Autumn Houseplants

 

20170920_143750The night air dipped and rose the past few weeks and autumn is certainly in the air.  The houseplants have all been lazily sunbathing all summer (with me) on the front porch.  They love the fresh flow of water from the hose each day and the sun shining on them.  I snap off any leggy parts and remove dead leaves.  Any bugs and diseases that jumped on from being cooped up last winter are gone.  Yet, the thermometer lowers steadily in the night.  At 50 degrees I start covering the plants with a large sheet before I go to bed.  The days are still gloriously warm and they just need a little extra cover under the stars.

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But when that fateful forecast shows 45 degrees at night, everyone has to come inside. Party over.  By the end of summer a lot of the plants have grown.  Trim them into proper shapes and transplant them into bigger pots.  I put a little soil on the bottom, place the whole plant and dirt in the new pot, then top with fresh potting soil.  Water thoroughly and let sit in the sun a bit longer.  There should be holes in the bottom of your pots.  Soggy feet are the death of many a houseplant.  They should be able to drain completely.

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Meanwhile, inside prepare a spot with a nice west, south, or east view-preferably south- and place drip trays or old plates where you want your plants.  Carefully bring in each beautiful specimen.

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The plants will go from daily to every other day waterings to once a week now.  Water until it leaks into tray.

I don’t have typical houseplants, myself.  I have two poinsettias, two Ephedra plants, two jasmine plants, a bamboo, an orchid, a few little succulents, a unique aloe, a behemoth aloe, a coffee plant, and four large geraniums.  The ginormous plants have followed me from place to place for years and some are new.  Last year I overwintered a tomato plant someone gave me in the south window.  It grew a little and when I put it out into the soil this last spring it sprung to life in heaves of mass foliage and huge ripe tomatoes.

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You can have anything as a houseplant.  They just need light, the right amount of water, they enjoy a cup of room temperature coffee per month (no kidding), and talking to them doesn’t hurt either.

(The plants are getting to know the kitten…not thrilled I’m afraid!)

 

Farmgirl Gardening Series Week 9 (weeds, water, and radishes galore!)

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Well we barely kept it watered this week, didn’t thin the carrots, and the weeds are moving in, but just like housework, the garden work will wait for us!

The plants are now getting big enough that we can wield a hoe to combat blankets of overnight weeds.  There is still some hand weeding involved too.  Try to do one area each day.  Some weeds will try to look like a vegetable.  Take care not to weed out your corn!  Crab grass looks like corn when it’s coming up.  Corn has more rounded leaves.  If in doubt, leave it, you can figure it out in a few days!

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Some of the wild roses had to come out to make room for the green beans!

We hand water.  20 seconds in a four foot span is 2 inches of water.  Ideal for proper growth.  It will be nearly dry tomorrow!  While hand watering you can also see which seeds didn’t germinate (I don’t think I will buy that brand of seeds that I got from the garden center again, none of them came up) and see what weeds are sneaking in, how many rabbits visited, what bugs are there (hello cricket!  goodbye red ants!), and how everything is coming along.  We have found that this is the most economical and environmentally friendly way to water.  You use far less.  Drip systems, just like sprinkler systems break, get holes in them, and waste water.  Hand watering puts you in control and only things get watered that need it and how much they need it.

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We did receive a pleasant surprise!  Lisa sprouted a sweet potato in her kitchen.  She gave me the orb with its lovely shoots cascading everywhere.  I very nearly kept it in the shop as a house plant, it was so beautiful!  I separated the shoots and planted them along the trellis.  Sweet potatoes are not easy and not commonly grown in Colorado but it was worth a shot!  The beautiful leaves and stems shriveled as the roots took hold.  Low and behold, there are the leaves coming back!

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This week Maryjane and I just enjoyed the garden.  That is what is it there for.  Sit and relax.  Right now we have radishes coming out of our ears because I get to missing them so much that I get crazy planting and every single seed germinates, I swear, and then after a few dozen radishes, we are done.  That is when they really start growing!

Here is our favorite way to eat them: Butter crackers, place sliced radishes on top, sprinkle with smoked salt.  Delicious!

Our garden is doing pretty fine this year.  This week we will thin plants and cheer the corn on.  They need to be knee high by 4th of July!

Farming Lessons (turn on the water!)

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It was a beautiful morning yesterday.  The calm before the storm.  The chickens at Debbie’s house were playing, her chocolate lab waited patiently for us outside the garden gate, and all was well in the greenhouse for my “farming without killing plants” lesson.

In the outside beds we planted rows of carrots, cauliflower, and kale.  The kale we planted a month ago never came up probably due to our fanatical weather and the extreme cold temperatures.  This time should work!  It’s May 1st for crying out loud!

Then I helped her prepare a bed for planting.  A lesson like no other.  She sprayed it down very well, puddles welled  up, and the soil was lovely and damp.  We turned the soil with a spade.  Dry.  The ground was dry!  I sprayed it really well for a second time.  Turned it with the spade, dry.  Debbie mentioned that this scenario is the very reason many gardens to do not succeed.  We sprayed it once again and it still was not damp through and through.  The fourth time did the trick.  My lesson?  Never assume that because the top layer is wet that anything  below is drinking water!  Always use a water gage or the poor (wo)man’s water gage…your finger.  The soil should be damp up to the second knuckle, if not, it needs water!  I came straight home and turned the sprinklers on!

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This is a long time idea in my head that I have to reverse.  Reading gardening magazines and books for 20+ years has taught me one thing….don’t over water!  It causes diseases, fungal stuff, root rot and possibly world hunger.  I have adhered to that sentiment with fervency.  Don’t over water!  Here is the thing they never specified, they aren’t talking about Colorado or other dry areas.  It’s so dry here your nose may start bleeding at a moment’s notice, so dry my lotion flies off the table at the shop, so dry weeds died last year here!  One would really have to work at it to over water in a dry state like this.  I have been more diligent, twice daily checks on the soil in the garden.  The reason I have NEVER had a carrot germinate is because the soil must remain moist the entire time until it gets its foothold.  So, my soil has been consistently wet.  It will need more once the roots spread down and need more drinks.  The radishes have germinated in thanks.

In my garden, there are onions and garlic coming up, the herbs have returned, last years onions that never came up are making a grand display in the wrong bed, and the cold crop seeds are slumbering quietly just beneath the surface which I hope by this weekend will be light carpets of tiny greens.

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Debbie’s herbs are so happy in her greenhouse they were jumping ship.  Comfortably spreading out and lounging all over the bed.  Because a good chunk of them needed to be evicted, I was the proud new recipient of twelve pots of oregano and cilantro.  Which brings me to a great way to spread the wealth among farmers.  Wendy brought me a few chive plants she split off, Diane is bringing me borage.  Don’t worry about having herbs that spread all over, split them up, stick them in a pot and give as instant gifts!

Not Killing Cold Crops

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I was going to plant all the cold crops around St. Patrick’s day.  I heard you could.  But then I thought maybe we were moving so I didn’t.  Turns out I would have killed off everything if I had!  I think my friend/teacher/Master Gardener is determined to make a proper farmgirl out of me and help me actually grow stuff.  (As a proper farmgirl should be able to provide food for her family and not just adorable stunted plants that could feed gnomes.) Our lesson last week started with me telling her about my cold crop planting plans and she asked, “Did you take the soil temperature?”  …what?…no.

I have a candy thermometer, a baby thermometer, a root cellar thermometer, no thermometers for the dirt lying around.  That is going to change.

Cold crops can be planted when the soil is 45 degrees.  My cold crops consist of yummy peas, Swiss chard, kale, collards, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, potatoes, radishes, and broccoli.

Use milk cartons with their bottoms chopped off for cloches.  Put the screw top lid on at night and off during the day.  If I start my barrel of potatoes, use the trash can lid to cover at night.  Keep all the kids warm and tucked in while the night sky is still chilly.  During the day let them play and take in the sunshine.  In a few weeks I ought to be eating good, fresh spring fare.

She recommended that instead of continuing the soil pattern in the potato barrel (adding 6 inches of dirt every time the leaves stick up) add 6 inches of straw.  We are just trying to keep them in the dark.  Straw is lighter, easier to dig through.

She uses a drip line for 20 minutes daily.  I told her about my absolute loss of any common sense when it comes to watering.  So I am picking up a water level checker thing too.  Just so I know when to water or not.  I have not had any problems overwatering if she is watering 20 minutes a day, more in the summer.  More than 30 seconds of watering would do my garden wonders.

I also learned that you can drill tiny holes in a five gallon bucket and place it at the base of new trees (or old) and fill with water every time you pass with the hose.  It provides a steady drip of water to the thirsty roots.  Don’t my new orchard trees wish I had learned that last year?!

So, here’s the scoop.  We are looking at one last place that we really want after we get back from Santa Fe next week.  If we don’t get it, I will stop looking until fall.  Tis gardening season after all!  I will have Doug install the drip lines here in the crumbling raised beds and grow ridiculous amounts of food from heirloom seeds in riotous colors and hone my farmgirl skills thanks to Debbie.  I have another lesson in the morning!  And I’ll be off to get a dirt thermometer as well.

Ginger Spiced Apple Sauce and Trees

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Thousands of apples covered the ground and still many hung from the branches.  Nipped by the early hail storm, small for the year, invisible to the bugs, they were small, pocked, and perfect.  Piles went in to a bag for apple sauce, a pile of bruised ones for the chickens, and a pile for Nancy (who is my fellow lover of canning).  Even with all those pounds of apples taken, it looked like the apples replenished themselves before our very eyes, for no spaces on the ground or on the branches were seen.  The amount of apples this year were astonishing.

We picked out two year old trees, ones the girl at the nursery said might actually produce an apple or two for us this year.  Very exciting!  Two apples and a plum tree set off in the back of the truck for new lands, our back yard.  We planted them with an existing, much rejected apple tree in the back yard, which was not much bigger.  The large apple tree next door laughed.  But I shall have the last laugh, I thought, as I envisioned myself picking luscious apples off of the new trees.  Savoring the fruit of our hands…and prayers.  God forgot to send me a memo about watering.  For the first few months I watched and if it rained (ever so pittantly this year) I didn’t water.  If it didn’t, I would lug out a five gallon container of water and give each tree a nice drink…like a once a week.  It must have been a tease for them once farmer’s markets started for our trees did not get the proper water they should have and the drought didn’t help the cute little mini forest either.  They are alas still standing and trying not to be dead.  Not sure what the mysterious holes at their base are either, I hope not voles.  So, here with the ground in snow and Christmas presents to wrap, my mind wanders to next year’s garden and orchard, as it does every year upon year; next year will be the best year ever!  Because by golly, despite the amazingly high water prices out here, I want an orchard.  How much do you water trees?

All those apples were from my Great-Aunt Donna’s yard.  She is an amazing grower, a Master Gardener, 85 years old, spry as they come and I hope future generations will speak of me the way I speak of her and will come to my yard to gather piles of apples.

Ginger Spiced Apple Sauce

You don’t even need a recipe for this. You cannot mess it up.  Throw all the apples in the pan (I do not peel them, just take out the core) and add a bit of apple juice to keep it from sticking to the bottom before the natural juices come out, just a big splash now, not too much.  You don’t have to add sugar, apples are quite sweet, but I do fancy a little honey or brown sugar in mine.  Cook this down over medium heat until you are able to put an immersion blender in and get it nice and thick and a little chunky.  (My immersion blender will have to be replaced with a food mill for our homestead)  Add in a big spoonful of pumpkin pie spice and about half of that spoon of powdered ginger.  Taste and adjust flavors.  A pinch of salt wouldn’t hurt.  You can eat the sauce just like this or you can can it.  Ladle into pint jars and replace the lid (I cheat and only rinse the jars and lids in really hot water) and boil in a pot of water that covers the jars for 17 minutes at our altitude. (10 minutes for sea level and add one minute per 1000 ft of altitude.) Yum.  Not too late to go get some apples and make this delicious sauce.