Friday, February 25, 2005

Week 8 of 2005

Tuesday: So far no rain for two days and a full day of sun today. Things are starting to dry out. You know each year about this time I whine about too much rain, and then sometimes, like today, I look around and realize that if this is a typical spring in 6 weeks I will be begging for rain. April has been host to some nasty droughts in the past and is almost always a very dry month. I picked up eight Dwarf Burford Hollies today to finish the arch at the top of the cross bed. Other than the normal spur of the moment can't live without plants purchases, this is it for the spring. I quite a few plant moves left to do, but nothing serious except for the Azalea. I am in a quandary because it is very late to attempt the move, but they are doing so poorly where they are I fear they will not survive till next year.

Here is a new site, which comes to me by way of website feedback from Patrick over in New Orleans (Metairie). Check it out. It is a pretty neat site.

Saturday: Worked late every night this week. I am stuck with having to be satisfied with occasional peaks at the garden shows on HGTV while doing household chores this morning. Maybe I'll make it to the gardens later in the day, and it is a gorgeous one too. I did get the arch bed finished. The race is on with the Coco grass. It is sprouting everywhere and as near as I can tell growing about a half inch a day. Why do weeds do that and not ornamental plants. Oh well, if they did someone would label them as invasive and try to ban them. Although we do have a few invasive plants like the Chinese Tallow whose problem is quite obvious, many labeled as invasive seem to get getting an unearned reputation. OK, back to HGTV, first it should be called HHHHHHHGTV to reflect the pitiful ratio of gardening shows to other. And this year the lineup is as pitiful as I can ever recall. At least Paul James is still on. He is a good host, but even he needs to find some new material, not that I am complaining, due to the lack of other choices. I miss Gardener's Jounal, and Garden Diary. I found them both quite inspirational.

I also took advantage of this morning in to add some new features to the site. First is a new feedback form that does not require you to use email Hopefully this will inspire folks to give me more feedback. It does help with the motivation. I also added a this week in pictures section to the this week in the journal.

It is late afternoon on Saturday. Yes, I made it to New Dawn and the pond is in, yes that's right, the pond is in, all 900 gallons of it. I even got a few inches of water in it. Everything hurts, I had to dig the last few inches and another 2 inches all around while standing in several inches of thick clay mud. I shoveled as much water as clay. I broke off the water faucet, got the mower stuck, and did all kinds of fun things today, but the pond is in. Yahoo!

Sunday: I saw the first of the Redbuds starting to bloom today and the Flowering Quince is at its peak. This week will be fairly warm, but with another drop to near 40 during one of the week nights. Most plants are kind of just sitting there ready to bust out but waiting just a bit longer. We have another two weeks before we are pretty much completely safe from frost. Until then there is so much to do it is mind boggling. I need a month off every spring. It will get better each year. I built some new beds this year for the first time in 2 years. Last year I took some down and redesigned others for lower maintenance. Mowing the orchard area is much better. Now, if I could just get some Roundup down before we weeds get the upper hand. The battle will be won or lost in the next 2 weeks.

Almost forgot - The Banana Shrub (Michelia figo) started opening blooms with that wonderful smell. This is its first season to bloom

Mr. Calvin J. Picard, mentioned in the Journals many times, was my old neighbor who moved away last year. A gifted gardeners who was always a joy to talk with and a free giver of plants like my Mulberry, Celeste Fig, crinums, Champanelle grapes, bananas, and others, passed away this week. This unidentified heirloom rose came from his gardens and put on quite a show this week. I am sure it was in his honor. Calvin, we'll miss you.

The fruit crop is developing nicely on this large Loquat, known locally by the old timers as a Japan Plum.. I have 3 seedlings of this tree planted at New Dawn and 3 more in pots. This one is in the backyard. The largest planted seedling might be ready to start setting fruit as early as next year.

As you can see we still have many Grapefruit on the tree. I should probably pick them all as the citrus will begin to flower in the next 30 days. I would guess this tree will have a small crop in 2005 after the bumper crop of 2004.

The Amaryllis are starting to show well as are the Daylilies. I moved the winter before, so last year they did OK, but I have high hopes for this year.

Arising from the dead stalk of last year, the Angel's Trumpets are well on their way to recovery. Note the Gladiolus Byzantinus in the foreground as well. These old heirloom glads naturalize readily here in the Gulf South.

This thicket of branches going every direction is our Cassia. Brought here 3 years ago as two small twigs, it is now a thicket about 12x12x12 feet. It will be a sea of green very soon as you can see it has already begun its spring green up. That will be followed by a sea of yellow in the fall at bloom time. Birds love it all year long.

Here you go, 900 gallons of water on the way to delivery. Still kind of hard to see the final picture of what this will look like but the hard part is over, I guess. Lots of tilling, adding organic matter. planting. Oh, and I have to add stone around the pond edge to soften the edges you see here...Oh, and I have to assemble the fountain, drill the main base. What was that I was saying about the hard part being done?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Week 7 of 2005

Monday: Well, we have made average last frost date. Most everything has green buds opening. Real green everywhere is a couple of weeks away if temps remain warm. We have some lows in the low 40s projected late in the week, but with no real cold in the forecast for the next 10 days that's it, next opportunity, the tomatoes are going in. Yahoo, spring is here. Man, I hope I don't regret that statement. Our project cold wet winter was certainly wet, but no real cold. We did have a very odd snowfall, which is rare, but with a low temp for the winter of 28, it certainly was not a cold one.

Wednesday: How does that song go, "it's raining again, uh oh, it's raining again." Yep, they got the wet part of cold and wet winter right. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, not the plant, the rain forecast.

Friday: Yep, it rained, and rained, and rained again. The hole I am trying to dig for the pond is again filled with water, right to ground level which is the current level of the water table, right about ground level, not even 1 inch deep. This is starting to cause problems, not just from not being able to dig the pond, but the weeds are on the rise, and getting RoundUp down is not possible. Other things are beginning to wake up as well. All rose have begun active growth, some had rose buds, and a few have even begun to open roses.

Saturday: It sure is hard to garden in a mudhole, particularly in clay soil. Nevertheless, a few things were accomplished today. Put another fruit tree in the orchard, a Blenheim apricot. I have always read the Apricots would not grow here, but then I saw a reference to this one doing well on the Gulf Coast, so I decided to give it a try. I would like to add a Plumcot and an Aprium. The Plumcot would have done OK, pollinating with one of my Japanese Plums, but the Aprium needs an Apricot for pollinations so until now I was not considering it. Guess I know which fruit trees will come to the orchard next. I also went over the Iberia Gardens to pick up the Natchez Crape Myrtles for the arch at the top of the cross bed. The four Crape Myrtles were planted in the berm. Most the Citrus trees had a nice flush of new leaves. The Weigela is leaving out nicely, as is the Acacia. The fruit trees are all still dormant with the roses starting to kick into high gear and the Yellow Lady Bank began opening a few early roses.

Other than riding the 4-wheeler around the walking path a few times just to mark it out, that was about it today. Way too wet to do much of anything else. Rain projected tonight again. If we get lucky and miss it, I might be able to get a few things done tomorrow. Otherwise, I'll be sitting the rest of this weekend out. Well, I might try moving those Azaleas. Maybe.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Thurday: I took a quick stop at New Dawn on Monday afternoon. I had dug about a third of the 1000 gallon hole for the new pond. After all of this rain the hole was totally full even though it had stopped raining over 12 hours earlier, which was a testament not only to how much it had rained, but also to the height of the water table from a very wet winter. By today almost all of the water was gone leaving a nice thick layer of goo. A testament to our silty clay loam soils.

A lot of work at work going on this week. Man, I sure could use some daylight savings time about now. The week started off warmer with heavy fogs until last night when a cool front (can't really call it a cold front even though the weatherman did) and cleared out the fog. Highs are still in the 60s. I think one night might make it down to the low 40s. The warm moist air again has plants bursting out in fresh tender new green spring growth. Even I am beginning to think winter is over. Hope the plants and I don't get fooled, again. The CoCo grass is already sprouting as well, which is also known as Nutsedge. Where established, which is pretty much all 3 acres of New Dawn, it is a scourge. I must do some serious work with RoundUp this weekend to get control of it before it gets control of the gardens. Yes, I know it isn't organic, but no one has yet given me an organic control for Nutsedge. When they do, I will try it, but please no one say get on your knees and pull it. Might work in a few beds in a backyard, but on a 3 acre project it just ain't gonna happen. I think I said in an earlier log that if you want to be humbled as a gardener go from a backyard to 3 acres. I quickly found out that the gardening practices I had used were useless. I have a new start on the gardens, and for at least the next 3 years RoundUp is my new best friend. I am much happier with the new layouts at New Dawn, most of which are designed around easier maintenance, but there are some new bed also. A few of the plants should put on a great spring show like the Yellow Lady Banks Rose which is now fully established and quite large, but over half of the plants were transplanted this winter which means another year or probably 2 until the start to come into their own. Down here, I like to say that the 1st all a plant does is survive, the 2nd year it established, and the 3rd year its beauty starts to shine. It will be mid to late summer before the hardscape and arbors are done anyway. For spring and summer the roses will have to climb the temporary poles they are tied to today. Well, hopefully I can get out a few minutes early tomorrow to pick up the mower and get a cut on the land on Saturday. It is still a bit wet, but the winter weeds are high and rain is on the forecast again for Saturday night. Spring in South Louisiana. Hey, the Acanthus looks awesome. Check out that foliage color. Can't wait to see the 7 foot bloom stalks again this summer.

Sunday: Week 6 comes to an end. Yep, I am still digging on the fountain. It is 95% dug at this point. By my calculations I will have shoveled and moved by wheelbarrow nearly 10,000 pounds of dirt by the the time I am done, which should be next weekend. I have even given the fountain a name, The Fountain of Sanity. The old fountain itself has been disassembled and is at New Dawn awaiting the pond installation. I transplanted the Mock Orange and Dwarf Pomegrante yesterday. The completes the spring moves with the exception of the two Azaleas. I got the back two acres mowed before the blade drive belt broke on the mower. Maybe I can change this myself, otherwise it is back to the shop again. Sigh. All this warm wet weather has the weed in overdrive. Summer weeds are starting to go. Coco grass is already about an inch or two and the wire grass has greened up. Ahh, the fight begins.

Friday, February 4, 2005

Week 5 of 2005

Tuesday: I just found a new gulf coast site for native plants for the MISSISSIPPI NATIVE PLANT SOCIETY - COASTAL PLAINS CHAPTER and added it to the Native Plants section on the left.

I also added a couple of other message boards, one not totally gulf coast specific the Garden Web Louisiana and Mississippi Message Board, but close enough and the other being oriented a bit for further south, the Garden Web Tropical Message Board, which is close enough in the other direction.

Wednesday: I noticed the first Japanese Magnolia in full bloom. They are one of our earlier big full color shows in spring. I'll try to grab a pic of it as it was just around the corner from where I work in Lafayette. There is a Carolina Jessamine just down the road on the way to work that has been trying to fire off for a couple of week open a few yellow flowers here and there. Soon enough it will be covered. Keeping track of plants and changes here and there keeps my 22 mile commute into work interesting. We are just ending several days of non-stop rain on soils that were already waterlogged. The early predictions were for a cold and wet winter. It hasn't really been that cold, yet, but they certainly got the wet part right. This is certainly setting me behind schedule in my spring bed preparation.

Friday: I was on the way to meet Cel for lunch yesterday, when this horrible pain hit my eyes. I was squinting and couldn't figure out what was happening for a few minutes. Then I realized the culprit, bright light, extremely bright light. Heck, it was glare. At first I couldn't figure it out, some strange bright light in the sky. From the sun. I didn't realize how long it has been, probably two weeks since we had a bright sunny day. And I think we have another one coming tomorrow. Can't wait. The only thing that would make it better would be a nice warm day, but we will have to wait a bit longer for the that. We are only little over two weeks away from average last frost date, but predictions are for a cold and wet spring. Hey, weather men have enough trouble predicting tomorrow, but less months away. They are probably wrong. Right? Both Cel and I get the winter blues, so come on spring.

Saturday: - Another day of preparing for spring and the coming house at New Dawn. I dug from the gardens and potted the two Japanese Maples, one red and one a variegated green with white edges, and the Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. The two Japanese Maples were not thriving and need new locations. The Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, as well as one of the Japanese Maples, was in the move path for the Outdoor Room. I did one more pruning pass on the fruit trees. They are now done. I also pruned the lower branches from the Dawn Redwood. I had to back the truck up the barn to drag out the mower which would not start, again. Can't say that I am real impressed with my Toro 16-42Z zero turn radius mower. Seems it has spent more hours in the shop than it has cutting grass. I think the starter is gone, which if so, will be the 2nd time it has been replaced.

Sunday: - No gardening today. I moved some volunteers, in pots, over the New Dawn. Went to town (Lafayette) to get some potting soil, a new battery for the mower, and other odds and ends. I scouted plan prices at a few places, although most gardens centers have not yet stocked up for spring. Found a great deal on a book "The Southern Garden" which Books-a-Million has on sale for $10.00, which was quite a deal considering the original price of $45.00. Lots of pictures which will make a great inspiration and idea book. Today, was a lot of fun, but I may regret it as the next two days call for rain, so I will regret not getting my garden work done today and reserving the play for tomorrow. I still have to get that Pear moved before it is too late. Actually, it is too late, but this Pear has suffered in its current location and this is its last shot. If it doesn't respond to this new location, its next move is to the burn pile. Sounds harsh I know, but probably my main fault is that I am too slow to give up on plants and spend too much time, money, and energy on hopeless cases.

Monday: - I AM SICK OF RAIN!. Walking on the ground is like walking on a thoroughly wet sponge. I did manage to get a few things done and some things about winter have beauty, like the low sun angles and there effect like the picture at left.

By the way, the Foxtail fern at the Jasmine's base was surprisingly unaffected by the snow. . I put Osmocote on all of the fruit trees in the orchard and only all of the roses as well. Most of the volunteers from home like the Acanthus and Loquats, and the plants I dug up to move like the Shrimp Plants, Camellias, etc. were transported to New Dawn. A few others remain to be moved. Before the rain started today, I did finally get that last Pear moved. Poor thing, I have either finished killing it, or rescued it. Time will tell. Oh, and I bought a new shovel from Lowes, the fiberglass handle contractor grade model. My old wood handle is ready to snap from digging up plants and prying large root balls out of holes. I ogled over some new large bypass pruners as well, but decided to nurse mine for another year. The wood connections are weak on those as well, but when cleaning up the other day I found some old fiberglass materials. Maybe I'll rig them on day when I have some time to kill. Got the the 4-wheeler out of the shop today, just in time to use it to push the mower onto the trailer to go right back to the same shop to get the starter replaced. If you need to ask why I need a 4-wheeler by the way, you probably haven't tried building a 4 acres garden. Although I enjoy the walking around, moving anything heavy those distances is out of the question. Not quite like dragging something across the back yard. It is also great for pulling the mower out of the mud when it gets stuck. Yes, we do that every now and then. Now, if I could just talk Cel into letting me get one of those large dump carts from Home Depot. Well, I do have a birthday coming up. I need some pictures up here don't I? Maybe tomorrow. I'll need something to do while I am watching it rain. Speaking of deals, I was killing a few minutes the other day and wandered into a local Harbor Freight store and found the leather belt scabbards for Felco pruners for $1.99. Got so excited about the price that I bought 3 of them. Well, the forecast tomorrow calls for rain all day, so maybe I'll pot something.

Fat Tuesday (Happy Mardi Gras): No celebrations this year, although we should have. Both Cel and I have the winter blues, big time. Happens every year in February. It was another gloomy day cloudy and humid in the morning, just enough brightness to tease in the early afternoon, then finishing with more rain. New Dawn seems like a big mud puddle.

Since Bayou Teche is a navigable waterway, we do have some barge traffic every now and then. Here a tug is passing by with an empty barge heading upstream. That row of sprigs running across the lawn are the Gladiolus Byzantinus that I just planted for naturalization. They will be blooming in a few weeks and then go dormant through the summer, just in time for the mower to begin making it ritual passes for the summer.

The low spot in the driveway is really rutted bad and it may be another month before it get dry enough to fix. We might even have to wait for April, which is always a dry month. Hard to imagine we will go from this slop to needing supplemental watering in 60 days, but it is almost guaranteed. Anyway, I puttered a bit in the afternoon. New Dawn has a mailbox now. Maybe I'll send a test letter to see if the Post Office can find it. I dug up the variegated Century Plant which was right in the new walkway path. Don't know what kind of brain f#$t possessed me to put it there in the first place. When it was planted the path was not yet envisioned, but still the location made no sense. Good news it that there were five babies, so now I have several century plants. They are potted up with lots of Osmocote for fast track growth. I will be doing this with many plants this year. I made a couple of passes with the 4-wheeler over the new walking path, which was too wet to walk. It is just over one third mile. This path, now clearly envisioned in my mind, along with the house layout has now set the scene for the rest of the bed layouts. I believe things will begin to fall into place this summer and by next year the grand plan for New Dawn's 3 acres will begin to be visible to the naked eye. I have a new tablet PC which let's me freehand sketch with a pen, so maybe I can start to put some sketches on the site. Also got a few pictures today, but left the cable at work so I'll post them tomorrow. For some reason it is easier to keep up the journals this year. I bought a new book, "Thomas Jefferson's Garden Book" edited by Edwin Morris Betts which includes his journals. After seeing the big gaps in his journals year to year I didn't feel so bad about my lapses over the last 4 years. Thinking back over the gardens, the Paperwhites under the Mimosa are blooming wonderfully and look super healthy. They were fertilized with 8-8-8 early in their growth and again with Holland's Bulb Food in January. Worked well as they have never looked so good. Fertilizing this year includes obscene amounts of Osmocote around all trees, shrubs, roses, etc. this week. With our long growing season and heavy rains copious amounts of fertilizer are needed to insure optimal plant health. Next round of fertilizer will be put out when the summer rains come in the May to June timeframe and maybe a late fertilizing in late August. Well, lets put this evening away with a little reading from the Thomas Jefferson book.

Saturday: Well, I don't know what you call it when you are beyond worn-out and exhausted, but I do know what it feels like because I am there. This has to be one of the single biggest days at New Dawn to date. If I had a harder one, I certainly don't remember it. Cel went off to visit her sister in Baton Rouge today, so for me that meant daylight to dark in the garden. For once the weather cooperated as well with no rain. It was in the mid 60s, overcast for most of the day, which meant ideal working conditions. I started off the morning at J&S Feed Store to get the 9 foot poly pond which is to be my fountain pond. It is 9 feet in diameter and 28 inches deep. Picking it up should have been the easy part, but it turned out to be quite a chore with me lending a hand, a too the point of exhaustion hand, to get them bailed and separated. It took three grown men and a fork lift to get the job done. Geez, I was worn out before I even got started. Actually, I guess the day started before that when I went to Lowes to get 10 bags of Top Soil. I knew once we got the pond in the back of the truck, something would be needed to hold it down, so for once I was thinking ahead. By 10:30 I was on the way to New Dawn with the pond in the back. Well, I got to New Dawn, unloaded the pond, the 10 bags of Top Soil and started digging. An hour later I was calling my brother-in-law, with an offer to pay him to finished digging the hole. Unfortunately he was busy, so after staring at the hole, and digging 4 more large wheelbarrows full of dirt, I elected to move to another task with the hole dug to about 30%. So now, it was back to Lowes to get another 30 bags of Top Soil and 10 Indian Hawthorne in the 1 gallon size. I got a dark leaf variety call Sea Breeze. Then it was back to New Dawn. Carted the edge blocks to frame the bed, unloaded the Top Soil, made the beds, planted the Indian Hawthorne. Looked great. Then I put in the lag bolts to fix the porch, spread some Epson Salts on about half of the plants and took care of little chores like watering in the new plants with root stimulator. I continue to do a few chores and looking back at those new beds when it hit me that I need to go further. I needed another 30 bags of Top Soil and another 10 Indian Hawthorne to continue the beds around this side of the foot of the cross beds. So it was back to Lowes. Note on the picture above, This houseplant which was stored in a pot in the garden was knocked over by a pet and broken in half. Before I noticed it the both parts had multiplied and over wintered quite well. Here they will stay in the bed under the Live Oak.

By the end of the day I had put down 70 bags of Top Soil at 40 pounds each, planted 20 Indian Hawthorns. dug about 10 wheelbarrows full of dirt and gotten into a full scale wrestling match with a 900 gallon garden pond. Gee, doesn't sound like much when you write it in a paragraph.

Man, am I hurting. Paco (top) came to New Dawn today and visited with our neighbor's dog (bottom) whose name I don't know but he certainly is friendly and loving.   I think we'll nickname him Motley Crew.

Sunday: I awoke today to rain, again. No surprise as the weather service has been quite accurate with rain this year. Actually, this has been a good spring for transplanting with cool weather, very regular light rains, and overcast skies. I am plenty sore this morning. As the old saying goes, I have muscles aching I didn't know I had. OK, maybe that is an exaggeration, but I am quite sore, particularly from yanking the ponds apart, which used muscles I don't use very often. Over the next week, I hope to get that pond finished, complete my transplants and new planting for the year. Everything in the greenhouse are also quite happy. The heavy spring activity for 2005 is just about done. Maybe, I add one more fruit tree this year,,,,

One last entry for Week 5. It is 9:15 on Sunday evening and it has rained all day. There has even been a bit of thunder, which I love because it means nitrogen rich rainfall and spring growth. Temps will be in the 70s for 3 or 4 days this week coming. Hard to believe we are still 3 to 4 weeks away from our average last frost date. I have to be careful with the tender stuff because I am itching to plant. All of the local stores are getting in the spring plants now. There are some beautiful tomatoes available. I got a six pack of Creole tomatoes. I have seeds for several varieties ready to plant as well. Maybe I'll try direct seeding this year since I am off to a late start. No one around here really does that, so that is tempting enough. I do have this tendency to "try" stuff just because. Weather service says no rain for the week after this. Yahoo.