Thursday, July 31, 2008

Growing Zinnia From Seed

2008_0727image0046 This is my second generation Zinnia.  I grew them last year from seed, then saved some seeds from them. 

Zinnias are really easy to grow from seed but they are a little temperamental when transplanted.  I wintersowed some in March and although they grew really well in the milk jugs, the ones I transplanted from there look like crap compared to these that I direct sowed. 

 2008_0727image0045 To plant them I dug 1/4 inch trenches, put the seeds in and covered them back up with dirt.  I thinned them once they got about an inch tall.  I didn't do that last year and as a result they were entirely too crowded which the foliage didn't appreciate.  Aren't the the just-about-to-open ones cool looking?

I think I'll keep saving these and see just how many years I can grow Zinnia from the same seed line.  I'm also very interested to see how different the color is.  These seem more pink this year where I remembered them being more purple last year.

Have you had good luck transplanting your Zinnia?  What's your secret?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Baby Lemon Cucumber Alert!

2008_0727image0017 Behold, my first cucumber ever!  It's an Heirloom Lemon Cucumber that I direct sowed after the great folks over at Baker Creek Seeds sent me free seeds with my last order. 

The taste is supposed to be "sweet and mild".  I'm not really sure what that means in cucumber terms but I'm thinking about trying these in a tomato/cucumber/onion salad like my mom makes. 

The Lemon Cucumber gets it's name from its shape and color.  It's rounder and yellow, like a lemon.  It was introduced back in 1894.

Have you grown Lemon Cucumber before?  What's your favorite way to eat them?

Monday, July 28, 2008

My 2008 Favorite Flower: Tall Phlox

I am so in love with Phlox paniculata this year.  They are putting on such a spectacular show right now that I'm having to fight myself not to rush out and buy a million more.  2008_0727image0026 2008_0727image0025









Orange Perfection (pictured above) is absolutely stunning against any green foliage and looks awesome against my homemade window trellis that I painted lime green. 

Elizabeth (pictured below) has interesting variegated foliage but she's kinda sickly compared to the others.  I bought this one on clearance last year and although she looked very dead in 2007, she's holding her own so far this year. 












Laura (pictured below) is the most lovely shade of purple.  I painted my kitchen almost this exact color years ago tiny house I was renting.  Everybody said it looked like a playhouse.  Laura's foliage is a little darker which is a lovely contrast against the purple flowers. 












What's growing in your garden that you have a new appreciation for this year?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

2008's First Tomato: Heirloom Sausage

2008_0727image0024 Here is today's harvest which includes the first non-cherry type of tomato harvested for this season.  It's the Heirloom Sausage Tomato.  I'd never heard of this variety but I just couldn't pass it up, especially since I don't eat sausage.  Get the irony?

I had these Sausage Tomatoes on a salad for dinner and they are not nearly as interesting tasting as the name is.  I doubt I would be able to tell the difference between this and a regular hybrid Roma. 

I'm still planning to buy a dehydrator and try these dehydrated. Maybe they'll make better sun-dried tomatoes.

Have you harvested your first tomato?  What kind was it?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Black Krim Tomato


This is one of the tomatoes on my Heirloom Black Krim.  I rushed out and bought this plant from the grocery store on the advice of Margaret after all my tomato seedlings perished in the grow rack crash of 2008.  Damned Chicago wind!

So far I've not found the Heirloom tomatoes any more difficult to grow than the hybrids I've grown.  So far.  These tomatoes are really heavy so I've needed to keep a close watch on them making sure to tie up any limbs that are close to the ground. 

I wonder how much longer I'll need to wait for this little lovely to be ready for the pickin?  I've never had Black Krims before and I absolutely can't wait. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gardener's Compulsive Plant Naming Disorder (CPND)


Disclaimer: image above is just a pretty picture I'm hoping will grab your attention. It has nothing what-so-ever to do with this post.

I've got this compulsive disorder that seems to be developing as a result of gardening and I'm curious if anybody else has it.

I compulsively name plants as I walk by them.  I don't do this out loud (thank goodness) so nobody ever knows but I can't seem to help myself.  It usually only happens when I walk by a long mixed- border type of flower bed.  For example, every morning as I walk in to work I pass by the same garden beds that line the foundation of the building where I work.  It is about two blocks long and has a variety of flowers and shrubs but for the most part they keep the same plantings there all the time.  Even though I can sit here and tell you every single plant in the bed, I still name them as I walk by them every morning.

My daily stream of consciousness

Hosta, Spirea, Heuchera...I hope I'm not late for my first meeting...

Fragrant Viburnum, Lilly, Ornamental Grass (which one is that)...I hope everybody has their timecards done on time today...

Other Hosta (wonder which one that is), Daylily, dead Spirea (this thing has been dead for over a year why don't they replace it?)...why am I naming these plants again!

I have no other compulsive disorders that I know of and though this one is very harmless, it's so annoying! 

Does anybody else compulsively name plants to themselves or do I need to be institutionalized?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Squash Watch

2008_0720image0010 About this time of summer people start bombarding their family and friends with ridiculous amounts of zucchini.  I'm already seeing posts joking about how prolific easy-to-grow zucchini plants are.  My favorite one so far is Robin, the Garden Examiner's "Top 10 Signs You Have Too Much Zucchini".  I love number 8!

Well as far as I'm concerned these too-much-zucchini stories are myths!  I've had the worst time ever with this plant.  Read all about the horror here.

But if I'm not mistaken the little cutie in the picture above might be a baby yellow zucchini!  I have several plants but this is the only one that even resembles something that might turn edible.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed. 

Oh how I long for people to curse me for bringing them too much zucchini! 

How's your zucchini doing? 

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Harvesting Bush Beans

Behold the first beans I've ever grown in my life!  These are bush beans, one of the 2 new things I'm trying for the Growing Challenge.2008_0720image0002

You may remember that I mistakenly started these indoors in a coconut fiber pellet way too early and they quickly got out of hand and had to be transplanted to the compost bin.  It was definitely a failure but not without a lesson learned.  I finally understand Jack and the Beanstalk

After that, I waited a while then poked a few beans down in the dirt in my raised veggie beds and since then I've basically been ignoring them.  These things were so easy to grow and I definitely recommend them for any new gardeners.  Just like the name says, they grow on a bush-like plant.  They were really easy to harvest and produced a lot of beans.  2008_0716image0045 Here's what they look like still on the plant. 

One strange thing, they are sort of fuzzy.  The beans I mean.  This has got me wondering if these beans will taste good or if, God forbid, there is something I'm supposed to do to get the fuzz off the beans before I cook them.  I've got some research to do! 

You can read all about my green bean endeavors here

So, what's your favorite way to cook fresh bush beans, readers?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Garbage Can Sweet Potatoes

2008_0716image0035 Who says you can't grow sweet potatoes using the garbage can method? 

I planted one trash can of sweet potatoes on the same day that I did the white potatoes.  These were plain organic sweet potatoes I bought from Whole Foods.  I cut them into pieces and covered them with dirt. 

When I posted this the first time I had a commenter say that, unfortunately, you can't grow sweet potatoes using this method.  I was ready to throw the dirt out of this can when I spotted this. 

Now I suppose it could be some freak weed growing but I'm thinkin that's a sweet potato plant!  YAHOO!

There's only one in there, but still, I'm growing sweet potatoes in a garbage can!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bush Beans Nearly Ready For Pickin

2008_0716image0045 I'm so off schedule on posting my regular Growing Challenge updates.  I believe they are due on Mondays.  Oh well - sorry I'm tardy. 

I planted these Bush Beans from seeds that I poked right into the dirt.  From the looks of things, I'll be harvesting some fresh green beans this weekend.  This might be the easiest thing I've ever grown! 

I wish I was having this much luck with the Yellow Zucchini

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Coveting Other People's Gardens

Do you find yourself going to other people's gardens and wanting to take pictures and put them on your blog pretending that it's your garden?  I do!

Last week I went to GB's for a barbecue in honor of Pie Guy going off to medical school next week.  GB grilled (the food rocked) in the rain and even though we had to eat inside I was still able to snap a few pictures. 

So, here's my pretend garden...








































Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day: July 2008

I'll spare the commentary and just get right to the goods. 





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That's all, folks! 

Be sure to stop by over at May Dreams Gardens for a complete list of GBBD participants. 

Garbage Can Potato Update

2008_0715image0003 Don't look now but I think there might be a potato plant growing in my garbage can!

A few weeks ago I posted about trying to grow potatoes in a garbage can for the first time.  I've never grown potatoes and I've certainly never planted anything in a garbage can.  I stole this idea from Marc over at Garden Desk

Well, just when I was ready to mark this project down as a total failure, I noticed this cute little thing growing in one of the garbage cans.  Is this a potato plant?  Please say yes! 

It looks like my success rate will be really low with this but even if I get one potato out of the deal I'll be jazzed.  I only see one plant in the garbage can where I planted the white potatoes.  No growth in the one where I planted the sweet potatoes.

Interim Lessons Learned

  • Buy seed potatoes early because they sell fast and the grocery store ones are harder to use because they are often sprayed with a chemical to prevent sprouting. (I used Whole Foods Organic ones)
  • Plant way earlier.
  • Figure out how to protect from squirrels (they've dug up a lot of the potatoes already).
  • Figure out how to properly grow sweet potatoes. According to a commenter on a previous post, you can't grow sweet potatoes this way.  I don't remember why.

Stay tuned for my July Bloom Day post coming later this evening.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I'm A Winner: Garden Rant Style

Speech: red cart First of all I wanna thank God, and my momma...

No, seriously, I still can't believe I won this awesome cart!

Last week over on Garden Rant, Elizabeth held a contest to give away 5 of these cool red Troy-Bilt garden carts.  I entered because the only garden cart I own is a very cheap crappy plastic one that I don't even use anymore because it's tipped over one too many times while I was carrying a load of dirt. 

The contest was to list the 5 plants you'd rescue in a catastrophe.  This was my entry:

What an awesome cart! I don't own a proper piece of equipment for toting heavy stuff so this is just what I need.

I don't know what kind of catastrophe you had in mind but my catastrophe is a bad ass one that is earth-altering. All the trees have been destroyed leaving full sun for my fab 5 to grow in.

Here they are:

1. Echinacea purpera "Purple Coneflower". I'm madly in love with coneflowers of all kinds. But, the purple gets saved because it drought tolerant, beautiful, and I might even be able to meet a medicine man who will show me how to use it medicinally.

2. Heirloom Brandywine Tomato gets saved because there is no way I could go on in a tomato-less world. I rescue the heirloom one because I can save seeds for future tomato seasons.

3. Daffodil because they remind me of my grandma (I'll probably be sad and need that family memory, yes?) and because they naturalize so easily.

4. Magnolia Ann is a vanity save I spent too much damn time agonizing over which Magnolia to pick (and returning a few) to just let it die.

5. Rudbeckia Goldstrum is saved because it's the one plant in my garden that, when in bloom, takes my breath away every time I see it. Plus, bees love it. Wait, I sure hope somebody saves a couple of bees!

Elizabeth liked my "there is no way I could go on in a tomato-less world" statement.  Another illustration of the power of the tomato!

Congrats to all the other winners and a huge thank you to Elizabeth and Troy-Bilt for hosting the contest.  It was a lot of fun.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Garden: Earwig Defender Extraordinaire?

Earwig_on_tin I moved into this house on May 24th, 2004. Since then, every year precisely on June 6th, Earwigs take over my house scaring the crap outta me. Until now.

We don't have earwigs in the south. At least I never saw any in Tennessee. So when I started finding them in my basement, then the bathroom, I asked somebody at work and that's when I learned about the "Earwig". The tale is that they crawl into the ears of people while they sleep and lay eggs there, right by your brain. That is so freaky, right? We actually called an exterminator the first year, they were so bad.

Well I'm astonished to report that it's already July 12th and I've not seen a single Earwig in the house. Since the only thing that's different this year is that I've planted a garden, I'm crediting the garden for saving me from the earwigs.

Earwigs like warm damp places so it's possible that they prefer the mulch outside to the basement and bathroom. I have seen a few outdoors and that's fine with me. I don't hate them. They just aren't allowed in my house on the count of I'm terrified of bugs crawling on me while I sleep. (remind me to tell you about the time I had a live gnat in my ear)

Yet another reason gardening rocks.

What's your favorite unexpected gardening benefit?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Edited: a little clearer but still way too small. Sorry.


More Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Close Look At Squash Vine Borer Eggs

2008_0706image0047 After discovering a Squash Vine Borer worm on my Yellow Zucchini yesterday I needed to try to save my plant.

I didn't do anything fancy.  I simply cut off the damaged stems.  I had no idea that squash stems were hollow! 

Here's what I found while performing surgery on the Zucchini (above).  See the little red dots?  I think those are Squash Vine Borer eggs.  Worse, they are not just on the one plant, I found them on all four Zucchini plants.   My homemade natural remedy failed.  Bummer.  I wiped away all the red dots I found but I'm sure I missed some.

bug killer So, I headed up to my new favorite store Green Home Experts (on Oak Park Ave. for you Chicagoland folks)where I found this natural insecticide, Sharp Shooter.  It's made with clove and peppermint oils.  I treated my entire kitchen garden today.  I'm hoping that the spray will get rid of the red eggs before they hatch. 

Stay tuned for regular updates on my war against the evil Squash Vine Borer. 

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Looking For Evidence Of Squash Vine Borer Damage


Organic gardening sure can be stressful, and gross!

This year I'm trying to grow Yellow Zucchini for the Growing Challenge. Isn't the flower pretty? Well, don't get too excited.

2008_0629image0006The other day I spotted this ugly bug and was promptly informed that it's a Squash Vine Borer.

So I rushed out and hosed down my entire kitchen garden with this concoction that I made with cayenne pepper and proceeded to go into denial about the part where Gina in Ohio said it was probably too late and that this gross bug had likely already laid eggs that had hatched and were now inside the squash.



Then last night Carol at May Dreams Garden gave me a stern talking to over on Plurk about getting my butt out there to look for damage. So I compromised and snapped a few pictures so that I could investigate on my laptop, far away from the yuck.

Here are 2 of the plants (above) and they look pretty good, right? No obvious sign of damage.


Then there's this one. I noticed that it looks very dark (almost black) around the bottom.

Then there's that one stem over on the right that is brown and, well, dead looking. Take a closer look.


Holy Mackerel! That has got to be the most disgusting thing I've seen in a while.

The Squash Vine Borer eggs hatch and the baby worms (pictured on the left) bore into the stem of the plant where they grow into full size worms that literally suck the life out of the poor squash.

Apparently I can perform some sort of surgical operation on the plant to try to save it but I'm really inclined to just rip the entire thing out and throw it in the trash. I'm planning to sleep on this and decide what to do in the morning. I wish I knew if the dark blackish part meant that the entire thing is infested because that'd help me make the decision to compost it.

What should I do? Trash the plant or perform surgery on it? And please do not vote if you are only interested in picturing me out there puking and freaking out over the site of this disgustingness.