Tomato Lasagna…and more indecision…

sb158 | March 18, 2011

tomato-lasagna-and-more-indecision

Tired, really need to go to bed, so briefly…

got the tomato lasagna bed done a few days ago, but am letting it sit and settle a few days before I actually pull the tomatoes out of their pots and plant them. The milk jugs have pinholes in the side, and I keep filling them with water and letting it soak in. These beds take alot of water to get moist enough at first, but hold the water quite well once they do. The slow drip from the milk jugs gives the water time to soak in, instead of running off and getting wasted…
May plant tomorrow, we’ll see.


Lasagna bed

As for the indecision, Hubby has decided to go house-hunting again, so, again, I don’t know whether to proceed with the garden plans or hold off in case he actually does decide to buy a house. Sigh…getting tired of this. Need him to make up his mind once an for all!

Not Getting It Done…

sb158 | March 14, 2011

not-getting-it-done

as quickly as I would like. The monstrous earthquake and tsunami in Japan has had me glued to the TV when I should be outside working. I’ve never seen anything like that, and can’t imagine experiencing such a thing. My prayers go out for those people; it isn’t going to be easy recovering from something like that.

On the garden front, between 35 mph winds, migraines, and life in general, I’m still not even done with my first tomato lasagna bed. Got more tomatoes to plant, as well as lots of peppers, so I really have to get my butt in gear.

I did pot up all my tomato seedlings into gallon pots today, as well as repotting a bunch of other stuff. I guess I am accomplishing something, just not enough and definitely not fast enough!!! Got my sweet potato slips pulled off the potato and planted in seed mix to grow some roots while I build the bed for them…took them long enough to grow, but they did grow.

I hope things go better tomorrow…

Something To Cheer You Up

sb158 | March 8, 2011

The high temperature here today was 88! Way too hot to be outside doing garden stuff, but better than still be buried in snow, I guess. I watered and took some pictures of blooming things, instead. I know, should’ve been working on my tomato lasagna bed, but it was just too hot…

Mouseover the thumb to see the big picture.
Click for the really big pic.

Here are a few pics of what’s growing and blooming in my garden right now.


Yellow “Gleam” nasturtium, I think, and the variegated “Alaska” leaves next to it.


Orange Nasturtium and some Alyssum

Yesterday, I started the lasagna bed for the volunteer tomato, and made a “tomato teepee” from PVC pipe painted green. Here’s a pic of the bed and teepee:

I had no idea how to tie the poles together, but I found a handy link about lashing poles to make your own trellises and teepees. Very helpful, with good illustrations. Maybe it’ll help you, too.

And that’s all she wrote for tonight…

It Actually Rained!!!

sb158 | March 8, 2011

it-actually-rained

Isn’t that amazing? Seriously, we haven’t had any significant rain in months, but a cool front came through Saturday morning. We got a good downpour, and things are looking much better for it. With this clay muck, it was too muddy after the rain to do anything garden – related.

Sunday I went to the local big blue box store, and bought some more “dirt” and stuff. Also bought a pink jasmine vine, but that was my daughter’s fault. She said it smelled really good and was really pretty. Then she said, and I quote, “You need this plant!” Who was I to argue with that? LOL…

I needed the dirt and stuff to start building a new bed. The “volunteer” tomato that sprouted ages ago in the compost is blossoming already; it’s ready for a permanent home! I looked at tomato stakes, but couldn’t believe the price they were charging! Why in the world do they think I’d be willing to pay $32.00 just to hold up a tomato plant? Was going to build a 4-sided cage, but changed my mind real fast! I have the PVC pipe from my arbor thingy, so I spray-painted 3 pieces green, and made a “tomato teepee” instead. Forgot to take pics today, but will try to remember tomorrow.

After I made the teepee, I marked out a 5′ circle, then dug a nice big 2′ wide and deep hole where I want to put the tomato. To fill it, I used the same 3″ alternating layers of greens, browns, and soil with which I make the lasagna beds. I’ll plant the tomato in the lasagna bed; the good stuff in the hole should give the tomato plenty to grow on!

I poked a bunch of holes in the circle with my digging fork, sprinkled on some organic amendments, then covered the circle with cardboard. I soaked it real well; tomorrow I can start building the “lasagna bed” around the tomato plant. I’m thinking the best way to go is to leave the tomato in its pot right where I’m going to plant it, then build the bed around it. Once the bed is done and settled a day or two, I’ll unpot the tomato and plop it right in it’s custom-fitted hole!

In keeping with the permaculture concept of diversifying plantings, and supplying a plant with what it needs, I’ll plant some flowers to attract beneficial insects, some nutrient accumulators and nitrogen-fixers to feed it, and something to act as a windbreak to keep that south wind from sucking the life out of the poor thing. Not entirely sure what will be the final bed configuration, but I hope I plant the right stuff to help the tomatoes grow!

For right now, tired from a long day in the garden, and planning another one tomorrow, so….

Gnite, y’all!

Hard to Garden Without Water…

sb158 | March 4, 2011

I started transplanting things into the little bed I made yesterday, but before I was done, the water in the park went off. This happens with disturbing frequency; I have no idea why. In the interim, I decided to take a few pics to show the “Before and After” so far.

Mouseover the thumb to see the big picture.
Click for the really big pic.

This is the view from the north side of the yard, looking south, from whence come the moisture-sucking, leaf-tattering, plant-murdering winds.


This is the “before” looking toward the little ash tree. Not much of a yard, is it?

The pic below is of the little bed I built between the end of the sidewalk in the previous pic and the container garden. My original idea was to plant a bunch of gazania self-seeded babies, just as a pretty ground cover. When I realized there was enough room, I decided to plant one of my pepper seedlings and some companion plants to help it grow. I thought the Lilac Beauty peppers would look pretty with the purplish stems and flowers of cinnamon basil.


Lilac Beauty Pepper Bed

The cinnamon basil smells yummy and attracts beneficial insects and pollinators that will help the pepper stay healthy. I added a few Summer Berries yarrow; the flower colors will go well with the pepper and basil. The yarrow roots will help stabilize the bed; yarrow is also an excellent nectar source for ladybugs and other beneficial insects. It’ll keep them around and fed until the bad bugs start attacking, at which time they’ll go to work eating them all. Yarrow also accumulates nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and copper from the soil, so you can use the leaves as mulch to return those nutrients to your soil. On top of that, it has several medicinal uses. How can you lose with a deal like that?
I’m also going to stick some bush green beans in between the other plants, which will fix nitrogen and help all the other plants grow.
As for the gazania, most of them will be planted in the sides of the bed, again, to help stabilize the edges. They do attract beneficials, but, mostly, I just like the cheerful flowers and appreciate how easily they grow, even in this miserable climate.
The green mini-crates make excellent transplant-protectors; these are sheltering Ten-Week Stock until they get established.

I did the Tipsy Pot thing this year with a chile pequin in a 5 gallon bucket on the bottom. The second container has sage, with some nasturtium that will most likely die when it gets really hot. The next container up has marjoram and more nasturtiums. The top container has thyme. Other containers hold cleome, rosemary, ageratum, and other things.

Container Garden

My hanging baskets this year have Laura Bush Petunias (love the fragrance), more nasturtiums with some sweet alyssum and thunbergia to take over when the nasturtium fries in the heat, and one with Blue Daze evolvulus and a few left-over strawberry plants that didn’t fit in the other bed.

Hanging Baskets

In this area, I built a bed between the two windows, mostly for the Blue Moon Rose I found at Lowe’s while shopping for potting soil and stuff. I had a Blue Moon Rose years ago, and one bloom would scent the entire yard with the most delicious spicy fragrance…

Blue Moon Rose Bed “Before”

In this bed, I also put parsley, Swiss Chard, chamomile, blue salvia, red sage(the native perennial, not the bright red annual), strawberries around the edge, and some salad crops. I tried Ten Week Stock for the first time this year; they are a cool-weather annual that are supposed to have a lovely fragrance. Hope they actually manage to bloom! And, no, I’m not trying to grow bamboo skewers; they’re my attempt to keep the herd of feral cats in the park from using my beds as a litter box. So far, it seems to be working.


Blue Moon Rose Bed

Oh yeah, I also repotted my night-blooming jasmine into the bigger barrel, along with some mums that have managed to survive thus far.

This is my “Baby Nursery.” All my seedlings are hanging out here, where they get afternoon shade, until I have their new homes ready for occupancy. I really do need to hurry up and do that…

Baby Nursery

This is as far as I’ve gotten so far; got to keep on keepin’ on to get the rest done in a timely fashion. Especially in this climate, it’s best to take advantage of the “cooler” weather before the heat kills the garden – and the gardener!

Starting Over, All Over Again

sb158 | March 2, 2011

starting-over-all-over-again

Got a new yard, just as tiny and uninspiring as the old yard. Concrete clay, no lawn…just dried out and ugly clay with lots of weeds. Here’s a stitched-together view of the yard right after we moved in. Ugly.

Ugly Yard

Since it pains me greatly to see my little piece of God’s wonderful Creation so sadly neglected and abused, I had to fix it. How could I not? I firmly believe it is every person’s responsibility to practice good stewardship of their own little piece of Planet Earth. I’m convinced that sustainable, organic, earth-friendly practices are the only way to heal the ecological disaster that “Better Living Through Chemistry” has caused since WWII. The possibility of Ecological Apocalypse seems all the more likely the longer we maintain the status quo. I’ll have mercy and hop down off my soapbox, but I do plan to create a page with links for your own research, if you’re interested.

Research and past failures gave me some idea of how to proceed. First I took a good look at the soil, sun, and climate, then set about finding a way to fix the bad and take advantage of the good. My goal is to combine the best features of wildlife gardens, edible landscaping, and conventional ornamental and vegetable gardens into a working sustainable ecosystem specifically designed for this place and our needs. I’m sure I’ll screw up more than once; we all know gardening is a long process of trial and error.

I started by trying to deal with the realities and limitations of the god-awful climate down here. Hot, humid, rainless, windy hell about sums it up perfectly.

Fortunately, the house runs north and south, so the afternoon sun casts a nice shady shadow over most of the yard later in the day. The garden-and gardener-will appreciate that as it gets hotter. The plants will get at least 6 – 8 hrs of full sun; that much Texas sun is more than enough! More sun-tolerant plants will be planted on the east side of the yard, while those that appreciate it can go on the shady side. I’m hoping windbreak plants, either vines on trellises or shrubs I’m growing from seeds/cuttings, will moderate the 20+ mph hot, dry, plant-murdering south winds that blow 95% of the time, and provide more shade. I’d plant some fruit trees for shade and to break the wind if this were my own yard; don’t think I want to spend all that money or effort on a yard we’ll be leaving soon as we find a house to buy. I hope I learned something from the past couple years’ fiascoes; can’t control Mother Nature, but you can try to reduce the effects of her temper tantrums if you learn from your mistakes!

I decided to go with building my beds by sheet mulching, aka “lasagna gardening“. After laying out the bed, scalp the grass/weeds/whatever as close to the ground as possible; just leave them lay. Since I’m dealing with concrete clay, I soak the area and let it sit overnight. To crack the concrete and allow for drainage, stick a digging fork in as far as it will go and just rock it back and forth every few inches across the whole bed. Then add a light layer of soil amendments, like organic fertilizer, lime, or sulfur. After that, lay sheets of cardboard (saved from moving boxes and household goods) over the area, making sure to overlap by at least 6″ to leave no slivers of light for the weeds to find. Thoroughly soak the cardboard, too. On top of that, make alternating 3″ layers with whatever “greens” and “browns” you happen to have handy. Cover this 6″ layer with a 2″ layer of your own or purchased soil. Sprinkle with a light dusting of organic fertilizer, then soak all the layers thoroughly. Repeat the alternating layers of greens, browns, soil, and fertilizer until the pile is a foot or so deep. To finish the bed, add at least 2″ of a “pretty” mulch, so the neighbors don’t complain.

Though it’s best to let the layers rest and cook for a while, I don’t have time for that. We just moved here, after all, and good growing time is slipping away! To plant seedlings, dig out a hole about 2 – 3 times as deep and wide as the root ball; fill it with compost or good potting soil. This helps the babies get established. For seeds, move the mulch aside and dig a little furrow about 3″ deep, which is filled with compost/seed starting mix. If you’d rather, you can add a deeper layer of topsoil or compost into which you can plant before adding the final mulch layer.

I used some of my compost, bagged composted manure, shredded newspaper/junk mail/ phone books, bagged soil conditioner/landscapers’ mix, sifted soil from a hole I dug, and bagged topsoil.

So far, it’s working. I’ve got one bed finished and almost completely planted. Nothing’s died yet, so I must be doing something right. I did another small bed today, which I hope to plant tomorrow.

I intended to take pics today, but by the time I was done, it was time to cook dinner. Those teen-aged boys do love to eat!!!

Melting, Paul James, and One-Straw-Revolutions

sb158 | June 6, 2010

melting-paul-james-and-one-straw-revolutions

Yea, I’m going to whine about the weather again. We’ve been under a heat advisory all weekend. It’s been miserable. Except for going out early morning and in the evening to water, the garden is on it’s own. I ain’t even going out there if I can avoid it. I even changed my desktop to rotating winter pictures for a psychological attempt at cooling off. Not working, but worth a try, right?

So far, nothing has died of heat stroke; I hope this mess ends SOON!

Okay, done whining; on to the important stuff. Have you ever watched Paul James, the Gardener Guy, on HGTV? He had the best garden show for real gardeners, but they dropped him and put on all those landscaping guys. All well and good to landscape your yard, but how do you grow all that stuff after the landscapers have gone? I found his website and went to check it out.

He mentions a book called “The One-Straw Revolution” by Masanobu Fukuoka that inspired his gardening and changed his life. In the course of looking for that book, I discovered a concept called Permaculture. The basic idea is to create a self-sustaining ecosystem of your own, similar to the way nature would do it, only quicker. It’s all tied up with Peak Oil, climate change, and ecological disaster. I can’t say as I believe all the dire predictions; after all, who even wants to think about the kind of world it will be if all that stuff actually happens? Just in case it is even remotely possible, I’m going to plan my garden at my new house, whenever we actually buy one, to mitigate the ugliness as much as possible. Self-sustaining homesteads can’t be a bad thing, right? If you want to find out more, you can download The One-Straw Revolution here in pdf format.

So, once I’d discovered the concept, I needed to find out how one creates such an ecosystem. The book “Gaia’s Garden – A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture” was recommended as being especially helpful. It has been an absolutely fascinating read! Download the pdf yourself and see. Gotta warn you, though, it is a big (34M) file. It tells you pretty much everything you’d need to know, in a very easily understood, entertaining style. You can buy both books, and countless more, all over the web. Gonna do that soon as I can!

If you’ve got the time and interest, a wander around all the permaculture links on the net can be very educational. Inspiring, too, when you see all the things these design principles can accomplish, like turning several acres of desert in the Dead Sea Valley into green, producing farms. Totally amazing!

Lovely, you say, but why post about it? Why not? It’s my blog, right? LOL. The point of all this is that, when we do finally find the right house, in the right place, I’m going to give this a try. I guess I’ll make a separate page for permaculture-related stuff, and try to document the process as we go along. Wish me luck!

Plan B, update

sb158 | May 10, 2009

plan-b-update

Went to lunch with my BIL, SIL, and Hubby’s nephew and his wife for Mother’s Day. We went to Outback, and it was good.

When I got home, I got started on my shade arbor, but it was miserable hot out there, as usual. I did decide where I want to put it permanently, got landscape fabric down, moved it, and fastened all the SWCs to the legs with tie wraps. It seems pretty sturdy, so maybe it’ll work. (more…)

Plan B, Part I

sb158 | May 9, 2009

plan-b-part-i

It’s working! Cool!
I’ve mentioned that I had an idea for a shade arbor for my tomato SWC’s in previous posts. I got started on it today, and to my great surprise, it’s actually coming together just like I see it in my head.

This post is pretty image-heavy, as I’m posting pics of the W-I-P: (more…)

This Is Why, Jen…

sb158 | May 8, 2009

this-is-why-jen

My daughter called today while I was painting the new SWC’s. Naturally, her first question was “Why are you painting ugly orange Home Depot buckets?” Told her to check here for the answer…

So, Jen, I’m making Self-Watering Containers into which to plant 2 watermelon, a zucchini, and a cantaloupe. Should have taken a “Before” pic, but here’s the “After.” (more…)