Monday, August 31, 2009

Mystery Skipper---What Am I?


Butterflies Are Everywhere...and Cicadas

Boy do I wish I had a digital camera that took good pictures of butterflies. I typically have to take 10 pictures to get the camera to focus properly. It always wants to focus on the flowers or leaves.
Common Sootywing
Silver-Spotted Skipper

Friday, August 28, 2009

Spaghetti Sauce

Today was a busy morning. I got out the crock pot and my new Back to Basics Strainer and made my first homemade spaghetti sauce. Turns out I underestimated how many tomatoes it would take to make a good-sized pot of sauce. The strainer works beautifully. If I only used one type of tomato it would have made seed saving quite easy. Instead, I used a combination of tomatoes. Opalkas. A Cherokee Green. Sandul Moldovans. A Cowlick Brandywine. Tossed in some chopped up onions and green peppers, garlic cloves, seasoning, and tomato paste. It is simmering in a small crockpot right now. I think I will brown some ground beef and add it in as well. I can't wait to try my very first taste of homemade spaghetti sauce.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

First Melon Harvested Today!

I harvested my first melon EVER today! I'm a proud mama of this Minnesota Midget muskmelon. Its color had lightened considerably on the vine to a yellowish color over the last few days. I hadn't expected that. I thought it would be more of a pale gray or green when ripe. It exuded a nice sweet smell and slipped right off the vine when I nudged.

Once sliced, it revealed a large seed cavity with plenty of seeds. A seed-savers dream. The color was consistent with that of a store "cantaloupe". The flavor, on a scale of 1 (spit it out) to 10 (divine), was around a 6. I'm betting that was almost entirely my fault. I watered it quite a bit last evening since the foliage was heavily wilted. Plus, I didn't want to have to go out and water it again today. No doubt that my attempt at laziness cost me some of the sweetness. I've learned my lesson, and I will be much more cautious with my watering for the rest of the season.

Now if only the Iroquois muskmelons and Bush Sugar Baby watermelons would ripen. I have a knife, fork, and cutting board with their name on it.

If You Think That's Ugly, Take A Look At This...

Well. I said when I started this blog that I was going to document the hits and misses. If you want to see ugly, then here it goes. The first contestant in the ugly plant contest would be my Salad Bush cucumber. Last year these cucumbers produced like crazy. I couldn't keep up with them. Unfortunately, I relocated them to a spot that they didn't like. They were overshadowed by a severely overgrown hedge that belongs to the house next door. Luckily it was finally sold, and the new neighbors invested in a hedge trimmer. It's too late for this guy though. This plant yielded two cucumbers...almost. You can see them hanging on the foliage-free plants. Nothing but vine. Sad looking thing, isn't it?
A strong competitor in the ugly plant contest would be my Jack Be Little pumpkin vine. We had a horrible stretch of rain and high humidity. The foliage held strong for the first few weeks. Once the first sign of powdery mildew took was all downhill from there. I did get two nice little pumpkins from the vine. I should have planted more than one vine so the female blossoms had a better chance of pollination.
The third contestant in the ugly plant contest would be this nightmare of a plant that I've hated since I first bought it two season ago. My eyesore, Sundown echinacea. What a sucky plant. From the time that I had it it had "crinkly leaf syndrome". They would turn brown and crispy. Sun scorch? Unlikely. It only received morning sun. Rust? Maybe. Every year the older foliage turns crispy. Then as the season progresses it gets powdery mildew to make it look even more disgusting. My gut says to just pull it. It's nothing but a headache. I just can't. If I cut away the blooms and the tall foliage, the base foliage is always healthy as can be. SOOOOOOO FRUSTRATING! If I didn't pay so much for this stupid plant it would be in the landfill right now (I would never compost this diseased mess).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Never Say Die---Mystery Cactus

When we bought this house a few years ago there was a lonely cactus growing amongst the heavy weeds along the house. This little cactus keeps appearing year after year. It was even pulled out and tossed frivilously back on the ground. It managed to re-root itself and continue to thrive. I didn't even know that a cactus could be hardy in zone 6! See what I know? I have no idea what kind of cactus it. I never bothered to figure it out, but if you have any idea, let me know. It's one tough little plant that refuses to die. I'm glad though, because this little oddity has grown on me.

What Is This?---Mystery Skipper

Time to get out my butterfly ID book. I just snapped this picture of a beautiful, little skipper taking a break on an old, wilted, mildewy pumpkin leaf. A male Zabulon skipper, perhaps? I'll have to look it up and try to solve the mini-mystery tonight. Whatever it is, it sure is cute.

Black Swallowtail

I love looking outside and seeing butterflies. They are finally here in good numbers. Not as many as last season though. I guessing due to the wet and cool periods we've been through this season. This black swallowtail was just nectaring out back on some verbena bonariensis, my favorite addition to my garden this season. Unfortunately there are no signs of cats on the parsley, fennel, or asclepias yet, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Yesterday's Tomato Harvest

Back row and bottom layer- Opalkas
Middle Row- Sandul Moldovan, Cherokee Green, Sandul Moldovan
Front Three Tomatoes- They were supposed to be KBX seed, but they must have been cross-pollinated. They are not orange. They are red when ripe with great variation in shapes and sizes.

Iroquois Muskmelons

The Iroquois melons are doing quite well. They have suffered from powdery mildew due to our heavy rains and high humidity yet they are producing beautiful melons just the same. Here is a look at this vigorous melons vines. This is two plants with vines that are now around 8-10 feet long and growing.The vines have infiltrated areas designated for other plants. As you can see in the picture above, they are now climbing up and over my Autumn Joy sedum.
Here are the two largest melons on the plants. There are many other baby melons hiding among the foliage as well. I bet these plants would have been spectacular if I amended the soil before planting this season.

Winged Wonders

We have just endured a heatwave. The last five or six days have been in the high 80s to low 90s with high humidity. Is it ever going to end? You know it is going to be a tough day when you step outside first thing in the morning and it is already 78 degrees, extremely muggy, and humidity is at 84%. Gross. It is too oppressive for me to accomplish much in the garden, but winged wonders are loving it. They can't seem to resist this Pink Delight butterfly bush.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Muskmelon and Watermelon

Iroquois muskmelons---
There are two large ones in the top picture. One melon on the lower left and one that is difficult to see in the upper right. Here is a closeup of one of these melons.
Bush Sugar Baby watermelons. There are three in this photo. Two sitting on the pavers and the largest one on the middle right amongst the foliage. There could easily be more than three watermelons, but I didn't move the vines around to take a closer look.

Square Foot Garden Expansion

I have now expanded my 3' x 3' square foot garden beds from three beds to five last weekend. Four will be used for tomatoes next year. The fifth will be for garlic, onions, and celery.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Christmas in August

What a beautiful morning. As I walked onto the back porch to take in some cool morning air I was greeted with a delightful sight. A female ruby throated hummingbird sipping nectar from my Yvonne's salvia plant in the backyard. Soon after my Pink Delight butterfly bush was decorated with an assortment of butterflies. It was like a Christmas tree alive with winged wonders. One monarch. One Tiger Swallowtail. One Black Swallowtail (photo on right). Like Christmas during a heatwave. It sure did feel like a gift.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Back row: Two Cherokee Greens, Black Krim; Front row: Opalkas
Overall impressions of each as of this point:
Cherokee Green- Excellent flavor. Good production. Weighing in between 6 and 12.2 oz., little if any cracking, held flavor despite all the heavy rain this season. This will be back in the garden next year. In fact, I plan on planting two and trying Cherokee Purple as well.
Black Krim- Production is high. Flavor...can't say. I have yet to get one that didn't severely catface or crack before starting to blush. I do think that this would be a great tomato in a drier season. Fruits have weighed between 3 and 13 oz. Most likely will not be back next season due to susceptibility to catfacing and cracking.
Opalka- Production is good. I think I would have had more tomatoes if I amended my soil better before planting this season though. Overall it is a healthy plant. This is a great tomato to use for salsa. Easy to dice without turning to mush. It has very little juice and lots of meat that tastes very good. This will make a great sauce tomato as well. These will definitely be back again next season.

Lady Emma Hamilton Rose Update

My Lady Emma Hamilton rose is starting to attain some size. The foliage is very healthy with no signs of foliar diseases. That is quite impressive due to the record-breaking rains and high humidity that we have been hit with all season.

Bugs have eaten holes in some of the older, greener foliage near the base. The newer, burgundy-colored foliage is in great condition. Just look at the warm coloring of the petals. This is the third or fourth bloom since I planted it this spring. There is another bud just behind this flower. Next season I think it will be quite a vision with multiple blooms all at once.

Overall impression so far: Very healthy plant, breathtaking colors, an enticing scent...citrus and lemons! A 5 Star rose as of this point.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

R.I.P.: The Monster Has Been Slain

My monster Black Krim has met his unfortunate demise. Not by me eating him. He was the victim of a rainstorm that knocked two of them off the vine. The smaller one is in good condition. The large tomato had hit the ground so hard that the other side split and turned to mush. I found them both laying helplessly in the garden this morning. It was a sad sight. R. I. P.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shade Lovers: Hosta and Heuchera

Eskimo Pie Hosta- I absolutely love hosta that are primarily white streaked with different shades of green. This hosta fit the bill. I purchased this plant last fall from Jung Seed. It is a sloooooooow grower. This is what it looks like as of this month. But don't be mistaken. It's variegation is gorgeous. Streaked with both dark and apple shades of green. No signs of pest or disease issues.

Green Spice Heuchera- This heuchera ranks in the top three out of the dozen or so varieties I have. It is silver with purple veins and a dark green edging. Definitely an attention-getter. No signs of pest or disease issues.

Guacamole Hosta- Another stunning hosta. Among the dozen hosta plants I have this is easily in the top three. Chartreuse-gold foliage stands out in the shade. Its leaves are large and healthy. No pest or disease issues. I've read that it has white, fragrant flowers, but I have yet to see this newly planted hosta in bloom.

Butterflies and Blooms

Monarch on a Pink Delight Butterfly Bush- Pink Delight has been by far the most enticing for butterflies and bumblebees. Out of the four different varieties I have, the Pink Delights always have the most activity.

Deep Orange Gerbera Daisy- I love the look of gerbera daisies. I purchased three different colors this season. Unfortunately they only put out 1-3 blooms at a time. Although those blooms are beautiful, they aren't enough to convince me to grow them again next season. Seems to prefer to have its soil more on the dry side.

Pink Champagne Clematis- This clematis was added at the end of last season. It has blessed me with a few blooms early in the season and is again putting out a few more. Although one of the vines has been hit with what appears to be clematis wilt, the other vines are doing well on this plant. Blooms are around 3 inches wide and have fuschia and rose coloring.

Burgundy Silk Gaillardia- Part of the new Sunburst series. The blooms are pretty, but they are very weak stemmed. Blooming power isn't as good as other gaillardia varieties. Prefers well-drained soil in a sunny location.

African Sunset Black-Eyed Susan Vine- Lovely vine with warm coloring. Produces heavily. Seems to prefer its container soil to be more on the dry side.

Cherokee Green and Fresh Garden Salsa

Fresh Garden Salsa- I love the colors of salsa. It's a mix of Cherokee Green, Opalka, and Celebrity tomatoes, Mucho Nacho jalapenos, Musik garlic, onion, a little cumin, and white vinegar.

Cherokee Green- Luscious. Delicious. Juicy. My absolute favorite tomato so far. It looked gorgeous in the salsa. This one weighed in at a respectable 9 oz.

Friday, August 7, 2009

What's New This Week? MICE!

Let's see. What's new?

My four-year-old got his very own pet yesterday AND again today. Let me explain. We all went to the pet store and he chose a "fancy" mouse. I have to admit she is pretty cute. He named her....wait for it....the creativity is astounding.....wait for it.....MOUSIE! I was worried that Mousie was going to be lonely since mice are social animals. So this morning, after pondering the idea all night, I loaded the kids back into the car, and we brought home one of her sisters. My son named her....wait for's even better than the first.....wait for it....MOUSE!
Mousie (upper right photo) and Mouse (lower left photo).
I wanted a better picture of them, but it's tough to get them to sit still for a camera. They're squirmy little buggers. :)

I should get my first taste of Opalka and Black Krim tomatoes in just a few days. A few are close to being fully ripe. Turns out the Celebrity tomatoes taste pretty good despite all the rain. The other varieties seemed watered down, but the Celebrity tomatoes were surprisingly flavorful and mostly blemish-free.
Finally, we released our ladybugs into the garden yesterday. I looked for some aphids to release them near, but I couldn't find any. I guess that's a good thing.

Eye Candy

'Minnesota Midget' Muskmelon- HEIRLOOM, compact, 3-4' vines, absolutely covered in yellow blossoms, bumblebees, and tiny melons. Annual.

'Brite Eyes' Climbing Rose (RADbrite)- Developed by William Radnor, the same man that bred the famous Knockout roses. Extremely disease resistant, beetles love to devour the foliage early in the season although the leaves do rejuvenate well. This rose is in it's third season (and second location). Intertwined with a Nelly Moser clematis (just purchased last season) and is showing its first bloom forming at the top of the picture. Hardy in zones 5-8.

'Butterfly Mix' Pink Pentas - hybrid, low growing pentas, 1'x1', no disease, pest, or other health issues. Heavy bloomer. Bees of all kinds are attracted to this plant. They were all over this plant when I took this picture. Annual.

'Little Joe' Joe Pye Weed- Eupatorium purpureum- a dwarf; 4' tall by 2 1/2 to 3' wide. Lavender/pink flowers. Attractive to bees and butterflies. I hear that deer do not care for this plant. Hardy in zones 3-8.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Square Foot Gardens

I have three 3' x 3' raised beds that are new to my garden this season.
Bed #1 Contains the Following:
Alaska Peas
Sugar Snap Peas
Burpeeana Peas
Citadel Peas
Mr. Big Peas
Sandul Moldovan tomato from a cutting (back, right corner)
Mucho Nacho jalapeno (left, middle)
Bed #2 Contains the Following:
8 Fat n' Sassy Bell Peppers
1 Mucho Nacho jalapeno pepper (front, right)

Bed #3 Contains the Following:
Middle Square- currently empty (Jericho and Little Gem romaine lettuce is being started indoors for the square)

Clockwise starting in back, left:
Salad Bush cucumbers reluctantly climbing up tomato trellis
Black Krim cutting
Recently planted Cherry Belle radishes
Evergreen White Bunching Onions
1 Tango Celery and Scarlet Nantes carrots (freshly planted)
1 Tango Celery (leaving it bolt) and Chantenay carrots (freshly planted)
4 Tango Celery (freshly planted)
1 Tango Celery (freshly planted); 2 romaine lettuce left to bolt.