Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mechanics and Plant-geeks

So goes the old adage: Mechanics drive the worst cars. Right? Unfortunately the same (per se) goes for Horticulturists. We have the worst gardens. Oh sure, there are plant-geeks the world over that have fantastic landscapes. Brilliantly designed, flawlessly constructed and meticulously manicured. They are, in my opinion, the exception, not the rule. And rather freakish, I think.

Of course by now, you have a fairly good idea of what my landscape does not look like! :0) My landscaping consists of a hodge-podge of plants that I just could not live without in my various jaunts to the nursery, any nursery. I do have to say, though, that they're all well placed in terms of their cultural requirements, or rather their growing needs. They are not, by any stretch of the imagination, grouped according to anything: foliage, flower color or timing, complimentary or contrasting.... or any other reason. Here's my design process: Oh, I LOVE that plant. Now, where to put it? Sure, there looks good...... The resulting look is more chaos than beauty. But what the hay!

This morning I was ever-so-rudely reminded of my lack of organization while turning over my raised planting beds. Yeah yeah, I know this should have been done weeks ago if not months. But I have been swamped growing plants in the greenhouse for other people's gardens.... that's my excuse for today anyhow. And besides with all the people, kids and dogs that will be here this weekend, it just does not pay to put in my garden before the throng goes home..... and yes, that's now my story and I'm stickin' to it.

So........ this morning I was digging in my raised beds, like I said, when I heard the most bizarre noise. What the squeaked. I thought I had found some kind of animal and was going to have to do the unthinkable. While I'm fretting, it occurs to me that I ought to figure out what IT really is. So, I turned over a couple more shovels-full of soil. Turns out it's an old "squeaker" from when my dogs were pups. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!! Maybe if I were a better gardener I wouldn't have had this little stupid trauma in the first place..... :P Thank goodness my hat hides any kind of blush-of-embarrassment.

And now that I've posted this. I'm regretting that you know my dirty little secret...... yeah, that's my pink shovel...........;)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Farm Blurb

I have a retailer that requested that I come up with a small P.R. piece to put on my display at her store. So, after pestering my mom and sister and rolling it around in my head a bit -- well ok, for 6 weeks or so -- here is what I came up with:

Welcome to Webster Ranch Natural Farms
What makes us different? Our plants are grown slowly, and as naturally as possible. They will adapt easier when transplanted to their new home, your home. No synthetic fertilizers or chemical pesticides have been used, and many of the pots have been recycled from previous seasons.
These little plants are grown locally, on a bio-dynamic heritage farm, in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho. Local, slow, natural plants have smaller carbon footprints, and a better quality product. We hope you enjoy them!
You can now check us out on fa cebook. Just search for Webster Ranch Natural Farms. Also, keep up with our food growing adventures on our blog:

Thank you for supporting local agriculture.
We couldn't do it without you!!

So, what do you think? Too kooky? Or is it just right? Any ideas? ;D

**BTW, if you have plant geek questions, post them.... Maybe you'll be famous in an upcoming blog......

Friday, May 8, 2009


I have to admit that if there is one thing in my yard that gives me the sheerest sense of joy, it is watching hummingbirds. I mean really, there's no way that you can look at one and feel anything short of pure amazement. It defies logic that they can fly around like they do. Shaped like a plane, but act like a helicopter. It's just the coolest.

So, this morning I was hanging laundry out and I saw my first hummingbird of the season!!! I just stood there vibrating with excitement. I always want to shriek when I see them.... I quickly finished hanging my boys' now adult-sized jeans (more about that sense of amazement another day) and ran inside to find my feeders.

I have two. Feeders, that is. And it occurred to me as I was scrubbing them & sanitizing them that maybe not everyone knows how to attract and properly feed hummingbirds. So, I'll give you my speal on that! :0)

First it's important to build an environment for them. It's easier than it sounds. Hummingbirds actually spend a HUGE part of their day sitting quietly on tree branches, under leaves & such, watching you. I happen to have a Catalpa in my yard and they love it there. Catalpa's have ginormous leaves & that gives them lots of cover. But so will most shade trees and even large shrubs. And actually, speaking of shrubs...... Shrubs with thorns provide great cover for small birds because predatory birds and most importantly the house cat won't go in after them. Hummingbirds don't use bird houses or bird baths or any such fussy stuff. They're master hiders, so give them somewhere to hide.

Next, consider what you're planting this year. Hummingbirds prefer natural nectar to feeders. But along with nectar, your landscape will provide them with a buffet of small bugs. This is an often unmentioned but very important protein source for hummingbirds. Flowers, shrubs and vines with tubular flowers are the easiest for them. Consider the following shrubs: Desert Willow, Azaleas, Flowering Quince or Weigelas. For annual and perrenial flowers stick to red or pink, as these are the colors your hummers are most attracted to: Bee Balm, Columbine, Lupine, Fuschias, Petunias, Impatiens, Salvias, Snapdragons, etc. A curious note: Plants grown from seed tend to have more natural nectar than nursery grown plants.......*yeah, I know, a shameless plug!

Hanging feeders are great too. They will give you a place to watch your hummers more closely. You can get powdered, or even liquid, feed at the grocery store. But you can also make your own pretty easily. Just boil 1 part sugar to 4 parts water and let it cool. Store it in the fridge. Fill your feeder about half full, try to clean it with hot soapy water once a week or so..... Also, stay away from red dye, it can be harmful to some hummer species, I forget why at the moment. And NEVER EVER use honey in your feed. I know, it sounds odd, honey should be such a natural source of food for them. However, honey can VERY QUICKLY ferment in your feeder and kill your hummers. *They don't hold their liquor well ;D

Here's some fun hummer trivia:

  • The oldest historical mention of hummingbirds likely dates back to the Taino Native Americans, who were reportedly the first humans to greet Columbus when he landed in America. The Taino believe that hummingbirds are the spreaders of life on Earth, and their warriors were known as Colibir, or Hummingbird warriors, because they are a peaceful bird that will defend their territory with the heart of an eagle.

  • The hummingbird is so small, that an insect, the Praying Mantis is its natural enemy.

  • Hummingbirds can't walk.

Enjoy :0)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Suddenly bursting at the seems....

Wow, this has been some crazy spring, huh? It took forever to get the ambient temperature in the greenhouse up and then stable. But now things are growing everywhere!!! The following is a list of what is currently available for delivery from the greenhouse here at the farm. After each type of plant is the size. 3" = 3" deep pot, round or square; 4" or 5" = that depth of square pot; pp = 4 plant pony pack.

African daisy - 4" & 5"
White Alyssum and Purple-flowering Alyssum - pp
Snow-in-summer - 4"
Gladiolus, peach or yellow - 1 gallon round
California Poppy, mixed colors - 4"
Parsley, curly leaf - 3"
Tomato, Rutgers (canning) - 3"
Tomato, Rainbow Heirloom (slicer) - 3"
Parsley, Flat Leaf - 3"
Cucumber, pickling - pp
Tomato, yellow pear (yummy!!) - pp
Hollyhock, mixed colors - 3"
Calendula - pp
Tomato, Brandywine (slicer) - pp
Pepper, Anaheim (great for salsa) - pp
Pepper, California wonder (bell) - pp
Tomato, San Marzano (paste) - pp
Tomato, 4th of July (early slicer) - pp
Basil, sweet - pp
Chives, garlic - 3"
Dill, Mammoth - 3" and pp
Thyme - 3"
Savory - 4"
Flax, Scarlet - 3" (great low-water annual that produces tons of small red flowers almost all summer, sun-lover)
Oregano - 3"
Spearmint - 3"
Thyme, Creeping - 3"
Chamomile, German - pp
Cabbage, Green - pp
Cabbage, Red - pp
Cauliflower - pp
Broccoli - pp
Rhubarb - 1 gallon round
Ornamental Grass, Bunny Tails - 3" (cute little annual bunch-grass, 18" tall or so, sun lover)
Ornamental Grass, Pony Tails - 3" (24" tall or so, will give movement to your landscape with the slightest of breezes)
Tomato, Chocolate Cherry (cherry) - pp
Tomato, Roma (paste) - pp