Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Volunteering with Val the Valunteer

I had the pleasure of helping Val the Valunteer and Oakland Press suburban life editor, weed the DTE Energy Community Garden in Pontiac yesterday. Please see her blog for a full report.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Can't wait to plant! Must plant now!

The weather looks favorable for at least the next 10 days, with lows in the 50's and 60's. I can't believe it. It started out as a warm Spring, then was unseasonably cold and now it's warm and humid. We planted our peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and okra today. We keep trying okra every year and haven't had much success with it. But we like it a lot, so we're trying again.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Being a lazy gardener

Lazy and gardening don't really go together. But, when you are limited on time and energy, you find shortcuts. It's beauty when the weather cooperates. We planted on Sunday, dumped a little water on the seeds, then the rain came. That cut down on hose dragging, besides being much more beneficial. Now all we need is a little lightning and there will be no need for fertilizer. We rarely use it anyway.
Ken is the master of the asparagus patch. He uses the huge leaves from the rhubarb plants and lays those down in the rows. They're good ground cover to avert weeds. As much as I enjoy weeding, anytime I can use ground cover, I do. Black plastic is effective in double layers. If you have a large enough garden, a rototiller is an excellent investment. We've used our $200 rototiller for over 20 years and have loaned it out to numerous friends and neighbors, and it still works. Tilling is good for the garden and a fast way to get rid of weeds. Pull the big weeds though..
As I wrote yesterday, broadcasting seeds is easier and more productive than planting rows for things like parsley, spinach and lettuce. I like to plant green onion seeds in rows, because they look so much like grass, it's hard to weed unless they're in rows. To plant a row, I always use a long string, tied to 2 sticks. Then use that same string for every row,  put sticks at each end of every row. For planting beans, push each seed down in the ground with a finger, 3 inches apart down the row. Then go back and cover with dirt. Be sure to make a garden map, writing down what you planted in what rows. I know it takes the mystery out of gardening, but its more rewarding that way.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A nice sunny day on the weekend!

My husband, Ken is out working hard in our garden, so before he could recruit me into some back-breaking project, I have escaped to blog about it. We planted beans and squash. I finally got around to planting green onions, lettuce, parsley (to make fresh tabouleh, easy and delicious) and spinach. I planted the lettuce, parsley and spinach in our raised bed mini-garden. When planting these types of plants, we have found it easier to spread the seeds, (broadcast) in an area rather than plant in rows. It seems to accommodate more plants too.
Ken planted peas in early April and they are coming up nicely in a row along the fence. Its too early to put tomato and pepper plants out, unless you can keep an eye on the weather and cover them when needed. Same for eggplant, melon, okra and squash plants. We have found that the plants don't grow as well anyway until it stays warmer at night. It is such a nice day, and it's a Sunday. Maybe I can sneak outside without Ken seeing me and relax in the sun.

Friday, May 14, 2010

TIme to plant seeds and cold weather plants

 It is time to plant seeds for beans and whatever you want. If you haven't already set out broccoli and other cold weather crops and flowers, go for it. The Farmer's Almanac has this guide:
Also Jerry Wolffe of The Oakland Press wrote this article about planting:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

After rocky start, cherry tomatoes show promise by Jody Headlee

After rocky start, cherry tomatoes show promise
Jody Headlee is a contributing columnist for The Oakland Press.

    One of the exciting treats in the spring, when you are a garden writer, is the arrival of catalogs with exciting promises.
    Often national seed producers will send out special catalogs introducing new releases to get the information into the hands of the public early.
    This year was no exception. Sakata Seed America Inc. of Morgan Hill, Calif., mailed me its slick vegetable catalog and included a separate glossy introduction to Sweet Treats, a pink cherry tomato.
    I happen to be an all-out advocate of cherry tomatoes, and when I saw the magnificent photography in the separate folder as well as tips on growing this new miracle, I was sold.
    Particularly, when tucked inside was the message that I’d find a packet of its seeds so that I would be sure to try them.
    Only problem: Somebody had forgotten to put in the packet, whetting my appetite to find out more about this exceptional hybrid that was making its debut.
    I gave Joey Kitagawa, sales and marketing director, a call and by return mail, received an apology and a brilliantly colored packet of the missing seeds – 12 in all. Tiny and creamy white, they looked pretty defenseless scattered in my hand to better inspect them.
    Once carefully replaced in their packet, I headed to our basement stash of plastic pots and other planting necessities.
    From my many open packages in the potting area — typical of a grandmother chef in her kitchen — I added compost, sterilized potting soil, Perlite, peat moss and a few pinches of black sand.
    My “soil” combo had one problem. The ingredients had been resting in their open packages near the furnace. To say the blend was dry was the understatement of the year.
    Even mixed, its parched presence stood out. It was obvious I haven’t been doing much planting since that red-light accident some four years ago and just the puttering made me as happy as a piglet in the barnyard. It took me three days of soaking and playing with the mix before its ingredients had absorbed enough water to consider it worthy of planting material. Once proper consistency was reached, the seeds were distributed.
    Normally, I would have scattered them in one container, waited for them to germinate and then transplanted them individually.
    Instead, I gently placed each seed and my blessings in its new surroundings. When looking at the finished product, they were so tiny, they had just slid into a soil crevices and disappeared. I knew they were there but only because I put them there.
    As usual, I covered each container with a clear, plastic cover, stashed them in an aluminum Thanksgiving turkey roaster and carried all to the desk in the guest bedroom. Regular readers will recall it is our version of a “greenhouse,” offering lots of light but the ability to control sun rays that burn tender leaves in the snap of a finger.
    With the seeds on their own, I felt like an octomom-plus-four as I waited.
    Stupid? Nope, you have to be a gardener experimenting with the unknown to understand.
    All I had to do was watch these empty-looking pots, make sure they were kept moist but not enough to encourage mold and wait.
    On the seventh day of my rounds, there were nine spindly, two-leafed babies reaching toward the light. That meant there were three more to come or three that bypassed the chance to join the experiment. Time will tell.
    They were alive but they looked mighty leggy and fragile. Would they live?
    I hope so and will keep you posted. Cross your fingers, I need all the help I can get.
    I do so want to judge and taste these Sweet Treats that Sakata claims carry an “uniquely balanced flavor of sweetness with the low acidity of pink tomatoes, yet are the size of a cherry tomato.”
    In addition, they offer high crop yields and are hardy, making them very grower friendly. Who could ask for more?
    Headquartered in Yokohama, Japan, Sakata was the first Japanese company to export seed and has been involved in the development of new and improved plant varieties around the world for almost 100 years.
    Favored in the Far East, pink tomatoes dominate its tomato market. Genetically different than the traditional red tomato, experts claim it’s the balance of the pinks’ acidic sweetness that make them special. I’d like to take that taste test. Wish me luck!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Get green grass without the guesswork by Jody Headlee

Get green grass without the guesswork
Jody Headlee is a contributing columnist for The Oakland Press.

    The mowing season is here. If you want your lawn to stand out as perfect as one pictured on the cover of an unopened bag of grass seed, you will stand a better chance if you routinely change your mowing pattern.
    By mowing east and west this week and north and south next, you will distribute the traffic so the wear and tear on the lawn itself will be more uniform.
    Alternating the mower’s tracks ever other week also eliminates high and low spots often created by following the same pattern week after week.
    It is also vital to keep the mower’s blades sharp and remember when you turn during the cutting, try to use the driveway or sidewalk. Turning with the mower running can all too often skin the grass right down to the soil line, interfering with the classic look of perfection you are seeking.
    Also important, make sure your lawn receives enough water to keep it healthy and strong. The time of day is not important, as long as you comply with your community’s regulations. Because of area water situations, some insist that automatic watering systems have their timers set to operate at night or in the wee hours of the early morning.
    Don’t forget, more water is lost to evaporation if it is applied during the heat of the day. A weekly dousing is adequate if the roots are thoroughly drenched, a method far more beneficial to the health of your lawn than scattered light sprinklings.
    If a rolling green is important, lawn specialists suggest that you chose a seed that will adapt well to the type of lawn you intend to grow.
    If you favor the creeping bent of a putting green, tall fescue seeds will not fill the bill. They do far better when used to establish an athletic field.
    Then there is rye grass seed, good as a quick cover to prevent erosion, as well as a host of other seeds just waiting for your attention.
    Do your homework and find out which one is best for you.
    It will save you a lot of elbow grease and anxiety as you work toward that lawn that looks so perfect – in picture books.
    With all of us being encouraged to think and eat green, you might be tempted to tackle Brussels sprouts.
    If you do, remember this suggestion from oldsters; remove the plants’ lower leaves. It will allow the sprouts more room to develop. Just do not remove too many.
    Plants need leaves to manufacture the food that will help them develop full maturity.
    While we are thinking about growing our own vegetables, I would like to warn you about the blossom-end-rot of tomatoes.
    While it is not a disease, it can wreak havoc when you are waiting to harvest Americans’ favorite home-grown salad treat.
    It is a physiological condition related to a calcium deficiency in the veggie and the only cure is to avoid extreme fluctuations in the soil’s moisture.
    Should you see a small, dark blemish on the blossom end of a tomato, you could be in for trouble.
    As the spot grows, it will become tough and leathery.
    Should a bacteria or fungal rot decide to pay a visit, the whole tomato could be a goner.
    As long as none stop by, your tomato crop is safe. To correct the infraction, simply cut the end away and use the firm flesh of the tomato’s upper portion.
    To try and avoid the situation, mulch the crop. That simple step will do much to help the ground moisture remain constant and your tomato harvest healthy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Protect your plants tonight

If you were bold and have already set out tomato and pepper plants, you may want to cover them tonight. Don't forget your flowers too. In the past, we have used paper bags placed upside down with a hole in the bottom of the bag. I've read that some gardeners use sheets or blankets to cover the plants.
If there is frost in the morning and you forgot to cover them, turn on the sprinkler before the sun hits the plants. That really works. In the orchards, they use giant fans, to blow the frost away before the sun shines on the trees.  It's supposed to rain Tuesday and then start warming up. I'm waiting till next weekend to plant seeds. Happy Mother's Day to all you moms!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Oakland County Parks hosts Rain Gardens Workshop

Oakland County Parks horticulture staff hosts the Rain Gardens Workshop, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.on Saturday, May 22, at the Oakland County Parks (formerly Ernst) Greenhouse.
Participants will learn how to install, maintain and select the proper plant materials for rain gardens. There will be a hands-on planting demonstration of an on-site rain garden. Light refreshments will be available. 
A rain garden is a planted depression that reduces rain runoff by absorbing the stormwater from roofs, driveways, walkways and lawn areas.
Cost is $10/person for members or $15/person for non-members.
Pre-registration required online at

Monday, May 3, 2010

Oakland County Parks system to host greenhouse open house

Oakland County Parks will host a Greenhouse Open House 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 5, at the new greenhouses at Waterford Oaks County Park, 1580 Scott Lake Road. It includes guided and self-guided tours, and refreshments. There also will be an informational workshop that day, titled “Is a Community Garden in Your Future?” from 6- 8:30 p.m. at the Oakland County Executive Office Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road. Cost for the workshop is $15. Contact Linda Smith at or 248-858-0887.