30 October 2011

end post

It's sunny outside, in a thin cold way with drips of ice. Pretty much the end of this year's pathetic garden.
I still have beets to pull up and throw on the compost, weeds to attack and if I find time -unlikely- crabgrass to uproot. And the lawn needs fall mowing and there's leaves to rake and stash in the shed for next year's composting. Other than that, all done until february when I start seeds again indoors. I'm sure it will warm up some more and the herbs and stuff keep going outdoors, but I'm not planting anything new so it's just cleanup time now.

Thus posting here will be infrequent for the next few months, unless I have something to note about the indoor plants or the weather.

29 October 2011


I never saw it snow so early before; the end of october! Last night dubious of the prediction but just to be safe I tucked my Garlic and Strawberry beds under a blanket of dry leaves
and emptied my last bag of last years' leaves from the shed around the Rhubarb.
I even made things look silly by upending buckets over a few herbs; I want them to get well-established before they face true winter weather so hoping for more warm days after this freak storm.
And glad I did; today among the freezing rain we did get several hours of fat white flakes drifting down. It will all be melted by tomorrow, though. I hope this doesn't foretell a long, cold winter.

23 October 2011

more herbs

The Parsley has been doing wonderfully; I've picked a bit for cooking. Used it in some spanish rice and a chicken fajita recipe recently. Today cut this huge bunch to hang for drying.
Also a handful of Thyme
but I didn't cut anymore sage, or the rosemary. I'm going to let these hang-dry for a week or two, then finish the job in the oven like before.

20 October 2011


My Garlics are already growing! I don't remember any coming up so quick; but perhaps I planted them earlier this time than last.

19 October 2011

jades galore

My amazingly-propogating crassula leaf has sprouted not four, but five tiny plants.
I don't know if this is abnormal at all, but all the other times I've grown jade from a leaf stuck in the soil, only one or two came up, like this other plantlet in a nearby pot.
And just since I'm doing photos of crassula, the one I chopped its top off is now growing quite a few new branches on top.
At some point I'm going to have to cull them out; keep just the plants whose appearance I like best and give away (or compost?) the others. Because I really don't see a need (or space, if they grow up to small-shrub size) to have ten crassulas, which is what I've got now, even if they're all still fairly small.

18 October 2011

red red

I was surprised that my little Jalapeno plant not only is still alive indoors in a pot, but producing more peppers than ever! Just a few days ago I cut off all these bright red babies
and strung them up to dry. Simply threaded my biggest needle, and poked it through them.
I'm so taken by the vivid color I took quite a few pictures.
 To dry/cure well, they're supposed to hang in a place of warm, moving air. The best I can do in our cool, rainy autumn is to hang them in my sunniest south-facing window. I just don't know what else to do with them (until next year when I try canning again)- I had been picking them and keeping in the fridge but they were all turning nasty, not getting eaten fast enough. Hopefully this will keep them until we get around to using them.
There are still more peppers ripening on the plant.

As a side note, I've found clumps of aphids on all three plants, most of them on the biggest, Bell Pepper plant. Sprayed them with soapy water, and a few days when I poked a few clusters and found bugs still moving (more had hatched? or I didn't get them good enough the first time?) I sprayed again, until the leaves were dripping with soapy water. The little Jalapeno plant also had leaves getting bites taken out of them but I found a stink bug and drowned him, so I think that damage has halted.

15 October 2011


The Marigolds are finally starting to fade in the garden. All the foliage turning grey, while a few blooms hold on bright colors.
They have managed to reseed themselves quite well, as I never got out to pinch off all the dead flowers. Near quite a few of the parent plants and little clumps of seedlings growing quickly (but not quick enough to escape the coming colder weather!)

13 October 2011


I've found another Pokeweed plant growing through the fence against the divided garden. Still not seen any birds visiting for the berries, though that might be due to the presence of my cats.
My daughter just finished reading Little House in the Big Woods and when she asked me what pokeweed was (they used the berries to make dye for something) I was delighted to be able to go out and actually show her the plant growing in our yard!

12 October 2011

one carrot

I have been digging out my Carrot bed, which is full of dead, diseased rotted plants falling over. So far I have only found one good carrot. Washed and peeled, shredded most into a salad, kiddo got to eat the middle of it as carrot sticks. All gone too soon.

11 October 2011


I'm starting over with my Garlic supply. Last time I was at the grocery store, bought a few extra heads
and separated all the cloves. Took the biggest, fattest cloves
and pushed them into the soil of one plot that I dug over and raked with compost this morning. About forty cloves. Probably way too many, but I'm eager to get a good supply going again. It's the first time in three years I've had to buy garlic, and I prefer growing my own. They have a stronger flavor, too.

10 October 2011


I have learned that my orchid is a Phalaenopsis, called the Phal or moth orchid. Pretty common, among orchids kept as houseplants, I gather. Also learned that to encourage it to flower again, supposed to cut down the flower stalk two-thirds after the flowers die. I might have waited too long to do this, but gave it a try anyways. The plant seems healthy enough, even though it shows no signs yet of flowering again. I think it's growing a new leaf!
At least, I don't remember that smaller, central leaf being there before. I'm glad of keeping this photo-record here, I was able to look back at the previous photos of my orchid and see that no, it didn't have that sixth leaf before! Now I've made a note of how tall it is compared to the flower stalk, to watch its growth.
My sister has a beautiful pink moth orchid. She says she gives it three ice cubes once a week, so since I can never remember how much to water mine, I'm trying to follow that too now.

09 October 2011

drying herbs

I've tried three ways of drying my herbs, and have now settled on what works best for me. The oven.

Hanging them takes too long. Plus, now that it's getting colder (but not cold enough to heat my house yet) I don't want my kitchen ceiling fan on all the time. So these bunches that I hung up almost four weeks ago were drying, but not yet crisp. Every time in the past week when I tried to crumble a few hanging basil leaves in my fingers it would still have some give to it.

I tried using the microwave, which a gardening friend of mine recommended (she's tried all methods too, so that's her favorite. We all have our preferences!) She said to dry them just ten seconds at a time until the leaves crispy. The first zap I gave a plateful of thyme started a small fire in my microwave! No damage done, but scared me enough that I don't want to try that again!

Using the oven worked marvelous. I set it at the lowest temp it would go - 170- and laid the herbs spread out on a baking tray, put it in the oven with the door slightly ajar. It only took five to ten minutes for each batch of herbs to get dry and crispy. (I'm sure it would usually take longer, as these were already mostly-dry from having hung for weeks)

pictured here on the trays Parsley and Thyme
Then during a baby-nap I stripped the dried leaves off the stems of Thyme
and Fennel,
crumpled the Basil
 and Parsley
to fit into the jars. I love these little spice jars!
My husband found them at a garage sale with a wall-mounting spice rack. They are old, thick glass with bubbles in it, and corks. The colored glass is a good thing, as to keep their flavor longer the herbs should be stored either in a dark cupboard, or in colored glass to keep out the light (this is also why drying herbs that are hung should be in paper bags or in a dark room, something I failed to do this time).
Close-up of the Thyme and Sage:
Pictured left to right: Parsley, Fennel, Thyme, Sage and two jars of Basil
the end!
(I'm planning on drying another batch of herbs later, of more Sage and Thyme, and some Rosemary)

doing things better

I'm trying to do better at some things I've know about for a while but not followed. Such as covering my compost. It's been nice, actually, to go out after days and days of rain the ground is all saturated and the lawn squelchy but if I lift up the tarp my compost is nice, dry and crumbly, ready to use.

Another thing is being more particular about rotating my plants each year. I've been keeping drawings every year, a map of where each thing is planted. But the best I did was to make sure nothing was planted in the same place again, for at least two or three years before going back in that spot.

I read in a book recently that you should also pay attention to which plants follow which. Not only because you want to keep plants in the same family from growing in the same space again, but because some do better or worse following others, due to the nutrients they use or the diseases they're susceptible to.

Surprisingly, I couldn't find this information online. Anywhere you look points out learning what families your veggies are in, to have good rotation- I couldn't find a chart I wanted, that told me which plants favor others. I did print out a plant-family list, which taught me a few things I didn't know- such as that spinach is related to swiss chard, lettuce is in the sunflower family, and kale with broccoli (I knew potatoes and tomatoes were related, same with carrots and parsley, also chard and beets).

So now I'm looking for that book again, to copy the rotation chart and plan my garden better for next year.

08 October 2011

into the ground

Planted out my potted herbs, good hopes that they'll overwinter. I've got into the ground the Sage

one tiny surviving Oregano

and the Lemon Balm

flanked by the Pepper/Spearmint plants sunk in pots

and the Chocolate Mint sunk in a pot in front.

They all look so much smaller planted out.

Whoever warned me that Mint is a notorious spreader was not kidding. I was amazed at how thick the root masses were when I upended these pots. I had to knock them several times and tug on the stems to get the plants free of their pots! Wish I'd taken a photo but I didn't have the camera outside and working quickly to get done before the baby finished her nap. But they were just as rootbound as my original spider plant, if not more. Most of them had thick roots coiled around the top of pot rim, and long searching ones going out of the drain holes.

And these plants were just cuttings four months ago, stems broken off or yanked out of the ground. I've never seen growth so vigorous. I'm worried now that the pots won't contain them; that a piece of root will sneak out over the pot rim, or a root escaping through a drain hole down there in the soil will send up a long shoot, or that eventually the pots will crack (they're plastic) and the plant will find its way out...

I guess if eventually they start coming up outside their bounds I'll simply dig them out again and re-pot onto the porch. I do kind of miss their presence near the door already, I liked rubbing their leaves for the scent when I went in/out of the house.

07 October 2011

indoors or out?

I've never put my houseplants outside for the summer. Herbs in pots, yes, houseplants no. I tried it once with an Avocado and the thing went into shock. But I noticed that my corn-plant Dracanea seems happier in the direct sun of the mudroom
and then I noticed that my neighbor across the street (from whom I got the mints) has a tall corn-plant which she puts outside all summer long. If hers is happy, mine would be too? I'm just worried about it picking up bugs, which I wouldn't want to bring back indoors. Maybe next year I'll try it.

The other Dracanea (dragon-tree) I don't quite know what to do with. It seems a bit better since being repotted, but is dropping more lower leaves again. I just can't seem to make it happy. Maybe it wants more sun, too.

06 October 2011

fall tomatoes

Sunny days after lots of rain are my favorite times to get out and weed in the garden. Even weeds with long taproots like dandelion come up relatively easy with a good, steady pull. I'm glad I have the paths so I don't get my knees muddy. But for some reason I always feel compelled to clear the paths out first- it just looks so untidy with weeds growing in the gravel.

I've been working on cleaning up my Tomato beds. After cutting out dead foliage, removing vines that trailed on the ground, rotting tomatoes and all the weeds, I was surprised how relatively healthy the remaining plants looked.
They're still producing out there, even if not ripening!
I brought some just-blushing tomatoes inside to ripen on the windowsill, and am thinking of trying a fried-green tomato recipe for some others.
I even have baby Tomato plants growing all over the place, where fallen tomatoes rotted. The seedlings will never make it to sunny days enough to fruit, and they probably crossed with each other so it wouldn't be the best fruit anyhow. But it's pretty amazing to see how many seedlings spring up from one little decayed cherry tomato!

white stars

these tiny white flowers like stars are coming up all around my yard. A daisy? a weed? but I like them so for now I let them stay.

05 October 2011


The Basils in pots got moved, too. They were dropping lots of leaves. Now in the living room windowsill, where they get more direct sun. I like looking up from the desk and seeing light through their bright green leaves.
Incidentally, it was because of moving the Basil pots that I found out who was eating my plants! In the mudroom I'd noticed the edges of some leaves chomped on- a hole in one Dracanea leaf, another in an Avocado plant, some on the peppers- but too much foliage to search for the culprit. A few days after moving the basil plants I saw little black roundish droppings on the windowsill- with kinda square edges, if you look close. I recognized them right away- caterpillar poo! I could tell which plant he was on from where the droppings were concentrated so I took that plant down and went over it carefully. It took three examinations before I found him- the exact color of the leaves but a different shape. Sneaky caterpillar! He likes basil better than avocado or pepper, I guess- lots of my basil leaves were chomped. But no more!

I don't know if we'll eat from these or not. Lately I've been picking huge basil leaves out of the garden plants, they look so enormously healthy!
But a bit too strong- the flavor is very sharp and leaves a tingle on your tongue if you eat too much. I don't know if that's from the plants being older, past their flowering stage, or what...

I didn't collect any seed from the basils this year; still have plenty in storage. They've been seeding themselves on the ground, outside I find tiny basil plants growing around the larger ones. I've also found a few baby Marigolds (one even had a flower!) and Tomatoes growing near their parent plants- so I know those are all producing fertile seed!


My Peppers all seem content for now, in the mudroom near the window.
(I had to move them out of the kitchen- not enough light). The biggest one is growing new young leaves at the top where most of the light is.
I wasn't expecting any peppers, just hoping to keep the plants alive through winter. Didn't even think they would make fruit, as don't the flowers have to be pollinated by insects? but following the drop of flowers, there are some new little peppers forming!
And the small Jalapenos continue to turn red, even indoors.
I just don't know what to do with them. I don't like hot peppers myself; my main use for them is in beans. But I haven't been cooking beans lately because they upset the baby's digestion. My husband wants me to pickle some with carrots (his favorite way of eating jalapenos) but I think I only have enough peppers for one jar, and it seems a waste of energy to go through the whole canning process for so little...