Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seedlings, Birds

March 24th, I got some seeds planted.  I used Planter's Pride biodegradable pellets.   The first batch I planted weren't expanding like the ones I've used in the past, so, I looked up how long it should take for them to get the proper size, and how big that is.  I came across a February, 2010 blog post by Joan, from I'm in the Garden Today that was helpful. She's in the Seattle area, by the way.  (The first link is to the post I was referring to, the second, to her home page.  She has another post about seedlings you can see if you scroll down.)

This is second batch, planted a day or two after the first.  This photo was taken after the pellets had soaked around 30 minutes. 

I had noticed that the first group of pellets expanded more as I handled them while planting.  I reread Joan's post where she mentioned gently squeezing the pellets helped them expand, so I went ahead and did each one, then planted them.  I didn't worry about the tops tearing a bit.  

Here are the first two that were my first batch.  I put them on the refrigerator to germinate because I have some idea that it may be warmer there.  I'm not sure if it really is, though.  I don't use heating pads, but would consider it.

Once some of the seeds germinated, I had planned on putting them in the garden window, but decided to put them under the lights in the kitchen for awhile, because not all of the seeds were up, and it was warmer there.

I'm thinking these came up after only two days.  The Mexican Sunflower package said not to start them inside, because sunflowers don't transplant well, but I started some inside a couple years ago, and had blooms sooner than those planted in the ground last year.  The little seedlings next to them are Night Scented Stocks.

The plants on the left here are hybrid super bush tomatoes.  The ones on the right are German Red Strawberry Tomatoes.

I can't find the legend I wrote for this tray, but those are Genovese Basil plants on the left.  I've been pulling a few extras when it won't disturb the other plants, but I've also been pinching some at the bases of them.  I'll need to do it some more soon.  I prefer to only have one plant per pellet.

This morning, I went ahead and put the seedlings in the garden window, because they were starting to get a bit leggy.  I took these photos after work.  The bottom row has the Hybrid Super Bush, the next, Canary Bell Peppers, then the German Red Strawberry Tomato plants.

I'm thinking the 2 little plants coming up on the left are a pepper of some kind.  Whatever is next to the basil plants is not up yet.

The tall plants are the Mexican Sunflowers.  The American Bull Nose Peppers and Sioux Tomatoes are not up yet.  The friend from work whose Baker's Creek catalog I ordered from said his Sioux Tomatoes are not up yet, either.  I didn't get a closer photo of the stock, but they are growing.

I normally don't like to plant mixtures of seeds, because I want to know what color something is, or what kind it is when I plant it, but on a whim, got a mixture of 7 kinds of basils from Botanical Interests.  I figured when they came up, I would try to see if I could see differences in them.  So far, I can tell the darker ones are whatever red kind was in there, and some of the seedlings are larger than others.  I hope I can let them get some more leaves before thinning them out so I can smell them to see if I can tell them apart.

 We are expecting one more estimate for cutting our tree down, then we need to be making a decision this week so we can get it over with.  Brian,  the co-worker who I bought seeds with has a friend who makes spoons and things with wood.  I am hoping we can afford to hire him, if he is available, to make some spoons to give Larry's siblings and our kids, and one for ourselves from the tree, and then we would give him some of the wood if he wants it.  (Hi Bryan and Lily.)

It was supposed to get up to 50 today, but only made it to 42ish.  They say 59 for the next couple of days, then up to 66 on Sunday, with Monday back to 47.  Well, I hope my seedlings continue to grow well and don't get leggy.  I won't be able to take good bird photos now that the top shelf is back in the garden window.  Here are a few I took the other day.

I still haven't been able to get a photo of the female cardinal.  She flies off as soon as I move even the tiniest bit.  The male isn't as shy, but doesn't hang out as long as the house finches.  The chickadees have been around, too, but for some reason I didn't include any newer photos of them.

The male house finches are on the friendly side.  I sure enjoy them.  I can move around the room, and they don't fly off.

I've seen this scenario with two females eating, and a male waiting for his turn a few times.

While I'm showing birds, I'll include a few from the same day taken from other places.  Here's a male and female house finch enjoying sunflower seeds.  I'm surprised the squirrels haven't knocked it down yet.

I enjoyed watching the robin landi in a few different spots, deciding if it was going to join the squirrel, or wait until it left.  Some of these photos didn't turn out very good, and there is a new feature on my updated iphoto where you can click, "enhance" and it will turn out like the next couple of photos.  It's not great, but it's better than it was.

I haven't seen the doves around as much as usual, but probably will more now that the weather is warming up.  I made this photo larger so the flowers showed up better.

Well, it's spring, and soon we will be having lots of outdoor fun.  I hope things are going well in your homes and gardens.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Critters, the Tree

We have been enjoying sparrows, cardinals, black capped chickadees, and now, in the last few days, house finches eating the safflower seeds on the window feeder.

Here's a house finch on the top of the garden window, getting ready to go to the feeder.

It noticed me right away, and seemed to wonder what I was doing.

The rosemary plants look like they've made it through the winter.  I'm hoping it gets warm enough for them to go outside in the next few weeks.

Look at that face!  I hope to see more house finches around.

The black capped chickadees are such characters!  They are the most frequent visitors to the feeder, and are still pecking at it from time to time.  I almost wonder if the pecking causes more of the seeds to go into the feeding area.  They seem to face away from the window a lot.

We had a covering of snow this morning, and could get more tonight.  When I looked out this afternoon and saw that it had melted, I also noticed a squirrel eating something by the curb.

Larry added some food to the back feeders this afternoon, and I kept looking out the back door window to see if any birds were eating.  This suet has been out awhile, but only a little has been eaten.  I saw a female woodpecker eating, but the photos did not turn out very well.  Maybe now that it's cold again, they will eat from it more.

Do you think this sparrow is thanking me for putting the rest of the seed mixture out, or trying to figure out if I'm planning on opening the door?

The dark eyed juncos are good looking birds.

When I looked out later, I saw a male woodpecker.  Again, the photos were not so great.  They don't stick around once they see me with the camera.

We have had three estimates for cutting the silver maple down, and are expecting one tomorrow, and one Monday.  The first one was the highest so far.  The last one was a little more than half of what the first one was.  The first company is a landscape company, and the third, a tree service.  They are both certified arborists, licensed with the city, as are the others we are considering.

It is going to be a huge adjustment losing the tree.

I was going to put these photos in a SkyWatch Friday post, but didn't get it done.  The branch veering off to the left is the one that has the biggest hole (that we know of) in the base of it.

This is where the baby squirrel is.  The extension office said it will be out of there in a little over a week.

Larry and I continue to have different ideas for this area.  From what I've read, we shouldn't plant another tree for a few years.  It's going to have to be a smaller one, because the city said it has to be 5 feet from where the sidewalk would start if there was one.  The tree is about 8 feet from that area as it is, and I've read and been told that one should plant the new tree 5 feet from the cut down tree.  It's going to be a challenge.

I need to move the plants at the base of the tree, and some in the planter by the house will also need to be moved.  They won't like the full sun.

At supper, Larry mentioned putting in a raised bed the size of the one that's there.  I told him I was thinking the area with the ground stump would probably be bigger than that.  I said I was thinking we could put some bricks in the area between the planing area and the sidewalk, where we usually have a bench and a couple chairs.  I thought we could put a fence across the front of the bed, and plant some big flowers to make the area more private.  I still am thinking about annuals, but some tango lilies and other tall plants may look nice there.  I had mentioned sunflowers, but Larry reminded me the squirrels usually knock them down. He's not thrilled with more dirt or mulch showing, and said he thought a raised bed would look nicer.  I said, OK, let's put a big raised bed in there, and plant some veggies!  Well, that's not what he had in mind, either.

What would you do with this area until you figured out whether you can plant another tree?

I wonder how many critters are going to be homeless due to cutting the tree down.  I have an area in my garden across the street where I'd like to put a big branch or two in for them.  We hope to cut circles to put in some flower beds, too.

I am linking into Misty Dawn's Camera Critters.  The link is in my sidebar.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Got to Garden Today, and Tree Update

 I got lots done today, but had to come inside to take breaks to get out of the strong wind.  I got most of the dead growth off of plants, and got two kinds of onion plants, and more veggie seeds planted.  I finished the garden clean up across the street, and got some things planted over there.  I found a milkweed seedhead and planted the seeds from it in an area that will not be in the rabbit fencing I'm hoping to get in over there.  Some of the seeds blew off in the wind.  It was a cool sight.  I also planted a couple rows of fennel seeds that had still been on a plant.

I did not take pictures, but then, at the end of the day, when I went out front to get my jacket off of the porch, the first daffodil bloom of the season caught my eye.  I grabbed my camera, and went out in my stocking feet and took photos, then ventured into the grass so I could take photos of a few other plants that had caught my eye earlier today.

Soon, there will be more blooms.

The crocus by the house are still blooming.

A few other crocuses are blooming as well.  This one popped out today.  It had closed by early evening, but will be back open tomorrow.

I showed the buds of these chiondoxas yesterday, but couldn't think of their name at the time.  I was pleased to see them opened today.   Maybe seeing them open is what helped me remember the name.

This is what happens when you forget that the reason you had a pot in a spot was to cover the blank spot left when the bulb was finished blooming.  I moved several pots today, so I think I got all the bulbs uncovered.  There are still some covered by leaves, though.  I'm not finished getting those off.

A number of years ago, in a different yard, I grew some old fashion type verbena.  For some reason, it died.  I wanted to find some to grow here, but only found the 'Homestead' kind.  I've never had it live over a winter, though.  Last spring, I noticed some on a hill at church, and the gal who planted it there said she got it from along a road next to her acreage.  She got some for me, and when I raked some of the leaves out of the big bed in front today, was pleased to see it survived very well and looks to be spreading.

I got most of last year's dead plant material off of the plants yesterday and today.  The pasque flower has grown quite a bit since I first saw it poking out a few days ago.  I have some others that are coming up, too.  I noticed that someone had a Wildflower Wednesday post up, so I may link this post to Gail, at Clay and Limestone's monthly event, since this is a wildflower.  My woodland phlox is coming up, too.

 Thanks for the words of encouragement and advice about our tree situation.  I called the extension office today, and she very nicely got onto my blog and looked at the pictures.  For one thing, she told me the foam is not considered good practice.  She said about the same things Greggo did, that the foam would not stop the wood from rotting, making more cuts will create more of the holes that may not heal up well, since the others haven't.  She didn't want to tell us straight out that we should go ahead and have the tree cut down, though.  She was saying we will continue to have problems with the tree, and agreed that the big limb is not safe.  When I asked what she would do if it was her tree, she said  she can only give us the information so we can make the decision.  She did end up saying things that helped me figure out it really is time for it to come down.  She also said the tree is not healthy enough to draw any pesticides up into it.  I didn't want to do that, anyway.

The arborist had not come by 3:30 today, so I called to see what his plans were because I had the urge to go buy pansies and onion plants.  He said it was going to be later, if he made it.  I told him we can talk on the phone if he'd prefer.  He told me he trusts his crew if they say it needs to come down.  They hadn't told me that, but I figured that's what they were thinking, since they wanted it to come from him. I told him about my call to the extension office, so I felt it was the right decsion.  He went ahead and gave me the estimate, which was more than I thought it was going to be.  I called one other place, and they are going to be coming this week, hopefully.  Everyone is busy now, because they got a bunch of leads at the Home and Leisure Show last weekend.  In fact, the place I called for the estimate is a guy I talked to there.

Oh, and Larry and I already have different ideas about what we want to do about the bare spot.  Larry said he wanted to level the area and plant grass.  I said I wanted him to wait because we'll need to figure out what we want the area to look like and see about finding a tree we could plant.  I am so not wanting to plant any grass there!  I am starting to get ideas for plants I'd like to put there.  I'm thinking the planting area should extend from the area in front of the house.  I told Larry I'd like to plant some annuals there.  He said that's why we dug out the big area in the front.  I told him I ended up planting a bunch of perennials there, so could use more space for annuals.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Not Such Good News about the Tree

I thought the landscape company was going to call me today to set up the time to come inspect the silver maple in the front yard.  It's a good thing I was home this afternoon, because a crew showed up ready to work.  They were nice guys, and used the sidewalk and path in the curb bed.  Plus, they said I could take pictures.  One of the young men asked me if I do my own landscaping.  First, I said, "yes", but then I said I don't really landscape, but have hodge podge flower beds.  I can't remember how he replied, but it was something polite.

 At first glance, the foreman said he thought the tree looked good.  I called Larry to let him know, but too soon.  When he checked the holes I showed in the last post, he was able to put a stick in there about a foot.   He said there was some rotting, but they could put foam in there to keep the water from getting in there and causing more rotting.

When he got up high, he found more holes in the branches.

After he came down, he went back up the tree to check on a few other holes.  I can't remember how long the tool was he was poking into the tree here, but I think it was deeper than he wanted it to be.  (The one on the upper left branch is the one he is checking in the photo after this one.)

I love the look on his face as he discovered that a baby squirrel was in this cavity.  This is the one that will probably cause the tree to need to come down.  I forgot how deep it was, but I'm thinking it was more than half the diameter of the branch.  He said they would rescue the squirrel before doing work on the tree.

It's hard to see the hole in the next photo, but the branch that makes the left side of the "V", and ends up in the upper left of the photo is the one the foreman said is unsafe.  He didn't want to make the call on whether the tree needs to come down, so his boss, the arborist plans to come over tomorrow to discuss the findings.

I've been told we should get another opinion and another estimate, and we were planning to, but Larry and I are feeling like we can trust this company, even if it turns out they are more expensive than others.  The peace of mind in knowing they will do a good job, and be careful of my plants is worth something.  Plus, we are wanting to get it done before the leaves come out.

I was going to wait until after I talk to the arborist before posting this, but wanted to go ahead in case anyone had any further advice.  What would you do if you were in this situation?  I do want to look up what size of holes cause a tree to be unsafe or unhealthy.

It took a long time for the temps to get over the upper 40s today, and I'm not sure if we got up to the 72 we were supposed to get to, but it did get warm enough to do a little clean up in the front yard bed.  Tomorrow looks to be the warmest day of the week, so I hope to go out and get lots done.  I hope your spring is going well so far.