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.