Preparing Roses for the Winter

Pruned and Protected

Rose before being pruned

Rose before being pruned

This weekend generally gets taken up with Holiday goings ons. Between spending time with family and friends and getting ready for Christmas it seems there is next to no time for gardening. That’s ok because the weather has finally turned and it’s getting too cold to be effective in the garden anyway.

I like to wait until the roses are dormant before I prune them back for winter. Pruning them too early runs the risk of them putting a lot of energy into leafing out again only to have the frost hit them hard and stress them, possibly killing them. Also I leave the last round of flowers on the plants to allow them to set seeds and get ready to go dormant.

Christmas Candle

Christmas Candle

There are little grubs that like to chew down through the heartwood of the rose canes to winter over. These will kill a plant if they go too long. To prevent this I break out one of the multitude of unused Christmas candles I have and drip wax on the ends of the stems when I prune them back for winter.

If you don’t have a nice candle that you have no other use for you can use a few drops of white glue mixed with a drop or two of food color to coat the ends of the canes. Both of these methods will keep the larvae out of your canes and protect your roses for the winter.

Pruned and Protected

Pruned and Protected

With the cold weather upon us, I’m done outside for a couple of months. I’m only about a third of the way through all of the weeding I want to do. I’ll just have to pick up in the early spring.

Gift Ideas for the Gardener on Your List

Solar Lights In The Garden

Solar Lights In The Garden

Solar Lights In The Garden

With the holidays almost upon us it might be a good idea to provide some gift ideas for the gardener in your life. The weather outside might be frightful but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan some heartscaping for the garden. Below find some ideas for the garden to fit almost any budget.

Little solar lights transform a garden into a magical wonderland when the sun goes down.

These little lights in the shapes of butterfly, dragonfly and humming bird make an evening on the patio next to the garden a magical and relaxing event. At around $20 for a set of four they are a delightful addition to any garden.

Also this solar light wind chime is very whimsical and would be fun in a garden setting.

But who am I kidding. I discovered something for the garden on Amazon that makes my little nerd heart jump for joy.

Starting off with a little dragon sculpture for your patio wall or really anyplace you think you can wedge him in. This cute little dragon comes in at $40.

The Astronaut at Ease is really fun and would be awesome in any garden or on a desk. It’s turning your garden into a sci-fi adventure! A bit more spendy than the wall dragon at $85 but so much fun.

Ok not necessarily for the garden but this Frost Dragon ornament is gorgeous and at $17 it’s very reasonably priced.

If you have a more practical bent this little garden caddy is always useful and at $10 it won’t break the bank.

These little kneeler pads are a great gift too. As a gardener you are always kneeling down to pull out this or that weed, or check that plant or harvest this or that vegetable and while these may not be glamorous they are incredibly useful. And they’re just $9 on Amazon.

Or there are a variety of raised bed kits which could be a great help to a gardener looking to go to raised beds.

Then there is a motion detecting solar light for gardening just a few minutes later into the evening.

Of course what really takes the cake, not just for wow factor but also for price is this little beauty:

Sure it costs more than $500 but it’s a scale model of an Apatosaurus. That’s amazing.

You can get the more modest Camarasaurus for around $300 or so.

And then there’s this:

Totally awesome with a totally awesome price to match.

Yeah the scale model dinos are expensive but they are unexpected, have an unmatched wow factor and your garden will never be the same.

Cold Weather is Upon Us, Finishing Up For Winter

Second side begun and Elephant Ear plants removed for winter.

Getting Ready for the other side of the walkway

Getting Ready for the other side of the walkway

This may be the last weekend A Nerd In the Garden can actually garden. We’ve gotten cold weather this last weekend. Rain is one thing, a good raincoat will get you through but cold weather is quite another.

The last thing I need to do is prune the roses now that the weather has turned. I try not to prune the last bloom of the roses so that the plants can set fruit and get ready for winter. Then when I’m fairly certain they won’t start leafing out again I do a hard prune to get them ready for winter. I’ll do that and melt candle wax over the cut stems to keep the borers out.

One Side with Elephant Ear plants

One Side with Elephant Ear plants

It had been my intention never to buy a plant that would have to be dug up to winter over. However; I was looking at the growing instructions for the beautiful elephant ear plants I’d put in the side yard and to my dismay, discovered that they shouldn’t be out in weather colder than 50 degrees F. Eeek! It’s been high 40’s for the past couple of weeks at night and now about to get much colder.

So I had to race home from work and quickly, but carefully, dig them out of my garden. They are in buckets in the garage. I hope that stays just warm enough for them. I hesitate to bring them into the house proper but it may come to that.

This weekend I dug up the Crocosima Lucifer and moved the bulbs. That took a lot more work than I had anticipated. I only got 2 clumps done before I had to call it a day. There are at least 3 more clumps to be worked. I’ll just have to move them in the spring. There is still quite a bit of weeding to do too. I’m about 1/3 of the way done with the area I wanted to clear, so around 100 sq ft.

The raised beds for the vegetable garden are just about ready for winter. I wanted to put some landscaping fabric over them but I’m not sure I will.

Second side begun and Elephant Ear plants removed for winter.

Second side begun and Elephant Ear plants removed for winter.

With the Crocosima in place I was able to replant some of the bearded Iris I saved while cleaning the area out. I don’t know what colors are in the box but I know they’ll be beautiful. I’m kind of hoping for a peach one I had blooming in the area years ago is one of the ones that got saved.

Lastly I got started on the east side of the walkway border. I ran out of bricks to do the edging or I would have gone farther. In clearing off the brick walkway I discovered that the west side was around 6 inches to far south and didn’t come all the way up to meet the north edge. I debated leaving it but couldn’t. So I extended the channel a bit and slid each brick up to move the entire run the distance it needed to be flush with the patio.

crocosima bulbs dug, cleaned and ready to replant.

crocosima bulbs dug, cleaned and ready to replant.

Digging through cardboard to plant bulbs

Digging through cardboard to plant bulbs

Vegetable garden ready for winter

Vegetable garden ready for winter

A Nerd In The Garden: Crocosima Lucifer, Carnations and Laying Out Your Flower Bed

Hummingbird in Crocosima

One Month Ago

One Month Ago

In the Garden the soil can be worked right up until the ground freezes. Take care not to compress it too much if it rains and the moisture content gets high enough for that to be an issue. So there is a fine line that has to be maintained when pushing the garden work deep into fall.

As you may recall, gentle reader, I had a section of the front flower bed I really wanted to get weeded out while the soil was soft enough to pull roots and all. That’s fine in theory but even with soft soil, grass roots are difficult. I did the best I could and actually rototilled the area and still there are some very tough and persistent roots that I could not get out.

That’s where the cardboard mulch layer comes it. I only use a single layer and it gets completely soaked and stays soaked for months so it breaks down quickly. Cardboard won’t improve your soil quality but it will kill the majority of weeds. Since I’m battling grass right now that’s my best, least toxic, option aside from digging everything out which I just don’t have the time for. Nor do I want to destroy the slope I’m working on.

Yesterday

Yesterday

I’ve put nice hazelnut shells over a part of the area as a real mulch and I will use my cat’s claw/hoe tool to plant the bulbs right through it. The forecast is calling for rain for the next week and that will soak everything quite nicely. Then I plan on digging up the Crocosima bulbs and planting them on the east side of the bed. That will be quite a job.

The nice thing about the Crocosima is that they will naturalize quite nicely wherever I put them. The bad thing about the Crocosima is that they have naturalized where I tossed them so many years ago.

I had no idea how tall they would get or how much they would spread. I got only 5 little bulbs of Crocosima Lucifer free in an order of tulips or something one year. I did not expect them to become one of the centerpieces of my flower bed. While I am glad they did, now I need to put them in a better place.

That being said, let’s talk about laying out the garden. When I first started this flower bed, lo those many years ago, I took a rather haphazard approach. I planted what caught my eye at the time, wherever I felt like planting it. While there is a certain freedom and whimsy to that approach, I would not recommend it. That is the kind of planting approach that leads to 5′ Crocosima in front of 2′ Bearded Iris and 3′ Gladiolus in front of 6″ Dianthus…um Carnations. And that is what leads, seasons later, to having to replant an entire bed.

Hummingbird in Crocosima

Hummingbird in Crocosima

Either get some graph paper or make some in Excel (it’s super easy to do) and you can plan out where you want to put your flowers, or vegetables if that’s the kind of garden you’re planting. I used graph paper for my raised beds in the back because my space was limited and I wanted to get as many beds as possible.

Last Week

Last Week

I planted a full 4’X 4′ bed of carrots and I’m loving just going out and pulling a few out of the bed whenever I need them. It’s going to be gorgeous to have these heirloom carrots for Thanksgiving this year.

This week

This week

While I am enjoying this massive project of mine, I’m also looking forward to being done and having just maintenance to worry about. There will always be weeding to do. There will always be flowers that die off and need to be replaced. But there will not always be this huge multiple month weed-fest and border building and replanting. Also come spring this flower bed is going to be breathtaking.

When the weather forces me, at long last, indoors I have some home repair and improvement projects that I intend to get going. I’m not sure where I’ll start just yet, but there is plenty to be done to improve our home.

I also need to get working on my next cosplay. It ain’t going to make itself and comic con season is right around the corner. K.

A Nerd In The Garden: Weeding, Iris and More Math (Math Is Fun)

Iris Saved

Weeding and building in the upper left corner

Weeding and building in the upper left corner

In previous blog posts I’ve mentioned that the verge on the side of the driveway is fairly large. This week I did a rough measurement of it’s area and it’s approximately 400 square feet. This was a fairly easy calculation that follows a well known formula. My driveway is approximately 40 feet long and the verge is approximately 10 feet wide. 40 X 10 = 400. Your units are feet and feet X feet = Square Feet. Putting it all together: 40 ft X 10 ft = 400 sq ft.

Before weeding 11/7/15

Before weeding 11/7/15

There’s about 60 sq ft up by the garage that I have not included in this measurement. There are two reasons for that. 1) the utilities are there and I don’t want to damage or block them. 2) Due to the layout that area gets very little sun so not a lot of plants will grow there. With these two things being the case I’ve decided to wait on that bit and see if I get inspired. Also I cleaned that up once earlier this year and mulched a good part of it. It should just need some follow up and maintenance.

After weeding 11/7/15

After weeding 11/7/15

This week I weeded around a 10 ft square space. My neighbor offered to let me use a tool to make the weeding easier but I chose to do it by hand. Not because I love backbreaking work but because I know there are some gorgeous Iris languishing in that part of the bed and I wanted to salvage what I could of them. The Iris have been overgrown for so many years that I didn’t expect too many of them to even have survived.

So far it is looking very good for the Iris. I’ve found quite a few rhizomes that had growth on them and could be saved and replanted. This will save a ton of money since I can plant them in areas where there aren’t currently flowers.

Iris Saved

Iris Saved

My goal is to clear the area along the east side of the flower bed and plant the Crocosima there. The neighbors like the idea of some kind of screen between us and the sword shaped leaves of the Crocosima get to be around 4.5 ft tall. In front of them I want to put the blue Dutch Iris I ordered and some bearded Iris. There is enough room in that bed with 10 feet on the cross section to put some shorter flowers in front of those without crowding them.

I want to keep the Crocosima because the hummingbirds love them and I love seeing the hummingbirds. Also they naturalize beautifully. The Crocosima also give the garden a bright spot of color that lasts long after the spring tulips have faded.

You might wonder about that cardboard that is down on the ground there. It’s a very good mulch and weed barrier. It’s cheap since you can use boxes you already have, rather than throwing them away and it cuts down on the grass and weeds that grow back. It also biodegrades. Right now it is protecting the bare soil from erosion due to the rain and from bad compression as I walk on it. Once I have the area planted I’ll put down the hazelnut shell mulch that I like but for now cardboard boxes work great.

It started raining so I didn’t get a picture but I scraped the mud off of some more bricks on the pathway on the west side of the house. I’ll need one of the border bricks I bought cut because I need a piece of one in two places. I called my local Home Depot and they didn’t have the equipment to cut concrete. I’ll have to see if my neighbor has something. Otherwise I may have to buy a different kind of border brick that is the size I need for the two spaces.

Next week I plan to do the other side of the walkway border and finish cleaning up the raised bed garden out back. Today I pulled the last of the tomato plants and put them in the compost bin. I need to rake the beds, do a final weeding and put landscaping fabric over them. Then they can rest for the rest of the winter.

Lastly this weekend I scraped some of the weeds out from the expansion joints in the driveway. There is a lot of work to do there and it is hard work. Like the large flower bed, I’m tackling it a little bit at a time. There is a lot to do, it’s true, but chipping away at it a little bit at a time will see it all done. And I still have time to get some writing done. K.

Weeds in expansion joints

Weeds in expansion joints

Scraped out of the joints with a tool

Scraped out of the joints with a tool

A Nerd In The Garden: The Rains Have Come

After weeding for the day

Before weeding

Before weeding

This week the rainy season got started in ernest. It began with a day of spritzing and grew slightly heavier each day until we have a steady all day rain falling. It might be tempting to think it’s time to put the gardening tools away and relax but now is the perfect time to weed out the large flower bed. The steady rains have made the soil soft enough to get the roots out with the weeds. Getting as many of the roots as possible will keep the return weed numbers way down. It also creates more room in the soil for the roots of the flowers planted in the bed.

Over the years the large flower bed has become overrun with weeds and grasses. I’m embarrassed to post pictures of it but in the interest of demonstrating the transformation, photos will be posted.

After weeding for the day

After weeding for the day


For weeding in the rain a good raincoat, work gloves and work boots are a good idea. I also use a tool that is a combination cat’s claw and hoe. With the ground wet a cardboard box, broken down makes for a good knee guard and after an area has been weeded it can be placed on the now bare ground to prevent grasses from growing back.

Last time I spoke of budgeting time as carefully as you budget money. Looking at the large flower bed, and honestly it is really just a strip on the side of the driveway that I’ve decided will be a flower bed, it would be easy to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. What does this have to do with budgeting time? Well when I first started the project I decided I could budget 2 hours of time each weekend to landscaping and gardening. Two hours is about all you’d want to spend out in the rain doing weeding even with a good raincoat and gloves. Two hours a week will be enough to chip away at the weeds and have the whole thing beautiful and ready to go by spring.

Border holding strong

Border holding strong

The border we installed last week is holding very well. The silt has not covered the stones we cleaned off from that side. In the photo silt has covered the other side where the border hasn’t yet been installed. When it isn’t raining so hard, or when I haven’t worked overtime we will install the other side.

I counted up the bricks left and we will need more to do the other side of the walkway. Fortunately purchasing a few at a time spreads the cost out and makes it more affordable.

There will be plenty to do in the garden and flower bed until the weather gets too bad to work in it. The raised beds still need to finish being winterized. That might be next week too. K.

A Nerd In The Garden: Hardscaping

One Side with Elephant Ear plants

Along the fence

Along the fence

By K. L. Zolnoski

This week I did a little bit of weeding out front but not as much as I had hoped to get done. It didn’t rain this week and without rain the ground is not soft enough to really get the roots of the weeds out. So I’m going to postpone the serious weeding out front until next week.

There is plenty to be done on the side yard though. We have a narrow path that runs from the back yard proper to a patio on the side of the house. This is where we focused our efforts today.

When the house was first built the contractor used landscaping timbers to border the brick walkway that leads to the patio. Landscaping timbers are decorative and inexpensive at around $4 per 8’ timber.

Preparing for a new border

Preparing for a new border

Over the years these landscaping timbers have rotted away and a constant wash of silt and soil has buried the bricks. Every summer we have to clean off the walkway. It’s a task that’s tedious and labor intensive. Also, right across the walk way is our foundation and the vents to the crawlspace need to be cleared of debris every year. And, as if that weren’t enough, the rain will wash away the hazelnut shell mulch I put down when we planted the ornamental plants we got on sale this last summer. This is all quite sub-optimal.

So we need to replace the border with something that will cut down on the runoff. I have approximately 80 linear feet on a north south axis that needs some kind of border. That would work out to 10 landscaping timbers but in a few years I’d have the same problem as they rotted away. But they are cheap. We’d be talking about $40.00.

The thing is, I don’t want to have to dig out the old rotting timbers again. I don’t want to have to deal with shoveling a layer of silt off my brick walkway again. I really don’t want to have debris from the slight grade up to the neighbors yard introducing itself to my crawlspace. Something a bit more durable is called for. Something like either clay or concrete bricks. Use of these materials is called hardscaping.

Consulting the Google provided information on a variety of shapes, sizes and prices on bricks of all sorts. There were even molds that could be used to make custom bricks if one has the time and inclination. Budget your time as carefully as you do your money.

Preparing a channel to set bricks in

Preparing a channel to set bricks in

Since I work full time and have a household to keep up I don’t have a lot of time to devote to my garden/borders. My plan is to do 2 to 4 hours a weekend. That’s a modest amount of time that leaves a little bit leftover for other things even after I’ve summited Mt. Laundry and cooked for the week. I don’t have time to make custom bricks.

I work hard for my money and I’m on a budget. So I needed to find a brick that was decorative enough that I could live with it and inexpensive enough to fit in my budget. What I finally landed upon is a scalloped top concrete brick that runs about $1.50 per 16”. Needing 80 linear feet for the first phase means I’d need approximately 60 of these bricks. (80 linear feet X 12 inches/foot = 960 inches. Divide by 16 inches to get the number of bricks you need: 60.) It’ll run me just under $90.00 (because the bricks cost just slightly less than $1.50). That’s quite a bit of my budget but I won’t have to reinstall in a few years. My time is worth something too.

Buying materials

Buying materials

I cannot stress this enough: Do the math. If you know how much you need of something, (for example I need 80 linear feet for this part of the project) you can easily calculate exactly how much of a material you will need. This will allow you to accurately budget and prevent overspending on materials you don’t need. Don’t let the terminology turn you off. Linear feet is exactly what it sounds like–a straight- line distance measured in feet.

Additionally we need a level surface, ideally 18” above the surface we want to water for our rain catchment system. Concrete cinder blocks are inexpensive and sturdy. At around $0.99 per block I can afford to set up a proper base for the barrels.

Not wanting to overload my car I made two trips and got just over half of the number of bricks I’d need for both projects. I got 32 of 60 bricks for the border and 6 of 8 cinder blocks and I still need two 8X8 square cinder blocks to complete the base for the rain catchments. I’m going with 8” high rather than 18” for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are weight and stability.

Setting the border

Setting the border

We then spent some quality time using the hoe to chip out the rotted landscaping timbers and prepare a channel to set the concrete border bricks into the ground. I used a smaller hand tool to level the bottom of the channel and then we back filled with dirt from the channel to set the bricks and stabilize the border. The bricks I chose are interlocking so the border is very stable.

I didn’t think either brick red or concrete white were very appealing. Both colors have a rather institutional look to them that I am trying to avoid. Those are the only two colors the bricks come in so I opted to go with a pattern of red and white, which perhaps breaks up the monotony of a single industrial color.

Next week we will finish the other side and possibly continue on down the line of the patio. It may take three weeks to finish the north south line. Then I will consider whether I want to do the much shorter east west line for completeness sake. Probably I will. I like it when things look finished and I enjoy looking at something I have made. K.

End of our work day

End of our work day

some assembly required

some assembly required

In Progress

In Progress

A Nerd In The Garden: Spring Gardening Pt. 2 & A New Cosplay

Looks Professional

Unfinished Business

Unfinished Business

Last weekend I started a project to expand my raised bed flower garden. I installed the original raised bed quite a few years ago and as things changed I found myself able and motivated to expand it that last 10 inches. You can read about it here. Taking that wall apart and rebuilding it was backbreaking work.

Not to be outdone, this weekend I decided to finish up what I started last weekend. There was one corner on the upper left side that had not been finished. It was super difficult to get the established weeds out of that spot and the little bit of rain we got wasn’t enough to soak the soil and make it any easier to get them out.

There was also a third level of raised bed that had sunk into the soil over the intervening years and I decided to unearth those blocks and raise them up a bit. All of this along with my intention to weed a small area each weekend until I have the whole thing weed free.

Also, I bought a bunch of pansies. Winter pansies to be specific. They should bloom all through the winter. Plus I got to quote the movie Madagascar where King Julian says, “They’re just a bunch of pansies,” until everyone around me was sick of hearing it. The pansies were on sale so I got 10 of them for less than 10 dollars.

Intending to only spend a couple of hours on this finishing up project, I ended up spending half the day on it. The results are so nice though. It looks finished.

Just a bunch of pansies

Just a bunch of pansies

I still have a few of the decorative blocks left over and I’m going to clean them up and finish up the back level next weekend. Because I purchased a rather large amount of them when I made the original purchase years ago I’ve been able to reuse the blocks, moving them from one spot to another and this has saved me quite a bit of money. I did not have to purchase any more of them.

I was planning on using the ones that hadn’t been put into the wall as bases for the rain catchment system I’m putting in this year but that’s not going to happen now. I’ll have to see if I can find a low cost replacement for my rain catchment barrels. That’s my next garden project.

Finishing touches

Finishing touches

I did a lot of research on rain catchment systems and while I can’t afford to have a professional outfit come out and install an underground tank and all that, I do have the budget (thanks to Craigslist) to get a couple of 55 gallon barrels and the downspout kits for them. The important thing about this, well there are several but when putting things next to one’s house one very important thing is weight. A full 55 gallon rain barrel weighs in at around 450 pounds. So you don’t want to set it on a slope or someplace unstable. You want to make your foundation stand sturdy and level from all angles.

Anyway more on that when I get to installing them. I’m also planning to do a year of my first garden recap when I get the vegetable garden cleaned up and ready for winter. I’m about half way through that now. I’ve got a few tomatoes I’m hoping still ripen up a bit before I have to tear the plants out.

At the end of the day, because I’m clearly a glutton for punishment, I sat down and ordered a few small things to plant in the spring so that I have some summer flowers too. Tulips and lilies are gorgeous but they bloom in the spring and I need something to carry my garden through the summer with some flowers. We’ve already established that I never fail to order twice as many bulbs as I want to plant but this time I out did myself.

You see one of the flowers I love the most in my garden is a blue dutch iris. I’ve only got one and I’ve not found them online or in the garden centers by themselves. They always come in a mix and I always get a ton of white and yellow and almost no blue in the mix when I buy them. The white and yellow are gorgeous but my favorite are the blue. Well this catalogue had blue ones on sale by themselves and they were fairly inexpensive: $15.99. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Well I did order them but come spring, when they arrive to be planted, they will be coming in a lot of 50 bulbs. Thankfully I have a great spot for them and they are tolerant of partial shade.

Cosplay:

I’ve finally had another idea for a cosplay. Last time I did Mothra on a budget, which you can read about here. This time I think I can make a wearable Biollante Rose Form. I went through several design ideas, starting with a mermaid under dress. While gorgeous and the right shape for the understructure it would be a royal pain to wear to a convention, so I reluctantly discarded that idea. I’m currently working with a wide leg palazzo pant and tank top for the understructure.

My budget is $100.00 and my time limit is 5 months. I have to work my cosplay creating in around my gardening and right now is the ideal time for gardening. We will see how it goes. K.

Looks Professional

Looks Professional

Mothra Cosplay

Mothra Cosplay

A Nerd In The Garden: Spring Gardening Pt. 1 & A Recipe From The Garden

All planted and partially mulched

Taking the retaining wall apart

Taking the retaining wall apart

Pretty much all of the landscaping that happens at my place will be not just because of my own hard work and planning, but also be a labor of love. Many years ago I built a raised bed. Due to certain obstacles I was unable to go to the edge of the area I had chosen for the raised bed.

This resulted in a strip of weeds that was too narrow to get a lawn mower down and too far away for the weed eater. In short it was an unsightly pain in the patookus. So this weekend I decided to take apart the corner of the raised bed border and extend the bed to use up this narrow strip of yard.

I have never wished so much that I had half-arsed something in my life. Apparently when I put the raised bed in, in the first place, I meant for it to last. That was some solid construction. With a little help I got it taken apart, dug the base for the new border and got the blocks into place. The result was 10 inches wider along the entire side of the bed.

Why oh why did I make this so sturdy?

Why oh why did I make this so sturdy?

Once the bed was rebuilt with the new border I got my trusty little rototiller out. After borrowing an indoor/outdoor extension cord from my neighbor (because mine was 6 feet too short), I got to rototilling. The soil hadn’t been worked in years and I could tell. It was terrible, hard, filled with rocks and gone to clay.

So a trip to my local favorite nursery was in order. I got steer manure and peat moss to amend the bed with. This created a much nicer soil for my planting. I had to make three passes with my rototiller to get it all mixed in and the underlying clay broken up but the results were worth it. This also gave me the opportunity to get a lot of weed roots out of the bed too.

Building it out.  Sturdy.

Building it out. Sturdy.

Also the nursery had huge, gorgeous mums on sale and then on top of that sale price they were buy one get one free. Also winter pansy were on sale. It was only by repeating to myself that anything I buy I would have to plant that I got out of there with just two mums and four pansies. I’ll need more pansies but that will be for a time when I’m not exhausted from rebuilding the bed.

Now, when I order tulips and lilies to plant for spring, I never fail to order approximately twice as many as I actually want to plant once I get deep into the planting. This year was no exception. Add to that the mums and pansies, plus all of the stuff I had managed to save when rebuilding the bed and I had quite a bit of planting to do.

This also was my opportunity to rearrange some of my favorite plants so that they had better position and would be better displayed. Lets just say that with all the planting I had to do, I failed to complete it before the rains came. I ended up completely soaked but well pleased with my new flower bed. In the spring it will be gorgeous.

Saving a plant overnight for tomorrow's planting

Saving a plant overnight for tomorrow’s planting

This really takes little more than a willingness to do back breaking work (I ached so bad I had trouble sleeping the first night), some research into plants and planning on where to plant them. Granted I probably spent close to $200 on materials, including the bulbs and amendments to the bed but the end result is gorgeous and will be spectacular. And I don’t buy bulbs every year. So if you spread it out over years you can spend very little and still end up with a gorgeous yard.

One of the things I really love about bulbs is that if you treat them right they will come back year after year. I have calla lilies that were gifts from loved ones for my father in law’s funeral and I remember him and them every year when they bloom.

I have tulips and gladiolus that I planted years ago that still come up. Every time I work the soil I try to dig up the bulbs and save them. This year I spent more than I normally do by quite a bit. Some years I have spent less than $20.00 but because they keep coming back I have more flowers than I buy in any given year. IMG_0029

The vegetable garden has done well. Especially since this is the first year we had the vegetable garden. We learned some lessons this year. Namely that the pumpkins and squash are banished to the side yard. Also the tomatoes will get huge so don’t cram a bunch of other things into their bed. Plant the melons sooner and not near the tomatoes. Plant the brussle sprouts sooner. Water vegetables slightly less than the ornamental plants like to be watered.

We are adding two more raised beds and maybe one more after that if I can get the spot weeded out and ready for it. I think maybe we can put strawberries in one. We will have to see.

This year we got around 10 pounds of potatoes from the garden. Not bad for our first try. I used them to make ham and tatoes which is a favorite around here.

Layering Potatoes and Ham into the crock pot

Layering Potatoes and Ham into the crock pot

Oh and for those who asked:

Ham and Potatoes (approximate)

Enough potatoes to fill your crock pot 1/2 full
Ham hocks or ham steak or leftover ham from easter (the best) Basically some ham.
1 cup of gorgonzola cheese
4 cups of cheddar cheese
1 Onion — sliced medium thin
1 Stick of butter
2 cloves garlic (or so, if you like garlic add another clove, if you don’t like garlic don’t use it)
1 t. pepper
1 C. Cream
4 C. Milk (or so, you’re making a cheese sauce here)
1/4 C. flour (for the roux)

Slice the potatoes thin and if you like, par roast them in the oven with olive oil and seasonings like garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, and a pinch of salt. Just a pinch though, you don’t want this to be too salty and the cheese and ham both have salt in them.

Grill or caramelize the onions. You want the onions to kind of melt into the ham and tatoes so slice them a bit thin. Make a medium roux with the butter and flour. Add the milk and cream and stir. Add 3 cups of the cheddar cheese to the sauce and stir until well incorporated.

In your crock pot, layer potatoes, ham, onions and cheese sauce, top with remaining cheese and Gorgonzola. I usually get two layers. Cook on low until potatoes are cooked through, stirring occasionally. Enjoy the noms.

Cheese it up

Cheese it up

Sauce and more cheese

Sauce and more cheese

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

Zucchini Lasagna & Some News From The Nerdverse

Spaghetti Squash supported on tomato cage.

Spaghetti Squash supported on tomato cage.

Spaghetti Squash supported on tomato cage.

This last week the first fruits of the garden ripened and were harvested. It starts slow but as things get going there will be plenty more squash, herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers and other delicious things to add to our diet fresh from the garden.

Because this is the first year of the garden I haven’t used any pesticides, weed killers or sprays of any kind. Just water, soil and sun have gone into these veggies. You can’t get much more organic than that.

We got two zucchini, one cucumber, a handful of basil and two patty pan squash this week. The Vintage Wine tomato is absolutely loaded with green tomatoes right now and when they ripen we will have a lot of them. Likewise the spaghetti squash and pumpkins. The squash keep well in a cool dry place and should last well into winter if we get enough of them.

Some ingredients

Some ingredients

On my search for something creative to do with zucchini, instead of just zucchini bread (which we all love) I found a recipe for zucchini lasagna. Now there’s an idea. The recipe called for using grilled zucchini in the place of the pasta (do I sense a low carb lasagna?).

Since I already have a really good lasagna recipe I thought I’d just substitute the zucchini (and since I had it some patty pan squash too0 for pasta in my own recipe and call it good. Things to keep in mind are that zucchini and patty pan squash have a lot of moisture in them, that’s why they suggested grilling the slices first. I didn’t want to fire up the grill just for some zucchini so after I used my mandolin to get thin slices I let them rest on paper towels for a while to absorb some of the excess moisture.

My mandolin is not adjustable so I only got really thin slices of squash when I used it. Since the texture is what you are looking for when substituting anything for pasta I’ll have to see if this works or if I need to get a mandolin with an adjustable blade.

Zucchini Lasagna:

2 Zucchini
1 lg patty pan squash
4 cups mozzerella cheese
1 cup parmesean cheese
1 lg container of ricotta cheese (16 oz)
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp italian seasoning
2 tsp fresh basil
2 eggs
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
1 jar spaghetti sauce (when the tomatoes are ripe homemade is the way to go)

Tools

Tools

Rinse squash and basil in water. Cut ends off squash and run through mandolin so that you have a nice pile of thin slices of squash. Spread out on paper towels and blot to dry a bit.

Brown ground beef in skillet with salt, pepper, italian seasoning, and 1 tsp of the fresh basil sliced thin. In a medium bowl mix ricotta, parmesean and 1 cup of mozzerella with 1 tsp basil and 2 eggs.

Spray 10 X 19 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spread 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sauce in bottom of dish and sprinkle a little bit of the cooked meat. Layer in the squash, overlapping the edges just like you would with lasagna noodles. Cover with half of the ricotta mixture, 1/2 cup of mozzerella cheese and 1/2 the remaining meat and 1 cup of the sauce. Repeat layers. Put a final layer of zucchini on the very top, cover with sauce and sprinkle with cheese.

Thin sliced zucchini

Thin sliced zucchini

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until cooked through. If it’s watery, try grilling the zucchini slightly or broiling it for a few minutes to drive out some of the excess water.

Starting the layers

Starting the layers

Layer the zucchini

Layer the zucchini

Cheese, meat and sauce then repeat layers.

Cheese, meat and sauce then repeat layers.

In the Nerdverse I’m way behind on movies I want to see and with the release of Ant-Man I’m even farther behind. I didn’t get to Age of Ultron due to illness, nor did I get to Intersteller. Both are movies I will have to see on DVD.

I’m conflicted about Ant-Man. I truly hope they don’t go down the route where he tries to murder his own wife because he’s an abusive misogynist. Heroes do not try to murder their wives; heroes do not abuse women or any other people full stop. In fact heroes stand up for people who are traditionally abused or oppressed by the culture. That’s why we love them.

I still want to see San Andreas and Jurassic World. I love a good disaster movie and I love a good monster movie. To be honest I love cheesy disaster movies and monster movies too. Which is why I was somewhat pleasantly surprised to discover there will be a third Sharktopus movie. Because there were so many unanswered questions from the first two. The third one, apparently, will be Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf. Yeah, tis going to be a festival of goofballery. But I’m a push-over for a good (or terrible) mad scientist movie. According to IMDB 7/19 is when it premiers.

Finally, news has been rather sparse for the Toho 2016 Godzilla. I keep hoping to hear more updates. It would be fantastic to have another Godzilla movie from Toho. Plus I don’t want to wait till 2018 for the next legendary Godzilla. Also they just started filming the second Pacific Rim movie and I am impatient for them to finish it.

That’s news from the garden and the less main stream nerdverse, more of an outlying nerd nebula, like a satellite nerd nebula than the nerdverse, but that’s what I’ve got for you this week. K.

squash vines

squash vines