31 July 2012

hosta bed

One thing that has finally begun to take shape in my yard is the front beds against the house. They're both planted with a row of Hosta, which are large enough now in their second and third year to start being prominent. Of course I haven't yet planted anything else around them, so it still looks pretty empty and gets full of crabgrass too easy. But when I drive up to the house and just glance at the yard, the hostas are a feature now, so I'm happy with the result so far.

Now I need to figure out what plants will compliment their looks, or some annuals that will fill in the gaps until the hostas get big enough to fill the bed...

Oh, and you can just see in the front left corner of this picture the fat seed pods on the Peony. I'm getting excited for some good seed!

30 July 2012

small harvest

This morning picked fresh a few big Tomatoes, some green Bell Peppers for pizza tonight, and a nice stem of Green Onions. Also my first two Orka! Tossed in the freezer, as Chris advised, until I have more. Still don't know what I'm going to do with it, but maybe I better get used to plants that love hot weather and figure out how to eat them.
Because the rest are succumbing. I had to pull most of my large tomato plants and the two cherries, all sick and nasty. Had to cut down those tall bean poles and trash it all- diseased and bug-ridden. I cut up the broccoli plants into compost as well- what with the weather they just taste bitter. Crawling with harlequin beetles too. Ugh.

Well, the Okra looks lovely and the carrots and beets seem to be holding on, but the garden looks much diminished now. Only the Zucchini and Pumpkins look really lush and stunning, and those Pumpkins are growing sooooo fast! But the cucumber beetles are back; I spend every morning picking them out of blossoms to squish. Don't know if I'll be able to keep ahead of them and keep the plants healthy...

29 July 2012

sub-irrigated update

I was just noticing how beautifully my sub-irrigated houseplants are growing. The African Violets look wonderfully healthy, even though they haven't started blooming again yet.
I have one new Spider Plant baby in a SIP,
and the hanging one continues to do well (oops bad photo).
I'm amazed at how the Poinsettia is thriving.
It's twice as big as last time I took a photo!
The roots have found their way down through the wicking cloth into the reservoir.
And the Cyclamen lives in my bathroom (on the windowsill).
I'm not sure if this one is doing as well as it should. The leaves are paler than when I bought it, perhaps because it doesn't get as much light? It has a more open growing habit, the stems aren't as straight, and it's lost a lot of leaves, but also continues to grow new ones.
I guess it's a good sign it hasn't completely died back, in spite of the heat we've had? I'm hoping when it gets cold again it might perk up more and flower once more.

The only plants that didn't do well in SIPs were my jades. They're happier now back in sandy draining pots. I do want to convert more of my houseplant containers to SIPs but have to get ahold of the right kind of plastic bottles first...

28 July 2012


My Nasturtiums are not doing well with the heat. I always find it hard to keep plants in pots happy when it gets so hot they dry out quickly.
I've been gathering some seed off them as the flowers fade, and I know they're viable because a few that fell in the soil of the pot unnoticed grew new little plants already.

27 July 2012

in the kitchen

Gardening continues to inspire and stretch my cooking. Well, at least I'm trying lots of new recipes. Over the past few weeks I've continued to search for a dish that we like made of Turnips, but it just doesn't seem to be happening. I've learned that there are two keys to cooking turnips: peeling them well and using bacon. Every turnip recipe I find uses bacon.

So we've tried turnips pan-roasted with brussel sprouts, turnip greens cooked w/bacon and onions, a turnip souffle which failed (I didn't cook the turnips in water long enough- one of the first steps- so they weren't tender enough and remained a bit bitter)
and my favorite, a dish of turnips and peas. I actually liked this last one but my family didn't so I'm still trying to find new recipes!
I've also been finding lots of uses for Tomatoes, now that they're ripening faster than we can eat them. We have the usual caprese salad, and thick slices on sandwiches and burgers. The other day I made a pizza from scratch and discovered at last minute I had no pasta sauce in the cupboard. I didn't even look at a recipe but just ran some fresh Tomatoes through the food processor with a bit of garlic and tons of oregano, plus some thyme and parsley, simmered it on the stove. It made a very tasty pizza sauce! Not as thick as I'd like, but I did it so quick.
My daughter made this little pizza for herself, with different ingredients on each quarter. We also put the first diced green bell pepper out of the garden on the pizza.
This week I also ran out of sugar for a few days, and surprisingly it wasn't much of an issue. We substituted dried, powdered (in the coffee grinder) Stevia from the garden for sugar: a pinch or two in the pancake batter and homemade pizza dough, a pinch in my coffee.

Also been trying a few new things with Swiss Chard. The frittata has worn off its novelty and nobody seems thrilled about it anymore. I put some on a pizza in lieu of spinach and that was okay, but not great. I made a chard quiche which I liked a lot, but no one else really did. Then tonight I made a chard lasagna, from scratch (well, put together from scratch. The recipe has you make the pasta yourself and the tomato-basil sauce yourself, but I bought those). And it was scrumptious! Everyone liked it. The best chard dish so far.

(I added a ground beef layer to the recipe because my husb hates dishes without meat)

26 July 2012


So a few days ago it was cool enough to put the kids in the wading pool and catch up on some serious weeding in the garden. I made a few happy discoveries.

The Tithonias are starting to bloom!
I have baby Pumpkins! And these are the eating kind, for pie (excited).
The Okra is really starting to grow.
There's a few pods on the plants! But only two or three so far- how long do they keep after you pick 'em? I think I'll have to save some up to have enough for a dish.

bamboo mulch

It's been very hot. We had a few days of mid-eighties weather that felt wonderful, and then today it was 99 degrees again. Igh. The plants wilt, and so do I.

So I've been shredding my neighbor's bamboo forest into mulch for my garden. It's quite a project. First I have to cut down the bamboo (she doesn't want it in her yard so I have access to as much as I can use) and haul it over to my yard. Then trim off all the stems with foliage, setting aside the poles (most are over ten feet long). Then the tedious work begins- by the handfuls, I snip the bamboo leaves and small stems into inch or half-inch sized pieces with my hand clippers, over a bucket. It takes two or three days' work to shred about two dozen poles of bamboo down into a few buckets' worth of mulch. (Alas, I don't have a chipper/shredder machine). Here's my older daughter resting on the pile of foliage waiting to be shredded. She says it makes a very nice cushion!
It's great for mulch. In the areas of the garden where I put down two or three inches I've hardly had any weeds at all, and not worried much about watering either as it keeps the moisture in well. It doesn't break down as fast as grass so I haven't had to replenish it under the peppers, broccoli or chard, even though the cut-grass mulch under the tomatoes has already disintegrated to nearly nothing twice now. The water seems to flow through it easier, too; it doesn't mat up like grass mulch can. I haven't had any problems with the bamboo resprouting, as several people warned me against. I think partly because I let the stuff dry out well before it went on the beds, so it was good and dead.

I thought of keeping all the poles and using them to build something, raised beds maybe? or a playhouse for my kids? but then ended up trading them to some lady on craigslist who was building a fence. She gave me a dozen brown farm-fresh organic eggs in return. They were fabulous!
I think it was a good trade.

and the plant seem relatively happy-
beets - very few, but they're holding on
brussel sprouts- still no sign of sprouts!
swiss chard, flanked by broccoli:
my one surviving Rhubarb plant is holding up against the heat with thick mulch
the others died early on before I mulched; you can see the bare area here in front of the bed:
Peppers are the only plants that seem completely happy right now. Lots of tasty peppers, very few bug holes, don't mind going a few days without water. I just planted them a bit too close together but they look wonderful.

25 July 2012


Loads of it. The two Zucchini plants are doing very well, thanks, I believe in part, to the Borage that is creeping under their spreading dark leaves. Every few days there's a new Zucchini growing. I've made fried zucchini and chocolate-zucchini cookies (my fam's favorite) and next I'm going to try a zucchini bread.


the Brandywines are especially tasty

24 July 2012


More Daylilies!
I am super pleased with all the daylilies I bought from the lady off craigslist. The rest of my garden looks pretty shabby right now- except for the herb bed. What with the heat that keeps us indoors and family which keeps me busy I just haven't been getting out there to care for it enough this year. Blah. But the beautiful lilies are blooming one after another, right by the window and driveway so I see them all the time.

16 July 2012

young echinacea

Out of all the seeds I planted earlier this year, only two more Echinacea plants survived to grow this big.
A few days ago I planted them out in the garden
I put them next to the Borgae, which has grown nice and full. I haven't noticed many pollinators around the borage, but the Zucchini next to it does seem particularly untroubled by pests, even though it's between bean poles and pumpkins riddled by them. So I wonder if the borage deters some of the bothersome insects?

15 July 2012


The Pumpkins are quickly taking over their space! and full of large yellow flowers. Unfortunately the weeds are also spreading faster than I can keep up with them (purslane and crabgrass mostly) and the cucumber beetles are starting to sicken the plants. Ugh.

14 July 2012


finally the Okra seems to be growing!
slugs have been nibbling the lower leaves but it seems to be growing faster than they can keep up with, now. I just might get some okra after all.

bell peppers

almost ready!

13 July 2012


My two Echincea plants fell over in the storm a week or so ago, but the flower heads have lifted up again.
Saw a new bug on a pink Cosmos flower. Anyone know what it is? I don't think it's a cricket or a lacewing, which were my first two guesses.
The Marigold plants, although still small, are starting to bloom and make bright spots in the garden.
I have one volunteer Sunflower! a terrible picture of it, for some reason the camera kept focusing on the fence in the background.