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.