Sunday, July 20, 2008

Rachel, Rachel, How Does Your Garden Grow?

Well, it grows and grows and grows. In some places it grows almost wild!

If you click on the individual pictures, you'll be able to see a larger version with a bit more detail.

Below is our pepper patch. There are about 30 plants here. We have habaneros, California Wonder, Mini Bells, hot banana, mild banana, hot hungarian, pimiento, carmen, jalepeno, ring of fire, and a couple more, too! Yes, we like peppers. I like the mild ones fresh in our salads or as crudite. We love pickled hot pepper rings, so we'll be canning a good bit of those. We also like the hot ones in stir fries, Mexican dishes, eggs, etc. I'll freeze a good many, can the hot rings, and the rest will be eaten fresh. Yum Yum!

Oh, do you like the path we installed in the garden this year? It was much needed. The garden is too wide to reach the centers from outside and we were trampling the soil something awful last year. So we dug out the center and poured rock to a foot deep running the whole center from one end to the other.

Now look how much bigger the peppers pictured below are than the ones in the first picture. Would you like to venture a guess why they're so much bigger than the others?
Okay, they were planted a little bit earlier than the others but only a week or so. Early on, the squirrels came by and topped each of these pepper plants. That's right, took the whole top of the plant! I don't know why they do this, but they do this every spring! They'll do it to tomatoes, too. Which is why we built this little surround for the peppers so that they wouldn't take any more of the plants than they already had. Many of the plants were down to two leaves. We didn't think they'd make it. Do you think those squirrels are doing us a favor? It does bear some consideration. In order to have bigger plants that set more fruit, you're supposed to pluck the first blossoms. (This does work, too. The plants in the first picture were deflowered after I took that photo and they're already bushing out.) So perhaps having the squirrels top off our peppers every year is the squirrel's way of giving back. I don't know.

Below is the boys' bean tee-pee. The beans are much bigger now. Today was just too busy to take another picture. I can hardly wait until they're all the way up the tee pee! Notice how richly green the grass is that immediately surrounds the growing beans. Legumes fix nitrogen in the soil ... seems to be working.
Now I've got to talk about soil. Below is our newest vegetable bed. Isn't it a pathetic thing? I am extraordinarily disappointed in the soil we bought for this box. I am also disappointed in the seeds for my bush beans as only 1 out of 10 germinated. Even after replanting we had the same results. Those are no good. Yet they're from the same company that packaged our vining beans and those did just fine and germinated at about 100%. More about the soil after this picture.

I would recommend the quad mix from Trail's End (that's what's in my other bed, where the peppers are) but they're no longer carrying it. I went with their triple mix this year and I am sorely disappointed in it. Whereas the quad mix drains very well, yet has a high humus content to conserve moisture during the dry spells, this triple mix is lacking. It drains too well. It is dry most of the time. I have ammended it with two different composts and I will be covering it with mulch next week. My plants have been stunted in this material. Things I started from seed barely germinated (most likely because the soil dries out so quickly.) I can completely saturate the soil at night and by mid morning it is extremely dry. This is awful. I think they should take it back next year and tell me where to go for the quad mix!

How about a few flowers:

Calendula: self seeds like mad, but it's good for bug bites and summer-long colour so I like it. (But I am removing the seed heads!)

This is a gorgeous Brown-Eyed Susan. The photo does it no justice. I can't tell you the variety right now because I can't get to the plant tag, it's buried in all the greenery behind it somewhere. It is a type of Rudbeckia, just not sure which one.

And I have these lovely "Summer Sun" Oxeye Daisies. I just love these. They're a bright yellow, with a yellow center and so cheerful -- covered in flowers all summer long. I'm so pleased with it I'll be splitting it up and moving it into the new beds I'm creating out front next year.

There are a few things in the picture below. I'll try to point them out to you without much confusion. Do you see the yellow-green leaves growing along the ground? That is creeping Jenny. I love the stuff. It's just so lovely. The purple and white clouds of flowers are annual Alyssum, one of my favourite flowers. They have a very sweet scent that wafts across the air with every breeze. The white Alyssum self-seeded from last year. That's okay. It's welcome here. In the background is a nice clump of garden oregano. It's doing quite well for having been transplanted just this spring.

That poor solar light. The $1 lights just don't hold up too well. I might have to break the piggy bank and invest in some $2 solar lights.

I'll have some more of the gardens, soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"In Ancient Times, Cats Were Worshipped As Gods;

they have not forgotten this.” - Terry Pratchett

My four current foster cats are available for adoption. Adoption will be at Pet Value on Glendale Avenue (in the Pendale Plaza) Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM and Sunday at PetSmart in the Fairview Plaza from 10 AM until 5 PM. Adoption fee is only $140 through the St. Catharines’ Animal Assistance Society. These cats have been neutered or spayed, received all shots, and flea treatments, deworming and have been fostered in my home with 2 adults and 3 children for the past two months. That's $50 less than the Humane Society and these cats have been fostered in a family home.

Their Rescue Story

Rocky belonged to a man who owned a home from which he rented out an apartment. The tenant owned the other three cats. The owner died and the tenant moved. All 4 cats were left abandoned. The owner’s children showed up and released the cats from the home, but provided them no care. Luckily, a good person on the same street saw the cats and began feeding them three times a day. However, these cats were not getting socialized to people and were getting no medical care. They were getting wild. I can't imagine the traumas they suffered being kept in an empty building for who knows how long, then being chased out the door like varmints. Two of the cats are rather timid and need continued nurturing to continue developing trusting relationships with humans. This is certainly understandable, given their abandonment.

Let me tell you about these cats -- each has a personality distinctly its own.


He’s a big cat. Tall and lean, having a long neck – he’s very elegant. He is the one who makes me think of Pratchett’s quote each time I see him sitting sphinx-like on the furniture. He has a deep growl that reminds me of a wildcat’s and actually scared me when he first came to us. It turns out he’s a giant pussy cat who’s somewhat timid and would rather not be bothered by the other cats, except on his terms. He will play…but a very playful kitten will annoy him quickly whereupon you’ll hear the fearsome growl. (When first I heard it late at night I thought some silly person was revving a motorcycle down the road.) He’s also a giant baby. He will curl up in your lap (despite the fact that most laps will not accommodate him) and head butt your hand to demand a good petting. He loves to have his face and head scratched. Rocky likes thing neat and tidy. If his water hasn't just been drawn fresh from the tap, he might jump on the bathroom sink and request a very fresh drink! (Yes, I indulge my foster kitties.) Rocky might come across as intimidating at the Adopt-a-thon as he does not like being caged. Don't let him fool you. He's a giant suck without an aggressive bone in his body!


Tiger is the ADHD kid in the house. He is rambunctious and playful and full of energy. He will play for hours on end. He’s affectionate and nosy (curious.) He likes to nibble naked toes for some reason. This tickles the kids to no end. (Literally!) He likes to play smackdown with the other kitties – especially the largest ones (my Soxxy is a 20-lb heavyweight, Rocky’s a middleweight. Tiger’s a featherweight!) Tiger struts through the house as if to say “I’m bad. I’m bad.” He’s a gangsta kitty with no idea how small he is. (Maybe it’s a Napoleon complex at work there.) He is quite enjoyable. The kids giggle at him all the time. He loves his toys and will try to get into a carrier to get them out. He will hide them when he’s done with them, too – though he obviously knows where he hides them because he’ll get them back out to play with them later. He’ll make a great family pet. I don’t think even a pet dog would be a problem for this guy as he has no fear and no conception of his own small size. In case I don't manage to get a picture of Tiger up before this posts, Tiger is also a brown tabby, lighter in colouring and leaner than Momma kitty below. Because he likes to play-fight and doesn't know when to quit, he might do best in a home without a lot of other kitties.

*Tattoed "Skipper" due to mix-up at vet's.


Skipper was so named because she will skip about in a cat carrier as she seems to hate being in them. However, we found that if she can just see another cat she is fine. We call her Momma kitty because she’s the nurturer in the group. She grooms everybody. She’s also a bit on the timid side, though she will curl up next to you for a good petting. She needs to be with other cats. (So that she can nurture them!)

*Tattoed "Tiger" (mixup at vet's.) Momma is darker than the real Tiger and has a bit of a belly.

UPDATE: Kisa has found his forever home! Yay! We miss you Kisa! (August 30, 2008)


We thought Kisa was a girl. Turns out, he’s not. You’ll have to give him a new name. We call him Whitey because of his white markings. He is very small -- the size of a six-month-old kitten, but he is full-grown. He has large, round eyes. He is EXTREMELY TIMID. He needs a quiet home. When Whitey first came to us, he stayed downstairs and would only venture upstairs when all the two-leggers were sleeping. When a two-legger ventured downstairs, Whitey found numerous hiding places for escape. Whitey only started coming upstairs around us furless folk last week. Mine is a noisy house. Whitey is socialized to other cats, but he’s not especially comfortable with people yet. I don’t recommend him for people with young children as I’ve seen him dart and run when my 4-year-old shouts or cries out. He is very frightened of small children, though my children have done nothing to warrant this. (I think it’s the loud unpredictability that bothers him.) He likes my eight-year old and will actually come to him for kitty treats.

Anyone who heads out to one of these Adopt-a-thons: The Animal Assistance Society is in need of more foster homes. Please let Lucy know if you are interested in fostering cats and kittens to prepare them for adoption. It's not a huge obligation at all and everything for their care and keep is provided by the Animal Assistance Society.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Rock Garden

I am sorry I didn’t take pictures of this as we did it, but you will see lots of other pictures and a good description of how to do it.

Every explanation of how to create a rock garden tells you to use one type of rock. Well, bully to that. Sure, you might not find several different rock types on one hillside in nature, but you will find different types. That’s good enough for me. Nature is my biggest inspiration.

We used excess rock we had laying around our yard to do this portion. First, we dug out the sod. Next, we dug in the rocks. They need to have about 30% buried. They also need to be situated so that water runs down and around them in order to get to the soil. They need not to create ledges which will hinder water or sunlight from reaching plants below them.

I started planting a few days later. You can plant and situate the rocks at the same time. I did not only because I didn't have the plants yet. When planting, you need to be careful that you leave no air pockets around the plants or under the rocks -- these will fill up with water and then freeze in the winter, killing your plants. Just tamp the soil firmly in place around the plants, and when situating the rocks, stand on them to ensure they're all the way in there and the soil is compacted beneath them. Lastly, I added river rock as a mulch around the plants as the biggest problem with rock gardens is weeds. I do have to weed regularly. Mostly grass is coming up here & there.Here's what it looked like when I first planted it. As you can see, I added a few more plants and those that are in there are growing very well.

In the coming years, I will divide the plants into more sections of rock garden. The rock garden will extend across the entire front of the yard except for the steps which will lead to our porch as we’ll be building a new staircase next year for that.

This was not difficult as we had the slope and didn’t need to create one. We did not amend the soil as recommended as the soil was fine. This is a 3.5 foot by 2.5 foot area.

Now for a closer look at what's growing in there:

The Alyssum is the perennial kind and blooms in spring. It spreads well and will form a mound of foliage and flowers over time, most likely covering the rocks below it. I do have some white annual Alyssum which self-seeded from last summer. I love the stuff, so it gets to see. You can see it peeking out behind the Sedum in the next picture.

Now if anyone knows what the following plant is I would truly appreciate the name. It resembles a tiny pine tree in appearance. It only stands about 4" high. Its "needles" are soft and feel like feathers. I could have sworn this thing had a label when I bought it, but I sure cannot find it if it did.

UPDATE! This is possibly identified as Cyprus Spurge -- a type of Euphorbia. I seem to remember purchasing a Euphorbia so this person is probably correct. We'll see as the season goes on if it follows the growth cycle of this spurge.
Yes, I have a million hens & chicks in there. I know they multiply whenever you blink your eyes, but that's okay. These puppies are so easy to grow, indoors or out, I'll find places for their babies or I'll give them to the good people in the Niagara Plantcycle group. (From whom many of the plants in my rock garden came.) We have hens & chicks planted in bricks, boots, planters, and even tree stumps! Love these things -- they require almost no care at all.

Take a look back at number 2 -- the Autumn Joy Sedum. This is one of my all-time favourite plants. It's a 4-season plant. In the spring, you get lush, fleshy leaves growing on stems about a foot high, to almost 2 feet high by autumn. On top of these stems develop lovely flowers that are like pin-cushions. At first they are green, then they become a dusty-pink shade, and when autumn comes they are a deep mauve. Through the winter as the leaves die down, the colourful seedheads remain, adding a bit of colour to the otherwise monochromatic landscape. In the spring, trim all the dead wood down to the ground and watch the new growth begin the cycle all over again.

After this summer, I do believe I've fallen in love with rock cress. There are so many different kinds, they have so much to offer and, best of all, they are truly not fussy plants. I'll be spreading these around in the rock garden expansions to come.

Next up...what shall it be...the gardens in general or the chair planter? Oh, decisions, decisions...

blogger templates | Make Money Online