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Sunday, 27 March 2011

Walnut Tree, Compost and the Daffodils

Saturday afternoon, after having pulled down an old walnut tree, I was not up to gardening work any more. There was many heavy trunk parts to take away and piles of small branches to collect and rake off the lawn. Finally, the dead tree is down and one of the Spring tasks done. I will plant crab apple Malus x robusta 'Red Sentinel' instead of the walnut tree to have some shade over the sitting area. I love that crab apple with lovely small, bright red fruits.

Though a bit tired, after a short break, I went into garden again. The rain was announced for today so, I decided to sift some compost before it became to wet. It was really ideally moist for the job yesterday and I made six wheel barrows full of wonderful compost. Last year I finally made the compost sift out of wooden frame and wire net to fit the size of wheel barrow. Now I simply put it over and sift the compost directly into a wheel barrow. I think I will have enough compost this year to cover all the vegetable beds and some flower beds as well.

sifting compost

These grubs are often to be found in compost heaps and probably belongs to the May-bug, (Melolontha melolontha, Coleoptera).  





Saturday, 26 March 2011

Read the Weed, Part II - The Battle Lost

There are weeds so persistent that I find almost impossible to eradicate. No matter how persistent I am in weeding, they are more persistent than me. As I don't use any herbicides in my garden the battle against these weeds is lost in advance. The victory is only temporarily, because soon new plants grow from every tiny particle of root or underground stems left in the ground.
These weeds find their place mostly in my flower beds. They are all perennial weeds that have deep, creeping roots or underground stems that help them spread with great speed.
These are:

Convovulus arvensis L. - Bindweeds, grows on neglected areas and doesn't like cultivated soils. I have it on the garden fence facing such a patch of land. There is no neighbouring plot on this side, but an neglected field.
Every now and then I go there to cut the grass two metres away along the fence and weed the Bindweed that climbs my fence.
image credit: en.academic.ru
Oxalis corniculata L. - Sleeping Beauty. This is perennial plant with runners and often purplish leaves. It likes creeping between stone flags, brick pavings or between stones in my rock garden. This is an additional difficulty for weeding.
image credit: en.labs.wikimedia.org
Ground Elder

Aegopodium podagraria L., Ground Elder. This is considered one of the most invasive weeds that spreads itself by creeping rhizomes. The tiniest piece of it will produce new plant, followed by many more. Removing the leaves and stems regularly will somewhat weaken the plant. I usually remove the rhizomes by fork part of my hoe to avoid cutting them into smaller pieces. Sometimes I take out all the plants from the bed, do a deep soil cultivation trying to take out as many rhizomes as I can and re-plant the bed. The rhizomes are white in colour and easily to recognize. The plant itself is actually nice and there are also cultivars with variegated leaves. But it is only good for areas where we want a single plant ground cover because this extremely invasive plant will crow out all other plants.

Ranunculus ficaria L. - Lesser Celandine. very invasive plant that spreads by underground tubers. It invaded not only my flower beds but the lawn too. It is a spring ephemeral, and retreats into ground after period of flowering and bearing fruits.
image credit: bilki-cvetia.blogspot.com






Japanese Knotweed

My neighbour has an imported species of plant in his garden - Polygonum japonicum, Japanese Knotweed. In many Europe countries it escaped the gardens and infested the land. So it happens in Croatia too. In my town, we have it mostly growing on wasteland and on the river bank. My neighbour does not live here and comes every now and then to check his yard. I am afraid if he does not try to eradicate it, it will come to my plot too. It spreads itself by rhizomes  that are very strong. I read the story about the rhizomes finding its way into a living room!! It can grow from the smallest part of the rhizome and there is no other way to remove it but to spray with herbicides - year after year!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Read the Weed, part I

Yesterday afternoon I made a weed inspection in my vegetable garden. Poor plants! We call them weed just because they grow on the place WE don't want them to! Isn't it actually very unjust from us?
Anyway, I am not so keen on having immaculate lawn or flower beds, I do leave some space for "accidents".
Plant we call weeds can tell us a lot, only if we know how to "read" them. Every plant has a certain needs for light, type of soil and moisture. So, if you know your weeds, you can learn something about the growing conditions in your garden. For example, if your vegetable beds are like mine covered with this plant on the picture below, you should be happy.


It is Stellaria media L. - Common Chickweed. It is an annual or overwintering native plant and one of the commonest weeds of cultivated land. Why is it good? Because it tells us that the soil is cool, moist, abundant and light and probably contains higher levels of potassium and nitrogen. That's what our vegetables prefer too.
I also have a sting nettle (Urtica dioica L.) patch behind the garden fence. It is a source of food for me in Spring (to me, it is much better than spinach!) and for my plants the whole season. No need to tell you how valuable manure can be produced from nettles. Nettles grow on high nitrogen soil.
Here and there I have Equisetum arvense L. - Field Horsetail, Sonchus oleraceus L. - Smooth Sow-Thistle, Lamium purpureum L. - Purple Deadnettle, and Veronica chamaedrys L. - Germander Speedwell. These are the most common weeds in my vegetable garden. Of course, a few species from the grass family appear too. All of these like rich, moist and loose lime soils which tells me that I cultivate it rather well.


If you have Tarxacum officinalis L. - Dandelion, or  Plantago spp. - Plantains your soil is probably clay, heavy and compacted.
Rumex spp. - Dock, grows on waterlogged and poor drainage soils that may be acid.
Thistles (genera Cirsium and Carduus) are found on heavy, compacted soils.
Trifolium sp. - Clover indicate low fertility soil, low in nitrogen.


Monday, 21 March 2011

Happy Spring Day!


In several Slavic languages ( e.g. Russian, Polish or Czech) my name - Vesna - means Spring. Vesna was old Slavic goddess of Spring too. 
My mum has birthday today and she invited family and some friends to join her for dinner. They brought her some present but they brought this box of primroses for me! How nice of them...

***
The Spring day dawned with rain and only 2°C! Luckily, I haven't brought the sensitive plants out yet. And my tomato seedlings are still inside the house. I transplanted them into a larger pots. I am sure they yearn for some sun light now because it seems to me they're now growing very slowly. As from Wednesday the weather should change. I hope. Last week I used a few warm days to do some weeding and sowing - peas and onion in the vegetable garden. But that's all. The soil is wet and unworkable again. 

tomato seedlings

Every Spring I slightly panic because there is a lot of jobs to be done in the garden. The most important thing is weeding because weeds grow fast now and I have to eradicate them before they take over. And, when all of it is done, I feel like an enormous stone fell off my heart and I enjoy working in the gardens the easy way - every day. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Unusual Snowdrop


I took the trip to the woods last Sunday to photograph the plants for my Flora Croatica blog. I have found this unusual snowdrop flower with eight petals. Usually, snowdrop flower has three longer and three shorter petals.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Heralds of Spring

snowdrops

spring snowflake

hellebore

an early flowering iris (Iris reticulata)




Saturday, 12 March 2011

Sedum and Sempervivum

Sedums (stonescrops) and sempervivums (liveforever, houseleeks, hen and chicks) are plants from the family Crassulaceae. They live happily on rocks and stones, on roof tiles and sand and have no big demands for water and nutrients.
They are low growing, easy to spread perennials that may be combined to make such creations on the pictures below...




All creations - DECORA nursery...


Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Help!

As I love old/vintage things, my friends and acquaintances give them to me. So, some years ago I came in possession of this tin box on the picture.

Google search gave me just a few informations about it but, I want to know more. I have found firm that produces chocolate in Cambrai, France that still bears the name J. Despinoy. They used to produce sweets - bonbons. This was licorice fondant packed in this box...
I would appreciate any information about my tin box, especially how old it might be. Thanks!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Garden Inspection


I made a round in my garden in the morning wrapped in a woolly scarf. It was a sort of garden inspection; to see what's new and what's to be done soon when days became warmer an the sun finally appears. I think it has been ten day since we had it last. I am really eager to see the sun again. 
Snowdrops appeared on the various sites now, under the bushes, in the beds and some even on the lawn! I saw tulip, daffodil and other bulb sprouting too. There are also primroses in bloom as well as heathers.There are still snowy spots in the garden but I hope it will be gone soon. The soil in my garden is pretty wet. I really need a few warm sunny days to dry it out a bit to be able to work it. 

So, I noted these tasks for early Spring:

* Clear the dead stems, leaves and other debris from the borders.
* Weed. As soon as I did it, it will be easier later on. 
* Spread fertilizer and fork it into soil.
* Prepare the plant supports so they can be positioned as soon as the perennials start to grow.
* Prune Wisteria and shrubs that are damaged by frost e.g. Hydrangeas.
* Prune roses and fertilize them.
* Rake the lawn, spread fertilizer and mow for the first time this season when the grass reaches 10 cm.
* Plant perennials grown last year from seed; mulch the beds when the soil warms up. Divide some overgrown perennials.
* Sow vegetable and flower seeds.
* Work the soil in the vegetable garden, fertilize and mulch.


It is always lots of work at the beginning of the new season, especially if you have a big garden. But, I cannot wait to start.

Crocus sativus L. in the town park.