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Wed, Apr. 5th, 2006, 11:10 pm

Seeds: Set out a tray of 120 Jiffy-7 peat pellets seeded with perennials: Achillea millefolium, Achillea m. var. Summer Pastels, Viola cornuta, Viola tricolor, Cheiranthus cheiri (one packet mixed colors, one packet all dark red), Centranthus ruber, Campsis radicans, Helenium autumnale, Lychnis coronaria atrosanguinea, Buddleia alternifolia, Rudbeckia grandiflora, Gaillardia grandiflora, Alcea rosea zebrina, Asclepias tuberosa, Dianthus deltoides, Dianthus superba, Echinacea purpurea, and Echinops ritro. They look cute, each with its popsicle stick on which I've written the seed name with a Sharpie marker.

Soon I'll do a second tray with the tender seedlings, mostly tomatoes and basil. I have a pleasant quantity of different basil seeds: sweet basil, of course, but also cinnamon, lemon, licorice, genovese, ruffled, lettuce leaf, globe, Greek mini, fino verde, dark opal purple, and holy basil.

Other doings: Located all (?) of last year's lilies and transplanted them to the triangle in front of the cherry tree. I'm thinking they'll do better if concentrated in a single area.

Planted two new rosebushes, both Mademoiselle de Sombreuil. Got them at Home Depot for $5.77 each. The trick is knowing that there are always one or two desirable roses in those big shipments of cheap bare-rooted roses HD gets every spring. That's how I got my Caldwell Pink last year.

Okay, the trick is also buying them from HD early in the season: shipped cold, still dormant, and there hasn't been much chance yet for HD's garden department to accumulate plant diseases. By mid-May last year even HD's premium potted roses were going yellow and dropping their leaves en masse, having one and all been zapped by something nasty. The only exception were some potted The Fairy, which I snubbed even though they'd been radically downpriced, as I didn't want to take the plague home with me.

My established roses are fine this spring, except for the miniatures, which all died over the winter. Don't know why. The chrysanthemums don't look like they made it. The Sanguisorba minor did. The horseradish has yet to show itself aboveground, but I don't believe for a minute that it all died off over the winter. Horseradish is one of those plants you'd better be sure you want in the contemplated location, because if you change your mind you'll be years getting rid of it.

The mugwort is rioting, herbaceous cockroach that it is.

Pruned the cherry tree for shape. The pruned branches are in a vase on my dining table, looking elegant.

Pruned the roses: viciously and heavy-handedly with the big red rambler in the corner, as it sends out meaty six-foot-long canes in all directions that can render that end of the garden impassable. Did the same thing to it last year and it bloomed like crazy, so it can't be too discouraged. Didn't prune its genetic twin over by the fence. Instead, switched its new eight-foot cane up into the neighbor's magnolia tree. That rose's incursions into the magnolia tree bloomed very prettily last year. Maybe the new people minding the yard next door will let it keep growing up into the tree this time.

Not sure what's going on next door. Appears the landlord hired a couple of young men to come in, clean up the yard, repaint the fence red and the patio furniture white, and generally get the place spiffed up. That's the yard that goes with the apartment where last year my next-door neighbor was murdered and then not found for a long time. Landlord's doing a complete renovation on the apartment: pretty much had to, under the circumstances.

On the other side of the yard, the Azerbaijanis have planted grapevines alongside the uprights of the crazy tottering wooden structure they put up last year. Thought that might be the idea. I'm not going to tell the city about them, but I have trouble believing their back yard construction projects would pass inspection. That sore-thumb arbor of theirs -- a story and a half tall, stretching from side to side and front to back in their yard -- is going to have a hard time escaping notice.

Next set of tasks: clean up rose prunings. Rake yard. See who wants some of that tradescantia, also some mint. I have way too much mint. Last year's experimental use of it as a groundcover was only successful from the mint's point of view.

Where in NYC can you buy tomato cages? I mean the plain wire kind, not the Deluxe Patio Tomato model HD keeps trying to sell me.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 04:43 am (UTC)

This weekend I hope to get last year's growth cleaned out of my prairie garden in preparation for the start of this year's growth. I hope that the recent spurt of warm weather hasn't woken anything up before then, lest it get invested in any of the old growth. The ground is still cold enough, though, that I doubt anything's broken dormancy.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 04:45 am (UTC)

How far north are you?

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 04:48 am (UTC)

I spent half of last summer excavating and recreating three garden beds in my savagely overgrown backyard. Moderately intensive work -- I covered the ground with cardboard, then wet newspaper, and finally several layers of humus and mulch. The wait was over last weekend, when I got to dig in at last. The soil is so fluffy and nice...aaaaah.

I'm hoping to get the rest of my seeds (yellow, purple, and pink tomatoes, lots of eggplant and carrots and watermelons) in the ground this weekend. I picked out a coconut-scented geranium at a nursery, and the sales lady was agog. She hadn't realized they had anything like that.

It does smell awfully good, especially next to the curry plant.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 04:48 am (UTC)

Oh, joy! I get to see all this verdant accomplishment!

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 04:56 am (UTC)

Alas, it's not very verdant yet. Aside from the popping cherry blossoms and the little green leaves on the roses, we're at the "bare dirt and last year's stems" stage. I can show you photos of last year's garden, if you're interested, though I'd rather see photos of yours.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 04:54 am (UTC)

Nice. I'd have done the same, if I'd known how many weed seeds lurked under the landscaping fabric and mulch that were there when we moved in. Last year, I couldn't weed fast enough. This year I'm not going to seed directly into the ground. I'll start my seeds, then transplant them with a heavy layer of mulch all around.

Coconut geranium's nice. I'm fond of rose geranium myself. I like to have at least one spot where the path passes between a rose geranium and a lemon verbena, because they smell so good in combination when you brush past them. Come to think of it, coconut and curry would work too. Get a little lime in there and it'll smell like a Thai restaurant.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 09:07 am (UTC)

I wouldn't mind the garden smelling like a Thai restaurant. Except for the nam pla. Save the fish for the roses.

If citrus trees didn't scream and collapse at the notion of being planted out here, I'd have one in a heartbeat. I'd bring one indoors (I've always wanted a dwarf kefir tree) but it's too tempting a target for the felines.

My earliest memories have desert orange trees wafting through them. I bought a couple mockorange shrubs to see if I can achieve a passing resemblance to the scent I remember; we'll see, next spring.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 05:00 am (UTC)

I have never yet found a worthwhile rose at Home Depot, so I applaud your good luck. I checked them out on a tip this winter and was shocked at the bad conditions, which reminded me of nothing as much as those movies PETA shows of puppy mills.

Not that I needed roses. This year I bought a couple dozen for a hedge from David Austin, and they are easily the best roses I have ever received. I would definitely be order more roses from them for other parts of the garden, except that they sent me 45 plants when I had ordered 26, which means that I will never want for roses again.

In regards to mint, our neighbors have it and it has invaded our garden, encouraged by the previous owners who were not gardeners. I spend a great deal of time pulling the stuff out, which would be more unpleasant except that afterwards the whole place smells like I've brushed its teeth. Freshens up the city green bin sweetly, too, unlike Bermuda grass, which is vile and evil and just rots into a stinky mass.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 11:54 am (UTC)

I can imagine the plant area at your local Home Depot becoming noisome. You've got that year-round climate. Here, the outdoor plant area completely shuts down in the fall, then spends months in the grip of salt and ice. When it opens again in the early spring, it's clean of lurking plant diseases: strictly a temporary condition.

Those are great-looking roses you got from David Austin, and 45 when you paid for 26 is definitely an embarrassment of riches. Interesting thing you've got going there with the bricks. My old garden on Staten Island did the same thing with paving slates. My best guess was that they'd been laid down directly on the soil, and had sunk over time.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 05:07 am (UTC)

"The mugwort is rioting, herbaceous cockroach that it is."
"Last year's experimental use of it as a groundcover was only successful from the mint's point of view."

*I'm laughing*

Mint is like bamboo, if you don't contain it it WILL get everywhere and if you DO contain it it still may get everywhere. :-)

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 11:56 am (UTC)

True. Very true. Though it's far easier to eradicate than (say) bermuda grass or oleander.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 05:54 am (UTC)

Singer may have other ideas on tomato cages, but I would suggest just getting a roll of hardware cloth or even chicken wire and making small circles with it, maybe adding a couple stakes on the perimeter for support, around the plants.

I almost tossed my rusty old cages - about 36 - when I moved from Powderhorn up here to Northeast. Didn't. That was good. Between Johnny's and Totally Tomatoes we've got a lot of varieties to get started (right about when Minicon hits) this year.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 11:57 am (UTC)

I was thinking of something very like that, but I wouldn't be able to reach through the hardware cloth. Maybe something with a larger gauge.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 06:14 am (UTC)

My Grandmother's house was on the site of what was once a horseradish patch/farm.

More than 120 years later there is still horseradish to be found.

We have poppies, everywhere. And lavendar, and fresia, and grapes bursting forth.

My triumph for the year was successfully grafting some plums. One of them started budding, above the graft, this week.


Fri, Apr. 7th, 2006 07:54 pm (UTC)

Pecunium, I know there are certain plants archaeologists look for when they're trying to locate vanished 19th C. settlements, like daffodils and vinca and sometimes peonies. I suppose horseradish belongs on that list, or would if home gardeners grew it more reliably.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 06:35 am (UTC)

[cries] I'm living in a rented duplex with a tiny patio that I get to garden and everything else in our half of the garden laid down to low-maintenance landscaping handled by once-a-week-Mexicans...

But at least I've *got* a flower bed, and some containers big enough to grow things in properly. And a pineapple sage that flowered all winter, greatly pleasing the hummingbirds. Must go and get the tomato seedlings and new herbs this weekend.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 12:45 pm (UTC)

You may weep for your lack of acreage, but "pineapple sage that flowered all winter" makes me whimper just a bit.

Can you do hanging plants? Given enough loadbearing capacity, hanging planters can accommodate a remarkable amount of vegetation. So can standing planters. I once built a huge one out of a large sturdy pot, some repurposed broomsticks, a 4' cylinder of wire-mesh fencing, burlap liners to keep the soil from falling out (made of scrounged coffee-bean bags from a store in Park Slope), and a lot of potting soil. Planting-in consisted of cutting a cross in the burlap where I wanted to place a plant, making a hole in the soil, and tucking in a Jiffy-7-grown seedling. I put the thing on a sturdy wheeled plant stand so I could turn it to catch the light on all sides.

It's pure geometry. The planting area of a conventional circular pot is roughly as big as the space that pot takes up on your patio. There's a lot more planting area on the sides of a cylinder whose base is formed by that same circle.
(Deleted comment)

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 03:04 pm (UTC)

I have to do that too with the mint that's slowly annexing the rest of the backyard. It does indeed smell wonderful! When it's still cool enough (May or early June) I'll finish the yard, climb into the hammock and enjoy the smell.

All of which reminds me that I have to mow the yard and start prepping some beds. The annual herb sale is next weekend, and shortly after that the Great and Secret Plant Sale.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 06:49 pm (UTC)

Everyone's talking about mint taking over, but it refused to grow for Chad last year. Perhaps because it was in a planter and knew its plans for world domination could come to nothing.

Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006 09:37 pm (UTC)

Mint seems to know how to play the sympathy card, all right. "Oh, I'm languishing in this planter! Put me in the ground and I will be all healthy and provide you with plenty of leaves for mint juleps!" And the next thing you know it has eaten your Volkswagen.

Fri, Apr. 7th, 2006 09:33 am (UTC)

If your neighbors' grapevines get established it's really going to eat into your sunlight, isn't it? I might be tempted to notify authorities at that point, but not, of course, before.

Fri, Apr. 7th, 2006 08:07 pm (UTC)

Reporting them as a hazard would be easier to square with my conscience if they weren't also threatening to cut off half or more of my sunlight. As it stands, I'm thinking of planting blackberries and raspberries along our shared fenceline. And isn't that a detail with a wealth of social implications?

Mon, Apr. 10th, 2006 02:38 am (UTC)

I'm glad I saw your post! You reminded me that I hadn't ordered my seeds yet, and I was so looking forward to growing my own tomatoes this year. Seeds are ordered now, and I can anticipate some wonderful (if ugly) tomatoes, and funky carrots this summer. Oh, and tomatillos. I'm planning a feast with lots of salsa verde once those get harvested. Hee!

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