Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gotten to those roses yet?

If you haven't gotten around to pruning your roses yet -- like me -- hold on just long enough to read this article by Kym Pokorny on Oregon Live:

An Easy Way to Prune Roses

The gist of it is that traditional hard pruning methods were developed to produce larger show roses or long-stemmed roses. But simply shearing the roses actually produces more foliage and more blooms, though the blooms are smaller. If you're growing your roses for your own pleasure and not for floral shows, check it out.

(Image borrowed from The Invisible Gardener until I get a good picture of my own roses!)

Monday, February 25, 2008

It's Official: We Have Habitat!

The official metal screen printed sign arrived from the National Wildlife Federation. Hoo-ah! This yard is now officially wildlife habitat!

Now if I can just keep the next-door neighbor's kids from playing hide-and-seek in my yard instead of their own without permission -- again. Maybe the sign will do some good. "Hey, kids, don't disturb the wildlife!"

Friday, February 22, 2008

If this doesn't convince Americans to use reusable bags, nothing will

Photographic artist Chris Jordan has a series of huge prints currently on tour, Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait. The prints feature actual objects to display statistics like the number of plastic bags, paper bags, aluminum cans, and such used in the U.S. within a distressingly short period of time -- minutes or seconds in some cases. Some of the images create art, such as the Cans Seurat, made up of 106,000 cans, the number used in the U.S. every 30 seconds. Others, such as Plastic Bags 2007 simply display 60,000 plastic bags, the number used every five seconds in the U.S.

It's one thing to hear statistics like these. The giant number are difficult to imagine, so the impact of a mere figure isn't much. But to see the numbers displayed graphically really makes the viewer think.

My favorite: the Energizer battery quote. Oh, the irony.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A 100-foot Meal in February

In January I reported on Path to Freedom website's 100 foot diet challenge (see Eating Local: Taking it to the Limit). While there's limited foraging opportunities in the winter garden, the climate here in the Pacific Northwest is mild enough that when the first glimmerings of spring are in the air in February, one can find at least a few edible green things.

So here's a 100-foot lunch that I concocted out of what I found around the garden today:
  • Yukon Gold potatoes which had overwintered in the potato patch, sauteed in Tillamook butter (local product) and seasoned with fresh rosemary, sage, and chives.
  • A salad of wild greens (Siberian miner's lettuce, violet leaves) and English violet blossoms, dressed with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Herbal tea -- a mixture of dried lemon balm, dried rose petals, and dried spearmint gathered when each was in season. Sweetened with a little honey I have left from when my parents kept a beehive.

The Univent: It works! Hey, Mikey!

February gales have finally given way to a spell of good weather. We've had a few sunny days and temperatures sufficient to warm the inside of the cold frame. And by golly, the Univent was spotted in action, lifting the lid of the frame. Hoorah! After all the trouble the evil little device gave me, it finally works!

The little lettuce seedlings inside survived the freezing temperatures, and are now starting to put on a little bit of new growth. I'm looking forward to fresh lettuce in a couple of months.

While it's still officially winter, spring is just beginning to spring all over the garden. Leaf buds are swelling, and the early spring flowers are just now popping out, a little later this year than last. The Daphne are still in bud, but should blossom soon:
And these lovely little Blue Pearl crocus are popping up in the back yard. I'm going to have to get more of these and scatter them all over.

Organic Style now online

For a source of up-to-date information on going organic, check out the online edition of Organic Style. It includes gardening, health, home, beauty, and other aspects of organic living. Their free subscription will send you reminders when new issues come out. Free is always a good price, yes?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

My New Mini-Pond

"A garden without water is not a garden at all. Even a back-yard should have a miniature water-lily in a tub."
Beverley Nichols, Garden Open Today

So if the terra cotta bird bath and the ground-level bird bath didn't make my garden a garden in Mr. Nichols' eyes, this little pond should do the trick, even if it doesn't sport a water lily nor any other plant life yet. Our oldest kitty, Mr. Licorice, thought it was just fine.

What is also does is enhance the value of the front garden to wildlife, which was my whole intent. Now that my Backyard Wildlife Habitat Scrapbook shows I've met my wildlife goals (at least three stars in every category except water, where I decided two would have do, since I haven't any convenient creeks, rivers, lakes, or oceans on my property), I'm ready to officially register. I attempted to do so online, but something went awry with the system and I'm not sure it rang up my credit card or not. If I don't hear something in a few days, I'll try again by mail.

Here's a view of the pond in the little woodland garden among the ferns. Come spring, the foxglove, lungwort, grape hyacinths, and hellebore will add some color, followed by the turtleheads that will bloom well into summer.

The pond itself was simple to make and took under an hour. I dug the hole to fit the spot, and smoothed out the soil around the edge where I intended to lay the flagstones. At one end I created a shelf where the water would be shallow for birds to splash in. The "deep end" is about a foot or so deep. I had an old but still flexible piece of black plastic that I doubled over and used to line the inside of the hole. (How long the black plastic will last I don't know. If it goes brittle and the pond leaks, it won't be too hard to pull everything apart and line it with a good pond liner.) Then I laid flat river rocks that I had in the back yard into the hole, covering the bottom and the sides as best I could. Some black plastic is still visible between the stones, but it doesn't show too badly. I laid the flagstones all around the edge, overlapping the edge just a bit, then trimmed the edges of the plastic so that they're covered by the flagstones. I may put a few more stones on the shelf part to make a better spot for butterflies to get a drink. I also want to move my saucer of wet sand near the pond for a butterfly puddling spot, since the pond itself will attract insects.

And that was it. Pretty simple. All in all, it felt good to get out in the garden after all the wild weather we've been having. Here's what wind, ice, and a little snow do to pansies and primroses:
But in spite of the foul weather, some little Valentine guys have been cavorting on my front porch for the last couple of weeks:

I see buds swelling on all the shrubs, and the Daphne are nearly ready to bloom. Now that Groundhog's Day/Candlemas/Imbolc/St. Brigid's Day have come and gone, spring is on the way.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Reading Dirt now on Helium!

To the left, I've added a list of articles I've written for Helium, ranging from a kinder approach to getting rid of moles, to a defense of garden snakes, to spring bulbs and gardening for wildlife.

If you haven't seen Helium yet, check it out. It's a community of writers writing articles on all sorts of subjects, and rating one another's articles. If your articles become popular, you may actually earn a little cash. There's also a Marketplace where online and print magazines request articles on particular subjects, for a higher payout if your article is chosen.

You can also earn a few pennies if you invite friends and they start earning cash for their articles. So if you're a writing enthusiast who has enjoyed this blog and wants an easy way to tip the gardener, send an email to bledsoek (stick the little @ sign here) for an invitation to Helium. And thanks for your support.

The Literary Gardener Calendar -- now on sale!

From now until the end of February, my 2008 calendar, The Literary Gardener, is on sale for $15.99, marked down from $17.99. Get 'em while they're hot, because the calendar will go away at the end of February.

Also marked down is The 2008 Writer's Calendar, chock full of great writing prompts and inspirational photography.

And don't forget the e-book, So You Want to Grow Your Own Food, available free on this blog. Check out the link to the left. It's a large PDF document, so it may take a few minutes to download.