Archive for April, 2010

Iris are blooming!

I think I have failed to mention that our iris have begun to bloom!  This is very exciting news, because last year they did not produce so much as even one blossom.  Of course, the transplanting may have had something to do with that.  Last spring, Scott (with minor assistance me) transplanted some 30 to 40 iris from various points around our property into our front and back flower beds.  It was a lot of work, and we had high hopes for two lovely beds of iris, but that was not to be in 2009.

As of last week, we now have several violet iris blooming in the back bed, and the front bed has both violet and pale yellow.  So far, so good.  Each plant is producing about four blossoms, and there are LOTS of plants that don’t have any buds – yet.  We are expecting all of them to get with the program soon.



I think common sense has finally prevailed.  A couple days ago, I mentioned to Scott that it seemed we had positioned our front dogwood in a lovely but completely impractical spot.  He agreed, and “we” (that would be Josiah digging the new hole, Scott moving the dogwood, and me saying how nice it looked while adding mulch) transplanted it to a shady spot on the far side of the driveway near the ditch.

We think the little puppy will be quite content in its new woodsy location.

A tale of three trees

Last week our friend, Eva, was out and about in Branson and ended up at the fish hatchery, where there was some kind of special celebration going on (Earth Day, perhaps?), and “they” were giving away trees.  She came home with a 15-inch tall redbud sapling and instructions on how to plant it.  Mainly a hole had to be dug that was 12 inches deep and 12 inches across.  Eva was widowed last year and some problems with her shoulders, back, and hip, so we walked down, Scott dug the hole for her, and we helped her get the little guy into the ground.  Her yard being one massive expanse of grass with only one or two trees, she had plenty of room to add a redbud.

Yesterday, Eva phoned Scott and if we wanted a redbud tree and a dogwood tree – no charge.  I’m guessing she was at the same place.  We told her sure, we’d like to have one of each, and just a few minutes later she brought them by the house.  However, we actually ended up with two dogwoods and a redbud, and one of the dogwoods even had tiny leaf buds!

Today we went out to plant them and you wouldn’t think it would be so hard to figure out where in a one-acre yard to plant three trees.  In the end, I am not sure we made the best choices, but the trees are in the ground and we shall see how they grow.  One dogwood is in the front yard between the driveway and the sidewalk.  Yes, there are two other trees in that same area, but the paper birch is almost dead and needs to be cut down, and the red maple that my flower bed surrounds is not looking too good either.  So the dogwood may get center stage there one of these days.  That is, if it doesn’t get trampled by everyone who ever pulls into our driveway and comes to the front door.

The other dogwood is on the back property line, just about where Scott did his Samson imitation in pushing over the dead tree last week.  It is near to another very large tree which I just realized today is very dead and which Scott assures me will be able to be removed without either crashing into the power line to the wellhouse (read “down power line equals no water”) should it fall one way, or landing on the baby dogwood should it fall the other way.  Hmmm.

It was easier to figure out where to place the redbud.  Along Coffee Road we have a number of trees all in a row, among them a red maple, a HUGE Bradford pear, an ENORMOUS boxelder, and two plum trees.  There are a few more in that line, but I’m not even sure what they are.  However, there is a nice spot just out from the laundry room door where there’s a big gap in that line.  The gap is fairly shady, well-drained, and obviously crying out for a lovely, blossom-laden redbud.

Scott was all ready to dig the hole there, but then he came around the corner to ask me how big of a deal it would be to plant a tree directly under a power line.  Grrrrrr. . . ?  I went back over to the site and studied it.  While it is true that the power line coming to our property IS directly above that potential redbud site (might that be why there’s a gap in the tree line?), that same power line already runs directly THROUGH the leafy branches of two of our other trees (those planted on either side of that site).  They are both massive trees with massive branches.  Redbuds are said to have “thin wispy” branches.  The line is some 18 feet above ground at that point, and we decided that if and when this eight-inch-high twig gets reaches 18 feet, we’ll deal with the conflict of interest then.  So the hole was dug and the tree was planted.

I watered all three well – which may have been unnecessary as it rained off and on today, including two different frog stranglers – and applied the mulch we had on hand.  Today was my day to stay home and Scott’s day to make multiple Wal-Mart runs, so when he went the second time to help Andrew return his defective bicycle inner tube, he also picked up more mulch, which I will add to the trees tomorrow.

In other news of horticultural interest, four of my six tomatoes seem to have survived the rigors of their first few days of  life in the barrels.  I have a few more tomatoes – plus some peppers – that have been transplanted into 3″ peat pots and are hardening off in the mini-greenhouse.  Hopefully they will all be ready to plant in another week or so.  I have 280 pounds of potting soil on hand (yes, I know that seven bags was probably overkill, but they were only $2.48 each), and several five gallon buckets ready for the tomatoes, but I’m stumped as to where to set them for them to get enough sun AND be within reach of the hose.  The couple places I had considered putting them (maybe along the smokehouse, maybe near the air conditioners) end up not getting much sun at all. They do get a few hours of sunlight, but then shade takes over.

Maybe it has something to do with the ever-increasing number of trees in the yard.

3B, 2B, & C

It was certainly a first in several ways.  Last night was the first softball game of the season, with the newly-organized Promise Keepers facing off against Exciting First (Baptist of Forsyth).

The former Promise Keepers (manager:  shortstop Kevin) decided that after several years of not being seriously challenged in the Thursday night church league they would shift to playing in the Friday night Men’s Recreational League, which is more competitive.  However, this posed a problem for my husband, as we have a prior commitment on Friday nights.  What to do?

Never at a loss when faced with a situation that is not in his favor, Scott decided to set up and manage his own team to play as the Promise Keepers on Thursday nights.  He convinced several of the former team members to join him (although a number of them are also playing on Friday nights and some are even playing Wednesday nights in the Co-Ed League, as well), and he had told us that he had about 12 players, which is plenty as only 10 play.

However, come 6:30 PM yesterday, several guys were gone, so Josiah was pulled in to play catcher.  Considering the circumstances, we fans think he did quite all right.  The circumstances would include the fact that he’s never played catcher (which he played standing instead of squatting); he doesn’t own a glove or cleats (he played in tennis shoes – noteworthy for a guy who only wears shoes at all under duress – and used an old glove of Scott’s); and in fact, he’s never played baseball or softball in his life!

Slightly more humorous was the fact that with one of their players running late, Jessica was recruited to play second base for the first part of the first inning.  Only one ball got by her, but she and all the fans were quite relieved when Jerod arrived for the outfield, allowing Mark to move to second.  At least Jessica had played softball as a kid, regularly watches the Promise Keepers games, and follows Cardinal baseball; she has a good feel for the game.

Given all that, for about 10 minutes there were three members of Team Roberts all playing for the Promise Keepers – in fact, they comprised a third of the team.  I was a proud and happy wife-mom.

Scott played well at third, hit nicely, and ran a bit more slowly than usual.  I think we all had December 19 on our minds as he loped around the base path, and we were reminded again of how very good God has been to him.  It should also be noted that Scott scored two runs.  = )

Final score:  PK 13, EF 8.

Can’t fool me, Oscar!

In a perverse twist of engineering design, the same company that so recently blessed us with the turkey lunch meat package that cannot be opened today brought forth its first cousin, the turkey lunch meat package that cannot be closed.

Yes, you read that correctly.  We all know that there are situations in which one simply cannot win, and my post-lunch routine today gives the proof.  First, I remove a couple slices of meat for Scott’s noontime sandwich.  Then I (the college grad, no less) do just what I always do and innocently slide the little red plastic tab to the left before returning the remains to the meat and cheese drawer, BUT fie upon my noble efforts – the package is still open!

I then study the situation and cleverly deduce that perhaps my friend Mr. Mayer thinks he can put (yet another) one over on me.  However, I  – insert sinister cackle here – am wickedly smart enough to see right through his ploy.  Realizing that Sam’s Club has obviously sold me the one package of OM turkey lunch meat in which the slider tab works in reverse, I gleefully slide the tab back to the right with smug satisfaction as I zip the package closed.  And guess what?

It’s still open.

So I run the slider tab back and forth a few times to confirm that, yea and verily, it truly is open to the left and open to the right.  I then shove the remaining meat into a genuine Zip-Loc bag and toss it in the fridge.  I have bigger battles to fight today.

So tell me. . .  do I REALLY have to be an Oscar Mayer weiner for everyone to be in love with me?  I remember that cute little dark-haired boy sitting on the dock and singing  – although he’s probably married with a couple cute little dark-haired boys of his own by now.  Yes, your bologna may have a first name, and your smoked turkey may taste great, but O, Oscar, your packaging is cursed!

Damping off and taking the plunge

In my never-ending quest for a crop of homegrown tomatoes, I decided this year to do everything imaginable to avoid the various fungal diseases that have plagued my plants in the past.

In order to be sure that the plants weren’t diseased from the get-go, I started with seeds.  In order to minimize the possibility that the seed-starting medium was contaminated, I used peat pellets that are supposedly sterile.  Out in the barrels, in order to ensure that the soil from last year wasn’t the problem, we started with all new soil.  In order to prevent any potential left-over germs in the wood of the barrels from migrating to the plants, we lined the barrels with black plastic before adding the soil.  The only other possible contaminants would be the water, the air, and the sunlight, and there’s not much I can do about any of those!

So in mid-March I started my seeds in the little peat pellets, and about a dozen of the little guys actually sprouted (yay!) and were looking great (yay!), so I was very, very happy.  The tender young fellows began to outgrow their peat pellets, and I transplanted them to 3″ peat pots filled with good quality enhanced potting soil.  Later, I moved the little gems out to my trusty mini “greenhouse,” so they could acclimate to the life outdoors before actually being planted in the barrels.

And then, one by one, it looked as if some very mean person had taken tweezers and pinched them right at the soil line.  The pinched area grew longer – maybe up to half an inch – and my precious plants keeled over like drunken sailors!  Then, gradually, they began to die.  I had no idea what was going on til I read this today on the Dave’s Garden Weekly Newsletter:

“My seeds sprouted but then the plants fell over and died”
This complaint demonstrates the oft-heard term in seed starting called “damping off” or “dampening off”. Your baby plants come up and all is well. Then, a few days later, the stem gets a pinched appearance right at the soil line, the seedling flops over, and the whole thing soon withers and dies.

“Damping off can be a problem for even the most experienced seed starters. Usually, it is caused by planting seeds in soil that is not sterile. I know a lot of gardeners don’t care for the peat or coir (coconut fiber) pellets sold for seed starting, but I do use them purely because of this. Peat and coir are sterile growing mediums. As a result, I rarely have a problem with damping off. Even the best potting soils are not considered suitable for seed starting, as they can contain a lot of other semi-questionable ingredients.

“This type of early root rot can also occur if you’re re-using seed starting trays that may have been infected with some type of disease. The bacteria enter the soil and subsequently kill the plants. Either wash your trays with a mild bleach and water solution before re-using them, or buy new trays each time.

“Lastly, don’t let your seedlings sit in water for extended periods of time. Keep them moist, but not sopping.”

Okay, so I didn’t think to bleach my trays from last year, and maybe I was a bit over-zealous with the watering can.  However, in the past two days I have taken two monumental steps to remedy the situation.

1.  On Saturday, April 17 – sadly before I received the Dave’s Garden Weekly Newsletter – I planted another round of seeds in peat pellets.  And no, the tray had not been bleached.  I also noticed this evening that the pellets are really soggy, so I took off the plastic cover to let them dry out a bit.

2.  Today, April 19, I took the plunge and planted the six still-living tomato plants out in the barrels, gave them a good watering, and asked God to have mercy on them.

Now it’s just a matter of watching and praying.  Oh, that vegetables were as easy to grow as marigolds.  My flower seedlings are looking great – so far.

Mow Meister

Josiah was gone this weekend to the AIM Leadership Conference, and that left Andrew to do ALL the mowing.  He split it over two days, worked very hard, and ended up very green when all was said and done.  He rode, pushed, and weed-eated for many hours, and although Scott found some areas he had missed the first time around, when he was finally done, it was all done, and the yard looked very nice.  I am proud to have such a strong and hard-working boy who can handle such a significant task so well.

Way to mow, Andrew!