in the garden Archives

May 13, 2005

Planting Bonanza!

I've finally gotten around to planting some edibles in the front yard.

Last week I planted Lumina white pumpkin seed and 3 of the 4 seeds have sprouted. The pic was taken 2 days ago and they're already well on their way to getting their first true leaves established as of today.

Today I planted August Beauty sunflower seed, 3 heirloom tomato plants that are well suited for cooler climates (Black Prince -- from Russia, with dark, smokey flavored fruits, Stupice -- small, red fruits (much like Early Girl), and Striped Roman -- Roma-style red fruits with yellow striping), and Better bell pepper.

I'm gonna try to find a source for a grape tomato plant to round out the selection. I read somewhere that Home Depot may sell a variety of grape tomato. I also want to get ahold of a zuchini seedling so I can grow my own this year to make copius quantities of zuchini bread. Mmmmm... zuchini bread. Ooooh... And Zuchini Lemon muffins. Those are soooo good.

I also have some nasturtium and basil seeds to plant. I think I'm gonna grow the basil in a container. Probably the nasturtiums too, so they don't take over the entire yard.

I'll keep y'all posted on the garden's progress in case I have more produce than we can use. I'd always rather give it away than see it rot.

August 2, 2005

Ah, How Soon They Grow Up...

I've got half a yard full of pumpkin vines. There are eleven pumpkins that look to make it to maturity. I'm very excited about my first crop! According to the seed packet, this variety takes 90 days from seed to harvest. That was 5 days ago! It seems sick and wrong to pick pumpkins in August. Especially since I probably won't have any edible tomatoes until October!!!

Here's a little look at the progress I've seen:

Day 8:

Day 44:

Day 75:

Today (Day 95):

September 14, 2005

Autumn is Nigh

This Sunday brings us the Harvest Moon and next weekend is the local harvest festival (which I'm gonna check out with my mom). Autumn is my very favorite time of year. The extra bit of chill in the night air, the golden light in the late afternoon, the pumpkins and apples (and in our area, cheap, tasty tomatoes!).

Today after work I made my first (likely of many!) trip of the season out to my favorite local apple orchard, Gopher Glen. The drive to the orchard is my favorite part. It is about 2.5 miles of twisty country road through the woods in See Canyon past a couple other orchards. For me it is just as potent a soul soother as going to yoga. Despite the threat of fire, I would *love* to live in the peace and quiet of the woods. I'm such a hobbit in that respect.

My favorite apples from Gopher Glen are their Golden Delicious. If you go to their website and read the description it says "These are not grocery store Goldens" and they're not kidding. They're crisp and sweet (but not too sweet!) and store very well. I also picked up a pound of Galas, which are at the end of their season, and a pound of Jonagold (or was it Jonalicious? Hmmm.). The grower at the orchard was the person who identified the apple tree in our backyard as Red Gravenstein. We took an apple out to them and after it stumped the stand workers they passed the rest of the apple and our phone number on to the grower.

As for my own little harvest, we're still picking zucchini and tomatoes but all the pumpkins and green beans have been picked and the vines have died out and been added to the green waste bin. I ended up with 9 pumpkins from the 4 plants, all harvested in August and currently curing in my sunroom. Next season I'm gonna wait a little longer to plant and plant more than one variety (probably a pie variety, an heirloom like Cinderella, and a jack-o-lantern variety).

Soon I'm going to plant sweet peas and my Meyer lemon tree and fill in the area that I've planned for permanent plants with things like lavender, rosemary, sage and geraniums. I've got some nasturtium seeds that have been put off all summer that I'll likely put in a half barrel. As for veggies, I'm hoping to grow some rainbow chard but that's about all for the cool season food crops.

October 23, 2005

Garden? Or Graveyard!? Muahahahahaha!

This has been a pretty garden themed weekend.

Saturday I went out to a public sale at a wholesale nursery and had a nice chat with the grower and picked up some plants and gourds. After that I drove to Cambria to check out the "Gathering of Gardeners" at Cambria Nursery & Florist. I sat in on a talk on personalizing garden design and had tea & scones at the nursery. They had a lot of really great stuff there. I came home with more plants and more ideas for the front yard.

Since I was still feeling somewhat motivated this morning, I got out the pile of garden plans that I've been drawing up over the past, oh, *year and 9 months* since we pulled out the old front lawn. *FINALLY*, the plan has been refined to the point that I'm happy with it. Mark and I spent at least an hour out in the yard going over it and tweaking it a little bit more and now I'm ready to just get the darn thing started. Of course, now that means it is gonna rain for the next few days despite us only having a 20% chance of rain.

What I did do was buy 15 cubic feet of compost and 140lbs of sand (all on the porch to keep it out of the impending rain) to set the step stones. I also dressed up the yard for Halloween. :) I picked up some foam headstones on sale the other day since we already had a couple mounds in the yard from the veggie gardening. I set those up and cut eyes and a mouth out of a garbage bag to staple to the wine barrel in the yard so it looks like a jack-o-lantern. On Halloween itself, I'm gonna pull out my shepherd's hooks and hang luminarias on them along the edge of the walkway. Oh, and our plastic skeleton, Mike, is hanging on the front door. I love Halloween.

December 14, 2005

Ding-Dong the catnip is dead!

In light of Socrates' recent fight wounds, I decided to remove our large catnip plant from the front yard. It does draw other cats into our yard and Mr. Fatty is *very* territorial. Hell, he thinks he owns our yard and the yards of the houses on either side of ours (much to the chagrin of the feline residents of those houses).

For once the cursed gophers actually helped me out. It turns out the catnip plant was not long for this world anyway because the gophers had eaten most of its root system. No wonder it had been looking rather shabby as of late.

Since the green waste can wasn't totally full, I cleared about a square yard of grass around the perimeter of a half barrel that is acting as a placeholder in the spot where I want to plant apple trees. Since I like Golden Delicious and Mark likes Red Delicious, we're gonna buy two trees from these folks and plant them in a single hole. Though it sounds like I might already be late for this year. I better order my trees soonish.

Things have been rather crappy since my birthday with the flu, the cat's injuries, our refrigerator acting up, and me consequently food poisoning myself by eating something from the fridge that had gotten too warm. Hopefully I can go a week without having a meal that consists solely of saltines and ginger ale. If my horoscope today was any indication, things should be looking up:

SAGITTARIUS November 21-December 20
Nobody likes unpleasant surprises-especially this close to the holidays. Digest what's going down. It leads to a brighter new year.

January 23, 2006

Garden of Eatin'

I planted two apple trees today! One is a Golden Delicious and the other is a Standard Delicious (a grandparent of Red Delicious). They were planted in one hole (which really means 18" apart) so the trees will grow together and we'll have yellow and red apples from what seems to be the same tree. It is going to be hard to wait the 3-4 years to reap our first harvest but I'm sure it will be worth it.

I also planted a Provence Lavender in the corner of the yard bordered by the driveway and the sidewalk. Provence is one of the nicest smelling varieties and I love the dark blue/purple flowers it produces.

I need to keep pulling out the lawn but I also need to get some more plants in to keep the weeds down. I've got 3-4 volunteer tomato plants from last year's crop and 3 volunteer sunflowers. I think I might have finally killed my potted pineapple sage. :( I forgot to water since the last rain and we've been having warm clear days and cold clear nights. I watered it today so we'll see if it bounces back.

I know it is past time for planting citrus but I really want to get my Meyer Lemon in the ground before I kill it too. I need to check my drawing again to refresh my memory on where I had decided to plant it.

Hopefully, this will be the year that our front yard actually starts to look like a garden rather than a mine field!

February 26, 2006

Against the Clock

This morning while Mark snoozed (after coming home at 1am from a friend's birthday party), I set out for the front yard in hopes of making some progress on the yard before the storm hit. Our forecast for the next 7-10 days only has about 2 days without any chance of rain. While that is fantastic for our rainfall levels, it also means another week of getting nothing accomplished garden-wise.

Broadleaf weeds (like dandelion & such) and grass seedlings (from seed that had blown in from other people's yards) were the first to go. I probably got about 50% of it cleared. Then I spread three bags of compost in an effort to help keep the weeds from returning before the rest of the yard can be planted. I fed the citrus trees and took the lights off the meyer lemon (since the chance of frost this week is pretty low).

To my dismay, the half barrels that had been collecting rainwater had also become breeding tanks for mosquitos. I summarily dumped them and squashed the black widow residing on the underside of one. One of the barrels will become home to a New Zealand tea tree (so it doesn't get too big). The other barrel is going to become a fountain once I can find the right parts. We're going to run a pipe up the side (probably 3 feet or so) to hide the return tube and run that into a watering can that pours into the barrel. Preferably, the pump will be solar powered. I haven't yet decided whether or not to get a plastic liner for the barrel. Hopefully the moving water part of the day will keep the mosquitoes at bay. Otherwise, I will also be looking for some kind of mosquito repellant.

My pineapple sage finally found its home in the ground, despite my inability to find the planting drawings. I am pretty distraught about their disappearance, as they had finally been refined to the point that I felt comfortable sticking plants in the ground. They have to be around here somewhere.

Mark had volunteered to build a planter for me to use for growing peas (and sweet peas!) so I talked him into a trip to the hardware store to get the supplies. The first drops of rain fell as we exited the store. The pea planter was nearly finished the last time I went out to the garage. Woohoo! I guess I know what I'll be doing on those 2 days without a rainy forecast!

April 2, 2006

Weed-o-rama! And peas!

I stuffed several stalks of milkweed in the green waste can this morning. They were nearly as tall as me. With the assistance of my garden spade, the shorter stalks were also pulled from their cushy digs in the remaining front lawn.

My shelling and snow peas are doing well. The sprouts are 2-3" tall and it looks like nearly all the seed peas germinated. This kicks extra ass because they were from seed packed for 2005 which I bought in early 2006 from the 4 for $1 basket. That's right. $0.25 a packet for seed originally priced at $1.59.

The sweet peas are just barely starting to sprout. I've only seen one sprout from the "Starry Night" blend but there are at least half a dozen from the "Singin' the Blues" blend. Hopefully, the weather won't turn hot before they get a chance to bloom. I'm not holding my breath though because I waited an awfully long time to plant.

I'm getting an urge to grow my own strawberries this year. Maybe because my favorite grower has stopped growing them. No one else's berries can hold a candle to hers. I already have several of the terracotta strawberry planters (they came with the house). If I can get them cleaned out and filled with fresh soil, our local hardware/garden store has 6 packs of the "Sequoia" variety available.

The big purchase today was the "Zen Arbor" from today's Target ad. It is a cedar arbor that was on sale for $100 (the cheapest arbor we'd liked before seeing this one was twice that). I'll post pics when it has been assembled and installed. It will support the part of our climbing rose that has been reaching into the yard and grabbing at me when I walk by on the step stones. While I was at Target, I also picked up a New Zealand Tea Tree, a big blue watering can, garden gloves, and a UPF 50 bucket hat. It was also a chance to confirm that something roughly 8 feet long will fit in the Prius if I fold down the back seat and flatten out the front seat. :)

Alas, since the clouds have rolled in and my motivation seems to have dried up, there will probably not be any more garden productivity until this next storm has passed.

April 8, 2006

Strawberry Fields, For A While...

OK, maybe not really *fields* per se...

I got it into my noggin that I wanted to plant strawberries so today we went by the hardware store to pick some up and get the cedar fence planks to build my veggie beds (since they were on sale). We arrived to find the parking lot packed to the gills. It turns out that on top of the beautiful weather, everything in the garden department was 20% off today only. Doom was at hand.

We came home with the 16 1"x8"x6' cedar fence boards, hardware cloth (to lay across the bottom to keep the gophers out), 2 6 packs of strawberry plants (Sequoia and Eversweet), probably a dozen or more packets of seeds, 3 terracotta pots, a post hole digger, and a few other odds & ends. Later in the day I went back to the store to ask the garden folk if the odd coloration I was seeing in my potting soil meant that I should replace it (thankfully, she said it should be fine and that sometimes that can come from part of the mix not getting completely composted). I left with a box of citrus tree food, 2 tomato plants, a yellow bell pepper plant, a yellow crookneck squash plant, and a zucchini plant.

I did finally get back to the strawberries. When we moved into this house, there were several abandoned strawberry pots in the backyard. At some point, I emptied out a couple and thankfully one was empty and relatively free of squatting bugs (tho I did have to forcibly evict a couple of snails) so I loaded it on to my hand truck and took it out to the front yard. It turned out that the pot had 12 planting pockets, one for each of my newly acquired strawberry plants. Woot! I filled the pot with a mix of potting soil and sand and placed the berry plants in their cozy new homes. The top is kinda bare so there may be more strawberry plants in my future. Hopefully, I can defend the plants against snails/slugs and birds long enough to actually get some berries. Only time will tell!

July 11, 2006

The Squash That Ate Manhattan

That'll teach me to lament that all my squash is small. It seems like overnight they went from teeny to humongous. I see zucchini bread in my near future. Lots of zucchini bread.

This is what we picked last night:

And here's to show the scale:

July 27, 2006

Salsa Time!

Our volunteer tomato plant (I think it is the Stupice variety) has a ton of fruit. There was finally enough to make our first batch of salsa. Mark is currently chopping up tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, & garlic. In about 5 minutes we filled the green colander with ripe tomatoes.

The plant that I actually *intended* to use for salsa making turns out to be an imposter! The container said it was a roma variety but this is definitely *not* a roma:

I'm really just glad that it looks like we're gonna have a decent turnout this year. The past several seasons have been really disappointing tomato-wise.

September 7, 2006

Attack of the Hornworm

So the mystery tomato plant seems to have become inhabited with tomato hornworms. Now these suckers are ugly. And usually pretty big. That's expected but this guy is the biggest freakin' hornworm I have ever seen:

It is about 3.5 inches long and nearly the diameter of my thumb!

Also, I still have no idea what kind of tomatoes are on this plant. I suspected Brandywine for a while and then the darn thing turned bright orange. Definitely not Brandywine! I finally picked the first fruit (which took *forever* to get ripe) today and will likely taste it some time this evening to see whether it is worth waiting for the rest of the fruit to mature.

I'm still kinda bummed that I never got around to planting pumpkins this year. I guess planting early wouldn't have been such a bad thing after all. Maybe next year...

UPDATE: I have tasted the tomato and it is too ... fruity. It doesn't taste or feel like a tomato. It might be usable in place of fruit in a fruit salsa but I have to say I'm fairly disappointed.

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