Falling off the Map

Hello? So much for my posting goals of 2019. What happened? Well, I never did hear back from the current owners of the Hall Homestead (or if they emailed me it was lost in the infinite, junk mail folder). We had a huge storm in July that dropped branches over most of our yard, including my iris bed. The bed was mostly cleared out except for some special iris I didn’t want out of the ground for long. The tree, of course, fell right over that section. Thankfully, everything made it and by the end of the summer I had over 20 wheel barrows full of sandy soil added to the notoriously winter-flood prone bed. All the iris were replanted by the end of August. Hopefully, they’ll make it. This turned out to be the BIG project of the year. 

My grow-bags were, once again, a success. This year in general wasn’t the greatest garden year. Lots of rain and cool weather kept most of my veggies from producing at the top of their game. It also kept my motivation at bay. It seemed every day I had off was raining. My flowers did pretty well though, as well as the new space created this spring.

The summer and fall turned out much different than I expected. I ended up putting in many more hours at work than originally planned (I work in soul-sucking retail). In January, I hope things slow down, so I have a chance to reevaluate what was accomplished in 2019, what was successful, and what I want to attempt next.

I already have big plans for 2020, of course. 2019 was overall, more successful than 2018. Moving forward, no matter how slow, is all that matters. Did I accomplish everything I planned? Not even 10%. My goal for 2020? I hope to accomplish 15% of my plans. Small steps.

I do have many ideas and plans. I hope some of them come to fruition. I also hope I can keep motivation to share the journey!

Good Bye, 2019. Hello, 2020.

Grow Bags, Again!

Last year, I grew my tomatoes and peppers in two different types of grow bags. The tomatoes were grown in 5 gallon felt bags, and the peppers in 5 gallon plastic grow bags. It was a huge success. Below is a couple of picture of my set up…

I used Pro-Mix All-Purpose Mix as my main planting medium. You can buy it in 2 cubic foot compressed bales that expand to around 4 cubic feet. It was the first year I tried the mix after spending some time trying to find an economical, but good quality potting mix for my containers. Previously, I used Ferti-lome and Black Gold Organic, both of which I love, but didn’t want to use for this project. I’ve started using Pro-Mix for everything I pot! For each bale of Pro-Mix, I added 1-2 bags of .75 cubic foot composted cow manure. I did add some granulated slow feed fertilizer, but I can’t remember what I used! This year, I used Jobe’s Vegetable and Tomato Food. I planted up my seedlings with all of the tomatoes in the felt bags, and most of the peppers in the plastic grow bags. I set them out in the lawn where I liked them and drove my stakes into the ground next to the tomatoes that would need it. I also topped my bags off with a layer of mulch (just leftover clearance stuff I had around).

While I did need to water more often, I had no blight and no weeds. All of my tomatoes produced well and the peppers did especially well. We have a short growing season and some times cooler temps, I think the addition of the black containers helped add some heat to the soil.  I fertilized with a water soluble fertilizer once a week. I’m not too picky about fertilizer. I’ve tried everything from expensive organic varieties to just Schultz. I’ve had good luck with all of them. Eventually, I hope to settle on Espoma or AlgoPlus. Espoma is easier to find and typically my go-to choice for any fertilizer I use, but AlgoPlus makes an amazing product too!

Here are links to what I used to grow my tomatoes and peppers last year and again this year. The grow bags specific grow bag are unavailable, but there are plenty of other sellers, just check reviews!:

I planted out much later this year because of our unseasonably cold spring. I like to push it and plant out Mother’s Day weekend, this year it wasn’t until Memorial Day weekend. Things are looking good though! This year I put down weed barrier so I don’t have to try to mow around the bags. Eventually we will put a border and some mulch down. I haven’t set stakes yet either, I will when I need to. My current water soluble fertilizer is Schultz Tomato…it was on sale.  Here’s how things are looking today:

 

Blooming Heirlooms: The Long Wait

It was June, 2017 when Todd and I went to Omaha to collect my grandmother’s flowers. This will be the first year any of them bloom. Collecting family heirlooms of the blooming variety can be frustrating. Of the many plants we collected, I would say maybe 1/3 survived to this point. Granted, I am still novice at this but we lost the lilacs, roses, and most of the peonies. The iris survived despite two winters of sitting under water and ice for several weeks at a time. There is also one chunk of peony that has refused to give up, batch of daylilies, and, one or two bits of hosta survive too!

 

This year, the iris have budded up! I have been watching as the neighbor kids hit balls into our yard. One definitely hit a bloom-stalk, but fortunately it didn’t break. Heavy storms were called for last night, so I clipped one boom stalk and brought it in. This morning, as I sit here typing this, I am looking at a big, white bloom on my Grandma Pete’s iris. It’s the first time since I was too little to care that I’ve seen them bloom.

That can be the daunting reality of collecting heritage plants. Sometimes, there is only once chance to collect and from that moment on, you are the keeper of that family heirloom. Unlike stashing photos away in climate-controlled closet, plants have a lot more environmental stress. The transplant can be stressful alone, aside from whatever weather mother nature wants to throw at you. Waiting for years for blooms can be tiring too. It is not an endeavor for anyone with little patience, that’s for sure!

As I sit here, overjoyed to see this one bloom, I think about how happy I will be to finally share some of my blooming heirlooms with family. All the time waiting and stressing about the plant, I’ve thought about how I want to share a pieces of it with all my family! I have some pretty cute ideas…but we will see how it turns out. That’s a plan for later this summer.

Thanks for the iris, Grandma!

Grandma Pete in 3322 Garden

The Garden Shed: Before and After

Part of our garden plans is to get a bigger shed, but that is down the road a few years! For now, the shed is what we inherited. It works. Before we bought the house, both were painted two separate (and bleh) shades of yellow (or tan?)

Todd and I finally decided we are going to paint the house siding instead of going with vinyl. I like the wide plank that’s there. It suits the age of the house. We can’t afford the price tag for the customization for vinyl siding that it would take to replicate the width, not to mention the color I want.

Speaking of colors. Once we decided we were going to paint the house, we took out time and chose a paint color. Dutch Boy’s Cattails. The shed is the perfect test spot for the color! Last week, I spent an entire day painting the shed. I love it.

We had Lowe’s match our Cattails paint chip with a Valspar exterior paint (one of the lower quality ones so we could test the color cheaply). For the trim we used Valspar’s Perfect White.  I used black spray paint to spruce up an old gate which I hung on the side of the shed as trellis. A new black latch and some handles completed the transformation. I love it.

More importantly, Todd and I both love the color! The house is next. Even though it’s going to be a huge project.

10 Historic Flowers to Add to Your Garden

If you haven’t been able to get your hands on any ancestral-heirloom flowers, or just want to add some historic charm to your garden, a surprising variety of historic flowers are still available commercially.

What I love about tracking down historic cultivars is finding some really lovely family growers, the variety, and being able to choose eras and breeders that fit what you love. Like with our house, I am drawn to cultivars of the late 1940s-1950s. I also have a huge soft spot for late 19th century cultivars.

Check out these 10 varieties (some of my favorites) that will add instant historic charm and why I love them:

  1. Blanc Double De Courbet Rose, 1892: Roses have to be hardy to survive in central Wisconsin, especially in my yard (I’m not one to baby a plant). This old variety is zone 3 hardy, has a pleasant scent, and soft double blooms. It’s been a standard for years for a reason.

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    photo via White Flower Farm

  2. Harison’s Yellow Rose, 1824: Sometimes called the “Yellow Rose of Texas,” Harison’s Yellow has a rich history tied to the Gold Rush and Oregon Trail, which is why it’s also known as the “Pioneer Rose.” For me, that’s enough to want it my yard. Yellow roses over a white picket fence is classic. This rose is rugged and hardy for sure. For some, the drawbacks include a tendency to sucker and spread, plus it definitely sports some serious, prickly thorns.

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    via The Garden Diary  which has a great post about the rose!

  3. Beverly Sills Tall Bearded Iris, 1979: When I first started falling in love with Iris, I knew I wanted a pink one. I lived with my Mom at the time and we found Beverly Sills at a local nursery. It was love at first sight. It has grown in her garden since, and now has several splits throughout my yard. Bright, beautiful, and prolific.

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    Growing in my own yard. One of the very first Iris I ever chose for myself!

  4. Alcazar Tall Bearded Iris, 1910: I struggled to find commercial growers selling the old-style, historic Iris that everyone pictures in their grandma’s yard. I think this is because so many people have them growing in their yard already? Most of my old standards have been given to me by friends. That’s where I would look first. That being said, if you want a really traditional iris, Alcazar fits the bill.

  5. Evelyn Claar Day Lily, 1949: I have a few daylilies in my yard and hope to add more. Aside from the classic orange ditch-lily, some historics have a softer look to them. Evelyn Claar would look spectacular blooming in front of a traditional 1950’s ranch.

  6. Duchesse De Nemours Peony, 1851: I love Monet. What gardener doesn’t? This peony is said to be a variety he grew and painted. Done. I want it. Plus, it’s gorgeous.

  7. Thomas Edison Dahlia, 1929: Someday, I am going to post about a photo I have of my grandmother standing in front of giant Dahlia. It’s intrigued me for years. I want to find a Dahlia that could stand in for that one.  Until then, Thomas Edison stands out in the historic dahlia department. Saturated colors, huge blooms, easy to find.

  8. Black Parrot Tulip, 1937: I didn’t know Black Parrots were as old of a cultivar as they are until recently. I fell in love with their drama and ease. Of the many tulips I’ve planted, these guys have fared the best. They bloom very late, and occasionally, like last year, overlap with my Iris blooms for a beautiful show.

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    In my own garden

  9. Gas Plant, Native to Southwest Europe and Asia, grown often in early and Victorian American gardens. Definitely, not on the top of the list for popular perennials, I discovered this plant when I worked at the garden center. I had the chance to take a less than desirable plant home. I plopped in the ground and was pleasantly surprised. They can be hard to find now, but at one time they were quite popular. The blooms are beautiful and attract pollinators. I’ve been slowly adding more, whenever possible.

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    A close up of the white gas plant in my garden. 

  10. Dutch Master Daffodil, 1938: Daffies are the flower that brings joy in spring. You cannot be unhappy when you see a mass of them. There are several really beautiful historic varieties, but Dutch Master is the classic for a reason. They are easy to find and naturalize. They are a perfect addition to any heritage garden.

 A couple of tips about buying online:

  • Look for reviews. check out the Facebook pages of a company, and join garden groups. Garden groups geared toward Iris, daylilies, and just gardening in general have helped me weed out what online garden stores to avoid.
  • If you can, buy from nurseries in the same growing zone as you. The plants will have an easier time adapting to your garden’s conditions. If you buy out of zone, just be sure to give your plants a bit more attention until they establish (this is 100% a tip I need to work on myself).