Monday, June 29, 2009

Woohoo! Jackpot!

My husband and I are in the early planning stages of possibly building a home. This project encompasses much time and thought throughout my days (and nights.) Besides browsing countless home plan websites, I have also been collecting interior design and decorating ideas. There are endless offerings on the web, but I have a certain appreciation for hard print in a book or magazine as well.

A friend of mine gave me a stack of some of her Country Home and Southern Living magazines she'd already read, so I started there. Then, I dug out two or three years worth of Better Homes and Gardens that I had already packed up to sell in our next yard sale. In true OCD fashion, I started files for each category: kitchen, bathroom, window treatments, flooring, fixtures, etc., and filed away the pages of the magazines featuring examples of ideas I liked. As I carefully studied each page for details and delicious design, I had an epiphany! I discovered, for the first time, the "Gardens" in Better Homes and Gardens. And I hit the jackpot.

I truly believe before my recent interest in gardening, those pages of lush green and vibrant colors had been completely blocked out. The breathtaking yards full of life had gone unnoticed as I flippantly turned past in search of a good recipe or photos of a majestic restored farm house. How thrilled I am to suddenly have dozens of magazines full of garden eye candy to scour over and enjoy. I get to love my magazines all over again! **blissful sigh**

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Two weeks since planting my veggies...

... and I have some good news and some bad news. Let's start with the good news, shall we? How about a little before and after?

The pictures above are from the day my gardening assistant (my mom) and I planted. This is my zucchini (I see lots of gardeners call them zukes - who knew!?) There were two seedlings and I planted them in one of three large round tubs I purchased from the flea market. Did I mention I only paid FIVE DOLLARS for all three? I brought those babies home, drilled some drainage holes in the bottom, and voila! Containers for my veggies! Here's a garden-dummy moment for all you gurus to laugh about: when I bought the seedlings, I deliberately chose some with blooms. In all of my excitement to grow vegetables, I assumed having blooms meant the plants were in some way closer to bearing fruit. Of course, as it was pointed out to me by a friend's very garden-savvy father, that in summertime in Texas, if you're foolish enough to plant this late, you've got to at least make your plants THINK it's not late. That meant I needed to pinch off those blooms so the plants would focus their energy on growing rather than blooming, because as small as they were, they weren't really ready to put out any fruit. I've also put my container in a spot where it will only get partial sun and will be in the shade during the very hottest time of the day. This, again, is to try to fake more spring-like conditions.

And now, two weeks later, here are the 'after' pictures.

So, have I convinced my zukes to grow?? You betcha!! They have not bloomed again since about the fourth or fifth day after planting but instead have really filled out nicely with lots of new leaves.

On to the less-good news. Below you'll see planting day for yellow squash. My squash has had a tough go of it thanks to The Very Hungry Caterpillar I discovered last week (see this post.) Before I figured it out, the little critter completely stripped one of the two plants bare.

So, two weeks later:

Either because of, or despite this set-back (the caterpillar), these plants haven't had the growth that the zukes have. They're not in bad shape, just not growing at the same rate. I am encouraged though to see that the squash that was eaten has started to put out new leaves again, so maybe it didn't suffer too much shock. Time will tell if it makes it afterall.

And now the bad news. I planted in the third round tub two green bell pepper seedlings. My mom also donated her empty Topsy-Turvy planter for a third bell pepper seedling. Here they were two weeks ago on the day they were planted:

Here they are today.

I need to research about bell peppers to see if I can glean any clues as to why they've not done well. I can't see any detectable growth on the two in the round container, and have only just found one or two new leaves on the hanging planter in the past day or two. If anything, it seems like the hanging pepper plant has just kind of drawn itself up, which makes it look thicker, but really I don't think it is. There is clearly something amiss, but in the end this is all a big learning experience for me, so my objective is now to figure out what is wrong. By next year, I'll be a little more experienced and a lot more in-the-know.

Friday, June 26, 2009

My first Fertilizer Friday!

It's Fertilizer Friday! What's that, you ask? You can visit Tootsie here (or by clicking on the picture below) to see all the happy flowers and plants who are well-fed every Friday.

I'm excited to be joining in the fun this week for the first time. This morning I added a little Miracle Gro to my watering can and fed my plants. I don't have many flowers to flaunt because my garden is so new and because most of what I'm growing are vegetables, but I can see lots of growth so I'll flaunt what I got.

Here is the tiny emerging bloom on my tomato plant. Color me clueless: does this mean it's about to begin bearing fruit??

Here is my zucchini - I will post (eventually) from the planting of it so you can see before and after, but trust me, this baby is growing. I planted so late and it's been so warm here, so I pinched off several blooms it had in the first week, but now, since doing so, it seems to have really taken off with growth.

This is the poor rose bush I posted about a couple of weeks ago. Look at this beauty! It know it's leggy, but it's too late to do anything about that for this year. I've been feeding it, and it really seems to be revived!

My lavender was almost dead when I planted it. The grower just gave it to me in fact because it was on it's way out. I've just watered, fed, and given it plenty of warm sun -which it loves - and there's new growth for it too!

Lots of brand new leaves on my impatiens. The flowers are mostly gone right now, but they bloom again every few days so I'm not worried about that.

Yay! Thanks for visiting my first Fertilizer Friday! And thanks Tootsie for getting me regimented about it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

If you have had young children in the past 40 years, you may be familiar with Eric Carle. Before I was a SAHM, I taught both the second and third grade. I am overly fond of good children's literature and I would consider Carle among the best of the best.

So, should I be flattered that Mr. Carle's very own leading larva from his best known book made an appearance in my garden this week? So flattered that I'd overlook his near annihilation of one of my squash plants? I think not.

Over the course of about two or three days, Mr. Hungry Caterpillar cleaned off every last leaf on one of my plants. Of course, I blame myself because, after deduction and speculation, I spent those couple of days assuming I was being visited by something much larger. I had even cast blame on that cute little bunny I met a week ago. I'm so clueless that I never thought a BUG could do that kind of damage in so short a time. Finally, on the third morning, to my horror, I went out to find the plant completely stripped of every last leaf. I then noticed the second squash plant showing the same signs of destruction on it's biggest leaf. It suddenly occurred to me to turn that leaf over and WHOM DID I FIND?? Mister Hungry Caterpillar himself, munching and wondering why I'd bothered him.

In case you're wondering, this doesn't end well for our loathsome larva. If only he'd decided that would be a good day to build a cocoon. But, alas, he made a smorgasbord out of my squash plant, and I was done catering. He had officially had his Last Supper.

After a day or two of intensive care and recovery, I'm happy to report that the demolished squash plant has already put out three new leaves. I may not have killed it yet! *Whew!*

Saturday, June 20, 2009

OT: My baby turns ONE today!

I know this isn't gardening related, but I can't resist posting to share with you all that my baby boy is turning one today. It's been both the shortest and longest year of my life, depending on whether I'm counting smiles, hugs and kisses or sleepless nights. He's absolutely brought joy and happiness to our lives that we never realized was missing. I am so thankful to God for allowing me this ultimate privilege and blessing of being his mama.

In case any of you are interested, you can check out my other blog that's mostly about him. And, here are a few pictures from the past year.

Okay, thanks for idulging my mommy-moment. I now return you to your regularly scheduled garden talk.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Keeping neighbors out of my compost pile is a full time job.

And by neighbors, I mean the four-legged variety. My poor pile of fresh and dried grass clippings and organic kitchen scraps may never graduate to compost if I can't keep the neighborhood dogs and cats out of it.

I live in a rural Texas town where fences and dog-leash laws are more like suggestions. And really, until now, it has never been a problem for us. The perpetrators - a pair of brown and white beagles - are quite likable dogs, and my husband and I usually stop to play with and love on them when they're passing through.

However, as an emerging gardener, I've also just started my fledgling (binless) compost pile, one that I found myself being rather protective of yesterday when I caught one of the beagles red-pawed. I ran over, shoo-ing and waving my arms to scare him away. He wasn't the least bit intimidated. I had just added suitable compost materials from my dinner preparation and clean-up: eggshells, potato skins, squash rinds and green beans. In his mind, I'd just laid out the buffet. I am really actually surprised they were interested - there were onions in that pile.

I came back in the house grumbling, to which my dear husband responded by heading outdoors to do his best to run off the dogs (notice the 's' because by now, this canine crook had been joined by his accomplice. Did I mention these dogs' names are Bonnie and Clyde? No, seriously.) I watched my knight-in-shining-armor make several attempts before I started waving my white flag. Now that they know where to look for it, I'm afraid my pile will be vulnerable. Maybe next year I'll try to use bins, but like everything else, I'm trying to start out modestly. Good news is, all their rooting around will take care of aerating the pile!

As I was coming back from my walk later in the evening, I found a big long-haired cat sniffing and nosing around the pile, or what was left of it. Just great.

I don't have any before pictures, but here are some after pictures I took this morning when I went out to assess the damage.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Garden Friends

So, plants aren't the only living things around here these days. I wouldn't call my home a nature-sanctuary, but there are some critters who've decided to make their stead (or at least their regular presence) here, and I've managed to get pictures of a few of them.

We have a shed out behind our home that we use for storage. My husband noticed that something was digging under one side of it several months ago. He assumed the worst (skunks) and tried to block the hole with bricks and rocks. Those were eventually moved - the critters weren't deterred. Turns out they weren't skunks - they were a family of rabbits. On early mornings, when I was still leaving for work at or before the break of dawn most days, I would sometimes find a bunny in the yard. Yesterday, for the first time in a long while, my husband found this little guy along the foundation of the house, hiding near the air conditioning unit.

For the past two years, we've had mud swallows make their home on our front porch. Not because we invited them; rather because they're too persistent to notice or concern themselves with the repeated number of times my husband knocked the nest down as it was being constructed. We finally decided if they built again after the last time he tore down a partial nest, we'd just leave them be. They were back within a couple of days. And so, two years later, we're still host to these migratory birds. My son (12mo) loves to watch them swoop and soar around our front lawn. If you say 'bird' he immediately turns his head to the window and he scouts. So cute.

Just this week I hung a hummingbird feeder from an overhang outside the window of our family room. Today is the first day I noticed a customer, and now that we've been discovered, the feeder has been a hot spot all day. I don't know if it's just the same bird I'm seeing or multiple, as there is never more than one at a time, but in any event, the buffet has been busy. I don't have any pictures yet, and frankly I don't know if my photography skills are up to par for catching a hummingbird. But, if I get anything that's recognizable, I'll share.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My roses need help!

Is there anything I can do to help this rose bush (and can you tell what kind it is?)? It was here - and in much the same condition - when we moved into our home three years ago. I've certainly done nothing to help it - I've not had any interest until now. Pruning? Fertilizer? I know it's looking sickly, but it does actually put out roses all spring and summer - sparingly. I think it just needs some TLC - tell me how to do it!!

And yes, I know, it sure is 'neked' under that bush... a flower bed will be a project for next year. For now I'm sticking to containers and improving the quality of life for the plants I've already got.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Tomato Timeline: Days 1 - 16

On May 27th I planted my tomato seedling in a Topsy-Turvy upside-down planter bag. The following is a photo time line.

Day 2: (Because I didn't have the good sense to photograph the planting process on Day 1...) Planting was awkward into the hanging container, but I managed, even as clueless as I am. Used an S-hook to hang from a bolt hole in one of the rafters of our carport. This spot gets great sun from about 7am until 3pm so I think it will like it here.

Day 5: You can see some growth, especially in the stem.

Day 8: Growth is obvious. I'm feeling pretty good about it at this point.

Day 10: Looking good!

Day 14:
Uh-oh... some not so good signs. Leaf curl and white spotting. My hopes are dimming slightly.

Day 16: And now an uninvited guest. I'm still researching trying to verify that this is in fact a pest (aphid??) and not just a flashy, innocuous passerby, but from the looks of the damage to the stem and leaves where he's sitting, I'm not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. Leaf curling and now one brown and shriveling. I think I've been over-watering.