[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
I have to find the software before my camera can attempt to upload photos to this temp laptop, so this is a pathetically picture free entry, which is why I've been delaying it.

I really hate talking gardening without inundating you with pretties.

Maybe I can come back and add the pictures later and it will look like a real entry. ;)

Lucy has been spotted multiple times in the neighborhood. If there were some way to catch her I would, but alas.

The chicks are grown enough to be in the pen now, but so tiny compared to Top Chicken, who is still my most reliable layer despite being a year older than anyone else in there. The bantams, Fluffy Buffy, Tiger, Nana, and Raven, are adorable in their difference, and absolutely frightened of everything except people. Rooster is huge, but has not yet crowed, so we'll see. Rooster thinks sie is a duck; plays in water and walks on the female ducks. Little Red thinks that Rooster is the bestest thing EVER. They are inseparable, they even sleep together. 0.o

The ducks need their own entry, because watching multiple marriage, fowl style, is just hysterical.

The tomatoes are doing well. I've gotten four large tomatoes off the Patio tomato, the Roma has a ton of fruit on it, several of which are starting to ripen, and the various heirloom tomatoes are looking good. I have baby tomato plants doing fairly well in my kitchen window, taken from the...thing...the little branch that tries to grow that you pull off...I forget what that is; I've been putting the ones from the heirloom varieties in seed starter mix and seeing how many want to become new plants. 8 so far are looking good. No idea whether they are Mr Stripey, Homestead, of Black Krim though, because I don't label things sufficiently. ;P

I think I have proven the fact of companion planting. One bed has two tomatoes, a Black Krim and a Homestead (I have four Homesteads, two Black Krims). Those two tomatoes are INSANELY tall. I've had to tie up the cages, because the plants were tipping over the cages and crushing the other bedding plants. Why are those two so tall and such a darker green then their compatriots? I strongly suspect it is because there are two basil plants and a tansy in that bed. Tansy to keep away insects, Basil to make nightshade happy. There will be more basil here soon. Oh, no! Don't throw me in that brier patch! Anything but that! (A reference the current generation of children will not get-along with clapping to save fairies).

The peppers are doing well. I've harvested several banana peppers already, and have lots of bells on the plants getting big. The beans have a few *tiny* little beans growing out of previous blossoms, 4 or 5 that I noticed today. I'm still harvesting some arugula, though it does keep blooming in the heat so it is a bit more tart than usual. Fortunately I like that.

The blueberries are suffering. .The rain barrels are empty now, so they are getting hose water. They do not like it ("or it gets the hose again" just floated through my head). Our water is EXTREMELY alkaline. :( Various suggestions and internet searching has me now putting the hose water into an empty rain barrel to about half full, letting it sit for 48 hours, then dumping in a bottle of apple cider vinegar just before I water via soaker hose. That seems to be helping a bit, as they have some tiny new leaves coming in again. ~whew~ May be able to save them yet.

The squash and zucchini and the volunteer plants have TONS of blossoms all over them. I really hope things get fertilized so we can see what the volunteers are. :P

The potato plants are finally starting to peek up a bit. I have some more to throw in and then it is time to cover them again. :P

Mental note for for future: Do not plant anything next to the chicken pen that you aren't growing to feed *to* the chickens. It just does not work.

Other problem seems to be spider mites and some sort of tiny white mites which are attacking the tomatoes and *decimating* the marigolds. I have made up a garlic and pepper tea, and we'll see if that helps. ~crosses fingers~

Strawberries are doing well, though now that the tomatoes are high they are very much shaded. :)  Okra is just sad. Like a lot sad and very tiny. And the beans by the back are being eaten by something...I suspect something that roams the night since I've now had several mornings of "huh, I now have one less plant than I had before, how annoying is THAT!?!".

We bought mallard deritive ducklings at Easter. Yes, that was dumb. Dang they are fun though. It has yet to be determined whether they will go straight to the freezer at adult weight, get their wings clipped and go loose in the yard, or have a ramp built and be encouraged to enjoy the creek while still considering our yard for nommy treats.

They really are fabulously fun. We have the play yard set up and a casserole dish has been temporarily made into a pond so we can sit in with them and laugh at how ridiculous they are.  Looks to be a Mallard (Jane the Strange-Peaches duck), a Peking (Sunny, Monkey's) and a...something that looks like it is a mix of both, with pink AND black on both bill and feet. That would be Peepers, my duck. Monkey likes to hunt pillbugs so that Peaches can hand feed the ducklings. I prefer to sit until a fly lands on me then lean slowly forward until the mallard, Jane the Strange, notices... she eats the fly right off me. I find this amazingly satisfying for some reason.

The whole thing strikes me as odd...like adopting a kitten when you don't want a cat. At least we can eat them when they get bigger though. Try that with a kitten and you get in all sorts of trouble. ("If you're so evil: Eat. This. Kitten!")

The lack of rain has been hard on just about everything. I do not enjoy living in the Sims game.

[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
But it is pretty darn satisfying.

My tomatoes (all but the two that insist on being short, and the one in the hanging pot) are now contained in cages.

I half convinced Monkey, while at the feed store, that tomato cages are to keep tomatoes from running away. hee hee

We played with chicks while we were there. The Americaunas have the funniest puffy cheeks as babies! ;P Too cute.

Blooms on the squash and/or zucchini. About to have blossoms on some volunteers. blossoms on just about all the tomatoes. TIny green tomatoes on about half of them. The beans are doing that "I think I grew a bit last night! Did I? Did I grow!?!?" thing....the pest guy was here today but did his best to work with my random garden bits, we'll know in the next week if the precautions he took were enough. The okra is slow to start, but I suspect that is the repeated cool weather we've been having.

No sign of the potatoes. :( I fail at potatoes this year.

oh well. Since that is one of the few things i *can* get organic and not in plastic at the store, I"m not sweating it. (too much).

Pics later. Lunch now.
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Today, K came over and helped out. This, coupled with the help from Big Event and the random tree removal folks, means that despite my plummeted mood (hello, Depression, who invited you?) things are still toddling along.
cut for pics and such )
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Mostly because: omg we need rain and the trees need to stop mating so enthusiastically.

I just want to be able to breathe and open my eyes all the way. Also, constant-multiple-day-long headache is uck.

So I'm still making progress but much much more slowly. ~sneeze~
picture proof. :) )
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Today was another day of random garden bits. Peaches and I planted the rue, lavender, thyme, and two other herbs I'm too lazy to go look up in the dark, as well as putting the purple basil in with the Black Krim tomato, and getting the Sweet 100 (the one the neighbor recommended) put into a hanging pot. (I've run out of space in the garden boxes). Monkey and Peaches had a lot of fun searching through the dirt in the pot for snails before I transplanted and hung the tomato.

words! )

pics! )
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Because yesterday I had unexpected wealth of labor: and so we went to Lowes and spent the money that should be coming in soon (what? why is that bad?) and go the spring garden going. It are pretty.

It is also random. I read a book that mentioned that while research is great, and planning helps you not have to undo, if you find yourself using it to delay, just stick something in dirt and dive in. Yeah, you may spend time later correcting mistakes, but at least you'll have your hands in the dirt now.

I took it at its word. Several cedar fence boards, a pile of soil, and some plants later: The garden boxes are planted with peppers and tomatoes (my neighbor recommends I add a sweet 100 to my tomato collection..and that in future I try to time my labor availability for after March 15) and the new beds on the side (where the chicken pen used to be) is planted with marigolds, geraniums, a couple heirloom tomatoes, basil and fennel and a handful of other herbs.

I'm waiting until after Saturday to put the tulips in dirt (they are on the dining table now) but I did pot up the rosemary. Hopefully the pot I put it in won't be too shaded. We'll see.

cut for photos )


Oct. 10th, 2009 01:04 pm
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Worked a tiny bit outside in the omg-it's-cold this morning. We put up a  temporary top to the end of the chicken pen (the garden_ladies motto: better half ass than not at all) to give them some dry area the next time it rains. (I was very worried about my ladies last night, all damp from rain when the temperature dropped like a stone).

Then we poked around the garden. This has definitely been a "live and learn" sort of year.

*The tomatoes on the side of the house: nothing. no blossoms, no fruit. The ones in the driveway: working their asses off.

Lesson learned: Sometimes if something isn't doing well, you just need to try a different spot. Don't be so attached to your chosen location you aren't willing to start over.

*If you have quarterly pest control on your house, please note that certain plants will not appreciate what happens if you spot ants inside and the pest people treat the outside perimeter of the house. While the okra doesn't care, many kinds of squash will be massively unhappy with the results.

Lesson learned: next year, most plants get put at least 6-8 feet from the edge of the house, to allow for pest treatment.

*Many of the plants are doing better now that the heat has dropped off and the rains have come, even in the face of weird temperature fluctuations. Meanwhile some friends had a garden doing much better than ours which was semi-shaded by grape vine. And another acquaintance in town had much better luck than we did with his tomatoes, basil etc....and was using a steady drip irrigation system. 

Lesson learned: Summer in Texas is now harsh harsh harsh. Very high temps and months on end of drought are not what even "Texas adapted" plants are used to. Since I personally think we are seeing the effect of global warming, and not just some once-a-decade drought, perhaps it is time to start adapting some techniques from traditionally harsher climates (I tend to think Africa, b/c I'm most familiar with some of the systems tried there) during the summer.  Hopefully we can take a shot at semi-shade gardening next year, as well as a more steady drip irrigation system.

*I have spent this year thinking of myself as the "money management" for the garden, and GS as the "effort and expertise". Perhaps it is time to renegotiate. I say this because, quite frankly, we are looking more and more like a long term sort of affair (crosses fingers and knocks on wood to distract self from inner commitment-phobic panic)....and because this morning I took great joy in helping her pick beans from the garden, and wasn't bored and antsy while she talked about the squash, melons etc. I think I would like to be a bit more hands on, and not just in the "I do the fencing" sort of way. Add in the fact that our budget has shifted in such a way that if we *want* to have money for things, we are going to have to work together to achieve that goal.....and, well, might be time to take another look at our assigned functions.

Lesson learned: just as in a garden, a home and a relationship can often function better if everyone's roles aren't too strictly segregated.

And now, the beans!

[identity profile] gryphynshadow.livejournal.com
Today I got to spend a bit over three hours talking about gardening online with a friend! That was tons of fun. I feel like such an expert... :P  Really, it was more, lookie what I found, and look over here, and so and so said to do this, and I read that you can do it like this...

It was fun, and if anyone else wants to IM with me about gardening stuff, I am SO THERE!

After that, I went out to the garden to do a little cultivation. I wanted to break up the half circle bed, to start getting it ready for the beans that'll go in there. I must say, I love the new hoe we got. :) I broke up that section, cut out and pulled out some tree roots (the tree has been cut down, so they're just relics), and worked in some of the compost I'd spread in there.

Then, I went into the sunroom to start some more seeds. I put in tomatoes, okra, cucumber, and three varieties of pepper. I'd picked out, from the new seeds we got in, the squashes to direct sow. So, I went out to sow them.

I'd used sticks stuck in the ground to mark where I'd put the stuff I'd put in on Monday. I figured I'd put the new stuff near it's five day older brothers, just for convenience. I looked for my stick markers, and I found them. I also found something else...

My seeds came up!

All of them!  The cucumbers, the zucchini, the spaghetti squash, and the melons! All up! In five days!

I nearly died of the happy.

So, my baby plants have been joined out there by a golden variety of zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, an acorn squash, a butternut squash, and hale's best melon. Two hills of each. :D

(oh, there is something out there eating my new baby plants, too. I'm a bit irked by this... the spaghetti squash babies had holes, and one of the hills of melons had been eaten down to one tiny plant... die, pest, die.

After I got the new seeds in, I pruned back the tomatoes. A lot. I took one completely out, as it wasn't doing well at all, and pruned one down to just a stub (I want to see if it'll come back, since it had a couple of suckers I left on...) I took cuttings from everything, and stuck them in recycled jars and bottles with water to try to root them. Cherokee purple, arkansas traveller, rio grande and rutgers. Here's hoping!

I'm so silly happy about my seeds coming up, I think I'll just float on the endorphins for a while...
[identity profile] gailmom.livejournal.com
Let's see, I'll leave it up to[livejournal.com profile] gryphynshadow  to let you know what's going on in the plant department, if she hasn't already (that's a hint, lovely lady! :D).

I will say we ate our first tiny tomatoes yesterday...I can blog about that because my teeth were involved. nom nom nom

Progress continues on the chicken pen (weather and illness keep getting in the way). We got two rows of the roof for the main section done, and the posts and bottom row of poulrty netting put in place for the extension around the compost piles the last time we had decent weather and two healthy people. Pictures once we get my desktop back up and running (*hates virus and malware*).

Our chickens, still housed at the ever-patient [livejournal.com profile] laughingturtle 's house, are now making eggs. wee!!

AND an important discovery was made regarding fire ants. For those who do not know, fire ants have an overly-developed fondness for rosemary (for electricity as well, but that's another story). My heart-aunt had some fire ants climb the post of her covered porch, crawl along the joists, and rappel down the wires to reach her hanging pot of said plant, that's how obsessed they are. Several years ago, however, I discovered (while living in my first house) that planting oregano on either side of your rosemary plant will keep fire ants away. Despite the large rosemary bush planted in a raised brick garden bed against the house (note: do NOT put three sided garden beds against your house...very very very bad idea. If anyone doesn't know why, ask, I'll explain) I had no fire ants in the bed, apparently due to the oregano bushes on either side of it.

Now, we have a rosemary bush in one of the beds in the side yard. It is doing much better than last year, thanks to gryphynshadow's judicious use of compost and leaf litter mulch over the winter, and we only recently planted a small oregano plant in there, so that bed has fire ants at the moment. We had the posts for the chicken pen extension piled next to it. So it should not surprise anyone to hear that when I stood up one of said posts, ready to pound it in, I discovered that fire ants were crawling up and down it. Not knowing what else to do, I told GS to stand back, banged it once, hard, with the post driver, and leaped back. As a result, we had some very angry fire ants on the ground, but only one that landed on my leg long enough to bite. We walked away to give them time to disperse before finishing driving the post, and GS plucked a few oregano leaves that we could rub around our ankles to keep any strays from climbing our legs (unbenowst to me, it was too late for that, as I already had one in my sock, but never mind that part).  As an experiment, I crushed the leaf and rubbed the oil on the three fire ant bites on my leg. (yes, those without fire ants, one ant often equals multiple bites, only one of the reasons this particular pest sucks diseased hyena tit).

I am very allergic to fire ants, not as much as when I first moved to Texas, fortunately. Then, one bite on my toe could swell my foot for a week such that I could not wear shoes. Now, I get very red and irritated all around the site of the bite, and the bite itself spends the next days swelling up like a pimple and hurting the whole time.

So I was extremely pleased to discover that within 10 minutes of applying the oregano oil, the redness had disappeared, the pain was only an occasional stinging sensation, and the bites were less noticeable. Imagine my further pleasure when I realized the next day that, although the fire ant bite on my ankle was acting as they always do, the one on my leg was difficult to find, only a faint small bump.

From this we conclude that the reason fire ants do not like to dwell with oregano is that its oils may neutralize their poison. We will be planting more oregano around the rosemary, and oregano oil will be purchased for use in the meantime on any fire ant bites we, or the children, recieve.

Gryphynshadow, or course, also plans to spread dried molasses, to boost soil micro-organism activity (which fire ants also dislike), but it is still a neat trick to know. If any of you try it, let us know your results please, as I would be interested to hear whether it's just me or if that particular trick stands a good chance of helping others as well.


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Suburban Permaculture Project

May 2011



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