Monday, May 31, 2010

I can't believe another week has gone by. I ended up in overtime at work, something that very rarely happens, so my little garden has been a bit neglected lately. Still, here's an update.

The biggest news is that I somehow managed to plant a cucumber seedlings in the row of squash and zucchini seedlings. I think it's a cucumber plant, anyway. It's flowering, even! I'm not quite sure how they got mixed together (I thought it was just a weird growing zucchini plant for awhile!), and even more, I'm not quite sure why the cucumber seedling in the pretty crappy clay soil, that likely got it's roots disturbed pretty well when I planted it, is growing WAY faster than the cukes that are in an SWC, where they were direct-seeded.

I'm still going back and forth on what to do with it. I want to leave it alone, because it's doing so well, but it's sitting right in front of my front door, where there's really nowhere to trellis it.

This is the biggest zucchini. Or crookneck squash. One of the two. Apparently I was drunk when I was planting this row, so I won't be placing bets on the veggies that will grow out of these plants! I'll do a much better job labeling things next year.

Tomatoes are still going strong!

Amish Paste

Bonny Best


Lida (Ukranian)

Pink Ponderosa (first appearance on the blog - first fruit on the plant!)

Illini Star (also a first appearance on the blog/first fruit.)

Tamina, still fruiting like gangbusters, but no ripe ones yet.

And this is what happened to the mutant flower that turned into the mutant tomato. I finally took pity on the poor thing and let the little princess yank it.

I put some of my tomato plants that were still waiting on buckets, into the ground. Maybe what I thought was crappy clay soil is actually decent stuff, based on what that cucumber is doing! I think I have about 10 more, but I keep going back and forth on where to put them, so there are a couple out by the street, a couple by the driveway, and a couple on the OTHER side of the driveway, by the slowly-getting-smaller pile o' mulch. It'll be a little experiment, so I'll know where I want to put everything next year.

I also got my Amish Pie Pumpkin seedlings into a hill of mostly composted manure, and they seem to be very, very happy there. Next up are the watermelon seedlings, and the rest of the tomatoes.

It's been hot and humid, but not a lot of rain this past week. This week, every day has a slight chance for rain, so hopefully that'll get some of these guys going!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Garden Update

Whew - it is HOT outside! It's been pretty toasty all week, and we got up to 90 today. BEFORE Memorial Day. I still haven't plugged in the air conditioning units yet...holding out until it's desperately necessary! (I came REALLY close today.) It's days like these that I wish that I had a fenced in yard. A privacy fenced-in yard. Preferably behind my house, because my across-the-street neighbor is on a hill that's probably 25 feet above my house, so there wouldn't be much privacy in the front. And then I'd need all the trees in the backyard down. Because I'd like to garden in my swimsuit, with the sprinkler going.

A girl down the street lays in her front yard in her swimsuit while her kids play, and she is in a much higher trafficked area than my part of the street. Still, she's laying, not moving around. I can't wait until Memorial Day finally gets here, so the pool at the gym will open up and I can start to even out my farmer (gardener?) tan.

And in unrelated news, I somehow came in contact with poison ivy. I'm not sure if it was from my yard or not, although I did get it last year. I am a part-time mail carrier, and I thought one of the boxes had something that looked poison ivy-ish to me on it the other day. Add the big patches of welts to the massive amount of mosquito bites I ALWAYS get, and I always scratch them until they bleed, and my arms and legs look like I have the bubonic plague. No wonder I don't have a boyfriend. I have been using calamine lotion and hydrocortisone like crazy, but it just feels SO much better when I'm scratching it. I won't be able to get to the doctor until Wednesday at the earliest, but if it's still bad by then, I'm begging for a prescription.

Anyway, the garden has been kicking into high gear, loving this deliciously hot weather. Here are some highlights -

My sugar snaps, on the whole, are pretty anemic looking, but they were kind of an afterthought this year (since the squirrels stole the first round that I planted), and they're in the worthless front bed, just because I wasn't quite sure where to put them, and I wasn't quite sure if I should just let that bed lasagna itself, or attempt to grow something in the lasagna. I think they're anemic looking because it's probably pretty hot in root-land. Still the ones that have survived are flowering and producing. These two pods didn't even make it inside the house.

The zucchini plant is growing like gangbusters. The crookneck squash plants next to it around growing as tall, but they look like they're going to start flowering soon. They only have maybe 4 true leaves, so it seems strange to me that they'd be flowering already. One of the vendors at the farmer's market had baby crookneck squash for sale today, so maybe it's just a result of the weather.

Yes, the yard behind it is a mess. My lawnmower broke this week. And the kids' toys are EVERYWHERE. And the front yard is a work-in-progress that likely won't be finished until next year. Slow and steady...

Now that I have sluggo'd the bean bed, the garden beans and soybeans are coming along nicely. I can't wait to make fresh edamame instead of the frozen stuff!

And in tomato news, we have an explosion of growth.

Amish Paste

Tommy Toes

Lida Ukranian

The unknown with the first fruit. My best guess is that this is another Tamina, because it's got the same potato leaves, and is fruiting at the same time. Seems like I ended up with more Tamina plants than anything else. Hope they taste good!



This was one of those weird blooms that looked like a bunch of flowers fused together. It's now growing a mutant tomato. I know some people just pick these off to allow for the rest of the plant to use the energy to make regular fruit, but it's kind of fun to watch something out of the ordinary.

On the agenda for this week:

Get the rest of the 20ish tomato plants into the ground. (I can't ever seem to catch the bakery when they have buckets, so I'm just going to hope that I can grow these guys in the ground.) I've never been successful with in-ground tomatoes, only container plants. We'll see how it goes.

Transplant the Amish Pie Pumpkin seedlings to their permanent home.

My Jack be Little Seedlings are also up, and they need to move to their permanent home for the season as well. I'm thinking I'm going to trellis those on a cattle panel, since they are small, with luffa on the other side. The cattle panel will wait for another day.

I want to try to get my hands on a rhubarb rhizome somewhere locally, since I know it can't be harvested in it's first year. I figured I'd let it go this year so I can be eating it next year. I also want to get some ollas to try with my in-ground plants, since I've been watering like crazy and my rainwater harvesting system is likely going to have to wait until next year. Our area isn't exactly known for it's variety of gardening stuff, so I think I'll end up doing a scavenger hunt in Atlanta when I head down there in July.

It's supposed to be a relatively dry week, but staying toasty. I brought my worm bin inside, because I'm worried about them getting cooked. They got their first watermelon rind today, and are in worm heaven.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

There's Good News and There's Bad News

Let's do the bad news first, okay?

SIGH. I found some in the bean bed too. Break out the Sluggo.

Now for the good news...

The first round of anemic snap peas, that I was pretty sure that I killed, are not only flowering...

...but I found a couple of pods on them too!

Speaking of flowers, check out my orange bell pepper plant.

And in the new growth report of the day, I FINALLY got some Amish Pie Pumpkin seeds to germinate. I tried them with the paper towel in the baggie method, I tried them in little seedling pots, and I gave it one last shot in the reused grapes container. Since these particular seeds were REALLY hard to find, because of the bad pumpkin season last year, I was going to be really upset if all of my seeds were duds.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

May 16th Update

Yesterday, the weathermen, er, weatherPEOPLE, were all freaking out and saying that we were going to have massive storms, hail, flooding, the end of times! I don't know if the problem is that our stations cover such a wide viewing area, or if our weather people are just not good at their jobs (I am reminded by the horrible predicting...and not predicting...of snow this past winter), but when you are a gardener, you rely on relatively accurate weather predictions. If the weather calls for rain, I'm not wasting tap water on my plants.

So, I worked eight hours on Saturday, and kept hearing the weatherman on the radio predicting scattered, isolated storms. Having worked in radio, I know that the weather predictions for the weekend are taped sometime on Friday, so the taped weather prediction couldn't see the not-a-cloud-in-the-bright-blue-sky weather that happened all of Saturday afternoon. I guess the storms, if there were any, were very scattered, and isolated to areas outside of our county.

I picked up the kids from the babysitter and we decided to play in the yard for awhile. At about seven, there were a couple of rumbles of thunder, four drops of rain....aaaand that's about it. I was kind of annoyed, since I've got plants in the clay that gets scary after a day or two of 90 degree heat with no rain. (I think there were reports of hail two counties away. So technically, they were right, but maybe they don't realize that most of their audience lives close to the city.)

This morning, it was kind of dreary looking outside. We have a 1st birthday party to go to at a playground today, and the little one's mom said we'd be partying rain or shine. (My fifth birthday party was at a park, and I distinctly remember pretend 'fishing' with a stick off the edge of the pavilion, where the water was puddling up. Such is an outdoor birthday in Florida in the afternoon on any given day.) I was hoping, for her sake, since this is her first child, and your first child's first birthday is a big deal to you as a mom, that it wouldn't rain. On the other hand, I was hoping that rain would fall at some point, so my plants would be happy.

We just got about an hour's worth of a good, steady rainfall. We'll bring a few old towels to the playground, to mop off the slides for the kids, but all will be well in party land, and all is well in garden land as well. Here's some proof -

Tomatoes are still going strong.

Tamina (two different plants)

The unknown first tomato... has some company higher up on the plant.



Tommy Toes, making the first appearance on my blog.

Cucumbers, with their new mulch.

Remember that double dug "bed" for my squash? Here's what they look like now that they've been mulched.


Orange Bell is growing a few flowers!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Things are going in full swing around here. The weather is still a big ol' mess - freezing to broiling in two days or less - but the plants don't seem to mind much.

Blueberries are filling out. (The one with the beads on it has been decorated by my 4 year old.) They are in 5 gallon buckets right now, but I think next year I'm going to move them to the ground. Anyone know when would be a good time to do that? (After I pick the berries? Sometime in the fall? Before/after winter? Next Spring?)

Remember that green strawberry I showed you last week? Something ate it, and it wasn't a human. I'm kind of depressed. I have the stuff to make a cover, I just didn't get around to putting it up. There are some deep in the container that are ripening, and the birds can't see that they are red. (Or at least, they haven't caught THIS one yet!)

My peppers are also chugging along. Here is the orange looks like it'll be flowering in the next week or two. (Those 90 degree days interspersed with the random cold ones must make for happy peppers?)

...and the sweet banana got moved into his permanent pot for the season. He's just blowing in a little bit of wind. That plastic container in the background is holding some soybean seeds. It originally held cupcakes for a child in my daughter's daycare class. I watched as her teacher started walking it to the trashcan, and then I laid claim on it before it was tossed.

Speaking of reusing plastic containers, here's an old strawberry container, now holding Black Seeded Simpson lettuce. What I find odd is that this lettuce was seeded after the stuff in the clay pots and in the hugelkultur beds, and it's grown like a weed. I thought maybe the hot temperatures were the problem with the lettuce (and the pots and the hugelkultur bed are in a part of the yard that gets dappled shade throughout the day), but that's not the case, I guess. Live and learn. This stuff will get split up and moved to larger containers sometime this week.

The basically worthless hugelkultur beds -

That's celery in the lower right, and romaine lettuce sproutlings that are probably a month old, and haven't gotten any bigger.

I gave up on the second one, and transplanted the swiss chard into it. Hoping it'll be happier there.

Here are the cukes, still snug in their SWC, and growing, slowly but surely.

My second round of snap peas...since the squirrels and/or the birds annihilated my first round. These will be transplanted...somewhere. Haven't quite figured that out yet. It's my understanding that they don't like heat, so I'm debating whether to put them in the part of the yard that doesn't get the lion's share of full sun. Although, when I tried that with the lettuce, well, obviously it's not working.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Double Digging, Double the Pain

I bought my house late last summer, and spent the better part of the time getting unpacked and moved in (not so easy to do with a 4 year old and a toddler running around, and working from home at night), so I didn't do a whole lot of gardening. I inherited a rather large bed in the front of the house that held lots of nondescript bushes, some flowers and other things (probably just really big weeds) by the mailbox, really ugly evergreen bush/tree things by the street, and a backyard full of pine trees. The front yard had several bald spots (actually, by the time I closed on the house, the front yard looked like an Amazon rainforest, and the backyard, well, it took my father three or four passes with some heavy equipment to locate the ground.) So the front yard is grass, spotty, sort of. And the backyard has this pervasive weed that I've been told I will never get rid of, so it's worthless to even try.


And under all of that mess? Clay. Rock solid clay.

I didn't think to throw down a lasagna bed in some of these places before winter hit. The one thing I did learn was that my backyard only got spotty sun, and chasing the spots of sun around with the containers got very old very quickly. So I knew my garden was going to be in the front yard this year. (Sorry neighbors.)

Over the (unseasonably cold, especially in a house with only space heaters for a heat source) winter, if there was a relatively nice day, I'd go out and dig up a bush or two. It usually took at least two hours with a shovel, an ice pick, heavy duty pruners, and a heck of a lot of muscle to yank these things out one by one. (I'd shovel around until I got stuck, poke with the ice pick to find the big roots, clip them with the pruners, and work my way around the bush until I could just muscle the thing out.)

What I discovered, while I was doing this, was that the previous owners had, at one point, laid down plastic weed barrier. Which was now brittle, and every time I hit it with the shovel, it would break off into chunks. They also, at some point, mulched with rocks. A lot of rocks. It's really no fun to be digging with a shovel and crash into more rocks than dirt. Every time I did, I'd curse the previous owners. Loudly.

Sometime in the spring, I decided that the front bed was going to be a wash this season. I built up the barrier around it, and it's just going to be a living lasagna bed, doing nothing but lasagna-ing, the whole season. It's not worth fighting with all of the rocks and the clay. I planted a cover crop of mustard greens on one part of it, but I'm slowly working my way across.

Actually, I've since decided that I'm going to attempt to put my watermelons in a corner of that bed, and give them the whole bed to roam in. Or I might change my mind on that later.

Anyway, so there are other parts of the yard that I wanted to grow things in. I don't want my entire front yard to be the land of the living buckets. And dirt for those buckets just isn't cheap. Plus, someone told me that clay is actually really good for veggies to grow in. I read up about double digging, working organic matter into clay, waited until it rained - a lot, and then got to work.

So, I've double dug an area along the front walk up to my front door, about two feet by twelve feet. It's where my crookneck squash and zucchini plants are going to live. I worked some composted manure into the soil, and buried some veggie scraps in between the transplanted seedlings, to encourage worm activity. The seedlings were happy to get out of their styrofoam cup cribs, and into the big kid bed of real earth.

Zucchini, looking kind of sad, but knowing zucchini, I'm sure it'll perk up in a day or two.

One of the crookneck squash plants

So far, I think I have six total (three crookneck, three zucchini, all heirloom/open pollinated seed), which is obviously WAY too much for one adult, one 4 year old who refuses to eat most vegetables, and a bottomless pit of a 2 year old boy. I foresee lots of drop offs at work and daycare, and the kids' Saturday sitter loves zucchini. (We actually started her a seed this week, but have been informed that there are dogs in her neighborhood who like to eat flowers, so they aren't sure if it'll work there. If not, I'm sure I'll have plenty to share.)

I also read somewhere that beans grow well in junk for soil, and actually help to improve the soil. Since I have a ton of soybeans from the NSRL to "research", I have been double digging an area next to my front door, for beans. Regular garden beans have gone along the edge that leads up to the landing (with a built in "trellis"), and soybeans/edamame are going in the rest of the space.

Some of the soybean sprouts -

I've been covering the individual seeds with 2-liter bottle tops as a cloche (and protecting from squirrels and birds), and that seems to have worked well. I'm slowly working my way across this bed. Hoping to grow enough edamame to last through the winter.