Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

Garden Update

June 12, 2010

There is new hope for the dye garden!  Yesterday I finally got around to planting some new madder, dyer’s chamomile, and lady’s bedstraw in my containers.

Madder in the big one, bedstraw in the two red ones, and chamomile scattered between the three.  And yes, if you’re wondering, my planters are an old barbecue and Ikea garbage cans.

What prompted this, aside from the fact that I should probably have done it weeks ago?  We got a barbecue!  Yay!  But it needed somewhere to go.   So yesterday we turned the pile of jumbled mess into this:

My new outdoor grilling/dyeing/whatever station.  It looks much nicer than it did before, and having everything stashed under the table makes me less worried that the upstairs neighbour’s kids are going to get into anything they shouldn’t.  We got the giant white barrel at the homebrew store for $10.  Not sure yet if it will be a large cold-water dyepot or a planter or two, or a water barrel, but it will come in handy somehow.

Now I just have to decide if I want to get an electric hotplate or a propane stove to dye with out there.  I’ll be happy to get the dyeing out of the kitchen, that’s for sure.

The rest of the garden is doing pretty well, despite the big rainstorms we’ve been having.

The first strawberries are almost ripe:

The clematis is starting to take over the railing up the stairs, and it has tons of buds:

This year’s woad is thriving in the cold, wet weather (think it’s from Britain?):

And last year’s is safely cocooned in cheesecloth, I’m sure the neighbours think we’re insane.

The foxglove, that for all of last year I thought was a weed, is flowering:

And it has a friend who I’m VERY glad to see, given our aphid problem.

And finally, the rosebuds also started to open in the last few days:

The sweet peas are exploding too, but I didn’t get a picture of them.  I’m not going to bother starting them inside next year, the ones I planted directly in the garden are four times larger than the ones I transplanted at the same time.

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I think I killed them

May 31, 2010

My madder plants, that is.  There was some orange mouldy fungusy looking stuff on the soil, so I decided to not water for a day to let it dry out a bit and maybe kill it.  But then I forgot to water them yesterday, too.  This morning they’re looking pretty dead.  I think one may have survived,  out of seven.  The elecampane looks okay, and I think some of the dyer’s chamomile will also be fine.

Fortunately, I have more seeds, an we got the dirt to fill the pots with a couple of weeks ago, so I think I’ll just plant them directly into the pots outside.  It’ll be slower starting, but since you can’t harvest the stuff for two or three years I’m not really in a hurry.

And as my darling boyfriend pointed out, if they do survive they’ll be stronger, and crave brains.

Garden Update

May 6, 2010

Look look look!  My very first madder plant:

And some Dyer’s Chamomile:

The rest of the new dye plants haven’t sprouted yet, I was worried I’d killed them until the madder showed up today.  Guess they’re just slow.  Or I’m impatient.  And yes, I’m using an old egg carton as a seed tray.  Wanna make something of it?

I’ve also got a good crop of woad coming up in the front garden:

And last year’s is in full flower:

Pretty impressive, eh?  They smell surprisingly pleasant, too.  After the flowers die I’ll cut down most of the stalks to avoid a woad epidemic in the neighbourhood.

The other plants are doing nicely, too.  I’ve got flowers on my new strawberries in both the garden and containers:

I’m experimenting using leftover grains from beermaking to mulch with.  I think they’ll work quite nicely.  It’ll expand to cover the rest of the garden as we make more beer over the summer.

The (also new) raspberries don’t look like dead sticks any more, except for the one on the end that actually is a dead stick:

And a sight only a fellow gardener can appreciate . . . my compost heap.  I’m so proud of it, there’s some gorgeous dirt under there.  Plus it’s proof for my mother that I really do eat vegetables, even if most of it is spent grains from beer making.  And if there’s any doubt that compost works, check out those dandelions – they’re HUGE!

The only thing that’s not growing like it should is the apple/pear-like fruit tree.  It had some pest problems last year, and it’s much worse this year.  The leaves are completely shredded.  I have a feeling it might not last much longer.  DBF wants to prune it waaaay back to make it stronger, but we’ll probably have to check with the landlord first and, well, he doesn’t know much about gardening.  We’ll see.  The flowers were pretty, anyways.

And finally, some hints of what I’ve been up to . . .

. . . exciting things are afoot!

New Spring, New Garden

April 10, 2010

Not only a new garden, but a new expanded garden!  We have lots of plans for food-stuffs, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, for starters, plus the sweet pea seeds that I saved from last year are already sprouting along with some sunflowers, soon to be joined by poppies and cosmos.  Oh, and a clematis.

But more importantly, I’m getting more dye plants this year!  The woad is already planted, and I’ve ordered some supplements:  madder (red), lady’s bedstraw (red), weld (yellow), dyer’s chamomile (yellow), and one I’d never heard of – elecampane.

There’s nothing on elecampane  in either of the dye books I own, or any others I’ve read.  Only a single sentence on the whole of the internet (repeated on many websites, apparently it’s from a book written in 1931 called A Modern Herbal):  “A blue dye has been extracted from the root, bruised and macerated and mingled with ashes and whortleberries.”  On some further research, whortleberries are also known as bilberries, and are a wild relative of blueberries.  The ashes part of the “recipe” makes sense, acidic solutions tend to shift dyes towards the red end of the spectrum, and alkaline towards blue.  But I can’t help wondering about why it also includes blueberries, if there actually is blue dye in the roots at all or if it’s a mordant that works on them better than, say, alum.

I guess I’ll let you know in a year or two.  Gorram root crops (three of my five new plants) need extra time to grow before I can go digging them up.  Which means they’re all going in pots, if we move after I finish school next year I’m darned well taking them with me!

If you’re curious, I ordered the seeds from Horizon Herbs, they were very nice on the phone and have some pretty cool stuff besides the dye plants.  Being a small package, I’m hoping it’ll arrive quickly so I can get planting!

Last year’s woad is now about waist high, it’s quite impressive.  I’m looking forward to seeing the flowers, not so much looking forward to trying to stop the seeds from taking over the neighbourhood.  I’m planning to cut most of them down after they’ve flowered, and put little cotton or cheesecloth bags over the remainders to catch the seeds.

And because I simply can’t post two photo-less posts in a row, here’s a picture of a drawing I did this semester:

Can you guess what it is?

Somebody Murdered Spock in my Bathtub

July 25, 2009

SpockAt least that’s what it looks like right now.  Have no fear, though – the world’s favourite Vulcan is alive and well (as far as I know).  Nope, the green liquid in my bathtub is (dun dun DUH!)   . . . WOAD!  That’s right, folks, my lovely little plants have done it.  What, you don’t believe me?  Here’s proof:

SilkSee the blue on that silk?  That came out of my very own garden, people.  I’ll post some more pictures tomorrow when it’s dry (along with some of the process).  It’s a gorgeous colour, a shade greener than indigo.  Very nice.

Speaking of colour, check out this sunset:

Thunderstorm SunsetWe had a (very rare) thunderstorm this evening, and this is what the sun did through all the rain and clouds and strange weather.  It was incredible.

Woad Woes, Indigo and Some Bragging

June 26, 2009

My poor woad.  Through a combination of nasty soil and an overly-friendly cat, I have only one really healthy plant remaining.  Norman gave up a few weeks ago, Stanley is about to join him in the big vat in the sky, and Claire, Jingles, and Bobo aren’t looking too good.  Ol’ blue eyes Frank, at least, is growing like mad.

Frank

I’m not sure if it will be worth it to try dyeing anything much with only one plant’s worth of leaves, so I think I’m going to harvest as much as I can from the other four, plus Frank, and make a woad ball or two over the summer, and see what I can do with them next year.  Which means, alas, I’m stuck with purchased indigo.  Oh, well.

I don’t have to give up on my plans to try a fermentation vat, even though it’s not my own dye plants, so I started that this evening.  I followed approximately these directions with the only exception being that I used some old indigo stock solution instead of fresh powder.

Indigo Vat s

I have no idea if it will work, but I have all that ginger beer brewing experience now, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Indigo Detail

And now, I can’t help bragging about my garden for a minute.  It’s tiny and insignificant, but I love it all the same.  First up on the brag-roll are tomatoes.  After some other seeds failed to come up, I planted two tomato plants, and they have grown up and are just starting to flower.

Tomato

Next the sugar snap peas that I made the netting for back in May.  They (and my netting) have been a complete success and are now taller than the fence and give me a few peas to munch on every couple of days.

Sugar Snap Pea

Last of all are my favourites, sweet peas grown from seed.  I’m rarely in the garden this time in the evening, so I was very pleasantly surprised when I turned the corner to see the sun just coming over the roofs of the houses across the street and lighting up my sweet peas from behind.  They were glowing.  It was gorgeous.  I took pictures, but you really don’t get the full effect.

Sweet Pea

Isn’t that amazing?  The other thing I can’t share with you is the smell that comes off these babies.  Pure flowery sweetness.

Sweet Peas

Textiles in the Garden

May 18, 2009

Last year in my sculpture class, I made some CD spindles, did some research on various kinds of lace making, and made a bunch of lace ‘webs’ and hung the spindles from them like spiders.  It kind of worked, but the setting was wrong, my pins didn’t stick in the weird walls so I had to use tape, which was ugly, you couldn’t really see the yarn, and most of my class thought it had something to do with music.

But it stuck a bug in my head that large-scale lace making can be fun.  So for experiment #2, I decided to play in my garden.  We planted some sugar snap peas a while ago and hadn’t gotten around to putting up a support for them, and they started to try to climb up the nearby dandelions, each other, and themselves.  Something had to be done!

I got some bamboo chopsticks from the dollar store, carved notches in them to hold the string, and stuck them in the ground next to my toppled-over peas.  I stuck some thumb tacks into the fence above each stake, and proceeded to weave my Pea Support Net of Awesomeness.  Or something.  Up and down, then back and forth, then up and down again.  Here it is:

DSCF1131

Functional, maybe not exactly pretty, but I think I can call the experiment a success and if the cotton string holds up all summer, then next year I’ll try something a bit more elaborate!

DSCF1134