Friends? Gardeners? Anyone out there?

Dear determined gardening friends, Indy and Dee in particular,

If anyone saw my garden this very minute they would be shocked and dismayed. SHOCKED! I tell you.

The new sandstone retaining wall is about half finished. Some of the rudbeckia have escaped the perennial borders and are growing in the middle of the lawn. Yet, in those same perennial borders, you can find big gaping empty places where I finally got fed up with poor performers and ripped them out by their heads. Fair warning to the tomatoes: if they don’t get their act together and start producing, they, too, will meet an untimely death at the hands of the head gardener.

What really got my knickers in a twist today was the chomp, chomp, chomp and clickety click of the G.D. grasshoppers. Some of these nasties are 2 and a half inches long. They are eating huge holes in my plants and shredding the garden. There are over 1000 varieties of grasshoppers in North America. Oh joy. Plus,the voracious black vine weevils have stripped my Otto laurels and left nothing but the midribs of some leaves…and their telltale pinking-shear bite marks around the edge of the other leaves. Seems to be an especially bad year for these bugs. I checked with my other gardening pros, and they are all fighting the fight against these two evil doers.

I live 30 feet from the Boise National Forest and the Foothills with a capital F. Eradicating the pests is akin to putting out a fire with a teaspoon of water. The hoppers are sitting across the street, thinking, whoaaaaaa, look at that oasis of tastiness a few hops away! And the hordes descend. Part of this is my fault and I know it. I have a good layer of mulch on all my perennial beds in an effort to retain moisture and this in turn, makes a perfect hiding/breeding place for the weevils and nice green plants (even though they are quite drought tolerant) look like a smorgasboard to the hoppers.

grasshoppers

I have a couple of plans in place: the first one includes a serious dusting of the patio containers with diatomaceous earth. I will follow that application with a spray of Safer brand Insect Soap & Pyrethrin. Both of these controls are considered organic. If these tricks fail, I’ll know in a day or two and will pull out the big guns. Next up, Neem oil w/the insecticidal soap. My only other options are unacceptable: remove the mulch (not gonna do it, mulch is there to aid in moisture retention and I spent hours and $$ putting down the mulch); and/or soil drench with stuff that is so dang toxic, well, even I won’t use it.

Even the dog has done his part to help with the plague of hoppers. He stalks them for hours, catches them in his mouth, carries them over to the lawn where he spits them out (Good Boy!) and rolls on them. Slow but charming.

Not much else is going on this week in my garden. The Sun Gold cherry tomatoes are prolific. I picked an BIG tomato yesterday, I think it was Black Brandywine (tag is lost, of course). It made a fine contribution to a delicious BLT. So much so, I declared this week the Official Week of BLT sandwiches. Oh, and I have some long thin eggplants trying to ripen.

We had one of the coolest days on record for Boise in August. It was all of 60 degrees on Friday with a lot of much loved rain. Here we are, in the desert, and after two days of coolth and a nice rain, people were bitching for summer to return.

And that, friends and gardeners, is life in the Wild West, Week 23, of the 2009 garden at Ranch du Bois. Cowboy up!

Your pal,
Ida

A gardener’s lament, deal with it and eat it

Having whined my way back from vacay, time now to step up to the dinner plate and get my act back together. How can I possibly call myself a gardener and still sit here whining about the ripe Sun Gold tomatoes and the sweet, tasty little alpine strawberries? For shame. But don’t be surprised if I do it again. I am not fond of 95 degree days.

I know some folk’s gardens are doing just fine, they’ve had tomatoes since the 4th of July. They probably have tons of ripe ones, just clinging to the vine, waiting to be eaten, warm and juicey fresh from the garden, napped with a bit of balsamic and a fresh grind of pepper and a smidge of sea salt. They planted their tomatoes the first week of May, weathered the freaky late frosts, and are ahead of the game. Good for them.

For the rest of us, here’s a plan: get thee to Reggie’s Veggies, on Milwaukee by Capitol High, or to the fruit stand at the south end of Broadway, or the one on State Street near Collister. Get yourself to any fruit stand that has a sign out front saying “Local Bing Cherries $1.99 per pound.” Or this: Local Bodacious Sweet Corn!! I asked and the corn is from Star, just down the road a bit.

The stand on State has gorgeous big slicing tomatoes from our own Eagle, ID. I didn’t slice mine yet, because I have those bodacious SunGold cherry tomatoes, but I will have one for lunch tomorrow with a slice of mozz.

Walla Walla onions are local enough, and there is no substitute. Get them while you can because they don’t last long. What makes them special? The WW onion has a high water content (this makes them poor keepers) and low sulfur content making it exceptionally sweet. WW’s are certified as such and have to have the label to be authentic. Some are even rated for their level of sweetness but I have never seen that on a label.

The big Hermiston watermelons can be found all over town, at the fruit stands and in most supermarkets. Hermiston, Oregon, has been famous for the watermelons for decades. I don’t believe I have EVER had a bad one.

OMG! I almost forgot! Local apricots are in right now and sweet enough to make you swoon with just a single sniff of their ambrosia perfume. Other than canning, I need a good way to put some of these by. If you have a plan/recipe/idea, let me know. Years ago, I made peach and apricot leathers. I have progressed to rhubarbtinis, so something in the mixology department would be appreciated. I’ll whip up a few jars of apricot jam to “we can save some for coaxing sun out of the winter months..” Just love that quote, from Mary Pyper, my Seattle galpal.

OK, so we have lots of fresh fruit and vegetables at hand. Onward. WallaWallaWallaBing!

Dear Friends and Gardeners: I’m baaaaaaaack!

Dear Dee and Carol,

Oregon Coast, 2009
Oregon Coast, 2009
This is a good picture, a HAPPY picture, not to be confused with the dismal picture that is the garden at Ranch du Bois, week 21.

I essentially left my garden to fend for itself for the last 9 days. We arrived home in the dark last night, and from what I can see from inside the house, it is NOT pretty out there. To misquote Jesse Ventura when he was governor of Minnesota, the state of the state ain’t so great. So, this is a different kind of post: things I hate about my garden:

*my beloved raspberries, are drying up on the canes. Yes, they’ll come back in the fall.
*grasshoppers the size of housewrens. Yes, I am exaggerating but if you could see their chomp marks on everything you would hate them, too.
*I think something is wrong with the sprinkler system. Things are dead and struggling that shouldn’t be, even in this heat.
*several of the apples on my espaliered trees are sun burnt.
*damned spotted spurge everywhere. I lay partial blame on my neighbors who, for some goofy reason, have let their lawn dry up and go to hell, making the perfect breeding ground for weeds.

Yes, gentle friends, this happens every year, I am overcome with a crushing sense of gardening ennui. The sense of boredom, weariness and dissatisfaction with the garden has settled in for the dog days of summer. In case you were wondering, here’s the definition of dog days : the sultry part of the summer, supposed to occur during the period that Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun: now often reckoned from July 3 to August 11; and a period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence.

BINGO.

The good news is this: I bought that CSA subscription so I can go pick up my Yukon gold potatos, zukes, cukes, and green beans this afternoon.

But other than that, you can find me pouting in the Lily Pond with an ice cold rhubarbtini.

GBBD July 15, 2009

Not to be left out of the big doin’s, here’s my little upload for Bloom Day, July 2009-a small selection of what is blooming in the garden at Ranch du Bois. It is blazing hot and hard to photograph all the lovelies right now. Heck, its hard to even LIKE the lovelies when it is 100 degrees in the shade.

Old fashioned petunias and Profusion series zinnias
Old fashioned petunias and Profusion series zinnias
Globemallow + winecups
Globemallow + winecups
My little golden darlings. Apricots. Sweeter than sweet
My little golden darlings. Apricots. Sweeter than sweet
Echinacea purple and white + rosa chinensis mutabilis
Echinacea purple and white + rosa chinensis mutabilis
Liatris Kobold
Liatris Kobold
Grosso lavender covered with honey bees, rudbeckia, verbena b, and apple espaliers
Grosso lavender covered with honey bees, rudbeckia, verbena b, and apple espaliers

Here and there you will also find: Veronica ‘Royal Candles’, persicaria ‘Firetail’, miscellaneous salvia greggiis, a brown turkey fig, delosperma ‘Table Mountain’, hesperaloe, eryngium, penstemons, agastaches, and tomatoes.

Dear Friends and Gardeners (week 18)

Dear Carol and Dee,

Once again, I am amazed: WEEK 18??? What the heck? July 5th? Where do the days go? Days, where do the weeks go?

Not a great deal to report from Ranch du Bois. Rasberries still producing in spite of high 80’s/90/s heat.

I cannot WAIT till the day I can write to you two and tell you I am in knee deep in tomatoes and getting sick of them. I find myself staring at the tomatoes, saying to them under my breath, “Grow, dammit!” I am one of those people would not be caught dead buying tomatoes from a grocery store. If I buy them, ever, they are locally grown and from a farm stand. We just don’t use sliced tomatoes out of season. So, it is with bated breath I wait for the warm ripe tomatoes from the garden. All I can think of is how good some Insalata Caprese would be right now. That’s the simple salad of sliced tomatoes, torn basil, and sliced fresh mozzerella. I have the fresh basil and some mozzerella on hand. Come ON tomatoes!

I pruned the apple espaliers yesterday. I filled up an entire garbage can with the branches. There aren’t a lot of apples, in fact, I was pretty darn disappointed. There might be a couple of dozen apples, and that’s the extent of it. I do know the dog has made off with the Granny Smiths from the bottom branches. I noticed some of the cottony mildew in the congested, areas – those places really needed to be cleaned up and opened up to the air and sunlight. I sent a boatload of earwigs scurrying. I hate those critters.

The dog has also helped himself to the low hanging fruit on my new fig tree. I’ve raised it up on a double stacked pot until I can figure out a stable, out of reach place for it. Bad dog.

True confessions: I counted yesterday, before I hid them from the prying eyes of my gardening friends, 21 small pots (4 inchers) of plants that need to go in the ground pronto. Let me put it this way, if they don’t get planted this week, I might as well kiss them goodbye. I am not going to do the math on this, but suffice it to say, if I blow it, I might as well light a match to a C note. Will I ever learn not to buy a plant if I don’t have a place for it?. Arrrrrgggggh. Its definitely akin to my fabric habit. I hoard fabric. There. Out in the open. Is there a 12 step program for plantaholics?

I am planning to spend the next few mornings in the garden taking advantage of the cooler temps. The afternoons will be for catching up on my writing about Idaho Gardens. Next weekend, a big treat for me: the Sawtooth Botanical Garden tour in central Idaho. My chance to be a tourist in OPGs. Other Peoples’ Gardens. I am so looking forward to it. I’ve also been on the prowl for gardens for the 2010 garden tour in Boise. Man, you get some strange looks when you start cruising the alleys, the same ones, again and again and again, trying to get a look inside the back fence.

Until next week, be cool.

Your pal,
MA

ps, I forgot to tell you, my Cueball squash bit the dust. Actually, the little darling was yanked out of the bed by its head and left to wither and die in the heat. We are not even gonna talk about who committed such an offense, just know it wasn’t me.