Tuesday, May 20, 2014

On My Birthday

On my birthday, the birds are always singing. The grass is lush and the trees finally have their leaves.

On my birthday, the air is thick with the smell of lilacs. The flowers bloom and the bees buzz.

On my birthday, my nails are dark with dirt. Veggie sprouts grow strong and flower stalks grow sturdy.

Garden is planted! May 18th

Zinnia in Bloom May 20th

On my birthday, snow in May is unimaginable. The sun is shining and the sky is blue.

A Salvia bud poised to bloom

On my birthday, three months of summer lie ahead. Plans are made and anticipation grows.

Scout saying "Happy Birthday" to me this morning, May 20th
On my birthday, I feel like I'm getting a life-long, love-filled hug from the universe.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Summer Begins with One Last Snow Storm

May snow storms are to be expected in Colorado, but a snow storm on May 11th was a tad bit too late for my liking. Oh well, what can ya do. Cover the garden, protect new plantings, and wait for the blue skies and bright sunshine to come back. Then, assess the damage. That's all you can do.

This May snow storm started with a couple of days of refreshing rain and thunderstorms. I enjoyed that to the fullest, even though pea-sized hail made an appearance somewhere in between.
May 7th hail. Small, but mighty

There's a lot of luck involved in getting your garden to survive a hail storm, and somehow I managed to get a load of it. Patrick happened to have the afternoon off, and was able to get the garden covered before everything got totally messed up. I may have lost a tomato or two (I won't really know until this snow melts), but everything seemed to survive okay thanks to the garden cover and hoop set-up we have going on.

You can see the covered garden to the right.

Once the snow melts and summer sets back in, I'll be following the hail/snow-survival protocol I covered three years ago in this post. Check it out if you need some tips for getting your garden back after the hail and snow we just experienced.

Saturday, the day before the snow storm, was a gorgeous spring day. It reached 70 degrees before the clouds moved in in the early evening. Everyone was out enjoying the weather before we were relegated to the indoors for the next couple of days.

May 10th. Roselle enjoying the Lilacs before the snow takes em out
Flower Child

Scout and Satchmo playing on Saturday morning

 Then, everything changed. Clouds rolled in, temperatures dropped and the wind started howling. Sunday morning we woke up to about two inches of snow, and it didn't stop until late Monday morning. By then, we had about 8 inches on the ground, even with the afternoon rain we got in between the hours of snow on Sunday.
Spring Snow May 11-12th. Picture taken Monday morning.

A rain interlude on Sunday afternoon cleared most of the snow off of the branches

Happy dogs in the park Sunday evening
The sun came out late Monday morning

 When you live snuggled up to the foothills, a lot can change in a small amount of time. This is what the garden looked like over the span of one week:

May 3rd. 80 degrees, sunny and filled with stubborn weeds

May 4th. 85, sunny and freshly planted with Thyme groundcover (I ran out of pea gravel mulch before I took this)

May 11th. 35 degrees and snow, then rain, then more snow. Covered in garden cloth.

We're not even in the clear yet! Lows are forecasted to reach the mid 20s tonight. Those freezing temperatures are even worse for the plants than the 8 inches of snow. I'll just have to wait and see how everything survives, then do some damage control before the summer gets into full swing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Rain in Fort Collins is Kinda a Big Deal

Last night, as I was drifting off to sleep, my body turned towards our open window, I was suddenly pulled toward consciousness by a clap of thunder. My eyes sprung open, and 30 seconds later I saw a flash of lighting. For the next ten minutes or so, I lay in bed, comfortable and cozy, and counted the seconds between each lightning flash and thunder roll. Slowly, it got closer. I heard the pitter patter of rain on the metal roof of our shed. I inhaled the spring wind that suddenly swirled around our bedroom and I smiled. It was a thunderstorm. An isolated one, but a thunderstorm. It was all over after about 20 minutes, but this morning I saw that the deck was still a bit wet -- a sure sign that we got a steady rain for longer than a minute.

The radar and forecasts are looking pretty solid as far as rain goes. This afternoon, tonight and tomorrow afternoon -- rain. I can't wait to see how two rainy days change the landscape of our little yard and garden. I can't wait to relish the view of green foothills, usually tawny by July. I can't wait to take a deep breath of rain-soaked air.

Horestooth Reservoir on a stormy day in early June.
Please don't remind me what happened the last time I got pumped for rain.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The High Hopes of Early Spring Gardening

Well, I'm often warned against getting my hopes up for a rainy day in Fort Collins, and for good reason. My enthusiasm for a rainy forecast was all for naught, yet again. Remember that rainy Sunday I was getting all pumped for? Yeah, that didn't happen. It was a cloudy and windy Sunday, but most def not a rainy one. And since then, we've had a total of maybe .00001 inches of rainfall. So, yeah, you can see why I get frustrated with the weather from time to time. But seeing the news reports on the horrendous flooding currently happening in Florida  and remembering the damage of the flood last fall does tend to put things in perspective for me. Plus, I do love the Colorado-blue skies and warm sunshine we get in abundance. So, I'm going to move on from complaining about the lack of rain...for now.

I'm more than ready to talk about early spring gardening, and all of the big hopes and dreams that come with it. And May Day is probably one of the best times to have the discussion. May is probably my favorite month of the year. Not only is it host to my birthday and wedding anniversary, but it signifies the true awakening of the plant world, too. So I get very giddy in May. And this year is no different.

Mixed lettuce sprouts in my Salad Bowl container
This year, I was on top of early-spring planting for the first time in my short gardening career. I planted onions, carrots, peas, beets and my lettuce bowl in Mid-March and everything is coming along nicely except for my beets. I didn't have any luck with my beets last year, either, so I'm still trying to solve that riddle. If anyone has any tips, I'd love to hear them! I planted my garlic too late last year (another learning experience), but they came back in full force this year, making for a pleasant springtime garden surprise.

My pea sprouts and a stick-and-hoop trellis. Garlic and onions in the 2nd bed in the background
Early in March, my friend clued me into the fact that peas and beets should be sprouted before you plant them in order to get the best results. So, I put my seeds in a damp paper towel, then into a plastic bag, then into my grow station to get some little sprouts. They not only managed to grow sprouts, but mold, too! So that was my first mistake, and could possibly be why my beets aren't growing. Peas are much bigger than beet seeds, so I was able to easily pick out the pea sprouts with little to no mold on them, and scratch off the mold that was there. Plus peas are so easy. I'm going to grow more next year, I think. They are basically the beans of springtime.

I'm not really a crafty person, but peas require some sort of trellis, so I found skinny sticks to stick into the ground near the spouts, then angled those sticks toward two garden hoops on the edge. I'm hoping they will grow towards those garden hoops and make a double-arch of peas over the garden bed. That'd look pretty awesome. If I ever get some DIY confidence again, there are a variety of even cooler things I could do for a pea trellis:
A cool, artsy pea trellis
Pea trellis made of tree branches

Somehow, I highly doubt my attempts would look anything like the trellises above.

Another thing I learned more about this year is something called "Companion Planting." I'm pretty excited about this concept, and it will keep coming up. As I mentioned in a previous post, the basic idea is planting plants with and near others that help them grow and keep away pests. And of course, there are always some plants that are better off being separated. For instance, pole beans don't like beets, onions or garlic, so they are a little pickier than others. It's a pretty awesome concept, and I'm totally embracing it.

Onions are really good companion plants in general, because they keep away a variety of pests, so I've planted them pretty much everywhere (I did try to keep them away from my designated bean spot). Onions are said to be especially helpful to carrots because they keep away carrot flies and help to loosen the soil, making it easier for the root vegetable to grow down. I also heard from a gardener friend that radishes do the same thing. Both carrots and onions are good companion plants for tomatoes, so I've planted a mix of carrots and onions around my designated spots for tomatoes. I'll take pictures of the onions and carrots together once the carrot tops get a little bigger.

My early-spring veggies have been hanging out in the ground for over a month now, and it's time to move on to planting my tomatoes this weekend. I have new garden hoops that I can use to put garden fabric over them if we hit any frosty nighttime lows. I'll probably plant my pepper starters, cucumbers, beans and herbs in two more weeks.
Still doing a good job guarding the plants he is.

Pepper, Marigold and Tomato starts with Thyme groundcover 

But my big, time-consuming project this weekend will be trying to dig up as many weeds as possible in the paths around the garden beds, prepping the soil and planting some Thyme ground cover to try to create a pretty, weed-resistant mat around the stepping stones. I have a big issue with Bindweed in this area, so I'm really trying not to get my hopes up. But the pictures of quick-spreading, drought-resistant and sun-loving Thyme groundcover on High Country Gardens makes that kinda hard.

A lawn of "Reiter Creeping Thyme"

"Pink Chintz" Thyme

If I can coax my "Reiter" and "Pink Chintz" Thyme to look a fraction as good as these pictures, I'll be happy. I just need something that will go to battle with the stupid Bindweed that will never, ever disappear.