While things grow

It’s been so long since I posted anything.  So much is happening, new job and with that comes different hours and then it’s the growing season.  A lot of time is spent waiting for things to be ready to harvest during the growing season.  We spend a bit of time watering all of our containers and sometimes the garden.  We don’t have soakers in but I think it’s something we should seriously consider next year.  Just having all of those hoses everywhere is not very attractive.  Once the propagation and planting is complete, there is only waiting left.  In the meantime the weeds and grass grow; this of course keeps us busy while we wait.  With some plants, harvesting can be done several times during a season.  We have harvested at least 2 to 3 dozen cucumbers, tons of cherry tomatoes at this point and plenty more to pick.  Our Roma tomatoes are finally coming in full speed and we can pick peppers at any time on any given day.  We have a lot of lessons learned again this year and it always seems to be the same lesson, we plant too much for our space.  We have had two gardens in the last two years and we still are learning this lesson, someday it might stick.

Being a wanna-be, I’m always looking for new and different ideas to make our garden more spacious, efficient and pleasing to the eye.  This year we planted a bunch of zinnias and sunflowers, it makes the garden so much more diverse and we love the way it looks.  Not to mention the busyness of bees and butterflies doing all their pollinating, I could stay there all day watching each one go from flower to flower and never get bored.  Next year we will be planting more flowers, we have been pleasantly pleased with the look of our vegetable garden with flowers scattered around.

We also have decided (I think) on the types of tomatoes we are going to grow from here on out.  Jimmy likes to make salsa and he picked Sweet 100’s and Roma tomatoes based on a recipe he likes.  The problem is that Sweet 100’s are indeterminate plants, which means they grow, and grow, and grow, in any and every direction possible.  Even when you think you have planted everything perfectly, put cages up early and try to keep them confined, they really just do whatever they want.  At this point in the season they are completely top-heavy and we can’t get to the fruit in the middle of the rows.  I can’t even imagine how many little tomatoes are falling on the ground that we can’t see!  As a matter of fact Jimmy said he smelled rotten tomatoes last night in the garden, great…

On a recent visit to Longwood Gardens we walked through their test gardens and I saw the best idea for indeterminate plants.  I’m sure it’s not new by any stretch but I’m a wanna-be, remember?  I don’t know these things; I learn most things by seeing what others are doing or good ‘ol Google.  Anyway, they had placed two tall posts firmly (if not permanently) into the ground and had rope wrapped around each pole reaching to the other pole, each at a different height called string weaving.  They grew indeterminate tomato plants, as they grew they could simply tuck the branches between the ropes.  Basically it grows the plant flat, if you will.  You can get access to both sides of the plant this way and you could make the space between the poles as wide as you want.  I loved the idea, I thought it was genius.  So much so I want to try it next year in our ever-expanding garden.  Like I said, it’s not new but it kind of is to me and I felt like I had an epiphany.

As if I needed another hobby, I’ve recently began looking seriously into Bonsai.  I think it’s fascinating to be able to grow small trees, there’s so much to learn and I’m up for the challenge.  I’m going to join a local club so I can get questions answered and learn the techniques.  I’m really excited to get started and I’ll be sure to post about what I learn as I go.

I’ll add some pictures soon of our garden that is literally bursting at the seams, especially the gourds.  O the gourds!  There’s a whole different lesson learned there, a topic for another day.

As always, thanks for reading!

Happy Gardening  ☺

More spring bulbs

In my last post I mentioned that I have a few clumps of daffodils I would be digging up.  I dug them up yesterday and I found more than a few bulblets, I ended up with tons of them and a few nice full-sized bulbs too.  I never expected to find so many bulbs in there!  I dug in a large circle where the blades of foliage where still intact.  I was trying to be careful not to damage the bulbs with my shovel since I didn’t know exactly where I would find them.  It’s rather difficult to not hit a few while you dig since you can’t see them first, you just have to be gentle.  I moved a lot of the dirt with my hands to try to reduce any damage.  Some of the bulblets came apart or were already separated from the main bulb while I was digging them up and almost all of them had roots.  The main clump of bulbs was several inches deep while most of the smaller bulblets that were already loose were closer to the surface.  It’s no wonder they didn’t flower well, they were mostly in this very large tight clump that I had to coax out of the ground.

The picture below doesn’t show the hole’s depth very well but it does show the amount of bulbs I dug out of there.  I laid these out on my “drying screen” and put them in the basement along with the rest of the lot.

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I’m actually amazed at how many bulbs I have.  There will be more to add to them since I know where there are more daffodils I want to move, then I have to decide where to put them.  I’m planning a special perennial garden that a lot of these bulbs will live in, we are going to expand on a bed that is already in place.  Part of that bed has iris and ferns already established in it but we had very few blooms from the iris’ this year, last year was much better.  I’ll have to separate rhizomes on iris’ and ferns in part of that bed, they have grown on top of each other for many years now.  I’m no longer afraid of bulbs but I am just a bit afraid of rhizomes.  For the same reason I was afraid of bulbs, because I have never seen a rhizome much less handled them.  I suppose I’ll get over it quickly, I’ll post on that process when I get there.

Anyhow, I’ve done what needs to be done as far as preparing the bulbs for planting.  I’ll simply go through the same process with other spring bulbs that I dig up.  I’ll post when I start to plant them and as they grow next spring.  I hate to wish time away but I cannot wait to see what our yard will look like next spring.  Hopefully bursting full of life and color!

For now, enjoy some pictures from the vegetable garden.  Lots of things growing already!

Thanks for reading!  🙂

peppers

Jalapeno and green bell peppers

romas

Roma tomatoes

cherrys

Super sweet 100 tomatoes

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Sage

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Strawberries

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Cabbage

Playing with spring bulbs

Hello!  For this post I’ll be cleaning up and storing spring bulbs to plant in the fall.  I love bulbs, they multiply and you can just plant them and wait for the show.  Unless some critter decides it needs a meal more than you need a flower, but that’s a discussion for another day.  For the most part, I haven’t been disappointed yet but I’ve also never played with bulbs to this extent before so I hope I do this correctly.  I’ve bought them, planted them and watched them grow but that’s about it.  I’ve never dug, sorted, separated or stored them before.  There is a first time for everything.

Last year Jimmy planted a row of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, they are so pretty when in bloom.  However, after the flowers die, the left over foliage can look rather unkempt but don’t cut it.  I’ll explain why it’s necessary to keep it in place in a moment.  Things like ground covers, ornamental grasses, summer and/or fall bulbs can hide the left overs from spring. We haven’t added anything to the bed yet but we will.  I started some snow in summer seeds a few weeks ago and I plan to plant a few in there, I’m hoping they’ll come up right after the spring flowers fall back.  We’ll have to wait until next spring to find out.

Daffodils in bloom

Daffodils in bloom

Tulips in bloom

Tulips in bloom

Foliage after flowers bloom

I have a great tip for you if you want the flowers without the cost of buying tons of bulbs.  We sort of tripped over this one this year.  Out of all the flowers you see everywhere for sale in the spring, imagine the ones that don’t sell.  What’s happens to them if they don’t sell?  Do they give them back to the growers?  Trash them?  Plant them?  Never thought about those things before now.  We were browsing through the garden center at a local Wal-Mart earlier in spring, like we do everywhere where there is a garden center.  We found in the back corner a bunch of discounted plants no one bought, ones that have already bloomed and looked sort of sad, ones that needed a home.  We bought them all at 25¢ per container, several flats and some had 2 bulbs in them for a total of $9…score!!  Now I know what happens to them.  You can bet I’ll be scouring through every garden center I can think of next year for more deals like that.

Now we have all of these bulbs and I have to do something with them or they’ll just rot sitting in those pots.  I removed all the bulbs from the small pots they were in.  They were still a little wet, I brushed off what dirt I could especially from the roots. I didn’t run them under water to get them sparkling clean, the object at this point is for them to dry.  I left all the foliage in tack, the leaves shouldn’t be cut off until they yellow and now I’ll tell you why.  The leaves feed the bulb so it has energy to grow in the spring, this only applies to the leaves.  The flower will start to seed if it’s not cut before the petals fall off and that process will take the growing energy from the bulb.  So the choices are get the seeds or feed the bulb, I choose to feed the bulb.  I understand that growing a daffodil, tulip, etc. from seed is possible but it’s just a very long, slow process.  Bulbs multiply so there’s really no need to grow from seed except as a challenge.  We take pride in the fact that most everything we grow is from seed but I already have too many long and slow projects going on, I don’t feel the need for another challenge just yet.

After I cleaned them off a little I put newspaper down on a large framed screen that came off an old door.  I love to re-purpose things and it turned out to be perfect for drying bulbs.  I put the bulbs on the newspaper in rows, careful not to have any of them touching another so they don’t grow any mold, I have to try to get something out of all of these.  Then I placed another sheet of newspaper on top to shelter them from any light and put all of this in our basement.  A nice cool, dark and dry place for them to “hang out”.  They’ve been down there for a while now and should be dry.  I’ll cut the leaves and roots off of them and put them in a flat with some vermiculite until I can plant them in the fall.

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Separated bulbs

Tulip bulbs in vermiculite

Tulip bulbs in vermiculite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not all the bulbs but some of them have what’s called bulblets, little new bulbs that are growing off of the main bulb.  The bulblets should be left intact with the main bulb while storing them and can be separated as you are planting them.  The picture of the daffodil below has several bulblets that I’ll separate when I plant them.  The bulblets on the tulip bulb are too small to separate, I’ll wait for those to grow where they are for a while before I remove them.  Bulblets mean more flowers without buying more bulbs, fabulous!

 

Daffodil bulb

Daffodil bulb with bulblets

Tulip bulb with bulblets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a few clumps of daffodils that I need to dig up, I’d be willing to bet there are more than a few bulblets to be found there too.  The flowers sometimes need to be dug up and the bulbs separated.  Over time they tend to crowd each other and less flowers are produced.  Only one of the reasons I’m digging them up,  I want to put them in a different place in the fall.  I also have a container full of spring bulbs we bought earlier this year that needs to be taken care of.  I’ll go through the same process with those and the daffodils I’ll be digging up.  I’ll keep you posted as I go along.

I’m going to have tons of bulbs to plant this fall that will hopefully grow into some beautiful flowers next spring.

Thanks for reading!

Being Organic

Just a quick note on a couple of thoughts I had this morning on the way to work. We all hear about the bee population declining and it could be because of a number of reasons. One reason that doesn’t have to help those declining numbers is us gardeners using poisons that basically harm the ecosystem. I completely understand the need to be rid of pests, my last post was mostly to that point. There needs to be a responsible way to keep pests from harming our plants without killing bees or any other pollinators. We can’t have flowers or grow food without them!

I found a couple of articles, mostly from last year but I though they were still relevant. These articles are about neonicotinoid insecticides , which is related to nicotine. Yuck! That should make some want to quit smoking!

The first two articles briefly explains what neonicotinoid is and how to spot it at stores. The last article has information for mostly home gardens.

Since I’m attempting to be an organic gardener I thought these articles were beneficial. They don’t offer natural remedies to pests but that is okay. Knowledge is power and the more I know the better my garden will be.

Enjoy your day and thanks for reading!

Neonicotinoids in Your Garden

http://citybugs.tamu.edu/factsheets/ipm/what-is-a-neonicotinoid/

http://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/neonicotinoids-what-home-gardeners-need-to-know

Garden Challenges

Last year was an easy growing year for us.  Everything we planted grew, no issues except that we were a bit lazy.  This year is very different.  This year I’ve gotten somewhat familiar with pests.  EWWW!  I really don’t like bugs very much at all, I especially don’t like them in the house.  So I’m on a mission to kill some things.

My first nuisance is ants.  They are everywhere!  My kitchen sink, bathroom, sun room…everywhere!  Terro Ant Killer Indoor Liquid Ant Bait works, it’s what I used last year but I think I found another way. We bought some hummingbird concentrated nectar, hung it in my feeder and all I’m getting are, you guessed it, ANTS!  Big black ants this time instead of the little ones, the big ones are bullies I guess.  I found them in some of my planters on the ground getting the dirt to make a nest.  Invasive little buggers!  I’m going to make a concoction out of the nectar mix and Borax and place it around the house where I’ve seen them.   I’ll have to find somewhere further away from the house for the hummingbird feeder to keep the ants away.  I read somewhere that ants don’t like mint, we bought 3 different mint plants and planted them near our back porch where I’ve seen a trail many times.  I’ll let you know if it works.

We are also dealing with aphids and gnats.  I first realized we had aphids on the pepper plants. I think I might have brought them in too.  We bought a calla lily from Home Depot and brought into the sun room.  The next morning I noticed the plant was dripping dew.  I looked it up (Google of course) and found that dew dripping is a sign of aphids, they actually create the dew as they suck the sap from the plant stems, scales do the same thing.  If left untreated the young plants will certainly die.  Ladybirds, or as most of us call them ladybugs, love to eat aphids.  So naturally I wanted all the infected plants outside so that nature can take its course.  We did that, first went the lily and then the infected pepper plants.  We keep the infected ones outside around the clock and continued to just harden off the others, meaning we brought them in every night. That really didn’t do it, I kept finding them on the plants, and they really seemed to like the peppers.  They are easy enough to squish but that wasn’t working very well, it seems they just kept coming back.  Now all the pepper plants are planted in the garden and if I do an inspection I can’t find any aphids.  Yay!  The pictures below show what aphids can do to a young plant.  This is the first plant they were spotted on and the first plant put in the garden.  It doesn’t have aphids now but you can see what damage has been done.  With that said, it does have new growth on the top and hopefully the peppers won’t be effected.  We shall see.

Aphid damage

Aphid damage

Aphid damage

Aphid damage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gnats…I have fungus gnats in my elm trees and these things are really hard to get rid of.  Jimmy’s niece gave us some seeds to grow Bonsai.  There were elm and azalea seeds, the azalea didn’t grow at all but every single elm seed did, I had 23 of them.  I read that the adult gnats are rather harmless, it’s the larva that does the damage.  The adult lays around 300 eggs in the moist soil and the larva munch on the plant roots, eventually killing the plant.  We are really trying to stay organic, no chemicals at all but the gnats are proving to be very persistent.  I read that watering the plants with well diluted hydrogen peroxide would allow oxygen to the roots possibly promoting new root growth while killing the gnats at the larval stage.  I don’t think it worked.  I also read to allow the top 2 inches of the soil to dry, I am doing this but I still see adult gnats so eggs must still be hatching.  I’ll try the hydrogen peroxide treatment when I water them again.  The unbelievable thing is that it’s been about 2 weeks since I watered my elms (not exaggerating) and they have new leaves on the top.  Go figure.  I still have gnats though.  The first picture below shows what these gnats did to 3 of my elms.  I cut off the dead parts of the leaves on my currently thriving plants since gnats like the decomposition of organic matter.  They also do the most damage to seedlings and young plants, everything in my sun room basically.  I’m going to transplant the elms later today, add all new dirt and put them in new containers and then probably keep them outside.  Hopefully nature can take its course on these too then I can clean out the pests from my sun room and hopefully never have this problem in here again.  One can hope  🙂

As always, thanks so much for reading!

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Death of a young elm due to fungus gnats

Fungus gnat damage

Fungus gnat damage

New growth despite lack of water

New growth despite lack of water

Be back soon

It’s been over a month since I posted anything.  The month of May turned out to be a not great month for my family.  We lost a very new member to a brain tumor, only 6 weeks old and my boyfriends father died just a week later.   It was a very hard month for all of us.  I have added a couple of links on my page about childhood cancers if you should feel so inclined to give to an extremely worthy cause.  One lesson learned is that things like this are never thought of unless it happens close to home.

I’ll get on with posting in just a little while.  I have taken pics of everything we are doing I just need to put it all together so that it’s chronological and of course makes sense.

Be back very soon.  Thanks for reading!

Setting up the garden

Hello!

I have so much to write about I can overwhelm myself with what I should write next. I already did the intro and sort of listed all of things we have we need to plant so next I’ll show you where we will be planting everything.

At the very bottom of our backyard there is a small creek and sometimes it floods, not planning on planting too much down there now. Our front yard is very close to a busy main road, might be good for business if we get that far but it’s not very good for sunlight in the afternoons. We choose a spot that didn’t already have a building on it and had plenty of light, right next to the greenhouse that you can’t see, it’s on the right in the picture.  The concrete pavers on the left side is our centerpiece for our garden.  We planted a hibiscus last summer, I’m not sure it’ll come back this year sadly.

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We didn’t use raised beds last year but we are this year.  Jim built this one before we put the fence up, there’s cabbage in there now.  Not too much to say about setting this up, Jim added compost then tilled it.  Our soil is very clay like and we put so much work and care into growing from seed we want to improve it as much as possible.  Then Jimmy built the raised bed, we put up the fence and viola, done!

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The fence is to keep the wildlife from eating our crops.  That works for the small animals of course like rabbits and squirrels, sometimes they get in but it works for the most part.  Deer are another issue all together, they jump.  Last year we bought a sprinkler with a motion detector on it, works very well!  It’s called Havahart Spray Away Motion Activated Sprinkler Animal Repellent, we bought it from Home Depot for about $70.  A little expensive but it’s really low maintenance and we didn’t have any deer in our garden after that.

Then we built two raised beds, one is tiered for the strawberries, I put sage in the other one. Overall, it looks good but we have to till again to get rid of the grass and such that has grown since the first time it was tilled.

Now that the garden is ready, we have to wait for the weather to be ready, always waiting for something.  Some nights are still too chilly for most of the plants, so we wait and water and water and wait.  Things get root bound and have to be transplanted.  It seems like such a waste of time and potting soil but our tomatoes grew so fast we didn’t really have a choice.  It’ll be the peppers next if we can’t put them in the ground soon.  While we wait on the weather, I’ll keep on posting.

Thanks for reading!