Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sharing Backyards via Wasatch Community Gardens

How's this for a fab community planting idea? Gardeners anxious to play in the mud can pair up with property owners who dream of a garden but haven't the time to plant and maintain one. It's the brainchild of Wasatch Community Gardens, a Salt Lake City non-profit organization. 

Imagine this urban gardening scenario:
Bridget lives in a house with a large yard ~ ideal for a garden ~ but she simply doesn’t have the time to plant and maintain one.

Through Sharing Backyards, she meets Melissa and Jane. They want to garden but don't have the space. They team up, planting a garden on Bridget’s property. As the garden flourishes, they all enjoy the successful results of fresh, home-grown produce.

Stories like this are common results of Sharing Backyards, a joint project of Wasatch Community Gardens and Urban Village Cooperative.

Hopeful gardeners, looking for land, pair up with those who have space for a garden and are looking for someone to share it with.

Think of it as Craigslist for urban gardeners!

The online map-based project has listings all over the Salt Lake City area (Wasatch Front and Back,) though listings can be posted for anywhere in Utah.

Once people find someone they are interested in sharing with they communicate via email and go from there.

What could bond people more than choosing which varieties of tomatoes to plant and then sharing in a bountiful harvest of delicious, fresh produce?

Yard-sharers who participated in past years have had great experiences and there are many people with listings on the website looking for a match for the upcoming gardening season.

It's a great way to bring neighbors together and help build strong communities, all while playing in the dirt!  Click here to see how you can participate - meet new friends and join in the fun.

* This is a guest post written by Wasatch Community Gardens, a community-based nonprofit that has served the Salt Lake County, Utah, community for 20 years. Their mission is to empower people of all ages and incomes to grow and eat healthy, organic, local food.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

At Last...

"We don't quit playing because we grow old. We grow old because we quit playing." 
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
My garden is my gym, my playground and my church.

When it's flowering up a storm, it's a wildlife sanctuary, bird aviary and butterfly brothel.

And, finally, after a long and tiresome winter... it's back in business!

Ah, spring. A gorgeous sunny day boosted my spirits, prompting a look-see around the property.

Tiny green shoots popping up all over the place. Hyacinth, Crocus, Wildflowers and Windflowers shake off the filthy remnants of winter, stretching their narrow stems toward the sun.

Feisty little blossoms, the first of my big bulb army. There's close to 500 bulbs sound asleep in this soil. If our warm weather continues, April could be a colorful surprise.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch... I brush, brush, and brush some more. Mountains of winter fur fly off the mares.

Shots done, shoes on, there's excitement in the air and the horses can smell it. We're off on our first trail ride, come Saturday morning.

Song birds flit about, cocking their heads toward my hard work. Hmmm... they think to themselves, that horse hair could make a stylish addition to our new nests.

In the meadow across the way, I hear the frenzied honking of geese and cranes as they set up shop for summer.

Seems everywhere I look this world is showing fresh signs of new beginnings.

Ah... Deep breath. Spring at last.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mrs. Moon

Mrs. Moon Pulmonaria

In the evenings, I gaze out the window and absentmindedly flip through gardening magazines. [Makes t.v. time loads more bearable.] Shining back at me, last night, was the nearly full, Super Moon. That one that everybody's yapping about. Extra big, extra bright, all set to smile upon us, come sundown, Saturday night.

Whatcha doin' to celebrate the biggest moon in 18 years?
Me? Not much. I jumped the gun. Earlier this week, I planted the first of the spring flower seeds, pretty new perennials to spruce up the ugly half of my backyard. Among them, this dainty darling, Mrs. Moon.

And, I guess I should have waited. Because according to lunar legend...

Plants respond to the same gravitational pull of tides that affect the oceans. Just as the moon pulls the tides in the oceans, it also pulls the subtle bodies of water. Tests have proven seeds will absorb the most water at the time of the full moon - and germinate faster during this time in the lunar cycle.

So, anyhoo, back to the baby moons -- Do you grow this perennial? She's a goodie for mountain gardens, flourishing in our wet clay soil during springtime. Dormant later in summer, when things are dry as a bone.

And, just like the big cheese up above, Mrs. Moon has phases, too. She starts out blooming pink, morphing to pretty shades of purple and blue.

Around here, she's the hardiest of the bunch, but if you garden in a normal environment there are plenty of varieties to choose from: Azure, Benediction, Blue Ensign, Lewis Palmer, Majeste... Rubra Red:

Blue Moons:
Pulmonaria saccharata Mrs. Moon, also called Bethlehem Sage, USDA zones 3-8, grows to about 12 inches tall. Pretty speckled foliage with silver spots on the leaves.

Pulmonaria blooms late in May in my mountain garden. Will likely bloom a bit earlier for you gardeners at the bottom of the hill.

PS: Have fun tonight! A little bit of howling at that magical moon might be good for what ails us all. According to Big Brother, it might be bright enough to see lunar landings and more!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesdays: Wee Bit O' the Emerald Isle

Powerscourt Gardens, Dublin, Ireland
St. Stephens Square, Dublin

Town of Wexford
Cliffs of Moher, Galway (those dots on top of the cliff are people.)
Dingle Peninsula
Town of Kinsale
Blarney Castle

Happy WW and Happy [early] St. Paddy's Day!

For more Wordless Wednesday participants, click here!

Monday, March 14, 2011

What are the Odds?

What are the odds? 
Can I grow one of these beauties in my sunny window?

The rains ~ quite common in late April ~ arrived early this year. Ruining ski trips for the tourists, gifting impatient gardeners with high hopes for a good, long growing season.

Will that actually happen? Let's hope so. Because this little digger is quite anxious to sink her fingers into the muddy soil.

The dreary view from my front deck.
Grey gloom plagues me. Cabin fever taking hold. Prompting the purchase of all kinds of strange stuff....

I'm starting a vineyard!

Innocently marched into Homer Depot, to pick up supplies. And, what do I see but grape vines for sale! Strategically positioned right inside the front door.

Do I need grape vines? Heck, no! But, just look at that depressing view out my [typically] sunny window.  Plus, they were only $7 bucks. Like I'm gonna pass that up.

And, then, there's this: 
Dahlia tubers for sale 
at the local supermarket. 

Do you suppose I could grow a Dinner Plate Dahlia in my bay window? Or, at least get 'er started in there? She'll stretch to 4 feet, if she ever does bloom. Though, counting on that is a stretch of another kind if you ask my gardening friends.

Truth be told, I don't really care if she blooms. Or, even if my vineyard survives. Sometimes just the futzing around with new possibilities is enough to satisfy until planting season truly begins.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Here Comes the Fun

Tah Da! Re-Blooming Orchid
Do people listen to you when you give them advice?

Perhaps that's jumping the gun. Do you even bother to give people advice?

Happy bunch of Orchid buds.
In my 30's, I was the go-to gal when friends needed help. Perhaps there's a psychotherapist inside of me. (Psycho being the key word.) Because I enjoyed dishing out all sorts of advice.

Right up until the day I noticed how no one ever followed through on the great ideas we cooked up during those now what should I do? discussions.

Orchid flowers open slowly. I've been enjoying her progress all week.
Having learned the hard lessons that people don't change. And, that shelling out advice to them = exasperation for me, nowadays I simply shrug my shoulders, take supreme advantage of my blonde locks, and say, "I dunno." 

Except when it comes to Butterfly Orchids.*

Do you grow them? While traveling, I was heartened to discover that Italians, just like Americans, have Orchids coming out their ears. Seems everyone has developed a soft spot for these beauties.

At last! My Polkie Dot gal is back in action. :)

Orchid care is essentially the same, wherever I go, and polar opposite of how I do it. Hence, this post. Because no matter how hard I try to keep from meddling in people's orchid affairs I just can't stop myself! I think Moth Orchids need sunshine.

While in Italy, I encouraged my friend to move her sad sack Orchid from the dim top of the refrigerator to the warmth of a sunny window. [I felt so sorry for it, suffering up there.]

The flowers promptly fell off and her hubs accused her of killing it. But, here's the deal. Those flowers were ready to say bye-bye.

And, in just a matter of days, the skinny stems had started the exciting process of gifting her with a brand new set of blossoms.

Only they couldn't see that. They thought it was dead and were planning to toss it.

Orchid buds start out so tiny. Little bumps along the stem. In the beginning... you really need a nut bag like me just to locate them. But if you show a little patience and give them what they need. Ahem. Sunshine. This beauty can go from dead to dazzling in about 2 months.

So? Am I off my rocker? Wouldn't be the first time. How do you care for your Orchids? Inquiring minds want to know.

* Carol of Flower Hill Farm coined the nickname Butterfly Orchids for her Phaleanopsis Moth Orchids ~ a much nicer name for such a pretty flower so I decided to follow her lead.

Moth Orchids: Try soaking the entire pot (immerse the roots) once a week, for 30 minutes, in a bucket of water. Allow pots to drain in the sink before placing back on the window sill. Roots will slowly dry out over the course of the week and that's a good thing. When I water mine, I include approx. 1 teaspoon basic fertilizer, dissolved in a gallon of water. Other orchid varieties require different care and more frequent watering.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Kids Are All Right!

I was worried about my house plants, 
but they had a great time while I was gone.

Has this ever happened to you? After arriving home from a mind-boggling trip, you're filled with so many wild ideas on what to do next that you can't focus on a single thing? That's been my dilemma for over a week.

Under John's care, the truly dead Christmas Amaryllis made a fancy comeback. 
And, Amy's R.I.P. annual Geranium is happily doing the same darn thing!

I was staring at the ceiling, around 4 a.m., this morning, thinking about all sorts of stuff. Not the least of which is this whole jet lag deal and when, if ever, my sleep patterns might get back to normal.

Sleep deprivation didn’t bother me, the whole time I was in Italy. Perhaps that’s why I’m suffering doubly at the end of my journey.

Do you suppose he's feeding them beer?? 
Ms. Edna, the ancient Christmas Cactus, is sporting at least 100 new bright blossoms.

And, then of course, it’s winter here. After I’d spent an entire month drooling over the bright colors and luscious fragrance of Italy’s spring bulbs… we’re back to shoveling snow.

The flowers are looking better in my absence than they do when I am here.
Under Sandy's sweet care I have 21 Butterfly Orchid buds preparing to hatch!

Snow ~ way more than jet lag ~ can mess with a passionate gardener’s perspective on life. Especially since I told myself on the plane that the second I landed I was jumping on that seed planting bandwagon.

Have you started seeds? Do tell! I smuggled a few seeds back from Luciano's farm. And, I know they made it through customs because I hid them so well, even I can't find them. 

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Aftermath of Italy

Flowers for your tootsies! 
This is what I was working on over in Italy.
If you'd like to get technical, they're a new line of trail running shoes. 
But, I know of at least one gardener who'll be muddying them up in the backyard.

Ultra groovy gardening details:
Flowering vines decorate the leathers.
(Bonus: Self-cleaning treads for extra muddy garden days.)