Wednesday, November 16, 2005

16 November 2005 Hydrogy in Bell Creek

16 November 2005
Allen, the organic farmer next door had two huge Cottonwood trees down by the creek. They started growing about a half century ago, by their ring count. One had roots in the creek. Whether the winds are stronger or the amount of water we are getting is increasing, causing more erosion, or both, the tree with roots in the creek came down one stormy night.
It crushed Allen's fence. Our deeds don't allow fences past the power lines to allow Edison trucks egress. Edison is GTE now and many homeowners have put in all sorts of structures in 40 years. Who knows if Edison's records on properties have been digitized. So much for egress. Allen had the fallen tree sawed up and the other Cottonwood taken down. He has some huge stumps down the hill, by the creek. After two years, he lined them up along the property line, perpendicular from the creek, he said it will slow the water.
Last night we got a large storm and the water overflowed the banks. Sure enough, there is a little pond between the stumps and the brush pile. There is a raging current in the stream bed, but on the bank the water eddies and stays still in some places. Hurrah for trees and vegetation on the river banks.
Also the stream bed has more turns, islands and oxbows because fallen logs, some of them huge, are required to be left in the water when they fall there. Not every old tree is blown over on the banks. Some fall in the creek. One of our Cottonwoods fell across the stream and we are required to leave it. It slows the water when the huge flows come. The runoff from impervious surfaces upstream only increases, as more building takes place in outlying areas. I anticipate the day when river keepers have political clout enough to get a law passed that property owners must keep runoff on-sight, at least for new construction. Then there will be rain gardens and green roofing and retention ponds with fish to eat mosquito larva.
Then our hydrology problem of huge amounts of water all heading for the creek when it rains will be less. Fewer basements will flood. Fish and wild life will be able to breed in the river once again. My father used to swim in the Rouge RIver when he was young.

15 November 2005 Brassicas, Genetically Modified Rapeseed

I saw in a movie (The Future of Food) about a Farmer on the great plains of Canada. Farmer Percy Schmeiser had been cultivating his own seed, bred for his farm conditions for 50 years. He noticed his crop could survive the roundup he used around his poles to keep the weeds down. When he complained to Monsanto, they sued, recently won in the supreme court of Canada. Mr. Schmeiser lost all of the seed he'd been cultivating year by year to GM variety. Scary that the court ruled in Monsanto's favor because of patent law. It is unconscionable that it is legal patent life.
Rapeseed (Brassica napsus) is a relative of Broccoli and Kale. The yellow flowers resemble the kale that I let go to seed two years ago, planted last spring and we are still eating the Kale this fall.
There are so many Brassicas around. Turnips, Broccoli, many oriental greens, Brussel Sprouts, Mustard. Even Maca from high up in the Andes Mountains is a Brassica.

13 November 2005 Mums, Leaves

The wind has been blowing leaves around furiously. Thursday we had no power. The wind must have blown it out, knocked down a tree somewhere. I have been doing a lot of raking and moving the leaves to two piles out back and to the rings I have put by the pack fence.
The humidity is lowered, the furnace is on. The heat is set to go down to 60 at night, I know the plants like that.
I read about Mums in Horticulture magazine. There are lots of native looking, single petaled cultivars, though they seem to originate in China. The web sights they provide do not sell seeds, only plants. I did find a little piece on how to raise them from seed for market. There are many many nurseries on the web and it is fun to look them over now, before the catalogs come.
I have studied Feverfew. The cultivar I have is double petaled, but occasionally it seeds produce a single. Mrs. Rumrole, who lived next door to my mother and gave her dried flower heads of this cultivar, recommended pulling out single petaled throwbacks to get rid of them. I believe the single is Chrysanthemum parthnium. I have read that bees can reach the single better and get more pollen, mums are in the compositae family and each petal is a flower. When the flower turns brown, I save some of them. Mrs. Rumrole told Mother to crush the seed head over the place she wanted more little white feverfew. They often take two years to bloom from seed.
From this I extrapolate that non-hybrid mums could be seeded like this. I will try this on the purple mums I got at the perennial exchange. They are a single flower and may reproduce true. I will try this in a pot, keep it labeled, so I don't get a bunch of crosses in my mum cultivation.
I have stayed away from growing Columbine because I want the wild red and yellow variety (Aquilegia canadensis). I don't see it around S.E. Michigan much, people tend to grow fancier kinds in their gardens, but mother had it in her garden. She got seeds from my sister's property and grew them for years. I grew it too, but it has faded from my landscape, so much for that strain of seed, I shall have to get more.

Monday, November 07, 2005

11 October 2005

It is fall, all of the tender lovlies are in, well mostly. There are still some marginal pelargoniums and a few coleus I haven't decided if I have room for in the house.
I still have to figure out the bones of the new rain garden in front. I was leaning toward a swale filled with rocks, lined with plastic. On seeing the unfilled swale, I have changed my mind. I like the idea of lowering the grade gradually from the house. I seems more elegant. More work at the start, but less to look after in the long run. I could be like Dorthy who lives across the street. She has plastic under rocks for a mulch. She cleans her rocks periodically so they won't grow things. I will have to move some plantings.
Good to do it soon, as a little girl tripped in the below swale nest to the walkway yesterday. The transplanted Holly is doing well. The gradual grade will still end in the dirt slightly below the cement. The whole area is garden, spongy and absorbent, but over flow will find the very low dish at the corner away from the house.
I didn't start any more perennials this summer. I will put some seeds in the rain garden, even though most take more than one year to flower. Once echinacia for instance, gets going it takes a lot to stop it.
Speaking of stopping, I have pulled mint out of the circle garden in orderto make room for more raspberries. Behind the garage raspberries were smothered by too much mulch and not enough communication by residents.

4 October 2005 Gardenia, Peppers, Cold

I have had a Gardenia for 8 years or so. It has not bloomed. I asked the lady from Beruit who has a bakery on the corner, she brings in Gardenia flowers regularly. She said she fertilizes with an acid fertilizer, for tomatoes. I didn't get around to trying that, so I did a repot. There were three plants, so I cut off a lot of root and top and gave each plant it's own smaller pot, the better to fit them on sunny window sills. I put one in the south and one in the east. One is too big and is stuck on my north facing porch. I already look for the one in the kitchen window when I enter the room. There it is, basking in the morning sunshine, looking well shaped and glowing green, ready to be there for me when the snows fly.
We are getting a cold front Thursday. It has been beautiful, getting up to the low 80's. Time to pot up the last peppers I want to bring in. Habeneros and little hot ones thrive anywhere. They are pretty at Christmas.

1 October 2005 Lemon Balm, Cold frame

Planted Early Green Broccoli, Chives in stacked pots for inside, Bloomsdale or Long Standing Spinach, Four Seasons Lettuce in stacked pots for inside and in a square foot next to the Broccoli. There is a lot of Kale left here and there, I want to try to make a row cover house for winter.

23 September 2005 Seeds, Permaculture

Collecting seeds, favorite garden activity that it is, became richer today as I take in the vision of all the little bowls full on the sideboard. I put them in envelopes and store them in the refrigerator, except those that need stratification, they go in the freezer.
The Sweet Pea seeds by passed that process. I dropped them in beds by the fence, with a prayer. Hoping they will sprout themselves. The little nursery by the porch has Holly seeds and Elderberry. I set it by pulling everything in it last week. I do mark where I put the seeds, will need to take extra care when weeding there. In Spring, I set up little nurseries in plastic trays 1 1/2 " deep. Now there are two grapefruit and a lily there. The lily will need to go outside, though none of the baby Lilies I left out last year survived. They ought too, Wild Turk's Head Lilies grow in Michigan.

22 September 2005 Monarch visit

A monarch visited the Butterfly Bush in the afternoon today. It is 78 degrees out.

21 September 2005 More season change, get used to it

21 September 2005
Looking out now the sunshine is bright and it is warm, though the calendar tells of cold days ahead. The milkweed is cut down, the pods collected. The only butterfly I've seen visiting lately is the white cabbage moth, it was a good year for those. The others have started on their way to their winter habitat. Bees visit the wild purple asters and the marigolds and Sunflowers and cosmos, they look almost like they make them move they are so thick.
Bees love the mint flowers. I have a lot of mint in the circle garden, though I will probably pull most of it to let the raspberries spread there. The soil there is loose, it is fed with lots of compost, and the mint rhizomes come up easily.
Out front I moved the lemon lily "Prairie Sunrise". It is in a sunnier spot and it is no longer competing with the rhododendron. I put in the lavender I started from seed this spring. It will bloom next year. I pulled out lots of Yucca to make room in the sun. I hope the lily and lavender like being so close together.
I have a 25 year old White Oak in my front yard and as it grows, I have less sun. I must find a good tree trimmer to employ. My mother gave me the gift of a trim 17 years ago, when we moved in, but that man no longer trims trees. He told me city trees need trimming, as they grow alone, do not have a community of trees to keep them growing toward the sun properly. Thus they need human stewardship.
I think of September 21 as the equinox. The internet says for 2005, 22nd to 23rd is the actual date when the sun slips over the equator, leaving us for the south. The sun peaks in my windows as it gets lower in the sky.
Time to get out fall leaf colored linens and think about beeswax for candles. I trimmed the pelargoniums that graced the front porch in a large pot. The name geranium is properly reserved for hardy geranium or cranes-bill. I have a purple perennial geranium and a wild geranium that keeps seeding itself in the shade. I got another cranes-bill over at the perennial exchange Saturday. (Also some large leafed lambs ears, maine thyme, and a spurge. The kind of spurge with a green flower. I know it is invasive and nonnative and will keep it in a pot, but I love it. Perhaps because I remember it from my grandfather's garden. I took some purple geranium to the event and it was well received.)
The large pot of pelargoniums had an exuberant display. It was two years old, so I pulled out the old scented pelargoniums, trimmed most of the leaves off and put them in a long narrow pot suitable for growing on the window sill. The large stems hopefully will make interesting bonsai. Scented pelargoniums don't always like to start roots. Best to keep the roots and discard the leaves. I was loth to compost so much scented material, but could not think of any use for it. I have to pare down in winter, and I have only window sills left. The porch is already over flowing. The frost date for our area is not until Oct 14th. I still have four peppers that ought to come inside, as they grow with vigor. One is "fooled you" and two are hot varieties I acquired this summer. A small one and an ancho. I don't know what the other is. I like to grow enthusiastic peppers in the window sill in winter, they are not prolific in winter, but they get a good start come spring in the cold frame.
I bought a tomatillo plant this July. I put it on the east driveway, very warm and sunny, in a large garbage can. There are lots of fruits on that plant. It sure did grow exuberantly and produce tomatillos. It likes warmth and grows like crazy, is still flowering even with in cold nights of September. I will grow it earlier next year, get a huge crop if I can find a good salsa recipe for them. They don't mind being a little on the dry side, I ought to see how it grows in the house during winter. My guess is it will be like tomatoes and peppers, not do much in the low light of winter.
The "2 large garbage cans on the east, driveway side of our house" experiment was a success. Sweet Potatoes and "spud" potatoes, Tomatoes and Tomatillos all thrived in the warm and often dry conditions. They get heat from the micro-climate of brick and cement. Because they have the radiant heat, they get to stay unharvested for a little while, though the shorter hours of rays will slow their growth.

18 September 2005 Collecting Seeds, Fall garden

Saving seeds, cutting down milkweed so as to collect the seed pods before they colonize the backyard, bringing in plants for the winter. Summer vacation is over.
On labor day, my neighbor, the farmer said "The growing season is over". He is right of course. His beds are tidy, only a few beans left growing. I'm still picking tomatoes, ripening them on the window sill. I'm not ready to pick the green ones just yet, but soon. Tomato season was too short this year.
It was a dry year. Hard to keep things going without watering. I pick a few beans now and then. Mostly they go to the dry bean pile. Nasturtiums seem to like the fall. The chives are back. Soon I will pick and freeze and dry the parsley. Strawberries have sent out runners that are wandering all over looking for places to start themselves. Marigolds and sunflowers along with the purple asters and one lone rose are making all the color. The monarchs have gone. White cabbage moths still like to sip at the flowers, as do many wasps and bees

5 September 2005

Indoor Gardening Begins (sigh)
I have started bringing in house plants from their summer vacation. Impatiens, the succulents, geraniums, cyperus alternafolia, coleus; there are so many plants and there is still the same amount of space I had last year. I may rig up more shelves and make a grow light area in the living room. Still there are limits to the space I can allow plants. I live with people who are not as interested in fauna as I am.
I confess. I took a coleus cutting from a fabulous commercial garden. My admiration goes out to the gardener. I only took the top, trimmed it to keep it from going to seed, but I did root the cutting.