Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Last Days Of January


Hubs and I have been slowly trying to get back into the swing of things, what with these beautiful days we've been having.  We even sat out on the patio with our coffee cups this morning and watched the sun rise, heard the birds' sunrise serenade.

We've had a couple of nights above freezing or at least close enough to it that my little cold-weather seedlings could ride the night out in the cold frame, snug under the glass and a blanket over all.  Another band of cold weather is expected soon, along with the promise of rain (well, maybe I shouldn't use the word "promise", because we ARE talking about weather predictions here) and maybe even some "snow/sleet", as Mesonet calls it.  So those nights, I will be bringing my seedlings in.

I'm thinking I'll go ahead and plant the Copenhagen Market cabbage seedlings into the garden during the next warm spell.  I have a collection of opaque plastic vinegar bottles, been thinking about cutting the bottoms off them and using them as cloches when it turns cold after the cabbage seedlings are in the ground.  And it WILL get cold again, several times, before the end of April.  Generally we tend to think we're safe once it turns May.  Last year, unfortunately, that was not so.   But cabbage is a cold-weather plant and it can tolerate some cold a lot better than it can the heat of summer.  It's best to get the cabbages in early, so they're done and harvested by the time it starts heating up. 

It's also nearing time for growing sweet potato slips.  Last year I planted some Beauregard slips that I grew from the previous year's crop, and I bought some Carolina Ruby slips from some folks in Arkansas who listed their varieties on eBay.  I wasn't at all pleased with the condition of the slips when they arrived, and I lost about half of them.  So I was glad to have the Beauregard slips to fill out the bed.  And then I had another disappointment due to a rat infestation in the garden happening because of neighboring ranchers burning off their fields, and our neighbor across the back who burned down his brush pile that was there when we moved in.  It was plenty dry, burned fast, and we watched the rats as they fled.  In our direction.  Maybe they would've found us without the fires, I don't know......   Those rats ate half my sweet potato crop.  At least.  *Sigh*.  

But, it's another year, right?  Everything else is "water under the bridge", right?


So I went through the brown paper bags that had my sweet potatoes in them in the pantry, and pulled out all the small ones.  I'll let them languish in a bowl in the kitchen.
The big one, I plan to roast within the next few days.  You can tell which variety each potato is because the Carolina Ruby potatoes have the more purplish skin, if you can see through the dirt, that is, and they are a deeper orange inside.  I wonder if they'd sprout better if I washed them?

This seems to be the perfect place for sprouting potatoes.

I will not be planting these potatoes.  They are the driest potatoes I've ever eaten.  They don't bake up nice.  They absorb a lot of oil when they are fried.  They're ok as mashed potatoes.  But I won't buy any more of this brand and I don't want to grow any of them.  Guess I'll have to buy some seed potatoes this year.

I need to start pre-sprouting my spring peas, as well.  I'll try to time it for the next warmish spell.  I pre-sprout them in an envelope of damp paper towels and when they get their first leaves, I carefully plant them in the garden.  Previous instructions were to plant just when the seed coat splits and a little "finger" starts emerging, but I have found it less than satisfactory to plant them at that stage.  If it turns cold after they are planted, they go back into dormancy and some will rot before they've grown enough to emerge through the ground.  So I don't feel like I'm really getting any better germination rates that way over just planting the pea seed directly into the ground.  The biggest problem I've had is that, as soon as we get a rain, the seeds float to the top of the soil, and if I don't catch it in time to re-bury them before they dry out, they die.  It seems to me that Mother Nature meant peas to be planted in the fall, because they need warmth to germinate, but the plants themselves can tolerate quite a bit of cold.  I bought some to plant in the fall last year and then I misplaced them.  I have never found them.  Thinking now maybe they accidentally fell into the trash.

I have sown my tomatoes and peppers in peat pellets and so far nothing much has germinated.  You might remember that I said I had some herb or flower seed that was very, very tiny, and that I was going to try to germinate it on top of the soil with a sandwich bag over.  That worked much better than the coffee filter method.  I do like to use coffee filters for some things, but tiny seed is a problem.  So here's the results and I'm happy with them:




They went under the lights today, without the bag.

Last weekend we hit a couple of estate sales.  I didn't find anything I needed except another watering can, for a dollar, one quart glass canning jar for a quarter, and a nice broom for fifty cents.   One of them was in Dewey and so we decided to drive a few miles north to Copan, where I grew up.  After they died, the house my parents lived in was sold to a local man who used it as a rental until it wasn't fit to live in.  We saw it in that condition, and that made me feel sad.  And then later we saw it when the barn and all the other out-buildings were gone and it looked like they were starting to bulldoze the house, too.  So this time, all the buildings were completely gone and hauled away.  Mom's smoke tree, her silver maple (ugh), the spiraea, and several other bushes, vines and small trees were all gone.  The cellar, which had been made from an old round cistern, was dozed down and filled in  There just was nothing left on the lot to be seen but a bunch of bulldozer tracks.  It made me sad, again, to see it, but I don't think it would've been cost-effective to repair it, as run-down as it had gotten.  It was a poorly-built house to begin with.  It was even hard to get my bearings with everything gone.  I finally figured out where Dad's garage had been, and I looked around and found some bamboo that had survived the bulldozer, just laying there in piles.  My mom planted that bamboo there and she was so proud of it.  She used the stalks sometimes in the garden but for the most part, the biggest benefit was that the plumes that it made in the fall provided seed for the birds all winter.  I have read that bamboo will take over but it pretty much stayed right where it was planted.  Even though, one summer one of my brothers-in-law decided to mow the grass when he and my sister were visiting, and he cut down all that bamboo and was out there stomping around on it when Mom looked out the picture window to see what he was doing.  Her mouth fell open and she kind of caught her breath, but she never said anything to him about it.  He was married to her favorite daughter and they always lived far away.  She didn't want to mar a too-rare visit with an argument and she knew if she said anything to him, there would be one and then he'd probably want to leave right away.  He was like that.  But she also probably knew that the bamboo would recover just fine, and it did.  I brought home a big clump of bamboo shoots, don't know where I'll plant it, somewhere out on the land where Hubs can keep it in check by mowing around it.  I like having habitat for the birds.   And every time I see it, I will smile at the mental picture of Dick stomping around on those bamboo stubbles while Mom stood there at the window with her mouth hanging open.
About the only other thing going on here, what with the nice weather, is that Hubs and I have been putting down a layer of leaves and covering it with wood chips in the walk-ways of the garden.  Wood chips have to age a bit before anything can be grown in them, and I saw where someone was spreading them in their garden walkways, and then at the end of a year, scooping them into the raised beds to enrich the soil before putting more down in the walkways.  I thought this would work well for the garden, especially if I put down a layer of leaves first, and then the wood chips to keep the wind from blowing them around.  There are several bags in what we collected last fall, that are full of oak leaves.  They look like brown leather and they won't break down in the compost for a long time.   These were perfect for the layer under the wood chips.

Well, this is a start, anyway.  It's a lot of work.  The RockWhisperer Exercise Plan.  Heh.  After we get a rain, it will pack down and look better.   We are so lucky to have Kylie to bring us wood chips.

When I opened one of the leaf bags, I found it to contain three athletic shoes, one nice gardening glove, three small glass candle holders, all broken, a disposable aluminum roast pan containing pot-bound roots, a big tangle of vines with small, roundish, variegated leaves, and a pile of cuttings from some kind of bush.  I sent pictures of the cuttings to a couple of friends that I thought might be able to tell me what it is and whether it's worth trying to root them. 
I don't know why people put non-degradable stuff in their leaf bags.  Even if they buy a tag or wait for "free leaf-pick-up day", it still all goes where the City expects it all to bio-degrade.  I think.  Although Bartlesville doesn't seem to have caught on to the fact that if they would have composted material somewhere, it would be something gardeners would actually come and get, and they'd pay for the privelege.  As it stands now, the "sanitary landfill" seems to be very protective of its contents and there doesn't seem to be any interest in the recycling of any of it.  I would so love to live near one of those "progressive" cities that I'm always reading about, but we always seem to be about ten years behind in this area. 

But I digress.

Both Glenda and Carole thought it was a Euonymus and Carole thought it was the 'Manhattan' variety.  So I have some of the cuttings in water to see if they'll root there.  They are still green and fresh-looking after being in that clear leaf bag since October.  I happen to need some kind of a bush that is tough enough to grow in this western exposure bed.

It's hard to keep anything growing here because the sun heats up the brick, and then it's just too hot and dry there for most things to live.  My pantry is on the inside of this wall, and it gets warm on hot summer days.  Not a very good thing to happen in a pantry.  Having a nice tall bush there would solve that problem.  But not sure whether the roots would be bad that close to the foundation?  ....Maybe it would be better off planted elsewhere.....  I looked it up on Dave's Plant Files HERE, and looks like it can grow up to eight feet tall, makes good-smelling white flowers, but attracts flies, wasps and bees when in bloom.

Well, that's about all I have for this time.  Rock on........   xoxoxoxoxo


  1. I agree on it being Manhattan. I was going to warn you that they do attract 'green' flies. I don't know why but they do. I don't think the roots would damage the house foundation if you put it as close to the walk as possible.

    We haven't had any mornings warm enough to sit on the swing here!

    You all have been busy as usual.

    1. Thanks Glenda, you and Carole are my go-to experts for plant ID. She is Sunnyside on the forum. And glad to know I can plant it there, it will otherwise be the perfect place for it.


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