Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tomato Sammich: A Southern Classic

This is the first of what I hope will be many tomato sandwiches made with home grown tomatoes. I used my first 2 Roma's that I picked this evening. Tomato sandwiches remind me of living in the south. I remember way back when I was young we would go to my great grandmother's house who lived in Clarksville Tennessee (3 hours from Memphis) to visit. She and my great grandfather had a vegetable garden and although I don't really remember much about the garden, I do remember that tomatoes were served at every single meal. The most common way to serve tomatoes as a side dish was to slice them up on a plate and throw them in the middle of the table. No matter what the meal, they were awesome with a little salt and pepper. Later my mom hipped me to the tomato sandwich. My mom always made those with a big meaty tomato, Miracle Whip, white bread, salt and pepper. My version is with a good whole grain bread, real mayo, sliced Roma, Romaine lettuce and black pepper.

Don't forget the napkin - this is one juicy sandwich!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Melon Watch and Other Stuff

I only have 2 watermelons but they seem to be doing okay. I notice they haven't really grown much at all in the last week or so. These are Sugar Baby variety and since I've never grown them before (or any other for that matter), I have no idea if they are close to full size or not. Compared to the Watermelons, I have way more Cantaloupes! Probably 8 or so and the plants are starting to bloom again. This is Ambrosia variety. Mr. W doesnt like Cantaloupes so I'll be eating these all myself, or giving them away.

I think these grape tomatoes are my favorite tomatoes so far this season. I absolutely love the way they look on the vine. So much that I hate to even pick them. They are also muy delicioso.

Ugly window box planter update: These are going to be returned. After they have been in my possession for 24 hours, I think they are uglier than ever. But the real reason is that Garden Buddy and I are gonna do a weekend warrior project - we are building planter boxes! This is scheduled for August 10th. I've ordered my lettuce seeds and I think August 10th shouldn't be too late to plant them. According to the garden calendar on the Illinois Extension website, I should plant lettuce on Labor Day. I'm so excited about the project! Who knows, if it turns out right and we don't saw off any digits, maybe we'll build a big pergola!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Harvesting Herbs: How I Spent My Sunday

I harvested Sweet Basil and Greek Oregano today. I followed the method described on the Illinois Extension office. Thanks again Marc at Garden Desk for directing me to that site! It has been so helpful! I cut the stalks and tied 5-6 of them together with string. If these things dry like they are suppose to, I don't think I'll ever buy herbs again. Next year I will definitely try the other culinary herbs I cook with frequently.
I'm so glad to finally get some use out of this pants hanger! I put a few bundles of herbs in a bag and tied it with part of the stems exposed, then poked a few holes in the bags. They are now hanging in the basement drying. I know I'll be able to harvest more basil later and since I don't really like Pesto, I think I'll try to find a cute way to package the dried herbs and give some to friends around the holidays. I think this will make an interesting stocking stuffer. Look what else I did! This morning this black iron stand held an empty aquarium. I've had this thing for over 10 years and I still think its really pretty. I also love fish but as I've stated before, I'm a lazy bastard and I hate maintaining it. It has always held fresh water fish but last year I had a fish epidemic and everybody died in a matter of a few days. Since then, it's just been sitting empty in the living room causing me extreme horror every time we have company. Talk about an eye sore! Anyway, I decided it would make a great plant stand and I just happened on a big blue board in my garage left by some previous owner who also left a saw in the basement. That's right - I used a saw! I am either going to re-paint the boards (I have baby blue paint that I used on my guest room) or sand a little of this off to make it look a little more rustic. I also considered painting the boards purple - I'm just dying to paint something purple now that I have seen Carol's purple garden bench. But, in the immediate future, this will house fall lettuce that I plan to plant from seed. I can't wait!I was so inspired by Farmgirl's great it's-so-easy-to-plant-lettuce-from-seed that I've been waiting for the right time to plant some myself. Since I won't get my raised beds built in time, I thought I'd just plant some in containers, hence the need for a longish plant stand. Below is what you get when you shop end of season sales. I do not like these window boxes! They need to be wider and wooden and way cuter than this. Should I take them back? I could use boxes that are 30 inches long and 12 inches wide. These are only 8 inches of boring stone colored plastic. Yuck! I considered trying to make my own but the only wood I have around is on the pallets in the basement. What do you think? Keep the ugly plastic ones or return them and build some wood ones?

I de-rusted 2 of the 4 chairs today. What a messy job that sanding is! I was an orange rusty mess. I really need to decide what color this thing needs to be.

After a long tiring day I was so hungry. This is the one pepper that my potted Sweet Banana Pepper plant has produced. I chopped it up along with onions and tomato from my garden on a big salad for dinner. I guess I've never had one of these that were not pickled. I have to say I was a little disappointed. It tasted like a bell pepper to me.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I've Got News And I've Got Bad News

Isn't this the most beautiful broccoli you've ever seen? Okay, so maybe I'm biased but this is so damn cute, right? It's my first broccoli! YAY ME! After reading many blogs I noticed that most people seem to have already harvested their broccoli so I figured I just planted it too late. I actually gasped when I spotted this today. I finally got around to planting the strawberry pot. It's not nearly as cute as the lady's on the garden walk but I like it. I want to get some kind of stand so that it's off the ground. Also, the side ones are way too long for the pot. Can I just chop them off? Will they grow back? I need them to be shorter and closer to the pot.
What the heck happened here? I'm not having too much luck with my Big Boy tomatoes. I had one red one and the rest are just growing bigger on the vine and now beginning to crack.

Isn't this gross??? What the hell am I suppose to do with this? Pick it and throw it away? What about the rest of them? Should I pick them while they are still green and un-cracked and let them ripen inside?

I hope this is not caused by some neglect on my part.

Friday, July 27, 2007

My Skinny Weed Killer

Thanks to the responses to my cry for weed killing help, I've decided to try to make my own weed killer. I'm using Jodi's recipe: 1 cup salt, 1 gallon vinegar, dish soap.

I'll let you know if it works.

The following is an attempt to take a picture of a suspected Zinnia bud. I planted the seeds a few weeks ago and I thought I spotted some action. I have no clue what happened to the picture but I thought it was kinda cool for a screw up.

I have another busy weekend planned. Here's my tentative to do list.

  • Kill weeds
  • De-rust rusty cool table
  • Harvest basil for drying
  • Boring household chores

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Charity and Cheap Plants

After reading what David over at Leave Me Alone, I'm Digging said about the website freetreesandplants, I checked them out and decided to place an order and see what happens.

I had been planning to buy some bee balm ever since it was recommended by Tina back when I asked for suggestions on must have plants.

The way this company prices their plants is simple, which I love! 7.95 per unit, no matter what you buy. You need a tree that they have, 7.95! Looking for a shrub, 7.95! My bee balm came in what they called "2 units" for 7.95. Now these plants were tiny and I'm sure I could have found bigger ones at a big box store earlier in the season, but I've been watching for this stuff for a few weeks and it seems to be all sold at the places I've been sale shopping. Plus, it was just as big as the tiny lavender that I ordered at one popular online nursery and I paid15 bucks for 3 tiny plants.

I ordered on Friday night and received the plants on Tuesday. That's acceptable and way way faster than any other online plant order I've placed. The plants came packaged in a plastic container and the roots were in a little dirt which was wrapped in plastic. It seemed very appropriate. The plants certainly didn't look like they were thriving but I didn't expect them too since they say they "find unsold plants" and sell them. But, if they live and my 7.95 helped "earn a disabled person a paycheck" like my little thank you email said, then its all GOOD.

That's it, there in the middle of the picture. It's tiny. Grow little Bee Balm, GROW!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How Do YOU De-Weed a Mulched Garden?

I've gotten myself in one fine mess this time. I read some article on organicgardening.com that was going on about how magical mulch is and the author stated that, instead of pulling weeds, you can simply throw mulch right on top of them to get rid of them. I think I took this too far. Instead of giving my 3 non-rose gardens a good hoeing before mulching, I just dumped the woodchips right on top. The weeds are already taking over. It's mostly this bastard morning glory that grows in every nook and cranny of our property (including the grass). I don't really mind it in the grass, it's kind of interesting and unexpected, but it knows no boundaries.

So, what do I do now? I do not see how it is physically possible to pull all these weeds with the mulch sitting on top. The only 2 things I can think of is to 1. rake off all the wood chips, weed, and replace the woodchips or 2. spray them with something that will kill them. Although option 2 suits my laziness way more, I would prefer not to use harsh chemicals which limits me somewhat. Plus, I really don't want to put my other plants in danger. Below is the other stuff that's taking over. The funny thing about this is that I didn't even notice this stuff until I dug up my gardens. It's like it was just waiting for me to get this just like I wanted to come along and ruin it all.
What would you do?

Monday, July 23, 2007

This Really Cracked Me Up!

I was browsing through garden pictures that I took back in May and I ran across Day 1 of the Kitchen Garden. It really tickled me because you can hardly see the watermelon that is now attempting to take over my patio. And of course I got another good laugh out of my upside down tomato cages. Imagine how my poor tomatoes would be choking right now if I hadn't fixed that!

I won't re-post the current picture but you can see an updated one that I took a few days ago in the right margin of my blog.

My next project that I'm obsessing about (after sprucing up that patio table) is building a couple of raised beds which I'd love to do by Labor Day so I can plant lettuce. Now, if I can just find the perfect sized untreated free lumber!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tending Roses: How I spent my Sunday

Since I had a seemingly unlimited supply of free woodchips I thought I'd be crazy not to mulch the Hedge Roses, too. They were a weedy mess!
Ever tried pulling up weeds through straw? It sucks! So, I raked off the straw. Action Hoe to the rescue!!
After removing as many weeds as I could, I loaded the rose beds up with the woodchips. I think it looks much better.

Another post mulch picture

I gotta say, I'm sooooooooooooooooo glad I am done with those damn woodchips!! I made a total of 9 trips!! That's 27 raggedy metal trash cans, 18 recycle bins and 18 storage containers full of this stuff. I wonder how many yards that was?
Below: Foundation bed
Below: Garage bed

I didn't post a picture of the south fence bed as I'm scared that Carol and Carolyn will yell at me when they find out that I cut the Spirea down to the ground.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

If it Weren't For Free Stuff, I'd Have No Stuff At All

I tell ya, when you are on a tight budget and you put your mind to it, you can really do a lot for nothing. Take a look at this AWESOME table and 4 chairs I found at http://www.freecycle.org/ Thank you freecycle lady!! I absolutely LOVE this thing. Mainly because I've never seen one like it and it's very whimsical. It needs some TLC - it's pretty rusty. I tried removing the rust with this wire drill attachment they sold me at HD but at this rate I'll be looking for a walker on freecycle before this table is finished. Anybody have any ideas for quick rust removal? After that I'll paint it and it'll look good as new. I was thinking black paint but I'm tempted to paint it purple or something weird like that. I'm taking suggestions for paint color too...

In other free news, I have been back to Mr. and Mrs. Woodchip's house several more times and I think I have enough woodchips for all beds except the roses. There still seems to be quite a bit left so I think I'll go ahead and try for a few more loads over the next few days. I really can't believe how the plants in the foundation bed perked up after adding the woodchips! I love the woodchip mulch so far, and I love that it's good for the earth.

In still more free news, there is presently an old window out in my alley that my neighbor left for the trash and I'm desperately trying to think of a way to use this in my garden. It's about 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Anybody have any ideas?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Belatedly In Aw

This is my best friends garden from 8 years ago. She planted this garden in our then backyard (we were also roommates) and as you can see she did a great job. I should state that I have absolutely no recollection of the garden being this big and awesome. I remember that she would frequently talk about how happy she was about various garden goings-ons and she'd beg me to come out and look at it I'd never do it. I couldnt figure out why she would want to spend all that time in the miserable Memphis summer heat. In my defense, I think I was obsessed with a boy who I was in a long distance relationship with at the time. If it did not pertain to him, I simply did not care. I don't regret my boy craziness because that guy is Mr. Wonderful and the reason I moved to Chicago and am living happily ever after. However, I do regret not being supportive of my friend and her fabulous garden, so I thought I'd express my joy now, 8 years late. I'm sorry I'm tardy...During my best friends gardening days, she spent so much time in it and talking about it that we all referred to it as "her boyfriend." Isn't this trellis pretty? I'm wondering how I possibly never saw at least the trellis? I mean I know I went out there at least one time just to shut her up! Man I was mean - I feel bad...

This garden is also the one that is planted in the yard immediately next to the worm farm that I wrote about in my Garden Bloggers Muse Day earlier this month. In case you didn't read it, my father started worm beds to make money but they all escaped into the soil during a storm. After that, the yard always had ridiculous amounts of worms in it. They continued to live and multiply for 2 decades. My grandmother owns this house and my best friend and I lived there 20 years after the worm catastrophe and it was in this same yard that my best friend grew the most amazing watermelon I've ever tasted.

Bff - I'm sorry for not being a good friend back in those days. I was one selfish bastard. Your garden was awesome! Now that I have my own garden, I see why you loved it so much and why you wanted to share the experience with me. 8 years later, I am so envious! Nice work!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Holy Smokes!

I discovered a Jalapeno on my pepper plant yesterday! This happened accidentally while I was trying to break the death grips my Cantaloupe had on the Tomatoes. This little sickly pepper plant is right in between the two and it has looked so bad for so long that I've basically started ignoring it. You know, pretending like its not there, in the ground, being eaten by some bug I haven't learned about yet, or some fungus or bacteria I don't know exists, possibly infecting all my other plants...

Anyway, I was so thrilled I almost screamed when I discovered it. I had lost hope that this plant would produce any fruit at all and actually almost threw it away on several different occasions for fear it would spread whatever nastiness it has to my other thriving veggies and fruits. Look how cute it is!

But look what all it's leaves look like in the next picture. This can't be good. And it's not just a few leaves - it's the whole damn plant! I seriously do not know how this thing produced fruit.

And how abought this picture. I couldn't see this stuff from where I was standing and this picture gave me a whole new outlook on these future peppers. Take a closer look. What's that hanging down from the pepper in the center of the picture? It looks like some gross slime. And look at that little pepper starting to form over to the left of the one in the middle. What the hell is that coming out of it? Is that a worm??? Should I not eat these things? I think I may have nightmares that I eat these peppers with the worms inside and the worms start to multiply and ...HOLY CRAP I'M REALLY SCARING MYSELF!

Either way, I'm glad to see this plant producing fruit. I thought I had some garden curse on my pepper plants since they have really struggled and the other stuff hasn't. If my life is in danger from these plants, somebody please let me know. Otherwise, I grew it - I'm eatin it!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Garden Buddy = Gardening Coach

Ever since I read the posts on Garden Rant about Gardening Coaches, I've been trying to convince my garden buddy, who I never realized is my official Gardening Coach, to think about doing this professionally. She is exactly what they describe as a gardening coach and she would be so fantastic at it!! Here's why...
  1. When I wanted to start gardening, she convinced me that I could do it myself
  2. She made suggestions for things that would look nice and that she thought I'd enjoy, starting with my pink hedge roses on my fence line.
  3. When I thought I had taken on too much and was ready to give up, she INSISTED on coming over, brought her tools, and helped me dig for hours!
  4. She insisted I find my property survey and brought me graph paper so I could start mapping out my garden properly and brought me beginner garden planning books from her personal library
  5. She has shared several of her own plants with me and helped me decide where to plant them
  6. She has an awesome personality and is extremely easy to talk to and a fabulous teacher

I keep telling her that I'll be her first reference and I've got the pictures to show what she's helped me do!

I would recommend my gardening coach to anybody. I credit her for my small successes and I have no doubt I would have given up a long time ago had it not been for her. Plus, I'd love to see her do something she loves this much. And get this, she already has a name for her business!

Thank you, Garden Buddy (Coach)! I appreciate you! Just do it!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Devine Garden Intervention

I've been complaining for 2 months about how much I need mulch for my low-budget garden. First I thought I'll just leave it mulchless until next year but the dirt just looked awful so I decided to try straw. At 5.99 per bale It was very affordable but it wasn't nearly enough and it really brought out the brown in my dead grass. Then I found dark brown mulch on sale for 1.99 per 2 cubic foot bag. I bought 10 bags and that was barely enough to cover the garage bed. I can't win!

Well, today I found free wood chips on Craiglist and the best part is they were right by my house!! Thank you Craigslist Woodchip Couple!! I loaded up my car with 4 trash cans and 2 storage bins and headed over. I could not believe that pile of wood chips - IT WAS HUGE! Mr. Woodchip pointed out that it was starting to compost and I could actually see the steam coming off the pile. I made a second trip over to their house to reload. I really wish I'd had on my heart rate monitor so I could have seen how many calories I burned. I was a shoveling fool! For one thing I wanted to get the hell out of the heat but Mr. and Mrs. Woodchip were also trying to enjoy their Sunday outside and I felt like I was being very intrusive.
So after I refilled and loaded all my cans and storage bins I climbed in my car, hands shaking, face red as my Sweet 100s and I was thinking I THINK I MIGHT FAINT! I pulled out of their alley and at the very first stop sign this lady comes running toward my car screaming and waving something. I'm thinking WTH, I don't need this right now! "FREE WATER, FREE BOTTLED WATER, WOULD YOU LIKE A BOTTLE OF COLD WATER???!!!". I am not making this up! She gave me a bottle of water and God Blessed Me. That lady may have saved my life! And Mr. and Mrs. Woodchip probably saved my garden. Here are a couple of shots of the foundation and fence bed after woodchips.

The garden Gods were good to me on Sunday.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: My First One - YIKES

I wasn't going to do this because I'm so intimidated by the other gardener's bloom days but what the heck. Carol takes the time to organize this and she's been so great to me. So here goes.
Above and below: Pink Simplicity Hedge Roses. These were planted the first week in June. I'm very proud of them.
Below: Rudbekia - please disregard the big weed in the background unless you can tell me how to get rid of it.
Below: Phlox Laura - I bought this after Carol recommended I buy Tall Phlox. Carol - I'm still looking for the "Creme de Menthe" variety.Below: smaller Rudbeckia

I'm a Strawberry Snob: Propagating Strawberries

I still haven't planted strawberries in my craiglist 5 dollar strawberry pot. My problem is that I bought my strawberries way back in May and they are organic. I've been keeping an eye out for more organic ones but haven't seen any. So - I decided to try to propagate my own! One article I read said that the runners from the strawberry plant will root into the ground OR you can shove them down into some potting soil and wait for them to root there. After a few weeks when the runners have established a good root system, you can snip them from the parent plant and re-pot them wherever you want.

I started 4 little pots for my runners. 2 on each plant. I put them in a little plastic pot that some plants I bought were in and I'm sure I'll regret that since I cant really water them 15 times a day. The article I read also said that you should plant the pots in the ground. BUT, as usual I'm very impatient so as I do often, I only followed part of the instructions. I'll still need about 5 more plants to completely fill my pot but ...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Homemade Composter

After reading Colleen's blog about how she made her own composter out of a plastic storage container, I decided to give it shot.

I have several of these blue Rubbermaid storage containers and back when my bare root hedge roses arrived, I dumped the stuff out and used it as a tub to soak my roses. After that, I really didn't see the point in cleaning it and converting it back to a storage container, so it's been sitting in the garage.

I poked millions of holes in it using my drill but I noticed that Colleen's holes are much larger and that's got me a little worried. I'd like to use this one to dump kitchen scraps into along with the coffee grounds and filters I'm getting from work but what if my holes are too little? I think that means it smells bad, right? So far all I put in there was the filters from the coffee grounds, a little straw and the deadheaded roses. I'll add apple cores, lettuce we don't finish and other kitchen stuff to it as it accumulates. This should be interesting...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mindful eating: How I ate my first homegrown tomato

I've been eyeing this little guy for days. Last night I decided it was at it's peak of ready-to-eatness. And it was delicious! Even though this is a cherry tomato (Sweet 100) I found that I spent an awful lot of time analyzing the taste and texture if this one little bite. I noticed the sweet flavor and the tart flavor and the firm skin. I rarely think this much when I'm eating. I'm sure this happened because I took the time to grow it and I was trying to enjoy it for as long as possible.

It made me realize what "mindful eating" is all about. Taking the time to think about the energy that went into making our food is much easier when we grow it. But, it sure would be nice to make an effort to do this with everything we eat.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Today's Coolness

I finally spotted a baby Cantaloupe!! I have 2 plants and they have had billions of blooms but nothing like actual fruit until this. I have to say that, to me, this looks NOTHING like a Cantaloupe. In the back of my mind there is this little evil voice whispering "what if it's really squash? you don't know what you are doing."I really really love these little grape tomatoes. They look just like grapes to me!! Now I see why they are called that! When I've added them to my salad at the salad bar I never understood why they were called that. They look way more like grapes when clustered on the vine like this than in a big black bowl on the salad bar.

Thanks to marc and Carol I had an unexpected early harvest of onions. Per my post yesterday, these poor things were way overcrowded. Now here's the thing - do I use these on burgers like I do regular onions or in a casserole where I normally use green onions??? I'll be conducting informal polls at work today to find something delicious to cook with these TONIGHT. I can't wait! Thanks again, guys!