Thursday, April 29, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
As I was taking the P.E. test on Friday April 16, I had been asked VERY STRONGLY by my boss to perhaps, maybe, you know, take the day before the test off of work and do whatever I wanted.
So I did. And I went up and hung out with Bob and Lyn at Draco Gardens for about an hour before having to go to a vet appointment. After the vet, I was looking for something to do, so I decided I'd make some seed starter mix. Now I have no idea if this is any good, but here's what I mixed in:
2 parts compost (one part homemade, one part store-bought)
2 parts sand
2 parts garden soil (Lady Bug variety)
3/4 part vermiculite
and 3 spades of Rabbit Hill's vegetable starter stuff (yellow label)
I mixed everything together and then picked out all the large pieces of wood and rocks and other things that don't belong in seed starter, by hand. That took a while. Of the above mentioned items, we already had the compost, the soil, and the sand was given to me by one of my coworkers. the vermiculite and Rabbit Hill stuff were bought from Gardens before they closed a few months back.
Next, I cut all of my saved toiletpaper rolls in half (so I now have 10 mini rolls). Subsequently, I made 4 cuts in the bottom about 1" long. I then created a "box fold" of these four sections thus creating little tiny cardboard pots.
Fill with seed starter.
Open packs of seeds. Plant accordingly. I planted 5 milkweed (sadly it's the bog variety so I'll probably be giving some away to those with ponds), 2 marigold (using the seeds saved from the marigolds in the garden right now, 2 Torch Tithonia, and 1 Red Savina Habanero.
Water pots thoroughly. Let drain. Place in saved blackberry plastic baskets thus creating a nice closeable green house type thing (maybe...I think there's too many holes, but I'm seeing if it will work).
Now the seeds just need to sprout.
AND Epic Fail. I closed the tops and then put the starts out in the sun. FULL SUN. Yep, I solarized my seeds. Yay. Well, at least I know, "Don't Do That." After about a week in the sun, I figured it probably wasn't the best, so I let all the little pots sit in the garden instead. I'm still watering them, but so far there's nothing growing (not that I would expect it at this point). I'll give it one more week and then replant seeds.
Friday, April 23, 2010
After going through and making a plan based on height of plants and companion planting, I ended up with a grid that includes 2 broccoli, 2 chard, 5 garlic, 2 green onion, 2 chives, 3 carrot, 3 pea, 3 spinach, 2 strawberry, and 3 beet squares. As I did for the spring garden, the descriptions are as follows:
Note: I did not ever plant anything in the Strawberry squares. Until the spring, when I started planting my spring crops
Broccoli: Renee's Garden, All Season Blend; We've mixed equal amounts of seed for these great tasting, high-yielding hybrid varieties with early, mid, and late season maturities for the longest possible harvests. We've chosen cultivars for flavorful, extra-fancy, tightly beaded main heads and abundant side shoots. All three have excellent disease resistance and weather tolerance. Transplant to Harvest: 60.
My thoughts: I think the types that came up were the same as they both ripened at the same time. That being said, this is also the first broccoli in which I liked the tops (since I was a little kid, I never liked the top part of broccoli, but boy could I eat me some stems).
Will I plant this again: Yes, we still have seeds.
Chard: Renee's Garden, Italian Silver Rib; A long time favorite of Italian cooks for its flavor and substance, this fine variety has wide, crisp, silvery-white midribs and crinkled, shiny green leaves. The large-framed, handsome plants grow easily and vigorously from spring through late fall. Heirloom Silver Rib produces an abundance of big succulent leaves with sweet crunchy stalks to enjoy as mild, mellow-tasting greens. You'll find it consistently delicious simply steamed with fresh lemon, sautéed with aromatics or added to stir-fries, soups, and casseroles. Days to harvest: 50. Notes: These are the seeds I got for free from the Planning for Spring Gardens Master Gardener seminar.
My thoughts: This plant didn't get very big at all. I don't know if it was because of the crazy-ass weather we had down here this year or what. We ate the baby chard raw in a salad when my inlaws came down over spring break.
Will I do this one again: Yes, I still have seeds. Besides, I'd like to try again to see how the plant is really supposed to look and taste like.
Beets: Renee's Garden, Jewel-Toned Beets (red sangria, golden, and striped chioggia); Our mixture of burgundy, golden, and candy-striped beets yields big harvets with glowing rich colors, succulent texture and sweet earthy flavor. These beets will become an easy to grow, long keeping staple in your garden and kitchen. The smooth roots can be harvested at any size to bake, boil, or steam and enjoy hot and buttered or chilled in an herb vinaigrette. The nutritious young tops are unrivaled as melt-in-your-mouth steamed greens. Days to Harvest: 55.
My Thoughts: These deffinitely didn't grow as quickly as I thought they would. I planted them in November and didn't start harvesting them until the end of April. In fact, I still have some that are the size of radishes. Taste-wise, I'm so far not that impressed with the chioggia but the sangria was pretty good. I think there may be ONE golden beet that is in the garden, so I'm looking forward to that one.
Will I plant these again: Yes, I still have seeds left, plus I went and bought some more golden beet seeds when Gardens closed.
Carrot (1): Liberty Garden, Danvers Half Long; Home garden favorite, dependable, heavy yielding. Very sweet with good flavor, fine grained and tender. Days to Harvest: 75. Note: I bought these seeds eons ago, as in fall of 2007 I think; however, the package sell by date is Sept. '09. Also, I planted these in 2 of the three boxes--the two closest to the currently existing garden.
My Thoughts: These carrots looked a little aenimic, but they did taste good. They tasted more like carrots than the Sunshine Mix.
Will I do these again: Possibly. I'd like to try some other carrot varieties first, but the carrots were crunchy and not soapy flavored as some carrots can be.
Carrot (2): Renee's Garden, Sunshine Mix (Yellowstone and Nantes Forto); Our novelty mix offers gardeners the fun of growing both sunny yellow and bright orange carrots. You'll have eye catching rich harvests of crisp, smooth, evenly cylindrical roots that reach a full 8 inches in length. Both of these premium European varieties taste sweet and crispy with no soapy off-flavors and you can enjoy them over a long harvest period. Whether fresh sliced into carrot sticks, or quickly cooked, their sunshine bright colors are a kitchen gardener's delight! Days to Harvest: 88 Note: This is only planted in one square--the one closest to the neighbor's fence that lives behind us.
My Thoughts: These carrots cooked up nicely (especially the Yellowstone variety), but they didn't really taste like carrots when raw...a little watered down maybe. The flavor definitely got better the longer the carrots stayed in the ground.
Will I plant these again: Yes, I still have seed left. I would probably try some other varieties first before re-purchasing these, but it was hard to beat the Yellowstones when cooked.
Scallions: Renee's Garden, Salad Scallions (Green Feast and Red Robin); Enjoy colorful salads and sautee's with our unique blend of tender-crisp green and red scallions with straight stalks and juicy flesh. Bred for high quality, heat tolerance, and disease resistance, they are perfect to spring plant and harvest will into summer. Pull them as needed to eat fresh for weeks and add an aromatic sweet zing to everyday meals whereever you crave a mild onion flavor. Plant their pretty colors again in late summer for a long standing fall crop. Days to Harvest: 65.
My Thoughts: These didn't grow very well or quickly. In fact, they're just now starting to even look robust and not like chives. I haven't tried any of them yet, so flavor judgement is reserved until a later date.
Would I plant these again: Probably not since Shawn doesn't like onion flavored stuff, and I'd rather have bulbing onions.
Chives: Renee's Garden, Garlic Chives; Garlic chives, also called Chinese chives, have slim flat grass-like leaves that taste like a perfect combination of weet garlic and chives. Just snip them over salads, fresh vegetables, or any savory dish to add a subtle and delicious garlic accent without any of the fuss. The green strappy leaves form neat mounding plants with pretty white edible blossoms. This permanent perennial herb is a joy to have ready at hand--a gardening cooks secret! Days to Harvest: unlisted. Note: I put this in the raised bed which means that I'm going to be treating this as an annual instead of a perennial.
My Thoughts: These never did well. I ended up pulling some out of the ground and transplanting back into 4" pots since they seriously look like tiny sprigs of grass...like bermuda grass, not st. augustine. Flavor judgment is reserved until a later date.
Would I plant these again: As with the scallions, I've never had luck with the chives. If I can get them to grow, I might try them again since garlic flavored stuff Shawn is fine with.
Peas: Unknown; Bond had left overs from their planting this year so I got the extras.
My Thoughts: By far the best thing in the garden this year. Very prolific, and good flavor. Sometimes the pods can be of a "generic green vegetable" flavor which I don't find appetizing, but I admit that I stand out by the garden just eating peas out of the pod. AND they're still going strong. I had to pull out some plants I started in November, but the peas I planted in January are just starting to flourish...to the point where they're shading everything else in the garden...hmm, I need to do something about that...
Will I plant these again: Yes, And I need to find out from Bond where she got these from.
Spinach: Unknown; Bond had left overs from their planting this year so I got the extras.
My Thoughts: One of the few things that did well in the garden, didn't grow very quickly and we ended up pulling a couple plants in early March for salad and then leaving the rest in the ground until my inlaws came to visit at the end of March. Tender and very good flavor. On the plus side, much cheaper than buying spinach from the grocery.
Will I plant these again: Yes. I still have seed left to boot.
Garlic: Already blogged about that here. Of course at 4 (5 plants maximum) per square, and when each bulb of garlic probably gives 20 cloves, it means I'm going to either a) have a bunch of left over garlic cloves and will be giving the stuff away to other gardeners (so if you want to try your hand at garlic, but don't want to purchase a pound of it, let me know and I'll give you a couple of cloves), b) will be eating half of the stuff I bought rather than planting it, or c) will be building another garden next weekend just for the garlic. I'm guessing it will be a combination of all three.
My thoughts: The garlic hasn't really done much (it grew, and now the tops are starting to look 'wilty'). Variety 2 never came up, but the others all sprouted very well. I dug down on variety 5 to check bulb size and they weren't very big, and I should probably do a bulb check again since we're getting closer to harvest time.
Would I plant this again: Yes. We love our garlic here.
Added later: My friend, Ross, bought some pencil onions (yellow, white and red) and had too many, so he gave me some. Since I didn't have any space for them in the garden plot itself, I planted most of the onions in my 5-gallon flower pots, and had a handful in the garden. They were planted earlier than the prime time, and they didn't start growing until the last month or so. They're starting to get big and are finally starting to bulb. I think I had one of the white onions and one of the red onions sliced as green onions in salads, so they must be good since I didn't think to myself "ew, onion in salad" like I usually do (unless the onions have been marinated, in which case, "delish!" I must remember to plant some bulbing onions next year since, as I mentioned earlier, I prefer the bulbing variety to the green variety.
I realize that my thoughts this year weren't very informative (as opposed to the spring stuff where I come up with a definitive answer on if I want to plant again or not), and I figure it's probably because I have nothing to compare any of these plants to (except carrots which never grew for me before and spinach which I tried last year and ended up tough and bitter). So, as far as past experience, this fall was a smashing success, albeit a very slow growing one. The super positive was being able to grow carrots, I totally didn't think it was possible until this year.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
As you can see, I pulled out the telephoto lens...of course that was to take pictures of the Swallowtail caterpillar, which is only 1/2" long. Maybe this counts as the Foliage Followup. So, check back tomorrow to check out this picture. Only this picture, not the other ones, otherwise it doesn't count. As I said, Swallowtail caterpillar. It's on my new dill plant which I got specifically to help repel the squash vine borer.
Next up we have the obligatory shot of the Tropical Milkweed I bought a few weeks ago. You know the hardest thing about taking pictures in the wind? getting pictures that are in focus. I didn't even try to get the toadflax which is still blooming (yellow, pink, and purple).
And finally there's the Society Garlic I got from Bob at Draco last year.
Other things that are blooming:
The previously mentioned Toadflax (you can see a picture here)
The Dr. Huey rose (Thanks to Lori at the Gardener of Good and Evil for the ID. a picture of that can be seen here)
The Snap Peas (which can be seen here)
I also think there might be some marigolds left, but the roly polies are all over them, so they probably aren't going to last too much longer.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Does anyone know what this plant is? It's got kidneywood-esque type leaves, and the flowers look like miniature sweetpeas (at least to me). I think it's a weed based on how well it grows and reseeds itself, but who knows? One person's weed is another person's flower.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Renee's Garden has apparently gotten worried about my lack of recent purchases because they sent me an email with 15% off of my total order. Now I will spend the rest of the evening perusing the various seeds available, and then I'll ultimately talk myself out of buying any.
Now, if only I could get Botanical Interests to give me a deal (they've got some Black Krim and Purple Cherokee tomato seeds I'd like to try).
Thursday, April 8, 2010
This is some of the artemisia that Bob at Draco Gardens gave me last summer. It has taken off and has really established itself. See the picture below? Yeah, all I started with was 2 1-gallon buckets. And I questioned if I had killed a bunch when we had the ladder sitting on top of this area when we replaced our windows. The taller plants are some rock rose plants (also from Bob).
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Because I know that not everyone always clicks on comments on my blog, I felt it necessary to post some comments from my previous Butterfly Weed post.
From Wizzie Brown, Urban Integrated Pest Management, Travis County Extension office:
I love this plant! It's great for attracting all sorts of cool insects- from monarchs to aphids which, in turn, lead to ladybugs (eggs, larvae, pupae & adults), lacewing larvae, syrphid fly larvae and tiny wasps that parasitize the aphids (the aphids turn brown and puff up when parasitized). I encourage everyone to plant this, especially now that the monarch population was depleted this winter. Help them out by planting food sources!
From Linda Lehmusvirta from The Central Texas Gardener:
Recently I read a story encouraging us to plant lots of these plants for the Monarchs. Their numbers are dwindling after hard winters in Mexico so this larval plant is essential. Ignore the aphids: as Wizzie says, they'll attract tons of beneficial insects & won't bother your other plants.
I believe the article Linda is speaking of may be the one written by Bill Hanna of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on March 20, 2010: Monarchs Flutter North in Depleted Numbers (I know the bloggers at Fits and Starts have also posted about the Monarch Migration as well).
So a couple of thoughts: 1) I can't believe I have such prestigious people reading my lowly blog (and leaving comments to boot), and 2) go out and plant more monarch host plants.