Site clean up and other stuff
Posted on July 10th, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

Hmm.  Given that it is summer, and my blog layout design is a “winter-y” design.. I think perhaps I should get around to finding or making a non-seasonal layout.

Anyway.  Summer is definitely here where we live.  This weekend it’s supposed to get to over 110 degrees.  My poor garden, I’m glad I built the shade structure over it.

My celebrity tomato plant keeps getting attacked by tomato worms (they burrow into the tomato and eat it from the inside, causing it to rot on the vine), AND those that don’t get attacked end up cracking.  I just can’t seem to win with that plant.  My cherry tomato plant is still plodding along despite that nearly all of the bottom branches are completely bare (no stems at all) from having to clip off the dying ones.  And my better boy is now trying to take over the box that IT is in (like the celebrity did) and has a few branches that span the entire width and length of the box (4×4) plus a foot or two.  It’s still budding tomatoes too, although I wish the birds would bugger off… (if it’s not worms, it’s birds).  I’ve only managed to get one good tomato off of it in the last month thanks to the darn birds, and I picked that one before it was completely ripe.

My watermelon plants started growing like crazy, all the way up the five foot trellis with one of them now snaking horizontally across the top of the trellis, too.  I think I spotted at least three good budding melons so hopefully by the end of the month we may have some big enough that we can eat?  They’re up high too, so I won’t have to worry about my daughter picking them off long before their time.

Despite that my cucumber plants are sprouting baby cukes like crazy, they never get very far (I presume due to the heat)… I think I found *ONE* little one this morning that seems to be getting further along in growth than all its predecessors, so maybe I’ll get a lone cucumber, we’ll see.

The corn was a bust.  It got hot too fast and many of them started drying up before I had a chance to pick them, so I left about six ears out for the birds to pick at and eat if they want.  They weren’t very big either, maybe six or seven inches was the longest ear of corn.  There are still a few small ears that I left on hoping they would grow, but I’m not holding out much hope.

I pulled up the peas last weekend, they were done.  I left the beans but they don’t seem to be producing anymore, so I’ll probably do the same with them soon.

There are quite a few things I will do differently next time around, in addition to planting earlier in the spring, many of the plants will get their own designated garden beds so they don’t have to compete with other plants, and to increase yield.

So now I just have to start planning for next spring and figure out how much more timber I’ll need to buy, and what size beds to build, in addition to purchasing the soil ingredients again as I have very little left from the spring planting.  I’m not sure I’ll do another shade structure though.  There seem to be quite a few people who garden around here without it, so if the one I have survives until next year, I’ll experiment and see how the uncovered beds do compared to the covered ones.

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Just Chatter · Just Gardening
Where’s my motivation?
Posted on June 26th, 2009 @ 4:25 pm

It seems to have stayed on vacation.

I rarely keep up around here on my ol’ blog (gee, as if that wasn’t obvious), and my other blog is even more neglected.

I guess it’s in part due to how busy it has been at work, and there are no plans to hire anyone new to help with the workload.  So we’re all burdened with a never-ending pile of orders to work, with no end in sight.

Then when I get home, I either just want to sit and surf, or more recently, kill Zombies in a new Popcap game that my husband suggested, “Plants vs. Zombies”.  I think I played that game for nearly four hours straight the other day.


The garden is still going well.  Several ears of corn are on the stalks, although I have a bit of an issue with damn aphids on the flower stalks on those, though.  My beast of a tomato plant seems to make orange tomatoes (rather than red), so I’m not exactly sure what type it is.  My cherry tomato plant seems to be struggling, the stems & leaves are dying off from the bottom out, yet it continues to grow up and out like it’s trying to outrun whatever is killing off the lower stems.  And now the beast tomato plant is having the same issue, so I am wondering if it’s either A) something contagious, or B) a nutrient deficiency.

My peas are about done, they fell over before we went on vacation and didn’t take to being tied up very well, so I think they’ve got one foot in the grave and will probably be pulling most of those up before too long.  My poor beans haven’t been doing great whilst being dominated by the beast tomato plant, so I may pull those up too.

I never did get any sweet potatoes like I planned, so those will have to wait for another year I think.

Aside from the mystery issue with the tomatoes, the biggest problem I’ve been having is the damn birds getting to the tomatoes before I do, sometimes before the tomatoes are even ripe, despite the bird netting I put up around most of them.  Ugh.  Stupid birds, leave my mater’s alone!!

So anyway.  Just a quick update, now it’s time for the long drive home from work.  Yay.

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Just Chatter · Just Gardening · Just Me
My Square Foot Garden update
Posted on May 22nd, 2009 @ 11:07 am

Well, I got my shade structure built, using 3/4″ PVC pipe and a 50% shade cloth.  The instructions I found for the structure said not to glue the pieces together, but after a couple of mildly windy days, I found I HAD to at least glue the corner joints, otherwise it kept popping open and sagging.

I tied down the shade cloth with rope to stakes pounded into the ground which are also holding the bottom of the structure to the ground as well (tied with thin steel cable).  I’m hoping it will hold up to our monsoon weather.  We had some stronger winds yesterday, and it did fine then.  We’ll see how it manages thorughout the rest of the season.

We’ve been eating a few peas here and there, but so far that is the only plant that has produced anything edible as of yet, and even then, only 2-6 pods at a time, so not enough for a meal. LOL  The corn is at least 2 ft tall so far and were a little unstable due to the soil compressing down from 5-6″ to more like 3.5-4″, so I mixed and added some more soil the other evening until the level was at the top of the raised bed.  Once that settles I’ll add more again to the top so the corn has at least 7″ of soil to support the stalks, and I still need to set up some nylon grid net horizontally to assist with supporting the stalks when they’re taller.  I’ll have to do that this weekend I think so it’s installed well before we leave for vacation next month.

There are a couple of tomatoes that look like they’re contemplating turning red (finally), but only just as they’re still quite green.  But the plants themselves have gone crazy in growth and rival only the corn in height so far.   Well, except one stalk of peas that’s climbing the trellis and is probably about three feet tall, but that’s only one vine.

One of my cucumber plants flowered, we’ll have to see if it sprouts anything, and the watermelon leaves are finally coming in but the plants are still fairly short.  We had a few more strawberry plants produce a flower so hopefully we’ll see a few more of those soon.  The carrots are growing (probably about 4″ tall) but not yet ready for harvesting.  We pulled one the other day and it was less than 1/4″ thick and just barely tinted orange, couldn’t even be considered “baby” carrot yet.

We have a couple of jalepeno peppers  growing, and those plants are still fairly short, too.  The green onions and chives are slowly growing, but those are probably going to be the slowest of all the plants.

I’d still like to try my hand with sweet potatoes, I’ll need to get some more wood to raise their section up a foot and mix some more soil as well as order the smallest amount of sweet potato starters I can possibly get.  I can’t use the sweet potatoes in stores as those are the spreading ground vines and I need the compact bush type so they stay within their section.

I’m hoping we’ll get a tomato soon, I’m not sure why they’re taking so long to redden unless it’s the excessive heat.. I’ll have to look into that.

Just Gardening
Square foot garden – 1 month update
Posted on April 26th, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

It’s been just under a month since I planted most if not all the seeds and did the transplants of the tomatoes, peppers and strawberry plants.  Everything is growing prettty well, the tomato plants are taller and the Better Boy has two tomatoes growing on it, and the cherry tomato plant has one tomato growing so far.  There are two little strawberries on one plant, and while the peppers have been flowering despite their short stature, only one so far has a jalapeno growing; on the others the flowers fell off, either with it being too hot for a couple of days, or being attacked by spider mites (which I did see on those plants).

I’m disappointed with the radishes; it got too hot too quickly, so only a few have bulbed so far and those were smaller than my thumbnail.  For both types I planted, their maturity date is less than 30 days (22 and 28 I think)  so if they’re not going to bulb now, they aren’t going to.  I’m pretty sure the date I planted them was March 27 or 28.  I pulled some up this morning hoping for something big enough to try eating (still may eat the tiny ones, just to try), but it was quite disappointing.  We’ll have to try again in the fall when it cools down.  It doesn’t help that for an entire week our temps were well over 90 degrees (I think we even got to 100 one or two days), and that pretty much spells doom for radishes. Ah well.

I found some plans for an arched structure that is supposed to be a greenhouse, but I’ll be using it sans door/window as a shade structure with 50% shade material.  I ordered everything I need for it online except the 20′ lengths of PVC pipe, which we’ll be going to get at Home Depot later this evening.

I also designed and installed a drip system for the two beds, as the porous soaker hose was wetting everything too quickly (and not targeting the right areas), so I scrapped that and went with the 1/4″ drip system hose and such.  I still soaked the soil too fast when I was testing it and had quite a puddle of water outside the garden beds, but I adjusted the outlets so hopefully the next time I need to water (probably in a day or two), it won’t saturate too quickly and will be just right.

I’ll be glad to get the shade structure up, some of the leaves on the corn have burned on the extra hot days we had so I’d like to have it done before the next 100 degree day.  Then I’ll add a thermometer to gauge how much cooler it is under the shade structure.

I’ll have to take some new pix later; I have some from last month still on my camera, haven’t downloaded them from it yet so I don’t have anything to show at the moment.  Eventually I will though. 🙂

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Just Gardening
Lots of sprouting seedlings in my SFG
Posted on April 6th, 2009 @ 10:44 pm

So far everything except the watermelon has made an appearance in sprouting.  I ended up transplanting 16 of the radishes that came up in pairs into an adjacent empty square, and there are still a few that have a too-close neighbor sprouting up that I’ll either need to try to transplant or thin out… that is, if the stupid springtails don’t get them first.  :evil2: Today when I checked my plants, the poor little radish leaves had little itty bitty holes in some of them, and one poor thing was completely consumed.  Gah!

So I wrote to an online garden supply place that sells live pest control (you know, ladybugs, lacewings, and the like) and asked them what they thought would be the best bet against the springtails.   Hopefully I’ll hear back soon enough that I’ll be able to get an order of something in by mid-day tomorrow so it will ship quickly…

So anyway… there are corn shoots, several green onions popping up, and several carrots.  I have some new peas sprouting, although I lost three of my transplanted beans due to high winds breaking the stems (they were only about a foot high), so I started three more seeds in a baggie on the back sliding door to replace those, since the beans I planted in-ground still haven’t popped up yet.  I may have to replace two of the transplanted pea plants likewise, also due to broken stems.

I have two strawberry flowers that look like they’ll be strawberries in a couple weeks, and my cucumbers sprouted, too.  Though I’m only supposed to have one per square, so I’ll probably have to pick which one to remove.  Oh, I forgot that I still am not seeing any chives yet, either.

My transplanted pepper plants are still doing well, although they’re all still pretty darn short, I do see some new leaves on them.  Grow, peppers, grow!  My cherry tomato transplant is doing the best of the three transplants, the celebrity is doing the next best, and the better boy, I’m not sure about, it seems to be struggling.  It had some blackening leaves which I clipped off in case they were diseased and am hoping it will recover.  I DO see a couple of flower buds on it, though, as well as the other two tomato plants.  The cherry tomato’s flower buds have actually started opening, so I am thinking (hoping?) it will fruit first.

I have ordered some diatomateous earth to combat the anthills I have seen starting to pop up around my garden boxes.  I am hesitant to use the DE on the actual garden soil although it is perfectly safe for humans, I don’t want to kill off the bees that are already visiting, since for now they’re landing on the soil mostly, I presume for some water, and DE is just as deadly to them as to the other insects.  And if I end up getting some live pest control, well then that would only serve to kill off those as well, and that would be no good at all.  So as much as it pains me to see my poor little seedlings being devoured by those little beasts, I’ll have to put up with it unless I can come up with an alternate quickie fix until I can get some beneficial bugs.

I wonder how they’d do against a water/soap solution sprayed on the soil?

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Just Gardening
SFG: Plants are doing ok so far
Posted on March 30th, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

I checked my garden when I got home, mostly to see how the transplants of the peas and beans fared.  The pea plant I broke seems to be a possible lost cause, but the other three are still OK.  I discovered that one of the bean plants was bent in half, like I had done to the pea plant, except this one I had not done.  Gah!  I propped it back up on the chop-stick I had tied it to, but I’m not hopeful.  Dang it!

And I discovered something quite interesting… most of the six jalapeno pepper plants that I transplanted on Saturday, are already sprouting flower buds!  The tallest plant can’t be more than 7″ tall, so they’re still babies by all accounts.  I queried about this on a gardening forum, asking whether I should nip off all the buds or leave them be; and it was suggested that I experiment since I have six plants – nip the buds off of three of them, leave them alone on the other three, and see which plants perform better.  Okie dokie then!  Tomorrow morning while I run the water through the drip hose, I shall break out the scissors and nip off the flower buds from three of the plants.  There is at least one that had no buds at all, so I may chose that as one of the ones I nip them off of when they finally do appear (if they do before it gets larger).

On my strawberry plants, the one that did have one flower already blooming, that flower was shriveled up today, so I plucked it off.  I don’t know the age of the plants but I figure it is probably their first year, so I may pluck flowers off of one trio and leave the other three alone, like with the jalepenos, except with the strawberries it will be the entire season instead of just a couple of weeks.

The other stuff I planted was all seed, so I don’t expect anything to be popping up just yet since it has only been a day or two, but I’ll still be checking daily. 🙂

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Just Gardening
Everything is planted in my square foot garden
Posted on March 30th, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

Well, with the exception of some flower seeds, but everything else is in as of yesterday afternoon.  I transplanted the pea & bean sprouts I had going in the window, although I think I broke the stem of one of the pea plants.  If it doesn’t recover I’ll just put a sugar snap in its place.  Hopefully though, these most recent transplants do alright.  There isn’t too much of a difference between the temperature indoors on the windowsill compared to outside right now, except they were sitting behind a high-UV blocking screen and now they have full-blast UV from the sun.  I’ll check them later when I get home to see how they did.

I did acclimate them a little bit, I placed them outside for a few hours on Saturday but since they were in peat pots the soil dried out pretty quickly so they were a bit wilted when I brought them back into the house, but they perked up after being watered. 

I also re-did my drip hose.  I had first fashioned two of them out of a 50′ length of rubber drip hose but those didn’t cover well enough, so I bought a 75′ length of a different type of drip hose and have it snaked across the gap between the two beds so I wouldn’t have to cut it.  I put the drip hose through about a 4′ length of swimming pool vacuum hose that we aren’t using anymore to keep the water that would drip from the section over the gap from hitting the ground, and propped that up over some taller buckets so the water trickles out into either ofthe two beds.  Not a pretty set up, but it works and the coverage is better.  And it doesn’t take long for it to get things properly watered, and whatever it misses, I can hand-water.

I still need to figure out the shade though.  This week it’s nice and in the low to mid 80s, but it will reach the 90s before too long.

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Just Gardening
Creating a shade for my square foot garden
Posted on March 27th, 2009 @ 3:55 pm

So here’s the pickle we’re in; our summers here regularly surpass 110 degrees, but I’d say we probably average around 108 or so until September at best.  We’re often running our air conditioning well into October, when suddenly the weather will snap and for a time we’ll need neither a/c nor heat.

But the problem for my Square Foot Garden is going to be the blistering summer sun.  Vegetable plants like a lot of sun, but to be frank, they will roast here.  I think I’d like to save the veggie roasting for when we’re about to eat them, thanks!  If we’re not careful I half expect to find popcorn laying about the yard and the ears of our corn bare to the cobs! LOL

So, we will need to build some sort of shade structure to protect our garden.  We currently have only two, 4’x4′ boxes, and they are arranged about three feet apart, in a north/south direction.

At first I thought, build one big rectangular shade; not only would it shade the veggies, but it would shade us as we go about our business of tending and harvesting in the garden.I was envisioning something about seven to eight feet wide, and about twelve to fifteen feet long.  However, a couple of factors are putting a dent in that idea.

One, we get some awful winds here sometimes – like last night… currently we have tarps covering the soil in the raised beds until we get stuff planted, and we were constantly checking on them and adding river rock to hold the tarps down.  So, the bigger the structure, the more damage there could potentially be if it were to fly away in a wind storm.  I picture it landing in a neighbor’s yard, in pieces.

Two, costs.  So far, to get a large piece of shade cloth to cover both the gardens and provide a little extra shade on the sides, is going to cost right around $100 – JUST for the cloth (because it would have to be a custom size).  Ack!

So now I’m wondering if I should just go with an arched design, specifically sized for each bed rather than encompassing both.  But on the flip side of that, it would not provide any shade for US, so working out in the garden would be even worse than if it were shaded.

It’s not going to be a permanent structure (that is, not BOLTED to the ground), but we will probably use rebar and tie lines to keep it in place, unless I just use enough PVC pipe to cross over each individual bed in which case, it would sit inside the box and the sides of the box would hold the PVC in place…

I’m still trying to work out the pros and cons of each and decide whether to fork out the extra $ for a larger structure with potential to make working in the garden more comfortable for us,  or go cheap and end up hating every second we step outside just to retrieve some veggies and make sure the soil has some moisture in it…. *sigh*

Any suggestions out there?  The actual structure itself is either going to be entirely PVC (which is cheap and flexible), or electrcial conduit (stronger, but more expensive as it is priced by the foot), or a combination of both…

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Just Gardening
I caught the gardening bug, Part 2: building our square foot garden
Posted on March 27th, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

I decided to start small and only bought enough wood for two 4’x4′ boxes.  I built those over the course of two days; the first one I did without pre-drilling guide holes for the deck screws, which I do not ever recommend anyone try – it literally gave me a headache by the time I was done.  The second one I had purchased some drill bits (I already had the drill, but it was packaged primarily as a screwdriver so didn’t come with any drill bits) so that I could make the guide holes, which made the process a whole lot faster and easier.  And no headache!

View the rest of this entry…

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Just Gardening
I caught the gardening bug, Part 1
Posted on March 27th, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

It’s been “Spring” where we live since probably February.  However at the Kiddo’s preschool, they started doing a lesson about plants at the beginning of March, to coincide with the actual calendar start of Spring.  One of the projects they are working on is starting seeds – two bean seeds and one sunflower seed – in a plastic ziploc baggie with wet cotton balls to provide moisture, taped to a south-facing window.  Basically, a miniature greenhouse.

When I saw that my daughter’s seeds were struggling while another classmate’s was taking off like crazy, it sent a lightbulb up and gave me an idea… Why not try it at home, too, so she could see the plants growing both at school and at home?

So I went and bought a packet of bean seeds and a packet of pea seeds, and a special “grow cup” for some sunflower seeds.  I have other various seeds from previous attempts to grow things in the windowsill, so I pulled those out too, and prepared about seven or eight baggies to put on our sliding door which faces south.

I started: a few tomato seeds, a few small sunflowers, strawberry seeds, two different type of other flowers, bean seeds, and pea seeds.

The peas and beans were the first to take off.  Shortly after they sprouted I put them in some soil in some peat pots.  Then I did the same with the sunflower seeds, forget-me-nots and the strawberry seeds, including any that had not sprouted yet.

At first my idea was to just grow them in containers.  But then I got the hairbrained idea of actually having an entire garden.  I even went outside and marked off a square to till up, but when it took my husband almost an hour just to do one row of digging to remove the rocks before we tilled…. I changed my mind and decided I would try a Square Foot Garden instead.  Not just because of the backbreaking work of digging up all the river rock out of our yard, but our soil is clay-based so we’d have to add all SORTS of additives to get it garden ready… With a Square Foot Garden, we simply have to build the raised boxes, and purchase three ingredients for the soil, make or buy a trellis for any climbing plants, and plant.

I’ll continue this in a second part since it ended up being REALLY long! 🙂

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Just Gardening