Monday, April 27, 2009

Mish-Mash Monday

There's a few things I keep meaning to show or tell you, but I keep getting distracted. Hence (ta da!) Mish-Mash Monday (A Collection of Random Thoughts). Feel free to participate, too!

First off, a few random photos! My round-lobed Hepatica bloomed a little while ago!!!!! I had looked and looked for it, and looked again, and nothing. Then, BOOM!, all of a sudden there it was. Noogie, isn't it darling? The sharp-leaf Hepatica is now up, too, but no flowers yet.

Also out of nowhere, my snake's head fritillary popped up! (Double noogie!)

The Pulmonaria have really opened up a lot, but they'll look even more blue and moundy in mid May!

I keep a bucket in my bathtub to catch the water as it warms up (I then use it in the garden or, in the winter, put it in my washing machine). Both James and Fiona love drinking from it. Fiona is smaller and very light on her feet, so she can sit on the edge of the bucket without knocking it over, even when very little water is in it. I noticed her doing this the other day, with her head way down near the bottom of the bucket getting a drink. Of course I found this pose so cute I got the camera. Of course, being a cat, Fiona did not cooperate and lifted her head up. But check out her tongue! HA! A cute shot after all. Fiona, incidentally, is not a big purrer, but she does purr when she drinks!

Next, I was so tickled that my students took to a little game I made for them in a recent composting class I taught at Washtenaw Community College. The idea came to me last year, seemingly out of the blue. Two hours is a long time to sit and listen to someone talk, so I try to break up the class somehow. I always welcome comments as I go (it's more interactive), and I try to have lots of things to pass around. Even if it isn't a hand's on class, I think looking at something (feeling/smelling compost) helps connect people to the idea and increases the chances of them doing it later at home. I cover a bit of the science of soils/compost and then get practical. But of course the biggest question is what to compost. I explain about browns and greens and give examples. Then I break them into small groups and give each group three envelopes marked browns, greens, and not compostable, plus about 30 pieces of paper with items written on them (such as grass clippings, shredded leaves, wood ash, chocolate, polyester pants, and 33%) that they have to, as a group, put in the correct envelope.

I didn't know how adults would react to this, but they seem to love it! They speak to one another and bring up good points and questions for discussion. You can see they are so engrossed in the task that they didn't even notice the pesky instructor taking photos for her blog, even if said pesky instructor announced that she was doing so!

Speaking of compost, I read somewhere that spent grains and liquids left over from beer making are great for compost. Well, I emailed the local brewing club and I got some good stuff. One gentleman, Bob, brought me a large ziplock baggie of trub (that's the nice smelling, gooey sediment left over after fermenting). It contains yeast, which kick-starts the composting process. I was so excited to add it to my bin that I forgot to take a photo!

Mike of the Ypsilanti Brewing Company gave me several other leftover plant materials (greens) for my bin:

...20 gallons of used malted barley (still warm, mmmmm)

...three bags of hops that had gone too moldy for brewing

...a bit of leftover liquid from barley distilling mixed in with one bucket of barley, and...

...a hops starter plant! Ooh, look at its rhizomes. I have no idea where I'm going to plant it (full sun with room/support to grow to 12 feet or higher), but I'm going to plant it!

Here is the lovely barley on top of my compost bin (which at this time of year has mostly chopped leaves from last fall) before I mixed it in.

On Friday, I volunteered at the annual Washtenaw County Conservation District Tree Sale. All kinds of trees are laid out in a long pole barn and when people come to pick up their orders, volunteers fill them. This involves a bit of walking and an awful lot of bending over, which isn't really a big deal, but getting up again is! Thanks to Linda who took this photo (Genevieve, note my purple gloves!). [ Update: I just learned that 50,000 trees and shrubs were sold in 439 orders--and I'm sure I filled at least 20 of those orders! :) ]

And finally, some winter-sown babies are up! Quite a few actually, in alphabetical order: bean, borage, catchfly, Centaurea (two kinds, one from Frances), chives, Clarkia, cosmos (from Tina), green pepper, hollyhock (pink from Tina and yellow from Beckie & Rose), hummingbird vine (from Adrienne), hyacinth bean (from Randy), Joseph's coat, lupine, Mexican hat coneflower (from Randy), Mexican sunflower (from Adrienne), nasturtium, pasque flower, snapdragon, tomatoes (Gajo de Melon, Ukrainian Heart, Ladino di Panocchio, Red Russian, and Canestrino di Lucca), and zinnia.

Yep, I did say tomatoes. Aren't they cute?!

The yellow hollyhock (which may be Russian hollyhock, Alcea rugosa) has its first true leaf!

And look at the sweet true leaves of lupine, and how crazy full the catchfly is (tiny seeds; I have to thin out). And the Mexican hat in the foreground is so sweet, too!

In winter sowing, you don't use artificial lighting or temperature to coax seeds along; they come up on their own natural schedule, which means like plants sprout at like times (within normal individual variation!), regardless of when they were sown. For example, I saw the tiniest seed leaves on April 2 for both Clarkia amoena (godetia), sown on January 3, and Clarkia speciosa 'Pink Buttercups', sown on March 17.

Likewise, I saw the first seedlings for two kinds of Centaurea cyanus on that same day: "dark burgundy" from GardenBabe sown on January 3 and 'Black ball' from Frances sown on March 17. Check out 'Black ball' yesterday — its roots are really developed and it's more than ready to be transplanted. It's by far my biggest seedling.

I have four trays and one milk jug with seedlings, which have remained uncovered overnight for the last few days, and five trays and one jug that remained covered at all times since no seedlings have sprouted in them yet. I'll post more progress as time goes on.

For now, thanks for stopping by and I wish you a happy Mish-Mash Monday!


  1. Wow, where to start? I love the game you made up for your compost class and what a great idea to get some free greens and browns from locals. How thrifty and helpful!

    Your pulmonaria and all the flowers are looking great. They do sometimes just appear overnight.

    I will post on my winter sown seedlings soon. Some successes, some failures. I just potted up some colombines yesterday. The clarkia I already planted out. I think it came from Texas though. I am really looking forward to seeing all the plants grow and bloom. Your stuff sure shows your green thumb!

  2. Wow what a the time I reached the end I forgot the beginning...that is due to my age of course.....

    Love the spring blooms....pulmonaria being one of my favourites....

    Great idea with the compost.....such good recycling....

    I have several hops growing in the garden.....I absolutely love them.......great for covering an ugly fence.......I have two growing up obelisks and they are romping away......

    Great post......

  3. Love the Hepatica, the fritillary look like Tiffany lamps;)

    My barn cats used to balance on the lip of the horse tank and somehow prop their front paws against the sides just above the waterline to drink. Wish I had a photo. They had low pet water bowls but horse water tasted better;)

    Lucky you with all the brewer's left overs. I used to get tons of Starbucks grounds, now they are getting a little lazy and don't want to bother bagging and saving them.

  4. Hi Monica, what a charming mish mash, and noogies to all the babies and kitties too. But what happened to the red hair? I thought we were soul sisters? HA I am really going to try the winter sowing method this fall, saving the clear plastic OJ jugs, our milk comes in yellow plastic to keep out ultraviolet light. I want to ask a compost question, since you are obviously an expert...should I put the old bread, store bought with chemicals, not homemade with all good stuff, in the compost? Will it attract too many critters? Are the chemicals bad for the compost?


  5. Tina,
    I'm thinking of making a similar game for my upcoming containers class. I could print photos of plants on cards and have them decide which go together in a container, based on certain color schemes, etc.! I'm looking forward to your winter sowing photos. Not everything may be up yet, even in your warmer climate!

    I do have a large privacy lattice section that I'll probably use for the hops--I'm just not sure if it gets enough sun. I might train it up some buckthorn instead! (I do have an obelisk, that I never knew what to do with, that I *just* planted a clematis in!

    My cats have *three* water bowls around the house but the bucket is just better! That's too bad about Starbucks; maybe another coffee place will save the grounds for you. If you leave them a container, I think it helps.

    My hair looks brown indoors and reddish brown in the sunshine. Bread is 100% compostable (it would counts as greens). The chemicals really aren't an issue (we're EATING them in the bread itself so it's not like it will be harmful when it breaks down into compost), but wildlife may be an issue so just bury it in the center of the pile. I personally don't have too much bread left over--I freeze half for later use, and any that does go stale, I feed to the never-ending line of duck visitors.


  6. Frances,
    P.S. I'm not familiar with the yellow milk jugs--the containers have to be transparent enough that you can see your thumb through it.

  7. You crack me up, Monica! Nice gloves indeed!!!
    Your compost ladies look so happy. I wish I lived nearby so I could take your class. I got my hort education in the city, so we got the basics down on compost, but they didn't really emphasize it and my knowledge on it is a bit rusty.

  8. I love your mish-mash Monday idea and I soooooo wish the guy who talked to us about compost a couple of weeks ago had come up with your idea. He just spouted at us for a couple of hours :(

    Cats always seem to know when they're about to be photographed don't they? Our 2 are the same as Fiona in that way!

  9. Monica, hello! I am laughing along with you...the getting up part does get to be a problem sometimes...especially from the squat poses! Love your mish-mash of info...lots going on in your garden from the gorgeous Round Leaved Hepatica (it's good to see the early spring bloomers again) to learning about compost! The seedlings are stellar...nice root balls. I babysat someone's seedlings and the experience has almost proved to me that i am trust worthy enough to attempt to grow them for my own garden;) Good info on the milk jug containers...We are supposed to have opaque milk jugs to protect the milk quality but use clearer ones for growing seeds! All this new info is great brain exercise! gail

  10. Glad your Noogies bloomed. I found an amazing clump of Hepatica in a village garden yesterday. Pulmonaria just starting to bloom in the same garden too.

    I think cats won't drink water unless it's a challenge to get to. Mine do the same sort of thing even though there's fresh water in their bowls. And when the do use the odd shaped bowl they have to put their head in the corner where it doesn't fit.

    I'm not classroom tolerant. Two hours and I'd start to compost.

    I too find getting back up harder and harder. Guess that's why I don't bother.

  11. I like the idea of Mish Mash Monday. Your cat is very cute. :)

  12. Monica, love the Mish-Mash Monday. May have to join you in this as I always have a few things I want to share, but not enough to do a post on. What a great idea for composting materials. Good job!! And a freebie plant. Can't wait to see it grow. Your seedlings look wonderful and such a good job of remebering who gave you what. Enjoyed this post so much-it had me smiling all the way through. :)

  13. Love mish-mash Monday...Sounds like a meme to me..LOL..You read my mind. I was thinking that it's time we started to compost here and was looking on line at some information about it...Michelle

  14. Sounds like your compost is going to be quite rich with all that good stuff you are adding to it. I love the idea of the compost game! It helps people think of what they can add to their compost that they didn't think of before.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  15. This is too cool! I'm a new reader, but as an America living in Tibet right now (where it's still quite chilly and only a few blades of grass poking up) I love reading your blog to hear about your gardening doings.. it attaches me to home!

    You've got creativity and spunk. Keep it up girl!!!

  16. What fun Monica! Mish-Mash Monday would make a good meme. Your winter-sown seedlings look awesomely healthy and happy. I've never tried winter sowing, and am very tempted after following your progress. Basement-sowing has been working well for me, although I do lose a few seedlings to damping-off. I just plant a few extra seeds for insurance. No matter how vigilant I am about removing individual plants as they sprout, a few seem to succumb in the basement.

    Noogies to all your seedlings, blooming things, and of course to bucket-slurping kitties! (Buckets are better than toilets, which my ex-kitties always enjoyed.)

  17. Holy Cow, Monica...what a post!!! I enjoyed every bit of it! I have SO SO much to post, but I procrastinate and don't know where to begin. I guess I should just put it all in ONE mish-mash post, like you have...and just 'get it over with'...ha ha. Hmm, I will consider this!. Meanwhile, I need to go back and re-read your post. My senility has struck again and I can't remember what to comment on...oh boy, old age is a pain! Well, I do see you have successfully sown-and-grown your winter seedlings...congratulations to you. You've been a hard worked! Also you share so much that I can learn from! Thank you for that!

    ...also, I love hepatica and pulmonaria...I SO WANT some Hepatica!!! I haven't had luck with my rhizomes that I planted...I need to order the Whole Plant from somewhere, I think! Also, the kitties are wonderful...I couldn't live without at least ONE! Well...have a wonderful day, Monica...and hope your Spring gets better and, and out of, your garden!!!! Jan

  18. Aren't you just the busy little seed sower! I tried to do some seeds this year and only one peat pod out of the entire tray sprouted. I'm terrible with seeds. :-(--Randy

  19. I've been thinking of doing a mishmash too - so many little odds and ends to share. I loved your post - as an ex teacher I really liked your compost teaching activity. I was in a very informative soils class recently and that was the comment I left for the teacher - more activities to make our brains do a little turning over. I also have winter seedlings coming along nicely and want to post about them.

  20. Hi Monica! What a fun post. :-) I have the checkered lilies (fritillaria) this year for the first time. I planted bulbs last fall. What fun.
    I'm going to do a bit of re-working on my compost pile. I made it with steel fence posts and hardware "cloth" after we moved here 6 1/2 years ago. I accidentally closed one side by wiring the cloth to the center post instead of making it into another doorway (if you can visualize that).

    Anyway, it's been a little wet and drippy this week. I hope to mail you a pkg on Monday. :-)

  21. Oh mish mash Monday I like! I might play that game too! Can I?? We have 2 small cold frames and they are bursting with seedling too. We have planted quite a few things directly into the vege plot and they're doing well too. Here in Ireland it tends to be faily mild, our problem is too much wet. I've just done a post on ferns, you might like to see. Oh, and there's a fairy in it!

  22. You have been a very busy gal! Love the beer compost ... great idea! I know my Pachysandra loves the fallen rotten apples!

  23. Mish-Mash Monday--I love it! I think this is a great idea; I always have so many random thoughts in my head I want to share that this would be a good way to do it. I also have a mish-mash of comments here if you don't mind...

    Ok, Monica, I am convinced I must buy your book! Your seedlings look so much better than mine that have been coddled in my basement under a grow light.

    The photo of Fiona reminds me of the one I took of Tarzan with his tongue out; he and Fiona would probably get along.

    Do you have any close neighbors? I'm just thinking they might be wondering if you are starting a brewery:)

    And I musn't forget--thank you for the PPPP seeds! They arrived on Monday, and I just haven't had the chance to e-mail you yet. I'm going to direct sow them, since I seem to have better luck with that than forced seedlings.

  24. Mish Mash Monday is a great idea. Compost classes are cool. Wish i could grow more here but the wether is so hot and dry it takes a lot of water.

  25. This is a great post. Mom is extremely jealous of your compost! ; )
    Fiona, I can't believe how light you must be not to skip over the bucket! Wow! It's a funny thing that you purr when you drink!
    Purrs, Chilli

  26. Und ich dachte, unser Guinness ist besonders, nachdem ihm laufendes Wasser am Waschbecken am liebsten ist. Koestlich, wie deiner am Kuebelrand balanziert:)
    LG, Bek

  27. Enjoyed your lengthy mish-mash post Monica full of this and that. I must confess that I might be the only person reading it who is unfamiliar with the term 'noogie'. Perhaps you can enlighten me. Your class looks really engrossed in what they are doing ,which is a sign of good preparation and teaching. I wish it was near enough for me to join. Good luck with your hop cutting - I have a golden hop growing over an arch - I like it although it's a bit of a thug :)

  28. Wow, I still can't get over the fact that you really DO winter-sow tomatoes! I am totally trying this next year!!

  29. Wow, a lot going on! May all your work be rewarded with shady walks and more amazing flowers (I so want a fritillaria, but no luck so far).

  30. Liebe Monica, Deine "snake's head fritillary" heißt bei uns "Schachbrettblume". Witzig nicht wahr? Übrigens die Buchshecke, nach der Du fragtest heißt im Englischen "Boxwood". Mein Gott! So viele Sämlinge! Wie fleissig!
    Liebe Grüße von Nicki, Bonnie, Maxi und Birgit from Germany

  31. I've enjoyed your comments on other blogs so I came by. And was richly rewarded! I think the compost game is a great idea, too, people learn so much better when it's not so abstract.

    I'm interested to see your possible A. rugosa seedling - it's one I haven't tried yet - and I'm very interested in your two dark Centaurea cyanus, I hope you'll show the blooms.

    Fabulous compost materials tip, we have microbrews fairly near or used to, I heard a local say they put yeast right into a liquid fertilizer for the garden.

    And a cute cat picture, too! I love watching them perch.