To Do List

1. Plant potatoes in bags. I am using regular yard bags, with holes at the bottom for drainage. I may have to wrap them in chicken wire to keep my new destructive puppy from mauling them down.

2. Put 2×4 studs around my beds. And wrap chicken wire around them to keep my new destructive puppy from digging everything out. I was inspired to do this by my destructive puppy -Lexie and by a post on Karl’s Garden Blog.

3. Prepare the garden plot in backyard. Clean weeds, add compost, add fence to keep my new destructive puppy from digging everything out.

4. Add dirt and water and plants to all self-watering containers. And, , figure out how to keep my new destructive puppy from thinking that these are her new chew-toys.

5. Sow my Irish Eyes sunflowers that will go in front yard. I did not want to start them too soon.

6. Prepare flower bed in front yard. I got most of it done last Fall but it still needs compost.

7. Plant white onion, Apache salad onion, and carrot seedlings in beds. Sow radish.

I am also very excited that my friend Tim has agreed to help me build my greenhouse made from second hand windows. It is just an idea so far but with Tim’s help I may actually get it built.


How Does Your Garden Grow?

Consider the humble aluminum can. We don’t think much about it. We drink the contents therein and then we either trash it or recycle it and then we forget about it. But the aluminum can is a wonder of modern engineering worthy of a second look. Every aspect of it was designed; more aluminum and you are wasting material; less aluminum and the pressurized contents will end up all over you pretty new shirt. The tab is made just tight enough to keep things in but loose enough to allow even the most delicate fingers to remove it. Then we make millions of exact copies, each performing at the same high level. Yep, pretty amazing.

Is your gardening a high precision enterprise? Do you know the exact chemical composition of your soil? Is your compost controlled to such a degree that you could patent it? Is your knowledge of your plants so deep that you could earn a Botany degree? Are you so tuned to the weather that they call you from the local tv station for the daily forecast?

My sophistication level in the garden rises a little every growing season but I am far from being the guy that understands how fertilizer travels down the soil seeking its point of optimum equilibrium, or any such thing.

Don’t get me wrong. I would love to be a Master Gardener and possess such esoteric knowledge (In the age of Wikipedia, is there such a thing as esoteric knowledge anymore?).
But even at my mediocre level of gardening proficiency, I miss the early days. I miss those times when I just naively put seeds in peat pods, left them to get leggy and weak and then transplanted them into the first open spot in the yard. Sure I lost a lot of plants but I also got tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.

All the same, last year I bought a Ph test kit so I could optimize the soil for Blueberries, and a soil thermometer that in no small part, allowed for record germination rates this year. Will I ever become a Master Gardener? Will my gardening ever reach Aluminum-can like precission? Probably not but I doubt my joy for it will diminish no matter what.

How does YOUR garden grow?

Recharging the beds

It finally was nice enough on a weekend to do some gardening outside. My boys and I had breakfast at McDonalds and then went around town looking for 5 different types of compost. When we got home I had:

Humus and Cow Manure
Earthworm castings
Mushroom compost
Cotton Bur compost

I tried mixing compost like this after reading about it in the New Square Foot Gardening book. The theory behind it is that by mixing five different types of compost you get a better mix of nutrients for your plants. It worked really well for me last year.

Here is my compost all mixed and ready to go into the beds.

In the picture, you see my new gardening nemesis. A curious puppy who is only too happy to dig out anything I put in the ground.

I have three raised beds, two of which are truly square foot gardening beds –Mel says that it is not square foot gardening until you have a grid. The grids for the two 4×4 beds are made out of aluminum and I will put them on once I recharge the beds with the compost mix.

The third bed is a plastic one that I bought out of a catalog a couple of years ago. It is 3 feet by 3 feet and 12 inches deep. It has worked great for tomatoes, peppers, and even cantaloupes but this year, it will be my carrot box. Oh, I may put a pepper of two in there.

This year I decided to move the boxes and also I decided to put river rock around them to keep weeds away and to make it easier comes harvest time.

The problem with the river rock is that it is expensive and I did not buy enough to complete the job. I am secretly considering going to the Arkansas river nearby and get my own river rock.

The weather was great though a bit windy. The tomatoes in the self-watering containers (SWC) are still alive after three days of being outside. They look a little beat up but there is new growth on them.

Market Miracle

I wasn’t the only one who thought it was time to work on the garden. My help came ready to work hard but unfortunately I found their attention span wanting.

fickle work force
I noticed that my fruit trees are budding and that my pear tree actually has leaves. I feel bad for my fruit trees because I know that we will probably have at least one more hard freeze before Spring is firmly here and many of the buds and leaves will fall off.

pear tree leaves

Gardening in the 23rd century

In the 23rd century, we have mastered GM foods

Wichita Garden Show – first day

I went to the Wichita Garden Show on opening day during lunch. I learned two things right away:

1) Don’t be the first one in the door on opening day because a lot of the booths are not 100% setup.

2) Be the first one in the door on opening day because a lot of the vendors have specials for the first x many customers.

Of course, it took all of 10 minutes to run into the booth with the gizmo I could not live without.

Here are some pictures from their website ( I will be posting my own as soon as I open the box):

I also saw these two really cool Bonsai trees made from Bougainvillea plants at the Wichita Bonsai Club’s booth:

This one is an actual bonsai tree:

This one is a Bougainvillea supported by a rigid metal coil. If you look closely you can see the metal coil that wraps around the trunk of the plant. Being rigid , it props the plant up:

I bought a pass for all 4 days because I want to come back on Saturday and really take time to look around.

Correction – It is the Wichita GARDEN show

I just had to post this quick correction. It is NOT the Wichita Home and Garden Show, it is the Wichita GARDEN show and it is primarily about gardens.
The theme this year is The GIVING Garden. I can’t wait to see what that means.
It starts today and since it is practically next door to my job, I am going there during lunch. Wohoo!

Home and Garden Show

The Wichita Home and Garden Show starts tomorrow and although it is not strictly a gardening exhibition, some of the nurseries in town will have garden displays and maybe even some plants for sale.
I read in another blog about a Seed Exchange event and I am now thinking about approaching my local County Extension Office about hosting a seed exchange gathering of some sort. Now that would be cool. I am already thinking about the stamp I am going to design for my seed packets!

Ollas again

After watering my plants by hand last year, I was left with a deep desire not to water that way again. Ever.
And so I began looking for better ways to water my plants. I saw many an irrigation scheme on the Internet and I really liked the following:

1) Self-watering containers.
2) Ollas
3) Watering spikes

I want to talk about Ollas today.

Ollas are clay jars that you bury next to your plants, fill them with water and let the plant draw water from them as needed.

The following pictures of Ollas in action came from this web page, which is possibly the coolest post about using Ollas.
I highly recommend you visit their main website ( as it has Cool of the highest quality.
I really wanted to try them last year but I could find no Ollas anywhere in Kansas. On the Internet, I found a link to a non-for-profit place in New Mexico that only sold the Ollas locally.
This year, I found a couple of companies on the Internet that sell Ollas (for $20 and up) and a post on the Dave’s Gardens web site on how to make your own using terracotta pots.
I will keep the terracotta pot idea on the back of my head for now.

While reading the Ollas post on the Path to Freedom website, I came across a post by Diana, a gardener and potter who said she may make her own ollas. I went to her blog:
and left her a message about wanting to know more about her Olla making.
Here’s her response for your reading enjoyment:

“David –
we had such a wet, wet summer (and I was so very, very pregnant) that I never did make ollas. I still think they’d be easy to make, though. I was thinking I’d roll slabs (you can roll clay like pie dough), wrap them around a wine bottle (covered with newspaper, so I could slide the clay off later) to get a tube form, and then slap a bottom on them. The top could be pinched in later to give it a smaller circumference. They wouldn’t be the traditional shape and wouldn’t hold nearly as much water, but they would still work as long as they were only low-fired, not high-fired. They’d just need to be replenished more often.

I’m sure there’s good clay in Kansas, you’d just have to find it (look near a river). The problem with plain old dirt is that it has much larger particles than clay, so it doesn’t stick together the same way – it just turns into mud. Clay’s particles are evenly sized, as fine as silt, and oval-shaped so they slide over each other. If I were you I’d just buy some clay: it’s not expensive. Look at Bailey’s ( low-fire or earthenware clays. Those are clays that mature at low temperatures (1500 degrees), which is what you’re talking about if you want to fire in the old-fashioned way.

The way Native Americans did it is called a “pit firing”, which you can learn lots about just by googling that term. They basically stacked pots in among piles of dried dung and sawdusty stuff, covered and filled them with that stuff, covered the pile with wood, lit it on fire, and came back the next day to sift through the ashes. It can give you some beautiful results, but a) none of it is waterproof unless later treated with fat or wax, and b) there is a tremendous percentage of loss in a firing like this due to the unpredictability of the fire, weight, etc.

I’d encourage you to look up a local community center and see if they have an intro to ceramics program, or perhaps just a place where you can fire your stuff. Everything I know about Kansas I learned from Dorothy, but if you ever have dry summers there then I’d encourage you to experiment.”

So now I have an Olla roadmap of sorts.
1) See if there is a pottery class offered at my County Extension Office.
2) Investigate where I can buy clay locally.
3) Find out who has a kiln that I can use.

Gardening in the 23rd century

When I told my sister-in-law that I was growing mint, she told me:
“Friends don’t let friends grow mint”.
My mother gave me a clump of mint last year and I brought it home to no avail. It did not take. So this year I bought some mint seed and it has sprouted and the little mint plants are doing ok in their peat pot so far.
We’ll see.

All that you can be

Someone smarter than me pointed out that man is the only living thing that chooses not to live to its fullest potential. A tree, that person said, will grow to a hundred feet if it is in his genetic make up to do so given favorable conditions. Man on the other hand, even in a favorable environment, may choose to be less than he can be. Potential is what I was thinking when a few Daffodils grew where none were supposed to. The one here is an example of how a Daffodil will grow to its full potential. I am a poor photographer so this picture does not do justice to the beauty of this flower. Last Fall, my brother and I cleared this spot for my lavender and scleranthus. We thought we moved all the bulbs.

According to the weather people, The first week of March around here will see highs in the 60’s. My lettuce is looking a little stressed so I need to transplant it to their appointed raised bed. My plans for the weekend include a trip to gather 5 different types of compost to recharge the beds. I got onions, lettuce, and carrots to plant. I will also sow my first batch of radish. This year I am growing my potatoes in plastic bags. I can’t wait to get started