Answers: Weed? Or Wonderful?

If you’ve ever pulled out the lettuce and left the chickweed, you’re in good company. Last week I admitted my failure to recognize ragweed, one of the most irritating plants in my yard (especially to my nose!). It takes practice to recognize plants in their infancy. After all, how much do you look like your newborn photos?

If you missed last week’s quiz, you can try your hand at some seedling ID by clicking here. If you’re ready for the answers, keep reading.

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Weed? Or Wonderful?

LAH_7583Everything is growing. Buds are bursting, early flowers are in bloom, and millions of tiny seeds are breaking through the soil into eager growth. It’s a wonderful time of year, and a busy one for gardeners. As we sow seeds and pull weeds, the question arises—which is which? Should we dig out that clump of green, or is it a desirable plant?

This is especially difficult if it’s a new yard, and this is our first chance to see what’s growing in it. Let me tell you a short story illustrating my gardening ineptitude.

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The Garden and the Fire

Photo by by sierachris
Photo by by sierachris

I had planned to write an interesting and informative post about woodpeckers for today, but life was interrupted this past week. I’m sure you’ve heard about the massive fire in Black Forest, Colorado. Well, guess where we live… yup, Black Forest, Colorado. We were evacuated within hours of the fire’s start, and have been unable to get back into our house until now. We are grateful that we still have a house to get back into!

You can read more about our personal experience on my other blog, www.compost-blog.com. Today I’d like to share about what I am calling the miracle garden.

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Growing, Growing, Gone!

Eastern Cottontail_ColoSpgs_PLH_4023Where did they go? Yesterday I had a nice row of lettuce seedlings down one side of my raised bed. This morning three were missing! Not a leaf remained, only the gnawed off stump of a stem, leveled to the dirt. Grrrr!

Since we live on a few acres, there are many possible culprits: insects (such as cut worms or grasshoppers), jays, crows, or other hungry birds, pocket gophers, or rabbits. Figuring out who done the deed was essential to knowing what defenses I needed to erect to protect the rest of my crop. It was time to pull out my Sherlock Holmes hat and bubble pipe and do some sleuthing.

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Murdering Seedlings

Lettuce seedlings_LAH_9883I’ve waiting all winter for spring to finally arrive (and it took forever this year). The garden was planned, veggie varieties were chosen, seeds were ordered. When the package arrived, the seed packets were sorted and stuffed into baggies to wait until May. With the first warmer days, I finally ventured outside, prepared my planting beds, hooked up the soaker hoses, and sowed those seeds. Then I misted them daily, lest they dry out and die. Weeds sprouted and were carefully extracted from the seed bed. Then, at last, the first tiny cotyledons showed above ground. My seeds were germinating!

And now you want me to pull half of them out? You must be crazy!

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To Seed or Not to Seed?

Pepper cotyledons vs leaves LAHGardeners seem to come in two varieties: those who buy seeds, and those who buy transplants. Which are you? Are you the do-it-yourselfer who prefers to start your plants from seed, nurturing each and every flower and vegetable from infancy? Or are you more the no-nonsense, practical type who figures that there’s no point in fussing when you can so easily purchase transplants? There are pros and cons to each approach.

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By the Birds, For the Birds

blkforest-co_lah_8039This year, the birds planted themselves a garden.

I have half a dozen bird feeders scattered around our yard. Some hold millet, others contain suet, and a small feeder near the house is full of tiny, black nyjer seeds specifically for the goldfinches and Pine Siskins. But the most popular feeders are the ones full of black oil sunflower seeds.

House Finches, jays, nuthatches and chickadees, magpies, grosbeaks—all are attracted to the sunflower seeds. (So are squirrels, but they only get the spilled seeds on the ground.) While the finches sit contentedly on the feeder, munching away, the jays, nuthatches and chickadees tend to swoop in, grab a seed (or three, in the case of the jays), and hightail it to the relative safety of a convenient branch. There they open the shell and extract the seed before returning to the feeder for their next bite.

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