Rain, Rain, Go Away; or, Be Careful What Your Wish For

As predicted, this past weekend was pretty much a wash. The weather folks all said that it was going to do nothing but rain on Saturday, as well as Friday night and possibly sometime on Sunday. While we don’t know what happened Friday night because we were sleeping, and though we did get a passing shower on Sunday, Saturday was all rain, all day. So, no planting or transplanting happened.

[huff šŸ˜¦ huff]

However. We still had a pretty productive weekend.

First, there was the bathroom, which has evolved into a “re-insulating a portion of our attic” project. While the work area is still a mess, and that mess has spilled over into seemingly every part of the house, we managed to get quite a lot done — namely placing small pieces of foam insulation into about a million cracks and crevices.Ā  That may not sound like a lot, but when the work involves lots of measuring, cutting, and crawling around in a tiny space, time seemed to fly by rather quickly. Interestingly, since the bathroom we’re working on is on the house’s second floor, it was rather serene working with the rain pitter-pattering away on the roof. That didn’t make the work any easier, but it felt a little less stressful. That was nice. (Maybe we should have one of those rain soundtracks playing all the time during work!)

That was all on Saturday. On Sunday, after getting off to a really chilly start in the morning, things warmed up significantly in the afternoon. With the sun brightly shining, we had to get outside and do something, at least. The ground remained super soggy and the planting beds were cold and muddy, so there wasn’t going to be any planting happening. Instead, we opted to start replacing the netting on our cages. Of the four that we made, three of them had been chewed through by our resident rascally rabbits, and on all of them, the netting was falling apart in some manner. So we got out the replacement netting and all the cable ties were could fine, and got to work.

It’s not obvious, but this cage has all-new netting.

In the end, we only had enough ties to complete one cage, but it’s the most important one: the net around the pea bed. If we discovered on thing and one thing only, it’s that rabbits l-o-v-e pea shoots. We actually had a few growing from seeds that we threw in the bed last month, but they had been summarily eaten. The fact that the rabbits could hop right through the cage didn’t help matters any, so getting to that cage first was the priority. Thankfully, we had just enough cable ties to do the trick. The others will have to wait another week until we can get some more ties.

They aren’t as much of a priority, because it would seem that maybe, just maybe, the concrete blocks have kept the rabbits at bay Our greens and lettuce beds are actually showing signs of life, and that life hasn’t been nibbled at…yet!

In this raised bed, there’s arugula (top right, bottom left), kale (top left), and romanesco (bottom right). In the surrounding spots we planted a variety of things from lettuces to flowers to carrots to radishes to, yes, even onions! Not sure that it will all do well, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
In this raised bed, we planted various lettuces and spinach in the main part, surrounded by more lettuces, flowers, and herbs — basil, thyme, dill, and cilantro.

So we’re on our way! With the drenching on Saturday, we heartily wished for a respite from the wetness, and it seems out calls were answered. This week and weekend there’s no rain in sight…and it’s going to be extremely warm with some days reaching into the 80s and possible up to 90. That’s a bit much for May, but we’ll take it. Plus, our strawberries should have a grand time once it heats up. Hopefully the heat won’t be too much, though. The good thing is that it should dry everything out so that we’ll be ready to plant and transplant this weekend. Can’t put things off much longer!

And here are a few more pictures to finish up this week’s garden round-up:

We planted more lettuce in our small hanging — they just started sprouting.
The radishes in our barrels are coming along nicely, and that’s despite the fact that we forgot to cover them with netting. Thankfully, the squirrels and birds haven’t dug in them too much.
This radish barrel looks a little more promising.
While weeding, we discovered and marked a patch of volunteer squash in one of the stone beds. Wonder what variety it’ll turn out to be? (Our guess: zucchini or Long Pie pumpkin.)
We’re just a couple weeks away from strawberry season! Hopefully the warm temps this week will prompt ours to grow and ripen.



Going with the Flow (Literally!)

We were really lucky this winter. Like seriously…lucky. Ye ol’ Farmer’s Almanac predicted that we’d have a winter that was “ice cold and full of snow,” or some such. Well, the snow didn’t materialize. And thankfully so. In fact, of the two major winter storms that we endured, the snow totals ended up being far less than predicted totals. And while we did experience a few pockets of very cold temperatures over the winter months, we found ourselves reaching for sweaters and blankets far less often than we expected. So maybe the Farmer’s Almanac doesn’t know everything?

Or…that’s what we thought until we looked at the weather predictions for our area for April and May. In two words: rainy and warm. While we like the second word, that first one is both good and bad.

Just a few days ago, we were drenched by a large storm system over our region for the better part of a day. It effectively turned our backyard into a pool. Or, we should say, a series of pools. There are three or four sections of the yard where water simply collects. At the height of the storm, we could have easily gone wading out in the yard.

Puddle, puddles everywhere!

Also, we just have to ask…why does it only seem to always rain on the weekends? Surely Mother Nature knows by now that the only time some of us can get out and do stuff!

Anyway, it’ll be really interesting to see if the almanac’s idea for our Spring pan out. Right now, it’s warmer here than it should be. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though will it last? Last year we experienced a terrible cold snap right during transplanting time at the end of April, which was just no good. If things are warmer this year, that’ll be good. But if it gets too warm too fast…? Plus, what it rains too much? (Can it rain too much in the springtime?) Are we asking too many questions? (Probably.) Spring is the one time of the year when we really just have to get go and go with the flow. Literally!




The Big Slow Down

All quiet...for now.
All quiet…for now.

One of the things that we all figure out about life is how to deal with the curve balls. And it’s funny just how curvy they can be, sometimes.

We were riding pretty high after almost finishing porch. Just one more topcoat needed to be applied, and we could officially call it D-U-N. But then, weather happened last week. Bad weather. Unpleasant weather. Curve ball-type weather that threw us for a loop!

You’ve probably seen or heard news of Hurricane Joaquin, a pretty big storm that’s now headed out into the Atlantic Ocean. Early last week, the newsfolks had projected a couple possible paths for Joaquin, one of which had it slamming directly into the Mid-Atlantic coast. It was a good many miles from our doorstep, but still close enough to cause problems. By the end of the week, Joaquin’s path had changed drastically, and for the better for us. However, in all the Joaquin news, the weatherpeople kind of glossed over the fact that our area was still going to get hit with winds and rains thanks to a completely different weather system. This turned the week and the weekend into a complete slog.

Though the really bad stuff didnā€™t come until just before the weekend, string clouds persisted, and it was no fun waking up to unseasonably cool, gray days. Even worse was once we got home, and all we wanted to do was curl up under blankets and forget about the outside.

The heavy rain and wind started Thursday night and lasted well into Saturday. We were worried about falling tree branches, but none am crashing down into the yard. And as it’s still early in the fall season, we didnā€™t have to deal with blowing leaves everywhere, either. They pretty much stayed put in the trees, along with their branches. Which was good, though several plants in the garden toppled over, and we did find a smattering of variously ripe and unripe tomatoes scattered about that had been blown off their plants. But no severe harm was done. Probably the biggest silver lining in the storm was that our porch pretty much repelled the constant puddles. With nicer and warmer weather coming our way this week, we plan to get that second topcoat applied before the weekend.

All this is to say that anything we had planned to do last week (and the to-do list is long, no doubt about that), was put off in favor of inside warmth and personal projects, like knitting and making little bedside shelves for bedroom. It’s a curve ball we weren’t expecting so soon in the fall, but it’s the way things went. Good thing we didnā€™t get used to the nesting, because there really is just so much that needs to be done. Once we finally got outside this past Sunday and realized how badly we had let the garden go, the desire to further nest disappeared. Taking it slow every now and again isnā€™t a bad thing, just as long as the to-do list doesnā€™t become the we-wonā€™t list.

We end this week with a few marigold pictures, because they are nearly the only signs of life left in the backyard, and they are so pretty!

The Tiger Eye marigolds really took off in a couple spots.
The Tiger Eye marigolds really took off in a couple spots.
The color really brightens up the yard.
The color really brightens up the yard. Perfect for fall.
And the lone Harlequin mariogld plant that somehow took over a crack in the driveway is flowering beautifully.
And the lone Harlequin marigold plant that somehow took over a crack in the driveway is flowering beautifully.

It’s go timā€¦! Oh no, not yet. So let’s talk about ground cherries.

This past weekend was one of highs andā€¦not lows butā€¦maintaining stasis. Saturday was a brilliant day replete with suns and clouds. After running some errands in the morning, it was off to the home store to pick up soilā€¦ lots and lots of soil for our new stone-wall raised bed. When it was all said and done, we ended up using close to 40 cubic feet of a combination of top soil, garden soil, and compost in order to fill the thing. Impressive!

Like a pool…a pool full of beautiful dirt.

After that, it was onto to tilling up the existing beds and getting them ready for planting. By the time all that was done, the day was drawing to a close and it started to look like rain. So we called it quits thinking that we’d get to planting on Sunday.

Butā€¦no. It rained slowly but steadily over much of late Saturday evening into early Sunday morning. When we finally dragged our sore selves outside, the ground was clearly soaked through, and more rain was in the forecast. So we ended up with a lazy but restless day.

But we didnā€™t just sit on our hands all day. We went over our planting maps and further hashed out a few unfinished thoughts about where some the plants might go. From this arose a discussion that has been in our heads for awhile surrounding the ground cherries.

What the heck were they again and what would we do with them?

Ground cherries on the plant.
Ground cherries on the plant.

But let’s back up for a moment to January. While perusing through the magazine section of our local bookstore, a pretty catalog catches our eye. It’s got a dark cover and is titled The Whole Seed Catalog. At this point, we had already received our standard seed catalogs in the mail and had started making some choices from them. But thisā€¦this catalog was a whole other beast. Just a quick glance through it in the store brought forth visions of plants we’d never heard of before. We bought it without a second thought.

The Whole Seed Catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is simply amazing, and from it we were determined to take a chance on planting at least one item that was completely new to us. As we hope to do this in subsequent years, this year we picked ground cherries, variety P. Pruinosa. As we’ve been thinking about added more sweet fruit to our gardening routine, ground cherries sounded like a good place to start. But what is a ground cherry?

Well, for one, they arenā€™t tomatillos (though they do grow in husks) or gooseberries (though the ripe fruits can look similar) or even cherries (though they are about the same size). Ground cherries are native to many areas in the Western Hemisphere and Australia (or so we’ve read) and often grow wild. We can’t speak from experience, but they are supposed to be sweet and tart, and apparently they make great jams and pies. Our variety is supposed to produce yellowish berries. If you just let ground cherries go in the yard, they will spread into huge bushes. Or, you can supposedly train them like tomatoes, which is what we’re going to try to do. Searching for them online, the uses for them seem to be endless. We already mentioned the pies and jams, but they can be eaten raw or substituted, presumably, for cherries in any dish that might call for them, be it sweet or savory.

So golden and pretty (and tasty, we think!)

Our plan for the ground cherries is, first, to see if we can ever get them to grow. They were much slower to germinate in the seed trays that all the other seeds and the seedlings remain quite small for the moment. We’re putting them out in our two half-barrels where last year we planted tomatoes. And they’re going to be accompanied by wax beans (companion planting). Maybe they’ll take and maybe they won’t, but the prospect of having small fruits in the garden that arenā€™t tomatoes and donā€™t require trees was too good to turn down!

Now all we need is for Mother Nature to give is a break on the rain so we can get things transplanted!

Until next time, here are a few more picture updates on what’s going on in the raised beds so far.

There's lots of dill popping up between the romanesco and arugula.
There’s lots of dill popping up between the romanesco and arugula.
The peas are starting to develop tendrils, so we'll be training them up the trellis any day now!
The peas are starting to develop tendrils, so we’ll be training them up the trellis any day now!
Many of the greens have re-rooted themselves after the heavy rains, which is wonderful!
Many of the greens have re-rooted themselves after the heavy rains, which is wonderful!

And Then the Rains Came

The rain started Saturday morning. It was slow at first, amounting to light Spring showers. Only the showers never let up. They went on and on and on for several hours, the sprinkles. And then, in the afternoon, the sprinkles changed to a steady rain. And as the day went on, the rain got heavier and then lighter and then heavier again. Heavy to points that it sounded like hail. Light to points that we thought it had ended. Aside from a few hours here and there, it has rarely subsided over two days. All we can say is thank goodness this isn’t snow, otherwise we we wouldn’t be going anywhere for awhile. Instead, we’ve got a very, very, very wet backyard with giant puddles. It looks a wreck, but we’re certainly getting a precursor to the whole “April showers bring May flowers” thing, even if we still have a few days to go in that regard. Also, and most importantly, at least this isn’t snow.

Swimming, anyone?

The puddles extend all the way around the perimeter of the yard, into the long side bed and the raised beds close to the house. Everything there is absolutely soaked. And even if there isn’t an obvious puddle, the ground is still ridiculously wet. (Our sump pump has been working overtime, and thankfully so!) Needless to say, no outdoor garden prep took place this weekend, which will put us a little behind in scheduling transplants that are supposed to happen mid-April. As long as we have a dry-ish week ahead (looks a bit iffy at this point), hopefully we’ll at least get to turning the beds this coming weekend so we know if we need to obtain extra soil and how much.

In the meantime, the seedlings are doing quite well, though they don’t look all that much different from last week. We did manage to replant the greens from Tray #1 into small cups. As they were practically falling all over one another in the tray, this gives them a little more room to spread out.

Lettuce, mesclun, arugula, oh my!
Lettuce, mesclun, arugula, oh my!

Eventually, a number of these will go into the planters on the porch, along with the basil and other herbs. The rest will go into the ground. With the danger of frost coming to an end (this week probably, next week to be safe), the tomatoes are due to go out into the cold frame soon, we just have to dig up and transplant a number of day lilies that live along the side of the garage. In the meantime, as the rain continues to fall, we’ll have sweet dreams of the surely beautiful garden that’s yet to come!

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

After we got our transplants in last week, it rained…AGAIN. It was incredibly frustrating to watch the pool return around our raised beds. However, it prompted a discussion about improving the drainage around the beds, which is something we plan to tackle next year. The yard dried out considerably over the course of the week, with some portions still a little damp. After it was all said and done, we lost a couple of the transplants, But, with all our extra plants in tow, there was no problem replacing them. And we still have a number of started peppers that need homes — not sure yet where they’ll end up.

In terms of our established plants, the dampness killed the spinach patch unfortunately. We didn’t even get one decent harvest! However, the cucumbers that next to spinach are thriving, so the bed now belongs to them.

Or perhaps that was their nefarious plan all along?

The excess water also did in a number of our pea plants; however, we did harvest them earlier (to delicious results!) As the soil dries, some seem to be reviving themselves. In the meantime, our carrots are having a great time!

Death in the background; life in the foreground. Hmm…a metaphor for life?

Our watermelon, zucchini, and corn patches couldn’t be doing better, even in and among all the rain!

Having never grown watermelon before, it’s very exciting watching these plants!
Zucchini bread, fried zucchini, zucchini casserole, steamed zucchini, zucchini stir-fry…
We planted some later corn among these guys, but the seeds never germinated…and we’re pretty sure a squirrel or two enjoyed some popcorn.

As great as the edible food is doing, we have something of a dilemma going on out front.Ā  In our two quarter-moon-shaped beds by the front sidewalk we planted two types of marigolds (French Dwarf and Crackerjack) and calendulas. One bed looks like this:

Big and beautiful!

And the other bed looks like this:

[Insert sad trombone sound]
[Insert sad trombone sound]
Last year we didn’t notice much difference between the beds, but we also planted different flowers. We don’t have much experience with flowers, so choosing different flowers to plant this year was definitely an experiment. Both beds get a decent amount of sun, especially in the afternoon; however the sad bed is partially shaded by a tree that sits by the road. Marigolds require full sun, but calendulas can handle partial shade (or so we’ve read). Still, the French Dwarf marigolds in both beds are flowering. The Crackerjack marigolds are just starting to bud in the good bed, but they barely make a showing in the sad bed. And the calendulas, well, they just didn’t take off in the sad bed like they did in the good bed. Sun? Soil imbalance? Water? Critters? The reason for the disparity is still a bit of a mystery.

We just wanted to garden, but Mother Nature had other ideas

What did I say last week, that we were gonna get back to work? Well…we did lots of work this weekend, but not much of it was garden-related.Ā  Torrential rains brought forth by Tropical Storm Andrea on Friday turned our backyard into a really, really, really large puddle. Everything in the backyard was completely soaked on Saturday. Today was drier, but the yard still felt like a damp sponge. So, sadly, we didn’t transplant anything. But our tomatoes and peppers are being quite patient. They’re doing okay inside, but we do really need to get them outside in the next week or so.

Our happy tomato survivors.
These peppers are going to outgrown their digs any day now!

In the meantime though, things in the garden hardly remained undisturbed. After the rains, we had to re-spray the “squirrel tea,” which meant we had to make another batch, which also meant we had to endure another weekend of the acrid smelling stuff. (Yuck.) I think we mentioned last week that the squirrel tea had to be strained. Well, we should have stressed that it needs to be strained really well, otherwise the stuff can clog even the most tenacious spray bottle. After killing one bottle, we spent this morning strainingĀ  the latest mixture into a pump sprayer.

By the way, if you’re in the market for a pump sprayer — a cheap pump sprayer — we found this guy at Walmart for under 10 bucks. Not a bad deal.

Not gonna win any awards, but it works! (Walmart)
Not gonna win any awards, but it works! (Walmart)

So after finding three very unwelcome and unwanted squirrels roaming through the beds this morning, we couldn’t get that spray down soon enough! As we surveyed things, thankfully the vast majority of the garden made it through the storm. We may or may not have lost one sunflower to the rain…or possibly a critter.Ā  But everything else is doing very well. We’ve been harvesting lettuce for about 2 weeks, and we’ll be harvesting peas (the Dwarf Gray Sugar variety) this week! Till next time, here’s a few more pictures showing how things are progressing.

The aforementioned peas are practically bursting out of their pods!
The aforementioned peas are practically bursting out of their pods!
The zucchini are under careful watch since they look like they’re getting ready to take over everything nearby.
One sunflower that made it (left), and, in memoriam, the one that didn’t (right).