I recently did battle with some poison ivy and obviously did not wash up well enough or soon enough to prevent a rash on my forearm. Just a couple of small itchy bumps showed up first. But soon a mug-sized rash was apparent, with blisters aplenty.
I could have bought large disposable bandages to cover up the area. Initially I did grab a bandaid from work when it was small enough. But the cost of larger bandages is ridiculous and I knew from the bandaid attempt that any adhesive would just irritate the rash.
It didn’t take much looking around to find a suitable piece of clean cotton, in this case a spare sleeve from a shirt that was made into tshirt yarn. (Those sleeves also make great headbands.) My search for ribbon or something to tie it was quickly completed with a glance around my room. These velcro ties are even more perfect for one-handed tying.
With this, I present the not new bandage.
I’ve swapped out the cloth as needed and threw them in the wash. Easy peasy. In the couple of days since, I also made the improvement of putting ties as both the top and bottom to minimize pressure on the rash as much as possible.
(Disclaimer: a better idea would be to really thoroughly wash yourself and your clothes after a poison ivy encounter. Especially under your fingernails, as that may be what did me in. 😕 )
The few drops I felt this morning make me happy. I’m don’t want to deal with an irrigation system and even manage to have trouble with hoses, so my usual garden watering routine is lugging water back and forth between the faucet and plants. Last weekend it poured… in a different city where I was traveling. But after many dry weeks, it looks like North Austin is finally about to get a drenching. No lugging for me next week? 🙂
Without further ado, here’s six things in my garden this week.
There’s definitely more insect life around, from ants to ladybugs to butterflies. I’m happy to see that of the many butterflies who have flitted around lately, at least one was pleased enough with my garden to want its kids to grow up here. I do have a ton of fennel and, after seeing this, regret pulling up some of it earlier because there was just too much.
Flowers Out Front
I do most of my gardening in the backyard, but this little bed is out front. I love how it’s finally filled up with the white salvia, lavender, oregano, bluebonnets, and pink evening primroses. I can only make out the young Texas Mountain Laurels in there because I know where they are, but they’re growing and one day they’ll be the dominant feature in this bed.
Although January may not have been the best time to plant out this young Arbequina Olive tree, it survived the late frost and has put up with me not watering it quite enough. (It should be drought tolerant when more mature, which is why I chose it for an inconvenient location.) It’s apparently also content enough to flower already. This will probably look really awesome someday when it’s a large mature tree.
This plant must have doubled in size during the past month. I hope it blocks out some weeds!
It hasn’t bloomed in the past three years. Should I dig it up to take a look? Remove the grass from around it and mulch so it can have some personal space? The only thing I’ve done with it is accidentally mow it over a few times, but I’m curious.
The first time I saw one of these little snakes in the yard, it was already in two pieces from digging a hole for a new tree. Now that they know how inattentive I can be, they stay out of my way most of the time. However, today I was able to spot one in the mulch next to my Al-Sirin-Nar pomegrantate. If this is an earth snake as it appears to be, it eats earthworms, insects, and snails. Maybe it was out today because there are an excessive number of snails about this morning enjoying the wet mulch and leaves. Go snake, get ’em!
Yes, I know this is Sunday, but I took the pictures on Friday, so I’ll consider the average of the two make this a valid Six on Saturday post. It’s been a great week, watching from day-to-day as there is more shade in the world. By the time I get home from work and am available to tend to the garden a bit, while the daily temp is sometimes still at its peak, about half of my backyard is shaded. It is so luxurious. No pics of the trees today, though, and I didn’t stop to take pictures of all the roadwide wildflowers on my weekend trip down to south Texas. Here’s my six….
After the white petals are gone, the sepals still add a touch of class and stariness for a while. This flower looks like it may give way to a delicious blackberry in a while.
In each of the three autumns that I’ve lived in this house, I’ve tried scattering seed in multiple areas of the yard with hopes that they’d grow into beautiful bluebonnet plants. As a native Texan, I’m quite attached to our state flower. But I may have to try something else this fall. The only reason I have a single bluebonnet plant in my front yard is that I bought one from the nursery last September.
I enjoyed a couple of the fuzzy cucumber-flavored leaves earlier on, but looks like something else has gotten to it lately. My hope is that this year the borage will self-sow prolifically as I’ve heard other people complain but which has never been my experience.
I wasn’t expecting the Crandall Currant bush to flower within a month of getting it into the ground, but I won’t complain. Others have mentioned that this is also called a clove currant because of its scent. Although this one is small, I rubbed a few flowers with my fingers, and sure enough, a scrumptious clove-y aroma.
The last time I tried to grow nasturtiums was an utter failure, so I’m delighted by how healthy these are so far. Since it’s been so dry, I’ve been watering them a couple of times per week. It’s only worth it if I’m able to harvest a few soon for munching on, and if they produce at least as much seed as I’ve planted.
Poison Ivy (?)
I was weeding mindlessly anything that was green and unexpected in my pear tree bed. My breath escaped me for a moment when I suddenly realized that my hand was heading for a patch with “leaves of three, let it be”. It doesn’t look like the standard pics of poison ivy, but I’ve seen a lot of poison ivy that was just going through a weird growth phase or something and have stuck with the “leaves of three” rule unless otherwise identified. However, looking at this picture now and the slight assymmetry of the leaves, I think it really may be may be something else. And I’m wondering, did I end up pulling it up / chopping the top after all? I’ll have to wait until daylight to find out….
The bloom season for Texas Mountain Laurels here in central Texas is starting to wrap up already, but they’ve had a good run this year. Just look at this beauty, taken near the start of the bloom period in mid-February. This is near the max height for Texas Mountain Laurels, so they’re a good fit in many places.
My favorite things about the Texas Mountain Laurel (TML) is that it’s an evergreen tree, is nitrogen-fixing so needs no fertilizer, and just generally does really well in this area with minimal care.
Other folks are more inclined to prefer the purple blooms or the strange sweet aroma that emanates from them. (It’s likened to purple koolaid.) That’s definitely what the bees have been into, as it’s usually easy to spot a few buzzing around the trees.
Either way, if you’re in the area it’s easy to grow from seed. Once the seedpods mature in the summer, grab a few and crack them open. The barely-mature seedpods are easiest to open, and the really old ones may be as well. A nutcracker can definitely help, though.
Since they have a thick coat, it helps to give them a little nick with some nail clippers or other sharp object if you want to ensure they sprout quickly. Be careful not to cut past the surface, or you could damage the baby plant inside. In that case, grab another seed. Other online sources state that this type of scarification isn’t needed if you use the barely-mature seeds that are pinkish instead of deep red like this one, but when I remembered to grab some last year they were already quite mature.
I’ve always soaked the seeds overnight to help with quick sprouting. One thing I don’t do anymore is to pot them up inside. It’s just a hassle that isn’t at all necessary. Sure, it was nice the first time or two for watching how new leaves unfolded and seeing just how long the taproot grows. (If you do start it indoors, make sure it’s transplanted out quickly because that taproot does need to grow.)
Instead, just stick them in the ground wherever you want. TML isn’t too picky and some are growing happily where I’ve planted them in compacted unamended clay soil or super-limestone-filled places. I recommend starting three or four in any location in case they don’t all make it. I’ve lost a few for whatever reason but still have plenty. Once they get larger, I’ll even likely have to kill off a few myself. It shouldn’t be hard to keep up with because TML is a fairly slow grower.
This is my eldest plant, started a little over two years ago. No, it’s not quite a “tree” yet. At the start of the month it measured a whopping 18 inches (46 cm), and that’s including some of the new growth that has burst forth this spring.
Some day this young tree will grow to add more interest to my front lawn and attract pollinators. And in the meantime I don’t have to water it (well, I might if we’re in a deep drought) or feed it. I don’t need to pamper it in any way. I just have to be patient and it will grow.
So if you live in this area, grab a few seeds from a TML in your neighborhood, stick them in the ground, and sit back. It’s completely free, and someday you too will be rewarded with a beautiful little evergreen tree.
While there is more greenery out, I feel bad watching the occasional butterfly flittering around and not finding any flowers to sip nectar from. I may have to find some early-blooming food for the pollinators for next year.
At least the leaf-cutter ants haven’t stopped by again. I found one soldier scoping out the place, but I decapitated it and hope the others got the message.
Anyhow, here are six things that are happening around my yard today.
I was looking forward to feeding the butterflies this year. I had many milkweed plants growing from seed scattered around the yard. Or I thought I did. Today I found a couple of small blue flowers on the plants. After some online investigation, it looks like this is actually flax. This shouldn’t be surprising. Last year after I got tired of eating flax seed, I scattered what was left around the yard to see what would happen… but then promptly forgot about it.
Last weekend I planted out over a dozen baby pepper plants. This was in addition to the few I had planted out already. Some have already been dug up by squirrels, but others appear to have settled in nicely. Peppers are supposed to be good companion plants for citrus trees, so I have them planted in each of my tree beds. They’re especially good plants for me because they’re drought tolerant. I don’t tend to get many peppers that way, but maybe this year it’ll rain more.
The leaves on my young kumquat tree have been gradually getting yellower for a while, but I’ve been putting off any kind of fertilization until Spring. Well, now is the time. The liquid fertilizer I bought last year isn’t sold anymore, but this week I picked up some Citrus-tone at the nursery. Kumquat isn’t actually a citrus plant, but close enough.
I’m pleased to see the blackberries starting to bud, but those have gotten pretty yellow also! Do they not like the homemade compost I added around them not long ago? Well, we’ll find out if they like citrus food.
The foliage on this young shrub just looks cool. I hope the berries are good too.
Winter was so nice, if for no other reason, then that the poison ivy had died back for the season. But now there are fresh sprouts starting to dot my yard. I have to start being careful again, and prepare for some fun Spring sessions of manually attacking the poison ivy. Last year I used a herbicide to kill much of it. I’m hoping that’ll make it manageable enough for me to handle it on my own this year.
Well, those are my six. Check out the Propagator’s blog to find more goings on in gardens around the world.
Some cold weather came through Austin early this week. Temperatures were in the 20s on Monday morning in my yard, and then both Tuesday and Wednesday mornings also dipped into freezing. Sure, there are some pomegranate and mulberry leaves that are totally frost-burnt, but most plants are fine and it seemed to be a signal to the other plants that winter is now concluded and with warm days again more green appears every day.
Here are six things from my garden this week.
When this plant first appeared in an unexpected spot, I thought it was a comfrey plant and wondered how it got there. But it grew larger than my other comfrey plants and the leaves have a slightly rounder shape. Finally when it got large enough, it struck me that it could be borage. I tore off a piece of leaf, and sure enough it had that distinct cucumbery flavor. Note: This is probably not the smartest method for identifying plants but I had a pretty strong hunch.
For reference, this is an example of what my comfrey plants look like.
Although this early asparagus spear first poked out of the ground almost a couple of weeks ago, none of its asparagus buddies have joined in. I measured it this morning at a whopping 25 inches (63 cm), which seems like a lot to grow all alone. Does it prefer the nearby grasses at this edge-of-the-bed location?
This Warren Pear was planted bare root at the start of January. As always, I was hugely relieved to see the leaves finally break free from their little brown knobs this week. I’m trying not to baby this plant too much because the information I’ve gleaned from the internet is that it’ll do fine only so long as it doesn’t grow too quickly. It needs a bit of tough love, or it’ll be weak and could ultimately succumb to fireblight in this area.
I may not know how to identify all my pollinators, but I generally know how to make them happy. Leaving some “weeds” for them to enjoy? Easy enough!
Anoles are regular guests in my yard, but they rarely agree to stop and pose for pictures.
Texas Leafcutter Ants
Due to the other wildlife like those mentioned above, I normally avoid insecticides in my yard. However, leafcutter ants really freak me out. They build huge underground colonies with tunnels up to several feet deep. Last year when they showed up, I first noticed them because my dwarf buford holly was red and alive. The last of the green leaves were just being removed, and ants were all along the branches making sure they’d gotten everything. Then I started reading about roads that had collapsed due to the vast excavation done by the ants. Last year, I didn’t bother growing vegetables because I didn’t know if they’d survive. Mounds popped up in my yard, and desperate, I tried a few different types of poison. Finally, in November I saw the last of them. Anytime a mound popped up, I’d dig it up and pour some of the poison down their hole. And then one day I stopped seeing them… until this Thursday. I went out into the garden after work, and there was a huge long parade of ants gather leaves to take back to their own fungus garden. I panicked and poured the remnants of last year’s poison onto the parade. They may have just been gathering weeds, but who wants to feed their colonies that grow to the millions? This picture is one of their mounds from last year, presumed dead, but which some of the ants made as their destination on Thursday. I haven’t seen any more yesterday or today but remain on high alert. I need to calm down and find a way to deal with these buggers that doesn’t involve killing anything else….
Well, that last one was an earful, wasn’t it? But those are my Six on Saturday for this week. Check out the Propagator’s blog for more sixes from gardens around the world.
What do you do when you have more of something than you need? You organize a swap, of course!
I’ve never organized a swap before, but there’s a first time for everything. In this case, I had some excess plants from my propagation experiments and, as always, a ton of extra seeds. While I’m not always a very social person, my work uses Slack and has a channel set up just for folks to talk about gardening. And why not? Gardening is the perfect hobby for anyone who stares at a computer screen for 8 hours a day. One of my coworkers said he’d have a bunch of extra tomato and pepper starts at the end of February, so the timing for the swap was pretty obvious. I booked a conference room and let everyone in the chat know to look forward to this swap for sharing any extra plants and/or seeds.
For over a month, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this day, wondering which of my plants would be likely to find a new adoptive home. In the end I chose 10 pots, including a couple of aloe, a couple of spearmint, a dwarf barbados cherry, and a few others.
We only had three folks bring in plants and seeds, but it was more than enough to go around. Once word got out, various folks dropped by to check out our offerings, a few of them sharing regrets that they did have extra seed or plants at home that they missed out on bringing in. With this interest, we went ahead and scheduled another swap for a month out. If I’m lucky, this will turn into a regular thing.
I ended up going home with two plants. No one else wanted the yaupon holly, which is fine because I do have a place for it to go eventually. And I nabbed one of the few small tomato plants left at the end of the event–a yellow pear.
(I asked folks to return the plant pots to be washed and reused, but we’ll see how many actually make their way back.)
Oh, and tons of seeds. I have plenty of seeds of nigella, various melons, carrot, sunflower, shelling pea, mizuna, and more. Now I just need to figure out when and where to plant them all!
Overall, it was pretty awesome, especially hearing gardening stories from other folks with whom I’d never discussed anything other than work. The new treasures don’t hurt either. I’m already looking forward to the next swap.
Two new plants arrived in the mail this week–a Crandall Currant and a Goumi. I got them into the ground the same day, but they’re very much sticks-in-the-ground at this point. I’ll share more later about how they made their way onto the list of the twelve plants I’m buying this year.
Other than that, I’ve stayed inside for most of the week, thinking about work things. Fortunately, today I spent more time in the garden and was finally able to clear my mind again. Here are a few (well, six) of the little things that I’ve been able to immerse myself in today and free myself of other cares.
Turks cap is a Texas native that easily handles any neglect and has beautifully structured red flowers for many months of the year. I’ve been quite disappointed as my turks cap cuttings have died off one by one (just one left!), but maybe growing from seed will be a better solve for propagating more plants. I planted a few seeds on the 9th, and a couple of weeks in I’ve already potted a couple of them to their own containers. Even better, today I felt something uncomfortable in my shoe, which turned out to be another turks cap seed. Someday I will have many (in my yard, not my shoe).
Meanwhile, leaves continue to pop up on more plants outside. One of the latest is on the Arbequina Olive that I just planted out last month. It was a relief that the winter has been pretty mild since planting it out, and it’s even more of a relief now that it appears to be happy in this location.
One goji berry has been putting out new growth for a couple of weeks already, and the other has just started. Between the two plants, I only got a few dozen small berries last year, but here’s hoping that this year is more prolific now that they’ve made themselves more at home.
When we first move into this house a few years ago, I was intrigued by the onion-smelling foliage in the side yard and then amazed to discover that it’s actually wild onion. Someday I’ll try using some of this in cooking, but for now I just love to observe and marvel at it growing wild.
I saw a pair of happily coupled cardinals flitting about this morning, but this other guy seemed a bit down. He was hopping around in the neighbor’s yard, sometimes waving his wings a bit but to no effect. I was curious about his injury, but he kept hopping away from me and finally through a hole in a wooden fence to another neighbor’s yard.
Philodendron & Shrimp Plant
I’ve been keeping an eye on Craigslist lately, and today a gardener from a nearby neighborhood posted about some free extras–red shrimp plants and a bag of spotted philodendron. Shrimp plants aren’t my favorite because, well, they look like they have shrimp on them. But I have plenty of spaces needing plants to fill them, so several shrimp plants made their way home today. I planted out five of them in a row near the area where the creek overflows (we’ll see in a few months whether I planted them too low, if so they’ll drown in the spring floods) and potted up one for the swap at work on Monday. The huge mass of philodendron twine confused me. Will the now-mangled plants in all of these five pots survive? You can see I ran out of pots and resorted to whatever I could find. Eventually I’ll repot these into a hanging planter I also got free.
Well, I think I’ve had enough gardening for one day and am ready for some sleep, but if you’re interested in seeing what other folks are up to in their gardens, check out The Propagator for more Six on Saturday blogs from around the world.
The world has greened up enough that I had to put some extra effort into weeding today. My Six on Saturday this week is about my adventures weeding, which is a tiny bit about pulling weeds and a lot more about plant identification and figuring out if I want it or if it’s a weed. At least I got to enjoy the flock of birds that was flying high overhead from tree to tree for a while this morning.
I’ve prepared for the spring season by finding pictures online of many of the common known weeds in my yard. Daily quizzing led up to an instant identification today when I found these guys. Does it help that there are more hackberries are sitting right next to the seedlings? Oh well, it’s easier to pull the sprouts than pick up the berries (although it’s easier to pick up the berries than deal with the larger seedlings). And I was very careful to not disrupt the nasturtium.
Field madder is a low-growing annual that has popped up in areas of thin grass. This plant is new to me this year (it’s possible I just never noticed it before) and kind of cute, so I didn’t pull it today. The dense mat should prevent less desirable plants from popping up there. I’ll leave it this year to observe as it continues to grow and die back. Worst case scenario, I’ll have to pull more weeds next year. It happens.
Mystery Plant #1
This looked too froufrou to be a common weed. I’m guessing it’s from one of the seed packets I scattered around in the fall so it stays.
Mystery Plant #2
Yet another unidentified plant. With the fancy white bud, this one also must be from the seed packets, but it doesn’t quite look like anything on the labels. I have to remember to check it regularly so I can get a better identification after it blooms.
Mystery Plant #3
This little guy was coming up in the mulch next to my new pomegranates. It looks kind of familiar, but I’m still scratching my head on what it could be. Could the pomegranate have put out a sucker after just one month? It doesn’t look quite the same.
Mystery Plant #4
This must be some sort of alien plant. I came across it unexpectedly in a quite shady spot, where birds are more likely to plant things as I am. With the close leaves, could it be a strange sort of zinnia? An image search suggested that this was sorrel, but it sure doesn’t look like any of the “matching” images. Oh well, time will tell.
Well, that’s my six for this week–a lot of head scratching. To see other sixes from gardens around the world, check out the Propagator’s blog.
It’s been a bit chilly the past couple of days. Nothing like folks up North have seen and nothing that’s even exceptional in the area, but it did dip into freezing. And although I didn’t see any snow like some other folks in the area did, there were some small hailstones still sitting on my back porch from yesterday to this morning.
Overall, though, things are already greening up. Here are a few things that are going on in the gardening this morning.
Fresh foliage is emerging from both my Al-Sirin-Nar pomegranate, as well as the Salavatski and Wonderful pomegranates that I just planted a month ago. I wonder what year I’ll start getting some edible pomegranate fruits. Mmm!
Last year I was surprised when the foliage on my daylilies disappeared seemingly overnight. Is that what they do when it cools off, or did something eat them? I’ll see what happens this year. For now, new foliage has happily emerged. Since I planted them in the fall I haven’t seen the flowers yet, but this should be the standard orange Stella D’Oro variety.
A month ago I planted three Kiowa blackberry plants, and they’ve just started to leaf out as well. Native dewberries grow around my yard, so these should do well here.
While looking around my garden and making a note of what needs to be done, I noticed new foliage at the base of the Walker’s Low catmint, and briefly considered pruning some of the old foliage a bit. But then I looked closer and saw this ladybug just hanging out. I think I’ll leave it be for now. 🙂
I’ve never heard of anyone having trouble keeping chives alive, but I’ve tried planting regular chives in my persimmon guild twice, and they quickly succumbed both times. It hasn’t been a full year yet, but I’m happy to see the garlic chives replacement are still growing strong so far.
I collected Fennel seed last year, and it’s sprouting up all around my yard. What I thought were poppies in a previous Six on Saturday post? Yup, those now appear to be fennel. Also, I just recently learned that after a fennel plant “dies”, new fennel plants sprout from its base. I’ve read that it sprouts one new plant from each side, but this plant gave way to five new ones! Can some of them possibly be new plants from seed that had been carefully nested underneath? I have no idea. I’ll probably harvest a few of the fennel bulbs before they’re fully mature to make space for the other two.
That’s my Six on Saturday. If you’re interested in more sixes from gardens all over, check out the Propagator’s blog.