Monday, October 29, 2012

Late, Very Late, Summer Blooms

For the past five summers, I have been growing sunflowers in the front yard, right along the sidewalk for the enjoyment of everyone.
Including the bees. And then I count the bees for The Great Sunflower Project, a citizen science project aimed at studying bees and other pollinators.  And sadly, their decline. 

Participation in the project is not hard to do, takes very little time, and provides the investigators with buckets of data. I especially love the map showing all of the observation gardens. (Next year, you too could be a little colored circle on the map...)

But this year, nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. The bees were out and busy, but I couldn't get any sunflowers to show up. The seeds just wouldn't germinate. If they had, I could of blamed the lack of results on the hungry snails. Instead it had to be all my fault. Except... except for the one little, brave plantlet that could. And slowly, slowly did.

Until finally, it produced its first blossom. On October 10th. And who is that perched on the lower left side of the flower? A most very patient bee.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Brag, Brag, Brag #4: Miquette Elliott (and Courtney & Mark Camperell, too)

Photo courtesy of Pauline Marcou 
Miquette strikes again!  She is one of the featured artists at the Dharma Trading Company, a most excellent supplier for textile artists. She now also works full-time at Volcom (think youth, hip and not me).  Once is a while, she even gets to model some of the Volcom creations.

And, in all her free time, she collaborated, designed, created, sewed and, you know, put together a lovely dress for her adorable cousin Courtney (photo at left) for her rehearsal dinner (wonderful wedding last Saturday). Mark, a very special groom-guy, is also in the photo.  On the right.

We wish them all well.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cover Ups

Yup, those fun, gauzy, drapey fabrics which conceal so many fashion "eh-hms" (otherwise known as lumpy-bulgy things that we don't talk about) also help out in the garden.  Called "floating row covers," they are used to protect plants from the ravages of insect life, generally caterpillars and other icky, creepy-crawly life forms that you really don't want to find on your dinner plate.

The plants which seem to benefit the most from row covers include lettuces, broccoli, cabbage, collards, turnips and other members of the mustard family.

I've found that row covers work best when the plants are small. For plants in tin tubs, grab a few of those bamboo chopsticks (you know, the ones that you rescue from take-out sushi) and stand them up in the dirt so that they are taller than your little seedlings.

Drape the row cover over the pot and clip it to the pot with clothespins.  No one can get in. You can even water right through the fabric. (Kinda. I usually end up watering my feet.)

Even if you don't do any of this, at least save those chopsticks and put them in the green bin. I mean, whaddya think, bamboo grows on trees or somethin'?

I use the same technique when I put new seeds in the ground, only I have to use rocks instead of clothespins. This way the regular Oakland night marauders - raccoons and skunks - have a much harder time digging up everything that you just so carefully planted.

Finally, if you are lucky enough to spend time with those young fairy princess types, row covers are the absolute best for playing dress-up. Just ask Princess.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lily Lust

The lilies were absolutely spectacular this summer.  
For a glorious show next summer, plant your bulbs now.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Free(!) Rain Barrels in Oakland

Yup.  No cost.  Except somehow there's sales tax... ask Governor Jerry.  I'm sure he'll give you an explanation.

In the meanwhile, and just in time for the rainy season (keep your fingers crossed), the Oakland Dept. of Public Works has free rain barrels for your home. The program lasts through December, 2012.

A while ago, they were "low-cost", but not low enough to grab my attention. Now, we have one here (the top one) and our neighbor has one too (the bottom one). Ours, at 60 gallons, is one of the smaller ones. It cost around $6.

Tricks to the program? Well obviously, you have to pay the tax and be an Oakland resident.  Then you either have to pay for delivery or go pick up the barrel(s) at the The Urban Farm Store in Richmond. You also are responsible for the installation.  Not hard - a few tools and bits of hardware - and instructions are included. Just remember to strap that puppy in - water is heavy and big earthquakes make big messes.

Don't live in Oakland? Silly you. But all is not lost. Now many municipalities throughout the country have low-cost rain barrel programs, so check locally and see what is available in your area. You also may want to start practicing those rain dance moves.