Wednesday, March 31, 2010

At least something's growing

As reported earlier this week, I bought a pot of three Hyacinths in hopes to make this dreary house a bit more cheerful. I was worried that our current lack of sun would be a problem, but I need not have feared.

The clusters are already breaking apart and the flowers are trying to open up even without the sun. When the sun makes its much anticipated return tomorrow (along with temperatures 10 degrees higher than today's) I'm sure they'll open up like gangbusters.

It would be nice to have some pretty flowers for the family dinner this Sunday.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Forecast for today and tomorrow: Rain, rain and more rain at about 40 degrees F
Forecast for the rest of the week: Sun, sun and more sun with highs in the high 60s and low 70s F

For the next two days it's supposed to rain - heavily but after that it's supposed to be gorgeous again. (And when you read that 'gorgeous' I suggest you channel Lionel Stander from the credit sequence from the TV show 'Hart to Hart.' Don't know what I mean? Watch this: Hart to Hart Opening Credits )

This past weekend I bought a few Hyacinth. I plan to set them outside along with some potted daffodils and tulips and then, when it's consistently warm enough, plant them around the existing family tulip plot. Of course, they're supposed to get lots of sun - several hours a day. Right now, they're stuck in my kitchen, whimpering because they're not going to get any for two more days.

Hopefully they can hold out.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Not my favorite time of the year

Yesterday's Weather: Sunny with a high of 54 degrees F
Today's Weather: Sunny with a high of 32 degrees F

Yeah, so, March and early April just isn't my favorite time of the year. I don't like being teased and that's all that this weather is - a tease. For a week we had such nice weather. This week - rainy and cold. Yesterday - warmer and sunny. Today - sunny, but frigid.

It's like my mother trying to buy a new purse. Make up your mind already!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Praise the Invention of the Camera

It's a good thing cameras were invented or else I wouldn't remember anything correctly.

I had thought that I started my first flower garden and vegetable garden in the same year - 2006. After going through my photo album, I see that I actually had a flower garden first - in 2005 - before I had a vegetable garden. So, that post about my first garden a few days ago? All a lie.

THIS post is about my first garden.

When we decided to move to Maine and were told we would be allowed to live in the family farmhouse, I immediately started planning a flower garden. I had never had one before and the only things I had ever grown were Aloe plants and Pothos. Since I had kept them alive I thought I might be able to grow things outdoors.

We moved to Maine in December of 2004. (Side Note: NEVER move to a cold climate in the winter. First of all, the days are short and driving in the dark in the rain and/or snow is a real bitch and second, the shock of a Maine winter after living in Florida for four years wasn't too pleasant.)

When Spring finally arrived, I started making my plans. The Father-in-Law (heretofore referred to as FIL) said I could plant the garden in the front of the house so this is what I had to work with:

Pretty basic stuff. As you can see from this picture, it was in the shade by the end of the day, but for the first half and then some, there was plenty of sun.

So, I made plans. I don't know why, but I only made the thing about a foot deep. I fixed this I think two years later, but I still don't know why I did that. I think I might have been skittish about 'messing up' the FIL's lawn. This was the house he grew up in and was obviously quite territorial even though no one had lived in it for over a decade.

(That's my dog China there on the left. Best. Dog. Ever.)

Finally, in late May I planted my first flower garden. I basically went to the local greenhouse (Longfellows - a great place) and picked out what I thought was pretty. I didn't plan or worry about annual versus perennial, I just saw something I liked and got it. One exception were the Geraniums. My Mother-in-Law (MIL) suggested them and I liked them.

I would show you the other side, but I didn't take many pictures of the garden. I don't know why. I take pictures of practically everything I do now - many, many pictures - but the handful of pictures I'm putting in this post constitutes all of the pictures I took of the garden.

For my first garden, it was a success. It didn't 'fill in' but the rocks made up for that and what I did plant grew well. I was happy with it and planned to do it again the next year.

I learned a lot from that garden. One was that it really needed to be deeper. Another was that I really like Petunias and don't like Gladiolus (although I would grow them for another two years before swearing them off).

But most importantly, I learned that I did indeed love gardening and would be doing this for as long as I had the space and the means to do so.

Strawberry Sundae F1 Hybrid Petunia - 65 Seeds - Annual

Monday, March 22, 2010

Signs of Spring

Our first day of Spring was gorgeous. It was sunny and so warm that I wore shorts for most of the day. Unfortunately, a cold snap has set in and the high today was only 45. Oh well. We normally don't have warm days like we had last week until at least April.

There are still signs of Spring around the farmhouse. As I posted yesterday, everything I've personally planted has been eaten but there are plenty of plants around that have been here for ages and are doing just fine.

The Lilac bush has started budding. I was worried that it wouldn't do well this year. My Father-in-Law (who is becoming a main character on this blog, isn't he?) did some 'pruning' on it last Spring - right as it was in full bloom. He basically gutted the poor thing and I'm pleased to see that it seems to have done well over the winter. Time will tell if it actually flowers this season.

According to the family, these tulips have been here for decades. When we moved in, only one flower bloomed at a time - for at least two years. Apparently, only one had bloomed for over ten years. Then the next year, we had three tulips. Last year, there were seven. It looks as if there will be multiple flowers again. Yay!

At the far end of our field is a pussy willow bush. It's technically on the plot of land that also holds our farmhouse, but it really goes with our Aunt's house next door. Either way, it was nice to see it opening up.

For the most part, everything is still brown but things are slowly waking up. And even when brown, the glow of the sun makes everything beautiful, even our little detached garage.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I hate moles

Yeah, I know no gardener really likes moles, but this year I have even more reason to hate the little buggers.

I have no plants left. None, zip, nada. Every plant I have planted on this property has been eaten by moles. This includes two rose bushes, three Iris plants, some Hosta, an Astilbe plant and groundcover Phlox. The insulation that the Father-in-Law insists we put around the house ever winter has turned into the perfect winter housing for moles and of course, that's where all my flower beds are. Not only did we provide them with housing this winter, we also dished out their  meals as well.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

My First Garden

Today's Forecast: Sunny with a high of 65 ° F

Today's post will be a journey through time all the way back to a simpler time - 2006. All right, so it wasn't really any simpler but I still had my cat and my husband still had both kidneys.

I had decided the year before that I was going to start gardening. I asked the FIL (father-in-law) if it would be all right to dig up a patch of land for a vegetable garden. Of course, I couldn't be allowed to do it myself (I would have done it wrong, you know) so he did it for me. I can't say that I was too angry about this.

So, I got my first patch of dirt to work with right next to the Smoke bush. Ta-dah!

Since it was my first garden, I followed the advice of those wiser than myself and waited to plant until the end of May. So, in early June, my garden wasn't much too look at. It was just a big pile of dirt with a few tomato plants waving at everyone from the far end.

But underneath all that loose soil were seeds - cucumber, watermelon and (way too many) pumpkin seeds. I can't tell you how excited I was when I saw this for the first time:

I had my very own pumpkins growing in my very own piece of dirt! And over the next few weeks I saw many, many more of these sprigs. I mean, one plant = one pumpkin, correct? So, I needed five vines. You can never have enough jack-o-lanterns, am I right?

Because it was my first garden, I refused to cut anything. I mean, I knew intellectually that pruning and cutting back the plant would help the remaining grow but I just couldn't do it. So, in a very short time, my garden looked like this: (I'm wouldn't be surprised if it scared small children as they passed by.)

Even though it was completely out of control, I still enjoyed it. I weeded and kept a close watch on all the new growth. And the first time I saw one of these, I thought it was just beautiful!

I took many pictures of the little beast, uh, beauty, and left it alone. Next day, one of my tomato plants was gone and I finally realized that he just couldn't stay. So, I humanely removed him from the plant and chucked him into the field.

(I don't do that anymore. Those monsters are quickly turned to goo as soon as I spot them. And they've been getting worse every year. Last year, they ate three tomato plants in one night. I'm still struggling with how to keep them away without dousing my plants with chemicals.)

So, harvest time came and I cut through all those pumpkin vines to get my five pumpkins. I was a little surprised when, after it was all done, I had a few more than I anticipated:

But still, more than enough is almost always better than too few so I certainly wasn't going to complain.

Well, I did complain a little when I had to clean up all those unnecessary vines but that's the price we pay for fresh produce.

Even with the mistakes I made, that first garden was still my best producing garden. It's funny, I've learned a lot over the past five years and I do things a lot differently now. And even though I know they're smarter choices, I still wonder if I should just go back to throwing seeds in the dirt and letting them do their thing.

Nah. One of these days I'll get the right balance. I'll keep digging until I do.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

So far this year

Today's Forecast: Sunny with a high temperature of 58 degrees Fahrenheit (Major WIN!)

In Maine, you don't start any serious dirt digging until mid-to-late April. When I first started gardening I was told not to plant anything until after Memorial Day. While this rule of thumb is prudent, I just can't wait that long.

It's going to be harder to wait this year. Spring seems to have arrived about two weeks early. Considering that last year we had excessive rain and it never really felt 'warm' up here, I welcome the over-eagerness of the season.

But I will not be planting anything into the ground for at least another month. That doesn't mean I haven't started getting ready, though.

Last Saturday was yard clean-up day. Our home is on a large piece of land and the front of the property is lined with beautiful Maple trees. We clean up the leaves in late Fall, but over the Winter branches and twigs break off. So, I spent several hours raking up all the loose branches that I could find - three large wheelbarrows worth.

We also live on the major highway that goes through Belgrade and you know what that means - trash. I was raised never to litter and to always be considerate of others' property so it never fails to infuriate me when I find cups, fast food chain bags, discarded lottery tickets (all losers, dammit - but that's fitting, since their former owners were obviously losers), and other other types of debris scattered about our lawn.

To be fair, compared to other places I've lived (Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and Florida) Mainers keep their state tidy. But there are always those that find consideration way too taxing and therefore use my yard as their personal trash can.

We also have a crumbling driveway so loose asphalt is always an issue in the Spring. This is the worst part because finding those little black rocks is rather important so that the lawn mower's blades don't hit them and send them flying.

So, the yard is clean now and my father-in-law (who actually owns the property) is happy. He's even more picky about the yard's appearance than I am.

This weekend or next weekend will be flower bed cleaning day, but that depends on whether or not this relatively warm weather is forecast to continue. Our house is old and we line the bottom of the house with bags of leaves in the Fall to add more insulation. These cover my flower beds, of course, and have to be removed before any real maintenance can be performed.

But I think it is time. The tulips are already sprouting and I'm sure my Iris and Hosta are doing the same under all the black bags.

Also, I absolutely hate the way my house looks in the Spring. No matter how neatly they're lined up, black garbage backs just make the place look, well...trashy.

First Post...but not my first garden

This Spring I will be planting my fifth garden.

I've been interested in gardening since I was in high school. I have always been an avid reader and in one of my teen romance novels, the main character used gardening to calm her nerves. The writer was obviously a gardener herself (or did excellent research) and made digging in the dirt sound like the most relaxing thing to do, ever.

Really wish I could find that book.

Thing was, I and my parents lived in rented houses at the time in the middle of rather large towns and therefore did not have a garden. At the time I didn't even think about container gardening and besides, knowing me at the time, I would just start a container and then forget all about it within a week.

So, over the years, I've been waiting for a good time to have a garden. It finally came about in the Spring of 2006. My husband and I had moved to his family farm house in Maine in the winter of 2004. The following growing season just wasn't a good time to start so I waited another year.

So far, that first year has still been my best. Everything grew fast and large, I didn't have any bug problems and all of my vegetable plants yielded a high number of fruit. All of our relatives were frankly shocked, especially since we had a large deer population in the area. The leaves weren't nibbled even once.

Since that first year I've had bug problems, powdery mildew and all the normal travails of a gardener. Deer still haven't been much of a problem, but I give my dog the credit for that. I think the deer simply smell her around and don't come very close to the house, which is fine with me.

I've tried to keep track of my growing practices and keep a record of what works and what doesn't. I'm pretty organized but I never could get myself to update that damn spreadsheet. And since I enjoy reading other gardening blogs, I thought, why not just start my own and use it for posting my thoughts on gardening AND keeping track of what I do over the seasons?

So, here it is, My Maine Garden Blog. Since it's only halfway through March there won't be much to post for the next month or so, so I'll do some posting of pictures of things I did for the past four growing seasons until things do start to pick up.

So, if you care to join my on my Adventures in Gardening, welcome! I hope I at least don't bore you.