Friday, May 8, 2009

One Week in April by Late Bloomer

Instead of the usual Wednesday at the potters' wheel, I found myself out in the front yard, trying to makeup for lost time by tending to some old projects. A veteran saver of GOOD STUFF, it's no surprise that I am now very PC with my GREEN life style. The path beside the house has been paved for around 20 years with bricks and tiles salvaged from construction sites, and scrapes of stone from here and there. Last spring, my neighbor gave me some nice flagstones left over from his project. As you can see, the job has been on hold for a year. This week's goal is to finish laying the stones in soil that will eventually be planted with some kind of low-growing thyme. This almost bare patch of ground was the first front yard veggie garden in our neighborhood. How GREEN is that? In November 2007 I smothered a large area of grass with layers of newsprint covered with a mix of manure and compost. Over the winter the grass died, never to return. (Unfortunately, this didn't stop the bindweed, but that's a story for another day.) The garden was planted last spring with indoor-started plants, and we harvested eggplant, tomatoes, chilies, kale, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, and assorted herbs. The soil is rich and the location ideal for sun-loving veggies. Our freezers and pantry hold enough food to get us by until the this year's plantings are producing. The October-planted arugula and spinach have been showing up in salads for many weeks now, and the perennial lemon balm and thyme are demonstrating their appreciation for all that snow last week. The arugula has such pretty white flowers; unfortunately it is bolting. Meanwhile, this year's crops are behind schedule. Lots of seeds were ordered over a month ago, but have not yet arrived due to an "unprecedented interest in gardens" this year. Some plants are growing under lights in the laundry room
and will soon be outside in a portable mini greenhouse—as soon as I build it out of the old fence boards and windows that are gathering dust in the storage area. Provided of course, that I can find them under all that other STUFF... Thursday, the day after Earth Day The flagstone path awaits.
It is already warm and will reach 80 degrees today, the prognosticators say. Meanwhile, I get waylaid by the trash beside the house, then the leaves in the window well. Another barrel-full for the compost! Then I am distracted by the bushes that need pruning, and the ground becomes littered with red twigs. Back to the stone laying; but first I must put down grass stop at the path's end; and before that, have to dig up the edge sod. All the while I am thinking about the window well covers we bought last year. If I can get that clean well covered over it will be one less latrine for the raccoons... FridayApril 24 The stone path is finished (as promised) and is watered to settle the dirt and set the stones. Getting waylaid again, I chopped weeds in the garden space in preparation for planting some of the seeds that finally got here yesterday afternoon: carrots, cabbage, peas, kale, swiss chard, beets, onions, and salad greens. I fix the water connections near the front porch, only to get drenched by the nozzle on the new coiled hose, which sprays out everywhere but its end. After replacing it with another nozzle I went in to make a lunch which included last summer's kale and chard from the freezer, cooked with garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil. After a quick trip to the gym to un-kink my back, I'll be downstairs starting more seeds under the lights:delphinium, valarian, butterfly bush, paprika peppers, and cone flower. It is difficult starting perennials this way, but I love propagation in all its forms. And, isn't saving money GREEN, too? Saturday April 25 Today is pottery day; I got some yard work done before I went, as it is hard to pull myself away from the studio once I get there. Finished cleaning up after the stone laying project: Excess dirt from the path project is loaded into the garden cart along with a bag of manure that's been sitting in the driveway since early March. The barrel of leaves from the window well cleanup will comprise the third layer in a new compost pile. This wonderful chicken/rabbit/goose/hay manure is from my friend's "farm" here in the heart of Lakewood. Her property is one of several in the area which is still zoned for animals. She always gives me a ribbon-topped sack of shit for my birthday. Wow, does that stuff grow veggies! SundayApril 26 a gloomy day complete with a cold wind. No outside work today. I buy some grass stop and a hoop support for the peony which always spills into the driveway. The store's nursery is overflowing with flowers, trees, and shrubs. I make note of shrubs and roses to plant into my next front yard project: a new bed along the front sidewalk that will have water thrifty small shrubs and perennials. This border will give us a little more privacy, discourage vegetable foraging, and replace more of the water-thirsty turf. I tend to the seedlings in the laundry room. The tomatoes are growing fast, especially the heirloom Roma type that I got from a friend two years ago. The seeds have been saved from last year's crop. This is my way of not only saving money, but continuing the world's seed bank. My daughter-in-law has given me a wonderful package of baby food jars filled with saved seeds. Another friend contributed special seeds from his yard. All are here in the flats, and I await their awakening. On the way upstairs I gather up the last winter squash that was harvested in October. This is an heirloom variety named Hopi orange, and I see in my mind's eye the mesa-living peoples who grew this magnificent food. It has a tough skin, thick succulent flesh, and best of all, viable seeds for its continuing re-genesis. There is enough flesh here to make a pie, some soup, a veggie dish, and maybe some cookies. MondayApril 27 It rained and snowed last night, nice and wet and I give thanks for the moisture. The potted primroses on the front porch are still blooming as they have been since early March.
Tough plant; I had no idea! No yard work today. TuesdayApril 28 Today I am begin edging the front yard veggie garden, before the grass can start spreading into the area again. I like a mowing strip around beds, so there will be a row of bricks just inside the grass stop. The bricks come from another stash of GOOD STUFF that has been awaiting action for a couple of years. One son operates heavy equipment, and twice that year he called to invite me to salvage bricks from houses that were being torn down. The car's shocks were groaning from the trips across town, but well worth the effort. There are plenty left for the original project—paving under a grape arbor, built three years ago with the help of another son. Taking a break from the kneeling, it's time to tackle pruning. One bush is topped; it is getting too tall and needs to be coaxed into filling in better. A gigantic rabbit brush is taking over the entry way, and gets a very severe haircut. I know for a fact they never get this big in the wild... WednesdayApril 29 Still working on the garden edging. The seedlings under lights are doing well. The peppers and eggplants are growing faster now that I have put a heater in the room. I need to get that mini greenhouse built soon; some of the plants are nearing a size that needs repotting. The choices about the seedlings' thinning have been made. It is hard to pinch off the extras; it feels like murder. There is no more room under the light, so I will need to move some things into window sills that are already crowded with cuttings from last year's annuals: coleus in lovely dark red and lime green, and the stunning bright green sweet potato vine for companionship. The wintering-over geraniums are more than a decade old, and have provided two cuttings twice since fall. That's it for the week. OK, OK so it's a week and a day; but Monday didn't count.