Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas is for the Birds

My family drove down from Colorado, battling snowstorms and having the better half of New Mexico roads closed, to spend Christmas with us this year.  My family, as always, did a great job selecting gifts for me, and this year my sister and mother in law picked up on the fact that I had gone a bit bird brained this past summer.


My sister managed to find some amazing deals at a Wild Birds Unlimited that was going out of business in Colorado, while my mother in law got me one of those up-cycled ceramic bird feeders.  The ziplock bag of food pictured above is a gallon sized bag of the CostCo bird food (which, while it has millet, it isn't as prevalent as it is in most mixes) that my MIL gave to me.  You may be wondering what the yellow, hummingbird feeder looking thing is - that's a butterfly feeder.  My sister has stated that she is never coming down here again (she doesn't like butterflies).

As today was a gorgeous day with 70 degree weather (that and it was the first day since Christmas that I've been home during daylight hours), I decided to hang the bird feeders.  I opted to take down the finch feeder I was using because the birds never liked it much, and I have replaced it with the ceramic feeder.  I put the suet feeder close to the platform feeder and am keeping my fingers crossed that the squirrels won't bother it much (I put the hot pepper suet at the top of the stick).  I haven't put out the butterfly feeder, though I did see a butterfly today, so I should have, but I didn't know where to put it permanently (probably by the garden so I can attract the pollinators).  I also have to figure out where to put the bird house.  It's a bluebird house, and it says to put it 5-6' off the ground on a tree trunk, but I think I may go a bit higher than that...

So far, the thing I think is going to end up being the biggest problem is the feral cats - and not just because they hang out by the feeders, hoping for a bird.  I get the feeling that they can tell that the suet cakes are made out of beef fat and I can see the little wheels in their heads turning trying to figure out how to get to the feeder.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Garlic Planted

I finally planted the garlic last night. And by "night" I really do mean night.

For my birthday, my friend Andrea got me some reusable plant stakes which I opted to use. But I also fear that like the last reusable plant stakes the name may fade out by the end of the growing season. But these stakes have little plant pictures on them so I can tell which one is which just by the little painted on picture. Thus, pictures for the blog so I have a record of which is which.

[edited 01/06/12:  I planted a crapload of yellow onions on the first or so.  So now my garden plots (and the potato box) are full of onions and garlic.  And one fennel plant and 2 lemon balms and 1 garlic chives plant.  Point is, I've guaranteed myself that I won't have a spring garden - which is probably for the best since we're still in a pretty bad drought.]






Friday, December 2, 2011

Project: Plant Removal

I'm working on a project (and have been since Veteran's Day) that involves removing approximately 50 feet of dead Asiatic Jasmine. I'm still working on it, but at least I only have about 10 feet to go. Pictures to come when I'm done with the project...which probably won't be for a while.

And I still need to get garlic in the ground.

I love that it's finally raining, but I'd rather it not be so I can do the garlic and more of the plant removal.

But I guess as long as it's more misty than actually raining, it will all work out.

I haven't checked the total for today, but I'm guessing it's somewhere in the 1" range. which brings our total November 1 to present total around 3".

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Growing Season Spring 2011: Season Roundup

Icebox Watermelons: Rainbow Sherbet. Renee's Garden.
Description: Grow three varieties of early maturing "icebox" watermelons with delicious pastel yellow, orange, or pink flesh. These extra fancy beauties weigh in at only 4-7 pounds with thing, green-striped rinds and dense, crisp flesh. Their party colors and refreshing sweet, sherbet-like taste make them wonderful everyday treats or gorgeous summer desserts. Pick melons when the tendril closest to the fruit turns brown, and the light pathc on the bottom o fthe melon changes from cream to tan. Days to Maturity: approx 75. Year Opened: 2009. Number Planted: remainder of packet (about 6) on 3/20. Sprouted 3/27. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Experience in the Past: In the past, the damn varmints have always gotten the watermelons - either because they actually bit into the watermelon, or because the watermelon split due to too much water.
Experience this year: 3 total - one eaten by Timmy the possum, 2 eaten by me. And while I've had better from the store, I've also had much worse. I saved seeds from the bigger one so I'll try planting them again in the future. Unfortunately, all three were of the regular pink variety (the packet contained yellow and orange fleshed watermelons in addition to the pink)

Pumpkin
: Casper - White. Page's Seeds.
Description: Casper, a white skinned ornamental pumpkin with thick orange flesh o fexcellent eating quality. Grows 8"-12" in diameter, 10-16 lbs. Casper's skin has less bluing than many other whites. the handle is tan with a corky texture. Days to Maturity: 100. Year Opened: 2011 (packed for 2009). Number Planted: 4 (entire packet). Seeds stored at room temperature.
Notes: Kept forgetting I had these seeds until I found them again this morning (3/20). Sprouted (1) on 4/1. Go 25% success rate!
Experience this year: Dead, Dead, Dead.  Complete failure.

True Thai Chiles: Orange Fogo and Red Dragon. Renee's Garden.
Description: We import these brilliantly colored, authentic Thai chiles direct from the source! Vigorous Fogo ripens bright orange with delicious medium hot/sweet pungency, perfect minced in sauces and salads. Red Demon's fiery little fruits point up like flames, with that nutty, incendiary pungency just right for stirfries. Use fresh or air dry for tantalizing Asian-style dishes. Days to Maturity: Approx 85. Year Opened: 2008. Number Planted: 4 Red Demon, 6 Orange Fogo (planted 1/5/11, sprouted 1/18/11). Seeds stored at room temperature in 2008, stored in the fridge since 2009.
Experience in the past: The plants never really produced peppers.  The Red Demon is the only one we've ever gotten peppers from.  NOTE:  Gave away all but 1 Red Demon this year.
Experience this year:  Holy Schamoly, Batman!  A grand total of 149 peppers from ONE plant.

Habanero Chile: Red Savina. Renee's Garden.
Description: Bred exclusively by Frank Garcias at GNS Spices, incendiary Red Savina is the hottest habanero known, tipping the scale at 380,000 to 500,000 Scoville units which put it in the Guinness Book of World Records. Along with brilliant red color and intense heat, Red Savina's flesh has that special tantalizing fiery fruitiness that characterizes habanero chiles from the Yucatan. The Chinese lantern-shaped fruits grow on sturdy 3 to 3.5 foot plants that do best in long hot summer areas. Days to Maturity: Approx 90. Year Opened: 2009. Number Planted: 5, Took a while for them to sprout - I planted on 1/5 and by 1/18, only 1 had sprouted. Seeds always stored in the fridge
Notes: As I posted earlier, they all came up and then a squirrel went and dug in the box I was growing the seeds and ripped up all of the habanero seedlings (leaving the other ones alone, naturally). I tried to save 3 of them (2 were obviously goners). Of those, only 1 made it. I just transplanted it into a 4" pot yesterday (3/19). The remaining plant was killed off by varmints on 3/31. Planted 1 lone seed in the 4" pot on 4/1
Experience this year:  No peppers this year.  I've pulled the plant in for the winter to see if it will overwinter...

Specialty Eggplants: Italian Trio. Renee's Garden
Description: Our trio of delicious Italian eggplants combines teardrop-shaped, purple-black "Nadia," gorgeous, oval-shaped magenta "Beatrice" and heirloom rose and white, globe-shaped "Rosa Bianca." The strong plants with velvety leaves and lavender blossoms bear abundant crops of curvaceous glossy fruits with tender skins and succulent flesh that is never bitter or seedy. Enjoy in recipes from all Mediterranean cuisines. Days to Maturity: Approx 80. Year opened: 2009. Number Planted: 6. Two of each variety. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Notes: 5 of the plants sprouted by 1/18 (planted on 1/5). 2 made it to transplanting time (3/19). Both are the Beatrice variety (same variety that survived last year).
Experience this year:  Both plants survived, but only produced a total of 3 eggplants.  meh.  The Cloud 9 from last year ended up producing a lot more...

True Thai Basil: Queenette. Renee's Garden
Description: This tropical-looking ornamental basil has dense .5" leaves that grow in clusters around distinctive purple stems. Imported directly from our best Thai seed producer, Queenette's exotic flavor combines aromatic mild sweet spices with clove/mint basil flavor. It is a critical ingredient in Southeast Asian dishes and marvellous in stirfries, chutneys and marinades. An eye-catching herb to interplant with flowers for "edible landscaping." Plant Queenette basil to enjoy growing and cooking with authentic Thai ingredients. Days to Maturity: NA. Year opened: 2009. Number Planted: A crap-load. Seeds always stored in the fridge
Notes: 19 Thai basils as of 1/19 (planted 1/5). I don't know how many I have left because they're all in one flowerpot at work. I just "planted" all the seeds I saved from last year's plants (3/19). Obviously, when I say "planted" I mean "throw the seeds to the wind in a couple areas where basil may grow in the back yard." As an added bonus, I still have 2 full jars of dried basil and about one quart of frozen basil cubes from last year. As the combo basil has Thai Basil in it, I've decided that I'm not going to plant any of the Thai Basil in the normal garden bed.
Experience this year:  The Thai basil does pretty well in Austin.  It will reseed itself aggressively, though...good thing frost kills it off...

Long Red Cayenne Pepper: Free from the Allandale plant sale in 2010. Heirloom Seeds Company. packed for 2009, opened in 2011. Seeds stored in the fridge since I obtained them in 2010.
Description: No description on seed packet.
Notes: I planted 3 seeds, all three did germinate. just transplanted into a 6-pack on 3/19. Transplanted into 4" pots on 3/26. gave two to Janna and Pam. Kept 1 for myself.  7/21/11: the plant is half the size of the Red Demon pepper which is in the same pot.
Experience this year:  A grand total of 14 peppers were pulled off this plant.

Black Krim Tomato: Planted 9 (planted 1/5, sprouted by 1/18), 3 are still alive, but tiny (Botanical Interests Organic, opened 2011). Bought 1 at the Sunshine Community Garden sale and planted on 3/19. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Description: Large brown-red fruit with rich sweet flavor. Sets well in heat. Heirloom from Crimea. (from the Sunshine Gardens info sheet) Dark-brown, red fruit, large (10-12 oz), Russian. Heavy Producer, prone to cracking. Likes hot weather. Rich complex flavor, sweet-tasting fruit. Indeterminate. 75-90 days. Status: Heirloom
Notes: Growing these from seed isn't going so well...perhaps I'll have better luck in the summer when the squirrels aren't trying to dig up all my plants. And it's a bit too early to make a call on the one that I planted.
04/02/11 - I had 3 Krims in little pots - 2 are piddly, and the 3rd looks pretty good. I'm keeping it in a pot until fall though. The one I planted in the garden is already flowering.
Update 07/21/11: Pulled out the plant in the garden (it was looking pitiful) and planted two of the plants I grew from seed in the garden - replacing the Krim and one Roma. Also took a cutting from the plant I bought and planted in a pot. Will be giving away the cutting and one from seed. The plant in the garden produced 5 tomatoes, but 3 were marred by birds. I put up bird netting and also set out bowls of water for the animals.

Experience this year:  5 tomatoes total from 2 plants.  I really wish these plants would produce more...I do so like their toms...

 
Provider Bush Bean: Free from the Master Gardeners. High Mowing Organic Seeds Company. Packed for 2010, opened 2011. Seeds stored at room temperature for 2010. Stored in fridge since 2011.
Description: Standard green bean, always reliable even in poor weather. Comes through every year with early, heavy yields of attractive stringless beans. Concentrated sets. Days to Maturity: 50
Notes: Surprised me that the seeds are purple. direct sowed 3/20. Noticed plants on 3/27
Experience this year:  Epic fail.

Black Eyed Peas: Free from my friend, Ross. Seeds stored at room temperature.
Description: Cowpeas, also called Black Eyed Peas, are a favorite southern bean. Although the young leaves are edible, most gardeners grow them for the bean inside. Cowpeas are native to Africa, where it is an important food crop. The plant thrives in warmer climates. There are vining and non-vining varieties. Maturity in 80-90 days.
Notes: planted for the nitrogen fixing properties.
Experience this year:  Managed to get a small crop which I will save for future nitrogen fixing purposes since I don't like black eyed peas.

Basil (Custom Blend): Bontanical Interests. Packed for 2010. opened 2011. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Description: This unique blend of basils will provide you with exquisite culinary delights for your kitchen, texture and scent for your flower arrangements, color and form for you flower beds. Includes: Lemon Basil, Anise Basil, Cinnamon Basil, Red Rubin Basil, Dark Opal Basil, Thai Basil, and Genovese Basil.
Notes: I had a ton of these at work, but then a bunch of them died. just planted some seeds in a 6-pack thingy on 3/19.
04/2/11 - I don't feel that they came up quite as quick as they did at work (I guess they really do like warmer temperatures). But they have all come up as far as I can tell. Just waiting for them to get bigger so I can transplant them.
Update 07/21/11: The only two to make it were a Thai Basil and a Cinnamon Basil.
Experience this year:  While the cinnamon basil smells good, I still haven't figured out what to do with it...at least the Thai basil I'll use in sauces...

Roma Tomato: Botanical Interests Organic. Opened 2011. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Description: An absolutely excellent, old heirloom tomato used for sauce or canning. Very firm, meaty 3 inche oblong fruits with very few seeds. Very productive - up to 200 fruits per plant!
Notes: planted on 1/5, 7 plants by 1/18. All have since died. Ended up buying a plant a the Sunshine Community Gardens plant sale (transplanted to garden on 3/19).
04-02-11 - Ross gave me a Roma tomato seedling (from Red Barn) in exchange for a pepper plant and some lemon balm.
Update 07/21/11: Pulled the plant I had bought as it looked pitiful (only produced maybe 5 tomatoes). The plant I got from Ross has flowered, but not until after the night-time temps were too hot to set fruit.
Experience this year: 7 tomatoes total from 2 plants - the one from Ross bloomed prolifically at the end, but it never did set fruit.  Again, another bummer since really the only way we eat tomatoes is in sauce and Romas are great for sauce.

Early Summer Crookneck Squash: Free from the Allandale plant sale in 2010. packed for 2009, opened 2010. Seeds stored in the fridge since I got them in 2010.
Description: the standard variety for many years. Summer Crookneck has been improved to have a smoother, less waterd skin and a more compact bush type plant. This variety is very popular, easy to grow and fast maturing. Many gardeners feel that this variety is more flavorful than the straight-neck types.
Notes: Previously planted some of this in the fall, but they never sprouted (likely because of my lackluster watering skills). planted on 3/20. Sprouted on 3/27
Update 07/21/11: A few of the plants have finally taken off and I noticed my first female flower the other day (now I'm just waiting for it to bloom....). The bees visit the garden specifically for the crookneck pollen...which is plentiful.
Experience this year:  3 squash total - 2 eaten by squirrels, 1 picked too late to eat.

Sweet Corn, Sugar Dots: Unknown Variety (likely from Lowe's or Walmart)
Description: Yellow kernels that are sweet and tender. Mid to late season. Ears are 8 inches long with 16-18 rows. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Notes: I opened this packet years ago, so they may not even sprout. In fact, I think I have a picture of the corn last time I grew it - I never did get any ears from it, but it sure did look nice for the first couple of months it was growing. direct sow 3/20, sprouted 3/25
Update 07/21/11: It seemed like all the seeds sprouted, and I even thinned them. But they were in a part of the garden that didn't get much sun and so they were stunted. The ears produced were maybe only 2" long and I never even bothered pulling them off the plants.
Experience this year:  HAHAHAHA

Lemon Balm: Originally paid $2.99 for each plant at Red Barn in 2010. Plant survived the winter so I did not purchase in 2011.
Description: Lemon balm (Melissa officianlis L.) is a lemon scented member of the mint family. A native to southern Europe, it is a perennial which will over-winter in hardiness zones 4 to 5. The plant develops many branches and grows to a height of about 2 feet. The leaves are 2-3 inches long, oval to almost heart shaped, shiny and wrinkled with scalloped edges. Small light blue to white flowers appear in late spring through midsummer.
Notes: I didn't buy this - it managed to survive the winter. That's one hardy plant, yo. I already can foresee that I'll have to do some major cutting back of the plants as they're starting to spread everywhere (which for now is okay since it acts as a ground cover).
04-02-11 - Took some cuttings for coworkers (3-27). Currently the cuttings are sitting in some water on my windowsill.
Update 07/21/11: The lemon balm is looking a little pitiful--like crispy. but it's still alive and it's only the top that's crispy.
 Experience this year:  My in laws love this plant.  Every time they come over, they harvest a bunch to take home and add to salads.  Too bad Shawn and I don't really care for it (Shawn's not a lemon fan to begin with).  I'll still use it for the mosquitos, but that's about it.  I really probably should remove it from the garden...now I just need to create an herb garden somewhere...

Delicata and Early Butternut Squash: Compact Winter Squash, Renee's Garden. Opened 2009. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Description: This duo of All-America winners are the best space-saving varieties of nutty, sweet-tasting, vitamin-rich winter squash. the compact vines of productive Early Butternut Bush produce fruits with tan rinds that have moist, smooth, creamy-orange flesh. Compact Bush Delicata has oblong fruits with handsome striped rinds and rich golden flesh with a delicious sweet potato-like texture.
Notes: direct sow planted on 3/20. Used up the rest of the pack - 3 butternut, 2 delicata. Sprouted on 3/27
Update 07/21/11: Dead.
Experience this year:  Epic Fail.

Quinoa:
Brightest Brilliant Rainbow, Botanical Interest Organic. Opened 2010. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Description: Our Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wa") has striking colors of hot pink, burgundy, red, orange, yellow, white and green. Harvest the young leaves to eat raw or cooked. Colorful seed heads appear in 90-120 days. Their nutty and deliciuos grains have as much protein as milk!
Notes: planted in the fall, but they didn't do very well. I planted again in the early spring, but they never germinated (because of my lack of watering). Planted again in a 6-pack container 3/19. All seeds have sprouted as of 04-02-11
Update 07/21/11: Only 3 plants ever looked like they were doing okay. Grew to a maximum height of 6". May get a tiny itty bitty harvest from one plant...assuming the birds don't eat all the seed (which, which the year we're having, I wouldn't fault them for it at all).
Experience this year:  Epic Fail.  Again. Which, considering other amaranths do fine, it's getting annoying.

Yellow Hot Pepper Plant: From my coworker, Charlie in 2010.
Notes: The plant never even fruited last year so I dug it up and potted it and managed to keep it alive through the winter. I just transplanted it into the garden on 3/19.
04-02-11 - This plant is actually looking worse instead of better. GROW PLANT, DAMN YOU!
04-09-11 - I think the plant may have given up the ghost.
Update 07/21/11: Yep...it died. Sad.
Experience this year:  We shall have a moment of silence for the poor dead plant...I was so looking forward to it as well...

Naga Jolokia: $2 from the Sunshine Community Garden plant sale.
Description: No matter what you call it, it's the world's HOTTEST pepper with a record breaking heat of over 1 million Scoville units. That's more than double the old record holder, the Red Savina Habanero. If you like HOT, then this one's for you. Fruits are 2-3" long and 1-1.5" wide. Ripens from light green to orange to red.
Notes: Tis but a tiny thing. Transplanted into the flower pot by the garden on 3/19. I don't really know why we're trying this one (but when you've got Thai chiles at up to 100,000, have had habaneros at 350,000, and have been trying to grow a Red Savina at 577,000, you might as well throw in the Naga Jolokia at 1,040,000 - but the Naga Viper is now the world's hottest pepper as of 2/25/2011 at 1,380,000). We once tried a hot sauce made from this pepper, and while it was delicious, I couldn't handle more than five drops in the tomato sauce we were making. That's right about 5 drops with one can of tomato sauce is enough to give a nice kick.
04-02-11 - The plant looked tiny and piddly and then all of the sudden this last week it seemed like it doubled in size...which isn't saying a whole lot considering how small it was to begin with. But I'm starting to think it might make it.
Update 07/21/11: The plant is quite large, but it hasn't ever flowered and I think the parsley in the same pot is taking all the nutrients and water...I really need to pull it out.
Experience this year:  Nope...No peppers.  I will try to overwinter to see what happens.

Jalapeno M: $2 from the Sunshine Community Garden plant sale
Description: Fiery, thick walled peppers grow 3" with rounded tips. Dark green at first then red. Good for nachos and other Tex-Mex dishes. Days to Maturity: 75
Notes: Best looking pepper of all the ones I have this year. Transplanted into the garden on 3/19.
Update 07/21/11: Has been producing peppers consistently, but only provided a handful. The hotter it's been getting, the smaller the peppers are - they're now almost the size of the red hot peppers that Charlie gave me...
Experience this year:  38 peppers total.  The problem:  They're jalapenos...that's just not spicy enough for this house.

Late Summer planted crops:
White Kennebec Potatoes:
Notes:  4 planted.  Never seemed to do well...Seemed diseased, maybe?
Experience this year:  Yeah...I got 2 small potatoes in return...a 50% return rate = not worth it.

Red LaSoda Potatoes:
Notes:  5 planted.  Always seemed to be doing better and growing faster than the Kennebecs.
Experience this year:  10 potatoes in return.  a 200% return rate = will do again in the future.

Sweet Potatoes:  I let a sweet potato from the store go too long and it started sprouting.  So I pulled off the sprouts and planted them.  Voila! Sweet potato slips!
Notes:  4 slips planted.  Man, they can take the heat like champs...they'll get a little wilty, but nothing that they don't recover from.
Experience this year:  16 edible sized potatoes harvested.  400% return rate means HELLZ YEAH I'm planting more in the future.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sweet Potato


Half of the sweet potato harvest. All from 4 slips. I think I'll be planting them again next summer (assuming we're not in the same nasty drought). While the husband and I like sweet potatoes, we don't devour them, so the amount we got (16 small to medium sized) will probably last us a while. Because I used slips from a potato I got from the grocery, it means that this experiment was relatively cheap.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Veggie Plant Winners (Round 5)

Summary:

Black Krim (2 plants) - 5 tomatoes total, 3 ruined by squirrels or birds. Plants removed from garden 11/19/2011
Roma (2 plants) - 7 tomatoes total, 1 ruined by blossom end rot, 2 tomatoes removed while green when the plant was removed from the garden. While the plant bloomed prolifically with cooler weather, it never really set fruit. Plants removed from garden 11/19/2011
Crookneck Squash - 3 squash total, 2 eaten by squirrels, 1 picked too late to eat.
Red LaSoda Potatoes (5 planted) - 10 potatoes
White Kennebec Potatoes (4 planted) - 2 potatoes
Sweet Potato - 16 potatoes from 4 (or so) slips. I haven't eaten any of them yet so they may be complete crap, but the fact that the return was 4-fold, I'm going to do them again next year (assuming no drought). Potatoes harvested and removed from garden 11/12/2011
Watermelon - 3 total - one eaten by Timmy the possum, 2 eaten by me. And while I've had better from the store, I've also had much worse. I saved seeds from the bigger one so I'll try planting them again in the future. Unfortunately, all three were of the regular pink variety (the packet contained yellow and orange fleshed watermelons in addition to the pink)
Eggplant (2 plants) - 3 total - the first one fell off the plant so I was going to use it, but forgot about it until it was soft. The other 2 were used in Pasta Alla Norma. One of the plants is blooming again, but I don't know if we'll get any more eggplants before the freezes start. Rather than wait for the plant to be flush with eggplants and then have a freeze happen, I opted to pull out the two plants on 11/19/2011.
Cayenne Pepper - 6. Edited 11/27: 14 total.
Thai Red Demon Pepper - 64 peppers total, 2 eaten by squirrels/birds, 2 given to Linda Lehmusvirta. 10 given to Daphne Richards, in exchange for a Peter's Purple Bee Balm, 1 eaten by my husband in a bout of questionable mental stability. Plus, more on the way. Edited 11/27: 149 total
Jalapeno Pepper - 20 peppers (though 10 of those are tiny and green and have no heat at all - the plant stem just started drying up so I pulled the peppers off of that stem, but the other 2 stems are fine), plus more on the way. Edited 11/27: 38 total

Friday, November 18, 2011

What Up, Peanut?

The peanut haul. I think I'll just save them for planting.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thankful


Camera: Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi
Exposure: 1/800
Aperture Value: 4.97 EV (f/5.6)
ISO Speed: 200
Flash: No
Metering Mode: Pattern
Exposure Program: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 70.00 mm
Post Processing: GIMP -crop, add border.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Project: Backyard Tree

As I wanted to plant a tree in the back yard to replace the Arizona Ash that died a few years ago, I decided it would be smart to call DigTess (1-800-Dig-Tess) to find out what underground utilities were in the back yard before going and digging a large hole. While most of the other projects I'm doing are less than 16" deep, a tree planting hole, is not.

DigTess came out and marked up the yard for me, but all it really did was tell me that the two other spots I wanted to plant the tree were unavailable because of the utilities (damn AT&T cable line!)

So I let it stew for a few days while I went through the blah-ness. Even as of Saturday morning (11/5) I didn't feel like working on the yard in any capacity. That is, until I went to my in-laws house and saw all the progress they've made in their back yard. Then it was like a bug - I had to get home to start working on "the projects." So I spent the better part of the evening digging a hole for an as-of-yet-not-even-determined-much-less-bought tree. After I hit a couple of big roots from the previous tree (I was already over a foot deep, and about 3' wide, so I thought I made a pretty good dent), I gave up and moved to digging out a hole/ditch area at the end of the dry river for a rain-garden type thing (the water is creating another pooling area just outside of the dry river, so I decided I might as well deepen the hole and plant stuff there). Note: The husband is not happy about this turn of events - mostly because he thinks it's going to look weird to have a flower bed in the middle of the yard, essentially.

Then, on Sunday (11/6), I think the planting bug got into my husband because he became all hell bent on getting a tree (after I told him, 'no really! it really is time to plant trees right now!'). So we went off to Red Barn and found a small cedar elm for $35. I was really hoping for a bigtooth maple, but they only had silver, brandywine, and some other variety that was not bigtooth.

And so, now we have a new tree!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Holy Ginger!


My science experiment is going well. I found a "how to grow ginger" article from Tropical Permaculture and subsequently planted some ginger pieces on April 16.

The picture above was taken on October 29. (compare to the picture taken in July here)

Now I just have to stop watering, move inside to protect from freeze and collect the ginger in February...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Beautyberry


Camera: Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi
Exposure: 1/160
Aperture Value: 4.97 EV (f/5.6)
ISO Speed: 1600
Flash: No
Metering Mode: Pattern
Exposure Program: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 300.00 mm
Post Processing: GIMP -auto white balance

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Naga Jolokia: The Ghost Pepper


Excitement abounds! In other news, Shawn decided that it was a good idea to eat a Thai Pepper straight off the vine. That went as well as to be expected.

Also, in unrelated news, Shawn and I were sitting out on our deck and he decided to open the grill (it has the bad habit of getting all moldy from the humidity). Lo-and-behold, we left two fully cooked turkey wings on the grill. So now we have some non-edible turkey jerky in the grill...oh goody!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Implementation

My in-laws have been making some great headway on the paths/bed/patio project (you can read previous entries Design and Paths). So far, the biggest problem my mother-in-law has had is that plants are expensive. She's been doing pretty good at getting plants that can be divided and getting plants from neighbors/clients, so she's doing okay at keeping the costs down - of course until the plants start to fill in, the beds will look pretty sparse. Apparently she's been so keen on planting plants that my father-in-law actually got to the point where he refused to plant anything that wasn't a perennial.

I guess my mother-in-law has found out from one of the neighbors that she's technically supposed to have their back yard 60% grass (oh silly homeowner's associations). But! The neighbor says that he likes the beds better than the dirt patch that they had because buffalo grass does not grow in the shade. They've apparently gotten nothing but compliments on their yard at this point in time. Hopefully they won't be turned into the HOA, because that would kinda suck. But I'm also sure that the HOA would have to let it slide since, as stated before, buffalo grass doesn't grow in the shade.

They haven't started yet on the patio itself, and they still have to fill in more rocks and mulch, but it really is starting to come together:

This photo is looking south from just outside their bedroom door. The front bed (with the sparse rocks) hasn't been worked on - apparently there's some discussion about how much of the grass to remove - it's sparse right now, but it might fill in so my father-in-law wants to leave it, but my mother-in-law thinks that it might die, so she wants to get rid of it now.


This is from the south side of their sun room looking north. They're using cypress mulch for the paths as it's supposed to stay put and not float away.


From the north corner of the yard looking to the south. A bit fuzzy, but you can see the more of the plants - mostly turks cap and liriope right now. I guess she's got a bunch of ruellia from one of her clients that she's planting to see if it will take.


Standing just outside their sunroom door. The spot where I'm standing is the location where the pavers are supposed to go.



Standing just outside the sunroom door and looking north - the bare area that is roughly outlined by rocks is supposed to be pavers, with the bed around the last tree filled in.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Feeders

The hummingbirds have left for Mexico (this was taken about a month and a half ago right before they left).


The Carolina Chickadees are appreciating the new bird feeders I put out.

As are the house finches.

Those birds will go through an entire feeder full of safflower and black oil sunflower in a couple of days. They, of course, tend to ignore the thistle feeder except for when the other feeder is so busy that they have to take turns to feed.

I'm still filling the platform feeder every day (with about a cup of seed). I've started mixing in some safflower since the birds like it and the squirrels don't. So far it seems like the Jays and the squirrels will make off with the black oil sunflower seed and the finches/chickadees and cardinals will get the safflower.

Of course, we did have our first feeder casualty; a dove. While I'm not necessarily happy about this turn of events, I also know that the killer was one of the feral cats. And while it sucks that a bird died, I can't exactly say that doves are all that smart and it was walking around on the ground at the time of its demise. That being said, the mockingbirds can also be quite dumb - dive bombing cats isn't usually the surest way to a long life...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Guara


The guara I got on clearance from HEB a few weeks ago - the plan is to plant this baby tomorrow...of course the other plan is to also go find a tree and plant it tomorrow, too.

The blah-ness

As all local gardeners know, central Texas has two short growing seasons instead of one long one. But of course, I always try to get my plants to limp through the hot summer to start producing again in the fall. And, after a summer like this one, boy are the plants limping.

Of course another problem with the plants making it through the summer is that I have no space to plant anything for the winter, nor do I have the energy to actually do any planting.

So I should be planting garlic and fennel in the veggie garden, and I should be planting trees in the yard and working on any of the plethora of projects I have in the yard (Hell Strip, Front Berm, Rain Garden in the side yard, removing part of my rock garden and moving it elsewhere, re-seeding the dead grass with NAS drought grass seeds, etc.). But I just can't get in the mood to do any of it.

Blah.

Hopefully this changes soon (very, very soon) because seriously, I need to get a move on.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Possible Freeze

Wow, we're already at that time of year where we have to worry about possible freezes.

Tonight should be okay in Austin Proper, but tomorrow night I think I'll bring in the peppers and cover the tenders since it is forecast to be 36 at 7 am Friday morning.

Makes me wish all of my thermometers were working properly...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Garden 2011: 10/29/11

Veggie Plant Winners (Round 4)

Summary:

Black Krim (2 plants) - 5 tomatoes total, 3 ruined by squirrels or birds.
Roma (2 plants) - 5 tomatoes total, 1 ruined by blossom end rot, 1 on the vine (the plants have started blooming again because of the cooler weather).
Crookneck Squash - 3 squash total, 2 eaten by squirrels, 1 picked too late to eat.
Red LaSoda Potatoes (5 planted) - 10 potatoes
White Kennebec Potatoes (4 planted) - 2 potatoes
Sweet Potato - 0 thus far
Watermelon - 1 thus far - I had 3, one was eaten by possums, the other I just picked, and the third one is still on the vine.
Eggplant - 3 total - the first one fell off the plant so I was going to use it, but forgot about it until it was soft. The other 2 were used in Pasta Alla Norma. One of the plants is blooming again, but I don't know if we'll get any more eggplants before the freezes start.
Cayenne Pepper - 5
Thai Red Demon Pepper - 53 peppers total, 2 eaten by squirrels/birds, 2 given to Linda Lehmusvirta. Plus, more on the way.
Jalapeno Pepper - 16 peppers (though 10 of those are tiny and green and have no heat at all - the plant stem just started drying up so I pulled the peppers off of that stem, but the other 2 stems are fine), plus more on the way.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Support Your Independent Nursery Month: The Great Outdoors

Pam at Digging has declared October as Support your Independent Nursery Month. As such, some of the local bloggers are posting entries every Wednesday (I love the sound of deadlines as they go whooshing by) celebrating the more popular independent nurseries in the Austin area. The nurseries we are blogging about are, by no means, the only independent nurseries in the Austin area, and I fully encourage you to seek our your nearest independent nursery.

In case you haven't already noticed, I am completely and utterly behind in posting about our local independently owned garden centers (as in this post was supposed to be LAST Wednesday).

Anyhow, let us commence, shall we?

The Great Outdoors is probably the most visited (by me) of the big local garden centers. This is because it is within spitting distance of my office and so it makes a good lunch-hour-gotta-look-and/or-buy-plants location.

The Great Outdoors is probably most noted for their giant topiary elephant, and possibly secondly for their birds. While most garden centers have cats, the Great Outdoors has an assortment of parrots in their seed house. And let's be honest, I do love me some birds, and some seeds.

Of all of the garden centers, GO is the only place I've actually asked for help from the staff. And they are more than willing to answer your questions or otherwise help in any way they can - in fact, one of the times I just kinda stood there looking forlornly at all the options for flying insect control (I had a problem with gnats at my office). One of the gentlemen was very helpful in getting me set up with the sticky traps (least toxic).

Furthermore, Merrideth (the owner of GO) is probably the second most well known garden guy in Austin (the first being John Dromgoole from The Natural Gardener). Which, is saying something.

So, if you're ever in the South Congress area (by Penn Field), look up the Great Outdoors.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bird Feeders

The hummingbird feeder has been lonely these last few weeks since the resident hummers have all headed south for the winter.

I just hung two new feeders in the front tree - I decided that I had to hang them since I've been noticing more of the smaller birds hanging out around the lone platform feeder. And of course they were all being chased off by the larger birds. I hung them in a location so the cats can watch them, but I neglected to put them in a good spot for human viewing. Eh - it's all for the birds, right?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Support Your Independent Nursery Month: The Natural Gardener

Pam at Digging has declared October as Support your Independent Nursery Month. As such, some of the local bloggers are posting entries every Wednesday (I love the sound of deadlines as they go whooshing by) celebrating the more popular independent nurseries in the Austin area. The nurseries we are blogging about are, by no means, the only independent nurseries in the Austin area, and I fully encourage you to seek our your nearest independent nursery.



When I first moved down here (in January of 2005), one of the first things I asked my fiancé (now husband) was "Where's the closest good garden center?"

See, back in Colorado I lived in a town called Parker. And Parker has a huge independently owned garden center called Tagawa Gardens. Of course, most of the facility is inside a giant greenhouse (what with Colorado being too cold to garden for 6 months out of the year), but they offer classes, natural gardening solutions, knowledgeable staff, and plants by the thousands that, while perhaps not native, do well in the area.

Everyone told Shawn, "Oh you HAVE to go to the Natural Gardener!" and so we made the trek from our far northwest Austin home to the Natural Gardener just west of the Y in Oakhill which is on the far southwest part of Austin.

The Natural Gardener has everything from bag your own soils/compost to ceramic pots to one of the biggest and widest selections of plants I have ever seen. And of course, as mentioned above, the Natural Gardener is the purveyor of everything natural in gardening (including companion planting - such as plant roses at the end of your grapevine rows because roses will get the same diseases as the grapes, only sooner - that way you don't have to constantly be spraying your grapevines, you can wait until the roses show damage).

When you go to the Natural Gardener, be sure to check out the inside area as that's where all the seeds, bird supplies, and garden gifts are located. Also, you should walk around the grounds to see the demonstration gardens as well as visit all the farm animals.

P.S. I just saw that 7 Austin Local Independent Nurseries are offering giveaways through the following blogs (deadline to enter is 10/26 11:59 pm central time):

Sharing Nature’s Garden: $50 gift certificate from Emerald Garden

J Peterson Garden Design: $50 gift certificate from The Great Outdoors

Go Away, I’m Gardening!: $100 gift certificate from Sunshine Landscape & Garden Center

Great Stems: $50 gift certificate from Hill Country Water Gardens & Nursery

The Whimsical Gardener: $25 gift certificate from It’s About Thyme

Rock Rose: $50 gift certificate from Shoal Creek Nursery

Growing Optimism: $25 gift certificate from The Natural Gardener

Digging: TWO prizes to two different winners: a $100 gift certificate & a Fall Power Package (valued at $50) from Barton Springs Nursery,

Monday, October 10, 2011

Veggie Plant Winners (Round 3)

Summary:

Black Krim (2 plants) - 5 tomatoes total, 3 ruined by squirrels or birds.
Roma (2 plants) - 4 tomatoes total, 1 ruined by blossom end rot.
Crookneck Squash - 3 squash total, 2 eaten by squirrels, 1 picked too late to eat.
Red LaSoda Potatoes (5 planted) - 10 potatoes
White Kennebec Potatoes (4 planted) - 2 potatoes
Sweet Potato - 0 thus far
Watermelon - 1 thus far - I had 3, one was eaten by possums, the other I just picked, and the third one is still on the vine.
Eggplant - 3 total - the first one fell off the plant so I was going to use it, but forgot about it until it was soft. The other 2 were used in Pasta Alla Norma (which I still have leftovers of...)
Cayenne Pepper - 4
Thai Red Demon Pepper - 50 peppers total, 2 eaten by squirrels/birds, 2 given to Linda Lehmusvirta. Plus, more on the way.
Jalapeno Pepper - 15 peppers (though 10 of those are tiny and green and have no heat at all - the plant stem just started drying up so I pulled the peppers off of that stem, but the other 2 stems are fine), plus more on the way.

Don't worry - I saved seed from the Thai Pepper - this is the most prolific it's ever been...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Rain

Oh my goodness, could it be? Could it really be rain?! Why yes, I think it is rain!

0.25" on 10/6
0.5" on 10/8
0.75" on 10/8 (during the day)
2.75" on 10/9

FINALLY

Though if you look in my bucket on the deck, it looks like we got a lot more than 4.25" over the last couple of days...

And I had to go pull the big watermelon for fear that all the water would make it split.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Support Your Independent Nursery Month: Barton Springs

I must admit, I don't normally shop at Barton Springs Nursery. It has nothing to do with the fact that it's far from my house - it actually has more to do with the fact that I didn't know it existed until last year. (I visit the Natural Gardener with about the same frequency - which is to say - when I'm looking for something specific).

The nursery is awesome insomuch as they grow their own plants on the premises (while I can't say that all independently owned nurseries grow their plants on the premises, I can safely say that the big box stores do not). This might explain the reason why the few plants I have bought from BSN are still alive while the ones I have bought from the big box stores are not.

BSN has recently gotten their shipment of fall planting bulbs (fall planting means spring blooming) as well as new cement planters/garden decoratives and pottery. So hurry on down and give 'em a gander.

Barton Springs Nursery is located at 3601 Bee Caves Road and can be found online at BartonSpringsNursery.net

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Paths

Remember back in the day when I said I volunteered to help my in laws with their back yard area? The area that is almost entirely in the shade? Where the deer play (and apparently raise their young)?

Yeah, we finally started on that the other weekend. By the time my mother in law had decided she wanted to do something and had bought the patio pavers, it was too hot to really bother doing anything so the project was put on hold. Plus she kept saying she didn't know what to do - she's not a designer (not that I am - I mean come on, most of you have seen my yard). But, as with all things, it's easier to see potential in other people's yards - with the added benefit that if it looks like crap when it's done, it's not your yard.

Now then, as I had mentioned before, she wanted to re-sod most of the yard instead of going with native plants and I had THOUGHT I had convinced her to use plants instead of grass. I was wrong. She did go out and buy grass seed (something that's supposed to grow in the shade, but it's not St. Augustine). They spread it out and dutifully watered it. It didn't take. There are little patchy clumps near the edge of the shade area, but the rest of the area is bare. So she agreed to try plants instead of sod.

Of course she said she couldn't do plants because she doesn't know how to design a landscape, so I drew up a plan (I mean it's just like the design a go-go's right?). She saved it and it is now the plan of what we will be designing (even though it's not to scale, nor does it necessarily have accurate plants for the area - I didn't have my books with me so I had to go off of memory of what grows in the shade and is deer resistant). The biggest problem thus far is that the neighbor's tree is dropping all it's leaves, plus my father in law pruned their trees so now areas get more sun than they used to. The worst area is in the area that I had marked as "Turk's Cap". (good thing Turks Cap grows in the sun AND shade)

So the other day we (my mother in law and I) went out and layed rocks out at a 2' interval (due to lack of enough rocks) to mark where the patio should be, where the shredded bark paths should be, and where the planting beds would be.

The toughest part was getting my MIL to understand that if she didn't like where a rock was (as in it made the bed too weird of a shape, or the path wasn't wide enough), she was, indeed, allowed to move the rock to a more appropriate place. After we were finished I insisted that we "walk the yard using the paths" just to make sure the feel was okay. She thought it was an unnecessary step. Until we were doing it and decided that one of the paths should veer to the left instead of right. Guess what? It's a lot easier to move a few rocks than it is to move shredded bark and planted plants.

Since I know we'll have to go back up there at some point in the near future to put gutter guards on the house, I'm guessing we'll be laying more rock and laying the patio itself. Guess I'd better start lifting weights again...

And I haven't even started on the projects I have for my yard yet (hell strip, front berm, side yard, and planting trees). Oh yes, I have plans, but they'll probably take at least 5 years to implement.

Veggie Plant Winners (take 2)

Rather than provide an update in the style I normally do, I feel that a summary is warranted.

Black Krim (2 plants) - 5 tomatoes total, 3 ruined by squirrels or birds.
Roma (2 plants) - 4 tomatoes total, 1 ruined by blossom end rot.
Crookneck Squash - 3 squash total, 2 eaten by squirrels, 1 picked too late to eat.
Red LaSoda Potatoes (5 planted) - 10 potatoes
White Kennebec Potatoes (4 planted) - 2 potatoes
Sweet Potato - 0 thus far
Watermelon - 0 thus far - I had 3, one was eaten by possums, the other two are still on the vine.
Eggplant - 1 thus far - there are another 2 waiting for me to pick them.
Cayenne Pepper - 4
Thai Red Demon Pepper - 50 peppers total, 2 eaten by squirrels/birds, 2 given to Linda Lehmusvirta. Plus, more on the way.
Jalapeno Pepper - 5 peppers, plus more on the way.

Obviously the winner is still the Thai Pepper. But then, at this point, I don't think anything is going to beat it...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Successes


The sole gulf fritillary butterfly I've had born in my yard this year. The rest have been killed in their formative stages by the paper wasps that live in the eave of the house.



The saucer I put out for the toads and lizards is finally being used by one of the toads.



The bird feeder, which is mostly used by the Jays and the Doves is also being used by Cordelia the Cardinal (also, my husband believes I am crazy naming all the resident animals, though he had no problem with me naming some of the ducks in college.) Also, this photo was taken through a window and a screen.



It's also being used by the squirrels...meh. They need food, too. Besides, I only put a cup of seed out each day so it's not like I lose a lot by letting the squirrels take the left overs after the birds are done.



Hackberry Emperor butterflies mating on my window screen. You go, little butterflies, a variety of which I've never seen in my yard before, but likely were attracted to the sap from my pistache tree because the bird feeder rubbed one of the branches every time I took it off of the tree.



And finally, the best success of them all, a picture of Bettye - the resident female humming bird (yes, she looks like a male in this picture, but it's just the angle). I have at least three that visit throughout the day. This photo was taken from about 20 yards away. The next day I was able to move my chair to 15 yards. Soon I'll be able to be close.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Blue Jays

I'm sure I'm probably not supposed to be feeding the blue jays.  It seems like most people don't want them around their feeders (what with their aggressiveness and all).  But I like them.  And more importantly, my cat likes them - while I'm sure she'd like to EAT them, she only ever gets to watch them (cuz she's stuck inside while the birds are outside eating).  But she likes the Jays.  I think she likes the young ones.  She has conversations with them through the window.  But this isn't really about my cat liking the jays, or talking to them.  This is about the weird thing I saw a jay do the other day.

I was leaning against the chair watching the jays and the doves take turns at the feeder and at the water dish.  One of the jays was at the water dish and, to begin with, started in the dish.  Then she (yes, I assign gender to all the birds at the house, even if I don't REALLY know its gender) reached over the side of the dish to grab a dead leaf on the ground.  She started playing with it - picking it up and dunking it in the water, letting it float to the top and grabbing it again.  Leaf in the water.  Leaf out of the water.  Leaf on the ground.  Leaf in the beak.  And Leaf back in the water.  It quite honestly looked like she was just playing with the leaf and the water.  I figured she would get bored and leave, but she played with that leaf for a while (5 minutes or so), and then started intentionally dunking it in the water, turning it over and dunking it back in the water.  After about 30 seconds of this dunking action, she grabbed the leaf and flew off.  I mean, really, why?  It seems odd.  I've read that captive jays will use tools, but could the leaf really hold enough water to take back to a nest?  I realize that jays are in the same family as crows and crows are crazy smart, but do they have magpie-type tendencies about collecting things (magpies are in the same family)?

So many questions, so few answers...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hummingbird




I have two coworkers whose birthdays are 4 days apart. Before their birthdays, we had all been talking about the wildlife are faring during this drought. One of the girls had already started buying bird feeders and native plants, but was lamenting the fact that she didn't have a hummingbird feeder.

Thus I went to Petsmart and bought us all some feeders as the feeder, I felt, was pretty darn good (and cheap): It's red plastic with no yellow parts on it at all and it fully comes apart. The downside is that while it does come apart, the bulb part does have a fairly narrow opening. I have found that by cutting a few triangles out of the sponge part at the top of a bottle brush cleaner, that it will fit easily into the bulb thus allowing easy cleaning.

I hung mine out last weekend (August 28th), and you'll be proud to know that I did it myself - mostly because the husband hurt his wrist a few weeks ago, though he did supervise.

12 hours later I saw my first hummingbird at the feeder (a female black chin or ruby throat who has shown up every morning around 7:30) and just today saw 2 males - one each of the black chin and ruby throat. YAY!

No pictures of hummingbirds yet - they won't come by the feeder when I'm outside. We're working on our trust issues.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Water

With Stage 2 water restrictions looming, I have been contemplating what to water and what not to water. I have also been thinking about getting rid of more grass. The problem is that it's quite possible that replacing grass that I don't water with plants, which, while requiring little water, will still require more water than the grass that I don't water. Normally I'd just start asking people how much water they use in their yards, but 1) everyone has different rates and points where the cost goes up depending on where you live, 2) people have different sized yards, 3) people have different plants that they'll let go (dormant or die) in the heat of summer, and 4) peoples' household use of water differ drastically.

I have some idea of how much my inlaws spend on water only because my MIL is always concerned with how much they're spending compared to others (we, on average, spend about $40, though this last month's bill - which included me watering all flowering plants every day for 2 weeks leading up to my go-go- was $50 or about 6000 gallons). The inlaws also have an automatic sprinkler system, the idea that grass must always be green, a larger turf area, and a home owners association that is perceived to be very strict about plants and lawn and hell, everything (we have an HOA too, but they complain about things such as 'the grass is too tall' versus 'your grass is brown').

Of course we were (until about 4 weeks ago) also watering our lawn which was only a lesson in futility since the backyard went dormant and then subsequently died. We didn't really start watering the lawn until the middle of June and even then it was half-heartedly and with the goal of not keeping it green, but with making sure the roots didn't die. We then went through a phase where neither of us remembered to water on our watering day and I don't want to stand out there for an hour with a hose. I can deep water the tree in the back and the grass does not come back. Compare this to the front yard where I will deep water the trees and we end up with a 2' x 2' patch where the grass is verdant and 6" tall. Thus my theory is that the grass in the back is Dead.

As I'm not a big fan of lawn, I am always trying to come up with schemes to get rid of more turf. But of course the problem is that OTHER people like turf and if we ever want to sell this house we're going to likely have to have SOME grass area. Which means that I would prefer something like Buffalo, but that's what my inlaws have and they hate it. I'd go with a prairie mix, but I'm guessing most people don't want to let their lawn get 6" tall or taller. I'd plant low water/maintenance plants, but we're back to the whole thing of even low water plants require some water, so the question is, does having a (mostly) dead lawn which I occasionally water end up being cheaper than plants that require little water? The answer is likely yes, but again, people don't want dead lawn when they purchase a house, they want live lawn...which means we're back to square one.

Good thing we're not planning on selling for the next couple of years...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Maryland: Milkweed


Wild milkweed in Maryland. I also got to see something I haven't seen down here in a while - Monarch butterflies.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Maryland: Jewelweed aka Spotted Touch Me Not



Jewelweed is thus named as water beads on the leaves looking like the plant is bejewelled. It is called Touch Me Not as the seed pods burst when touched. It also is used as a cure to poison ivy and mosquito bites (rip the leaves and rub on affected areas). Jewelweed grows in Texas but it likes moist soil and shade (maybe more of a bog plant...).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Emmitsburg, MD


A picture of a black-eyed susan bloom (at least I assume it's a black-eyed susan) at the Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Vacation

So I didn't REALLY go on vacation - I was at a training in Maryland for the last week while my husband was (and still is) at a conference in Vancouver. But the bad part about going to cooler climes in August? It means that your plants are left here in the frying pan to fend for themselves.

I asked the neighbor who was watching our cat to water the veggie garden and other plants in pots on Tuesday and Thursday (keeping in mind that I normally watered those everyday). I also had a coworker stop by on Wednesday to water "all plants outside, front and back." so if we're keeping track that would indicate that all the perennials and annuals and flowering things would get watered on Sunday before I left, on Wednesday and then again on Saturday when I returned. The veggie garden and plants in pots would get watered on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The flowering things all did fine - the worst looking plant by far was the milkweed. And the back yard flowering plants looked downright wonderful.

The garden, however, looked pitiful. The squash plants have all died (probably a one-two punch between the heat and SVB), one of the Krims I had grown from seed died, the marigolds all looked extremely stressed, the lemon balm is crispy, as are some of the sweet potato plants. Hell, even the garlic chives aren't looking so hot. The best looking plants were the eggplants and watermelon. The most pitiful thing to me, though, was the fact that my lone habanero plant (from seed) looked done for. The leaves were completely limp and a dull green. I watered it anyway and it has miraculously recovered.

While I'm a little sad so much died, at the same time it's a good thing because I need to make room to plant garlic, broccoli, and cauliflower very soon like.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Birds

It's been so hot and dry out and this damn drought is never ending that the poor animals are having a tough time.

I started putting a bowl of water out for my cats, but the neighborhood cats started coming around so now it's out all the time, and then I put out a saucer of water for the birds (cats in the back yard, birds in the front). Then I started thinking that they needed a bigger water dish (to account for evaporation), so I started looking for a big plastic saucer (like the type you put under flower pots). In the meantime I found a toad living in my garden (probably on account of the fact that it is the only area that reliably gets water), so I started leaving a saucer of water in the garden. Shortly after that i found the tiny baby anole living on my Thai Pepper plant so I now pour water in a yogurt lid that I have on the dirt in the pot so the little guy has access to water. I finally found a large saucer for the birds in the front and I moved the smaller saucer to the back yard in the shade garden as the anoles tend to like to live in that area.

A few weeks ago, the husband and I went to Lowe's to buy some paint and drywall compound. I got sidetracked by the wild bird section and debated on buying a feeder and food. Just this last weekend, after watching a jay family in my yard obviously looking for food, I finally "broke" (at least that's what we'll tell the husband) down and bought a feeder. Since I know all the animals are hurting (except for the wasps and ants in our yard) so I bought just a flat hanging plate and a 17-pound bag of black oil sunflower. Thus far I haven't seen any birds (or other animals) at the feeder, but something's eating all the seeds...or dumping them out at least.

Update: I wrote this a few days ago and since then I have actually bothered to put out the seed and sit at the window and watch. I had the jay family, a cardinal and about 4 doves visit the feeder while some type of nuthatch/chickadee visited the water saucer.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Veggie Plant Winners

Rather than provide an update in the style I normally do, I feel that a summary is warranted.

Black Krim (2 plants) - 5 tomatoes total, 3 ruined by squirrels or birds.
Roma (2 plants) - 4 tomatoes total, 1 ruined by blossom end rot.
Crookneck Squash - 1 2 squash total, eaten by squirrels
Red LaSoda Potatoes (5 planted) - 10 potatoes
White Kennebec Potatoes (4 planted) - 2 potatoes
Sweet Potato - 0 thus far
Watermelon - 0 thus far
Eggplant - 0 thus far
Cayenne Pepper - 4
Thai Red Demon Pepper - 42 47 peppers total, 2 eaten by squirrels/birds, 2 given to Linda Lehmusvirta. Plus, more on the way.

Obviously the winner this year is the Thai Pepper.

(edited to update counts on 8/26)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Plant Sale

I went to the HEB last Saturday to get the makings for Ranch & Spinach Pasta Salad (Rotini, bacon, spinach, and ranch dressing). While there, I decided to check out the plant section to see if they had any thing that would feed/water birds (aka plant saucers or bird baths). I didn't find any thing of that sort, but I did start looking at the plants. I ended up picking up a weeping jade plant for $2, and a portulaca for $1.19. I then found the clearance section. A clearance section that's full of plants that aren't even necessarily looking all that bad, and so I picked up a Persian Shield for $2, Devonshire Lavender for $1, and a Blue Salvia for $1. Of course I'm sure the clearance plants will promptly die as soon as I put them in the ground (but maybe I can propagate them - especially the salvia and the Persian Shield).

Of course the reason I even looked at the plants was because I had bought some clearance pots at Lowe's the weekend before - a lime green and a bright purple small pots (a little bit bigger than those 4" plastic things), and two blue and bronze triangle shaped pots labelled as "Orchid pots". I figured the jade plant would look good in the purple pot and I could probably break off some of the leaves to get them going in one of the blue and bronze pots. And while the Persian shield would look stunning in the green pot, it is a bit too small unless I want to keep propagating the plant to keep it small enough.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Wee Baby Anole

The other day I went out to water my plants and there was a wee baby anole on my Thai Pepper plant.

In order to give an idea of size, I've tried to take photos with something one could compare to - here the little anole hanging onto a "medium" size tomato cage.


Camera: Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi
Exposure: 1/25
Aperture Value: 4.97 EV (f/5.6)
ISO Speed: 100
Flash: No
Metering Mode: Pattern
Exposure Program: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 70.00 mm
Post Processing: GIMP - Hue +10, Saturation +10, Unsharp Mask, Border



And here he is on top of the cage with a few of the pinky-long Thai peppers.

Camera: Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi
Exposure: 1/25
Aperture Value: 4.97 EV (f/5.6)
ISO Speed: 100
Flash: No
Metering Mode: Pattern
Exposure Program: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 70.00 mm
Post Processing: GIMP - Saturation +10, Unsharp Mask

Saturday, July 30, 2011

It was all a Go at my house this morning...


This morning, a bunch of Garden bloggers all convened on my house to give me ideas of what to do with my "part All Shade, part All Sun, and Drainage Problems All Over" area of my yard (basically the south side of the house). Along with many great ideas for plants and grading suggestions, I also received a couple of awesome gifts. Diana from Sharing Nature's Garden gave me the little metal dragonfly in the top picture (which is sitting on top of Daphne's garden plan).


Bob from Central Texas Gardening gave me a white Philippine Violet, Ronny from The Lazy Shady Gardener gave me Silver Squill and Soap Aloe. Last but not least, Bob from Gardening at Draco made a butterfly (for lack of a better word) doodad 'specially for me.


I was so excited about having everyone over, I totally spaced that I was going to give away a tea towel that I'm sewing. Le Sigh.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Just an observation

I'm having a garden blogging group over to my house next Saturday. I find it kinda funny that I've let the grass go dormant but like hell I'm going to let all the other plants go dormant. I figure I ought to at least PRETEND that I know what I'm doing and am capable of keeping a plant alive...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hello, Ginger!


The ginger I planted from pieces on 4/16. Picture taken a week ago, but I figured I aught to post something on Foliage Followup (hosted by Pam at Digging.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bloomin'


Rock Rose. Picture taken a week earlier, but I figured I aught to post a picture of a flower on bloom day (which is hosted by May Dreams Gardens). Plant was from Bob at Draco Gardens.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

How to separate seedlings

Guess what I found? My point and shoot camera! Okay, it's not like I lost it. It's more like I forgot that I had photos on it. Photos like me separating and transplanting seedlings. Something that I meant to do a "How To" on. So, here it is, 5 months late:

Step 1: Prep the containers you're transplanting to (in this case a 6-pack esque thing and some 4" x 4" pots). I used seed/cutting mix. Also make sure to bring over your seedlings.

Step 2: Label all of your pots. This is especially important if you're pulling multiple types of seedlings.

Step 3: Use a stick or dowel or skewer to poke holes in your soil mix. It would also be smart to get it kinda wet. (this is so it doesn't repel water...dry dirt tends to be hydrophobic for a while and you don't want your seedlings not getting water). You are poking holes so you can get the little seedling roots into the new pots.

Step 4: Grasp your seedling by its leaves. ITS LEAVES. Plants can regenerate leaves, they usually can't regenerate stems. use the dowel/stick/skewer to loosen up the soil around your seedling.

Step 5: Place the seedling into the prepared pot.

Step 6: Use the stick/dowel/skewer to gently pack soil around the roots.

Step 7: Wash, Rinse, Repeat for the rest of your seedlings. Water (I use a spray bottle at first because I don't like bowling over the little plants). Place in protected place out of full sun for a few days until the seedlings recover.