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March 10, 2005

So just about everything's sprouted, now.

Everything but the delphinium, at any rate. Clearly, I'm going to have to rig something that will allow me to move some of the more aggressively growing seedlings out of the warm beds before it's warm enough outside to use the container garden shelves as cold frames.

I disconnected the heating pads last night, since 80% of the stuff is up now. The pinks shot up within three days. Not too surprising, actually -- they always sprout. They just haven't always done well once I transplanted them. I never 'hardened' them properly before, though. Not sure when I should go out with the duct tape and plastic to set up the cold frames -- probably not before April first, I'm guessing.

Though the starter kits all say you're supposed to kill off all but the strongest seeding in each pellet, I think I'll play it a little more liberal with them this year, especially the stuff like the myosotis and lobelias, which apparently have a very high sprout percentage (who knew?). When I buy flats of lobelias at the garden stores, they always look like there are about half a dozen plants in each pot (and they're almost inevitably 'wound around the axle' by the roots, which I can avoid).

The bluebonnets are doing a Godzirra, at this point. The only saving grace, judging from the jump they took off the blocks, is that no matter how insanely aggressive they are, they won't perennialize here in Zone 6 -- first ten degree day next winter will do them in completely. If they live and bloom well once they've been planted in the yard this year, though, I'll definitely have to keep an eye on them and deadhead for seeds -- they sprout pretty well; whether they grow or not is another thing entirely.

I'm determined that, barring injury or illness (mine or anyone else's), that I'll keep up with the gardening this year, once I can start it. The sorry state of the world has driven me to things about which I can at least fool myself I have a little more control, and the limited difficulty and at least marginally more controllable variables of gardening appeal to me for, doubtless, the same reasons they appealed to my grandmother (who very likely developed her abiding interest in it during the Great Depression, when about all the recreation that made sense had to cost little or nothing). You're not gambling with immense amounts of money with gardening (though the effort can be expensive in other, mostly physical, ways), but the return on ivnestment for those of us who are "into that sort of thing" is much greater than the average gambler's average return (which is, most of the time, less than nothing).

The "green stuff" I'm "into" doesn't fold into a wallet, and I'm willing to work a little harder or buy small and wait, to keep the folding green stuff that is involved in gardening from becoming an insurmountable issue.

And even if I get a floody summer, or a late frost that dooms it all this year -- the most expensive year for the garden/yard since 2002 (when we bought the ailing Atlas cedar and the now-defunct flowering almond), standing at about $150 between ordered plants, the starter beds (whcih will amortize themselves, if they work this year), and peat pots, seeds and potting soil I bought -- I still won't have lost more than I put into it. I'll have gotten something out of it, even if it's only the experience of messing it all up again.

There's yet another plant I want to buy and put in, if I can figure out a good place for it, but I'm going to wait and look around at the few local nurseries left me before I pony up $50 and another $25 for shipping to get a weeping pussy willow up from Cinci. In a pig's eye, no? The Spring Hill warehouse is apparently either on the border down where I-275 meets 'even fewer teeth per capita' land (Indiana), or else it's in Tipp City (which is only twenty miles up the road from me). Either way, I deeply resent the fact that since Spring Hill doesn't have a brick-and-boards store, I'll be reduced to paying something like a buck a mile to get a plant delivered to my door that I could drive and pick up in the RAV for the UCR .23 a mile that vehicle would cost to make the trip. And it wouldn't take more than an hour, either direction.

Meh. I'm still shirty over Groby's closing, is it too obvious? SOBs. Not Groby's -- I understand 'we just can't afford to keep at it anymore' -- the people who didn't go there to buy stuff. The shitheads who preferred Big Box retailers to local gardening centers, who will have the nerve to wonder, twenty years down the road, why all the plants they can get kinda' look the same, have a very limited range of colors, and are fake-looking.

It pisses me off, you see, because local garden centers usually make the unusual affordable to the casual gardener -- the person who's not independently wealthy, who still wants a garden that doesn't look like everybody else's. That would be me. I don't mind putting a bit more back into it, but I'm not going to bleed money into the dirt over it. Here's an interesting side note -- most of the seeds for American plants (including the Texas bluebonnets) I bought to start in the warm beds were not propagated and packaged in the U.S. They were from Ferry-Morse. Ferry-Morse is a British company. This is what I'm grousing about -- American nurseries don't even bother with the stuff anymore. They have three colors of viola, three colors of petunia, and screw you if you want anything else -- you can pay the premium to buy British seeds, or settle for the conformist crap they sell cheaply.

It will be because they traded local genetic diversity for marginal savings by abandoning the local and regional nurseries that propagated plants for reasons other than popularity, which is all the big corporate nurseries bother with.

I'll bet when this finally has happened, they'll find a way to blame somebody but themselves or CorpoBigBoxMart, too.

They will be wrong.

It will be their fault that they can only get three colors of one kind of viola, instead of the bitchin' spectrum their grannies used to grow out beside the house.

It will be their fault that all the affordable rosebushes from CorpoBigBoxMart look like plastic and flower within a narrow range of colors from saffron to bright red, and the only way to get anything different or, dare I say, distinctive will be to pay out the ass and order from Canada or overseas, or from specialty houses here in the U.S. I already had to do this to get the Cecile Brunners I ordered this year -- a specialty rose house in Austin will be providing rosebushes for me, which are hardy here where I live and which used to be fairly popular and common. But they're not showy and not every bloom is perfect, and they're pale-colored, small blossoms -- they don't look like Ronald McRosebush, in other words.

They will have starved local retail diversity and its motivation to cultivate to local or regional taste just to save a few bucks on some puny, endlessly recopied annuals (anybody seen enough freakin' petunias to make 'em yak yet? That's the latest craze, apparently...), or ugly, over-engineered McRosebushes.

They will not be offered fries with that.

They will whine.

But I will be magnanimous.

I will offer them some cheese to go with it.

Posted by Melinda at 09:42 AM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2005

Briefly ...

Finally ordered the flowering almonds from Spring Hill. They e-mailed me a $25 coupon, so I got three of the almonds (I'm sure they're considerably smaller than the last one, but three of them for about the price I paid for the original still ain't too shabby). I also bought some anemone corms that are supposed to tolerate sun -- again, we'll see how that works out. Anemones seem to be gourmet pickings for the rabbits in my neighborhood. Maybe they'll at least keep the little bastards out of everythinge else.

Discussion has been bounced around about buying a 8'x8' PVC shed from Costco. It's somewhere just under $400, big enough to at least put the mower and gardening tools in (and get them out of the Swamp and the garage, at least). That would solve at least a few of the problems we have with stuff, though by far not all. I don't know if we have to have a permit or not -- it doesn't require a permanent foundation, and it's portable (theoretically, anyway), and has a plastic floor, so it's possible we won't have to have anything like a permit. That would be nice. I understand when you're actually doing structural work, like the animal run we put in -- and generally, I ain't one to bitch and whine about things like that -- but even I'd think it was going a little too far to require permits to slap up a plastic shed to put the mower in.

Anyway, we're thinking about it. It would cost nearly $100 to have it shipped, so we'll probably rent a pickup truck from U-Haul. That costs $20 plus mileage for a day. Damned sight cheaper than having somebody else ship it, that's for sure.

While I'm willing to pay someone else to do something we really can't do ourselves, I don't think this qualifies.

Weather was nice enough over the weekend to make the shit that's coming more depressing. It's dropping into the teens for several nights, apparently, with daytime highs at or below freezing. Because it's March, and we live in Ohio, that's why.

Posted by Melinda at 12:44 AM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2005

One week update of seeds started.

As I noted somewhere in the neighborhood of a week ago, I started my 2005 seeds last weekend about this time. Presuming the way I had things set up -- a day spectrum fluorescent lamp and bed warmers, set on a schedule to run from somewhere around sunup to sundown, with cooling at night -- I'd have a few things sprouting by now, I was happy to let it go at that.

Okay, let me be honest. For one thing, I suspect I rather overwatered the peat pills. I'm guessing I put somewhere in the neighborhood of three-quarters of a gallon of water in each 72-pellet starter bed, for one thing. For another, I did a standard mix of Miracle-Gro in the first quart of water in each starter bed. As much as anything, it was to allow for the neglect I sometimes visit on started sprouts, since I know I kill houseplants by overwatering most of the time (cf the amaryllis upstairs on the mantel in the living room, which has more brown than green on it, by now).

So, anyway, I think I'm succeeding to the point I'll ultimately fail. Let me show you why:

That's what I've got as of this morning. One week in, with traces of snow still refusing to melt in the shadowed corners, I have Texas bluebonnets showing the first 'cheat' leaves in the first tray. The biggest one sprouted on Tuesday. These, mind you, are plants that are perennials only in Zone 8 or thereabouts. With the household temps at the comfy range for humans -- the setback thermostat keeps the daytime temp at a habitable 68, dropping to around 60 at night, and the heating pad under the starter bed only runs ten or so hours a day -- those stupid bastards already are off and running like this was the freakin' Bahamas or something. Just proves that politicians aren't the only intellectually challenged thing that claims to come from Texas, for my money.

Here's a closeup of the damned idiot plants that will probably get leggy and die on me before I get them outside into the provisional cold frame (more later):


And the lobelias and/or delphinium(a), and I don't know, maybe forget-me-nots, I'm not sure:


Yeah, so using Miracle-Gro is, apparently, the magical key to getting seeds to sprout. We'll find out, this year, if it's also the magical key to wasting a sawbuck or three on seeds only to have them turn into liquefied shit long before it's warm enough outside to stick the bastards in the ground.

Here's the second tray:


The first two rows of this tray are, as I noted before, cayenne pepper seeds from plants we grew last year, which may very well be illegal to sprout at home, for all I can remember the labeling on the plants when we bought them. Come on, that was just a hair shy of a year ago. I only remember what I ate for lunch of Wednesday last week because I eat the same damn thing for lunch every day -- do you really expect me to remember if there was a freakin' label on the peppers almost a year ago telling me I was a delinquent if I saved the seeds and planted them the next year? What do you think I am, an Iraqi farmer who didn't choose Monsanto GM crops and now I'll have to go to jail because I recycled some seeds?

Yeah, well. Es la vida -- I doubt Monsanto would find it profitable to sue me for the three or four cayenne plants that might, if the universe holds together for another four or five weeks, make it into the containers. My guess is not -- I'm generally shooting damp blanks with anything I start in the house.

Another shot of the tray, with a close-up of my (possibly stolen) pepper starts. They're actually coming up, though they're not obvious in this photo -- the next night's shot would show more, but I'm scrute if I'm going in there again with the Olympus just to show you some bright yellow knuckles coming up out of the peat pellets that might not show up on the camera yet anyway. You'll just have to trust me that the plants I'm destined to destroy before they make it outdoors are already starting in these little wads of dirt:


Last night (Friday), I also planted some stuff in rows three through seven. Three, four and five are now set with cinnamon basil seeds, and six and seven are what's called 'sweetness' dianthus (pinks).

I also planted more tonight (Saturday), since the pellets actually sprouted something this year, and most of what I put in there last night and today was supposed to have a one-week sprout date (the stuff that's already an inch or more tall was supposed to take two to three weeks under normal conditions; that it took off so quickly indoors really makes me wonder if they'd have taken nearly that long au naturel, though). I guess by next weekend, I'll have Texas bluebonnets (which were, for a while, protected even in their home state, probably because Texas didn't have the good sense not to shit in its own living room for a decade or so when you-know-who was 'in charge' of things down there) growing through the freakin' ceiling of the laundry room, and poblanos (I planted regular basil, onyx basil and poblano peppers today) will be hanging off the washing machine.

Or they'll all croak by St. Patrick's day, and a fine top o' the mornin' to you!

I'll be back as soon as either the bluebonnets eat the grow light or there's something more to take pictures of. If I'm lucky, instead of just growing mold like the starter beds did one year here, I'll get a crop of shiitake or something to make it all worthwhile even if that thirty bucks' worth of seeds croaks it before I have a chance to set it in the ground.

Oh, yeah -- I also wasted the time to buy the plastic to stretch over the existing shelves to try to 'cold frame' the stuff so I can harden it off before I put it in the ground and it croaks on me there. I'll take some pictures when I put the plastic on the shelves, so we can all have a good laugh at the mildew.

And the roses aren't even here from Austin yet. I haven't even ordered the flowering almonds from Spring Hill.

It doesn't matter if I have a bad feeling about it, though -- some things, like the dwarf rosebush on the back corner of the 'workshop' (in English, we'd call it a 'useless swamp,' but 'workshop' is realtor-ese for the same thing, as most people know who've ever bought a house that had a 'workshop' worthy of the irony quotes) thrive in spite of mediocre locations and half-assed care.

Remember the Maine! Or something.

Posted by Melinda at 02:42 AM | Comments (0)