my wonderful daughter arrived for a visit! She usually comes just before they leave for their months in Italy, but this year she came a week earlier to help me prepare for the big brunch for 22 and garden tour. Bless her heart! Things definitely looked a lot better before she left. She mulched the entire south path, gave the North Island and the the entire Potager Exterior Border a good top dressing of mulch to freshen it and make the tulips stand out more.

Painting these chairs has been on my list for years!

She scraped off the old paint, primed and painted two Adirondack chairs my father made for me years and years ago. Now they look brand new and fresh. Those looking so good made the white wicker furniture in the gazebo look gray and tired, so after a stiff brushing and many, many coats using $115 in spray primer and paint, they looked equally refreshed. But the furniture looking so good caused Alicia to pronounce the cushions “disgusting!” so she began an internet search for new cushions!

It took three days to get enough coats of paint on this wicker furniture!

We washed all the first floor windows, inside and out and scrubbed the green Adirondack chairs in the potager. And, we managed to pick the the daffodils to condition overnight. That was Day 1!!!

Instant color in the deck planters!

Day 2 began with making and delivering bouquets. Back home, we washed up all the harvesting buckets we’d used the day before and we planted the deck planters, using a combination of newly purchased plants and several that I’d been growing for months in the basement and hardened off. I made protective “covers” using bamboo stakes and floating row cover to protect them from harsh winds and to keep the chipmunks from digging in the planters. Lish did more mulching, this time the Deck Garden edges, and she ran into town for more mulch. We finally made a decision on the cushions and placed the order. It was harder then we expected, because cushions like the original were over $3000, which is absolutely ridiculous! We finally found some reasonably priced slipcovers for the bottom cushions, and ordered lumbar and square pillows instead of the “fitted” ones, which was much, much less expensive. We also got the Fairy Garden houses set out, along with a tidy and even made some colorful pennants to hang for the fairies to enjoy. We did some test recipes, were happy with them, and delivered food to some shut-in friends.

You have to look closely to see the pennants, but they are orange, yellow, green and purple!

Day 3 we packed up more food, some tools, and headed to my mother’s. While I took her to the doctor, Lish weeded and mulched Mom’s circle garden and the flower gardens by the front entry. It was a cold, wet day, so not pleasant for outdoor work, but she was determined to get it finished. After lunch, we had a good visit and I took a bouquet to some of Mom’s neighbors. A quick grocery stop on the way home, and then it was back to work putting all the leaves to extend the dining room table to its maximum length, put bows on the centerpiece jars, put the final coat on the chairs, and doing some weedeating along the sidewalk and garden edges. We also ran to a friend’s house to borrow six more chairs. And Lish finished scrubbing my kitchen ceiling for me! More recipe testing. And after dinner, Lish swept out the garage and restored it to “pre-chair painting” condition. Most of the cushions arrived, so we unboxed them and put them out to see the new look. Pretty bold pattern for me, but I’m liking them!

Final day, and we were both a bit tired with sore muscles. Keep in mind all the regular watering had to be done daily, and I was still moving plants from the basement to the greenhouse. We harvested the last of the daffodils and other flowers for the centerpieces. After watering, we wound up all the extra hoses here and there, and rolled up all the heavy frost cloths, hoping we wouldn’t need them again this year! Then we deadheaded all the gardens around the house. Before we knew it, it was time to leave for the airport. It was hard to say good-bye, and my words of thanks for all her work were so inadequate!

Major grocery stop for all the luncheon ingredients on the way home. And upon arrival, I was relieved to find the rest of the cushions had been delivered so I unboxed them and moved all the cardboard we’d accumulated to the pole barn. A big storm rolled through that evening, so it was a good thing David had finished all the mowing earlier in the day.

Tulips, daffodils, pea foliage make up the bouquets and little pots of “Spicy Globe” basil complete the setting.

The next day was baking, setting tables, making centerpieces and doing all the other little things that need doing before guests arrive. The morning of the big brunch started with early food prep. Sadly, it rained all day making it impossible for anyone to tour the gardens (after all that work!) but everyone seemed to enjoy the brunch (two types of quiche, a loaded veggie salad using lots of greens from the potager, maple chicken sausage patties, a big fruit plate, tea, coffee, and two types of cookies.) Instead of a show and tell tour of the potager, my presentation had to be limited to a talk on the precepts of a potager and a bit about soil blocking, succession planting, etc. At least the rain stopped as they were leaving so they could see the “Cretaceous,” “Dordogne”and “Sensual Touch” tulips in the Front Garden looking fresh and full.

It took two days for me to get everything washed up and put away, the borrowed chairs returned, furniture moved back to their usual locations, etc. Platters of quiche and cookies were delivered to some of our bachelor neighbors (who seemed disappointed that what looked like pie…wasn’t!) But with things back to normal, and looking great I was able to catch up the bloom journal, make a new job list, and enjoy some time in the very clean gazebo, lounging on freshly painted chairs with pretty new cushions. Life is good, if sometimes a bit hectic!

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Let’s start to Catch Up…

The Greeter and front door planters for spring

It’s been a long time since our last chat. April 23rd to be exact. Spring flowers were bursting on the scene, daffodil harvest for the “Growing Kindness Project” bouquets was in full swing (and the project taking lots more time than I’d anticipated.) I think I told you that I was frantically preparing for several group visits to the gardens, and a big luncheon as well. Seeding, transplanting, and up-potting were taking over entire days. Tuck in the preparations for the garden club plant sale and erratic weather that kept most of the 5,000 plants growing in the basement IN the basement requiring a lot of babying. Because of anticipated groups visiting and the GKP, there were lots of earlier than normal in-ground plantings that also required frost cloth on, frost cloth off, frost cloth on, …well, you can easily get the picture. This old lady took on a bit more than she could handle!

Last of the daffodils with first of the tulip bouquets

So, here’s the beginning of the update. On April 24th Mother Nature decided that it was time for SUMMER, and temperatures soared into the mid and upper 80’s with drying winds. The plants that like cooler temperature (calendula, stock, ranunculus, pac choi, etc.) were suddenly stressed and unhappy. Frost cloth and plastic had to come off everything. Daffodils came and went so quickly, that not all of them made it into bouquets as planned. The early, mid and late tulips nearly all opened at once, and they suffered as the wind whipped them right and left.

And deadheading…did I mention deadheading?

The warmer weather also meant it was planting time, so I was desperately trying to get the baby perennials, statice, Bells of Ireland, more snapdragons and other things in the ground. It also brought up the weeds which required removal.

So many plants needed to go into the ground!

Of course, as soon as new things were planted, the rabbits had a new diet! I don’t think I’ve ever had so much rabbit damage, and it still continues despite over $100 in Liquid Fence applied. I think they feel it’s just “salad dressing!” The yarrow, sunflowers, giant yellow hyssop and rudbeckias mentioned in a prior post were simply appetizers. As soon as the strawflowers and statice were planted (inside the netting fence!) they disappeared.

Web flats over newly planted statice finally thwarted those rascally rabbits!

The ground finally dried enough that I could get loads of mulch where I needed it, so the potager’s paths got a much needed face-lift. Shoveling mulch is a slower process each year as I age. Next year, I think a helper would be a great idea!

That’s enough for now, because today’s job list is waiting and some things just can’t be put off any longer! Hope you have a great day, wherever you are!

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Six on Saturday: April 23

Chionodoxa

After a roller coaster week of weird weather that included a blanket of snow, thankfully currently the only (1) “Glory in the Snow” is the lovely little blue flower of that name. They also come in pink (yuk!) and white (which doesn’t show up very well in snow!) but the blue is that perfect sky blue color that goes so well with the yellow daffodils and darker blue muscari of the spring season at this time.

Bright blue muscari and friends

Here’s some of that (2) bright blue muscari, also know as Grape Hyacinth growing in front of a patch of (3) “Rip Van Winkle” daffodils. I’m not convinced “Rip Van Winkle” is a good name for this shaggy headed, starburst type of daffodil because isn’t RVW known for being a long sleeping, slow to wake up fellow? Well, Rip is one of the earliest daffodils to appear in my gardens and stays awake for a very long time! Just right of the muscari is the baby (4) “Clove Currant” that I planted late last summer. Its yellow tubular blooms are appearing, and I can’t wait for them to open and fill the air with the luscious clove scent that I remember from childhood wafting from the bush that grew in our back yard. And behind is a clump of split-cup (5) “Mary Gay Lirette,” which doesn’t look its best in this photo but is one of my very favorite daffodils because it lasts and lasts and lasts, doesn’t bend its stems in strong winds or even with the weight of snow. And it’s a good multiplier and drop-dead gorgeous! Both of these daffys came from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, a lovely family-owned business.

And my new favorite tulip!

Speaking of favorites, here’s (6) “Purshiana Blonde,” my new favorite tulip for it’s gorgeous green and gold foliage that brightens the Front Island, trying to impersonate an early-emerging hosta, even before it’s luscious creamy white flowers open. I may have a new favorite next week, but right now I’m love, love, loving this tulip!

Stock bloom

The center two rows of this bed in the “flower farm” half of the potager was supposed to be tall “Anytime” stock for bouquets. Obviously, most of the plants are actually (7) “Vintage” stock, a much shorter variety that blooms earlier and was intended to be planted in containers for the deck. That’s what happens when a flat loses its label! Oh well, I’ll enjoy the flowers and their lovely scent anyway, although it’s unlikely that they will grow tall enough to be added to a “Growing Kindness” bouquet. Maybe I’ll pick some anyway and put them in a small jar on my desk just to experience the sweet aroma as I work.

Yes, that’s 7, so you get a bonus plant in this “Six on Saturday” edition. This time of year, it’s nearly impossible to limit to six because everything is bursting into bloom at once! There are over 30 of the 60 varieties of daffodils in the gardens blooming right now, lots of tulips and swathes of scilla. So hard to choose just 6! But if you’d like to see how other gardeners manage to do it, visit The Propagator, who hosts this meme.

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“Growing Kindness” is underway!

Growing Kindness bouquet # 5

The first five bouquets have been delivered this week for the “Growing Kindness Project.” Two went to ladies at nursing homes, one went to a couple in assisted living who just lost their beloved dog, one went to a shut-in who can no longer visit the daffodils she loved in her woods, and one went to stressed workers who are inundated with tax deadlines.

I’ve already learned a lot about this project. First of all, growing flowers is the easy part! Arranging the beautiful blooms is the fun part. Delivery is the time-consuming part, for many reasons but mostly because the recipients are lonely and want to talk so it’s hard to make it a quick stop. I can see this being a real problem as the number of bouquets increases to 20 or 30 a week, so that’s something I will have to seek help with. This batch were delivered on a dreary, cold, rainy day that wouldn’t have been good for gardening anyway, but I recognize that I will be extremely tempted to postpone having to get cleaned up and deliver on a beautiful sunny day! Delivery is also forcing me to be more “social” than is my nature, and while that’s probably a good thing, I’d really, really rather be in my gardens growing more flowers. But, seeing their smiles is the rewarding part. I’m sure they like the flowers, but realizing that someone cares is what really makes the difference.

The bouquets are mainly daffodils at this point, 20 stems of mixed colors and shapes. Several of the daffodils grown have had their stems folded by the unusually strong winds we’ve had lately. I assume this is going to be a continuing problem in the future, so I won’t be planting any more of the fancy very, very double forms that are more likely to flop and be ruined. The singles and split cup ones are standing up the best. The daffodils are picked at goose-neck stage for the single forms, and slightly more open for the split-cup ones and put immediately into cool water with a couple of drops of bleach added. They sit in the cool garage overnight to condition and seal the ends so they won’t “poison” the tulips. Later on it will have to be the basement as the garage temperature rises.

Some of the bouquets had the very first of the tulips, which are the “Exotic Emperor” variety you can see in the photo above. They are creamy white with some green streaking and a soft yellow center, with very strong, long stems. I’ll be growing LOTS more of them next year because they are performing wonderfully in the Front Garden and Front Island (where I am NOT cutting them!) and were the first to bloom in the Cutting Garden. I put 5 in with the 20 daffys and that seemed just right. The tulips are picked just after they have cracked open and are showing some color. They go into cool water with a bit of flower food added and are conditioned overnight in a cool, dark place as well. Treated this way, both the daffodils and tulips should last 6-9 days, although the warmer temperatures in the nursing homes may cause them to fade faster.

Friends have been generous with providing recycled jars (taller jelly, pickle and olive jars, pint canning jars) and plastic water or soda bottles which I cut the top 2-3″ off. I have dozens and dozens of rolls of ribbon left from having the shop, so adding a bow is no problem.

“Growing Kindness” project.org provides sample tags on their website that one can copy and use, but I’ve already forgotten my password, so I handwrote some tags that read “grown with love in Blackford County for the ‘Growing Kindness Project.’ Hope these brighten your day.”

It’s definitely already been a learning experience. I’m learning more about my community, more about flowers, meeting some wonderful people, and even learning more about myself! We’ll see how I feel about it all after bouquet # 500 has been delivered!!!

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No words required…

Yesterday…
Today…
Yesterday
Today…
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“Cool Flowers,” Cold temps & “Hardening Off” !

If you are interested in growing cut flowers or having a flower farm, you’ve probably heard about Lisa Mason Ziegler’s book “Cool Flowers” in which she discuses those hardy, cold tolerant annual flowers that can sometimes (in some zones) be planted in fall, overwintered, and provide early spring blooms that can often be harvested before we can normally even plant!

Since I’m growing cut flowers for the “Growing Kindness” project, I want earlier blooms for earlier bouquets. And since my space is small, if I can get an early crop to grow, flower and harvest it, an extra succession crop can be squeezed in. For a business, that would mean an extra round of bouquets and income! So, I studied Ziegler’s guide, but determined that in my area (Zone 5b, north central Indiana, last frost date around May 5-10) many of the flowers she suggests (that do well in her more southern area) would not survive our harsher winters and colder temperatures. But, I was interested in finding out what works early here, so I’m growing lots of small batches of different things with the intention of pushing my “normal” envelope. Some things may work, some things may not but the only way to find out is to try!

On March 1st, two varieties of dianthus (“Bodestoltz” and “Summer Mix”) I’d grown from seed in plug flats were planted out in a raised bed. I also direct seeded some bachelor buttons, bupleurum, dara, bells of Ireland, and nigella “Midnight” into another bed with some snapdragon plugs. Wire hoops and a layer of floating row cover were installed over them. This was not only for cold protection, but Ziegler also uses the hoops & row cover to eliminate the hardening off process. The cover protects them from too much wind and too much sun, but allows air movement and rain to penetrate. I’ve always used the standard hardening off process of moving plants outdoors for an hour, then two, then three, etc. but that’s a lot of work moving plants in and out, in and out! So, I was interested in giving row cover a try. After two weeks the plants looked fine, even though the night-time temps were usually in the mid-to upper 20’s. An additional layer of heavier frost cover was added for the night when it dropped to 12 degrees, and that worked. The plants still look happy.

Ranunculus newly planted

Feeling more confident, on March 14th more plugs were planted out. This time it was “Cantaloupe” calendula, “Anytime” stock, ranunculus, “Benary Princess” asters, “Madame Butterfly” and “Liberty” snapdragons. They also got the hoops and row cover instead of a hardening off process. Since then, the winds have howled repeatedly, the temperatures have fluctuated from 73 one day to 14 degrees one night, with 17 and 20 degrees included in that cold spell. I do open the tunnel ends when the temps are mid-fifties or higher, and add additional layers of frost cloth to the tunnels if the temps are going below 25 degrees. This bit of frost cloth not only adds night time protection from cold, but increased the daytime temps and retains warmer soil temps so plants are able to grow a bit faster. Most of the plants doubled in size before the end of the month.

Same ranunculus with two weeks growth during very cold weather, under floating row cover and hoops,

This is much easier than carrying flats in and out of the basement to harden off, so I will be using hoops and row cover from now on on all my crops in the potager and Cutting Garden. Plus it is definitely allowing plants to grow faster in adverse weather.

Two varieties of sweet peas (“Mammoth Choice” and “Old Spice”grown in 2” pots in my basement) were planted under four of the metal trellises. The only protection they were given was a plastic web flat to provide a bit of shade protection…no hoops, no row cover. They are not only happy, but showing new shoots at the base.

On March 30th, a row of “Wedding Bells” penstemon and a row of “Lace Perfume” dianthus plugs were planted in another raised bed. I was out of floating row cover, so I used a layer of shade cloth to help protect them from a day of sun and wind. That night, the forecast was for 24 degrees, so an old blanket was added on top. They seemed not to mind the cold at all, even though it went to 20 degrees.

And, I’m happy to report that all the direct seeded crops have germinated and are growing nicely, which encourages me to do lots more planting.

I hope this information from Zone 5b, north central Indiana may help other flower growers. These plants are a lot tougher than I thought as babies! And, I think that the row cover method should work on plants coming from a big box greenhouse, to provide that much-needed transition from magical greenhouse environment to reality. Plants can be placed in their pots or flats on the lawn, hoops and row cover added and after a week or two, they are hardened off sufficiently to be planted. No more carrying in and out! I just need more hoops!!!

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Replanted…whew!

Well, it’s not happy, but it’s planted!

Interesting how the dozens and dozens of clumps of plants dug in only 30 minutes (see this post if you missed it!) took over 8 hours to replant! Also interesting if you know me well, that I didn’t take time to actually count the plants dug, or do any labeling when digging, or make a plan/map before replanting! There were several reasons for rushing, most of them weather related. The forecast was for plummeting temperatures, strong winds, rain storms followed by snow. Ugh! These plants were already unhappy enough without being out of the ground.

So, why did it take so long? Well, all the beautiful soil that’s taken 30 years to develop through constant mulching and amendments ended up in the bottom of the hole. All the horrible, dense, sticky clay ended up on top, and was SO compacted by the machine and tromping that it often took my jumping six or eight times on the shovel just to dig a 4-6″ deep hole. Obviously that wasn’t deep enough for most clumps, so this jumping had to be repeated multiple times per hole. And, it was clumps, big baseball sized clumps that had to be broken up in order to put it around plant roots. I should have taken time to use potting soil, but I didn’t and I’m sure I’ll pay for that in years to come and in plant losses.

Sometimes I’d start to dig in what appeared to be an empty spot, only to find a patch of irises or other perennial under 6″ of clay, so I’d stop and take time to rescue them by removing as much of the clay covering them as I could.

And, since some of the clumps dug out were quite large and needed to be divided anyway, I used this opportunity while they were out of the ground to do so. There are lots and lots of perennials to be potted for the garden club plant sale, when there’s time!

Here’s what is leftover…

The photo above shows most of what didn’t get replanted. Not pictured are the clumps to be potted for the plant sale. The rain was beginning, and frankly, I was just tuckered out. There are a few clumps of tulips, and I may just put them in some pots as well to use as “decor” around the front door if they actually recover and bloom. You can also see from the pile bottom left, what a lousy job I did digging up those large clumps of daffodils, slicing off lots of stalks from the bulbs.

Another pile of severed daffodils…sigh!

So it will be interesting to see what survives and how it all actually looks in the future. I attempted to make some groupings, but not knowing what colors were included in the “group” it may not be very effective. There were also just single daffodils that fell off clumps in the process that were just planted two or three per hole…it was just too much work to dig single holes…so they will be a “mixed” bouquet in the ground!

I’m most worried about the roses. Although I tried to take extra care digging and replanting them, two had already begun to leaf out. One had been in the path of the leak, and may have already drowned. I gave them compost in their holes and mounded up some mulch around them, so we’ll see… Also totally missing is the lovely patch of “Gold Moss” feverfew, which I adore. I have no clue where they went, probably in the bottom of the hole. I do have a few plants started in the basement that were for the plant sale, but which I will now keep.

The night after the replant, it dropped to 20 degrees F. There was just barely any rain, which I’d hoped would water the plants in around the roots better, and also barely any snow (not enough to provide any insulation) so the poor babies had a rough night. Then the winds howled and howled. We certainly seem to have more and stronger wind events than I recall in prior decades, and that’s really hard on plants. But, at least they are back in the ground and hopefully on the road to recovery! And hopefully, that job will never have to be done again!!!

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30 minutes warning & The Big Dig

So, here’s the problem…

Several weeks ago, after the snow had melted I noticed a water leak at the well head. See the rust coated soil? There was a steady, but thankfully very light constant trickle but obviously it must be repaired. The company that works on wells sent out a nice man who shook his head and said “This is going to be expensive!” My first question was “How much of the garden am I going to lose?” His response was another shake of the head, “Well, we’ll bring out our mini, but it will go from here to here,” he said as he paced off an area that was approximately one-third of the Deck Garden, “and then we’ll need space to pile the dirt. The fittings are going to be pricey because you have inch and a quarter copper. No one uses inch and a quarter copper anymore. And the price of fittings has tripled since last fall, if I can even find the ones we need. It may take a while. I’ll get back to you.”

I fussed and stewed and tried to face the inevitable. I probably should have started digging and potting then, but the weather was lousy and there were other higher priority tasks. Who knew when he would locate the needed fittings? And the crocuses were so beautiful; the daffodils were budding, but many of the other plants had not pushed through the soil to enable me to locate them. So, I procrastinated.

This morning I was enjoying my second cup of tea and making out the job list for the day. Other than being very windy, it was finally going to be warm and the soil had thawed, the forecast was decent (above freezing!) There were three days of tasks on the list that I hoped to accomplish in one day. And then David meandered in and said, “Oh, the well guys will be here in 30 minutes to start digging.” “What!?!” I screeched, spilling my tea across the clipboard. “I thought he said he’d give me a couple of days warning!” I cried, pulling on my boots and grabbing a hat as I ran out the door. I grabbed a couple of plastic tablecloths and a shovel and began to dig. And dig.

Just digging as fast as I can!!!”
More, more and more! Gotta save as much as possible!

The truck and trailer with what definitely to me did not look like a “mini” machine pulled into the driveway. I didn’t have time to get another tablecloth, so I frantically just dug and piled plants to the side.

Just piling them aside ahead of the machine…

Finally, as the machine came rumbling across the lawn, I had to stop. I was out of breath, my back and knees were beginning to plead for mercy. I stood at the sidewalk and snapped this photo, hoping I’d judged the area correctly, and asking the plants that still remained for forgiveness. Daylilies, phlox, irises, shasta daisies, and lots of plants that had not yet emerged went under the tracks but I just couldn’t save them all.

Out of time…but the most treasured things are moved.

Ready or not, here he comes!

I couldn’t watch. Escaping to the potager, I planted peas and shallots, asters and lisianthus and tried to ignore the sounds of destruction. A bit later, the men called me to come back up to turn off the power to the pump so I snapped this photo, which shows the beginning of the real digging after they’d located the wiring. When the hole was big enough, I swore they were burying an elephant.

The initial beginnings…

I retreated to the potager for the duration. Only when they had reloaded the “mini” and vacated entirely did I venture up to survey the scene.

Actually not as bad as I expected…

Here’s the results. The leak is repaired. The soil has been returned to “level” sort of, but I know it is highly compacted now. I think some of the squished plants will recover, but I doubt that some that are now buried will return. However, I can now begin replanting. It will be interesting to see what colors come up where, because I did not have time to label anything I dug and it’s high unlikely they will end up in their original location, except for the rose bushes and hyacinths, and the eremurus. I wonder if the tritoma will be tough enough to return, and if all those bulbs will resent being dug. Time will tell!

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