Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Happy Dance Flowers

Every Friday morning one of the local Chicago news stations has a clip of their staff doing the "Friday happy dance." Think Elaine on Sienfeld - I always get a kick out of it. I think some of my flowers are doing the happy dance today!

I still love the pink Cleome with the Zinnia - both are growing strong on this last day of August.

The Clematis Crimson Star finally bloomed! I planted it earlier this summer to grow up the garage trellis. Unfortunately I killed the one on the other side trying to remove a bastard weed that was growing along with it. Pink hedge roses are still blooming!

Are your flowers doing the Friday happy dance?? Happy Friday, my garden blogging buddies!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Saving Seeds or Saving Trash

This bug is not related to saving seeds other than it is sitting on a plant I hope to save seeds from. Mostly I just thought it was cute. I had 2 Rudebeckia and a Coneflower that I wanted to try to get seeds from but I have a feeling none of this is seeds.

I followed the directions on several seed saving websites and this is what I got. Does this look like seeds at all? It looks like trash to me. I really want to participate in the seed trade but nobody needs to trade for trash. The one below is Goldilocks.

This was from the Rudebeckia in the bug picture. One website says the seeds from this plant look like dark brown splinters but I can't imagine I could get this much from 3 little flowers.
The picture below is from Coneflower and I'm 99.9% sure THIS is trash, thanks to reading Mr Brown Thumb's saving Coneflower seed post. Oh well, maybe next time.

In other gardening news, as soon as GB read about how I was killing all my plants she promptly delivered 24-30 new seedlings for me to kill. Is she crazy????? No, seriously, she brought me 24-30 new plants!!!!! She came over and made me demonstrate how I would dig up a plant to move using a big weed to check my technique. I've never been so careful with a weed! It sorta felt like when your math teach makes you go to the board. She also showed me the proper way to move a plant by moving my Coreopsis Rosa herself. We planted all the seedlings and I watered them really well after she left. As I sit here typing they are in my garden dying. No, I'm joking. I am committed to keeping these alive! As God is my witness, I will not kill these plants!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Moving Plants = Killing Plants

This is my new favorite flower of the week. It's the Cosmos Bright Lights that I grew from seed. Yay me! I love the vibrant orange color. I planted a whole pack of seeds but this is the only one that came up. And now, the bad news...
It turns out that the all the seeds I planted that actually bloomed were very random and what I ended up with is clusters of flowers, taller ones in front of shorter ones and bunches of stuff in some spots while other spots are just bare. This morning I decided to just start moving stuff to spread things out a bit and make it look more balanced. I moved this Cosmos, half of the white Cleome and the Rudbeckia Goldilocks that was being hidden behind the giant Zinna.

The picture above is the Cleome that I left in the same spot and below is the poor section of Cleome that I moved this morning. Somebody call a plant doctor!!I'm guessing this thing will die but I'll keep watering it and hope for the best. The Rudbeckia Goldilocks looks about as bad plus I completely broke one of the two stems on it.

One thing I'm noticing is that I suck at transplanting stuff. All the passalong plants have pretty much died. What am I doing wrong? I don't really have this problem with plants I buy.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Garden Of The Garden Buddy

Garden Buddy invited us over for a bbq today. I havnt seen her garden since early spring, so I was excited to see how things had grown and what new stuff she had planted.Mr. and Mrs. Garden Buddy live in a 1908'ish Chicago Bungalow. It is a very big old cool house and I love it. This is the entry to her garden which is bordered by enormorous pine trees planted by her neighbor over 20 years ago. You can't see it very well from this picture but the trees are contrasting colors and provide nice privacy - they are beautiful and I kept thinking I should come back in December with my oranaments.This aerial photo captures the bigness and color of the trees a lot better.This is the garden just beyond the entry gate. There are billions of varieties of plants here but one kept my interest for the entire party.

This is GB's Rhubarb. Can you believe how big and awesome this is? I think it's so pretty and I'm trying to figure out where I can put this in my garden. I just love the enormous leaves. To give you some perspective on just how big the rhubarb is I've asked Pie Guy to stand next to his beloved rhubard. Pie Guy is 6'8 - he loves to bake rhubarb pie with GB's rhubard. He also bakes apple and various other pies. Thanks for the pie, pie guy!
I love these window boxes.More garden picturesI love these plantersAerial view of the gardenKitchen garden. The pots mostly contain heirloom tomatoes given to Garden Buddy by her father-in-law.
Here are a few of my favorite flowers in Garden Buddy's garden.
This giant pink Hibiscus just demands your attention. I also love the milkweed behind it to the right.This hydrangea reminds me of a wedding bouquet.

I don't know what this is or why I was so drawn to it, other than the ladybug buried in lower portion of it.
Strawberry pot with actual strawberrys!

Cardinal flower.
It was funny, Mr. Garden Buddy said "I wish she'd just make up her mind to leave things where they are." I was trying to explain to Pie Guy on the way home that it'll never happend. It's just not like that with gardening.

We had an awesome time - thanks, GB!

Friday, August 24, 2007

We've Got Melons! Part Deux

This the first Watermelon. It's the Sugar Baby variety. As usual, I had no clue if it was time to harvest this thing. A while back I had done a baseline thump test and when I thumped this melon 2 days ago, it definitely seemed way different from the baseline thump. I had read on the internet that I should wait until the stem part started to dry out before harvesting but the stem was still green as ever tonight. The decision maker for me was that the tag said 80 days and since I harvested my Cantaloupe several days ago and it's tag said 88 days, I decided to go for it.

I was not very impressed with this melon. BUMMER! On a scale of A+ to F with A+ being the awesome delicious Cantaloupe I harvested the other day and F being any gag reflex inducing Brussel Sprout my mother ever made me eat, I'd give this a B-. It could be that I made a mistake by harvesting it right after all the rain we've had over the last week. Maybe that made it less sweet?

I think I'll wait until the stem drys out before harvesting the other one. If it doesn't taste way better than this one I'll definitely choose another variety next year. I'll grow Watermelon again for sure because I love the way the leaves look, but I need way more flavor than this to justify what a space hog this plant is.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


This evening it occurred to me that I won't always have an endless supply of delicious tomatoes. I'm in a panic! Tomatoes are not cheap. Not only that but the only grape and cherry tomatoes that I've ever purchased from the grocery store really sucked.

Oh, the dread!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Swimming Lettuce And Horizontal Zinnia

Since I started gardening I've noticed that lots of things seem to move in slow motion. All summer I've watched my plants like a hawk noticing every little change in my garden plants but the slow growth makes everything seemmmmmssss likeeeeee itssss movingggg innn slowwwww moooootionnnnn. I know...."a watched pot" blah blah blah.

This past weekend it seemed like it rained for 40 days and 40 nights but it was actually only a couple of days.
As you may remember, there was water actually standing in my homemade cedar planter boxes that I had freshly planted with 3 different kinds of lettuce seeds. I just knew my lettuce was a goner, but look look! Man this stuff is growing like crazy after I removed the Bulls umbrella and exposed it to a few hours of sun. I was told by the CSA guy that I'd be eating fresh salad greens in 3 weeks and I did not believe him but after seeing this extreme growth I think he might be right!
I've noticed that my Zinna gets so tall that it kind of falls over. Take a look at the picture below. See how the pretty pink Zinnia looks like it's laying down? I love that! It's probably not so great for the plant but I think it's very cool looking. Does your Zinna lay down?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

We've Got Melons!!

I planted 2 little organic Cantaloupe Ambrosia plants on May 21st. Yesterday I harvested the first 2 melons. They look pretty good to me! I mean, they meet the standard I'd set for a first ever Cantaloupe crop. Good size, no ugly mutations.I've been smelling these 2 melons every day after work. Since I don't really know the proper way to determine if a cantaloupe is ready for picking, I used my mom and best friends technique of checking for the smell of cantaloupe coming through the skin. Yesterday August 20th was the day that I smelled that smell. 3 months it took. Without a doubt this is the best tasting cantaloupe I've ever had. I don't know if it's because it's organic, or because its the Ambrosia variety, or if its because I took such good care of it or because I'm so biased that I can't even tell that this really just tastes like every other grocery store cantaloupe. Whatever the case, I am proud and it is heavenly.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dear Seed Saving Experts, HELP!

This is my Coreopsis - is that a seed pod in this picture? There are lots of these on the plant but I have no clue what I'm looking at here.
Here is the big Rudbeckia - I'm pretty darn sure that this is where the seeds are on this one so I'll be looking on the internet to try to find out how to harvest the seeds. If you know, please share!Here's the purple Coneflower. This looks odd to me, more like it's just dead. How do I know if there are seeds here?
Speaking of seeds, below is my attempt to protect my freshly planted lettuce seeds. Within 1 hour of planting them it started raining, and raining, and raining. At some point I looked out the back door and there was water standing in the planter boxes, so I drug this freebie umbrella out of the basement. I have no clue if flooding them will keep them from germinating but I'll be watching them closely over the next few days. Go Bulls!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Weekend Warriors Project: Build An Ark?

It has been raining for almost 24 hours straight. I'm glad I got a few things done in the garden yesterday morning before it started. I took this picture of the red Pentas before the rain started. This was an impulse buy a while back and they really looked deadish for a while but have rebounded nicely. Seeing them up close like this really is a different perspective. They are the strikingly red.

I love Cleome!! I hope I can figure out how to save the seeds from these white ones above and the pink ones below. They are both way taller than I expected and I screwed up and planted them in from of shorter plants. I'll know better next year.
Blind Buddha - man that Silver Mound really grows fast!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Planting Lettuce: Day Zero

I planted the lettuce seeds today! I started by drilling drain holes in the new planter boxes I made last weekend and covering the holes with screen. I added bagged top soil and bagged compost to the boxes then sprinkled seeds over the top and then sprinkled a very thin layer of potting soil over the top and watered it.

The bottom box has European Mesclun Salad on the left and Henderson's Black-Seeded Simpson on the right. The top box has Rocky Top Lettuce Salad in most of the box but I also added a little more of the Black-Seeded Simpson at the very front. I have no idea what I'm doing here! The rest of the seeds go to GB.

Ummmm - what happened to the broccoli??? I'm guessing this is why it isn't suppose to be planted in the summer? What do I do now? Throw it out? Will this keep growing since it should be cooling off soon or is it a goner? This is one of the baby rabbits that didn't get chopped up in the unfortunate lawn mower killing. If you look closely you can see another one in the hole right beside it. I saw another one over by my roses earlier. They are so tiny.

Friday, August 17, 2007

No TGIF For Rabbit

Me: "Hey, what are you up to."
Him: "Nothing, just sitting here."
Me: "I'm just now leaving work, sorry I'm later than I thought I'd be."
Him: "That's okay"...."i just killed a rabbit"
Me: "WHAT???????"
Him: "I just killed a rabbit"
Him: "I ran over it with the lawn mower"
Him: "I saw fur flying" was by that spot in the grass where we were looking."
Him: "Yes, and guts and body really freaked me out and I don't think I can go back out there."

It was almost dark when I got home but I could see fur in the 4 x 4 foot square of uncut grass. I have no idea what we are gonna do about this. Both of us are horrible with this kind of thing. He said the other babies ran back in the hole after the one was chopped up. I wish they would just go away.

Gardening tomorrow is not gonna be nearly as fun as I had originally thought...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rain Barrel In The Rain

Imagine if you were to come home after a long day at work to find a great big awesome Rain Barrel like this just sitting on your patio.

Garden Buddy alerted me a while back that the City of Chicago was offering rain barrels to encourage water conservation and to help keep the sewers from getting clogged. This is a real problem in these parts - my basement flooded because of this the first weekend that we moved to this house. Anyway, GB is on vacation and today she picked one up for me and dropped it off in my backyard. GB - I love it when you are on vacation!

This is a horrible picture. I took it in the middle of a storm, at almost 8pm, with a flash, standing in the doorway so I wouldn't get wet. I could have waited for a better photo-op but I was so excited about it. Isn't this thing fabulous????? It seems way bigger than the ones I saw on the garden walk and it was only 40 bucks! The booklet that came with it suggested raising it on a platform and attaching soaker hoses to the spigot. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Torture deck = rain barrel platform?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Flowers From My Garden

I'm no good at flower arranging but I think these are pretty, mostly because they are all blooming in my garden right now.
I always wonder if most people cut flowers from their garden or just let them go until they are finished.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


This is the window I took from the alley. In Chicago the alley is where the trash goes. That was very different for me when I moved here since we put the trash on the curb and basically had no alleys where I lived in the South. People also put junk they need to dispose of there like this old window and several times per day a junk truck drives by to nab anything of value. I often wonder if these junk people are like hookers with their own territory or if they go to different locations all the time in hopes of finding better crap but I've never taken the time to notice if it's the same people who pick up junk from our alley. The closest encounter I had with one of these people was over at Mr. and Mrs. Woodchip's house very early morning when I was out there picking up a load. It was actually a junk lady. When I saw the junk truck coming down the alley I wondered if I was about to get cussed out for taking stuff from their turf but she just smiled, said hello and moved along.

I didn't find this window trolling through alleys for junk. It was thrown out by the people right behind us and I saw it one afternoon pulling into my garage. After seeing how much trellises cost I've been keeping an eye out for cheap ones and the first thing I thought when I saw this old window was CHEAP TRELLIS.

I took the glass out, sanded it a little and painted it lime green. This picture doesn't really show just how lime the green window is but I love it! I thought the color would look nice against the other shades of green in front of it and against a couple of peoples' advice I planted a Sweet Autumn Clematis at the foot of it. In my defense, I read that I could cut the SAC down to around 6-12 inches above ground in the Spring to keep it more manageable. So, that's the plan.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Weekend Warriors: Making Planter Boxes With Garden Buddy

I won't rehash the whole I-can't-find-a-planter-box-to-fit-my-homemade-plant-stand deal but today was the day that GB and I made planter boxes for the homemade plant stand!
One of the reasons that I think GB and I make such a good team is that we are both fairly heavy planners. Neither of us seem to be the type to just go and buy some crap without some preparation. Granted, our plans consist of what we jot down on random post-it notes at work, but still, we put a fair amount of analysis and research into it. Where we differ is that GB is all about the quality. "Get the good stuff so it'll last as long as possible" is what she always says. Me? I'm more the "if I can get 3 to 5 years out of it, I'll go with the cheap stuff." This came into play when determining the type of wood for said planter boxes. Of course I took her suggestion, I'm not a moron! She's the expert here. We went with Cedar.

She came over this morning and we went over our plans then took a quick walk through the garden so that she could see how it was progressing. She was pretty impressed with all my tomatoes and cantaloupes - that made me feel proud like when your teacher tells you how smart you are.

Have you ever shopped for lumber? There is sooooooo much to choose from! We decided that there must be some system to the way it was organized but we couldn't figure it out so we just roamed around until we found what we needed. Her plan: build a 6 foot long 10 inch tall cedar planter box. My plan: build two 30 inch long 10 inch tall cedar planter boxes. After struggling to find a suitable cart we loaded our lumber then proceeded to roam around the store looking for various things like screws and potting soil. We were imagining that somebody somewhere was watching us driving the lumber cart around the store laughing at us but after lapping the store we eventually made it to the cutter guy. He wouldn't let me take a picture of him making the cuts "I don't think that's allowed in the store and I just don't want you to get in trouble". Whatever, dude!

After arriving home we set up a work bench on the patio table and got down to business. You should have seen us trying to get the first screw in. The screw was wobbling like crazy and I was laughing so hard I almost peed myself.

Did I mention that it was like a thousand degrees outside today? And that my patio was in full blazing sun at this time? We did my 2 smaller planter boxes first and then moved on to hers.
The only problem with this was that by the time we got to her planter box we were near heat stroke and had to get on the ground to attach it. At some point I think we started to get worried about actually dieing in the heat and we kicked into "LETS DO THE DAMN THING" gear and by the time we were attaching sides of her planter, we were working like a finely oiled machine (or whatever that saying is). She was moving ahead of me pre-drilling the holes (we learned that this would prevent the boards from cracking) and I followed along behind her drilling the deck screws into place. We were so hot and tired when we finished that we did the wimpiest high 5 I've ever seen.

Afterward we hurriedly snapped a few pictures and I invited her in to cool off for a bit before heading home but she was concerned that she had left Mr. Garden Buddy home with the kids all day. It was 3pm and I didn't realize that neither of us had lunch. Heat and hypoglycemia are a bad combination! She ran for her car and I ran for the shower.
Things that I can't stop laughing about now as I am trying to recuperate:
  1. We must have each burned our fingers at least 10 times from removing the pre-drilling screws that had become hot. We did it over and over and over again making me wonder if Pavlov's dog is smarter than us. It was the heat! We are both really smart - I swear!
  2. Conversation while trying to use my drill: GB "how do you know which way is reverse" Me: "I dunno" screw GB: "how do you know which way is reverse? my dads has a yellow thing" Me: "I dunno". We had this conversation at least 5 times. I still don't know! For some reason I have used this thing over and over and never even tried to figure it out. I just try it and if it doesn't work I assume it goes the other way.

I am so excited about my planter boxes! Check them out! They are a perfect fit for the aquarium stand! And isn't her long planter box awesome???

We had a good time today and we are already thinking of building benches next. We figure we are pros now.