Monday, October 09, 2006

Green... but not with envy

Summer's sad, soggy end did not bode well for my "crops." Instead of a second round of salsa and salads, sauce and sandwiches, I've got a big brown bag full of under-ripe tomatoes. Sigh.

I plan to make some green tomato relish. Does anyone else have any recipe suggestions?

Meanwhile, I did manage to cull some seeds from my riper, redder specimens. Before this final harvest, I wasn't all too sure that there would be any to collect from, and I've been wondering if seed-saving from under-ripe tomatoes was advisable. Now that I have my "control group" of ripe tomato seeds, I think I will go ahead and save some green tomato seeds as well. This little experiment should keep me quite busy in the greenhouse come winter.

Here's a murky shot of my rather murky tomato seeds...

Apparently you need to soak the seeds in order to allow them to ferment. This was news to me. Does anyone else out there soak their tomato seeds? With my first batch, I simply scooped them out and plopped them on a paper towel to dry. Days passed, the seeds affixed themselves to the towel, and as I was prying them off and doing my best to pick away the papery fuzz they'd acquired, I realized that there might be more to this seed-saving thing. A little time with Google revealed a whole step-by-step, seed-saving process. Who knew? Anyway, if I'm really feeling scientific, I may sow the unfermented, Bounty/Roma hybrid seeds as well. It may be a long, slow winter, after all.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Holy Hyacinths!

For some reason my Hyacinths are under the impression that spring is right around the corner. . .

They bloomed quite nicely a mere 4 months or so ago. What's it with me and over-eager bulbs? And what should I do? Cut them back? Or is this their way of siphoning off a little nourishment before the long winter ahead?
Please advise!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Coming Soon, The Greenhouse Edition

As the season is winding down, I'm finding that starting a garden and starting a blog are not all that dissimilar. Both are works in progress that evolve over time. And though you may think you have a vision of what it is you're working toward, both a blog and a garden ultimately take on a life of their own that you work more in service of than as master to.
Well, suffice to say I'm hooked on both blogging and gardening, and am sorry the season is coming to a close. The good news is I scored some space in our community greenhouse, so I'll be blogging about my (mis)adventures there...

On the topic of garden blogging, I'd like to express my appreciation to Farmgirl of In My Kitchen Garden & Farmgirl Fare fame. Not only have I gained a wealth of knowledge from reading both blogs (including a fabulous Savory Tomato Pesto Pie recipe), but she also took the time this week to shine a little light on this fledgling effort. Mostly I've been toiling away here in obscurity, and I appreciate her words of encouragement as well as the exposure. Thanks to her kind words, I received two comments (a bumper crop for me). Unfortunately due to technical difficulties, I've been unable to publish those comments. Hopefully they'll be up soon. Meanwhile, thanks Farmgirl, Mama T and Contrary1 for stopping by. Please visit again!

More good news from our little garden plot. We were among the winners of our neighborhood association's "Garden of the Year" award. How great is that?

Now here are some of this season's favorites. . .

This Cleome did not disappoint. I could have beaten it senseless, and I believe it still would have kept right on blooming. My kind of plant.

A fellow student from the gardening class I took this past winter gave it to me. It's an annual, but it's quite the seed-generator, so I'll be growing this one in the greenhouse.

I just love Oxalis. I bought a few pots at the Philadelphia Flower Show. They made great indoor plants (folding up like little sleeping bats at night), and then happily made the transition to the great outdoors, too.

I'll be bringing them in this fall with the hopes of preserving them for next year.

Portulaca is another fave. Hope to have this growing all around the patio some day.

Picked up this Coreopsis and Ornamental Pepper at our community plant sale. The Nastursium I grew from seed sort of took over, though. Note to self, go easy on the Nastursium. A little goes a long way...

My greenhouse adventures should start up in October...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Back Forty: an update

The squash didn't make it after all. Not sure if the exhaust from our dryer did them in. Or if it was a lack of female plants. Or if I indeed overpacked the plot. Will try again next year after having rigged something to divert the exhaust elsewhere. If I had more space, I'd line dry. But I'm using the term "back forty" very loosely here.

With that being said, we've done quite well with our tomatoes.

This was our first harvest, enjoyed about a month ago. We've got plenty still on the vine, however the weather has not been conducive to ripening, so we'll see. Once I'm sure the tomatoes are done for good, I'll pull them out and replace them with some seedlings I've started for fall: beets, spinach, turnip and radicchio. No idea if this is going to work, but I figured the experiment was well worth the $10 seed investment.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Friend or Foe?

Found this fellow kicking back on a sunflower leaf. Transforming our suburban patch into a garden oasis has brought all sorts of critters out of the proverbial woodwork. I'm just curious to know... do I want the likes of him in my garden? Even if I don't, I really don't plan on doing anything about it. Just don't have the heart. Besides, generally speaking, it's not that kind of garden...

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Patio: an update

At the start of the summer we dedicated a couple of weekends to installing a patio. With such a small yard we really wanted to get the most out of every inch. So far I'd give the patio an enthusiastic thumbs up.
We're getting a lot of use out of it. We'd get even more if the mosquitoes weren't such spoilers. They never pay me any attention, especially when they have the mosquito delicacy that is the Mister to feast upon. They go after him with such gusto, as if he were an all-you-can-eat buffet. Poor thing. Anyway, the patio's success has only served to reinforce my position that ultimately all the grass must go (still lobbying the Mister on this one). To date we have a small square in the front, which could be a lovely shade garden. There's another strip along the side which, if I get my way, will ultimately be swallowed up by my grand plan to extend the perennial garden. And finally, there is the path that constitutes our "back yard" that runs along our veggie swath coursing between the patio and grill. It's becoming so well worn that it's just begging for some stepping stones to put it out of its misery.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Name that Plant. . .

Anyone have any idea what this may be? Last September I scattered some wildflower seed anticipating a care-free summer garden brimming with native blooms. What I ended up with was something less naturalistic and more, well. . . abstract, with random croppings of mostly unidentifiable specimens here and there. For all I know they're weeds. This one I'm pretty sure is legit. Any takers?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Back Forty

As I've said before, we have a miniscule yard. It almost doesn't even count as a yard-- I'd be more inclined to call it a patch. However this did not stop us from tearing up more sod and putting in a tiny swath of a vegetable garden.

Since we're inexperienced and were raring to go by April, we decided to grow most of our bounty from seed. Both of us commute to NYC for our jobs which leaves little time beyond the weekend for our gardening efforts. Since it took a whole weekend just to get the sod up, the soil down and the garden ready for planting, we were faced with having to wait another week before we'd get our seeds in. With visions of just-plucked green beans dancing in our heads, we decided the weekend was just too far away. So after a full day's work and a long commute we found ourselves crouching before our garden swath, racing against the setting sun. The seeds went in. It seemed a shame to waste the whole package, so many seeds went in. And since we were working in dusk conditions, we weren't always entirely sure where the seeds were ending up. Let's just say we're going for a very "naturalistic" veggie garden. In no time we were seeing this. . .

Some of our tomatoes plants came from the Mister's grandfather's garden. As I mentioned in an earlier post, he's quite the propagator. He grew these plants from last year's tomatoes. They're already looking quite delicious...

Despite our inexperience, we seem to have a successful vegetable garden. The beans are quite tasty. The tomatoes are ripening nicely. We have some swiss chard that's ready to go, and our beets are really moving along. My only concern is our squash plants. They have the unfortunate fate of being situated right below our dryer vent. Periodically I pick fluff out from between their stems (I know coffee grinds are good, anyone know anything about dryer lint?). Their leaves are treated to a weekly, salon-style blow-out. I've noticed some of the blossoms that were looking so promising have shriveled up. Of course this may have something to do with having 500 squash plants crammed into a 2' square of soil (it's called squash for a reason, right?). So we'll see about that. Meanwhile, everything else looks pretty satisfied. And satisfying. . .

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Like a Moth

I'm taking to this gardening thing like a moth to a Nasturtium leaf.

Somehow June managed to come and go without a single post. Well the blog may have languished, but the garden has not. I've been meaning to dedicate a post to my perennials-- they're near and dear to my heart since I knew them first as mere seeds. I brought them home from the community greenhouse in early May. The Mister kindly cleared some sod for me, and a perennial garden was born.

I consulted my books endeavoring to give each plant its due in terms of space. However, mine was a bumper crop, and though I was happy to share some of the bounty with my sister, I was a little greedy, too. After all, some might not make it, then what? We'd have this bald spot in the yard punctuated by the occasional perennial. Besides, when they first went in they looked like this:

Plenty of room to breathe, to photosynthesize, to grow, etc, etc. There's Foxglove around the perimeter. Hollyhock in the center flanked by Oxeye Daisy and Coneflower. Rounded out by a couple of Yarrow and Dianthus plants front and center, with an Evening Primrose off to the left.

Two months later and it's literally a jungle out there:

I'm delighted, truly. However, I totally underestimated my perennials. They're huge. They're a tangle of branches and leaves. And they're still growing. Have I overdone it? Have I doomed them to a single-season life span with roots all hopelessly knotted together? Is there anything I can do?

I began this blog because I am a novice gardener. I figured it was a great way to record my fledgling efforts while also tapping the internet for guidance and advice. What's happening, though, as I blog away (or even as I don't, as the last month is a testament), is that I'm coming to realize how much I'm taking to this gardening thing. I love it. I love watching seeds become seedlings. And seedlings, plants. I love seeing my garden's daily evolution. I dote over each one. And, as you can see, worry over them, too.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Bulbs: an update

Remember those bloom-phobic Irises I was writing about some time ago? Well, somehow, some way they went from this. . .

That's to say spindly, stalky, bloom-less little reminders of just how little I know about this gardening thing.

To this. . .

Not bad for an amateur, no? What really threw me off was how they were the first ones up-- I mean they lapped all the other bulbs by weeks-- yet the last ones to bloom. Go figure.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Garden Notes ~ Our First Rose

Aphids be damned, this little beauty entered the world sometime late last week.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Patio

Some projects take over your life. Others take just two weekends.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Garden Notes ~ Bulbs

The last of the bulbs have bloomed, 5.6

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sweet Basil

The Mister's grandparents are avid gardeners. With even less earth than we have (hard to believe!), they've managed to work every inch of soil they've got into something green and lovely. The front is mostly dedicated to her flowers. She's got Clematis, some of which she's propagated herself, and the most amazing Butterfly Bush that's as round and perfect as any I've seen. While the back is all his to plant veggies and herbs. "If you can't eat it, it's not worth growing," he's been heard to say more than once, though no one believes it's sincere. Yet it does reveal much of the motivation behind his own gardening. For as much as he relishes getting his hands dirty, I believe he's equally moved by the sheer genius of growing one's own food. Not only can their tiny vegetable patch sustain them through the summer-- with plenty left to share with friends and neighbors -- but once that food has long been savored, there remains seeds from which he can always make more. Year after year. A simple principle. True.
But one I don't feel I've fully come to appreciate yet, especially as a new gardener who for now can only hope to shepherd her plants through one season.

So he shared his Basil seeds with us. I love imagining their lineage. How connected he is to them, and how now we're in the mix, too. I look forward to knowing these plants. I think I may fuss over them just a little bit more because they'll remind me how gardening orients you in this world. How as you work your tiny patch of soil it's easy to forget you're working the earth, too. How locked within every seed is the culmination of seasons come and gone. And how throughout every one of those seasons,
a gardener tended his garden.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Two of Hearts

We have two bleeding hearts. Political implications aside, we've got issues. Last year, the Mister's Aunt kindly divvied up her Bleeding Heart for us along with Star of Bethlehem and some sort of mini Daisy. After transplanting, the Daisy flourished, the Star of Bethlehem wilted away and the Bleeding Heart produced one blossom. No, not one cascade of blossoms. I mean one, single bleeding heart.

This year I was encouraged to see the Star of Bethlehem's distinctive grassy foliage up early. This was followed closely by the Bleeding Heart which literally sprang up, reaching 5" tall seemingly overnight. I've seen neither hide nor hair of the Daisy. Meanwhile the Star of Bethlehem has lost all momentum. That grassy foliage is just lolling about now, showing no inclination towards producing anything resembling a bloom. And the Bleeding Heart has also petered out a bit. The leaves look a little, I don't know, feeble. Then today I saw this. . .

Two bleeding hearts. I realize gardening is a great teacher of patience. However, this is pretty extreme. Incidentally, these plants are alongside the bloom-phobic Irises of my last post. Again, I'm thinking too much nitrogen. Hence the initially healthy foliage. This is a pretty sunny spot, however all three plants do spend part of the day in shadow. Perhaps I should move them. If so, then when? Can I move them now, or is it better to wait until their blooming (and I’m using the term lightly) season is through?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Bulbs: a progress report

We planted our bulbs in the fall. I, armed with a bulb planter, took care of the Dutch Iris, Anemone, Jonquil and Grape Hyacinth bulbs. While the Mister took shovel in hand and dutifully dug a trench where we layered Tulip, Daffodil and Crocus bulbs. A master gardener I had the good fortune of meeting proposed this scheme and further advised that we point our bulbs in different directions so as to prolong the overall bloom. Well, it's all worked very well thus far. First the Crocus popped up-– yellow blooms followed by white and purple ones. As soon as they faded, up came the Daffodils followed closely behind by red Tulips. Now that the Daffodils have faded, yellow Tulips have kindly stepped in to take their place.

Also in fall, in the same bed where we planted the Crocus, Daffodil and Tulip bulbs, we tossed around some wildflower seed. The company from whom we mail-ordered the bulbs promised a seamless transition-– meaning that as the bulbs fade the wildflowers will spring into action masking the old foliage as the bulbs loll about nourishing themselves. This is looking less and less likely in my garden. The few seedlings I do have will not outpace my Tulips' decline-– already the Tulips are looking a little pooped.

Now speaking of bulbs and that rule about not cutting the leaves... My Dutch Irises were the first to appear this season. Thanks to a mild January, they were up early, just in time for a fluke February snowstorm. Well, one hard lesson I've learned is that early to rise does not mean early to bloom... or make that, does not mean they'll bloom at all. I have 25 splendid Iris stalks (which means all 25 bulbs are accounted for!) that are beginning to yellow at the tips now thereby confirming that there will be no purple and yellow blossoms this year. Sigh.

So here are my questions... Why oh why didn't they bloom? I heard that mail-order bulbs don't always bloom the first year. I've also heard too much nitrogen can over-promote the green stuff at the expense of blooms. And since I used Milorganite both when planting the bulbs and in the early spring, I'm wondering if I overdid it. Our local nursery advised me to use the Milorganite. But now that I've researched it further I see that it's heavy on nitrogen (6-2-0), so now I'm wondering if that was not the best advice. Of course, I'm also wondering if the freaky late-winter weather is the culprit. Could the snow have stunted their bloom? And finally, can I cut back the leaves yet? The rule, as I understand it, is to cut them back 6 weeks after the flowers have faded. So, without any flowers as a benchmark, when can I cut them?
Please advise!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Garden Notes ~ Rose Bushes

Pruned, late March
Fertilized, 4.2
Aphids discovered! Broke out the Soap Spray, 4.23