Archive for April, 2010

Barbara: I’ve been running around all day doing errands — I HATE doing errands. I kept feeling like something was missing, like I was forgetting something. What could it be…?

Tuesday!! OMG! It’s near the end of the day and this day is Tuesday! Ding, ding, ding!

Here are your tips — a miscellaneous trio. A little late, but it’s still Tuesday.

Banana Peels for Roses

Mary Beth swears by this tip – bury a chopped up banana peel next to each of your rose bushes and they will be happier and healthier. It makes a lot of sense. Bananas are naturally high in potassium and phosphorus. Plants need these macronutrients for fruit, flower, and root formation. Put the extras in your compost. Free fertilizer!

Geranium Budworms

Those nasty budworms make little holes in your geranium buds and eat the flowers before they blossom. They also munch geranium leaves and petunias and generally make a frassy, raggedy mess out of your plants. According to Pat Welsh, in Southern California the night-flying moth that is the parent of the budworm usually lays her eggs with the first full moon in April.

Phenology again! Although the April full moon is a marker, the timing most likely has more to do with the temperature. If you’re not in SoCal, you can probably figure out which full moon applies to you by using the average nighttime temperatures in our area which in April are in the high 40’s to low 50’s. So that means that you would spray one day before whichever full moon occurred in a month when the nighttime temperature was consistently in the high 40’s to low 50s.

So get out your BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) and spray or dust your zonal geraniums the day before the full moon, which would be tomorrow in Southern California. Repeat for three or four days. This should keep the little buggers from destroying your flowers. Do the same next month at the full moon and you should have a lot less damage from these worms.

Watering Your Potted Plants

When you’re watering your potted plants be sure you water until it runs out the bottom. This will ensure that salts in the water don’t build up in the soil and it will encourage the plants roots to grow all the way down into the soil.


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Mary Beth: The last few weeks have been a bit crazy. Ray and I have been getting ready to leave Block Island. It’s an exciting, stressful, sad time and my emotions are all over the place.

I hate packing. Deciding what to leave and what to take and battling Ray for space in our trailer for my things is tough. His woodworking tools are many and they rule in his book. Although I can’t bitch too much because they do pay the bills. I have so many garden books and I hate thinking about leaving any behind even if those are focused on East Coast growing zones. One good thing about moving is it does force you to get rid of a lot of clutter. It’s a great way to simplify your life a bit, but I’m not real happy about leaving either my books or a lot of my clothes behind. Oh well, it’s a good excuse to buy some cute outfits!

I feel lucky because spring started about 3 weeks earlier on B.I. this year, so I’ve been able to enjoy the spring blooms before I leave. All the beds and plants at the Cottage and my Mom’s house (her property is where our cottage is located) are primped and beautiful.

Ray has been fixing up the Cottage for the past few weeks. He’s turning it back into a summer rental as has been since the 70’s before we moved into it 5 years ago. I will miss it too. It’s a sweet, cozy little nest with great views of the gardens and a wonderful outdoor shower which is heaven after spending all day at the beach. (Mansion Beach is a 5 minute walk down a country lane.) A little advertisement here: my Mom is renting the Cottage this summer and there are a few weeks left open if anybody is interested. Here’s a link to the rental agency — Offshore Property Rentals.

This is the Cottage where we've lived the past five years. All it needs now is some paint.

The Cottage porch where we've spent a lot of time enjoying the view of the gardens.

But what about the bees?! They seem to be doing well in spite of my discovery of a varroa mite in the hive a couple of weeks ago. They will be looked after by my friend Grace, another Island beekeeper, and I’m reassured because I know they are in good hands. I’ll be coming back later in the summer to check on them too.

I’ve also been very busy getting my clients’ gardens ready for the season. I will have done all I can and be finished this week with my garden business on Block Island. I will really miss all the beautiful gardens I’ve tended to for the past 5 years. It’s hard leaving them, they are like my babies and saying goodbye to my clients who have become my friends makes me sad. It’s all so bittersweet.

Our departure is May 3rd. We’ll be hitting the road with 2 dogs, a cat and a trailer jammed packed with our “stuff,” heading due west. When we get to our house in Durango, I will be doubly blessed because spring flowering will just be starting. I’ll be able to enjoy the unfolding of all that beauty for a second time. I have big plans for my garden out West. Very soon I’ll be gardening in the Mountain Region zone 4 again with all it’s many challenges!

The Cottage Farm House garden in summer.

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East Coast

West Coast

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East Coast

West Coast

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Here’s a fascinating set of tips courtesy of Mother Nature. Using Nature to let you know when to plant crops by observing bud break on plants, the first appearance of specific insects, or the migration of birds is an age-old gardening/farming technique. The study of this practice is called phenology. And although it can sound a little like hocus pocus, there are real, measurable phenomena that signal the ground temperature and day length changes that are critical to successful gardening.

Spring seems to come earlier and earlier. We’re not going to debate global warming, but gardening journals all tell the same story. Mary Beth looked at her journal and found that last year her signal plants bloomed a year earlier than in 2008 and this year it was three weeks earlier. Out here on the West Coast I’ve heard the same things from other gardeners and, if I’d be more diligent in keeping my journal, I could reliably report a similar trend.

So planting by the calendar can get you in trouble, but by using phenology you will be planting based on signs in your environment that conditions are right for seed germination and plant growth.

Tip #1 When to Plant

  • Plant peas when the daffodils and forsythia bloom.
  • Plant potatoes when the daffodils bloom.
  • Plant beets, carrots, cole crops, lettuce, and spinach when lilac is in full bloom.
  • Plant corn when apple blossoms start to fall.
  • When lily of the valley is in bloom, plant tomatoes.

Tip # 2 When to Watch for Pests

  • Eastern tent caterpillar eggs begin to hatch when buds break of flowering crabapple.
  • When chicory begins to flower, watch for squash vine borers.
  • Japanese Beetles begin to arrive when the morning glory vine starts to climb.

These are just a few of many tips that you can find when you search phenology on the internet. Better still would be to start your own journal and record the signs in your environment, after a few years you’ll start to sound like a soothsayer!

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East Coast

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Mary Beth:
Good news first. I found eggs and it looks like a good mix of brood with a few drone cells mixed in. Yeah!

Bad news. I saw a varroa mite on one of my bees! I’ve poured over my photos and I’ve only seen the one bee with a mite. What a sad find! Hopefully it will not be a problem for the rest of the Island bees.

This is not supposed to be the case out here on Block Island — we’re out in the middle of the ocean, thirteen miles from the mainland. As far as I know no varroa mites or diseases have ever been found in the hives on the Island.

Unfortunately this is no longer true and I’m still trying to figure out how it happened. I’ll have to keep an eye on the hive and talk to some beekeepers out here to see if they’ve noticed this pest in their hives.

I’m researching this problem and so far I’ve found that there are several things I could do that might help my bees. To start I’m going to increase the Honey B Healthy and hope that they can shake this off. I’ve also read that the mite doesn’t like the smaller cell size on the Top Bar Hive so maybe the problem will correct itself. If anyone out there has dealt with varroa mites, I’d love to hear what you did to help your bees.

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