Sleep, Creep, Leap

Gardening and writing. Amazing how similar they are in process. Writing seems to also follow the old adage when planting a new perennial (a plant that returns, year after year).

In the first year, the plant sleeps. Most of the process is happening below the surface of the soil, putting in roots, establishing itself in space. The second year, the plant creeps. Slowly, new growth appears. And finally, year three, the plant leaps into the glorious beauty it is meant to be.

Writing is a lot like that. First draft, getting ideas on paper (on screen). For a while, it may seem like nothing’s happening. Words and ideas get tried and tossed. The product at the end of that first draft may read ugly. Onto the revision—maybe one, maybe more. Ideas coalesce. The right words appear as if by magic. And finally, editing polishes the whole until the manuscript is ready for publication.

Sleep, creep, leap. Gardeners and writers require the same character qualities: patience, tenacity, and enough fortitude to not rip things or discard a draft too early in the process.

Still waiting for replies to the queries I’ve sent out. Meanwhile, a new WIP is far enough along to be in the “dirty middle” of the process. The character milestones and outline are done. I’m ready to start writing chapter seven.

Eggplant Worries

I’ve been waiting–and waiting and waiting–for the weather to warm up enough to put my Ophelia Eggplants in the ground. It’s been cold and wet, too chilly for Ophelia’s.

Deciding to wait till Mother’s Day to plant turned out to be easier than I thought. But today is the day after Mother’s Day, and it was in the 40’s when I got out of bed this morning. Still too cold.

Nothing for it, though. The plant roots are growing out the bottom of the pots. They’ve already been transplanted once. They are huge.

So this morning, I brought them out to the shaded, wind-protected area near my acer Bloodgood. Hopefully, they’ll harden-off without problem and I can plant them Thursday or Friday.

Any eggplant aficionados out there? Send advice.

Garden Glove Hack

I don’t know about you, but by mid-summer, I only have left-hand gloves. Who knows where the right-hand gloves go to. Maybe squirrels steal them.

About five years ago while trolling the aisles in one of the big-box stores, I saw clothesline and clothespins. Hadn’t seen those in a very long time, but the sight gave me the kernel of an idea. I threw them in the cart and carried them home.

That was in 2014. My idea was to hang the line and pin pairs of gloves to it. A sort of gardener’s “tidying-up”. But my request for nails in the ceiling–to string the line–went unheeded. Eventually, the packet with the clothesline disappeared into the black hole that is the barn. Somehow, I managed to hang onto the clothespins.

This year, 2019, in the annual garden shed cleanup, I found a gazillion garden gloves, mostly left-handed. Determined to put my hack into practice, I went through Jim’s barn looking for my clothesline. Never found it, but found some usable string instead. Using the nails hammered under the shelves (originally designed to hold tools), I strung the line and started pairing gloves.

As you see in the photo.

I ended up with ten full pairs of gloves, and threw away all my leftover lefties.

Maybe you already have a method for keeping right-and-left gloves together?

Leafhoppers, Echinacea, and Eggplant

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So far this season, I’ve planted onions, garlic, tomatoes, and peppers. The only plants missing for a true Mediterranean feast are eggplants. And there’s the rub. All my eggplants–no matter what variety–end up devoured by bugs.

Except Ophelia eggplants. One year, I ordered this “super seed” variety and had bushels of eggplants. So many, I ended up gifting friends.

Curious about why I can’t grow regular eggplant, I did some research. Turns out it’s  the same reason I can’t grow most hybrid echinacea–darn leafhoppers. I can grow plain, old Echinacea. Just not the bright-colored new varieties. Leafhoppers destroy them. 

To grow regular eggplants, I might have good luck controlling pests using floating row covers. A lot of work in windy Kansas.

And now for the Ophelia. It’s so amazing that when I tried to order plants–in February–all the sellers were sold out. Sheesh. Only one seller had them available and only as seeds.

Growing anything from seed takes a bit of doing. Needed are shelves, lights, seed-starter mix, trays, pots, transplant-mix, sometimes fertilizer. I add to that chamomile tea, which when added to water will prevent the nascent plants from “damping off.”

So here in the photo are my Ophelia eggplants, seeds planted in February and transplanted once. When the weather is consistently hovering around 75-80F, I’ll transplant them in the garden. And we’ll see.

Where are the Bees?

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The dandelions are in bloom. Where are the bees?

I worry about the bees disappearing. We have apple trees in bloom, but without our  pollinators, we won’t get apples. It’s one of the reasons we don’t spray for dandelions—the emerging bees first food. And I let some of the bees favorite foods alone–like my Nepeta Walker’s Low, which is always crowded with bees.

This time last year, our dandies were covered in bees. Had to be careful where we stepped to avoid squashing a bee—or being stung.

This year, searching for bees, all I found was the one you see in the photo. Why?

The reason must be our cold spring. Bees don’t “work” when the temperature is below 57 F, and the daytime highs in March and most of April have been below 55F. Too cold for bees.

I found this bee last Saturday, a day when the temperature reached closed to 80. Hopefully, they’re not gone. They’re just waiting till it warms up.

For interesting information about pesticides and bees, check out this article from the Kansas State Research and Extension.

With bees disappearing, the one thing we all can do is stop spraying our lawns. Please.

 

 

 

 

Frustration in the Garden

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It’s been a frustrating day in the garden.

March was a wet month, and it looks like our potatoes have rotted instead of germinating. They’re hilled, in raised beds, so that shouldn’t have happened. So, darn.

All our soaker hoses–we use them for irrigation–have humungous holes. Time to invest in five new 50-foot long soaker hoses.

The black plastic mulch we put down for the scallions blew away in the wind, despite anchoring with earth staples and bricks. So hmm… that didn’t turn out the way I thought it would.

And the red plastic mulch I bought to save me from excess weeding of tomatoes? It’s just too windy to even try. My new tomato babies need protection from the wind more than I need a break from weeding. Today, we planted them, with old kitty litter boxes as windbreaks. Jim cuts out the bottoms (drill a hole, then cut with a saber saw).

In the photo, you’re seeing a newly planted tomato, grown from seed and nurtured in the basement under fluorescents. It’s inside one of those bottom-less kitty-litter box. Most years, I’ve left the plants in the boxes until the tomatoes grow taller than the tops. If it’s windy where you are, these plastic boxes are a great hack.

For new folks to the blog, welcome. If you are following for #amwriting, that’s Thursdays. Lately, I write about the novel querying process.

If you’re following for #amgardening, that’s today, Mondays. I write about what it’s like to garden in Kansas–today it’s been disappointing.

 

 

 

Chilly Sunday

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Another Sunday–another week gone. I was hoping to set out the tomatoes this week, but it’s been in the 30’s at night (about 0 degrees C) and way too cold for tomatoes. I have homes for ten of my forty plants, another ten ready for my garden. And what to do with the twenty remaining? Hard choices in the garden.

The photo shows the first stirrings of my white feather hosta. For several years now, I see photos in the gardening catalogs showing white hostas. Three years ago I gave in and bought one. Don’t be fooled, though. It’s only this creamy white in the early spring, and turns pale green the rest of the time.

I have another novel outline on my plate for the coming week. I’m going to try and write two novels at the same time. Wonder if anyone else has tried to do that. How did it work out?.

Enjoy the day.

Want Fewer Weeds?

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Last autumn, after a full year of knee problems due to a fall, we had nine veg-beds chockfull of weeds.

Now before I come across sounding feeble, I didn’t fall due to lack of balance. Oh no. My black lab, Juno, managed to wrap her leash around my legs while I was trying to get the cat, Fat Boy, into his carrier. We were going to the vet. Juno went one way, the cat the other, and I crashed onto my left knee.

That was in July and for the next month, I was on crutches. No gardening possible.

By October, the raised beds were nothing but weeds. Wild brassicas, bind weed, horse nettle, spurge, some species of nastiness spread by rhizomes–ugh.

To alleviate the problem, we tilled the beds, cleared the detritus, and covered everything with black plastic bags to starve unwanted seeds.

Now it’s spring, the knee is healed, and we’re ready to garden. But since I don’t want to spend the summer on my still-somewhat-tender knees weeding, I decided to try the environmentally-friendly plastic mulch from Gardener’s Supply.

Before the weather turned nice enough to start, the Kansas State University Research and Extension horticultural newsletter let me know to set soaker hose under the plastic mulch to ease watering.

So that’s what we did. Marking the beds first and fastening our above-ground soaker hoses with earth staples, we organized a single raised bed.

And, those perforated circles were a snap to punch out using only fingers. No sharps required.

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We’ve planted bunching onions (I call them scallions) in this bed. We’ll see how it goes.

I have red plastic mulch for tomatoes, but more on that in two-three weeks.

Happy gardening.

 

Clearing Leaves from Roses

 

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When I was growing up, one of my most hated jobs was picking Japanese beetles off my mother’s prize rose bushes. The thorns always got me so that I’d walk around most summers with scratched hands. Yuck.

A long time ago, I moved into a house in Overland Park with 60 rose bushes, which I destroyed through neglect. No more thorny bushes for me.

So when a gardening friend suggested I plant some Drift roses in my garden, I immediately discounted the idea. But after removing the mite-infested junipers, I was left with a lot of empty space against the front of the house. Finding some discounted Drifts at an end-of-the-season sale, I decided to try them. And they did very well indeed.

Except, as you can see by the photo above, I now have to clear dead oak leaves from between the thorny branches. And Drifts have lots of thick, sharp, ugly thorns.

What to do? Recently, I bought a couple of new kitchen tongs. Why not use one to pick up the leaves?

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And that’s what I did. With a trash pail in hand, I picked out leaves, sometimes one by one and sometimes whole clumps. Here is the “after” photo.

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Leaves cleared with nary a scratch.  It seems a simple hack and I’m sure someone somewhere has thought of this long before I did. But for what it’s worth …