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.

June 1, 2006

Did someone wash their car in my garden?

The garden is a wild and wacky learning adventure!! This morning I went to check on my plants and noticed what looked like soap suds in about 4 places on my yarrow plant. I saw something similar one plot over on some mint plants. I wasn't sure what it was but, it looked JUST like soap suds. I had a little water left in my watering can so I just sprinkled it until the foam melted (thinking it probably was a bad thing whatever it was.) I saw nothing else but I decided to e mail my Gardening School teacher about it to see if she had any idea what it could be. She wrote back in about 2 minutes that it was probably a "Spittle Bug." I am amazed! It turns out Mr. Spittle doesn't cause much harm unless there are a lot of them but, what a crazy creature. They move around and create this little nest of sudsy bug slime to protect them from the heat and dryness of the sun and to provide camouflage. That second part definitely worked because I saw no bugs...... just suds.