Saturday, April 25, 2009

I Interrupt This Blog . . .

While normally I pride myself on the fact that this blog rarely provides useful information except in the form of "Don't do what I did," I have actual useful information this week!

Last Saturday my friend, neighbor, and fellow gardener Tom called to ask me about a problem with his Kieffer pear tree. God love him, Tom thinks that because I am a certified master gardener I know stuff about plants.

Of course, I had no idea what his problem was. But I did know how to find the answer.
While I sent him to Central Texas Horticulture, I went to the source I knew would help me even more quickly: Twitter. Within minutes of posting this question--"Friend in Austin with Kieffer pear tree has flowers and new growth turning black. Larger leaves have black spots. Ideas? Remedies?"--I had an answer from no less a gardening luminary than @grumpy_gardener: "It's a bacterial disease called fire blight. You can spray to prevent it, but once the tree has it, not much you can do. "
Grumpy (aka Steve Bender of Southern Living magazine) and I then exchanged a few other pear-related tweets, in particular whether my friend's other pear tree, an Orient, would catch the disease.

"@Vertie 'Orient' should be OK. I will pray for it."

Holy crap! Steve Bender is praying for my friend's tree! I just have to tell you as an aside why this particular Twitter conversation makes me excessively use exclamation points. Southern Living was for many, many years my mother's gardening/cooking/decorating bible. She would keep the issues for years and then periodically pull out certain pages and file them under the appropriate category. Pre-Internet days, she also loved to mail me pages with sticky notes saying, "Go eat here," "I like this for your windows," "Have you cooked this?"

My favorite Southern Living mailing from my mother was an article on cast-iron plants. In those days I killed every plant I touched. The article said something to the effect that no one could kill this plant. My mother's sticky note read, "YOU NEED THIS!!!"

So many times when I am out in my garden I can almost hear her chuckling ("My daughter's gardening! and the plants are still alive!"). Last weekend I absolutely heard her laughing hysterically ("Other people are asking for her gardening advice! That guy from Southern Living is talking to her!")

So thanks,
@grumpy_gardener, for the information but more importantly for making me smile, remembering my Southern Living-loving mother.

(Oh, wait, I did promise you some actual information. Fire blight is horrible. It most often appears in young trees. Tom planted his last spring. Kieffer and Orient are both supposedly fire blight resistant but well, you can see how that turned out. The leaves, which look burnt--hence the name--are surprisingly smooth and slippery, not at all crispy as I assumed they would be.

My friend pruned his tree back six inches from where the blight appears. There's a small chance it might survive, but he definitely won't have any fruit on it this year. He told me last night that new growth had appeared where he pruned but that he also saw new evidence of blight. At this point only time will tell. His other pear tree, knock wood, seems to be blight free.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Early Bloom Day

March is such a crazy time (in a good way) for gardening and gardeners in Austin. I never seem to find the time to post as often as I'd like. In particular, I missed Bloom Day. April is not looking like it will slow down much so I thought I would just go ahead and post what's blooming now.

The top photo is poppies, grown from seed I bought at Natural Gardener and from some I got from Patty Leander. The larkspur is from MSS at Zanthan Gardens. I've fallen in love with the dark blue blooms that I know MSS tags and saves.
This iris is from my friend Eleanor who is now blogging at Garden of E. About half of my plants are cuttings or divisions from her plants, but I don't think even she could have imagined how prolific these irises would become in my yard.
The sweet peas are also growing right along. I normally don't bother with annuals but these are so easy to grow I think I'll sow some every year.
Even if I do say so myself, I'm kind of impressed with this layered look of blooms. It almost makes me look like a real gardener.Closer up to the house, near the back porch, I've got another happy vignette going.
The rose arbor has finally made a liar out of me.I can grow them! I just can't remember what kind they are. Ideas? Lori?

Out in the vegetable garden, despite the fish head/tomato plant/dog debacle, the vegetables are starting to, excuse my French, kick some ass. The beets are beet-iful and bountiful.
If President Obama would only give (roasted) beets a chance, I think he would want them in his new garden.
I also don't remember seeing fennel in the White House garden plans. To be honest, I would not have cared about the oversight--I don't really like the raw anise flavor--until I roasted them with a little pancetta and plopped on some fresh salad greens. Yum. Seriously.

I also just harvested my celeriac. I'm not exactly sure why I grew it except for its exoticness.
Anyone have any good recipes?

I've also been expanding my own little mini-farm. After hearing about everyone keeping chickens, I decided I couldn't wait until the Funky Chicken Coop Tour on April 11th to build my own. I need eggs for Easter.
I still haven't named her. I wanted to make sure she survived the threat of the aforementioned dog.

I'm amazed at how much the chicken poop has improved my soil and my vegetable output. I've had to rent a tractor from time to time to keep up with the workload.I've also started packaging up the excess flowers and vegetables and giving them away every Wednesday and Saturday to my friends. Leave me a message and I'll let you know where to come.

I know that at least of a few of you figured this out early on, but in case I caught any of you--APRIL FOOLS! I took these pictures this morning at Boggy Creek Farm, where I have the good fortune to cashier on Wednesday mornings. Stop by and say hi. Unfortunately, though, you will have to pay for your flowers and vegetables. Carol Ann and Larry wouldn't want me giving them away. And yes, I've done this before!