Finch nest, second year

Last spring a pair of house finches made a nest at the top of the post on my front porch and raised a family. I was too slow removing the nest after they fledged, and they raised a second brood in the same nest. I suppose it could have been an entirely different pair of house finches, but that seems unlikely. After the second set of chicks left the nest, I waited to see if they'd raise a third family, but it seems like two is the limit. I then left the nest up for the rest of the summer and fall for no reason other than pure laziness.

Then we realized that a pair of Carolina wrens were using the nest as a roost during the coldest parts of winter, making me glad I didn't remove it. They'd snuggle down into the nest in the evening, taking shelter from the wind and snow. Even though I did finally remove the nest this spring (ok, maybe it fell down), the finches are back.


Update on everything

Things change and progress in a garden -- that's what they tend to do, whether or not you do anything. Here's an update on pretty much everything going on in my garden right now. Starting with the catcus seedlings:

I started these seeds in early February, which amazingly is less than two months ago -- time flies!


First tackle the brown, then handle the green

Today's post will not be pretty. You won't see beautiful images of spring, young greens under a dusting of snow, colorful blooms announcing the end of winter. None of that. Today you'll see some of the cleanup that's required when you have a garden that goes dormant for several months of the year. It won't be very attractive, so I'll start off with a relatively nice image:

Coincidentally it goes well with the title of today's post, as this copper trellis started out brown (ok, coppery brown), then weathered to "green". This post is not about the trellis though. It's about the stuff on the trellis, and in my planting beds: the remains of last year's plants.


New Bamboo

I've talked before about trading plants with other gardeners, and how it's better in some ways than mail order plants especially when it's bamboo plants that are being traded. I didn't mean to imply that ordering plants through the Internet or from catalogs isn't fun though, because it is. It's especially fun for me when the plant that was ordered was bamboo.

I haven't purchased too many bamboos for delivery, as most of my plants were either purchased locally or gotten on one of my road trips to Needmore Bamboo Company. I did purchase one recently though, and it arrived last week.


Winter returns

Was it just last weekend that I was in the yard cutting down my ornamental grasses, complaining about having to wear long pants and sleeves as the temperature was 80ºF/26ºC? It seems like ages ago, as winter has returned to St. Louis. The temperature this morning was 25ºF/-4ºC, which is below normal but isn't unheard of. What is more unusual is the fact that we got about 4" of snow yesterday.

It's probably the most picturesque snowfall of the year, not only for the way that it's combining with the spring flowers and emerging greens, but in that it has stuck to everything. The first sunlight in several days was the final straw -- I had to get outside with the camera.


I need rose pruning advice!

It's rare that I ask for gardening advice in a post. It's not that I don't need advice because I'm an expert in everything related to plants and gardening -- far from it! I'm not an expert, and often do need advice. It's just that I like figuring things out myself. I like trying something that seems to be logical to me, then seeing if it does what I expected. This approach usually works pretty well, as it's difficult to make terrible mistakes with most of the plants I grow. Despite my unintentional attempts to harm them, they overcome and keep on going.

Today is different though. I've decided that I finally need some advice on pruning my shrub roses. If you know anything about pruning these types of roses, please keep reading and post a comment!


Sedum, bamboo, thyme, and moss

Sometimes my posts have focus. A topic. Maybe they document a project. Maybe they have a central theme. Other times my posts do not. They're collections of non-connected mini-topics. Sort of a jumble of some small things I've noticed recently that don't lend themselves to a full post.

A catch-up day. Filed under "miscellaneous". Today's post is one of those.


Goodbye last year's grasses

I really hate doing it, but it's time to cut down the ornamental grasses. I put this task off as long as possible each year for a few different reasons. First, I love the look of the large grasses during the winter -- their textures, colors. Second, they provide a good deal of privacy for my yard, as well as shelter for birds and other critters. Third, cutting them down is a lot of work.

But there comes a time when the new growth is ready to emerge, so the dead parts must go. I did this over the weekend when it was sunny, warm, and dry. Ideally I would have done it on a cooler day because it requires long sleeves and long pants for protection from the sharp grasses, but too warm is better than too cold I guess.


Do you recognize this?

Do you know what this is? It's pretty common in my yard, and probably in many other yards and gardens around the area -- probably throughout the country. If you recognized it as a seed head from a Rudbeckia, or "Black-eyed Susan", then you'd be right. Sort of.

Normally I'd say you're definitely right, but right now I'm looking for a different answer. I was actually looking for the answer "a whole garden's full of Rudbeckia seedlings". You don't see it? Is it hard for you to imagine all of those seeds germinating in your yard? Let me help you to visualize it...


Spring, part 2

Today it hit 80ºF/26ºC again. So warm, so sunny. I did a little yard cleanup at lunch, but that's not what this post is about. This post is more images of spring's arrival in my garden.

If you're tired of this type of image, then you must live somewhere nice and warm, where winter is either long past or something you only read about, or hear about from the tourists. The rest of us, well, we need this.


Spring, part 1

Everything seemed to align perfectly: sunshine, very warm weather, the weekend, and the first day of spring.

I got outside with the camera to celebrate.


Potting the trade plants

The other day I received a package of plants as part of a trade. I took a brief look at the plants then, but didn't want to unwrap them completely as I wasn't ready to plant.

I'm ready to plant now, so let's take a closer look.


Blueberry for me, finally

Every spring one of the first plants I see in almost every garden center is blueberries. Even Home Depot, with its sometimes neglected and rarely surprising garden department has a selection of blueberry varieties on its still mostly-empty plant racks. So every year I've considered planting blueberries. I'd research each of the varieties available, then get caught up in the details: which is best, how large would the bush get, where would I plant it, how would I keep critters from eating the berries, and so on.

Before I know it my head is spinning and I give up, and another year goes by without blueberries. Not this year. This year I didn't think too much, gave in to impulse -- if you can call it that -- and bought one of the nice plants one of the local nurseries had on display.


Under the deck stairs: a mess

Under my deck stairs is an interesting place. During the growing season it's pretty inaccessible, as several different plants block it off. During the winter though, it's wide open and I take advantage of that and use it as storage. Since one of the perennials that grows here is one of the first to wake up each year, I can't wait too long to clear out this area.

That's one of my Dicentra spectabilis or "bleeding hearts" pushing its way out of dormancy. It's a little late this year, but its appearance is my reminder to remove everything that's under here, so that's what I'll do today.


Plant trading

Getting plants via mail order is fun and exciting. You place the order, wait a week or two, and a box shows up full of new plants. If you've never done it, you should give it a try.

Even better though is trading plants with other gardeners. It's like buying mail order plants, but free! (Well, except for the price of shipping.) I received one box of bamboo rhizomes earlier this year, and today I look at another more recent plant haul.


A planting puzzle!

This past weekend I wanted to get more seeds started, particularly tomato plant seeds. So I picked up another "Jiffy" seed starting kit -- one that is specifically for tomato plants. The "pellets" are larger than the ones I used before so you can't start as many plants, but the 16 in this kit should be plenty for me -- probably way more tomatoes than I need.

The problem is, I have a few different types of tomato seeds I want to start, and there's no simple way to divide up the 16 pods evenly.


Prepare, plant, water... freeze?

I'm excited about my new veggie beds, and I'm determined to make them productive this year. Mother Nature is helping... sort of. Sunday night it started raining, which is perfect for any newly-planted veggie starts or seeds. A good soaking is just what they need.

Unfortunately, that rain turned into a couple of inches of wet snow. Most seed packets and plant tags don't say "cover with snow after planting", do they?


Veggie garden makeover, part 2

Yesterday was spent pulling down the vines, removing weeds and all other old vegetation from my vegetable garden, and taking down the trellises. Although it was a lot of work, seeing the veggie garden cleared and ready for whatever comes next was quite rewarding.

Today we see what comes next, and it's raised beds! I'm eager to get started on the first building project of the year, so let's get started!


Veggie garden makeover, part 1

Continuing my pledge to pay more attention to the edibles in my garden this year with the goal of getting a respectable crop of goodies to eat, it's time to do something about the place they will be growing. As I mentioned before, the bed was given over to the cypress vines last year when the edibles didn't thrive on the neglect I lavished upon them.

Today the vines come down, as do the trellises, and the while bed gets cleaned in preparation for what comes next.


Banana: How much is too much?

So you're a gardener. You have a compost pile, right? You're diligent about collecting kitchen scraps for the compost pile, even through the coldest part of winter. Coffee grounds, eggshells, tea bags, orange peels, apple cores, that half head of lettuce you left in the fridge too long and it started to turn -- none of this goes into the trash bin. It's all valuable and essential to the future health of your plants, so onto the compost pile it goes. What do you do when you produce a lot of kitchen scraps though? Like, banana peels maybe.

What if you have a couple of bunches worth of banana peels -- do they all go onto the pile? What if it's more than a couple of bunches worth... maybe 10 lbs of peels. Is that too much? What about 40 lbs?


Upright, the bamboo

Have you noticed that I have a lot of posts about bamboo? Well get ready for a bunch more over the next month or two, because things really start to happen with temperate bamboo in the spring. A lot of things also get done to the bamboo in the spring (by me), like the other day when I spent some time picking up all of the large pots that I had laid down and tarped over for the winter.

I uncovered them a few weeks ago when the weather was unseasonably warm, but I didn't pick them up at that time. I probably could have, but I wanted to wait a few more weeks until the threat of a really cold spell (20ºF/-6ºC) had passed.


This year I won't slight the veggies

Last year for whatever reason I did not pay much attention to the vegetable garden. Maybe I was too busy with the new blog, documenting my extensive yard cleanup. Maybe it was the unusually warm spring. Maybe I just forgot. Whatever the reason, I made several mistakes last year: I didn't start my cold-weather plants like lettuce and spinach early enough, I didn't prepare the soil very well, and I didn't write about any of it! I have no idea when I actually sowed the seeds, what types I sowed, when I fertilized, and so on.

Oh, I did some veggie garden updates, but without a starting point for reference they weren't much use. This year I'm determined to do better. Step one is to get some seeds started early, so that's what I did last weekend.


Corn gluten test 1 update

A little less than a week ago I started a little test to see if the corn gluten I had purchased as a pre-emergent herbicide would have any effect -- there have been some studies done that produced conflicting results. I made up a little tray of soil, applied the corn gluten product to half of it, then sprinkled grass seed over the whole thing.

Remember that I had some doubts about my test, mainly that the corn gluten wouldn't  have time to break down before the seeds germinated. Those doubts appear to have been quite reasonable.


Starting to empty the greenhouse

Although it's been pretty cold lately, at or slightly below our normal temperatures, I decided not to procrastinate and I started removing the potted bamboos from my temporary greenhouse. Last year I remember it being pretty warm when I did this, and it took at least an hour to get the pots out. Since it's above freezing but definitely not warm right now I'm not going to dawdle this year.

There are on the order of 50 pots in here this year, and I don't have a well-defined plan on where they're going to go, but too much thinking and I'll end up putting this off for another week -- I really don't want to do that.


Update on cactus seedlings and semps

That "best of the year" post I did the other day took a lot of time, and took a lot out of me. So today it's short and to the point. Time for another update on the cactus seedlings and sempervivum.

The cactus are really starting to look cactusy, not in overall form, but definitely in the spine department.


Wanna buy a garden tiller?

Yesterday's post was a look back over last year's posts, but today I take a look back even further to show you how things have changed. Have you ever considered buying a garden tiller of some sort? Do you own one already? How did you choose it, from an ad in a gardening magazine perhaps? If so, then I can probably take a guess what you have: either a Mantis tiller, or a model from DR. Why would I guess those? Because they're just about the only advertised tillers I see these days, or are certainly the most widely advertised.

Back in 1977 though, a gardener who had time to read about their hobby or home farm had more choices. Many more choices. Last year my neighbor cleaned out part of his basement and found a 1977 issue of Organic Gardening magazine and gave it to me. Although the articles are still relevant today, the ads are what caught my attention.


One year anniversary: INWIG best of 2010

According to Blogger I made my first blog post on March 5, 2010 which means today is my one-year anniversary! Although I had some trouble the first week or so posting correctly and missed a couple of days, I quickly got into the swing and posted every day after that. One of the main reasons for creating this blog was so I'd document everything I did in the garden, and I have to admit I've done a pretty good job of that. Did I list every detail of every task I did? No, certainly not. I missed lots of stuff, including some important details such as what exact varieties of veggies I planted, spacings, fertilization schedules, etc. but I also shared a lot of things that I would normally have just observed and enjoyed for myself, and have hopefully given some entertainment and knowledge to my few loyal readers.

Today I'm going to take a look back over the past year and list my favorite posts in chronological order. If you haven't seen them before please take a look. If you have seen them already, then think of it as a rerun of your favorite show... or better yet a "best of" clip show. There's a lot here, so take your time.


My "casual" garden shoes

A while back I wrote about my new work boots, what I'll be wearing when digging, mowing, essentially doing anything other than strolling around the garden. When I am just walking around though I wear something more casual. Actually they're not that casual, as they're shoes made of leather, not the colored spongy plastic that is so popular in the garden and everywhere else these days (for good reason).

I didn't purchase these to be garden shoes, but one day I realized that they might be quite good for that purpose, and I never wore them anyway. They ended up being great shoes for the garden. Because they're leather they're quite durable, but do take some care. Today I'm giving them a long overdue polishing.


An experiment starts: corn gluten

Yesterday I posted about a lawn care task, specifically applying corn gluten as a pre-emergent herbicide. It's organic, safe, prevents weeds from growing, smells like corn-based snacks -- what more could a gardener ask for? Well, maybe that it actually works. You see, it was pointed out in the comments that another study was done, and its results questioned the utility of corn gluten as a pre-emergent. In fact, that study concluded that it had no herbicidal properties at all.

Although it's difficult or impossible for most of us to duplicate those studies that universities do -- we have everything except the time, experience, equipment, manpower, and funding -- in this case I think I can do a simple test to satisfy my own curiosity. So today I'm starting an experiment to see if the corn gluten works for me.


Time to corn up the lawn

I want to get serious about my lawn this year. Last year I didn't take very good care of it, and I regretted it later. Right now is the right time to put down a pre-emergent herbicide to keep any weed seeds that might be in my lawn from germinating. Since I'm almost entirely organic here, using harsh chemicals (both natural and man-made) only in the most extreme cases, I'm spreading corn on my lawn:

It's not whole grain corn, but a product made from corn gluten, which contains chemicals that prevent seeds from germinating. It also smells a little like corn chips.


On the ground, brown comes down

It's that time of year when I have to start thinking about cleaning up the yard, removing all of the dead foliage from last season's annuals, perennials, vines, grasses, and ground cover bamboos. I have mixed feelings about these tasks, because it means my yard gets "flat" for a while, and really opens up. Loses its privacy.

It also means that I lose all of the interesting textures and different shades of brown that I've been seeing for the last few months, like in this photo. Of course this cleanup makes way for this season's new growth, but it still makes me a little sad to see all of the browns go. It's a lot of work too, so I'll start with something small and simple today: the ground cover bamboos.


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