November 9, 2006

C'mon compost!

My compost doesn't seem to be doing much. Everything looks about the same as when I first put it in. I still haven't added a cup of soil as some of my garden-blogger friends have suggested because it's been so rainy but, I will definitely do that this weekend. Also, I've added a lot of water but, things still look pretty dry. Do I need to just drench it all? Any ideas?

I found a big stick to use as a "stirrer" while walking home from work last night and I collected another trash bag full of leaves for my reserve. I'm a little worried though because some of the leaves have big round black spots on them. Is that ok? I have avoided any diseased plant material and I don't really know if big black spots on dried leaves are a disease but....if they could be does that mean I shouldn't use them?

Since the first day I've added a few tea bags, some dryer lint, the skin and seeds of a spaghetti squash and a few more eggshells and apple cores. I feel like I have a little rabbit in the back that I'm "feeding."

October 29, 2006

My little compost bin

I'm not too handy, which is why my homemade "city" compost bin has some very ugly looking holes in the top. I can't believe this is really going to work but, its worth a shot. I didn't really think that sticking tiny specks into the ground would result in the carrots and beans and lettuce that I've grown from them either though and things decomposing seems much more logical.

I followed the instructions I had pretty closely but, I am still not sure I got the right type and quantity of "greens." Here's what I did:

1) I cut holes in the top of the lid of my big plastic tub. The knife was crappy and kept folding a little so its a miracle that I didn't get a bad cut. This part took about 45 minutes if you can believe it.

2) I cut 8 slits (2 in each corner) in the bottom of the tub for drainage.

3) I filled the tub with 1 ripped up egg carton, a few inches of newspaper that I ripped into strips and 1 and 1/2 shopping bags of my out-of-state dried leaves. Once it was about 3/4 full I added some weeds and other fresh plant material from the garden (mostly kale that had too many dead aphids to be appetizing and weeds) plus some eggshells and an apple core and some tea leaves.

4) I watered the whole thing until the top layer seemed pretty wet.

I think I'll add more "browns" and "greens" in a few days since after all the water went in everything shrunk down a bit and the bin is not yet completely full. Plus, I still need to go leaf hunting so I'll have a good supply of dried leaves through the winter.

I know I'll never be able to just throw my kitchen waste into the compost bin like some people do simply because I won't have the room but, its still exciting to try this.

I probably have enough space for one more bin on the back porch if I really wanted it so, we'll see how this goes and play it by ear.

October 26, 2006

"Leaving" the City

I've been wanting to try composting in a plastic bin on my backporch since I read about it here.
The trouble is, I didn't have any dried leaves or "browns" to get started. So, I was very excited for fall although........ I knew there would be challenges given my urban environment.

My street is paved and I don't have a backyard so I wasn't quite sure how to go about picking up the leaves that I do see on the street. Plus, I don't really trust the "cleanliness" of the gutter if you know what I mean. My apartment is near a highschool and a gas station and a few bars and there are plenty of people around who never pick up after their dogs. I can only imagine what is down there with the leaves. Ew.

So, I was planning to pick a weekend day to go to a nearby park and just fill a few trash bags with dried leaves. I was prepared to feel a little self conscious about it because, heck, it probably looks weird for a non-employee to be picking up bagfuls of dried leaves at the park right? But I'm ok with that. Its all for a good cause.

Anyway, this past weekend I went on vacation to a rural area of New York State and although I hadn't planned on it I realized that this was the perfect spot to start collecting. I had hit the fall leaf jackpot! On the day I was leaving I filled 3 shopping bags ( sadly, I hadn't come prepared with big trash bags.) I know its a little bizarre and I felt a little silly doing it but, my friend didn't seem to mind (the one who actually owns the car.) and I was really excited about it. Who would have thought that out-of-state leaves in the trunk of the car could make a person so happy?

I also bought a pocket knife to cut the holes in the plastic tub so, I'm hoping to start my first batch of compost this weekend!!

October 17, 2006


I refuse to be sad about the Fall and the end of gardening for the year. Fall is actually my favorite season because the sunny days are so sparkly and I actually hate when it's too hot out. If fall wasn't followed by Winter I would like it even better.

My Nippon Daisies are finally blooming (in fact, they are out of control, does anyone want some?) and this past Sunday I planted garlic!!

Garlic was one of those things that I was really jealous of in other people's garden plots during the spring and summer because it looks so amazing while it's growing. Plus, who doesn't love garlic?!

I pledged to grow garlic this year and, while I'm at it, here is a list of 11 new things I want in my garden for next year. I'll never have the room or the energy since I don't really plan to stop growing much of what I had this year but......a girl can dream.

1.Bee Balm (the butterflies seem to love it and it reminds me of Animal from the Muppet Show) 2.Beets - golden is my hope because the red ones are tasty but very very messy
3.Potatoes (maybe)
4.Different kinds of lettuce - to be determined
5.Some other kind of peppers (that will actually grow!)
6.White eggplant
7. Chard
8. Cucumbers (but they take up a lot of room so we'll see)
9. Squash (this is mostly for my brother who wants to cook the blossoms)
10.Some kind of purple flower that I know grows with California Poppies but I don't yet know the name of.
11. Maybe one more flower that blooms in early spring although I'm not sure I'm willing to give up the veggie space.

Special thanks to the Gardener/Chef who helped me with the beginnings of a garden plan and held the garlic for the photo above.

October 10, 2006

October Clean Up

I was embarrassed about how much time I spent ignoring the garden over the past two weeks but, after just a couple hours of work I feel a lot better about the state of things in the garden.

It's getting colder which means I had to pull out a lot of plants and cut things back. We no longer have a compost pile which is a major pain in the butt. I had to bag up all the plant material and then on Wedensday night I'll put it out in the trash because 1) I don't have my own compost bin and 2) even if I did it probably wouldn't be hot enough to deal with the various diseases that are likely on the plant remains that I have.

I probably have another 1-2 clean up days to do before it gets too cold and I need to start thinking about layout for next year and planting bulbs which I've never done. I really want to try garlic but, since I am not sure how I want to lay out the garden for next spring I am not sure where to plant it.

I was actually surprised to see that the basil is still alive (I made 2 jars of pesto with it in addition to 4 bottles of rosemary oil that should be ready in time for gift giving in December.)
The biggest surprise of this past Saturday was the carrots! I really thought I had failed with those because they seemed to be too shaded and to be taking way too long. I'm like a proud mama. They're pretty and "garden-y" and taste good too. I left a few in for another week or so and I've still got some kale and perhaps even more basil.

I do love the fall but, I'm sad to see it all wrapping up. The garden still looks really nice but, I know the days of brown scraggly sadness are just around the corner.

September 18, 2006

Generic Garden Update

I came back from my trip very late Friday night and I would have headed straight to the garden on Saturday morning except for the fact that my poor cat's ear was swollen to 4 times its normal size and I had to get her to the vet. Now she has to wear one of those plastic cones around her neck -- how uncool.

I did manage to get out there on Sunday morning and the place looked like a total disaster. I asked a friend to water and take all the ripe tomatoes she could handle while I was away but, it still wasn't much care for a 10 day period. I ended up putting more tomatoes into the trash than I took home with me. The biggest excitement was the lima beans. I have always wanted to grow them and I failed last year. They're still sitting in the pods on my counter because when you wish for something for so long its hard to see it come to an end. Luckily I can attempt to grow them again next year.

I think next weekend I'll be spending a few hours pulling up all the tomato plants and all the weeds that I ignored through the month of August. The garden is seriously looking scraggly.

After that I'll be doing some reading on what to do now to prepare for next season. If anyone out there has any tips please send em my way.

September 5, 2006

I've been a bad bad blogger

Jeez Louise I can't believe how much updating I have to do. I pretty much stopped tracking the rainfall for all of August and I don't even have a photo of MY garden for this post. I need to sit down with my camera (and my conscience) when I get back from my trip to the Pacific Northwest (I leave in about 2 hours) and write a proper blog entry. Bad bad bad.

Meanwhile.....I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with. I AM very happy and pleased and all that. They taste good and I feel like a very generous friend these days (offering enormous heirloom tomatoes, grown with love, to everyone around) BUT.....I still see all the flaws:

The tomatoes are all splitting because of uneven watering and the plants are all toppled over and brushing the ground because I was wimpy at tying the branches to the stakes. I thought they were secure but really, I left them too much room to work with. I must be more stern next time. Oh and I never got a handle on the various diseases (wilt, spot, etc.) so I spent about an hour yesterday trying to clear out all the brown, dried and diseased leaves before they drop on the ground. Have I ruined the soil for next year? Honestly, I think I might just be worrying for nothing because, just about everyone elses tomato plants look about the same but, it sure does seem bad. Someone also told me that the tomato leaves getting wet is part of the problem. How do you prevent THAT? Even if I watered really carefully just at the soil line wouldn't the rain get them wet?

August is a busy month workwise for me and it always is so I just need a better plan for next year. Yes, I am already thinking about next year. I need a whole new layout. My poor parsley got completely shaded out and all my neat paths are pretty much invisible now. Do they have makeover shows for gardener's? "What not to plant?" Oh and I think I need to grow white eggplant. Someone else is growing some nearby and it looks so cool and spooky. I am so jealous.....I must have some.

More on plans for next year later.......

August 22, 2006

New Bugs, Politics and Tomatoes

Ah, life as a public official. The drama of the community garden has begun and someone is now going around with a petition to demand that the Steering Committe (which I am on) have a public meeting about the fate of a particular area of the greenspace that is across from all the garden plots. At least it's not boring. I am hesitant to divulge the details since I have recently learned that some of the history of this particular garden is a little shady and involves theft and "hush-hush" reparations.

Suffice it to say that the person complaining was perfectly happy to have the public kept in the dark when he was in charge.

All I really care about is having a lovely garden that the community supports and enjoys but, that is not as easily attainable as you might think.

Meanwhile I have seen a few new bugs and the tomatoes are coming on strong.

Here's the bug update:

I saw two little yellow bugs that are really cute but which I fear are cucumber beetles. They were both tiny and yellow but one had little polka dots (like a lady bug but smaller) and one was striped. I couldn't get my camera to focus so check out the photos in the link. I don't have any cucumbers growing but, they like tomatoes too. FYI - They are damn quick and hard to catch.

The other bug I saw was large and ugly but, possibly a Spined Soldier Bug which would be a good thing since those are beneficial and eat other bad bugs. I'm not completely sure that's what it was though. Once again all my photos came out blurry. This bug is very slow moving and I pretty much had to reason with it to move aside so I could get at one of my ripe tomatoes.

My policy is usually to leave things alone unless I know what it is and know that its bad so that I don't accidentally kill a "good guy."Apparently, sometimes the cute bugs are bad and the ugly one's are good.

As for the tomatoes and eggplant....just look at the photo above. That's just a fraction of what's coming too. Hooray!!

August 12, 2006

Know when to fold 'em

Yes, ladies and gentlemen I finally have tomatoes! A few more of the Chadwick's ripened and I managed to harvest them before anyone else got to them. The larger ones are "Pruden's Purple." They look red to me but, what do I know.

I could have waited one more day to let the tomatoes get REALLY red but, after the "theft" I felt like I needed to go for it.

Sadly though, I decided to pack in my sole surviving pepper plant. It isn't losing leaves anymore and it did start to grow one tiny pepper but, even that had a sinister brown streak in it. Sometimes it's better to quit while you're ahead.

August 5, 2006


I am taking a deep breath and counting to ten and going to my happy place. I'm not angry so much as I am really really disappointed.

On Thursday morning I noticed that my very first tomato of the year was starting to turn red. In fact it was red but, I perceived it to be a little orange and therefore figured it would be ok to wait to pick it. Friday was a little rainy so I waited but then first thing Saturday morning I bounded out there to have the lovely little Chadwick Cherry Tomato that I have worked for for two months. I'm pretty sure I even told my brother about it last night when he asked "what are you doing tomorrow?" That's how excited I was.

Needless to say, my heart sank when I got out there and saw that it was missing. It was taken off so cleanly that its hard for me to believe an animal or bird took it. That, plus the fact that it was easily visible from the front of my garden plot where the pathway is makes me suspect a human being. Its only one little cherry tomato so I don't think it was anything sinister. Here are the two theories I have:

1) Little kid who has just finished harvesting tomatoes in a nearby plot with mommy or daddy wanders off, is attracted to my sink, sees the tomato and swipes it thinking he or she is doing valuable work. Damn Kids!

2) Friend of another gardener (who is somehow clueless about the way someone who works to grow food pays attention to these things) is strolling around, checking out all of the different garden plots, sees my tomato and takes it thinking nothing of it. I know friends of mine have walked around and "innocently" wanted to steal other people's food and I've had to stop them and explain the heartbreak I might feel if the bean I'd been checking on every day for a week just disappeared right before I was planning to pick it.

Its also possible that it just fell off but, I really don't think so and, if that were the case then why wasn't it on the ground along with one of the green ones and a few leaves hmmmm?

I definitely don't think another gardener would just take it. If anything we have the problem that some of the gardener's leave town and their food gets enormous or rots on the vine.

Anyway, I guess I've learned some kind of a lesson and lost some innocence. As a result I went ahead and picked my first Nadia Eggplant. Its gorgeous. I'm not going to use it until Monday though and I was planning to wait until then to pick it but, a little defensive gardening every now and then seems in order at the moment.

Meanwhile there is plenty to be happy about gardenwise. I suspect I'll get my "first tomato" any day now.

August 2, 2006

Pesto Factory

It has hit that point in the summer when I feel extremely guilty (and unhappy, to be honest) if I don't spend at least an hour in the garden on the weekend and make at least one jar of basil pesto. Last summer, including all the "pesto parties" I still had about 9 jars left in the freezer by the end of the season. A bit much I know. It was handy in March when I could still whip up a quick dinner for 8 if I needed to but, how often do you need to?

The basil part is pretty easy but keeping the house stocked with garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and lemons or limes (my only addition to the good ol' Joy of Cooking recipe) can be a lot of work. For olive oil I recommend buying one of those 110 ounce cans so you never run out.

Oh and if you have friends with nut allergies, sunflower seeds work really well instead of pine nuts although they don't get that lovely "who's-baking-something-wonderful-in-here" smell when you toast them.

Mmmmmm Pesto.

July 29, 2006

Beans, Beetles and Eggplant

You know you've become obsessed with your garden when....2 minutes after arriving home from getting a haircut you do not look in the mirror once but, instead you head straight out to the garden to see what's going on.

I was alarmed when I first got out there because all of the tomato plants looked toppled over and were dragging on the ground. We had some pretty hard rain last night so I'm guessing that was what caused it so I spent 20 minutes tying things back to their stakes and cutting off a few more yellowing disease-y branches. The plants are still covered with about 10 times the number of tomatoes I had last year (although still green) so I think everything is going ok.

Then came the excitment!

I harvested 2 eggplants and lots of greenbeans. The eggplants were from a seedling I got in my seedling class and they were marked as Nadia Eggplant which would make them fat-ish and round-ish and just like the other two plants I have which have nothing harvest-able yet. In fact, these eggplants are long and skinny and I think they might be Ichiban Eggplant. One of them actually sprouted what I can best describe as a "handle." Very strange but, absolutely thrilling! This harvest represents the first non-leaf thing I've harvested since way back when I got a measly handful of strawberries in June!

When picking the greenbeans (which is kind of hard because they really blend right in) I noticed some lacy looking leaves which looked to me (burgeoning bug freak) like evidence of the Mexican Bean Beetle. I found one and after 3 attempts I managed to capture and kill it! Beetles.... it seems drop to the ground when touched, a nifty trick when you're being hunted by a hunched over human being trying to catch you from above. I know they're supposedly look-alikes but it didn't look much like a ladybug to me -- more orange than red. Speaking of of my plot neighbors has this really strange, tall flower in her plot that attracts zillions of ladybugs. She has no idea what the plant is and neither do I but, its amazing to look at it and see all the happy bugs crawling all over it.

Sorry the picture is fuzzy but, anyone know what this plant is?

PS: I'm not holding my breath but the sole pepper plant that I assumed was a goner has a teeny tiny pepper on it.

PPS: My neighbors zucchini grew some little tendrils and was starting to climb up one of my tomato plants. I laughed out loud when I saw it but, seriously, that is not cool. I'm a plant lover but, I had to foil those plans with a scissor and quick. Its survival of the fittest out there....unless your keeper is a crazy garden lady with something sharp.

July 24, 2006

Lessons of a newbie

Here are a few things I've learned this summer:

1) California Poppies grow well in crappy soil. That means they grow well in my sink where the dirt is compacted and has a tendency to dry out AND flood. The only question I have to ask myself is: should I try to improve the soil or just grow the poppies there and not worry about it?

2) As plants grow, they really do take up more space than you think. I planted everything in my garden with plenty of room (I thought) but, for most of June I was feeling like my garden was very sparse and boring. Now that it's late July and I can hardly get throught the paths I created I feel better about the space I left. My plot is still lopsided in terms of tall things and short things but, I think I have some ideas for next year.

3) Eggplant and Basil go really well, Red Peppers are a struggle. For two years in a row now my basil and eggplants looked pretty bad in June but look damn good by the end of July. I've already got a few eggplants on the way and a bunch of flowers that should bring even more. Red Peppers are not my forte. Last year it was blossom end rot and this year its some mysterious wilting disease that may or my not be Southern Blight. I still have one plant that I'm hanging onto. Maybe a different type of pepper will go better.

4) Tomato plants are big and demanding and even the "small" ones need to be caged or staked. I feel really good about the staking I did for 5 of my larger tomato plants but, the other 3 really could have used something (they're sprawling around on the ground and spreading over to neighboring plots.) I underestimated how much pruning is needed and how early you have to start doing it.

5)"Bush" Beans do grow easily but they need more space than you think. I planted a row of lima beans next to a row of green beans and basically created a thicket of plants. I'm not even sure I'll be able to find all the beans to harvest them. Next year they either need more room or something to grab onto as they grow. I've yet to build anything in my garden (like a trellis) but, perhaps next year will be the year.

6) Carrots may "love tomatoes" but, if you plant them too close together, the carrots will never see the sun. The jury is still out on my success at companion planting. The tomatoes may be benefiting but, I think the carrots are probably a little annoyed living in the shadows.

Photos below are May 27th, June 27th and July 23rd. AMAZING! (I need more flowers though.)

July 20, 2006

I take offense

I have reluctantly accepted the fact that my plants have diseases. I might always get them too, simply because I choose to garden organically and I am confined to a tiny plot with "urban" soil issues. It has also been really rainy and really hot here for a while. So, my tomatoes have both Septoria Leaf Spot and also Early Blight. Big whoop! That said, I do someday hope not to have these problems and this year's tomato plants look waaaaaay better than last years. But this morning, I walked out to snip off some of the diseased branches and I saw another gardener who seems to really know what he's doing. He's definitely more of the "farmer gardener" though -- a young guy who knows how to "train" his plants, uses a black plastic sheet as "mulch" and grows enormous brandywine tomatoes and pretty much no flowers.

Knowing that he knows a thing or two I asked him if he was also having trouble with the lower leaves of his tomato plants (knowing that he is because I can SEE it).

My hope was to:
a) commiserate and b) hopefully get some advice because he has LESS of a problem than I do

His response was something along the lines of "maybe.... but I just look at it as one of the joys of organic gardening." Ouch! I know I'm being sensitive but, the comment struck me as a veiled version of "Dude, this is what gardening is all about and if you want a perfect green lawn and no diseases then move to the suburbs, pile on the chemlawn and be done with it, sheesh."
I felt judged.

I'm sure I'll get over it and he really is a nice person but, maybe a little macho and superior about his gardening. He'll probably have better tomatoes than me but, my plot is cooler to look at.

July 18, 2006

Another one bites the dust

I live in the north but somehow Southern Blight got me.

My 2 pepper plants (down from 3 after the friggin cutworms!) have not been looking good lately. They were wilting and some of the leaves have been falling off. I've been looking up all the "wilt" disorders and none of them seemed to fit. This morning I decided that one of the pepper plants was just too sad looking and too close to my eggplant to mess around. I pulled it up and there was this white crystal-y, moldy, fungus looking stuff at the base of the plant. A little googling turned up Southern Blight. I probably need to pull out the other pepper plant too so it doesn't affect my tomatoes and eggplants.

This sucks. For two years in a row now I can't grow red peppers for the life of me!

July 16, 2006

dang, that's pretty

Sunday at about 9AM I was still in my PJs but, its been so hot out that I wanted to get out and water the garden while it was still sort of comfortable out. Those of you with a garden in your yard or on your porch might not have these sorts of problems (or maybe you do) but, since I have to walk half a block to get to my garden and about 46 other people could be out there, attire that won't embarrass me is something I try to think about before venturing out. I decided to go for it and of course ran into 4 other people. The people you meet while gardening cannot be ignored. You need to chat and catch up a little and see what their up to. No one seemed to look me up and down so maybe it wasn't obvious that I was in pajamas. Either that or what I normally wear gardening isn't that different.

Anyway, it was a great day to be out and I saw some reeeeeally pretty things. First, I saw a monarch butterfly and a bunch of giant bees chowing down on some purple coneflower and bee balm (gotta get some bee balm next year!) I'm thinking about sending the picture out to all the gardner's since I am on the steering committee now and building enthusiasm for the garden seems like it should be part of my job. In an urban garden setting I feel like that's sort of a "girly" thing to do. I mean, I'm a big environmentalist and I like getting dirty and I use my garden to feed myself (the more serious and noble gardening principles is what I'm thinking) but, sometimes its just the flowers and the birds and pretty sights and smells that get me.

It was very sunny when I was watering too (which I've actually heard is bad because the sun can burn holes through droplets of water on the leaves like a magnifying glass......oh brother!) The combination of the sun and the water created these fantastic rainbows everytime I sprayed the hose. Ooooooooooh. So pretty.

July 9, 2006

Green with Envy

There are many things I love about being part of a community garden. Just yesterday we had a "potluck BBQ" where I got to spend a lot of time with all sorts of people and enjoy wonderful, homemade food.

The biggest downside is jealousy. I can occasionally be overcome by strong feelings of gardening inadequacy just walking around and looking at other people's plots.

My coneflower above, someone elses below

I think its a little bit like High School (or even more like the High Schools I see on TV) where people compare themselves to each other and talk about what everyone else is up to. Or maybe caring how you measure up to your peers is just something you do forever. For example, yesterday I had a conversation that went something like this:

Black Eyed Susan: "Do you know if I should be adding something to my tomatoes right now? I didn't do very well with them last year."

Other Gardener #1: "Oh me either! No one did well, everyone had rot, except for Gardener X, he's just amazing, everyone knows that. And Gardener Y too who has the plot right next to his because the worms went over there. Your tomatoes look really good."

Black Eyed Susan: "Oh p'shaw, but, look at Gardener Z's right next to me. Her's are huge."

(Gardener Z walks over a few minutes later)

Black Eyed Susan: "What are you doing with your tomatoes? They look incredible."

Gardener Z: "Oh, (blushing) I really don't know, I think I put mine in after you but, it may be the type."

Other Gardener #1: "Yes, yes look at the type! Maybe that's it."

Anyway, you get the idea. None of it is mean spirited at all but, I do often walk around looking at what other's have done and wonder if I'll ever be as good at this as I want to be.

Here is my tomato plant below and someone elses on the right. I only have one green tomato so far and its sooo tiny.

Their lavender and my lavender. Where are my flowers?!

And then some things I don't even have.
Fabulous and strange looking flowers and onions.

The truth is, I benefit tremendously from all the gardening gurus in my neighborhood. They share their tips and tricks and often their plants too. I spoke to the woman responsible for these onions on the right and she said I can have some so.....its all ok.

July 2, 2006

A is for Aphid

Yesterday was a big day bugwise. I already knew I had flea beetles but, another gardener a few plots over mentioned that he had aphids on his zucchini, tomato and pepper plants so I decided to hunt for them on mine. Sure enough, I found a little nasty gathering of them on a tomato plant. You can see in the picture (look closely) that there is also some kind of white bug there too. Anyone know what that is? According to my excellent bug book they look a little like whiteflies but, I don't think whiteflies hang out on the undersides of leaves the way aphids do. I'm a little concerned that they are beneficial and were in the process of making a meal of the aphids and I ruined it. I hope I'm wrong.

Bug stuff is really interesting but, knowing what's good to leave alone is tricky. I tend to err on the side of leaving things alone unless I find it in a menacing cluster or know that its a bad guy. The superhero bugs seem to travel solo.

Speaking of which. I have hardly seen a single bee this summer and I haven't seen ONE ladybug. When are they getting here? Is it too hot? Has there been too much rain? What's the deal? In fact, I am a tiny bit worried now that killing the aphids myself makes my plot less attractive to ladybugs (they eat aphids by the way).

Anyway, I took out my spray bottle, filled it part of the way with water and then added a tiny bit of very mild soap (Dr. Bronner's Peppermint) and then spritzed the heck out of any leaves where I saw aphids.

In my search I also found what I'm pretty sure was a cabbageworm. It was hanging out on a brussel sprout leaf which gave me the tip off. I hesitated for only a second before I removed him from his hiding place BAREHANDED!

I still have those annoying flea beetles. They've mutilated the arugula and are now working on the kale and collard greens so...I spritzed them a couple times too. How much of this spritzing does it take? It seems to me that once the water dries all these bugs will happily carry on as they were. I might go spray again later today but, it might be an exercise in sysiphean futility.

Things still keep getting bigger though and despite the occasional aphid my tomato plants seem very happy. Oh and I now have a daylily!! Its even prettier than I expected!

P.S. All this bug identifying business makes me want a magnifying glass. Yes, I am a geek.

June 27, 2006

A few of my favorite things

Today was a beautiful sunny day. The perfect weather for flea beetles. Grrrr.

Luckily I know from last summer that they may riddle my greens with holes but, they won't kill the plant and I can still eat the crops afterwards. You might have to squint to see the little black shiny guy in the photo but, he is definitely there! One thing you can say about my collard greens -- they have character.

For the record, flea beetles hate water so if you're willing to spritz your plants pretty often you can keep them at bay. I guess I'm saying I'm not willing. I've also heard that you can catch them with sticky traps simply by brushing your hands on the edge of the leaves. The beetles hop just like fleas and they'll hop right onto the trap. These bugs aren't very smart.

The fact is, now that things have moved on from teeny tiny seedlings to adolescent plants I feel much more relaxed.

Everything seems to be coming into their own this week and I couldn't be more excited. The kale really looks bumpy and "dinosaur" like. The coreopsis (yay I learned the name) survived the slug infestation and is starting to bloom, the eggplant that seemed on its last legs after the cutworm attack looks really healthy and the whole thing makes me very very happy. I even staked my tomatoes today! I know there will be more frustration down the road --likely one or two steps down -- but today I'm just pleased.

Yellow flowers are my favorite!

June 22, 2006

How much water?

Here, as promised is a photo of my fabulous red hose nozzle. I've been using the "shower" setting but, I've got lots of options including "mist", "soaker", "cone" and "jet". It was pretty expensive but, its quite cool.

I am really trying to do a better job of watering this year. Watering may sound like the easiest part but, somehow despite the fact that I think about my garden and how it's doing ALL DAY LONG, I managed to screw up the watering last year. My biggest downfall was confusion about how soon to water after it had rained. I think I just let the soil dry out a little too long when the plants had been soaked by rain and I thought they needed a break. What happened was "blossom-end rot" which basically made half of my tomatoes and peppers turn black on the end and rot (duh). As I understand it, you get this when the plant can't absorb calcium which it can only do when there is enough moisture in the soil.

So this year I'm keeping track of my watering and mother nature's with this calendar. I just look up recorded weather from the National Weather Service and add the average temperature and rainfall for the day. The only thing I'm not sure of is how many inches I'm actually providing when I water with a hose. I water for a good long while but, I still think it's probably only 1/4 inch or so. I'm trying to err on the side of watering when I think it might need it even if rain is in the forecast, I think I'll use the 50% rule -- meaning if the chances of rain are 50% or less I'm watering anyway. Like today, its been really warm and sunny for most of the past week and it's only rained a little so I watered this morning. It might pour later and then I'll feel a little stupid but......what can you do?

Frankly this is all about tomatoes. They can be very picky and I pretty much feel like I'm their bitch -- always trying to please them never knowing if I'm doing it right. I know I'm not alone.
This year I am also going to try "pinching" out the tiny sprouts that grow in the joints of larger branches. This is supposed to give me bigger, better tomatoes and who doesn't want that? Here is a good link on tomatoes that I found. I think I'll go back to it a lot this summer.

PS: The small blue chair makes me happy every time I see it so I thought I'd share it with all of you. I finally saw the kids that use it last night. They are very hardworking so, it makes sense that they would need something to take a break in.

PPS: Please comment! If you are a gardener and you have some advice or even if you just want to vent about how sore your back is from weeding or how your hands already feel like sandpaper or you have no garden but you like to observe crazy people, please say hello.

June 16, 2006

The Best Breakfast

They are small and ugly and they taste about the same as other strawberries I've had but, I grew them so to me they are the most beautiful thing in the world.

This morning I went out and watered my garden with a hose for the first time this season. Maybe I coddle a little too much but, up until today I had only watered my seeds and very small or newly planted plants with my watering can because it has one of those gentle rain spouts on it. The hose can be a little STRONG. I have a fancy hose spout that I got last summer (I'll post a photo soon) but, I still have trouble sometimes with the water flow being too rough. I might have used the hose sooner but, then we had all this rain. Finally, it has been warm and sunny for the past 5 days and its supposed to be HOT and sunny for the next 3. I always worry about too much heat without watering so I watered for a good while today. Oh and I should mention, for good measure, how GREAT it is to have water in the community garden. Before I ever lived here, or gardened, people on this same site had to lug their water from home. Progress is good.

When I was done I decided it was time to pick a few strawberries and try them out. Strawberries weren't even in my plan for this year but, another gardener offered some plants and I couldn't refuse. I don't know that much about strawberries but I've learned a lot in the past few weeks:

1) Strawberries are perennials so they keep coming back each year. Amazing!
2) They send out "runners" to form new plants so you're best bet is to plant the strawberries with some room for the runners. Make sure to water those too when you water.
3) After a year or so the "old" strawberry plants don't produce as much so it's best to rely on the "new" plants year to year.
4) You can grow strawberries in a pot and they even make special terra cotta pots for this purpose.
5) They like straw. Most people I've seen put straw around the plants as a mulch.
6) Birds like them too. If you don't grab your berries fast some other critter may beat you to it.

Based on all of this (and my spying in other people's plots with strawberry plants) I think the plants I got from my neighbor were "old" which is why the berries are so small and the plants aren't super-healthy looking. I am not sure I'm right about this though. I might have transplanted them at the wrong time (should be very early spring, I was a little late) or near other plants that they don't like or maybe the soil wasn't ideal for them. All I know is, even though some other people seem to have bigger, healthier strawberry plants these little runts are mine and I love them.

Breakfast this morning was cereal and soy milk with strawberries -- a bowl full of satisfaction!

Click Here for more info on growing strawberries.

June 12, 2006


Thank goodness, the sun has been out for 2 whole days!!

This weekend I hosted a small party for my brother and future sister-in-law. They've just moved to town so I figured a little welcoming was in order. I decided to trim all my chive flowers before they shriveled up. I found a cool recipe and made a chive cheese spread and it was REALLY good!

Here is the recipe:

8oz Goat cheese
4oz Cream Cheese
5 taplespoons chopped chives
1 clove of garlic - minced

Mix it all together and then place a sheet of plastic wrap on a table, use 12 whole chive stems to create a weave pattern, plop the cheese in the middle and lift the plastic wrap up to cover it. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours, cut off the extra "ends" and sprinkle with chive flowers (not necessary but, pretty and edible) and serve with bread or crackers!

I also used up half of my last jar of pesto from last summer. That might have been a bit rash considering how small my basil plants are right now but, you know that Vegas saying: "scared money loses." There really must be a gardener's equivalent.

P.S: I haven't seen a single slug since my dusk killing spree. Ask me if I feel guilty.

P.P.S: The election results are in and I am now a member of the Garden Steering Committee! I am so pleased...... hopefully this will mean my sink is safe!

June 8, 2006

Waiting.......(is the hardest part)

Its been raining most of the past few days. In fact, I know, thanks to my web-savvy cousin who found this site for me, that it has rained almost 6 inches in June alone. Not only is it rainy but, its pretty cold for June. 56 degrees yesterday!! It stinks. I can't do anything in the garden except look at it (and believe me I have) and worry about how all the plants are doing (done that too.)

In addition to the rain I am waiting to hear the results of the Garden Steering Committee elections. I had a good feeling about my chances until today when I e mailed the current Garden Coordinator about the results and he said there was a tie and they were "figuring things out." Wouldn't he have said so if I was not involved in the tie? He's told me that he voted for me so you would think he might want to share good news if he had some right? Perhaps he's just being careful. I hate that. Or maybe I didn't win and rather than tell me that (because it might be awkward) he's just waiting to announce the full "Committee Elect." Even an idiot can figure out if their name is on a list or not.

There were 9 names on the ballot, 7 available positions and people could only vote for their top 5 choices. 3 of the 9 were "incumbents" and there were only 3 women (including me) all of which would be new. I'm a friendly, competent person and I think I would do a good job but, there wasn't any real campaigning happening or real opportunities to describe yourself before the vote so I'm not sure how much people who haven't spoken to me really KNOW that I've got some great skills for the job. In a sense it's more of a popularity contest and since I am not home all the time and I've only been living in the neighborhood a few years and, honestly, I don't always stop and chat, I don't think I'm super popular. Don't get me wrong, I'm not disliked (I don't think) but, I'm certainly not the prom queen of the neighborhood.

I guess I'll just have to wait to find out the results.

PS: I went out to the garden at dusk after posting this and found a ton of very tiny pinkish/grayish "snails-with-no-shells" in one of my perennials (I still don't know the name of the plant but, it has yellow flowers). I looked the slimy critters up and discovered what slugs look like. Ick! I got my gloves on and handpicked about 15 of them. Truly disgusting! The fact that it was just turning dark made the whole task a bit less hard to take than it might have otherwise been plus, they were all very small.