New Things To Come At Minerva’s Garden!

Hi everyone!  It’s been really busy here, but very soon I will be having Minerva’s Garden make the switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, which will make the site better.  Stay tuned for (hopefully) some blog beauty!

Now, what in the world is up with the weather?  (Can you say climate change–why yes, yes, I can.)  We haven’t had much cold weather, one day of snow in January.  (You know it’s warm here when the agapanthus hasn’t died back at all, and it isn’t even covered with plastic or anything–that’s a zone 9 plant!)  All of my fruit trees are breaking dormancy already, as are all the roses.  NONE of my bulbs are blooming yet, and normally by this time of year I have snowdrops, crocus and winter aconite in bloom, not to mention sarcococa shrub flowers.  The winter jasmine is loving the warm weather, as is the Chinese witch hazel, and they are blooming away.  All I am seeing is some bulb greenery coming up.

My greens under plastic were in fabulous shape and we were eating off them a fair amount until the snow.  I haven’t had a chance to even go out to look under the plastic in a while, but that will be a project for one of these upcoming sunny days, perhaps tomorrow or Saturday.  Hopefully all is well, and I suspect it will be, because the snow didn’t crush the hoops or plastic coverings. 

My baby lettuces, radicchio and basil are growing away under lights.  I may just keep them around, and if this weather keeps up, plant them out under the plastic (of course, not the basil–it’s way too cold for them to be outside, even covered.)

What’s the weather like in your neck of the woods?  Do you have any early bulbs in bloom yet?  Let me know down in the comments!

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Spring Decorations

January is always so grey and dreary, although here at Minerva’s Garden I did notice an English daisy and violas with one or two little blooms on them, and some crocus tips pushing their way up out of the mulch the other day.   However, I was determined to start out the year fresh with some pretty indoor spring decorations!  I have paper and silk flowers, as well as some real flowers blooming away indoors to make our house more cheery.  Here they are:

Paper cherry blossoms on a branch from the backyard, plus a hot pink silk flower with a bright imitation green apple in a basket, and some white silk flowers in a soft pink, grey and white vase.

The flowers couldn’t have been easier to make–from Martha Stewart, and then hot-glued to the branch.

 

The mantle with more paper cherry blossoms, bright pink silk flowers in glass vases, some little birds in a basket--love it!

Sideboard with a pottery bird in the basket, clear tumbled glass and wine corks with a pink flower in a tall vase, and a shot of green in the bottle with white silk flowers.

 As you can see, the color scheme is mostly shades of pink and green, with some crisp white as background.

 

Re-imaginging some things I had around the house--Dollar Tree silk roses stuck through the fabric of an old lampshade, with a base I had but got at a flea market for fifty cents years ago and painted white. Alongside are paperwhites blooming on the right, and a little green vase with white silk flowers, and an imitation bright green apple, all on a pink placement!This lamp is so sweet--makes me smile each time I walk into the room and see it!

 

Some real flowers: Paperwhites, January 2012

 
 
Pink pelargoniums, commonly (but erroneously) called geraniums, on a curly wire plant stand and a stout ceramic container, January 2012

None of these ideas are original to me, but I found them online, and just tweaked them to suit what I had on hand around the house and garden, or what I could get inexpensively at Dollar Tree–love that!

 
Have you done a little spring decorating this year–do tell in the comments!  I love to hear from my Minerva’s Garden readers!

Snow and Salad Greens

Welcome to 2012 at Minerva’s Garden.  Sorry for the lack of posts lately–had a family member with emergency surgery, so things have been hectic.  However, I’m back now!

The weather reports are saying that we might get a bit of snow tonight through Tuesday, so if you are living in the area and haven’t done so, you may want to take today to protect any sensitive plants that are still lingering outdoors.  I have salad greens outside under two and three layers of clear plastic, and so far this winter they have done great!  I picked a big bowlful of them last week, which we thoroughly enjoyed in our Saturday Cesar Salad and homeade pizza tradition.  With winter salad green production, because the temperatures have been so cold, it takes the plants much longer to recover and regrow than in warmer summer months, so I’ll have to wait a while before I can pick again, but still, it’s great to have some fresh produce from the garden! 

As you may remember from a previous post, I have some basil and lettuce and radicchio growing under lights indoors as well.  They are still pretty small, but the lettuce is about ready to pick at the baby stage, with leaves about four inches long, so that will be an additional source of greens for us.

Would love to hear from you–feel free to leave a message.  Do you do any winter vegetable gardening?  Will it be snowy in your area this weekend–let me know, because I love to hear from you!

Through The Seasons: Red-Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum

The red-flowering currant, a Northwest-native plant and hummingbird favorite with the Latin name of Ribes sanguineum, not sure of the particular variety but could likely be the commonly sold ‘King Edward VII’, through the seasons at Minerva’s Garden in photos:

Ribes sanguineum, Red-Flowering Currant, in my garden blooming in April, along with hyacinth and narcisus

After the flowers on the red-flowering currant are done, the leaves on the shrub turn green, and it looks pretty unremarkable for the summer.  But this is what happens in the fall:

Red-flowering currant foliage, end of November

Pretty remarkable change, making it a great plant selection for the garden, because it gives two wonderful seasons of interest, and doesn’t require any special watering or fertilizing once it is established. 

 Hope you had a great Thanksgiving–we had company over and had a great time.  Still eating leftovers, which actually I like.  It was sunny today, but we just went through two weeks straight of rain.  Welcome to the Pacific Northwest.  I’ve left the autumn decor up in the house, and will probably switch it out next weekend for the winter holidays.
 
Leave a comment–what’s new in your garden?

‘Einset’ Grape Harvest

I have been looking forward to this fall, because fall is the time of year when grapes are ripe and ready to be harvested.  The grapevine that I have growing on my outdoor pergola is an ‘Einset’, a red seedless table grape.  This particular variety was recommended to me by the head arborist at the Home Orchard Society at Clackamas Community College, where they have an arboretum of fruit trees, but which also includes grapes and figs, and other types of fruit.  I’ll show you the progression of this vine. 

I started it from a free cutting that I got at the Home Orchard Society Rootstock Sale and Scion Exchange, which is held every March.  I basically put the bottom end of the cutting in damp paper towel, put it in a ziplock bag, and put it in my refrigerator for about a month or so, untill roots started coming out of the bottom of the cutting.  I then took it out of the frig, and potted it up in a container with potting soil.  I let it grow a little bit more, so the roots could get more established, and then I planted it outside in position.  Here’s what it looked like as a baby vine in 2008:

So we were off to a good start–the cutting was healthy and growing.  This was the first grape I’ve ever grown, so I was a total neophyte in terms of pruning.  So basically, I didn’t do any until this year.  Here’s what I had to deal with early on:

'Einset' grape vine trunks, April 2011

As you can see, there is one plant crown, but four trunks growing out of it.  This caused the grape vine to produce a ton of leaves and no fruit.  I knew I had to learn how to prune it to get it to produce fruit.  The first thing I learned was that there is only supposed to be one trunk coming out of the crown.  But I had grown this vine from a tender baby, and I didn’t want to kill it, so I cut it down to two trunks.  (I know, I am a pruning wuss.)  I figured if something went wrong, I’d still have one trunk left to play with.

I learned a little bit.  First off, each grape variety produces the most fruit if you prune them in one of two methods:  spur pruning and cane pruning.  Each variety of grape has one or the other of these pruning requirements.  I looked up ‘Einset’ and discovered that it responds best to cane pruning.  You are supposed to do grape pruning, at least here in SW Washington State, around the end of February, when the vine starts putting out the first new growth in the form of leaf buds.  I didn’t get around to pruning it until the beginning of May, which is quite late, so I made a note on my gardening calendar to do this earlier next year.  (If you recall last February, the weather was very cold and rainy, but if you’re growing fruit, you just have to gird your loins and get out there to prune.)

I don’t have good pictures of how to do cane pruning–I was doing well to get out there and prune it at all this time around.  My hope is that next year I can take some and do a more detailed post on how to do it.  But basically, each trunk produces two cordon arms (You have to train it, ie. prune it, to get it to do this), and from this arm you want to have at least sixteen canes coming out from each of the cordon arms, because this is where the grapes are produced.  You also want to keep a spur, a short cane, near the base of the cordon arm, with the idea being that the spur will grow long over the growing season, and next year you replace the cane that produced fruit the year before with the fresh cane that grew from the spur of the previous year, to constantly rejuvenate the plant each year so it produces well.  I positioned the cordon arms and the canes so they were spread out over the entire pergola roof, and tied them into place on the wooden beams of the roof.

I had a HUGE pile of vines when I finished pruning–no photo, but I cut that entire gigantic overgrown plant back by half.  It looked pretty puny after that.  But I had faith–this is a grape, after all, and they grow like crazy each year, so I figured I couldn’t damage it too much even if I didn’t prune it exactly right.  (I later learned from a friend who has produced wine from his own wine grapes that you can take a chain saw and cut a grapevine down to the ground, but you won’t kill it, because it will send out new vines from the roots.  In fact, it is pretty difficult to get rid of a grapevine because of this.  This is one way to rejuvenate a badly overgrown grapevine–just cut it completely down and start over with it so you can train it properly from the beginning.)

So the growing season began.  Here it is in June of this year:

'Einset' grape, June 2011

So here it is cut back to two trunks, and I “limbed’ it up so there was no leaf growth until the stem got to the very top of the pergola roof.  Notice that there is a lot of open air showing through the roof at this time–not much leaf cover yet.

'Einset' grape, June 2011

But don’t feel sorry for that vine at all–here’s what it developed into by July 2011:

'Einset' grape, end of July 2011

Notice that there’s not much open space at all now–it is completely covered in leaves . . . and also, finally, baby grape clusters!

'Einset' grapes, end of July 2011

Having it growing on the pergola made it very easy to pick the grapes later, so I liked that.  And I love how they look–they are small, green and tart at this stage, but the clusters are even pretty for decorating a buffet table if you’re having a party.  Now technically, you are supposed to thin the grapes, either remove entire clusters, or remove some of the grapes–the tips—from each cluster, but I wasn’t sure how much the vine would produce, if at all, so I didn’t thin this year.  And frankly, it didn’t seem to hurt anything.  Also I’ve been told if you thin, it produces sweeter grapes, which could be true because the vine is putting its energy into less fruit, but I just decided to leave well enough alone this time around.  If you have a young vine that is only just starting to produce, the advice is to thin the fruit so it doesn’t wear itself out with a huge crop early on in its life, and then let it gradually produce more and more each following year, so the framework of the vine can support the growth of all the fruit.

Here they are in August:

Green 'Einset' grapes, August 2011

The grapes are still green, but filling out and getting bigger.

Finally, on September 5th, here is what they looked like:

Ripe, red 'Einset' grapes, September 5, 2011

So, we were in business–eating fresh and delicious ‘Einset’ table grapes by Labor Day Weekend!  I still don’t have a completely developed cane framework yet with this vine, but nevertheless it produced a lot of fruit for us for about two and a half weeks.  There were a few final grape clusters that I was giving one more day to ripen, and something (birds probably, or a raccoon?) came out and overnight had a big grape-eating party.  I came out the next day, and there were grape leaves everywhere, and fallen fruit, and empty stems on the grape clusters!  So that was the end of that!

I also had people warn me about growing grapes under a pergola where we had a dining table.  They said the bees would become a problem, but I had no trouble with bees at all.  Perhaps because I kept the grapes picked often, so they didn’t fall to the ground and attract insects.  I also have a ton of flowers nearby, and maybe they were so busy with the flowers they didn’t bother with the grapes.  It does produces a dense leaf cover that makes it kind of dark when you are seated there, but that’s why you add a candle chandelier!

For more information of growing and pruning grapes, I recommend Ron Lombaugh’s book called The Grape Grower.  Ron grows grapes locally in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

So that’s it for my grape-growing adventures for this year!  What gardening adventures have you had this season–do tell in the comments!  And visit the garden party.

My $9 Birdbath

You know how you go to yard sales or flea markets, and something just calls out to you?  Well, that happened to me with a plant stand a couple of months ago.  Now, I didn’t really need another plant stand, but it was a good study metal one, and I picked it up for $9, which is pretty inexpensive.  I brought it home, and this is what I turned it into:

The new birdbath!

The individual components were:

The plant stand turned birdbath stand

A plain black metal plant stand.  Once I got it home, I realized that it would need a pretty big container to actually fit into the top of the stand, and once that container was filled with dirt and plants it would be heavy, and it seemed to me that it would tip over pretty easily, so I decided to repurpose it into a birdbath instead.  I didn’t want to spend any more money on this project, so I rummaged around the garage and found some paint, and gave it a coat of turquoise, so it goes with my other outdoor chairs and containers.

The birdbath pan

Then I looked around my potting shed for something that would work for the birdbath basin.  I’ve had pretty birdbaths in the past that have tipped over and the basin has broken, so I wanted something that could take a fall and hopefully survive.  What I found was a plastic container drain pan that I picked up at a yard sale a while back for maybe 50 cents, so I had that already as well, and it fit!  I made it a little more stable by adding a rock to the center.  I may splurge and get some of those polished glass stones in turquoise and clear color from Dollar Tree to go with the rock to add a little bling to the bottom of the basin when you look inside.

I like it, and I like that it was very inexpensive to make a cool garden accessory, as well as quite quick and easy to do.  I put it into the garden, and enjoy looking at it as I walk by daily on the garden path.

Birdbath with the Garden Fairy.

What is new in your garden–do share in the comments below.  Have you repurposed inexpensive items that now live in your garden?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments section!

 

Indoor Seedlings

I have gobs of seeds that I have started inside, and they have been germinating.  I have no fancy equipment, but everything seems to be working so that they are growing, which is good.  Here are some pictures:

This is a closeup of several vegetable starts.  I’ve got some ‘Bullet’ romaine lettuce that is growing very well in the back in a six-pack, and in front of that a couple of ‘Gardener’s Delight’ cherry tomatoes that I am planning on planting out early under plastic, because I am starved for ripe garden tomatoes (!)  In front of that are some ‘Walla Walla Sweet’ onion starts.  I use an egg carton to get a little air circulating under my seed potatoes.  These are early ones–‘Dark Red Norland’ potatoes.

Here is part of the flotilla of baby tomatoes that I started from seed!  This year I am growing these varieties:

  • ‘Gardener’s Delight’–because we had such a bad growing year here last year, I wanted to give these a try again to confirm my findings, but these cherry tomatoes, which for me have been a little larger than ‘Super Sweet 100’ cherry tomatoes, are supposed to not split as easily as the Super Sweets, so we shall see.
  • ‘Costoluto Genovese’–I plant this tomato every year.  Very reliable here, and produces quite a bit of fruit.  Very tasty as well.
  • ‘Super Marzano Hybrid’–I have in years past gotten ‘San Marzano’ seed, and have been very pleased with them, so am trying the Super hybrid to see if it’s any better.  These are a Roma-like tomato excellent for drying, but are also delicious sliced and eaten in salads.
  • ‘Brandywine’–These produce gorgeous and huge tomatoes late in the season, but lately we’ve had cold weather late in the season, so I am only doing a few of these this year.  However, I look forward to them–very good flavor.
  • ‘Cherokee Purple’–I am trying a few of these to see how they do in my garden.  Jamie at An Oregon Cottage blog recommended them and said she’s had good luck with them, so I thought I’d give them a try as well.

I also am growing several different types of flowers from seed this year.  Above are some lavender multibloom geramiums.  (Now, in actuality, these are really called pelargonium, and there is a different plant known as a hardy geranium, and they’re not the same.  However, this is how it was labeled from the seed seller.)  I bought 11 seeds for just under three dollars, so they are a little expensive.  However, I got 10 to germinate, and when you consider that even on sale pelargonium plants are at least one dollar apiece, I think I came out way ahead on that deal.  These seeds are not for the faint of heart at seed starting, however:  tiny little things–don’t want to be planting in the wind or blow your nose at the wrong moment!  I used a tiny little baby spoon to get out one seed at a time, and then I placed it in the center of each container.  That works pretty well for small seeds–petunias are another type that I started from seed, and they are expensive and very small as well.  I don’t normally grow a huge amount of flowers from seed, but I just went a little nuts this year and decided to go for it, so I could do my hanging baskets and containers in hopefully very beautiful ways this season!

It’s been cold and incessantly rainy here, so I am waiting for it to warm up so I can get back outside more.  What is happening in your garden–let me know in the comments!

Visit An Oregon Cottage Blog as well.

Early Gardening Activities For February

I got my vegetable and flower seeds ordered and bought last week.  I normally do this in person, but circumstances this year did not allow for that, so I ordered almost all online.  I ordered from Territorial Seed, Johnny’s, and I am trying Pinetree based on their great prices as well as Jami’s word of recommendation at An Oregon Cottage.  They have a glorious selection of coleus seed, and I went a little crazy with that, but I should have some really gorgeous hanging baskets and containers this year, because I could get seeds that had been sorted into individual colors rather than mixes–I cannot wait!  I will be starting flower seeds around Valentine’s Day, so they’ll be ready to transplant in the middle of May.  I was actually a little late apparently getting my order in at Johnny’s, because they had already run out or had backorders for a couple of the seeds I wanted, but I was able to get my second choices, so it all worked out.  They are really expensive for their shipping costs, but they are also the only place I know to get ‘Nadia’ eggplant seed (a must-have for me because it grows well here, or rather, as well as any eggplant grows here), and they were cheaper in certain instances than Territorial.  I had to figure out the seed cost on a per seed basis (I was seeing double by the end of that mathematical experience), and sometimes Johnny’s was cheaper and sometimes Territorial.  (If you buy a lot of seed, the cost adds up very quickly.  All those packets look so innocent, and you think,”Well, it’s only a couple of dollars.” but it ends up being a lot of money if you are not careful.)  It’s best to get all your seed in the spring, because seed is not always available later in the season, so it always seems expensive to me, but when you consider how much food and flowers it will produce, it’s actually much cheaper than other options, like buying transplants from a nursery.

I got a few little jobs accomplished yesterday out in the garden.  First, I started a little bit of onion, lettuce and spinach seed inside under grow lights to get a few transplants to go outside under plastic in March.  Today I started sprouting my early ‘Dark Red Norland’ seed potatoes inside under lights, as those will be planted out later around the first weekend in April, depending on the weather.  You can read how to do it here.

Next, I moved on to the flower beds.  Slugs are always around, and so I took Sluggo and put it around all my emerging bulb foliage, the hostas, tradscantia and hellebores.  (That’ll fix ’em .)  I then picked the dead leaves off of my ‘Asao’ and ‘Louise Rowe’ clematis vines.  The weather has been fairly warm here, and many of the clematis and roses are starting to break dormancy, so there was a lot of new growth on both.  (The fruit trees and hydrangeas are also beginning to break dormancy as well.)  Now they look a lot neater.  I tied them back into position, so they are all ready to go.

I then noticed the curb strip was looking a little worse for wear, so I went down and cut down dead foliage, and raked up leaves that had caught around the plant crowns.  I used those leaves to mulch nearby flower beds, so that worked out well.

After that, I picked a little mustard greens, arugula and swiss chard that had wintered over under plastic in the garden!  Made greens and feta with penne pasta for dinner with some of it. 

I have yellow crocus and winter aconite blooming–so pretty.  My snowdrops have been blooming for a couple of weeks now, and the winter jasmine is in gorgeous display.  ‘Arnold Promise’ Chinese witch hazel is blooming, but it had a lot of the flower buds blasted by freezing temperatures early this winter, so not so many flowers this time around.  The ‘Texas Scarlet’ flowering quince is about to bloom.  There are even one or two blooms on the forsythia, very early.  And the viburnum continue to bloom off and on–they got their buds frozen late last year, so fewer blooms there, but more appear as the weather warms.  The ‘ Tuscan Blue’ rosemary has also been blooming for a couple of weeks, but much more now as the weather warms.  The rosemary is situated right in front of our dining room windows, and the hummingbirds are often out there eating from the rosemary flowers!

Hope your garden is doing well–leave me a comment and let me know what you are doing in yours.

Please visit An Oregon Cottage for The Garden Party.

Updates For Minerva’s Garden!

Just a note to let you know that I am reworking the entire website, and so it should have a new look in the near future.  All the same great articles, forum, blog and videos, just in a new format that I can more easily manage.  A computer virus destroyed the software that I used to create this site, and so I have been in the process of rebuilding it. I also hope to get a new camera with editing software so that I can take more videos for you–hopefully soon.

Onward and upward!

PS–I read that this was the rainiest April on record ever for here, and I don’t doubt it.  It”s still raining like crazy today–I am more than ready for some sunshine and warmer weather!