Home of Stella's Gardens

We are now living full time in Northeast Iowa, and working on the new gardens. It will keep us busy for quite a while...

As an avid gardener since I was about 7 years old, that gives me over 45 years of experience gardening in this part of the world. And every year teaches me a bit more.

Also, working on a new website at stellasgardens - dot - com. Feel free to check it out and comment!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sooo it's been a long summer. I spent more time watering *everything* over and over, so that the gardens here in town have flowers and fruits, and our trees and shrubs up north survive the brutal drought. We got blessed rains last weekend, I can only hope they help that hickory in the woods survive. It's the one behind the oak and cherry that lost big chunks in July, 77mph wind that showed how rotten both are, I am sad to say. It was a narsty summer for some of these woodsy friends... And one of several "Chinese" praying mantises we saw flitting about in September.
While PMs do have local species, this is apparently an import. Such a distinct thing to see - almost like birds! When they fly, the front arms are out front, more than half the apparent length before the wings, really striking. We saw at least three, apparently males, and I am happy to have them. Of course if we ever have chickens, I am pretty sure these bubbas are toast....

Friday, July 6, 2012

Heavens to Murgatroyd, This is a Summer like I remember from my childhood. With the added attraction of Japanese beetles, which are numerous this year once again in Eastern Iowa. Not as many as a few years ago - when I had sooo many I went ahead and posted a couple of traps - it was like Chicago Ohare airport watching them come in ever 20-30 seconds. Now I just hand pick them off the choice plants - the rose, the meadowsweet. A cup of water with a teaspoon of Murphy's Wood Oil Soap. Then some critter comes and dumps that out and eats all the beetles every night. I imagine a wonderfully "regular" 'coon or possum..... So this was a working 4th holiday - a little yard work early in the week, work in the garage to build new shelves in the AM and peeling *really* gnarly wallpaper inside in the afternoon.....
BUT week before last some awesome alliums and tomatoes up north
Garlic gathered (part 2)
Tiger lilies here at home
And a first time visitor (for us) - a praying mantis - s/he appeared to be young and probably a nymph, since there were no wings...I haven't seen her/him since when we got the pix, so I don't know if someone made a snack of it (maybe 2" long) but we were thrilled to have such a bug in our yard....

Thursday, June 14, 2012

So here it is a bit dry, a lot warm. I just wanted to post a nice picture of my friend/coworker who, with his family and the donation of land and seeds (http://rareseeds.com/) and some help from a local church, are working a garden. The goals are to provide produce for themselves, the church members and the local food pantries. It's not easy - if you've ever tilled a grassy area to establish a garden the same year - but it's going pretty well, although the dry conditions make it a challenge. I have a small garden, and when there is more than we can use it goes to my cohorts in crime at work, but this is a bigger effort, about 6000 sqft or so...hopefully will provide for a bunch of folks!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

It is the last day of May, closing out a most unusual Spring for us all. Of course the fact that March was officially warmer than April was unique here in the Midwest. Then May has been as dry as I have ever seen - the home garden more than doubled the May rainfall with 0.86 inches during the last night. We are all thankful for that!
Here is the pot of geraniums and lobelia which are pictured in a previous post, coming into bloom and a lot more substantial looking! Hidden in the center are several Purple Majesty millets which I hope will be the vertical element, before too long.
The new Knockout rose which is going gangbusters in the back yard.
And scenes from the gardens up north, including the peony Felix Crouse, with a barely visible picotee of yellow on the center petals; Dianthus Diana's Blueberry; Penstamon Strictus, one of several Rocket snapdragons that survived the mild winters. And in the other flowerbed Achillea Summer Berries.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's been a busy spring, where work has interfered with my true calling.... The flowers and tomatoes and peppers are in the home garden now, and we will visit the northern garden to see how all those alliums have fared. It was good in April but May has turned a bit dry, so crossing fingers. The flowers and the few mates and pepps will go in up there this weekend. The pot of geraniums pictured before are starting to bloom, and there are wee grasses in the center, Purple Majesty millet, which I hope will grow up as the vertical accents; pictures to come of it and the northern gardens. Still need to have something pithier to say, but not tonight.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

So there they are, the leeks and onions and shallots oh my! Hiding behind the netting that should keep the big bully deer from giving them a premature haircut. The ones previously pictured in their flats, happily situated in their summer home. Of course this week they are predicting colder temps, much more seasonable, but this is in a fairly moderate microclimate (hill facing south) so we will hope for the best. The geraniums in the big pot will probably get covered this evening. All the flats will be back in onto the sunporch. Looking forward to waxing more philosophical-like some day, but for now it's a bit too busy a life...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Continuing Saga of Spring

Truly many of us are oscillating between enjoying the unseasonable weather and worrying about what happens when the warm weather runs dry. I finally broke down and planted out some of my geraniums in one of my big pots, so see what would happen. If necessary it can make the trip into the garage. They're all green now, but there are four cuttings from a trailing, magenta beauty from last year, and two each of white and "Rose Ice" from seed. And eight lobelia Fountain mix to fill in. When they're sprouted there will be some Purple Majesty millet in the center as the vertical accent. We'll see how it looks in a couple of months!
In the meantime, the ephemerals are blooming - bleeding heart, blue bells, dutchmen's breeches, bloodroot, rue anemone, and the violets of course. I think it is a solid month early.
And this weekend I will try to plant the root crops up north - onions, leeks, shallots, parsnips, salsify...the rest will wait for more normal times.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

Holy Toledo! We have just have five record days of above average temps - not just wimpy ones but many degrees. Three days that broke 80. The local orchards are going bananas - buds are breaking and a hard freeze would be a disaster. Do we spray? The forecast calls for 60+ highs through the week. All I know is my daffies are blooming (and will prbly blast through their cycle in record time.) My grass is already greening - dammit. Our crabby apple down here, which is a very lovely sight in a normal year, dark pink buds that open to a fade-to-white, lovely indeed close up.
But this year will probably green up before blooming. Makes it a less spectacular show. But we shall see.

Friday, March 16, 2012

So here it is, the day before St Paddy's, and there's daffodils abloom in my garden. I have three types, descended from six freebies I got from Earl Mays which have been divided and are again multiplying. This is the earliest one. But they have never been this early! Pessimist that I am, I wonder about the record breaking warmth for three days in a row - this was the earliest date to break 80 on record here in town. Will probably make short work of the daffies. Makes me wonder what the rest of the year will bring. ------------------------------------------- Just posted a primer for starting seeds - probably too late for this year given the weather! See the links to the right, and let me know if you find it useful. Thanks!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The first batch of plantlets (mostly flowers edition)

So here are the first batch of plants - these are flowers with long lead times like begonias, geraniums and some perennials. These are geraniums with some cuttings of last year's geraniums and begonias in the background:
These are onions, leeks and shallots oh my!
And the asclepias tuberosa (Gay Butterflies,) some begonias, some echinacea paradoxa and one purpurea (still waiting for the others to sprout, as well as the eupatorium purpureum.)
Then there's the second round just seeded Saturday afternoon - maters, peppers, numerous types of annuals, all listed in the garden log links at right....

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How many do I really need???

So granted, I get another tomato and pepper variety each year, and as older seeds are used up or lose viability, there is some attrition to the varieties.  But in the quest for heirlooms which can have their seeds saved I think I went overboard....
Tomatoes: new:   Heinz classic processor, Black Krim, Speckled Roman, Amish Paste
and from previous years: Juliet (hybrid grape), Polish Linguisa, Opalka, San Marzano Lampadina, Brandywine.
So that's 9 right?  And there's a couple more I have I'm not planting.
Peppers: new: Serrano, Paprika, Carmen (hybrid), Rainbow blend (sweet hybrid), Jalapeno Goliath, Garden Salsa Hybrid (my favorite, too bad it's a hybrid.)
and from previous years:  Cayenne, Jalapeno M.
Garden salsa I've grown for a number of years, finally used all the seeds from the last packet.  But that's what, 8 peppers?  I always have way to many, even with canning and freezing, and my co-workers get lots of freebies.
We haven't even gotten to the flowers....pix to come.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Last year's garden (north)

So we put in the second temporary raised bed last year, and it housed two tomatoes (Brandywine and Opalka I think) along with a few carrots and some small gourds and two watermelon.  Because of the timing and my broken toe, it all went in pretty late. The tomato plants got huge, but like many did not produce until late.  The carrots grew better than I expected and tasted pretty good.  The gourds were lots of ittybitty ones of which only one was "ripe" enough to last.  And we got two baby watermelon which were actually quite good.  The other, older bed was onion, leek, garlic (already gone in this picture) and some pepper plants.

AFTER the house is built next year, then I have much grander plans.....

So this is just an experiment to see how well pix upload to my blog.

Falling down on the job

Well it's been way too long since I last posted - but now I'm getting more serious about it, really.  The plans for the new house include plans for a new garden, so that is keeping us busy.  But in the meantime this year's gardening has already started, with onions and some flowers begun and more to begin this coming weekend.