Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I am the tomatonator...

I decided last fall that I was going to move my garden space for this year to another spot in my yard.  I had a square plot in the fenced in area of my yard that looked like a good spot.  It is a 6' Privacy fence.  I finished fencing it in (to keep the dogs out) and loaded the whole space down with cardboard.  Then I mowed up all my leaves, dumped them in, added a huge load of dirt, a ton of coffee grounds and all the scraps I had collected for compost over last summer/fall.  I used tiles from a salvage yard to pave the paths. I also took a deep breath and reminded myself that the first year in a lasagna bed, the soil  is still being created and balanced, so it may not perform quite as well.  It looked something like this by January 31 when I planted my lettuce/spinach/peas:  
By April 15th, I had planted everything I was going to plant save for a couple of packs of seeds.  Included in this year's plantings: peas, lettuce, spinach, zucchini, cucumbers tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, strawberries,  cantaloupe, green beans, Brussels sprouts, onions, basil, cilantro, thyme, oregano, and a few flowers.  The right hand side of the garden was left for flowers because it is in a very dry part under the overhang of my house.  I am using that area to collect compost to spread over next year's garden.  This is right after I planted on April 15:  
The next picture was taken around the around May 5:
This one was May 20th:
This one is June 5:

The lighting in the last one is not really great...  Here's another view of the progression of the same few tomato plants along the back side of the garden taken May 5, May 20, and June 5:

It always amazes me what a difference a month makes and how giant the plants get during the month of May...  These tomatoes are fertilized with well aged Coffee Grounds I collect from any coffee shop I can.  I also use a Miracle Grow liquid fertilizer with the yellow and green sprayer thing that attaches to your hose.  I will be harvesting tomatoes from these probably by the end of June or beginning of July.  I always anxiously await the first tomato sandwich of the year.  My mouth waters just thinking about it!  Happy gardening everyone!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Homemade Hoop House

I spent today building a hoop house with my mom and my kids in my garden so I can heave an earlier growing season and have an outdoor place to experiment with seed starting.  It is built right on one of my garden beds and extends about five feet to one side where I plan to start seeds.  

What I thought  was a couple of hour project turned into six hoursof very hard work.  But I think after building a few more of these, I could do it in less time.  My hope is to build a more permanent structure for next year's seed starting and modify this hoop house to have greens growing all winter.  

For this year, I think this will do nicely for my purposes.  I found the instructions here.  They worked fine, but I made a few modifications.  I used green metal fence posts and duck tape to stabilize the structure a bit and copious amounts of duck tape on various other parts while building.  
After measuring and setting my corner posts last week, I began today by cutting 1/2 inch PVC posts and pounding them into the ground every 36 inches on each side. I then put 3/4 inch PVC over the posts, and connected them with plumbing fittings for the "ribs" and put a "spine" down the middle with 34" cross beams.  The structure seemed a little flimsy and we reinforced with green metal fence posts that I happened to have on hand from last year's garden and a nice helping of duck tape.  This worked out really well and the structure seems pretty sound.  Then we taped two 10x25 pieces of plastic together (incorrectly, forcing me to improvise with some additional plastic and duck tape as they were not long enough to cover the structure).  They are held down on either side by 2x4s as per the instructions.  

We added on the doors on the ends.  We had loads of fun trying to figure that out, but in the end, succeeded in making something we think will work.  It was a fun project and I really enjoyed being barefoot in my yard in January.  70 and sunny!  And now I can start my garden a little early!  Woohoo!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Squish, Squash, Applesauce...

I am fighting a losing battle right now. My yellow squash, zucchini, and volunteer winter squash are under attack from all sides. I will continue to harvest what I can and hope for the best in the late varieties I have planted. From the roots to the stems, to the leaves, all my squash is affected in some way. I thought I would post about some of the insects that are causing me a ton of problems this year so folks can see what they look like. As far as how to get rid of them, I am using the brute force. When I see something eating my plants, I kill it! Kill it! Kill it!!!!

Early in the growing season, you might have problems with cut worms. I think I may be having some issues with cut worms right now with my pumpkins, but am in a wait and see mode. If more of my seedlings die, I will know I have an issue. The way cut worms work: they wrap around the base of the stem of a seedling and cut it off at the source. They munch around the stem until the plant just falls over dead leaving a tiny stem sticking out of the ground.

Squash bugs are what most people call stink bugs - they lay their eggs on the leaves (both front and back) and stems of your squash. When they hatch, the voraciously devour your squash and squash leaves. Remedy: Squish the mating bugs and scrape off their eggs. This may not always work. These are pesky little buggers. The babies are small blue things that grow into great big gray stink bugs.



I am also having issues with the Squash Lady Bird Beetle. These look like larger versions of your typical Lady Bird Beetle (Lady Bugs) with lots of rows of spots.

Their coloration and similar spotty appearance to their beneficial carnivorous cousins fooled me this year. I thought they were after the stink bugs. They were really after my squash leaves! Their babies were voraciously consuming my winter squash plants today. Yellow, fuzzy, and kind of cute... After I took some pretty pictures of the cute little evil things, I squished them flat... Check out the damage they did to my poor plants:

Then I discovered yet another victim... This time not just the leaves, but the whole plant. I have had really poor luck with zucchini this year and I am only harvesting a few from one large healthy plant that is producing smaller than last year fruit. I had another stunted plant with a few small zucchini on it, but found its base brown, slimy, and nearly completely chewed through. I pulled up the plant and began examining the cause of the problem. Found lots of tiny black opportunistic beetles, some small mites and this:

Don't see it? Here... Let me coax him out of his hole for you:

Ugh! This guy is the larva of a Squash Vine Borer. I have not seen momma, but I did lose a few plants earlier in the month to the same type of rotted stem. They are apparently not a wasp, as I had found in my research earlier, but a clear winged moth! Kind of cool, when they aren't eating my squash. Anything that wiggled or crawled within this stem is now dead, dead, dead!

Not all the crawling things in my garden are vile and destructive. I did see some "real" lady bugs, a mantis, and this really pretty writing spider:

It is tiny right now, but I am hoping it is a she spider who might leave a nice egg sack somewhere in my garden for next year. I'll keep a very close watch on her and make sure she stays safe, nestled among my tomato vines and corn. Really hoping to see more of her brothers and sisters hanging about my garden soon!

Other beautiful things in my garden right now:

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Early Morning Insomniac Gardening

Late night wings and Dr. Pepper are never a good combination for a tired gardener. But an all night bout of insomnia gave me a new perspective on my beautiful garden. You see, I am NOT a morning person. If I am up before 8 a.m. It is either because one of my children is sick, I am sick, or it is road trip day. Today is none of those things. But since I was up and was showing no signs of falling asleep, I decided to head out to the garden just around sunrise to get some weeds out and some photo opportunities in my yard.

I walked into my front yard first and found my Black Eyed Susan beaming up at me. My Aunt Pat saved these seed for me years ago after a visit where I admired the variety in her flower bed and asked her if she would send me some seed when they stopped blooming. She did and these flowers have come back every year since.

I made my way back to my garden and discovered a symphony of birds singing for me from my pecan trees and bats fluttering about catching mosquitoes. It was melodious and beautiful. By the time I reached my garden, I was thrilled I had decided to come outside. I pulled a few weeds and began taking some snap shots. It was still too dark under all the trees for non flash photos, but the effects of the flash on the early morning dew was pretty pleasing!

I moved to my flower garden in the back yard and found that in the early morning light, the colors of my variegated plants really pop out.

Back out front, the sky was finally dawning from slate gray to a gorgeous Carolina Blue. I love my small town with all the charm and peace for which one could hope. My early foray into my yard was everything I needed to start my day right. I loved it almost enough to become a morning person. Almost...

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Folks have been asking me about the pictures I post on Facebook and here. My garden is doing as well or even better than last year. My low to high planting on my big garden bed has worked out fantastic. My garden rows run in a generally east to west direction. The sun rises over the ends of the beds and comes up directly over top and then slides behind the trees. By five in the afternoon, all but the longest row are completely shaded because I have so many giant pecan trees and a two story house. I have more yard than I appear to when looking at the front of my house. 1.3 acres and I would say 80% of it is shaded at any time of day. The garden is only in full sun from around 11-3 but just about every part receives at least six hours of sun. I have three rows about three feet wide and of varying lengths.

Currently, the short bed from front to back contains grapes, dill, basil, lettuce, peppers, watermelon, and parsley. The middle contains more watermelon, cantaloup, Yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, some volunteer tomato plants, and some fresh plantings of zucchini. The big bed is planted in rows from short to tall for nearly all of its length. The short is bush beans, followed by tomato, then corn, then sunflowers. It also contains some fresh plantings of bush beans, onions, a few turnips, a volunteer butternut squash, and some other sort of volunteer vining squash (maybe a pumpkin).

In addition to all of this, I have a thornless blackberry patch, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and figs. All these are just getting started.

Here are a few photos:

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sunflowers and Birdies

My sunflowers are probably 3-4 weeks out from blooming. I planted them in mid April as soon as I could. In a month an a half these things have grown huge. I have two varieties - the Mammoth, and the Goliath. In other words, the big varieties. I planted them along the "back" (northern) side of my longest Lasagna Garden Bed.

I wanted to see which variety would get the tallest for myself. So far, Goliath is in the lead. They both have big beautiful foliage that forms a nice canopy out from the stem. I love to water these plants. Sunflowers like this have thick stems and wide shallow root systems. Their leaf canopies direct the water right to the ends of the root systems. Nature is amazing to me. The picture below is the dividing line between the Goliath on the left and the Mammoth on the right. They were all planted on the same day an have received the same attention. The Goliath are about six feet tall and the mammoth range from 3-5 feet.

I have a pair of brown birds that have nested in my grape arbor. They came to visit me out here today. They've nested in a good spot to eat my grapes, but I am willing to share as long as I get enough for some more apple grape jelly this year. They are a little hard to see here, but I tried to get closer and they flew away. One is on the arbor, just above the seat and the other is to the right in the grass.

The peace I feel when I am out here is wonderful. It is my refuge from reality. I have neglected my garden now for two weeks, it shows, and there is a lot to do. But the it does not make me anxious like the stresses of indoor household work. I procrastinate because I don't enjoy it like I enjoy yard work. I do find myself skipping other things- housework, errands, other hobbies - to be out here among my plants. Letting my kids play in the sprinkler today counts as a bath for them right? ;)

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Buggies, tomatoes, weeds...

My garden is having very serious pest problems this year! Today I squished dozens of egg clusters from my zucchini. I think I may also have a cut worm in one of my zucchini plants. If one more leaf is dead tomorrow, I will dig out the whole plant and the surrounding dirt.

I have my very first tomatoes coming out on my more mature plants. I'm so excited I will have tomatoes to eat in a few weeks. I can almost taste the first tomato sandwich!

My beans are beginning to bloom. I harvested my first new potatoes. I have peas coming out of my ears! Everything is growing well including the weeds. Oh, and I have my first spot of poison ivy on my arm... That annual battle has definitely begun! I hope to get out tomorrow and pull some weeds and give my garden a really good soaking. It will be 92 and everything is going to roast. I may throw an umbrella over my lettuce!

Before Ireland, my garden was so small, now everything is huge!
Here is a before and after of my sunflowers.

So exciting!! Now if I can just keep the bugs and crab grass at bay I will be doing well!!

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