Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas! Be safe, and have a happy holiday with family and friends!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Just Couldn't Control Myself

It's not even winter yet and I have already ordered stuff for the Spring. A Ouachita blackberry plant, Winona strawberries, my beloved Salad Bush cucumber seeds, and...just for fun...a dwarf Meyer lemon tree. I was hoping the Meyer lemon would be sent so I would have something to play with over the colder months, but it looks like Gurney's is waiting until Spring. Next I'll be checking out Dixondale Farms to order my onions for next season. There's still some gardening fun to be had when it's so cold out. It's just of a different kind.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Presents for a Gardener

Since my birthday is in less than a week from now, I have been looking at fun garden gifts. I thought I would share two of the items I recently purchased. These would make great presents for the gardeners in your life...or for yourself.
Water WigglerAmazon currently has this marked down to less than $25 (originally $40). This is the "PI 4WW Water Wiggler Water Agitator for Bird Baths." It takes two 'D' batteries, but it claims they last for 3 months. I've had mine out for a few weeks and it's going strong. It's a pretty addition to my homemade birdbath. It provides gentle ripples to get the attention of your birds. It is safe to use in a heated birdbath as well.
Handcrafted Hanging Platform FeederCrafted by Anthony Stokes from Stokes Art & Design Services. I purchased this item from them on eBay under the seller name "gardenaccent". Beautiful craftmanship. Made of cedar and "sealed with a premium UV protective water proof clear wood sealer". Order early, because they aren't made until you order them. They need time to craft and cure them. I believe they even customize designs if needed. Many sizes, designs, and products to choose from. I'm very happy with my purchase!
Just some fun ideas for the garden.

Gobble Goggle


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mini Home Orchard

From left to right: Red Haven peach, Stanley prune-plum, Stark Honeysweet pear, and Golden Delicious apple.
My mini-home orchard. That's my clothesline cutting through the picture. All but the pear are "supreme" trees from Stark Bros. They were delivered in very good condition. The roots were still moist. Unfortunately the trees were not marked with chalk for the proper planting depth like expected. I have been doing a lot of reading about growing dwarf fruit trees properly (and they came with a planting guide), so I think they will be just fine. Just be sure not to allow the grafted area to come into contact with the soil or it may root you may loose the dwarfing aspect of the tree.
MULCH: Keep mulch several inches from the base of the trees so that rodents can't find a place to hide. They like to eat away the bark at the base of the tree. If they completely eat their way around the trunk, the tree will likely die. In the pictures it appears as though I mulched all the way to the trunk. I did not. There is a dark brown, recycled rubber tree ring around the tree. Starting around 5-6 inches away from the trunks are thick layers of mulch on top of the tree rings.
TREE GUARDS: I also ordered some tree guards to protect the young trunks from rodent damage and, in particular, sunscald. Since there are no branches or foliage to protect the young trunks from bright winter sun and reflections off of snow, the guards will help protect the vulnerable trunks. I've also heard of people using an outdoor, latex, white paint on older trees.
Above: Dwarf Stanley prune-plum. Self-fertile. European. Purchased from Stark Bros. A "supreme" tree.
Above: Dwarf Red Haven peach. Self-fertile. Purchased from Stark Bros. A "supreme" tree.
Above: Dwarf Golden Delicious apple. Self-fertile although having another apple or crabapple tree in bloom at the same time will increase the harvest. Purchased from Stark Bros. A "supreme" tree. It's a slightly curved tree, but it was the thickest with an excellent rootball.
Above: Dwarf Stark Honeysweet pear. Self-fertile. Purchased from Stark Bros. The only one that wasn't a "supreme" tree.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fruit Trees

Last Tuesday I planted my mini-orchard. Very mini, but it is what I can fit into my yard neatly. Now I am the proud owner of a dwarf supreme Stanley prune-plum tree, a dwarf supreme Golden Delicious apple tree, a dwarf supreme Red Haven peach tree, and a dwarf Honeysweet pear tree. All self-pollinating (although they would probably get more fruit with another variety planted nearby). All were from Stark Bros. I'm not sure if it was worth the extra money to get the supreme trees, but they were well branched. Although when it came to width and height, they didn't appear to be any bigger than the pear tree which wasn't a supreme. I also added three more Caroline raspberries. I can't wait to see them all come alive in the Spring. Pictures of my mini-home orchard will be coming soon!

Friday, November 12, 2010

2010 Garden Review Part II

Salad Bush Hybrid Cucumber - Excellent production and flavor. A must-have, compact cucumber. Vine are about 3’ long. Has yet to disappoint me like other varieties. Canned TONS of pickles using these (not picklers) and they were excellent. Maintained a pleasing texture and crispiness with canning. Seed is a bit pricier and has to be ordered online, but it will definitely be returning next season.
Reliance Grape- Newly planted in the beginning of the season. Very vigorous, disease resistant. Very happy with its growth so far.
Apache Blackberry- I planted one in the beginning of the season. It is an upright variety, healthy, and growing vigorously. Branches topped at around 4 feet to encourage laterals. Fruits on previous years growth.
Red Norland potato- Good production and flavor in container. Beautiful color. Will be back.
Russet Burbank potato- Very large potatoes in ground. Good flavor and great production. Rough skin. Will be replaced with Yukons.
Yukon Gold potato- Good production and flavor in containers. Will be the staple potato here next season. Love it!
Golden Acre Cabbage- Small cabbage that produces quickly. Very easy to grow with great flavor. Successful in Spring and Fall. Will be back.
Lady Emma Hamilton rose- An excellent David Austin, disease resistant shrub rose. I don’t spray, so this is important. The heavy humidity didn’t take a toll until very late in the season. A light spotting of black spot. No big deal. New foliage is a gorgeous burgundy which sets of the deep apricot-colored blooms. A stunning rose. Branches form a nicely rounded shape. Heavy bloomer. Strong, citrus scent. Love it!
Scarlet Nantes carrots- I could place these in either category. Last year these were fantastic. Sweet, large, they froze well. A huge hit. This year, well…black swallowtail butterflies used the to lay their eggs on. They would devour all of the young, supple foliage. I would bring them indoors and raise the cats…picking off the young foliage myself to feed them. Although the plants kept pumping out fresh leaves, it took a huge toll on the size of the carrot. Would I have changed a thing? Not for a second. We may not be eating homegrown carrots this winter, but we have lots of great memories of the butterflies we raised and released.
Sterling onion- from Dixondale Farms. Large, white onion. Storing well so far. Only a few
Began to spoil. Great flavor.
Red Zeppelin onion- from Dixondale Farms- still storing well, very strong flavor. Lovely red rings.
Copra onion- from Dixondale Farms, yellow, long storer, small size, but weather was quite dry.
BIGGEST MISSES - A large part of these varieties landing in the “misses” list was due to the weather. Record heat. Drought. High humidity. Not exactly a recipe for success. Another huge factor was the soil mix that was filling the raised beds. I used Mel’s Mix. A combination of 1/3 peat, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 vermiculite. The peat portion was detrimental to many of my plants because it refused to stay moist or remoisten despite repetitive, deep waterings. My recommendation. DON’T USE MEL’S MIX. Half of the soil in these beds will be removed and mixed into spots with heavy clay soil. The other half will stay in the beds and get mixed with my existing clay soil to help it retain water and nutrients better. With that said, here were the biggest misses:
Spirit Hybrid Pumpkins - All three plants succumbed to borers early in the season. Willing to try this shorter-vined pumpkin one more time next season.
Black Beauty Squash- I must be the only one that has yet to grow a successful squash. Of the two I planted, one was eaten by rabbits. The other….just barely hung onto life until the drought hit. Then died. Not willing to save space and try it again. I like zucchini bread, but not that much. I’ll just ask for one or two from my in-laws. They can’t get rid of their fast enough.
Serendipity Corn- Bicolor, synergistic. Started out so impressive, but it was impossible to get the peat in Mel’s mix within the raised bed to moisten. Would try again. The few ears produced were filled out well with excellent flavor.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2010 Tomato Review!

2010 Tomato Review:
Overall it was a very tough year for tomatoes here. There was many weeks of drought and my beds were made with Mel’s Mix (Square Foot Gardening “recipe“). The peat was IMPOSSIBLE to keep moist throughout the season. It only compounded the problems with the drought. With that said, here are how the varieties faired:

Cherokee Green- Had two plants. One churned out tons of large cherry-sized tomatoes of average flavor (given crossed seed). The other produced delicious green tomatoes with a lovely yellow blush when ripe. Production wasn’t as great as last season, but due to its great flavor, it will be back.

Cherokee Purple- I may be one of the few that doesn’t care for the flavor of purple and black tomatoes. Maybe this wasn’t the best year for CP, but will not be back.

Aker’s West Virginia - I don’t think I’ve ever had a tomato get hit so badly by disease. A huge disappointment that never produced a decent, uncracked tomato.

Kellogg’s Breakfast- An excellent tomato in the first half of the season. Disease resistance, taste, texture, color, production…everything was perfect. They were also blemish-free. As the dry season really hit, the tomatoes kept coming but were a fraction of the size. These were a huge hit with the family. These will absolutely be back next season!

Sun Gold Hybrid- Wonderful, sweet flavor. Huge producer. Amazing cherry tomato. These will be back next season in numbers. Cracks after heavy rains. My two-year old couldn’t get enough of these tasty treats. I’ve never been a huge fan of cherry tomatoes, but I couldn’t resist grabbing a handful each time I walked by these guys. Fantastic tomato. Do I need to tell you that they will be back next season?

Hillbilly- Beautiful coloring, very large tomatoes. Flavor was too mild. Will not be back. Trying Lucky Cross or Virginia Sweets instead.

Pineapple- Didn’t get any decent tomatoes from this plant. Lots of cracking. Didn’t get a fair try due to the drought and poor position in the garden. Still won’t be back next season.

Box Car Willie- Good production of nice-sized tomatoes. Produced almost as well as the hybrids. Although it is a good tomato, it may not make the shortened list next season.

Jet Star Hybrid- Great production and disease resistance. Good flavor. May be back next season.

Celebrity Hybrid- Great production and disease resistance. Good flavor. May be back next season.

Better Boy Hybrid- Heavy production and good disease resistance. Okay flavor. Won’t be back.

Brandywine- Late season, large tomato, potato-leafed. Cracking after heavy rains. Didn’t get a lot of tomatoes due to late ripening dates and drought. Most likely won‘t be back next season.

Amish Paste- Blossom end rot, low production, wispy foliage, shorter plant. Won’t be back. I’ll try another paste tomato next season.

Isis Candy- large cherry tomato, very productive, attractive star pattern on bottom. Pretty coloring but bland flavor. No competition for Sun Gold. Will not be back next season.

Gold Nugget- small, golden cherry tomatoes, volunteered from last season. Okay flavor and great production. Doesn’t hold a candle to Sun Gold. Won’t be back

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fall Peas, Tomatoes, and Roses

A mixture of pea varieties. Although they have been blooming pretty well for the last couple weeks, there are very few peas developing. I'm hoping to get a decent harvest before the temps get any lower.Sadly, the tomatoes didn't survive the two frosty mornings last week. It's sad to have to pull out vines with so many tomatoes on them. Some of them were monsters too.
The roses have finally starting putting on quite a show. Why couldn't they have started a few months ago? Here are some of the blooms that have survived the frosts.
Lady Emma Hamilton
Jubilee Celebration
Fragrant Cloud

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


We were hit with a heavy frost this morning. Sadly, the abundance of Sun Gold blossoms that were thriving in the cooler temperatures will never reach their full potential. I dread telling my 2 year old. They are like candy to her. I guess that means its time to plan for next Spring.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween

I was very productive on this cool Fall day.

Fall weeding - check
Leaves mulched - check
Pumpkins decorated - check
Halloween candy ready - check.....minus the pieces I couldn't resist. :)

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fall Harvesting Begins

My fall peas are starting to produce. The plants are still only a few inches high, but I hope to get a good harvest before it gets too cold.
On the way home from school my son made this discovery. We took pictures and released him. It's a Gallium Sphinx Moth caterpillar. Beautiful! We've never seen one of these before! Well, now I'm off to fix two of my wren houses. The screws holding their hooks both came out. I found both houses on the ground recently. Time to make some repairs while enjoying this gorgeous weather.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

After weeks of no blossoms during the drought, my roses are finally pumping out the blossoms. Here is my Jubilee Celebration rose with a strong citrus scent. Interestingly, the smaller flower has a strong tea scent. I've never experienced that with roses on the same bush before.Sparkle, Fort Laramie, and Sequoia strawberry plants starting to fill in their new raised bed.From a packet of mixed gourd seeds. This gourd has been growing up and back down my huge American Holly tree. It is approximately a foot long and 5 inches wide. The vine is about 30-40 feet long. This is one of the small ones hanging from the tree. It must have fallen from at least 10 feet up onto concrete hard, dry clay soil and stayed intact. Luckily no one was under it when it fell.
Autumn Joy sedum and a mum getting ready to put on its fall show.
Two of my mystery reblooming irises putting on a stunning show as everything else is fading out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Still Rainin'

It's still raining. We were supposed to be adding another inch and a half to the six we already got. The plants seem to be loving it! Pictures will be coming soon!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

When it Rains...

We got 6 inches of rain in 2 days. That is more rain than we had in the last 2 1/2 months. Monday through Wednesday we have more rain in the forecast! I actually enjoyed the change. It has been so hot and humid with no rain. This was a treat. Another lovely treat was that my tomatoes, gourds, and roses have rewarded me with a ton of new blossoms!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

$10 Rain Barrel Update

I have made an update to my July 17, 2009, entry regarding making a $10 rain barrel. I don't know why I didn't think of this cheaper, easier design in the first place, but I wanted to make sure I let everyone know of the improvements. The original post is at this address:

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Impatient Impatiens and Yukons

The last few years I have been taking cuttings from my red impatiens to overwinter in my sunny, southern-facing window. The hummingbirds always seem to love them, and I would hate to have to keep rebuying them every season when they are so easy to propagate. I just take some cuttings, toss the stems in water, place in a sandwich bag, and wait for them to root. Then I put them in pots until Spring rolls around. Unfortunately, near the end of winter the impatiens always get bothered by spider mites and the foliage would look pretty bad. I've decided that this year I am going to save seed instead and see how that works.
While trying to grab the seed pods, I quickly learned why they are called impatiens. The second I touched one it burst open in my hand. It startled me how strong the pod unfurled and shot the seeds all over the yard. Above is a picture of the seed, an unopened pod, and the seed pod after it popped open. What a unique seed pod!
A few days ago I harvest the last of my potatoes. I had two 3 gallon containers with Yukon Gold potatoes that have finally died back. Each of my children got to dump the containers. Below is what we saw upon dumping the first one. You can see the spend seed potato on the middle looks like a rotten potato. The harvest was better than those grown in the garden. I'm absolutely sure this is because I would water these by hand daily whereas the ones in the garden were pretty much neglected. Between these two containers we got 5 pounds of potatoes. Not bad for a 60 cent investment in the seed potatoes from the nursery. They sold the seed potatoes for 50 cents a pound. So I guess I planted about a pound of seed potato and yielded 5 pounds. I consider that a great harvest! I am now hooked on growing potatoes in containers. This is my first season with potatoes, and I feel like a kid on Christmas morning when I get to see what is hiding in the containers. The smiles on my kids faces as they were picking them out of the dirt was priceless. It was like a mini Easter egg hunt. Fantastic!
I also made a decision regarding my raised beds for next season. Last season I had a great harvest in the raised beds despite the wet weather. This dry, hot season has been really tough on the crops in these same beds. I originally filled the beds with Mel's Mix. 1/3 compost. 1/3 vermiculite. 1/3 peat moss. The 1/3 peat moss was the kicker. I will never add peat to my raised beds again. It was impossible to keep moist. I would water heavily and deeply twice a day. The top inch or two would be nicely moistened, but I could reach just a few inches in to the soil and the peat would be bone dry. Water some more. Still dry! So frustrating! No more peat for me! THE SOLE EXCEPTION: In my potato bags to acidify the soil. From now on it will only be homemade compost, bagged manure, and bagged garden soil to top off my beds. Just something I learned along the way that I thought I would share. Happy gardening!

Sunday, September 12, 2010


On day 20 of our drought, we finally woke up to some rain this morning! Hallelujah!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tomatoes and More

Just released two of the four monarchs that eclosed this morning. It's a bit breezy, but they took off like pros. The other two didn't seem interested, so they'll be my guests here a bit longer.My favorite purchase from this Spring. I almost killed it....accidentally. It was under a gutter that had clogged and was sitting in a container soaked with water. I noticed it was wilted. Huh? Must need water. Get to the container to water it...clearly it had all the water it needed...for the rest of the season. :) I cut off all the badly wilted foliage, poured out the excess water, and let it dry out quite a bit. Luckily new growth popped up and the hummingbirds seem to really like it. I wish I had an entire bed of it, but from reports it's not consistently hardy here in zone 6. I will definitely be trying to overwinter it in the garage though.
Green Zebra tomato. Although I love its unique look, I don't care too much for the flavor. There was a bit of sourness (is that a word?) that made it taste a bit...rotten? I don't know of another way to describe it. I thought it was a fluke, but the others tasted the same way.
Recent harvest of Sun Golds, Isis Candy tomatoes (not fully ripe yet), Blue Lake pole beans, Celebrity, and Jet Star tomatoes.
Hillbilly Tomatoes
Gorgeous coloring inside and out. Unfortunately all but one have had DEEP cracking. Flavor is good, but very mild. Produces large tomatoes averaging around .75 pounds. May not be back next season. I would love to get seed for Virginia Sweets instead.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Walk in the Park

I just got back from a walk at a local park. I found four large monarch caterpillars hanging onto the last of the milkweed. The only milkweed plants that are surviving (barely) from this long drought we are going through. So far no rain in over 3 weeks. Lawns are brown. Leaves are falling. Where is the rain?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Great Release

My first black swallowtail emerged from its chrysalis last night. This afternoon another one eclosed. Now these two beauties are free to grace our skies and gardens.

Friday, August 27, 2010

ID Me!

Anyone have an idea of what type of skipper this might be?

Butterflies and Blooms

Last night when I went to bed my first black swallowtail looked like this. Clinging to the lid of the fish tank.This morning he looked like this. In his beautiful, green chrysalis.The kids harvested more Russet Burbank potatoes this week. One plant grew these bright white, squishy "potatoes" with roots. Strange. I've never seen that before.
Elegant Stinkhorn...looks like a garden gnome sneaking up through the soil.
The Autumn Joy sedum and mum are getting ready to start their fall show.
The sedum attracted this gorgeous Common Buckeye. The first I have seen this season. This is one of the most beautiful butterflies I have ever seen.
Common Sulphur (right?) enjoying the Pink Delight butterfly bush.
Kellogg's Breakfast tomato blossom.
Rosy Returns daylily.
My container has looked terrible all season due to the really high heat and dry weather. Finally, after three overcast days, it is starting to look alive.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Morning Hike

I took the kids on a short hike this morning by a local creek. Trying to find some milkweed since my monarch cats don't like the Asclepias tuberosa. Look what I found. Once I popped off a leaf...the stalk oozed white sap. I found milkweed! I brought it home and the cats have been devouring it ever since. What a relief!Can you find the caterpillar below?
It was huge! An Imperial moth caterpillar!
Can you find the two caterpillars below?
Polyphemus moth caterpillars!
It's experiences like this that make me want to rush right back out the door to see what I can find!