Frosty San Jose

frosty inflatable

My son’s prized inflatable, pretend snowing in San Jose

Still no rain, and certainly no snow, but we did get some frost last night.  This isn’t a big deal for everyone, but it’s a rare occurrence around here.  It’s December 4th after all.  The tomato plant had to go eventually.

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I have lots of frozen peas (and I never stepped foot in the freezer aisle). They look plump and juicy and, well, frozen. Since it’s a winter crop, I’m not sure what to think.  The plant doesn’t seem to mind, but it may take a few days for any damage to appear.  I’ll let you know.

frozen pea

Frozen peas, available now in your neighborhood garden

Last week I *finally* planted some beats. I soaked the seeds at the same time I planted the peas, but originally planned to put them in the veggie garden out back.  The tomato plant hung on and on in one bed, and the strawberries in the other, so I didn’t have room.  I planted the beats in the curb garden with the carrots and peas.  I hope they’re equally successful, and that I didn’t plant them too late.

plump pea

Plump and ready

I started my broccoli seeds indoors and all was going well. Somewhat foolishly I started hardening them off, the process of acclimatizing the seeds to their new outdoor home. It would have been better to wait till the holidays were over. I simply forgot about them.  They came back inside for water and a rest.  Hopefully enough of them will recover so I can make a go of it.

Next up, spring bulbs. My back just hasn’t been up to the task this year, so bags of bulbs sit in the garage waiting for my next move.

I think I’ll go make myself a hot cup of tea while I give this more thought. I hope you’re enjoying your day.

Frosty paw prints

Frosty paw prints

Organized at Heart

I’m posting a series of articles featuring organizing around the holidays this week on my blog Organized at Heart. If the subject interests you, please go take a peak.  Today’s blog has a few filing tips (boring) along with beautiful file folders (sweet) to inspire this mundane task.

Plan-Free: My Mellow-Yellow Weekend

We had a mellow-yellow, no plans weekend. I loved it. That’s not to say I didn’t do anything, but that I enjoyed doing ‘whatever.’

First up, crafting a wreath:

wreath detailI’ve had an idea bouncing around in my head for a while and wanted to give it a try. I’ve been drying a few hydrangea blooms, now faded to a soft purple-gray. The sage is winding down the season, but still has plenty of purple plumage to spare. The thought was to wrap strands of the soft sage along the edges of the wreath, punctuated with three hydrangeas and a bit of ribbon. The colors are lovely, but the implementation is all wrong. Further, the more I worked with the hydrangea, the more I damaged the brittle blooms. Stay tuned for my sad little tale later this week.

Next up, seed organizing:

Oh, how I love organizing. And seeds. And my computer.

I gave my Seed Keeper an end-of-season clean out. It’s a great place to collect and store the seeds, but after a busy spring, I’d neglected the contents. When I had finished planting, I tossed empty seed packets into the box, thinking I would later use them for record-keeping.

Seed Keeper Deluxe

Seed Keeper Deluxe

Head slap: I keep a blog. So, remembering the log part of blogging, I tossed the torn packets into the recycle bin. (At one point I thought I would save them to make cards, but muddied finger prints and torn edges helped me realize the error of my ways.)

The clean out left plenty of room for this season’s seed collection, my most methodical and organized to date.

Matching garden photos with the seeds I plan to store, I created a photo collage.  I sized the collage to fit a sheet of name badge labels, passed it through the printer and voila, an easy way to make seed packets. Using glassine envelopes on hand from last year, I included the name and the year, added the label and seeds, and filed them in my nifty Seed Keeper.

flower seed packets

Flowering annual seed packets ready to fill

flower seed labels

Photo collage for identifying seeds

squirrel on the fence

Looking for directions (sorry buddy, these seeds aren’t for you).  The peanuts are one house over.

End of the weekend, project:

I connected with Emma at Greenhouse Starter over the weekend and made plans to ship her Craft it Forward treasure.  I stayed up making a card to go with it, the perfect end to my mellow-yellow, no plans weekend.

Are you making your way through Monday or still hanging on to the weekend?

Seedy Business

last of the annuals

Remains of the Day

It’s seedy business.

If I don’t do it though, the birds, squirrels, wind and rain will.

Gather seeds, that is.

I’m fairly new to seed-saving.  I’ve always been a seed packet junkie, often buying far more seeds than I could ever hope to plant.  When my son was much younger, he regularly talked me into buying every pumpkin variety to be had.  Santa brought additional seeds for his Christmas stocking each year.  Our seeds runneth over!

Last year I started saving my own seeds and now I’m hooked.

Planting:

I planted four o’clock seeds this summer with mixed success, but collected them again for a second try.   I successfully started one plant in a pot, but thanks to ‘self-seeding’ ended up with multiple plants in the side garden.

Growing:

The compost bin produced an entire crop of pumpkins so I had left over seeds to spare.  I started several plants indoors, then gave them away to friends.  Reports were positive, so I definitely plan to do this next year.

Sharing:

This is the best part of my seed-saving adventures.  I saved handfuls of Cosmo seeds at the end of 2012 and gave them as gifts that Christmas.  I made a tri-fold card using digital software and my own Cosmo photos, then added small seed packets inside.  A few of my friends kept the cards and seeds intact, but others planted them.  My friend Stacie sent me a photo last month of her towering Cosmos.  That was pretty cool.

Cosmos Seed Cards - Page 001

Cosmo seed card front panel

Cosmos Seed Cards - Back Panel

Cosmos Seed Cards – Back Panel

Early this spring, I  gave away pumpkin seeds to a pair of adorable three-year-old twins.  I met them walking with their dad one evening while I was working in my garden.  The girls showed genuine interest, so I went inside and got them seeds to take home and plant…and they did!  I saw the family a few months later, and dad told me the plants took root.  Good stuff.

Saving:

The annual garden is going to seed and temps are finally dropping.  I knew time was of the essence.  I collected a healthy sample for next year, at the same time leaving plenty of seeds on the plants for my foraging friends.

seed gathering tray

My system: I used a portable tote and plastic cups from an Easter-egg dying project. I dropped seeds into the cups, then salvaged a bloom for easy identification later.

I’m looking forward to sorting and labeling seeds this weekend, a joyful activity for someone ‘born to organize’ like me.   I’ll share my progress next week.

seed pod

My favorite seed pod. Tiny black seeds tumbled out when I gently tapped the pod

Happy weekend!

Looking Back at the Corner Garden

Earlier this year I removed a small patch of lawn, a corner near the sidewalk facing the house. Originally I thought I would plant annuals and perennials, but decided annuals would be more fun. Perennials, once established, require little maintenance. I wanted a bit of action in my new flower garden and it’s action I got.

sidewalk corner

Corner near the sidewalk

April:

After removing the grass and preparing the soil, I planted seeds, including Sunflowers, Bachelor Buttons, Cosmos and a Spring Mix of assorted purple plants.  I covered it all with a portable green house. The goal was to keep digging critters away from the seedlings to give them a fighting chance.

It half-worked. None of the critters were able to dig, but I couldn’t keep it well-watered either.

The seeds didn’t get enough consistent moisture, and next to nothing germinated.(I did get one sunflower).

green house covers

April, 2013
Seeds tucked in for warmth and safety

May:

Disappointed but not defeated, I headed to the nursery and bought a few cell packs. I picked up a dozen sunflowers as a compliment to the one that grew from seed, my signature annual Alyssum and a few flowering annuals.

sunflowers and annuals

May, 2013
Sunflowers, Alyssum and assorted annuals

June:

In early June, I drove up to the house in an unseasonal windstorm, and saw the fruits of my recent labor (the sunflowers) bending in the wind. I dragged a bench, a folding table and anything else I could think of and braced all the plants. I’m sure the neighbors wondered why I would move the bench to the edge of the sidewalk, but desperate times (sunflowers in peril) require desperate measures (in this case looking foolish). That said, I’ve gone out to lunch with girlfriends wearing a wig and false eyelashes so I suppose my concerns about looking foolish are moot. Ha!

sunflowers and bench

June, 2013
Sunflowers staked to the bench

July/August:

The summer heat settled in and then this happened. The Bachelor Buttons, Cosmos and assorted seeds took off.  Every week something new popped up.  What a joyous experience. As the sunflowers died back, the annuals filled in. This also became my test garden. I bought (and forgot) about three pink zinnias and left them to suffer the heat out back.  I replanted them in the sidewalk garden and they flourished.

sidewalk garden flowers

September:

The Bachelor Buttons started going to seed, testing my resolve. The orderly me wanted to deadhead the flowers and trim back dying branches. Daily visits from the birds kept me in check. It was nice to see them swoop down and grab a bite. Another plus, re-seeding. As the birds and squirrels drop seeds, they’re likely to regrow the following season. We all win!

I planted most of my garden peas in the curb garden, but since I had plenty, I planted a few among the summer annuals. As the annuals died back, the peas could take their place.

zinnias and cosmos

October:

October was all about pumpkins and Halloween. Drip irrigation and a warm sun kept things humming along.

Oh, and this visitor:

butterfly collage

November:

The peas are growing among the summer annuals and will need to be staked soon.  Still lots of color but the zinnias are starting to decay.  Nightly temps in the forties signal the end of summer weather, even when it does make it to 72 F by mid-day.

going to seed

November, 2013
Going to seed

garden peas and flowers

November, 2013
Garden peas grow among the flowers

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What’s next? Time to collect seeds for next year. I’ve snagged a few here and there, but I need to make a concerted effort now before our promised Monday rain. Oh wondrous rain, how I’ve missed you.

Then on to planning for next year. Happy weekend. I’ll see you Monday.

Mind Your Peas and Schmooze

sprouted peas

Sprouted peas under the trellis

Do you remember the expression “mind your Ps and Qs?”  A quick wiki search lead to several possible origins, each one plausible and fascinating.

One explanation suggests that “Ps and Qs” is short for “pleases” and “thank-yous.” Young children would pronounce them as Ps and Qs.  Here are a few more:

  • Another origin comes from English pubs and taverns of the seventeenth century. Bartenders would keep a watch on the alcohol consumption of the patrons; keeping an eye on the pints and quarts that were consumed. As a reminder to the patrons, the bartender would recommend they “mind their Ps and Qs”.
  • Another origin could be from sailors in the eighteenth century who were reminded to pay attention to their peas (pea coat) and queues (pony tail).
  • Another possible and viable theory is after the Norman Invasion of 1066 the courts, church, and establishment were becoming French-speaking and the English dialect of the 11th Century had no qs; so one must watch their usage in court or discourse with the French Norman conquers.
  • Another origin of the story of “mind your Ps and Qs” comes from early printing presses. Printers placed individual letters on a frame to print a page of text. The letters were reversed, making it easy to mistake lowercase ps and qs in setting the type. – Wikipedia

Where was I?

Oh yeah, peas…

I’m happy to report that under Mighty Mouse’s watchful eye, the garden peas are up! Hurray, hurray.

white cat

No squirrels over here.

I planted half the seeds, soaking them first for 48 hours to rehydrate them. I hold a reserve for what seems inevitable: the unceremonious removal by foraging squirrels. Apparently squirrels don’t like peas.  Score!!!

Not only did several come up in the curb garden, but at least half a dozen sprouted as well among the annuals on the other side of the lawn. As the annuals go to seed, the climbing peas will take their place.

Sprouted peas in the annual garden

Sprouted peas in the annual garden

It’s a happy day in the garden when seeds sprout and neighbor’s beloved kitty stops by to mind the peas and schmooze.

cat in the garden

The peas look okay

cat in the garden

The irrigation is in working order.

cat in the garden

Now scratch my ears!!!

Growing Peas and Carrots

Not only did I grow up eating peas and carrots, but I liked them, too. It will be nice growing our own crop this year, assuming the crafty squirrels let them grow.

grey squirrel

Peas:

Last week I mentioned hedging my bets by starting a few seeds indoors.  Once I consulted the seed packet I decided to direct-sow.  I soaked half the seeds in water for 48 hours, then planted them directly outdoors. I saved the rest of the seed packet to replenish the inevitable casualties.

Looking left and right for squirrels, I surreptitiously pushed several seeds into the soil around the arbor. I planted the rest amongst the still-flowering annuals. With luck, they’ll all come up and produce lovely green vines along both sides of the sidewalk.

Carrots:

I have a lot of faith in the success of the carrots, since we planted starts instead of seeds.  I say ‘we’ because this year I had help from several of Jazzy’s day care children next door. The older kids planted two each;  I filled in later with the rest. Planting was fun, but the real hit: watering cans.  I never met a youngster that didn’t like water.

watering

Watering

I think they’ll get a kick out of watching the carrots grow. I’ve added a carrot countdown in the sidebar to the right so we have a general idea of harvest day. Hopefully each young gardener grows at least one or two carrots to take home.

Stay tuned!

planting carrots

Little hands planting carrots

planting carrots from cell packs

Flip, tap, squeeze and release

Pumpkin Harvest, Cousin Shelley

Squash bugs

Squash bugs

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know this is pumpkin harvest week at gardeningnirvana.  The probable final count is ten, 12 if you count Frank and his cousin Shelley.  I left a few late-season fruits on the vine since I’m nothing if not optimistic when it comes to pumpkins.

The squash bugs continue unabated, so I need to come up with a plan.  I want to use the soon-to-be vacated planting bed for my cool season crops, but not until the bed is pest-free.

I’m soaking seeds on the kitchen counter as we speak for peas and beets.  Broccoli seeds don’t require a good soak, but I need to get busy setting them out soon. The first day of autumn in our hemisphere is still a month away. The changes in the air say otherwise.  I hate to miss a good planting opportunity.

In case you missed yesterday’s post, here’s another peak at Frank.

frank the pumpkin

Frank aka a pumpkin casualty

Frank wears his scars proudly, forgiving the gentle gardener for her blunder. Shelley on the other hand has piercing eyes and a lopsided grin, courtesy of an unknown pest. Since everyone loves a good ‘before and after’ shot, without further ado, here’s Shelley:

2013, 08-27