Friday, May 29, 2009

Radishes and Fertilizer

So... my first attempt at radishes didn't go so hot, the picture makes them look good! Not sure if the ground was too hard or I gave them too much nitrogen rich fertilizer. I had 3 or 4 radish looking radishes and a BUNCH of greens. Luckily Amy tells me that the greens can be quite tasty too. I will be calling her for a recipe...
This is a good example of why the correct fertilizer is important. Too much nitrogen promotes leaf growth instead of fruit growth. This is great if I am trying to grow foliage plants, not so much if I want radishes for my salad! So, read your plant description and your fertilizer description and make sure they coordinate. If you are lazy, or still learning, there are plant specific fertilizers out there. You can use one of these while learning about how much water and sun they need. You can also read the back of the bag or bottle and learn how much Nitrogen, Phosphate, and Potash, is in each mix. Then it is on to learning what individual products (blood meal, kelp, fish emulsion etc) contain what percentage of each of these so in some cases you can mix your own and have less bags and bottles to store while still getting the happiest plants possible. I wish I could fill you in on what everything needs, but I'm still learning to not kill things with too much sun/ not enough, too much water/ not enough. Stay tuned and we'll learn together!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bok Choi

I have eaten something other than lettuce from the garden! The baby bok choi provided a wonderful side to my sushi salad (I was lazy and didn't want to roll sushi for just me, so all the ingredients went on top of rice in a bowl). I just sauteed a little garlic and scallions in olive oil then put the quartered bok choi in the pan and put a lid on for about 5-8 minutes. Yum! Good thing I have a few more little heads out there waiting for me!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Weekly update

So, not much change from last week. The beans are starting to come up under their cover, as are the squash and cukes (the cukes more slowly than the squash, I may have to try some newer seeds) The flowers and lettuce are filling in nicely. I am getting full size lettuce leaves now and have had enough for several salads. The irises have nearly finished blooming = ( need to feed and divide them so they bloom more next year! There is a bright red mini rose open and many more buds forming. My blast with water seems to have dissuaded the aphids for now.
In some ways luckily, we have had dry weather lately. This meant that even with 15 people tromping in and out all day Sunday for the Memorial day picnic, the grass has survived, or at least what of it we have. Come late summer I am really going to work to loosen up the bare spots and get seed in so that the whole yard has grass next year.
On an unhappy note, the mulberries have begun. DUH DUH DUNNNNNN I found the first green berry hiding amongst the lettuce in the back. I am trying to make the best of it by reminding myself that Amy and I are going to collect the little suckers and try to make them into wine or jelly. It still means a few weeks of picking up buckets and buckets of little purple berries EVERY DAY and dying my hands a nasty purple blue color. I guess I need to invest in some disposable or washable gloves.
Maybe next week the squash and cukes will make a big enough show to appear from the weekly update view.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Weekly update

It has been an eventful week. I have been waiting to plant cucumbers, squash, beans and snap peas until the alley and fence were repaired. After 3 long mornings of hard work, several scrapes and scratches, and plenty of sore muscles, work is complete. I am sure that any but the least competent mason would laugh at my concrete work, but at least all of the fence supports are standing vertically of their own free will. The backyard even feels a little larger since the fence is not leaning over 2 or so feet. This project also gave me a reason to clean up the alley. Since previously the alley has only collected junk, I figure it is high time to put it to productive use. To this end I have cleared out the junk and replaced it with the compost bin, a trash can to collect rain, 4 large storage totes with holes drilled in the bottom to be used as planters for lettuce, peas and beans, and a few flowers. Lettuce, peas and some beans bolt in the heat of the summer, hopefully, since they do not get as much sun back in the alley, they will bolt more slowly. The peas will also provide a lovely view out of the kitchen window as the grow up the trellis. I am still working out how to attach hanging baskets or the like to provide places for flowers at window height. It doesn't look like much right now, but it is certainly a huge improvement over what was there, and it provides more square footage for growing stuff!

In straightening the fence we were also able to clean out all the ivy and morning glories that had previously tried to take over the wall. I hadn't realized how much space that had been taking up. The wall looks much better without all the greenery. The top of the retaining wall also gives me more space for the bean trellis- more about that later- and closer to the side door, a ledge to fill with flower pots.

From the regular view you can see that the radishes are going nuts and the fence is standing straight and tall. After all of our work we had managed to compact all the nice fluffy dirt that I have worked so hard to get that way. So I had to spend half an hour turning all the dirt over in preparation for planting squash, cucumbers and beans. The weather is supposed to be chilly the next few days though so they all have been covered with milk jug cloches (for most people, fancy glass jar things used as mini greenhouses). The lettuce has gotten to picking size and the flowers that were planted last week are starting to take hold and put on buds. You can't see them, but the irises apparently are a little confused... I said they were called "flags" for Flag day, which is June 14. Apparently my flags wanted to fly for Memorial Day. Several of the bearded irises are blooming and I watched one of the Dutch irises slowly opened while we were working on the fence, giving me an opportunity to watch magic unfold.

Friday, May 15, 2009


So I think the tomatoes are destined for the compost bin.

I am not really sure what happened. I think my over watering started it, but I can't imagine that that was the only cause for the death of all of the window box romas and just about all of the silver firs. Mom started some window box romas and said she will bring a few of her extras, but I guess I will have to find a nursery that hopefully has determinate plants. I guess I have my work cut out for me for next year!

In slightly better news, my peppers are not beautiful, but they all seem like they are going to survive. I need to give them another dose of fish emulsion. Now fish emulsion is a pleasant smell... kind of like an outdoor fish market on a hot day. Luckily once it dries most of the smell goes away. I'll have to look to see what all is in it and will report back later. I do know it is supposed to be good quality food for plants.

My basil is doing quite well. A few have wilted or not really taken off, but I guess since the packet does give less than a 100% germination rate, I guess since just about all the seeds I planted turned into plants, only loosing a few before they make it into the ground is still a fairly acceptable result.

I am kind of disappointed at the size of all of my seedlings. Next year the flowers are going in much earlier so I can have flowers out before the neighbors. The tomatoes and peppers will also be going in earlier and I will be monitoring temperature, light and nutrients more carefully. For a first true try I think I had acceptable results. And we will be eating a LOT of pesto this summer...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Weekly update

A little late this week....

So, my lettuce and radishes are going nuts. I am just about due to pick my first salad! The apple trees have filled out nicely, though I only had a few blossoms, so I probably won't get apples again this year. I really have to feed them better next year.

I put in some cucumber and squash seeds in the back bed and the tiered part. More will go in after we fix the fence this weekend.

There are buds on the irises and the butterfly bush is filling out better than it has in the past 3 years. All that cutting back really paid off!

You will also notice a few extra plants in the front bed on the left and a few extra pots to the lower right. These are flowers from the library's fundraising sale. You will notice that there are no actual flowers on them. That is because before I put them in their permanent homes I picked of the lower set of leaves and any buds that were more than half formed. The bottom leaves are the oldest and often will touch the soil when the plant is put into its new home. Since having leaves touch the dirt is a good way to allow fungus climb up onto the plant. Taking off the buds helps the plant focus on producing its root system rather than producing flowers. Some people take all flower buds off, but I am too impatient to wait so long to get flowers back! I got 2 4.5" pots- a daisy, but not a white and yellow Shasta daisy that most people would think of, a yellow/orange with a purple/blue center. A white geranium with yellow veining. And market packs (cardboard trays that have 6 or so plants each) of impatients, begonias, stocks and petunias. I thought about making everything all color coordinated.... then I gave up and picked whatever looked pretty! Some of them had to have the quality of surviving heat and full sun because I intend to put a few out in front of the house that gets a lot of hot afternoon sun.

So now we are just waiting for the squash and cukes to come up, the peas to flower, and the fence to be fixed so I can put the rest of the cukes, squash, peas and beans in.

YAY!!! salad this week!

Monday, May 11, 2009


I hate that furry monster in our garden!! The Ground hog is making a pest of himself. He sits on the bok choi to eat the cabbage. So out in the garden is a big lumpy butt print and the decimation of greens...I'm making some hot pepper water now...lets see if he can take the heat.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sunday mornings

Almost every summer day after work I spend at least a few minutes in my garden. Pulling weeds, making sure everything has enough water and no pests or diseases, picking flowers or veggies, deheading spent flowers etc. After sitting at my desk most of the day even 20 minutes in the garden revives me. If the weather is nice we may eat in the yard, and if it is really nice we may spend a few hours just enjoying the flowers and a glass of wine.

Weekday evenings in the garden are refreshing, relaxing and rather theraputic. I don't think it is possible to be stressed out when you are in a garden.

Saturday mornings are my time to feel in harmony with all the other gardeners who are priviliged to spend sometime puttering in a garden oasis. If I get up when the sun is just peeking out I am treated to an hour or so of quiet and a perfect temperature. The cars aren't rumbling on the highway, kids aren't squealing (though don't get me wrong, on a summer afternoon I love that sound!) lawn mowers aren't rumbling etc. I get to hear the neighborhood slowly wake up. As I pull weeds and pick dinner (love that part!) I really appreciate the space, ability and knowledge to be able to garden.

Sundays, though, are my favorite. After church I am treated with another hour or so of quiet garden time. The birds sing songs sweeter than anything heard in church, and more in key = ). More people sleep in so there aren't any dogs out barking. The bees are lazily buzzing from flower to flower, having their breakfast and making sure that I will have lots of flowers and vegetables. I know I am one of the lucky ones who gets to see my food grow and experience true awe when a tiny seed produces armfuls of flowers. This is my time to reflect on all the things I am blessed with and know that God does not just live in big stone buildings.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I'm not sure what is wrong with my baby tomatoes. Some are wilty, some are bleached looking, a few are droopy. My mom suggested that they might need to have a little less water and a little more true sunshine. So the babies moved to the laundry room for a few days and displaced the kitties who think that we put extra deep window sills in just for them (well, it was partially for them and partially for my plants, so they will just have to learn to share!) They got a little bit of sunshine but we are still having April showers, despite it being May. They don't seem to be getting worse, but they also seem to be staying damp because of the rain. So I moved them back to their greenhouse, put the lights on a good number of hours a day and gave them back their heat mat in hopes of saving a few of them. I also need to stop and get some fish emulsion. Apparently baby tomatoes love the stuff! Hopefully I will save enough to still have some to pass out to friends. Otherwise I am going to be scouting for nurseries who carry determinant tomato plants!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


It's a good thing that I have gotten to know my neighbors. For one, it means that we can have loud parties and they don't care, mostly because they are over partying with us. But it also means that I don't run the risk of having them call the nice men in white coats to come pick me up.

When the urge to garden strikes me, I oblidge. This means that the porch light that my dad installed last time my parents visited is especially useful. Before, if I wanted to garden at night I had to garden by flashlight! Sometimes if I am trying to deadhead plants I still need a flashlight.

I am also not one to care much about fashion. On any given day what I wear to work is generally clean, color coordinated and pressed, the latest style however, it generally isn't. This care generally goes out the window on the weekends. I want to be comfortable and I don't want to have to worry about ruining good clothes. I don't know how Martha Stewart does it. If I tried to garden wearing freshly pressed kahkis, a white blouse and calf skin loafers, with my hair freshly groomed and styled, I would promptly step back to look at my garden, stick a foot in the muddy weed bucket, fall on my rear and manage to land in the one mud puddle in the yard, created by the hose that didn't quite get turned off all the way. For this reason I wear old clothes in the garden. And since these clothes are well, old, they often are a mishmash of t-shirts from various events and lounge pants that are getting faded, splattered with paint or worn (which are great by the way because since they are light weight I can wear them in the summer to keep bugs off without sweating copious amounts). With this assortment of clothing, my hair is pulled up any way I can keep it off my neck (though I just got a jaunty gardening hat which will be making its debut soon and will alieviate the problem of keeping hair out of my eyes and sun off my face and neck) an the outfit is topped off, or rather bottomed off, by my bright green garden clogs. The shoes are the only things that are color coordinated, and they are color coordinated with the garden, not with my outfit! (Is the picture of why the neighbors might think I'm a little coukoo coming into focus?)

As a side note- I like feeling the grass between my toes, but when it is muddy or I don't feel like washing my feet every time I come indoors, garden clogs are great. And if they get muddy I just hose them off and leave them in the slop sink to dry. I recomend everyone get a pair. Make sure they are the craziest color you can find, it just goes to add to the color un-coordination of the gardening outfits!

As I mentioned in my CO2 post. I occasionally talk to my plants. This doesn't stop when they grow out of seedlinghood. I am constantly asking weeds why they chose to grow where they did. Or, if a plant intends to flower any time soon. Sometimes I have to go as far as to threaten a trip to the compost pile if something isn't growing as well as I think it should. All the while humming or whistling a happy tune. The plants don't talk back, but I'm sure the neighbors have wondered who I was talking to. (see why the neighbors might be calling the loony bin yet?)

And lastly, my most recent escapades- gardening in the rain. I would have had to water the dirt down first before I thinned out the lettuce anyway, I just liked having it done for me. And I had stuff to do later in the day, so I couldn't wait for the rain to pass over, if it was even going to let up before it got dark. So I took my umbrella out, balanced it perciously over one shoulder and on the lip of a pot and transplanted lettuce. I had to put my umbrella down at one point so I decided to put on my rain jacket. Dark green of course to color coordinate with my orange Halloween lounge pants, and my green shoes!
So the neighbors say that they wear just as uncoordinated of outfits on weekends as I do, but I'm still keeping an eye out for a van full of nice gentlemen wearing white coats and offering to "take me away for awhile."

Monday, May 4, 2009

baby lettuce EVERYWHERE! the sequel

So next year I don't think I will worry about starting lettuce indoors. The lettuce that was started in pots under row cover is just as big if not bigger than all of the transplants. Not only that, it is less leggy. So next year I think all the greens will be started outside. I do realize that soil temperature may have had something to do with this phenomenon. The seeds were all planted in pots, which warm up much more quickly than the beds do. Since I want to be able to move my lettuce to the shade of the alley once the June sun hits, this shouldn't be a problem though. More like an opportunity to keep the tender leaves from frying in the hot sun.

Just as a comparison, here is the lettuce started inside... In the first picture with bok choi in front, also started inside, but I don't have anything to compare it to. In the second picture the lettuce is sharing a bed with the shelling peas.

Here is the lettuce direct sown...

I also had to transplant a few, as the pots were getting crowed. Now, around the edges of the flower pots, there colorful Swiss chard plants and lovely green and red lettuce. These plants should grow fairly quickly- when it dries off that is- and will fill in the edges of the pots until the flowers fill in enough so they don't look bare. This also has the advantage when I do it with the vegetable plants that the taller, dense foliage veggies provide shade to the tender greens, and the greens fill in the empty soil to help keep down the weeds. I get the most out of my garden and also manage to make less work for myself. Can't beat that!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Weekly update

So it has stayed in the 60s this week. The rain hasn't completely gone away yet though. It rained Wednesday through Sunday, and it is supposed to continue for a few more days. Sigh.
I have uncovered all of the lettuce. The radishes are looking good. Only a few of the carrots have emerged. I will have to plant some more in the alley bins. The peas are up to the point that they will soon need a trellis. I have provided them with a tomato cage expanded to a "z" shape, they are a bush type, so they shouldn't out grow such a short support. I also noticed that the apple tree has a few blooms on it. I think I need to feed them both better next year though. I haven't seen any on the smaller tree.

The rose getting bigger and the leaves are getting more green. The irises and peony have buds on them. The butterfly bush is bushing out nicely.

One advantage to the rain is that all I have to do is take the lid off and the compost bin gets watered.