Friday, April 27, 2012

A Toad in the Garden

      This will be my fourth year working my plot at the park.  How could a piece of ground in a designated garden area ever have been so abused?  I found no evidence whatsoever of organic matter having been added to the soil. It was nothing but hard clay, not a worm in sight.  I had to dig little holes and fill them with my home garden compost to get anything in the ground.  As I have improved the soil with leaf mold and wood chips in the paths, critters have moved in.  I found a huge earthworm last week, and I have ranted about the voles being everywhere.  The beneficial bug bed with perennial flowers now has the Shasta Daisies in bloom, and they are hopping with lots of dwarf beneficial wasps.  Honeybees are swarming to the kale with its tall yellow stalks in flower.
     As I was in the garden yesterday, I saw movement from the corner of my eye.  A blowing leaf?  The movement was not fast enough to be one of the dastardly voles.  Surveying the bed, I could not find the leaf, so stood perplexed.  And then I saw a little indentation in the dirt, and in that hole was a toad!  A beauty of a toad, basking in his ugliness.

Mr. Toad,  4/26/2012
      See him hiding there, right in the middle.  Minding his own business, probably wishing I would go away.

      No chance Mr. Toad, this is a big happening.  My garden is smack dab in the middle of probably 80 plots that are 20 feet by 40 feet.  Never before had I seen a toad in my garden, nor in many walks around the entire community gardens.  He had to have had a pretty determined hop to get out to here.  And a pretty smart toad to set up shop in my "No Till Zone."  It is not pleasant to envision the outcome of a toad meets roto tiller encounter.  I would bet on the tiller every time.  No surprise outcome where the tortoise beats the hare.  So he found himself a very hospitable piece of garden real estate.  I am going to take a water bowl to the park today, to hopefully encourage him to stay around by fulfilling his water needs.

      Here is the view from the other side.  I was trying to find his handsome side, but I am not sure which side is better.  So why am I happy to be visited by Mr. Toad?  His diet consists of only live bugs and crawlies.  Cutworms.  Slugs.  Yummy.  Please enjoy your summer here Mr. Toad.  And many happy returns.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Plant Give Away, Three

      I just found some shots from last year on a camera card that I am not currently using.  Hopefully this will wrap up the list of plants available at this time.

Stella De Oro day lily

Siberian Iris
Light blue bearded Iris, clear yellow iris behind
Bee Balm, also known as Minarda
Better shot of Canna lily blooms
Purple coneflower, one of my favorites
Ajuga and white euonymus
Sedum kamtschaticum, also known as stonecrop
Native columbine, seed available later in the year
Scilla, bulbs available after leaf die back
      Don't be shy, lots of things are still available.  But if you just have to pay for what you get, please visit the donor tent at the Wilmington Flower Market May 10th through May 12th.  They will be more than happy to accept your money for a lot of my donated plants.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Crash Site?

      As I walked out back to my garden this morning, I glanced at my neighbor's back yard.  A little more than a glance, as I was trying to figure out what that weird black thing was right in the middle of the yard.  From a distance, sure looks like a bird crashed and burned right nextdoor.

Neighbor's yard,  4/23/2012
       Now a little closer.

Fickle feather of fate award
      Indeed it was a clump of feathers from a bird mishap.  Specifically one wing with a large bone attached.  A stripped large bone.  You don't need to see that picture close up.  I would have liked to see how the fox managed this one.  His mother must have taught him the benefits of a varied diet.  Sure hope he puts my voles on the menu next.

Edible Weeds, Lambs quarter

Lambs quarter, Bellevue garden, 4/23/2012
      Many plants that people consider to be weeds are edible, and many are highly nutritious. A few that turn up here in Delaware are chickweed, dandelion, lambs quarter, plantain, and purslane. Right now the lambs quarter is popping up everywhere, and the young leaves are quite tasty.  Many of the plots at the park are now just vast expanses of recently tilled soil.  It will be weeks before the gardeners get some sort of harvest. Yet clumps of edible and even delicious "weeds" such as this lambs quarter are ignored or pulled out and discarded.
      Lambs quarter can be used much like spinach, either eaten raw in salads or used in soups or stir-fry. Steam it like spinach and serve like a side dish or put in an omelet or lasagna.  Now, have I actually done any of these.  No, but I do browse on it at the park and enjoy its nutty flavor.
      But I would suggest harvesting while the plants are young and tender.  Left to grow for the summer, it truly will be a weed of shrub size.  With a woody trunk.  And hard to remove tap root.  Been down that road first hand.  So though edible, tis much better to forage for this one than to actually encourage it in your garden.

      From Wikipedia:
Chenopodium berlandieri, also known by the common names pitseed goosefoot, huauzontle, and lambsquarters, is an annual herbaceous plant in the goosefoot family.

The species is widespread in North America, where it is native to Alaska and northern Canada south to Michoacán, Mexico, and including every U.S. state except Hawaii. The fast-growing, upright plant can reach heights of more than 3 m. It can be differentiated from most of the other members of its large genus by its honeycomb-pitted seeds, and further separated by its serrate, more or less evenly lobed lower leaves.

Although widely regarded today as a weed, this species was once part of the Eastern Agricultural Complex of prehistoric North America, and was a fully domesticated pseudocereal crop, similar to the closely related quinoa C. quinoa. It continues to be cultivated in Mexico as a pseudocereal, as a leaf vegetable, and for its broccoli-like flowering shoots.

      Now on to recipes.  This blog has some interesting ones:

The pesto looks tempting, as does the Greek Salad.  But when foraging any natural food, be absolutely sure that you are indeed picking an edible plant, and only harvest from areas free of pollutants, chemicals or poisons.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Plant Give Away, Too

To add to the plant give away post:

Shasta Daisy,  5/13/2011
      These daisies are probably Shasta daisies, and are right now coming into bloom from the warm spring weather this year.  Enjoys lots of sun.  They self seed freely, and the seed heads are enjoyed by gold finches.  Still lots of clumps at this writing.

Purple Columbine,  5/13/2011
      The purple columbine self seeds, and will pop up in lots of new places.  Does well in partial shade and likes moisture.  I now have some plants that are basically white.  Limited supply of columbine at this writing.

My back yard garden,  7/7/2011
      This shot shows lots of plants that are available.  The tall plants in the background are African daisies.  They grow to six feet by July, and the seed heads are adored by gold finches.  The day lily in the middle of the shot is a solid orange tetraploid.  The clump does spread fairly rapidly, but can be controlled easily by digging out plants to give away.  The lily on the right is a dark magenta color, and the lily in the front is a combination yellow and orange.  Also have some shorter Stella De Oro daisies, a nice compact yellow.

Canna Lily,  7/7/2011

      The cannas have not yet started to grow, but will be six to eight feet tall by July.  This particular variety has a fairly insignificant red flower spike for such a large canna.  Yet it is visited often by our hummingbirds, so I have not switched it out for a showier variety.  I probably have some lambs ear that is in the right foreground.  Interesting leaves, not much on the flowers.  I do have some rose campion available, which has similar leaves to the lamb's ear, but the campion has strikingly beautiful flowers.  The garlic behind the campion is a hard neck variety that is showing the garlic scapes.  We still have beautiful garlic bulbs from last years harvest.  No way that those are available. 

White and Pink Phlox,  July 2011

       The phlox was pretty, but reserved when grown in a fairly shady spot under a maple tree.  When moved to the back garden, it had an explosion of self seeding.  Plenty available.

Black eyed Susan and African Daisies,  July 2011
      Black eyed Susan are in the foreground, with the taller African daisies behind.  The black eyed Susan is particularly drought resistant, and its seed heads are eaten by the finches.
      These are the pictures I could find this morning.  Lots of other things are available, but not yet listed.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Plant Give Away

      No, that is not a mistake.  Every spring provides me with hoards of volunteer plants, both perennials and annuals.  They come up in places they should not be, or just crowd around at the base of the parent plant.  Most times they end up on the compost pile, quite a waste of talent.  So yes they are free to a good home. 
      Strings attached?  Yes.  You probably have to show up to help to pull them out.  You will need containers to haul them off.  If you want a bunch of stuff, a bag or two of topsoil would help to offset what dirt walks off with the free plants.  If you have something to trade, that would be nice, but is not required.
      Some things should have already been removed for bloom this year, but they will still be good for next year.  Visit this page often, as it will expand as time allows.  So without further ado, let's get going.  The list of volunteers:

Bleeding Heart
Jack in the Pulpit
Euonymus fortunei, ground cover
Red Primrose
Day lilies, pink and white phlox, African daisies
Blood Sorrel
      OK, that is a start.  I will add more as I go along.  Don't be shy.  Help me find some of these plants a good home.  Add a comment, call me, or my email address is on my profile page.  Garden on.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ground Hog Afternoon

Ground Hog sighting, 4/15/2012
      The rodent in question is right in the middle of this photo.  Luckily for me, this ground hog lives in the bushes by the barn, so confines his raiding parties to the gardens near to his home.  This one certainly seemed to be enjoying his afternoon meal of overwintered lettuce and greens.

Looking for new gardens to annex
Still scoping out the territory
This string won't keep me out
There are going to be nice, new tender crops here :-)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Plant Rescue 106 - Leeks

      A couple of days ago I was looking to get some dirt from the park compost pile to mix with mushroom soil to make a new planting container.  There used to be a sieve over by the compost piles, so I began a quest to find it by looking along the edge of the woods by the piles.  But I found something even better:

A beautiful clump of Leeks
More leeks a few feet away,  4/10/2012

      Yesterday I took my shovel to the park and dug up the leeks.  Dug too closely to the clumps and cut off the roots of three leeks, which allowed me to have one of them for lunch diced into my cottage cheese.  Makes cottage cheese pretty good stuff.

     The picture above shows the leeks after they were dug up.  The one on the right ended up being one of the kitchen leeks, as I severed nearly all of the roots.  That left eight leeks that I trimmed both the roots and the tops, as I have read that is the proper procedure for transplanting leeks.  You need to cut the roots to get the leeks back into the new hole, and you need to trim the tops to slow the needed uptake of water as the leeks regenerate their roots.

      I used these new leeks to add a top and bottom row to the single pre-existing row of leeks.  Using a mallet and a pointed post, I made holes about four to six inches deep.  You put the leek in the hole, but do not back fill dirt around the leek.  Just water well.  Rains will cause the dirt to fill in around the leek, while allowing room for the girth to increase as the leek gets bigger.  Planting them six inches deep will result in nice long blanched stems when they are harvested sometime next winter into spring.
      Yes, I did find the sieve while searching along the woods, but this leek plant rescue was more important than making new dirt.  Today is another day.