May 28, 2008

Fox Urine or Irish Spring?

So far this spring I have lost 2 lettuce seedlings and 2 kale seedlings. I believe the culprits are rabbits for the following reasons:

1) I have seen bunnies in and around the garden (they're damn cute by the way, for evil things)
2) The entire top of the plant gets lopped off with a tiny bit of the stem sticking out of the ground.
3) Some of my garden neighbors have had similar problems and noticed teeth marks.

My first fear was that it was cutworms since I have had problems with these before, but when it was the cutworms they usually left the top of the plant lying on the ground and seemed to just eat straight through the middle.

Anyway, I was looking for something to guard against the critters and have found some interesting ideas that I'd like to share. Special thanks to my pal Hockey Lover who used to do landscaping and helped.

Things to prevent bunnies from ruining your garden:

1) Predator Urine -- Fox seems to be the one that is most recommended for bunnies. I found a few websites that sell it. Supposedly the rabbits won't go near things that smell like something that will eat them. Makes sense to me. You can buy urine of Mountain Lions, Coyote, Wolf and Bobcat too! You can even buy little plastic containers with stakes to stick them in the ground. You stick a cottonball in the container and soak it with the fox pee for a slow and steady release of bunny-killer smell.

2) Soap with Sodium Tallowate - Attention Vegetarians! Soaps like Irish Spring, Zest, Safeguard etc. contain animal fat. I assume this works for the same reasons that predator pee works. The basic idea is that you chip it off and leave the little pieces around the plant. I did see one review that said that the smell was annoying (some people don't like Irish Spring fresh scent I gather) and that the little soap pieces melt and look like mold.

3) Blood Meal - Lo and behold I just added some Pro-Gro to all of my seedlings on Monday and one of the ingredients is blood meal. We did have a heavy rain though so I might try some soap next. Again, I think anything that smells like danger to the scared little bunny will keep it away.

4) Motion Sensor Toad that "croaks" - This is just ridiculous and would probably annoy the hell out of me AND keep kids loitering in my garden plot even more than they do now with my sink. You see its a little statue of a toad that croaks when it detects movement. I am sure that the bunnies would run away from this thing, but seriously, no thanks!

May 26, 2008

Big Garden Day on Cucumber Hill

It finally warmed up enough to feel like a real Memorial Day Weekend, ie: the weekend when it is safe to plant tomatoes. So that's what I did.

Here's how the weekend looked:

I woke up on Saturday morning raring to go, but made myself wait until 10AM when Ms. Knapsack -- a new gardener who was joining me for the day -- arrived. She and I hopped in Murphy's Mom's car and headed to the farm. I ran around like a crazy (excited) person and tried really hard to calm down at least a few times. After about an hour I had $90 worth of stuff including 5 tomato plants, flat leaf parsley, 2 six packs of different types of eggplant, basil, 4 bags of enriching mulch, jalapeno peppers and "dwarf" cucumbers. A few hours after getting home my garden plot went from "just ok" to "kinda awesome." Thanks again to Ms. Knapsack who helped a ton. I'm also sorry that I accidentally planted her tomato seedling thinking it was mine. Wooops! Now I have 6 tomato plants. Hopefully the extra seedlings I gave her will earn me forgiveness.

I've never grown jalapenos or cucumbers before but...I figured I might as well try. I am nervous about the cucumber since I've had cucumber beetles in my plot for the past two years without even growing cucmber, but the fact that it won't need to climb on anything (I believe the word "dwarf" is referring to the size of the plant not the size of the cucumbers) I figured I could give it a shot. I had given up on peppers as well, but my community garden neighbors have said that the "hot" peppers are easier to grow than the ones I've tried before.

Cucumbers like a mound to grow on so I created one, stuck the seedlings in the middle and called it Cucumber Hill. Now I just have to hope that the evil critters that have now consumed 2 lettuce seedlings and 2 kale seedlings leave the cucumber alone... otherwise the hill name will make no sense at all.

I'm pretty sure the evil munchers are bunnies and not cutworms and if they weren't so adorable, work when I am asleep, and FAST I think I might kill them. They are darn cute and speedy AND impossible to catch in the act, so I think they're quite safe.

In terms of layout I kept tomato lane as last year and moved the eggplant to a new locale. It's hard to do much crop rotation with a 100 something square foot garden plot and a layout I already like.

Oh and I got to eat some of my holey (thanks to flea beetles) arugula for dinner tonight. That's my first food from the garden so far this year which made it all the more delicious!

May 21, 2008

Sage success and failure

I broke down and got some new sage. The old, dead stuff just wasn't coming back and it was starting to depress me.

I think this is one of the things I need to get better at now that I am not really a "novice" anymore -- even though I still feel like one. That is, I need to figure out how to keep "tender perennials" alive over the winter in New England. I know it can be done because some of the other gardeners around have sage and rosemary that I know they didn't just buy at a store.

I also think it might be time for me to grow something that requires a little bit of vertical construction. Other than tomatoes, I've never tried anything that needs to grow "up" like peas or even cucumbers that like to climb. I'm scared though....and sometimes that is the best time to do something.

I still have time to do it this year since it's been so cold and I still don't have much in the ground ie: I still have the space. It's too late for peas, but maybe cukes. Memorial Day weekend is coming up and the idea that it would be time for tomatoes to go in the ground seems ridiculous given the temperature even though I see that other gardeners have everything in already. They clearly know how to do things that I don't. I mean, I've already lost two lettuce seedlings and one kale seedling to who knows what calamity (bugs, bunnies, what?) so I'm not feeling super confident.

That said, I can see that my beet seeds are coming up nicely. No carrot action yet but I really think I dumped too many seeds in that row. I think I need to re-plant those AND find something to fill in the holes created by my kale and lettuce vacancies.

I'll be headed to the farm again this weekend so maybe I'll get some ideas.

PS: Shed photo as promised

May 12, 2008

Back in Business

Let's set aside the fact that I am probably the worst blogger ever. I'm back now and I have garden-related things to tell you. The biggest problem -- much like when you haven't spoken to a friend or a family member in a long time -- is that I'm not sure where to begin.

Let's start with the Steering Committee political stuff, move on to "garden year resolution" and talk about the work I've done so far.

There are a few really good community garden developments since I last posted including the fact that we finally built a shed! It's not totally and completely finished yet (ie: we need to build an interior wall to separate the dangerous stuff (rider mower, fuel, etc.) from the safer stuff that we want gardeners to have access to. Once we get that done we can put a combination lock on it so that all the gardeners will be able to access things like tools, trash bags etc. plus we can probably invest in smaller things like hand tools and gloves and even store abandoned and useful items like leftover tomato stakes or cages. I think it's going to be great. It also looks lovely. Photo of the shed in progress is here but I will get one of the finished product (a lovely pale blue) to post soon.

The entire 7 person steering committee is up for re-election this Spring and so far I know 3 current members aren't running. Nominations are due in the next week or so and except for the existing members no one else has nominated anyone for the committee. This is not encouraging. I can only guess that this is either because a) the garden seems well run and so no one is dying to get on the committee and whip us into shape or b) something about it seems like an awful lot of trouble and not much fun. I think both are sort of true, but I plan to beat the bushes for some nominees!!

We also have some really good compost this year from a local landscaping business. In the past we got the compost from the city, but this year we paid this company to come and cart off all of our dead plant matter in the Fall and then they delivered (and will keep delivering) this really dark, gorgeous looking compost this Spring. So far no little bits of metal or plastic like we've had the past two years. Ew. Don't worry we tested the city stuff last year (when we saw the icky bits) and it was fine. It's still better not to see it.

My garden year resolution is NOT to buy seedlings from the womens shelter this year. I like the idea but getting the plants in mid-may and trying to keep them alive on the porch for 3 weeks just wasn't working. I feel like it was the right call since I'm pretty sure the pick up would have been this past Saturday and it's in the 40s today. Brrrrr. The only real risk, I think, is that all of the best tomato seedlings could be gone from the farm if I don't get there early enough and then I might need to venture to new parts of town to find plants.

I've already turned everything over and added about 5 wheelbarrows of the gorgeous compost to my plot. I've decided to keep the layout pretty much the same although I have this idea that I might upgrade my big brick and rock scenario -- which never lies flat enough to walk on really well -- for some nice flat terracotta tiles that I see people have in their plots. I don't know where to get them though so the bricks and rocks will stay for now. I also decided to add another place to walk along the right edge of the plot (where I share the divider with a neighbor) to make things easier. I still don't feel like I've got the best, coolest, most efficient layout of my dreams but I think it works.

Yesterday I very sloppily planted carrot, beet (red and golden) and carrot seeds. I have some cilantro seeds starting to sprout and I finally got myself some bee balm. In fact I spend a lot (like $15 which is a lot for a garden plant) to get some and then of course a neighbor was horrified because he had so much and it was threatening to take over his yard and he wished I had just asked him first. The bee balm I purchased seemed (from the label) to be the purple kind and I was so bummed about ending up with lemon balm (thinking it was bee balm) last year that I still took some of his (that he says is red) off his hands. I hope they both grow well and that I end up with so much bee balm and attract so many bees that I can hear my plot buzzing from yards away. This will also be my 2nd attempt at flowers that are not yellow or orange so that's exciting.

In addition to all of that I have:

Moved things around: the lavender is away from the shadow of the sink

Gotten rid of things: divided the black eyed susan and the yarrow and got rid of the yellow coreopsis and lemon balm.

Tried to revive things: I had the most beautiful purple sage last year and it doesn't seem to be coming back. I keep watering the twiggy ends and saying encouraging things but I don't think it's working.

Planted: Kale, Lettuce and Arugula seedlings. The flea beetles are already all over my Arugula which now, after a couple of years of experience, gives me great hope for my future eggplant.

And finally, I planted some mint in the sink (plus some more california poppy seeds.) It grows like a weed around here so I'm hoping this will be the thing that finally helps my sink fulfill it's garden destiny.

I think that's pretty much it for now. More to come soon. I promise.