I’ve launched a few new blogs. If you have a moment I’d love to have you stop by:
Inchworm Garden – Day by Day in my New Jersey garden.
String of Pearls – A few insights from my morning quiet time.
I bought three different varieties of sweet potatoes in the market this week, a red, a white, and an orange yam. I’m not planning a new recipe or dish, instead I’m going to grow them, and hopefully, when they sprout, they will all have foliage in different colors.
The foliage of sweet potatoes is lush. After they sprout, I’m hoping to grow them on in hanging baskets with flowers added for color.
Sweet potato vines are available for purchase in garden centers. They are expensive, usually 3.99 a pot. For less than a quarter of what three plants would cost, I should have three plants for my baskets.
I’m starting them in water. Until they sprout, I’m keeping them in the basement to mimic the darkness underground. Hopefully, updates will follow with photographs of wildly growing vines.
Winter is getting long. Spring arrives on Monday, but the forecast is still cold. Today we took a drive to one of our favorite farm and feed stores. On the way home we entered our town from a route we hadn’t been on in quite a while. We were surprised to find ourselves passing a rather large gathering of goats on a small farm. The goats seemed to be watched over by one lone goose. I’ve heard geese are good at guarding property. Hmmm…what about that pesky groundhog and his little buddy that always devastate my garden? What about those cute bunnies that chomp down my flowers? Would a goose be a good idea? Now is the time to decide as geese are available through mail order. Any thoughts from my blogging friends? Has anyone raised as goose as a pet/watchgoose? I’d love to hear from you.
I was outside on my front lawn last night, camera pointed toward the sky. I haven’t taken part in Skywatch Friday for quite a while. Last night’s sky was the perfect opportunity to create a post. The eerie sky was the forerunner of a winter storm. A chilly mix is falling even as I write these words…rain mixed with snow. I went outside before breakfast, dressed in my nightclothes, and picked a big bouquet of daffodils; I wasn’t willing to allow all the beautiful yellow blooms to be crushed beneath the weight of falling snow.
I repost this technique for sowing smaller garden seeds each year. There is little waste or thinning out with this method. The sprouts do not develop damping-off disease. My only change from previous years is sowing in the bottoms of gallon milk cartons. I easily made four holes in the bottom of each with a paring knife thrust through the bottom first, then a large pair of scissors inserted in the cut and twisted…Voila, a perfect drainage hole.
These seedlings only have one to two pairs of true leaves and already the colors and leaf shapes are unique. As they grow the colors will develop even further; I have high hopes for the best crop of coleus ever. Updates will follow throughout the growing season.
Here is the technique I use to plant coleus and other small seeds:
This method of planting might seem tedious, but I have tried many ways of sowing tiny seeds and feel this is the very best. I wish I could remember where I first heard of the process so I could give the proper source credit for the idea.
I sow small seeds sparingly using the sharpened point of a pencil. I dip the pencil point into water and touch it to one seed. The dampness grabs hold of the seed. I then touch the seed to the wet seed starter mix in the flat, and the seed adheres to the wet soil. I repeat this process between sixty and seventy times per flat.
I use wire garbage bag ties, marked in segments with magic marker, to guide me in the placement of the seeds.
After I sow a row of seeds I remove the wire guide so I don’t double sow a row.
The next step is a gentle, all-over spray of water to seal the seeds to the wet soil.
I then cover the flat with the lid. It is gratifying to see it instantly steam up with warmth and humidity.
I have good luck with the sprouting by placing the planted flat of coleus seed on top of my refrigerator or near, but not on, a heating vent.
This method works well for all small seeds.
I’ve checked the garden section of my local dollar stores for weeks, hoping to find a new supply of flexible ties. Today, I found what I’d been seeking. These ties are absolutely the best! Last year I bought two packets, this year I bumped up my total to three, and I am wondering now if I should have bought double that amount. What a bargain! Sixteen and half feet for only a dollar. I’ve also seen the same packets in other garden centers, but they are a few dollars more. These ties are available for a limited time in most dollar stores.
I took this photo today, just minutes ago. The support I created for my climbing roses withstood late summer heat and winter weather and is still holding the arching branches of the rose with ease. The cushioned exterior, the strong wire within, are the perfect tie for most garden plants.
I also had great success last year protecting emerging seedlings and lettuce patches with small cages of wire created with the flexible tie. This lettuce plant survived the winter, and since hungry rabbits abound in my yard, I’m protecting it now before they begin to nibble on it.
If you are a gardener you can’t go wrong buying a few packets of flexible ties to have on hand. Hmmm…now I’m wondering what I can use the ties for in the house.
Near the Cape May Point is a small pond. A beautiful duo of swans were swimming in the water. I hoped to capture a wonderful photo of their long necks regally extended, but they were intent on feeding, and this was the view they gave us.
On the way home we stopped at the Cape May Zoo.
I had never seen it so crowded. We saw an opposite image of our pond swans, black swans in one of the zoo’s pond enclosures.
The giraffes are always a favorite…
…as are the zebras. The animals have very large areas to roam and run in.
The zoo was very crowded, we had forgotten it was a holiday weekend. I wished I could fly like a peacock and set myself above the commotion.
By the time we left we felt as exhausted as this napping camel. Isn’t he/she cute?
If you are ever in the Cape May area take a few hours to visit this amazing zoo. It is a free zoo, if you would like to make a donation you can do so when you enter for parking, but it is not required.
One of the pitfalls of creating a terrarium is finding the perfect stopper, or lid, that will not detract from the beauty of the planted jar or vase. I wanted to follow through on the natural theme, but also hoped to find something entirely unique to seal in the moisture. For the natural, I placed some double stick tape on the top of the vase, and wound several strands of dried grass around the rim.
Next I glued a few pieces of dried moss to the rim.
I finished off the natural elements with some skeletonized hydrangea flowers. These beautiful blossoms naturally lose their flesh when left beneath the bush through the winter. I find them beautiful, and they are not as fragile as they look. I always let a few strands of my arrangements behave in an unruly manner, in this case, a few pieces of grass and buds unfurling from side give the arrangement a bit of whimsicality and movement.
Lastly, I placed a beautiful moss green Christmas ornament on the top of the vase to work as a stopper/lid. I love the way the color of the Christmas ball mirrors the color of the moss inside the terrarium.
The arrangement/terrarium looks good from several angles, top and sides.
The Christmas ball reminds me of the Gazing Balls that many have on pedestals in their gardens.
I miss the beauty of heavily foliaged trees, but bare branches often expose visual treasure. My husband spotted this beautiful hawk as it soared past our window yesterday. He yelled, “Hawk!”
“I grabbed my camera,
Quick as a flash
Ran to the window,
Pulled down the top sash,
Hung my arms out the window,
And started to snap!”
(With apologies to Clement Moore for mangling his perfect poetic rhythm and meter.)
I was able to zoom in and take these photographs of the hawk.
He was a large Red-Tailed Hawk. I captured his intensity of gaze just before he swooped and disappeared. I wonder if he caught his prey? What a beautiful bird. Winter has its own set of blessings for birdwatchers.
The WordPress Photo Challenge for this week is New Horizons, a challenge to get a jumpstart on New Year’s Resolution. One of mine will be to take part in even more bird-watching. For the most part it’s free, it’s fun, and it is a way to enjoy and thank God for the beauties of the world he created.