Well, would you look at that?

sb158 | April 16, 2011

well-would-you-look-at-that

I’ve almost got my first ripe tomato! Is that cool or what? Very nice surprise! I haven’t been out in the garden to do more than water for a couple days, cuz I somehow got a stupid virus that was trying to eat my computer. Been busy dealing with that, and imagining all the slow, painful ways I would torture the idiots who think it’s fun to give people misery and aggravation by writing computer viruses. I mean, really, what kind of a moron gets off on creating havoc like that? The world would be a better place if somebody did torture them all to death slowly and painfully!

So when I went out to play today, after finally curing my baby, it made me very happy! Didn’t get as much done as I wanted, as usual, but I did pot up a few pepper seedlings that really did need bigger homes. Also took out my bolting window box lettuce and planted some ageratum and globeflower seedlings in there instead. I put the window boxes in front of the container garden bed, cuz my daughter’s dog keeps knocking it down with his leash. I thought that might help keep the dirt in place.

So, for all you people who still have cold, soggy soil, dream on! You can make fun of me in July when my garden is dead, and I’m waiting for cooler weather to start the fall garden.

Click for bigger pic

The other day, before my computer went berserk, I tried to get started on the lasagna bed for the Sweet Potatoes. When I tried to poke the digging fork in the ground, it pretty much bounced back up into my teeth. It hasn’t rained in ages, so the clay is concrete again. I got my milk jugs and soaked the area real well overnight. So here’s a lovely pic of my milk jug garden! LOL!

Click for bigger pic

Not much else going on in the garden. Stuff is growing, and looking pretty good. Except for the chard! Danged cabbage loopers found it, but I sprayed some bt the other day, and it seems better. Would have sprayed again tonight, but had grandson stuff going on…

Until next time…

Whaddaya Gonna Do…

sb158 | April 8, 2011

whaddaya-gonna-do

when the wind is blowing so hard you’re afraid to put your small dog out for fear she might fly away? Seriously! Yesterday the wind was blowing 25-30 mph, with gusts to around 40. Bad enough, but today is even worse. Sustained winds 35-40 mph, gusts to above 50! Added to the heat, we’re talking really unpleasant out there.

Lasagna bed

Went out and watered, but that’s all I could really do. Much too windy for planting any seedlings, building a new bed, or pretty much anything else on my To Do List.

Speaking of watering, have any of you ever tried those Aquaglobe things for your containers? My eldest grandson got me some for Christmas, and I use them in a few of my smaller pots. Surprisingly, they actually work quite well. Two of them are in pots of thyme; they really do keep the moisture level just right.

Lasagna bed

On Tuesday (I think) when it was comparatively cooler, I built a new lasagna bed. This one came about because there is a “volunteer” vine of some sort in my big lantana container. Could be a cuke or a watermelon, still can’t tell. Anyway, I decided to let it grow just to see what it is, but had to trellis it somehow. Wind already broke one of the vines, and that’s before it got really windy. I decided to loosely wrap some green-painted weed-eater string around the tree and let it grow up the tree. Then I said…yeah, you guessed it. Why not put a 5 gallon bucket with a couple cukes I plant on the other side of the tree, and let them grow up it, too? However, last year I realized that things in containers don’t do well, because the heat bakes the poor roots and dirt. I figured, if I put a little lasagna bed around the container, then plant it with bushy stuff, maybe it’ll mitigate the heat somewhat, and the poor things will have a chance. So I did!

Lasagna bed

I planted 3 of the bright yellow Swiss Chard, in between which I put a couple dill babies. I thought the bright yellow chard would look good with the yellow lantana, as well as the yellow cuke blossoms. On the sides of the bed, I put a couple divisions of Greek Oregano. The container really needs repotting, so I cut out a couple chunks and planted them. Will do one more piece after the oregano recovers from the first butchery. Between that, I planted several cilantro seedlings. I doubt very much that the cilantro or dill will do much more than bolt to flower, but that’s okay, too. Beneficial bugs love dill and cilantro flowers! I’ll stick some bush bean seeds in there, too, once it’s just normally windy out there again. Still thinking about what to start to fill the space once the heat kills the cilantro and dill completely.

Speaking of containers, here’s a look at the container garden from street-side. Pardon the skewers; as I’ve mentioned before, I use them to keep the horde of feral cats out of the beds. Works pretty good! Still need to plant a few things on the right side of the bed to replace the Lilac Beauty pepper that expired. I think my daughter’s dog lifted his leg on the poor thing one too many times…

Lasagna bed

Did you notice the Red Sage blooming? Hummingbirds and bees are supposed to really like this plant, so I put some all over the place!

Lasagna bed

In the Blue Moon rose bed, I have the lavender rose planted with some Red Rubin and Dark Opal purple basil, so naturally, the first green beans I planted were some purple bush beans. They are beginning to bloom, and the colors do look nice together…

Lasagna bed

Be nice if I actually get some beans out of the deal, too. I’ve tried these beans several times, with no luck at all. Something eats them, or they die!

Well, that’s enough for now. Time to go start dinner…

Fried Brain…

sb158 | April 6, 2011

fried-brain

and body, truth be told. Monday was 100 degrees, even “officially.” Tuesday was a bit cooler, but today it’s hot and humid again. Not quite THAT hot, but still hot! By the time I’m done for the day, I’m thoroughly done. Every night I tell myself to post…

I guess I finally listened. LOL!

Things are settling in and starting to really grow now. This is the Blue Moon rose bed as of March 29.


Lasagna bed

Since then, the rose has bloomed again. They smell soooo good.

Lasagna bed

The alyssum, winecup, and blue salvia make a pretty combination, I think. You can also see a few of the Contender bush beans and one of the Swiss Chards I planted in there. No reason edible can’t be pretty, and vice versa.

Lasagna bed

This is the Tomato Lasagna bed as of April 2. It’s grown noticeably in just the past few days. The Roma tomato (in the tripod cage) has at least 4 baby tomatoes. Hubby is already tasting every one of them, too. Told him it’d be a while yet, but he still keeps drooling! The TripLCrop tomato by the trellis has shot up significantly in the past few days. Looks like it is getting ready to bloom soon.
In the mid-far-right of the pic, you can barely make out another small tomato plant. This is a Sungold cherry; it’s grown in the past few days, too. It already has one baby tomato, and more blooms.

Lasagna bed

In the pic above, you can see some of the other plants in that bed. There are some peppers, basil, and some peanuts in there. I went to the grocery store and bought a bag of raw peanuts. Shelled a few of them and planted the seeds, just to see if they would actually grow. Much to my surprise, they actually did! Peanuts are a good nitrogen fixer, like beans, and supposed to be pretty plants, too. So far, I like them! They are pretty.

Lasagna bed

Since I took these pics, I’ve planted pink Bright Lights Swiss chard around the sides of the bed, then planted some pink Laura bush petunias between the chard. Above that, and to the left of the Sungold tomato, I put a borage seedling. Borage attracts bees and beneficials; you can use the leaves as mulch material or compost fodder; its roots are very good at breaking up compacted clay soil like mine. And it’ll look pretty with the pink chard and petunias!

In the last little bit of space, I’m going to plant a tithonia in the bed, and some Carpet Cosmos in the sides of the bed below the tithonia. The bell peppers in the bed ripen to gold, crimson, and orange, so the tithonia will pick up those colors, attract beneficials, and look pretty! Hummingbirds love tithonia, too. Carpet Cosmos are like the yellow and orange shorter cosmos, but they are only supposed to get about a foot tall.

I’m hoping I picked the right plants to both help the tomatoes and peppers grow, and look pretty. Like I said, no reason edible can’t be pretty!

More to talk about, but now I’m closer to over – done! That heat just wears me right out, and makes me smell bad. I hate the icky sticky feeling it leaves on my skin, too. Have I mentioned I hate hot and humid? Anyway, it’s time for a shower and bed…
G’nite, y’all!!!

Lasagna’s Almost Done…

sb158 | March 24, 2011

lasagnas-almost-done

So we have been house-hunting, and even put an offer on a place. Don’t think we got it, though…there was a previous offer, and we really didn’t want to get into a bidding war and pay a price we’d regret down the line. Liked the house and yard, but there’ll be another down the road. We just have to keep looking.

We really are looking, though, because the grandsons keep getting weird symptoms and nobody really feels well. We’ve been doing some research; it seems like formaldehyde could be causing all of the weird stuff. I still don’t know what to do about the garden, because I have no idea how long it will take to find a house.

Meanwhile, between all the real-life distractions, I’ve been planting the lasagna bed in bits and pieces. So far I’ve got 3 tomato plants, some Genovese Basil, parsley, chamomile, marjoram, and 2 bell peppers. I’ve planted black-eyed pea, lima bean, and peanut seeds. They are partly for eating, but also for nitrogen fixing. Why not let some plants fertilize other plants? And I’ve always wondered how peanuts grow. Still have more to plant in there, and I’m getting to it as I can.

Took a couple pics today; pardon the paper sticking out from under the mulch. After the seeds sprout and grow a bit, I’ll cover it all over with more bark mulch so it’s pretty again. Pine mulch has the unfortunate habit of falling down and covering the spots where the seeds are planted.


Lasagna bed


Lasagna bed

My sister-in-law wanted some details, so…
I started by marking a 5′ diameter circle where I wanted the bed. That’s enough room for a bunch of plants, but not too big to reach the middle. After I wet the ground, I stuck a digging fork every few inches to crack the concrete. Then I put down a bit of organic fertilizer and covered the circle with cardboard. Soaked the cardboard real well, then put on a thin layer of dirt to hold it down. After that, I started layering. First layer was some of my unfinished compost, about 1.5″, topped by another 1.5″ of composted manure. Covered that with a layer of shredded paper and soil conditioner, then a 2″ layer of topsoil. Sprinkled some fertilizer on that and soaked all the layers thoroughly. Then I repeated the layers until the whole mess was about a foot deep. After that I made sure to soak it all thoroughly using the milk jugs to be sure it moistened all the way through. Waited a few days to let it all settle, then started planting. To plant in it, I mix up a good potting-type mix with some fertilizer, then dig a hole bigger than I need. Fill that around the plant and water in well, and you’re good to go. To plant seeds, I basically stick the trowel in and rock it back and forth to make a hole, fill that with the potting mix, and plant the seeds in that. So far it’s working.

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!

Garden Blog Bloom Day…and lasagna beds

sb158 | March 15, 2011

garden-blog-bloom-day-and-lasagna-beds

Over at May Dreams Gardens, the 15th of the month is Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. Here’s what’s blooming in my garden today…

Don’t you just love the pretty blue color of this ageratum? I know the beneficial insects do. Planted this way last summer in a container, but it didn’t do much in the heat. Come fall, I cut it back real hard and fed it real well. Saved it from a few freezes, too; I had no idea if it would work or not. Apparently it did, as it’s been blooming for a long time already.


Ageratum

Love nasturtiums; unfortunately, they don’t love it down here too much once it really warms up. They usually fry and die in a month or so. This one is an Alaska nasturtium.


Alaska Nasturtium

The gazania I divided from a container and planted in this bed is already blooming again. Love these guys; they take pretty much whatever you throw at them and just keep blooming.


Gazania

Repotted pink jasmine vine I bought a week or so ago. Looks like it’s doing fine; has a few new buds on it. This smells so yummy when it’s blooming!


Jasmine Vine

Another nasturtium. This one is “Moonlight,” I think.


Nasturtium 'Moonlight'

Of course the Laura Bush petunias are blooming. Once they start, they really don’t stop for a very long time. Even in mid-summer, all you have to do is cut them back, feed them, then wait a few days for more blooms. And they smell wonderful!


Laura Bush Petunias

Mums bloom twice a year down here; in spring and then again in the fall. These two are planted in the whiskey barrel with the night-blooming jasmine. It started getting windy again as I was taking pics; sorry about the blurriness.


Burgundy mum


Yellow mum

Don’t know if the next few pictures exactly qualify, but here they are anyway. The night-blooming jasmine isn’t blooming yet, but is does have buds and will bloom soon. Ditto the zinnia.


Night-blooming Jasmine


Zinnia

And this is, of course, a tomato plant. This one volunteered in my compost pile way back in late January; I’ve babied it along all this time. It even has a baby tomato – looks like a Roma.


Tomato sBlossom


Tomato Blossom

Phew! I think that’s finally it. I was going to post a pic of my new “lasagna” tomato bed, but that can wait till next time. I think enough is enough, already…

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…

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!

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!!!