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June Diary Entries

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Monday, June 1, 1998

Dad rented a tiller today (I guess they decided spending $30 was better than having a permanent dirt hole in the yard) and my wonderful little brother tilled for me since I was in class and working all day (my first day of work at Borders Bookstore, actually). So everything is ready for planting, which is fabulous because the seedlings are really ready to me moved. I'll probably do it on Friday or Saturday, since I'm occupied with work and my 2-week anthropology class for the rest of the week.

June 3, 1998

I didn't work on my garden directly today at all, as my day was spent in class, at the doctor's office, and at Borders for my second day of training. However I was excited to find a book entitled The Ultimate Sunflower Book, by Lucy Peel, on the gardening shelf. I took advantage of one of the employee perks, which is the ability to borrow books from the store, and so I will probably be able to use some of the information in it for this site.

June 4, 1998

Well, I was planning on transplanting at least some of my sunflowers into the patch of garden which John tilled for me. However today happens to be the chilliest day on record since I got here. I'm a bit anxious about transplanting them soon, as I know they are getting to big for the small peat pots I have them growing in.

June 6, 1998

I was rather bitter about going to work today. Not because I don't like it ~ in fact, I feel as though I have been handed the perfect job. All I have to do is interact with books and people who like books all day. But today was so perfect. It wasn't nearly-cold, the way it was yesterday and the day before, neither was it almost three digit temperatures. Perfect gardening weather. Definately not ideal for an inside job.

I worked until seven o' clock in the evening and when I got home it had cooled off considerably but it was still light enough to do some planting. I spent quite a long time deciding where the different types sunflowers should be placed (although I had been mentally planning out the patch of garden for at least a week now. It proves to be a much better way to pass the time before falling asleep than counting backwards from 100). I got most of them in before it got too dark, though.

Even the worms seemed to have taken a hiatus, which I sincrely appreciated. While I do want them to help out in the garden, the less personal contact I have with them the better. I still have to plant the Paul Bunyan kind and another variety (the name of which escapes me at the moment) in the side yard garden tomorrow afternoon. I also have a number of seedlings left over which I imagine I'll plant in the front of the house to augment the Mammoth Russian.

Tuesday, June 9, 1998

It's been a busy few days in the sunflower vein. Sunday I transplanted the rest of my seedlings into the main garden on the side of the house. I also planted some leftover ones in the front of the house and three Lemon Queens around the bird bath in the back yard. John and I went to see The Truman Show that night, and afterwards we stopped by the Wal-Mart garden center to look for stakes for some of my taller flowers. The only ones they had were plastic and they were $.75 for really short ones, so we took a pass on that. I did, however, get some more sunflower seeds (my mother is going to kill me). As I have done more research I've come across some other common varieties which I'd like to try out, so I bought Sunshine and Moonwalker seeds, as well as another packet of Sunspot, since I ran out of those. John picked up a packet of Taiyo seeds as well, and I bought those, although I'm not farmiliar with that variety. Afterwards we ate a very neat Chinese/Thai restaurant, and my fortune cookie told me that I "strive for self improvement." Even fortune cookies seem to be picking up on the language of pop psychology.

Yesterday I planted the new seeds in the peat pots which were leftover. I also planted some more herbs: mint, oregano and cilantro. I was a little less careful in planting this time around, because I don't really need to have more sunflowers. In fact, finding a place to put them will be a challenge (nonetheless I bought more seeds today....but I'll get to that later). I also scattered some Lobella seeds along the border of my garden. I'm well aware that it's too late to be planting perinneals, but I figured it was worth a shot. The Lobella is a gorgeous blue flower and I'm sure it would contrast really well with the yellows and oranges of the sunflowers. I'll have to start everything earlier next year and do a wildflower border. Yesterday I also went by Treescapes, the local nursery, to pick up a bottle of Ro-Pel, which is supposed to keep the rabbits from eating my flowers. I don't mind if they much on a leaf or two here and there, but some animals ate three whole seedlings out of the first six I transplanted to the front of the house. I hate to spray chemicals on things, but I have do do something....I also checked on stakes, but they were out of them.

I just got home from Builder's Square where I finally found some good bamboo stakes (25 4' stakes for $2.50 ~ what a deal!) Before I go to work tonight I'll stake some of the taller seedlings. It really stormed Sunday night ~ the night after I planted everything in the ground ~ and I'm concerned about the larger seedling's ability to stay standing in that kind of weather. Also, they were having a half off sale on Burpee seeds at Builder's Square, so I bought Cutting Gold and Mammoth seeds. God help us all.

I have taken to going outside and watering my seedlings in my nightgown and Speedo sandals, first thing in the morning before I get ready for school. When they were all in peat pots or the terracotta pots, I'd just use a pitcher, but I've been using a hose since I put them in the garden. I get a lot more wet, but it certainly is more fun. :-)

Thursday, June 11, 1998

This afternoon we're leaving for Dallas, where we'll be celebrating my mom's parents' fify-fifth wedding anniversary at my aunt and uncle's. I'm a bit worried about leaving the sunflowers here without anyone to water them, but I'm hoping that the weather will cooperate and rain. Dad and I are driving back on Sunday, so we won't be gone too terribly long anyway. I did spray the seedlings with the animal repellent yesterday, as rabbits had already consumed a few of the plants, particularly the Sunspots.

I am kind of happy to be away from the garden and the computer for a few days, as I'll have plenty of time in the car to do some of the sunflower research I've been meaning to get to with the books I checked out of the library. Between the web page and the garden, not to mention work and school, I haven't done much with that.

Sunday, June 14

Dad and I drove back from Dallas this afternoon. I was really anxious about how the sunflowers would have survived the weekend, and was happily surprised to find that, without my constant hovering, they did just fine. In fact, they seemed to have grown a couple of inches in my absence. All of the seeds I planted before I left have sprouted also, save one Moonwalker. Even my tomato plants bore their first tiny green fruit over the weekend. I imagine my garden and plants were relieved to have a break from my constant "loving."

It was still light when we got home, so I spent about an hour staking 25 of the largest sunflower plants. I used the four foot bamboo rods I found at Builder's Square and some green cord I found in the garage. Apparently the worst thing you can do (according to the gardening books) is to tie plants with something rough or coarse. A definite no-no. The string I found didn't seem to be too coarse, as varieties of string go, but to be safe I tied the plants loosely to the stakes. As a result the cord sometimes slides all the way down, like a Catholic girl's knee socks. On the whole the operation seems to be working well, though.

Monday, June 15, 1998

After school and before heading to work I managed to plant a few more seedlings from the packets of Cutting Gold and Mammoth Sunflowers I bought. That brings my total to 165 varieties of sunflowers. It's getting a bit late to plant sunflowers; according to my Sunflower Production Handbook, sunflowers can be planted from early May to Mid June in Kansas. So this is probably going to be my last batch. As I've run out of peat pots and the terra cotta pots are all being used for herbs, I used a bunch of plastic dixie cups I found in the trunk of my car (they were leftover from the move. My mother, who flew down to Tallahassee to help with the last of the packing and driving back, insisted on packing everything, including half-empty bottles of various cleaning products and plastic dixie cups).

In addition to the last two varieties, I planted a few more Teddy Bears and Sunspots (dwarf varieties) to keep in pots on the patio. For experimentation's sake I also included one each of Autumn Beauty, Lemon Queen, Vanilla Ice and Velvet Queen. I'll see how they do in pots.

My latest planting brought my total sunflower potential to just over 100. That's what I'm aiming for: 100 sunflowers this summer.

Thursday June 18, 1998

On Wednesday, my mother and John drove back from Dallas with my grandparents. I suppose if there is such thing as a gardening gene, I inherited mine from my grandfather, who is 85 and, for as long as I can remember, has been gardening a patch of land across the street from his old employer, Nazareth Lutheran Church in Hopewell, Virginia. He retired from Nazareth before I was born and has gradually been cutting back on the size of the garden, but preaching and gardening are two things he has had a difficult time giving up; he still grows his tomatoes and strawberries and preaches every other Sunday in Meherin, Virginia.

Although my grandfather is the gardener of the family, my grandmother offers more advice on the subject. So far I have been advised as to where I should plant my remaining seedlings (at the edge of out property in the back yard), growing potatoes (she cut some eyes out of some potatoes for me to plant), and the general worthlessness of gardening books and the instructions on seed packets. Although their misunderstanding of my sunflower habit stands between us ("why so many?"), conversations on gardening with my grandparents have been a blessing, since as we all get older has become harder to relate to one another.

Sunday, June 20, 1998

The wind in Kansas is extraordinary. It regularly blows hard enough to send a small child, and certainly house pets, airborne for a few seconds. At least, that's how it seems as I lean against the wind while treking around the house, in the process of watering various things. Kansas don't view the wind quite the way I do, apparently. I was talking to a woman at work the other night about the recent awful weather, and she commented that it had cooled down some (it was 10 p.m.) and there was a nice breeze. The "breeze" turned out to be strong enough to turn my hair into a mass of tangles which redefined the meaning of the word "disarray."

The heat has also been formidable. Yesterday it was 107 degrees, and even the winds didn't lessen the potential for heat stroke. I have enjoyed the blistering heat and gusting winds, as long as I am in the appropriate state of semi-dress and am lugging my watering pitcher around the house or have a hose handy.

My sunflowers have stood the heat well, as long as I water them a little every morning. If I don't. the seedlings are wilting by afternoon time, although a dash of water perks them up quite a bit. Still, I have lost several seedlings to the heat and drought. The plants are supposed to be drought-resistant, but I don't think anything could survive in the weather we've been having.

Monday, June 21, 1998

Working at a bookstore with my 33% employee discount has afforded me the opportunity to combine an old passion and a new one: gardening books. From the first week I began working there, I started on my gardening library. I have mostly been buying books of essays on gardening and first-person accounts. After each purchase (three new ones tonight-ouch) I affix a sticker which reads "From the Gardening Library of:" to the front cover, fill in my name, and add the latest acquisition to the neat line on my desk. My favorites so far are Smith0 and Hawkin's beautiful The Book of Outdoor Gardening and The Gardener's Gripe Book by Abby Hawkins. The last is a wonderful book for less-than-perfect gardeners who love the pastime nonetheless. Adams recounts her gardening successes and (many) failures with humor and relish.

Thursday, June 24, 1998

I have recently drawn some conclusions about the methods which I used to start off my sunflowers.
By far the most successful means of beginning my seedlings has been planting them in the terra cotta pots or the small plastic ones my mother had leftover from planting this year. Although transplanting the seedlings from these containers was rather a pain, and I was always concerned as to whether or not I was messing up the roots, I think that in the case of sunflowers, it's worth the risk.

I planted many of the seedlings in peat pots, because it was both economical and the pots are easy to transplant-just drop them right into the ground and pack the dirt around them. However, sunflower roots grow quite rapidly, and I don't think the peat pots gave them enough room. I'm also somewhat doubtful on the question of how long it takes for the pots to disintegrate after planting and so give the roots the ability to expand.

Surprisingly enough, the plastic dixie cups worked quite well, though not as well as my terra cotta and plastic pots. I poked holes in the bottoms with a pen and so far so good. They'll be ready to transplant fairly soon. The neat thing about them is that you can see the expanding roots on the sides.

I have also planted a number of the Sunspot variety directly into the ground, as the rabbits seem to like this kind the best and a number of them were eaten whole. They came up just as quickly as the ones in the peat pots and other planting apparatus I used, and they won't have to suffer the trauma of transplantation-not to mention I saved all the time of potting each seed and watering them individually every day.

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