Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone out there a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  I hope Santa brings y'all lots of cool garden-related gifts.  Today I got one of the best gifts a Northwest gardener can get--sunshine!  I celebrated by spending about an hour weeding my front yard.  Christmas Eve was a bad day for the crabgrass.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Armchair gardening with a little help from NPR

The winter solstice is almost upon us, so it's dark, cold, and if you're here in the rainy part of the Pacific Northwest, wet. My socks get soggy if I even think of going outside, so I'm turning my thoughts to indoor pursuits--like reading. Fortunately, NPR just posted 2009's Crop of Great Gardening Books - how very timely. All of these look interesting, but my first choice is the last one on the list, Amy Stewart's Wicked Plants.

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities

I've often thought of designing a garden containing nothing but poisonous plants, so this one is right up my alley.

Anyone else out there in blog-land have some favorite gardening books to recommend? 'Tis the season for some armchair gardening.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

I dread the end of the growing season for many reasons, but near the top of the list is that it's the end of fresh tomato season. Unless you've a) had frost already, or b) are sufficiently ahead of the game that you have already removed your tomato plants and cleaned up your tomato garden (and if you have: stop it! - you're making the rest of us look bad), there's still hope for at least some of your remaining tomatoes. This is the time of year when people post lots of green tomato recipes--chow chow, fried green tomatoes (at the Whistlestop Cafe even), green tomato pie, green tomato ketchup, and heaven only knows what else. But I'll share a dirty little culinary secret with you: green tomatoes don't taste very good. Instead of disguising them in pies or breading and attempting to sneak them down the throats of your unsuspecting family members, I suggest you ripen your green tomatoes indoors. They won't taste as good as vine-ripened tomatoes, but they'll taste better than those mushy red abominations you find in the grocery store.

Here's what to do:

1. Pick all your green tomatoes that look remotely mature and are in good shape. They should have something close to their mature shape, be somewhat close to their mature size, and not have bruises, soft spots, insect damage, or other major yucky spots.

2. Rinse or wipe them off.

3. Put them in in a single layer in some kind of container and cover them to keep out fruit flies and other pests. I use paper shopping bags. I put a layer of tomatoes in the bottom, fold the tops down to keep out pests, and put the bags in plastic trays to keep any tomato guts from dripping onto the carpet.

4. Store them somewhere dry and warm (warm as in room temperature, not warm as in Mojave Desert in August). According to a Wikipedia article, tomatoes stop ripening when the temperature drops below 54.5 °F (12.5 °C).

5. Check them regularly, removing any that are a) ripe or b) nasty. I check mine each week.

This method has worked well for me for years. Sometimes I still have fresh tomatoes at Thanksgiving, and I don't have to coerce my defenseless family into eating green tomatoes. What's not to love?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Heirloom apples

I've heard of heirloom tomatoes, heirloom melons, and heirloom squash, but until recently I'd never heard of heirloom apples. Like everyone else, I read The Botany of Desire a few years ago, but somehow I didn't think about the fact that there must be lots of old varieties of apples, since apples have been in cultivation for many centuries. Then I heard about an heirloom apple tasting in Venersborg, WA, last Saturday, and decided to do some research. According to an article on the Slow Food USA site, over 500 varieties of apples were cultivated in the US by 1850, yet only a handful are grown commercially now. Much like tomatoes, commercial varieties are often selected for appearance and durability in shipping rather than taste. Veggie Gardening Tips posted two articles on heirloom apples: Heirloom Apples and Antique Apple Varieties. The Washington State University Clark County Extension site also offers a great article on heirloom apples.

We couldn't make it to the apple tasting, but Jacqueline at Friendly Haven Rise Farm, who sponsored the tasting, invited us up to visit their farm and purchase some heirloom apple trees. The trees they sell come from an older gentleman who grows over 1000 (!!) varieties of apples, including several that even Google had never heard of. We had a lovely visit, brought home a couple of trees, and look forward to growing our own heirloom apples. If you'd like to do the same and you're within driving distance of Southwest Washington, I suggest you call the good folks at Friendly Haven Rise Farm to see if they have some trees left. You might also check out the heirloom apple tasting in Parkdale, OR, this weekend. If you're out of the area, try Trees of Antiquity, which seems to have a good selection (note: I've never done business with them, so I can't vouch for anything other than the impressive list of varieties on their web site). You too can grow your own little piece of history--a delicious little piece that will taste great in a pie.

Hmm... that last sentence should net me some interesting referral traffic. It might even compete with the infamous deer anus post on my personal blog.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tracking climate change in your own backyard

Want to help track climate change? Sign up to be a Citizen Scientist with the National Phenology Network! Choose one or more plants that a) is on their list, and b) grows in your yard (or somewhere you hang out regularly), then use their tools and instructions to report on its growth. Sounds like a fun project for homeschoolers or, really, anyone with kids. Links and more information available from a Wilderness Society blog post.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

75 Things You Can Compost

From Planet Green comes a great list of 75 Things You Can Compost. I've composted quite a few things on this list, though never a used condom. I'm not very squeamish, but that pushes the limits a bit. Here are the things regularly composted at our house. My list isn't as comprehensive as the one on Planet Green, in part because we recycle our clean paper waste and in part because most of our food scraps go to our chickens. We compost their manure, though, so the food scraps eventually make it to the compost pile.

  • yard waste, grass clippings, etc. - a/k/a the usual
  • vegetable food scraps that don't go to the chickens
  • napkins
  • tissue paper
  • newspaper used to wash windows (the extra ammonia is a good source of nitrogen, right?)
  • used paper plates
  • egg shells
  • dead houseplants and their soil
  • shredded paper (we shred anything an identity thief might find useful)
  • jack o'lanterns
  • nut shells, coconut hulls, etc.
  • the disgusting sludge I clean out of the sink strainer (ewwwww)
  • pencil shavings
  • dryer lint - but be sure to bury it in the pile. The first time I composted dryer lint, I felt very virtuous. About 2 days later we had a big windstorm, and I found dryer lint all over my front yard. Ugh.
  • cedar shavings from the bottom of the corn snake's tank. I'm not sure it's really proper to compost them, because reptile poop contains salmonella, but I figure a) people compost chicken manure, which often contains salmonella, b) the snake smell might deter the giant rats (think ROUS's from The Princess Bride) that often seek food and shelter in our compost bins, and c) we don't eat our compost.

After one of my Facebook friends commented that her husband bleeds on the compost pile when he cuts his finger (blood is a good source of nitrogen, right?), I thought maybe I should have composted my husband's bloody bandages from his last surgery. But I'm pretty sure that falls into the same category as the used condoms: compostable, yes, but it pushes the limits a bit.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tomatoes: sex, death, and cigarettes

NPR has a wonderful short piece on tomatoes at My favorite quote:

The enigmatic tomato belongs to the same family as tobacco and the toxic, deadly nightshade, but that just adds to its glamour. Sex, death and cigarettes: Eden's forbidden fruit should have been a tomato.

And they mention a tomato-wrestling contest. Fabulous!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Son of Stinky!

(photo from Flickr user whatsthatpicture)

I know this has absolutely nothing to do with gardening in the Northwest, but I just can't resist posting it here. Nicknamed "Son of Stinky," another corpse flower is about to bloom at the Huntington Library. I so want one of these in my garden! It's huge, it stinks, and it has the best botanical name I've ever heard: Amorphophallus titanum (which literally means "giant misshapen penis" -- thank you, Wikipedia!) If it were carnivorous, it would be perfect. Then I could feed my obnoxious neighbors to it. Just imagine the possibilities. This thing would make Audrey look like a wimp. Feed me, Seymour...

Hmm... maybe I've been inhaling too many compost fumes...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

When Is a Weed Not a Weed?

Okay, so, this flower just kind of sprung up in one of our old pots this spring. It's got to be a weed. But it's so pretty! Bright and orange and tall!

I keep feeling like the fact it is a weed means I should be yanking it out. Bad weed, bad! But at the same time, I am tempted to just enjoy it. It seems happy. I seem happy. Maybe weeds don't always have to be weeds? Anybody know what this is, by the way?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dateline SoCal (or, No Rainy Day Gardening Here)

I just got back from a weeklong trip to Southern California, mostly working with a little playtime in Disneyland thrown in. The weeds and slugs took advantage of my absence to invade my helpless garden. I've been coping with the carnage all weekend, but I'm taking a break to share some pictures from my trip. I grew up in Northern California, so I took the local flora for granted. Now that I've been gone awhile (20 years as of next month), and I'm a gardener, I notice things when I go back that were just part of the background when I was growing up. Such as...

Pink oleander

Closeup of peach oleander

Oleander is everywhere, both in SoCal and where I grew up. It's often found growing alongside the freeway, or in the case of the ones in these pics, growing alongside a gas station parking lot in LA. They're kind of like rhodies are in the maritime Northwest - all-purpose, low-maintenance shrub found in just about every garden, overused to the point of being boring. Every now and then, I find them advertised for sale in catalogs of tropical plants, listed alongside orchids and other exotics (and with prices to match). I just laugh and wonder what the buyers would think if they could see their precious tropical shrub next to a California freeway.

Then there's this beauty--the Bird of Paradise:
Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise

My grandmother had one of these in front of her house in Oakland when I was a kid. Up here, like oleander, they're sold as pricey tropicals. Until this trip, I never noticed that there was more than one variety. The colorful one is the one I remember seeing all the time. The other one isn't as pretty IMHO, but it's way larger. The blooms are about twice the size of the colorful ones.

The pictures above were all taken just outside Disneyland. This one was taken inside the park, in Fantasyland to be precise. Just look at these delphiniums!
Delpheniums in Fantasyland

They belong in Fantasyland too. I think I'd have better luck spotting Tinkerbell in my garden than growing delphiniums that look that good. Apparently Fantasyland is not only where dreams come true; it's also where slugs don't exist.

In addition to Disneyland, we paid a visit to San Gabriel Mission, or as it's officially known, Mission San Gabriel Archangel. There's some very nice landscaping outside the mission, including this striking cactus, which really pops against the adobe wall of the mission and alongside the rounded shrubs:
Cactus and shrubs outside the wall of San Gabriel Mission

The mission includes a peace garden in the courtyard, with a lovely collection of succulents and other desert plants. Here's a sampling:
Cactus in the courtyard garden, San Gabriel Mission

Interesting tree in the courtyard of San Gabriel Mission

Blooming cactus in the courtyard garden of San Gabriel Mission

Agave and cactus in the courtyard garden, San Gabriel Mission

Geraniums in the courtyard garden, San Gabriel Mission

Yes, those are geraniums (or pelargoniums for you horticultural purists) in that last pic. They become shrubs when left to their own devices in places with mild winters.

So there ya go--a glimpse or two of flora from the Granola State. I hope you enjoyed this bit of armchair travel with your Rainy Day Gardening correspondent. Now, back to your regularly-scheduled maritime climate...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dramatic Discovery in Halifax, Nova Scotia's Public Garden

Sorry I've been neglectful in posting my monthly to-do lists, everyone. You know what you're supposed to do in May, though, right? PLANT STUFF. Now, get hot on that!

In the meantime, I wanted to show you guys this totally cool flower I came across two weeks ago when I was in Nova Scotia exploring the Halifax Public Garden. It was one of only a few things actually in bloom (the public garden had just opened for the season), but it had a bunch of these dramatic plants and I totally fell in love with them!

When I got back from my trip, I tried to find out what this flower was -- it's super spiffy looking, eh? But my friends were of little help ("Sideshow Bob flower?" was one of their suggestions -- thanks, guys). So, I contacted the Plant Answer Line at the Elizabeth C. Miller Library at the University of Washington for help.

And here's what I learned:

This is a Fritillaria imperialis, commonly called a Crown Imperial, which is a bulbous plant that thrives in moist, free-draining, rich soil in full sun to light shade. I had asked if it was something that would grow well in the Pacific Northwest (spring in Halifax, Nova Scotia seemed a lot like spring in Seattle, as it rained most of the time I was up there!), and the answer is yes!

So, hey, guess what! I'm going to plant some. You plant them in the Fall, which is good because that gives me time to actually find the bulbs. And then they bloom in early Spring. Yay, I learned something! And then I taught it to someone else! Hooray for blogs!

Buried treasure in the garden

Most of us gardeners won't dig up anything in our gardens more interesting than potatoes, carrots, worms, or rocks. But for a lucky few, tilling the soil turns up some surprising treasures. One lucky British gardener has unearthed coins, jewelry, and other Victorian treasures in her UK garden. That story reminded me of a friend of mine who bought a house in Tunnel Hill, Georgia, in the early 1990s. When he dug up his garden, he found bayonets and other relics of the Battle of Tunnel Hill.

Unfortunately, I've never found anything that interesting in my garden. We bought our house in 1996, a few months after the property had flooded. When we started working on our washed-out mud slab of a yard, we dug up all sorts of odd things that had been washed there by the floodwaters. We found lots of bottles (and broken pieces of bottles), chunks of asphalt, and my personal favorite: sand bags. Lots of sand bags. 80-lb sand bags, buried just under the surface of my tomato-patch-in-the-making. Since we have heavy clay soil, the sand made a nice soil amendment, but it was backbreaking work to dig up the half-rotted sand bags and disperse the sand. I kept hoping I'd find some cool relic deposited by the floodwaters, but debris and sandbags were it. Maybe I should move back to Georgia.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Using up those parsnips

I still have a bunch of parsnips in the garden from last season. It was the first time I'd planted them, and I had no idea how many we would eat. Apparently not as many as I planted. So I'm looking for some good recipes so I can use them up before it's time to plant this year's crop. Oh, wait... it's already time to plant this year's crop. Ah, well, I'm behind schedule as usual.

Anyway... Last night I made the best mashed potatoes I've ever made--and they weren't just mashed potatoes. They were mashed potatoes and parsnips, loaded with a bunch of unhealthy stuff like bacon and cheese. YUM. You can find the recipe for loaded mashed potatoes and parsnips at I substituted chicken broth for the milk, since I don't like milk much, and they were still wonderful.

While I was searching for parsnip recipes, I found a few more that sounded good, but I haven't tried them yet.

Happy parsnip cooking!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Another Hit and Run

Today's gardening adventure: another hit and run! (That's a Def Leppard reference--for those of you who weren't paying attention in the 80s--as well as an unfortunate fact.) We live on a corner. The road curves sharply, there's no streetlight to reveal the curve at night, and there's no stop sign to slow people down before they hit it. So, every few years, someone (usually drunk) misses the curve and ends up in our yard (usually in the wee hours of the morning). We must've replaced at least 10 arborvitae over the years, along with several other shrubs and innumerable landscape timbers. This morning I woke up to what sounded like really loud thunder. Instead, it was a hit and run driver crashing into the shed and running over the shrubbery. Take a look:

That's a telephone box in the foreground. The tall green shrub to the left is a mature arborvitae, fortunate enough to still be standing. The blank space to the right used to have about 5 more just like it, but they were mowed down. See them lying on their sides?

Here's a closeup of the carnage:
That big wooden thing is the bottom of our shed.

Speaking of the poor defenseless shed, here it is, just after the accident at o'dark thirty:

I think it looked much better standing upright, don't you?

The sheriff's deputy called us this afternoon to report that the vehicle had been identified -- a stolen van found abandoned by whomever took the joyride through our hedge. If they ever catch him, I'd like to bury him at the base of the remaining arborvitae. It seems only fitting.

Monday, March 09, 2009

March Madness, and I Don't Mean Basketball

It’s March now in the Pacific Northwest (um, as well as everywhere else in the world, if you want to get all particular about it), but it’s certainly not very spring-like, I must say. I was actually feeling bad last week about the fact I still hadn’t pruned my roses (I’ve been nursing a shoulder injury the last few weeks and have been kind of out of commission) (AGAIN), when suddenly, wham!, we got snowed on up here again.

The downside: This just provides more fodder for the “global warming” snarkers, who tend to be melodramatically literal when it comes to that phrase.

The upside: Now I look like the smart one for not having sliced and diced the roses!
Despite the freaky weather, it’s actually time to start planting some stuff outside, as wholly unappealing as THAT sounds this morning. (Current temperature: 36 degrees. Forecasted high for the day: 36 degrees. Current mood: Fine, you know what? I'm going back to bed. Forecasted mood for the day: Wake me up in April. IF YOU DARE.)

Yep, according to my expert resources, those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest can begin sowing the following seeds outside:
  • Many types of lettuce and other leafy greens (unless you, like me, find leafy greens wholly uncooperative)
  • Asparagus (shoot (ha!), I really wanted to plant asparagus this year and haven’t moved on it -- can I plant it as late as the first weekend in April, fellow PNW gardeners?)
  • Beets (ew)
  • Carrots (some year I will try them in pots)
  • Peas (yay! yay! yay!)
  • Parsnips (delicious and strange)
  • Potatoes (could be fun)
  • Radishes (overrated)
  • Turnips (underrated)
  • Chives (pretty)
  • Cilantro (pukey)
  • Parsley (munchable)
Of the things on this list, peas are the one item I have had success with in my garden in the past, which means they are a safe bet for all gardeners, rookie or pro. (The theory here being that if *I* can make them grow and produce food, so too can anyone, including your local one-armed half-blind monkey).

Chives and parsley are also two favorites of mine. I almost never eat either one, but I love letting my chives to go flower because the flowers are so pretty (see photo above), and parsley is nice to munch on when I’m out watering things in the summer. Refreshing and chompy.

Cilantro I’m allergic to (hence the description of it as "pukey"), but my husband loves it so maybe I should humor him and put some in this year.


Early spring is also a good time to pick up new fruit trees and get them planted -- just make sure the danger of frost is past, or that you’ve got plans on how to protect your yard noobs from extremely cold nights (reminder: it snowed several inches in Seattle last April, so don’t think it’s all over just because you’ve turned another calendar page!). We planted blueberries in our yard two springs ago right about this time, and both bushes are really thriving.It's a real thrill getting to pick and eat my own blueberries, and I'm eager to see how the raspberry I planted last year will do this year as well.

Berries -- man, hurry UP, summertime!!

Also doable this March: trim back your woody herbs (lavender, rosemary, and sage, in particular), fertilize trees and shrubs (including rhodies, which I really need to do soon), start prepping your veggie beds for planting next month, and when you’re done working outside, go back inside and start sowing your tomato seeds in containers to get them ready to go outdoors in about 6-8 weeks. If you’ve never planted golden/yellow cherry tomatoes before, I urge you to give them a shot this year -- almost as delicious as berries, and just about as sweet too!!

Still having trouble getting yourself motivated to work outside in the rain, snow, sleet, and hail? Dudes, I hear you. In that case, maybe you need to spend another couple of weeks looking at seed catalogs and day-dreaming instead. To that end, allow me to present you with this list of the
Top 10 Most Productive Crops for the Pacific Northwest (from Mother Earth News):
  1. Pole snap bean
  2. Snow/snap pea
  3. Potato
  4. Garlic
  5. Cherry tomato
  6. Summer squash
  7. Chard
  8. Lettuce
  9. Onion
  10. Carrot
It’s a list I can believe in, having had a lot of success with a number of items on this list, and very very little success with a number of items NOT on this list. I’d love to try beans and chard this year too, actually, but I’m not entirely sure what I’d do with them? You cook both before eating, right? Anybody have any good bean or chard recipes? Or bean AND chard recipes? Hit me with 'em in comments!

Spring ho!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A smaller, more practical Yard, Garden & Patio Show

Your intrepid correspondent checked out the Yard, Garden & Patio Show last weekend here in Portland, but then your intrepid correspondent got sick, so she is (er, I mean *I am*) just now getting around to posting about it. Hey, if you want prompt, go to CNN. They get paid for their reporting.

The Yard, Garden & Patio show is the unofficial kickoff of gardening season here in Portland. It's held at the Oregon Convention Center and features exhibits from landscapers, nurseries, and other purveyors of fine garden-related products. Several of the landscapers create mammoth landscapes for the show, usually including waterfalls and full-scale gardens. One year they even created a small lake in the middle of the exhibit hall, complete with a canoe bobbing next to a dock. Seriously. This year, though, the show was smaller and less ostentatious. Apparently the lousy state of the economy is taking its toll.

There were still some big landscape displays, but there were fewer, smaller, and more in keeping with the current back-to-frugality movement. Several included vegetables mixed in with the usual landscape plants, a nice way to show that edibles can be attractive as well as functional. Here's an example:
Edibles as bedding plants
Of course, most of these veggies are planted way too close together, but they do look pretty.

A couple of the landscape displays also featured chickens, which are becoming very popular here in Portland. Here's a small veggie garden display, complete with egg-y looking chicken coop (and chickens):
Egg-y chicken coop and veggie garden display

I especially appreciate these trends, as I think anyone who has even a little bit of sun in their yard can grow a few vegetables, even if they live in one of those we're-better-than-you subdivisions that ban sensible things like clotheslines and vegetable gardens. Go ahead... tuck that chard in between your barberries. Slip some basil under the roses. Your snooty neighbors won't recognize them as edible, since they probably think a vegetable's natural habitat is the produce section at Whole Foods. If you're lucky, they'll think you're the first on the block to discover the latest trendy bedding plant. If they ask you what it is, give 'em the Latin name, which will boost your snob factor and make them even more envious. It's so new it doesn't even have a common name yet! I must have Joe the Gardener plant 50 of them. Now.

OK, OK, I digressed again, didn't I? Maybe I should call this blog Rainy Day Digressions. Anyway... back to the Yard, Garden & Patio Show. There were some notable absences this year (besides the giant lake): Fred Meyer wasn't there, and neither was Metro or my favorite orchid vendor from Hawaii. There were others missing too, though I can't remember exactly which ones. The wine section, however, was larger than usual. About 2 rows of booths were devoted to wineries pouring (and selling) their wares. The economy sucks? Drink your troubles away! I was pleasantly surprised to see that the big displays used fewer bedding plants, which in past years have been tossed in the dumpster after the show (and in some cases removed from the dumpster by Yours Truly). I asked one of the landscapers, and he assured me that they weren't throwing any plants away this year. While that puts a crimp in my dumpster-diving, I'm glad to see the vendors being less wasteful. Maybe this bad economy will have a few side benefits. Maybe.

Finally, there were several garden artists displaying their wares, which included some wonderfully quirky things. For example, check out punk rocker propane cannister dude:
Punk rocker propane dude

Or these seriously cool boots planted with sedums:
Sedums 'n boots New use for old boots

So what did I buy? Not much - a gold-hued sedum and a purple oxalis. I was frugal before frugal was cool.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Today's garden safety tip is brought to you by antibiotics and urgent care

OK, gardeners - here's your Garden Safety Tip o' the Day, courtesy of your intrepid--and wounded--rainy day gardener:

When you sustain a minor injury in the garden, immediately clean the wound, apply some antibacterial ointment, and bandage it up.

Never mind that it's the first halfway warm, sunny weekend day the Northwest has seen since October. Never mind that it's just a scrape, and that's only a little bit of dirt and compost and manure in the wound. Never mind that you really need to get those radish seeds planted, because the wind is kicking up and you're tired and the chickens are loose and might get snatched by hawks if you leave them alone in the yard. Never mind all of that. Clean the damn wound. Now.

I could post a picture of what might happen if you don't, but I wouldn't want you to lose your lunch. Let's just say it involves pain, swelling, a trip to urgent care, antibiotics, and a tetanus shot. Apparently manure has germs in it. Who knew?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hope (for Spring) Springs Eternal!

Since we're still in the throes of winter, most of the gardening I've been doing lately is of the armchair variety. But February is when the garden really starts to call out to me, both because it always seems to suddenly look like a victim of nuclear apocalypse and because I've been inside looking at seed catalogs for MONTHS now and, jeez, LET'S GO ALREADY!

There are actually a few things you should be doing this month if you are a Pacific Northwest gardener. First and foremost is the annual pruning of the roses, which is traditionally done on or after President's Day. Pruning encourages new growth and blooms, and also improves air circulation (which is theoretically good for black spot prevention -- fight the good fight, yo) and getting rid of the dead stuff. What I've read is that you should prune hybrid teas heavily, but go easy on English roses and shrubs, taking off only a third to half of the branches.

For detailed instructions on how to prune your roses, check this fantastic site out:

Or, be dumb like me and just make it up as you go along. Hey, whatever works. The nice thing about our roses (none of which I can identify for you other than to say that one is light pink with small flowers and the other two have big blooms and are yellow and dark pink, respectively), is that they seem to thrive as long as they are being completely neglected. The more I attempt to do right by them, the more they tend to thumb their nose at me and tell me to mind my own damn business.

Would that the other plants in my garden had that attitude. Stupid lettuce.

February is also usually the month I get serious about yard clean-up again. The ferns are all brown and grody looking, so I finally get out behind the fence to clean them up. There are STILL LEAVES that need raking (Lord, have mercy!), and this is a good time to start trying to expose your grass to some more light and air. Especially that patch that we just left a pile of leaves sitting on all winter long, which is now either A) dead or B) mushrooms. I'm curious to see which.

If you have perennial grasses, start grooming those babies up by trimming old seeds and stalks. And if you usually fertilize with lime on your garden beds before planting season, now's not a bad time for that either, apparently. I never do that. Janet, should I be doing that?

All in all, February is a month where hope for spring begins to spring eternal. It's close! So close! Hang in there a few more weeks, and then let the dirt play begin!

Know of anything else we gardeners should be doing in February up here in the deceptively-sunny-yet-still-utterly-freezing Northwest? Edumacate us in the comments!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Rainy Day Gardening Roundup

One of the reasons I named this blog Rainy Day Gardening was that blogging--and reading blogs--is a great way for us gardeners to get our fix on rainy days. I haven't done as much of either as I would like, but this morning I pried myself away from Facebook long enough to visit some of my fellow bloggers. There are some wonderful writers out there, most of whom make me sound like the two-bit hack I am. Here are my latest discoveries:

  • Blunders with shoots, blossoms, 'n roots - a fellow Portlander chronicles her garden experiences
  • Weed Whackin' Wenches (oh, how I wish I'd thought up such a cool blog name!) - Two Seattle gardeners with a passion for gardening and chocolate share their wit and wisdom (and recipes--yay!)
  • Garden Muse - Another Seattle gardener whose posts are more like photo essays. I wish I had her talent for photography!
  • And if you want more garden blogs, check out Blotanical.

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Facebook group for Portland-area gardeners

In the shameless self-promotion department, I'd like to report that I've started a Facebook group for Portland-area gardeners called PDX Gardening. It's only been around for about a week, so it's still small and quiet, but I hope it'll become a more happening place soon. If you're on Facebook, stop on by and join!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Hits and Misses and Mosses

I hereby accept my award for Lamest Gardening Blogger Ever and resolve to do better. Thanks for not firing me, Janet, even though I've been AWOL from Rainy Day Gardening since last summer! All I can say is, whew, it all got away from me. The blog AND the garden!

Last spring, I posted a list of goals for the gardening season, and though this is probably obvious at this point, I didn't accomplish many of them.

Completed tasks: Did not let the dandelions win, Removed strange bush from front yard, Added new soil to raised beds.

Not even attempted tasks: All the rest of them.

Some of those not-completed tasks will make it onto this year's list, because I still really want to do them. Others, like trying to get rid of the blackberries in the backyard, are going to change a bit due to the profoundly naive notion of ever being truly rid of blackberries to begin with. That's fighting a losing battle, yo. I only fight battles I can win.

I have lots of plans for both this blog and my garden in 2009. Here are a few of them:

1. Stop being shocked that the cherry tomato plants get so tall and buy bigger cages and longer stakes so I can stop having to resort to what you see in the photograph, stage left. Honestly? That is ridiculous (though functional, I must say). Last summer was only the second year we grew cherry tomatoes in pots, and I still thought the success of that the first time around was a fluke. Turns out, cherry tomatoes looooooove big black pots on concrete! Who knew? This year, I think I will also be planting all gold/orange ones instead of a mix of red and gold/orange. Know why? Because the gold/orange ones taste the best, and sacrificing flavor for color is for sissies. You heard it here first.

2. Post a monthly list of tasks on this blog, so we all know what we're supposed to be doing each month in our yards. I haven't actually looked this up anywhere yet, but I'd wager that in January, what we're supposed to be doing is: reading seed catalogs while buried under a soft blanket on the sofa in front of the fire. If I learn anything different, I'll let you know.

3. TAKE NOTES. I keep meaning to diagram my garden each spring when I plant it, and then keep track of how things did in various locations. But I never actually DO it. And it's dumb because then the next year rolls around and I can't remember where I had the petunias that one year when they did so awesome. Was it the back bed? Or the bed up and to the right of the back bed? Crikey. Also, I planted a "wildflower" mix last year that performed dismally, except for one of its flowers, which was utterly majestic. If I'd taken notes on A) where I'd gotten the wildflower mix, and B) what flowers were IN the mix, I might now have a hope of being able to find that flower for this year. Alas, all I know is that the seeds came in, like, some sort of packet dealio, and they were, like, you know -- itty bitty and seed-like.

So not helpful.

4. Plant lettuce in a pot. I know last year I said me and lettuce were over. Through. Kaput! But I so desperately want to grow my own lettuce! This year, I'll try it in pots and if it still fails me, I'll give the ring back. For reals. Stupid lettuce.

5. Do something -- ANYTHING -- about the moss. No, not THAT moss. Not the moss in the back yard and the front yard and the side yard -- that's another battle I've discovered is not worth fighting. Now I'm talking about the moss everywhere else. On the roof. On the path to the front door. On the front porch. In my ears. ON MY BRAIN. It must all go. Especially the moss on the roof. It dies first.

6. Plant more coleus. Know why? Because they like me. To wit:

<-- Look at the size of that mutha'!

Okay, so, that's it for my goals so far this year. I have a feeling more will come to me when the weather stops being so miserable and the urge to play in the dirt starts to become overwhelming. In the meantime, I'm really looking forward to another (more prolific, we'll hope) year as co-blogger of Rainy Day Gardening. Ready to work, Janet!