Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Scariest Weed I Ever Did See

It's a warm, dry weekend, so I've started cleaning up some of the garden beds. Winter weeds are appearing. I try to get them before they go to seed, and I'm making progress on reducing their numbers. But this year they are blooming early! I don't think I'll get through the garden before they start setting seeds.

This is the most prevalent winter weed.

I learned its name once, but I've long since forgotten. I just call it The Spitter, because it spits its seeds several feet away when disturbed. I have to wear safety glasses if I don't pull it up before it sets seed. Fortunately it hoes up easily.  (Update:  this is hairy bittercress. I knew I'd remember the name eventually.)

Here's another one:

I don't know what it is, but those pretty blue flowers are its best defense. How can I destroy something so pretty?

This afternoon I was clearing leaves out of the path in the upper garden. I brushed aside some leaves, and saw The Scariest Weed I Ever Did See. Seriously. This is an attack weed of the most vicious kind.

Here is probably a good place for a confession: I'm an herbiphobe. (OK, not the proper term: I made it up. But it fits) That's right. I'm scared of plants. Not all plants, just the scary ones. Mom blames it on me watching Little Shop of Horrors as a kid. She might not be wrong.

But hey, if you saw this in your path, wouldn't you be scared, too?

Yes, those are big, scary thorns. On the leaves. Here's a closeup of those thorns:

Those suckers are sharp, too!

Now, the old me would have dropped everything and run far away. But Garden Therapy has been good for me, and I'm learning to face my fears. I pulled on some heavy-duty gloves and grabbed my trowel. I would beat this thing. Out it came.

Uh-oh, this thing has a tap root. And it broke off. Time to go digging further. I don't want it to regrow.


I don't know what it was, but I hope I never see it again. STAY AWAY, killer weed!

Update:  I'm told the scary weed is a thistle.  It helps to have a name.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Purple crocus emerged today:

And so did the purple hellebore buds:

The lavender hellebores are just starting to come up. They aren't picture-worthy ... yet.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 2011 Blooms

So January's Bloom Day was a bust for me. Is February any better?

I'd hoped to have some hellebores. Not yet, but I have some buds.

I don't see any buds on the purple ones yet. Strange.

The warm weather over the past few days has revived some of the long-suffering pansies. Look: Blooms!

Lots of crocus foliage coming up. No crocus yet. Oh, wait! I see one:

And what's a wrap, folks. Think Spring!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weekend Cleanup

Ahh, Spring. Why do you tempt me in mid-February?

I took advantage of the Spring-like weekend to do a few chores around the yard.

My big maple tree lost yet another limb in January's ice storm. The limb sat in my front yard for weeks: it was too cold to even think about going out to chop it up. Saturday I finally did. I think the neighbors were pleased. Midway through sawing off the branches I realized I hadn't taken any pictures. That's ok, I thought, we all know what a maple limb looks like sitting in the front yard. So I didn't rush back inside for my camera. I wish I had, because a few minutes later I saw a bald eagle soaring overhead, playing in the breeze. It made several laps around the yard; I was glad to take a break from sawing to watch it.

Sunday was less interesting. Time to tackle some of the leaves in the side yard that I never got around to cleaning up in the Fall. Let this be a lesson: rake leaves before they get packed into the ground by snow. These didn't care to budge. I toiled for an hour or so, then got bored with the task. So there's an area of the yard that still looks like November.

There's a chance next weekend will also be Spring-like. Maybe I'll finish the Fall chores then.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Some Heat in the Cold of Winter

Even though the garden has been dormant for a few months now, I'm still reaping the fruits of last year's labors.

Peppers have never done well for me. I know they need a long growing season, but if Dad could get peppers in NY, surely I should be able to get peppers in VA. Two years ago I learned starting early is not necessarily the answer. I set them out too early, and the cool temperatures stunted the plant growth. They never really recovered.

So last year I babied the seedlings inside until it was nice and warm out. Set out the plants, put the soaker hose around them, and watched them grow. And grow. And grow. And not produce any peppers. Then, finally, I had some. The peppers were small but plentiful. Thin-walled but tasty.

Except for the Habaneros. A new pepper for me; I planted it on a whim. I didn't have space in the pepper bed, so it didn't get as much water where I planted it. The plant didn't get huge, and it didn't have peppers until very late. Like October, or even later. When I was cleaning up the garden this fall (a chore I never finished), I decided to try moving the Habanero plant to a pot. I didn't have a lot of time that day, so I yanked it out of the ground, stuffed it in a pot, and threw some soil in around it. Set it on the back porch to shelter it from frost. And forgot about it.

Pepper plants need water, and this one didn't get any. So it died, as unwatered plants do. But not before growing and ripening those little Habaneros.

I finally harvested the peppers from the dead plant:

Now what? I didn't really feel like having a dinner of hot peppers. My BIL suggested drying them. food dehydrator, no warm sun, maybe the oven? My new gas oven has a minimum temperature of 170, and I thought that might cook, rather than dry, the peppers. Then I remembered: I have a warming drawer! That was just the thing. I left the peppers in overnight, and in the morning they looked like this:

After about 14 hours, I took them out and ground them up:

Now, what do I do with 2 tsp of Habanero powder?

2/14 edit: Why isn't my habanero powder spicy? Oh, it turns out what I'd planted was Zavory Habanero: the citrus flavor without the heat. This will be great on jicama, I think.