Sunshine, Tan Lines, and Mosquitos

What a bea-U-ti-ful weekend we had! Finally the perfect combination: good weather, no rain...and reasonably warm enough to be able to be outside. Yardening, here we come! Oh, how we've missed this...

While I gathered some essentials (gloves, pruners, etc.) Saturday morning, Mr. T began the day by refilling the bird feeders. Only...on this day, he had a new helper: Abbie! Look closely at the picture (below) to see Abbs with her paws up on the stump that is used as the filling station; you can barely see Mr. T's hand, as he had slipped back in the shed just as I snapped the shot. Oh yes, dear friends, she has taken to both master and routine like she's lived here for a year instead of just a week. She's discovered the doggie doors...and knows how to use them. Surely it won't be too long before she's chasing those d4mn squirrels away from the rich bounty in the Kingdom of our Back Yard.

The To Do List was lengthy and dynamic as we began the day. Mr. T was especially keen to get the 6 newly-arrived Flame Seedless grape vines in the ground in the Berry Patch, which meant he had to start with the Big Tiller to turn over the bed we had previously drawn up and marked off.

We have two Concord grape vines that are starting their third season (you may recall they produced some grapes last year), and we wanted to try another variety to complete our "vineyard." Research shows that Flames are heat-tolerant, which was the main consideration; whether we liked the grapes was the next most important item. While I like the Concords...and look forward to the day when I can harvest enough to make a jar of jam...Mr. T isn't a fan of their flavor...says they are too sour for "straight eating." Enter Flames: sweet and seedless...who could ask for more?

The area chosen for the vineyard is in the correct pH range (5.8 per our Soil Test in 2011), and appears to have a sandy streak running through the red clay. As we haven't improved the soil in this spot, we made a tasty mix of the soil removed from the planting holes, top soil, mushroom compost, Moo-nure, leaves (saved last Fall, remember?), and peat moss. While the last ingredient isn't recommended in this area due to a tendency to contribute to the soil's acidity, we made an executive decision to go for better tilth over pH. The support posts also got pounded in (no easy task), and the only thing remaining is to string the support wires and secure the vines. Those new grape-babies sure look happy in their new home!

Meanwhile, I continued with the pruning of the roses (doesn't sound nearly as much fun as The Running for the Roses, aka The Kentucky Derby, now does it?). Remember, I had finished this chore in the Rose Garden, but there were still the 17 bushes in the back yard? All look healthy, with the possible exception of the Sterling Silver hybrid tea. The first "blue" rose introduced in 1955, and the parent or grandparent of almost every lavender-blooming rose out there, this bush has always seemed less hardy than the others. Now it looks like it is on the Intensive Care roster. Sigh. It's one of my favorite blooms, too. You know how much I love purple, right? (I mean, who else paints their shed doors PURPLE, I ask you?) Well, this rose blooms a lovely, delicate lavender. Of course, "delicate" is probably the operative word here.

While I was pruning the roses in the Rose Garden, I had a thought: why not try to root some of the hardiest trimmings? With yesterday's snips, I had quite the collection. Sooo, out came the rooting hormone...and the nursery pots...and a new "rooting mix" (potting soil, peat moss, and sand). I got 12 pots of trimmings...and if just a few root, well...that's OK. It will be my first time to root my own roses...and probably the last time I ever buy another rose bush. As I am doing this for my own garden, with no plans to sell any successes, I'm ok on the patent laws...teehee.

As I dipped the last stem into the rooting hormone and pushed it into the last space in the last prepared pot (see photo above of the cuttings), Mr. T was tilling up a new rose bed in the Way Back. You see, we need to move some of our back yard buddies to a sunnier area. We made the mistake of planting them that first Spring we were in this house, thinking the sun factor where we put them would be constant throughout the growing season. Wrong. They just don't get enough hours of Summer sunshine (hybrid teas do best in full sun...8-10 hours a day). A reminder that one should live in a house...and garden...for a full year before making any changes.

Next up: potatoes in bags! Yes, we are planting our potato crop in bags again this year (instead of dedicating a row to them). Worked well last year, thriving on the benign neglect that was Garden 2012. I had prepared 10 sprouting chunks (3-4 eyes each) a couple of days before, giving them time to scab over on the cut edges. Mr. T helped me set up the Potato Farm, by laying out cardboard next to the asparagus bed, where we put 3 blue grow-bags, pouring top soil in to the depth of about 3 inches. As the sprouts grow, we'll add soil to cover the new growth until it reaches the top of the bags. At the end of their growth cycle (after the flowers, and when the green stems on top begin to wilt and die back), all we have to do is dump the bags out and-- voilá--potatoes! No digging!! And we have the added benefit of being able to recycle the "used" soil. Winner, winner...baked potato dinner!!👍

While taking a break, I could tell my face was getting more than a goodly amount of sunshine. As I'd had my visor on (I cannot wear a hat...just can't...too hot...) mainly for eye protection from the light and the glare (yeah, still an issue), I knew I was starting on one of my most bizarre tan lines: the one across my forehead, between my hairline and where the visor droops down over my eyes. Like a bald-heated man who forgoes his baseball cap at the beach.

And, just as we were enjoying a refreshing snack of Braeburn apple slices and cheddar cheese with crackers (agreeing that we'd truly missed these little impromptu picnics), what should buzz Mr. T's ear and alight on my exposed hand (since I was wearing long sleeves and long pants to protect me from all those thorns, I was fairly well covered elsewhere)? Why, a big, black mosquito! Already?! Guess so...

Before we collapsed on Sunday evening ( extra hour of daylight!), Mr. T finished installing the last two Country Garden fence corners in the Cool Season Garden. Beautiful! We plan to redo this space with raised beds, and the corners provide just the structure needed.

And, then as everyone and everything left the Way Back, I mixed up the Dormant Spray and doused the fruit trees, grape vines, and roses. Sunday was the perfect day for this chore: a partly cloudy day in late winter (of which there are only 10 more days!), with no rain in the forecast for 24 hours; temps above 40 and below 85; with the area well-watered (the ground is still well-saturated from all the rain we have been having); and no chance of frost. While this stuff (basically, horticultural oil) is safe, there are warnings to remove people and pets from the 'active' spray area. And, although I am a "be nice to your Mother Earth" kind of a gardener, I recognize that an ounce of prevention in the dormant stage is worth the need to spray a pound of cure later on...and risk harm to any pollinators that come during the blossom stage.

And so, if Mr. T and I eventually recover from all of our strenuous activities, we shall pronounce this a successful weekend, and time well-spent. Huzzah!


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