Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Spring fever" - literally

I've been reminded of Murphy's law again. I took some vacation days and woke up with the telltale signs of an impending bronchitis attack. I spent every night of my vacation struggling to breathe and the days feeling restless, tired and just not in the mood for anything, including gardening. Today (5 days later) I discovered that some of the new plants in my front garden has died due to neglect and not being watered. So I guess I'll have to revisit my plan and rethink the design, seems the pentas weren't able to withstand the intense afternoon sun (the front garden faces due west, plus it gets the reflected heat of a large cul-de-sac) without being watered for 5 days, even though we had 5 inches of rain over the course of 3 days last week (Wed - Fri) - our soil (sand) doesn't hold water and since I wasn't feeling well and forgot to water the plants, it seems some of the pentas succumbed to the afternoon sun, luckily they were only $2 a piece, so I can either replace the couple of dead ones, or rip out all of the remaining ones and plant them elsewhere. I'll check the remaining ones to see if they recover well enough over the course of the next couple of days and make my decision by the weekend.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pesky raccoons

I'm at wits end with raccoons constantly digging up what little remains of my stressed out lawn. Not only are they digging up the lawn, they're also tearing up the mulch I spent tons of money and labour on to lay down neatly. The main problem though is that they constantly dig around the roots of my trees and shrubs, damaging the roots and leading to the decline of the plants.

They are coming through my snowbird neighbour's aluminum fence, there's not much I can do to stop them, its a 80 foot section of fence.

Whenever I plant a new shrub or tree, I have to cover and surround it with chicken wire, otherwise these pests will come in the night and dig them up. Its as if they can smell that I've tilled the soil or planted something new. The problem is, I only have so much wire plus it not aesthetically pleasing. Here's a feijoa that I've grown from seed and planted recently. It's taken 7 months to grow this big, so I don't want to take a chance and let the raccoons dig it up.

I've used those nasty wood strip carpet tacks with some success. Mostly they move them aside and dig where they want. They seem to really like my elderberry shrub that I've grown from a cutting. Every day, I place more of those carpet tacks next to the stem where they dig, only to find it moved the next day, or they simply dug under it !

Another major nuisance is the racoon poop found scattered everywhere every morning.
I am concerned for my children's health as racoon scat can can contain deadly diseases.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yummy swiss chard

This is the first winter I planted Swiss chard. I've never tasted this vegetable before and my wife was a little sceptical about it too. That is until one of my snowbird neighbours (who's from NY and Italian) told me how delicious it is sauteed in olive oil with garlic.

The first try wasn't too successful, we chopped it with stalks and all and found the taste too bitter for our liking.

The next time, we tore the leaves off, leaving the stalks for the compost bin. The result was delicious, much like but unlike spinach.

Will I grow it again next year, definitely !

Unfortunately it looks like its coming to an end with our sudden hot spell of above average temperatures, even the golden beets look like they're giving up.

The beans have all but withered and succumbed to powdery mildew.

I'd better find some veggies that can stand our heat soon, otherwise all the vegetable beds will be bare for the next 8 months.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Signs of life

I noted in a prior post how it seems nothing is happening. Well, finally I see new growth appearing all over the show.

This beautiful plant is a grumichama (Eugenia brasiliensis). Not only is it very attractive, it bears delicious dark purple cherry-sized fruits. These do in fact resemble the Bing cherry, with a hint of aromatic spiciness.

I noted new leaves sprouting all over my sugar apple. The grape vines are starting to sprout. Now all we need is some rain.

Both mango trees are bearing for the first time this year.

Here's is a picture of the lancetilla mango.

Large areas of grass in my backyard are in serious trouble, no matter how much water I throw at it, its not improving. Maybe I let it slip too far ? All I can hope is that it revives, otherwise I will have to either replace it or make new flower beds in its place :)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Front Garden version 1.0

After many hours of back breaking work, I finally have the front garden at a stage where its almost presentable.

Now all I have to do is install some drip irrigation. I will extend one of the existing sprinkler head lines and install 2 or three drip irrigation heads and space the little tubes evenly amongst all the plants. I plan to cover everything with pine-straw mulch. One bale covers up to 50 sq ft at 2 inches or 30 sq feet at 3 inches. A bale sells at $6.50 at a local landscaping supply outlet. To cover the same area, would require up to ten bags of wood mulch at a cost of almost $3 per bag for eucalyptus mulch.

The plant at the front left, is Aloe Barberae that is almost 2 years old. I bought this plant on e-bay right after we moved in.

At the front I planted variegated liriope to form a border. Behind that is a row of duranta cuban gold, which will form a low golden yellow hedge. The next row consists of light pink pentas. Behind that is a row of Ruellia brittonia purple showers. On each side of the rulellias, I planted an african bush daisy (Euryops). The last row consists of sanchezias. Behind the sanchezia's are two bare rooted double flowered pink scrub roses bought at Costco at $4.50. I plan to fill in the spaces around the roses with variegated flax lilies. All plants except the Penta's and variegated liriope are self-grown from cuttings. I placed a flowering bouganvilla in the front for visual appeal while I wait for this border to grow and fill in. Behind the bouganvilla is a Cordyline Terminalis in a large container.

On both sides just behind the front palm tree , I will plant two ligustrum shrubs that I've been growing from cuttings for more than a year. They can grow quite large, but I intend to keep them small and grow them into topiaries.

As for the rest of the front garden, its undecided, I have considered filling in the remaining area behind the ligustrum shrubs with Greek river rock, its got a beautiful tan colour, almost matching the home's colour. The only problem is its quite expensive. I will check the landscaping supply outlet to see if they offer it at a more affordable price than the home improvement stores.

Nice to haves: large boulders for visual appeal, maybe a fountain at the center of the three palm trees, a natural rock border starting at the left in front of the aloe going all the way to the back meeting the house....

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Doldrums of winter

It's that time of year when nothing is growing and nothing seems to be happening. Its been exceptionally dry. We are more than 15 inches below normal already. To make matters worse, we've had record high temperatures, it even got to 84 in February. The last couple of days we've had an arctic blast dropping overnight temps into the low 40's with daytime highs in the lower 60's. I had to bring my "nursery" inside again.

Its with eager anticipation that I long for some soaking rain. I know when June comes, I'll be singing a different tune.

I finally gave in and had to start irrigating the lawn, for fear of it dying altogether and because my lawn looks the worst in the neighbourhood.

I finally gathered the courage to start on the front garden. My wife's been nagging me to start. She has been complaining since the beginning that I should focus on the front yard and not the back. I put this off to the last because I didn't know what theme I wanted, how to blend the landscape with the existing three large queen palms and neither did I have the budget to go and buy the large plants I wanted. I spent a little bit of money at Lowe's and bought some plants on sale. For the more formal look I want in front, I need a lot of the same plants for a mass planting.
I'll be posting pictures of my progress soon.