Sunday, August 31, 2008

Squash Vine Borer: That's A Wrap

2008_0817image0008 The 4 squash plants started from seed that I direct sowed are so through!  They produced a mere two edible squash.  The worst part about it is that I cooked the two Golden Zucchini in a casserole from a recipe I found at Skippy's Vegetable Garden and although the casserole looked yummy, we decided we hate zucchini.  If I'd known that, I could have let the evil squash vine borer win a long time ago. 

2008_0817image0010 What I noticed was that, even though I'd made many attempts to control the squash vine borer, they attacked the plants from ground-level up.  The stems became really rotten looking but still kept flowering and the ends looked pretty darn healthy.  But, because the stems were so infected, they were not able to efficiently send water to the flowers so I had to water constantly!  In fact, I wondered if I had watered them several times per day if they would have kept growing and producing.  But, at some point along the way I started not caring that much about the stupid gold zucchini. 

2008_0817image0044 I will not be growing this again next year, not because of the squash vine borrer invasion (I would totally win the battle next year.  KNOW THAT!) but because we don't like to eat them.  But, if I were growing them again, here's what I'd do to prevent the invasion.

Start treating the plants with Sharp Shooter on a weekly basis as soon as they are a few inches tall.  I think I discovered these evil bugs way too late but I do believe the sharp shooter works because the actual bugs definitely did not like it.  It's a great organic pest control.

As much as I hate to do it, I'll be writing this crop down in the failure column.  Good luck zucchini growers! May the force be with you.

see more squash vine borer posts here

see more growing challenge posts here

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gardens of the Magnificent Mile: Chick #3

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This is another one of the cool chicks being displayed in the Gardens of the Magnificent  Mile this summer.  Her dress (can you really call this a dress?) is made mostly from bottle caps.  OUCH! 

It's called "Recap".

See more chicks here

Friday, August 29, 2008

Insert Catchy Gourd Title Here

2008_0829image0004 It's Friday and I'm doing the happy dance because my Luffa Gourd vine finally flowered!

I planted this vine from seed (botanical interests) way back on March 1st 2008.

When I read about the real long growing season that Luffa Gourds need I was 2008_0829image0005 left feeling pretty hopeless that I'd ever be bathing using a home grown Luffa. But, now that I have an actual flower, I'm more hopeful. Still, it's already almost September, so I need this bad boy to move it along, STAT!

If you've grown Luffa Gourd before, I'd love to hear your story.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

What The Heck Is This: Weed Edition

2008_0828image0083 I have a couple of these, dare I say flowers, growing in my front yard garden.  I'd assumed it was some kind of weed except the rock star landscaper guy keeps leaving them. 

This morning I noticed one of them has these little red things. I can't really tell if they are berries or flowers about to open.2008_0828image0084

Can somebody help me ID this thing?

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The History Of A House

A couple of weeks ago I participated in my first ever "block party".  Our street was blocked off from 10:00 am until midnight and the fire department stopped by for the kids to play on their truck.  No, I did not climb on the fire truck.

Besides quadrupling the number of people I know in our community, the best thing about the block party was hearing the history of our house.

It turns out that our house was the first one built on our side of the street in 1954.  Prior to that, a railroad ran right down where our alley is now.  That explains why I always hit rocks when digging towards the back of our property. 

The people who live two doors down from me have lived here since their house was first built and they told us that the houses sold for 30,000 - 35,000 back in the day, which really pisses me off. 

2007_0604image0004 Remember last year when I posted about the big random concrete slab in my backyard (the torture deck) wondering what it was?  Well, I found out that the owners who lived here the longest were Ham radio operators and the dude actually had a big tower mounted on that slab. 

When I researched it on the Internet I found tons of pictures of the foundation that is built for these radios and they all looked just like ours with the 3 steel posts sticking up in a triangle shape. ham tower

Now I'm dying to find some pictures of our block when it was all railroad an no house, and I'd love to see our backyard with a big radio tower back there in the middle of my now garage garden.

image from k9ape.com

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cardinal Vine Goes Bananas

2008_0823image0027 This is the Red Cardinal Vine that I planted from seed.  I placed it here beneath the very ugly railing that is mounted on either side of my front porch. 

When I planted it, I envisioned it trailing gracefully around the vertical bars of the railing and showing off it's super red flowers.  But, as you can see, it has gone crazy and now when I look at it, it reminds me of a horror movie where some plant (or spider web) takes over the house, killing all the occupants. 

I planted a couple other seedlings in containers, but they did not do well at all.  Instead of "trailing", they are just sticking straight up out of the container, only a couple of inches tall, wondering where the hell they are. 

Have you had success with Cardinal Vine in containers?  What's your secret?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Gardens Of The Magnificent Mile: Chick #1

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If you've ever been to Chicago you know that Michigan Avenue, specifically The Magnificent Mile, has beautiful gardens just about all the time.  And if you are lucky to be shopping when they are changing gardens at the end of the tulip season, they'll even give away the tulips as they rip them out. 

Yesterday while walking to an appointment on Michigan Ave. I noticed the current garden displays featured in The Gardens of Magnificent Mile.  It's chicks dressed in funny/interesting/weird stuff sitting right in the middle of the gardens!  It's funky and I love funky.

They are sponsored by businesses and I think you can even bid on them if you like.  I wonder what it would cost me to have one of these chicks sitting in the middle of my garden.  I also wondered what it would cost me to set one of these up with a card sponsored by My Skinny Garden.  Now that's my kind of blog advertising!

Here's the first one I ran across, which also turned out to be my favorite.  Can you guess why?  It's called God's Creation and it's from Moore Landscapes.

The theme is "Where Fashion Blooms".  Catchy, or Corny?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It's Official - I love Aster's!

Here's what's blooming in my front yard garden this morning.

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I grew all these from seed, thank you very much!

What do you say?  Show us your Asters!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Happy Friday!

I'm cooking up a contest that will start next week. There will be prizes, very delicious prizes!

Check back next week for details (and possible clues if I get creative) and have yourself a fabulous weekend.

By the way, what's your favorite day of the week, and why? Mine is Friday. Friday evening, specifically. I love that it's the end of the work week and I know that for 2 straight mornings I don't need to be anywhere on time. Our new Friday night tradition is homemade pizza and fruit smoothies.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Reminiscing About Southern Fried Corn

fried corn Today, the folks over at Dinner Tonight and A Way To Garden are hosting the next installment of the cross-blog food fest staring Corn.

I don't really eat corn all that much and I've never grown it in my garden because (a.) I don't think I have enough space and (b.) it has always seemed like one of those veggies that only very experienced gardeners grow and something I'm just not ready for yet.

When I think of corn I am always reminded of my great grandmother who lived in Clarksville, Tennessee. She made the best fried corn in the world. It had a wonderful sweet and sour flavor and somehow she cooked it exactly long enough to be tender, yet perfectly crunchy. Unfortunately I never got the recipe from her before she died and I've tried, unsuccessfully, several times to make it. I can see her now, standing in her rather dinky old kitchen slicing the homegrown corn right off the cob into a big old cast iron skillet before she added her secret ingredients. I have no idea what she used to make that fried corn but I do remember that my great grandmother dipped snuff and kept a metal container embossed with the word "grease" on the stove at all times so I'm pretty sure she used things like lard, lots of salt and sugar. Nowadays that stuff is banned from most houses (including mine) because they are not particularly healthy, but my great grandmother lived to 94 eating this stuff, so you be the judge.

Side Note: We called my great-grandparents "Other Momma and Other Daddy" all our lives and I had no clue that it was odd until one of my friends looked at me like I had 3 heads when I said "my other momma blah blah blah..." I'm sure "other momma" must have been the way they explained the grandparent relationship to my mother who spent a lot of time with them when she was young.

My great grandmother made all kinds of delicious southern dishes that I never really appreciated because I was at that picky eating age where I thought just about everything was gross. Now that I'm "more mature" and even trying my hand at gardening I'm really regretting not taking the time to get gardening lessons from Other Daddy and cooking lessons from Other Momma.

Anybody have a healthier recipe for fried corn?

Be sure to visit Dinner Tonight and A Way To Garden for more cornsational blog posts.

image from delishfood.wordpress.com

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Flawless Brandywine Takes The Bronze At Garden Olympics

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Until the Garden Olympics, I thought I was just biased in my adoration for this beautiful tomato.  Well now it's an award winner!  Mary Ann over at Idaho Garden hosted the first ever Garden Olympics and my tomato was one of the bronze medallists!  Thanks again, IG!

Here are some FAQ's about my bronze medallist:

  1. How do we know you didn't pick the tomato and allow it to ripen in the window, reducing the chance of cracking and other badness?  You don't!  But, hey, I'm an honorable woman so you should just take my word for it.  As soon as I picked this tomato I ran in the house to show it to my boyfriend who was unimpressed, as usual.  
  2. What's so special about a flawless tomato?  I buy them all the time at the grocery. Umm have you ever tried to grow tomatoes?  They taste way better than grocery store ones but they tend to be kinda ugly (cracks, holes, animal bites) and it is especially hard to grow pretty heirloom ones because they have not been genetically engineered to resist diseases like the hybrids have. 
  3. How did the tomato taste?  No clue.  It's sitting in my kitchen window on display, still.  In fact I may have waited too late to even eat it.  Sad, I know. 
  4. How can I grow flawless rock star tomatoes like this?  Get yourself an heirloom Brandywine tomato plant or buy some seeds (next year, it's too late in the season now), plant it, stake it, water it, ignore it, pray.
  5. How many tomatoes were in the competition that this tomato won? Just mine, I think.  Hey, don't judge me!  It's still a bronze medallist!  Show some respect!
  6. Where'd you get the plant that this tomato came from?  From our local chain grocery Jewel.  They had a few heirloom varieties this year and I bought 3.  The other two were Sausage Tomato and Black Krim.  Neither as pretty as the Brandywine.

I know, I've really exploited this poor tomato and I'm vowing here before you and the e-Gods not to write any more posts about it.   Sorry, I don't have kids so I brag on my tomatoes, instead. 

Monday, August 18, 2008

Garden Blogger's Design Workshop: Trellises and Screens

Garden Blogger's Design Workshop is a monthly event hosted by the cool kids over at Gardening Gone Wild.  They pick the design topic and we show our stuff.

August is all about Trellises and Screens and even though I don't have a bunch of them, I do have a couple to show off. 

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When I started gardening last year, I was amazed at the high price of basic (some very ugly) trellises.  I paid about $13 dollars each for these cheapy ones that I hung on the back of my garage.  This is the view I see from my kitchen window and since it's such an important part of my garden, I knew I wanted something to support vines growing up my garage. 

2008_0817image0022 After paying what I considered too much for those proper trellises, I decided to start looking for materials to make my own trellis.  That's when I found this old window that had been thrown in the alley for the trash man to pick up.  I removed all the glass and now it's the backdrop for my not-yet-blooming Sweet Autumn Clematis. 

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I've learned that you can use just about anything as a trellis, like the rail to the porch which I covered with Cardinal Vine.  I planted this from seed and it has gone bananas! 

I don't own any screens yet but I have a feeling after I catch up on all the awesome design entries I'll be looking for one of those next. 

Be sure to stop over at Gardening Gone Wild to check out all the other great entries for this month's Garden Blogger's Design Workshop.  It's a free easy way to get garden design ideas!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Garden Olympics

Idaho Gardener has come up with a fantastic way for us garden blogger's to get in on the Olympic festivities.  Our very own Garden Olympics.  The best thing is that I can pick my own categories! 

This is the best idea I've heard in a long time.  Thank you Idaho Gardener for finally coming up with a way to get me interested in the Summer Olympics! 

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Biggest, Most Beautiful Broccoli To Never Bear Fruit: Romanesco

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Most Flawless Organic Heirloom Tomato: Brandywine

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Most Petals On A Single Zinnia: Green Envy

Be sure to stop over at Idaho Gardener to see all the other entries for the first (annual? I hope) ever Garden Olympics. 

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day August 2008

I'm late, I know.  I did ask Carol to postpone bloom day till the end of the month on the count of I was unprepared and she basically told me to go fish.   I love bloom day but I find that there are really no provisions for slackers like me. 

Here's what's blooming in my garden this weekend.

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Be sure to stop over at May Dreams Garden where Carol hosts Garden Blogger's Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tomato Fest - Now That's My Kinda Fest!

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In case you haven't heard, Deb from Dinner Tonight and Margaret from A Way To Garden have been hosting a cross blog food fest every Thursday for the last few weeks and this week is all about Tomatoes.  I am so down with this topic but before I go on I have two complaints for Deb and Margaret. 

  1. The Tomato should have been first because it's way more awesome than even, *gasp*, sliced bread.
  2. The Tomato deserves an entire week!  How can one possible sing the praises of the glorious tomato in one day? 

I cannot remember when my love affair with the tomato started, but I know I've loved them longer than any boy, pet or favorite pair of shoes.  From the plain old tomato sandwich to the runny-nose inducing Arrabbiatta sauce, the tomato is the most versatile delicious food ever.  They are great served raw or cooked and even though I don't have a prostate, they are good for your prostate!

When I started growing my own tomatoes last year, my tomato love affair morphed to new levels as I tried new varieties and made things that I struggle to justify purchasing ($$) at the grocery.   Here's what I'm doing with my tomatoes these days. 

The Basic Tomato Sammich (see actual tomato sammich here)

Spread mayonnaise liberally on 2 pieces of good quality whole grain bread.  Place thickly sliced tomatoes (choose meaty ones like Brandywine) on bread. Sprinkle salt and pepper on tomatoes.  Enjoy sandwich with plenty of napkins to wipe the tomato juice from your chin.  Mom, I still haven't forgiven you for growing me up with salad dressing instead of mayo.  It is because of you that I missed out on 30 years of tomato-sandwich-goodness.  Shame on you!

Homemade Salsa

Place whole ripe tomatoes and whole ripe jalapenos on heated barbecue grill until skins of tomatoes break away from the flesh.  Peal skin from tomatoes and remove core, then throw them in the blender and pulse to chop.  Pour blended tomatoes in bowl then add one coarsely chopped tomato (with skin), thinly chopped jalapenos (be sure to remove the seeds or you'll catch on fire), the juice from 1/4 of a fresh lemon, salt and pepper, a couple tablespoons of white vinegar and whatever fresh herbs you like (try basil or oregano or cilantro).  Chill the salsa for a couple of hours before serving so that the flavors marry.  This recipe came from a Mexican girl I work with who makes the best salsa ever.  In the words of my future father-in-law "this is perfect salsa! Not too hot, it's just right." 

2008_0814image0011 Sundried Tomatoes

Cut ends off of paste tomatoes like Roma, San Marzano or Heirloom Sausage tomatoes (I grew sausage for the first time this year).  Cut tomatoes in half long-ways.  Place on food dehydrator far enough apart that the tomatoes are not touching.  Dry until leathery.  Place in jar and fill with olive oil.  I adore sundried tomatoes on homemade pizza but rarely buy them because they are so expensive.  I plan to dry enough to last the entire year so goodbye expensive store bought sundried tomatoes!

Give Away Tomatoes

One of my favorite things to do with my tomatoes is give them away to people who love tomatoes but don't grow them.  I send small sealed bags of cherry and grape tomatoes with my guy to work where he gives them to his favorite tomato loving coworkers. The best part is writing "organic cherry/grape tomatoes" on the package. 

I could go on and on about the great things you can do with the magical tomato but in the interest of time I'll stop here and send you over to Dinner Tonight for more tomato-awesomeness.  I'm off to dehydrate my next batch of tomatoes before work!

What's your favorite thing to do with tomatoes?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Little Red Wagon For Grown-ups

2008_0810image0087 A few weeks ago I won this awesome Troy-Bilt garden cart in a contest hosted by Elizabeth over at Garden Rant. Thanks again, Elizabeth!

Well, being the lazy bastard that I am, it sat (in its box) in the living room for a while, then got moved (in its box) to the patio for a while where it endured several monsoon-type storms.

Yesterday I finally mustered up the motivation to assemble it. The main reason yesterday had to be the day is that I had about 12 new plants sitting on the basketball court that I needed to plant in the front yard garden and It was either assemble this thing, or walk back and forth about 6-8 times cursing myself for putting off assembling the cart for another weekend.

The cart wasn't particularly difficult to assemble but given my crabby mood, I decided it'd be a lot easier if I was a rocket scientist. What a pain in the ass! I seriously needed an assistant but finally finished it after a little over 1.5 hours. The funny thing was that I ended up with a couple of "extra" pieces including a bunch of screws. I agonized all day today about how I could have possibly assembled this bad ass looking cart but somehow missed these two huge pieces. Then, after I'd loaded all my plants into the cart and started toward the front garden I thought to myself, "I wish there was a place to carry tools on this thing." SHAZAMM! So, that's what the extra pieces were for! They are tool holders! That's genius!

2008_0810image0084 I am so in love with this cart already. First off it's red which rocks. And second, the really big tires make for a really smooth ride. I rode over my uneven walkway effortlessly - I hardly even felt the bumps! It made me remember back last year when I ordered the load of topsoil and bitched and moaned with every single load that I struggled not to tip over as I moved it only a few feet to the flower beds. Now I want to order more dirt (or mulch which I really need) just to try this sucker out. It's got a removable front door for easy dumping.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Colorful Harvest

2008_0803image0074 This is the most colorful harvest I've had yet.  It's red onions, lemon cucumber, tomatoes and bush beans. 

I love the heirloom lemon cucumber but I wish they were either way bigger or produced 2008_0803image0079 way more. 

They are also like porcupines with little prickly things on them.  I'll definitely be growing them again!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Romanesco Broccoli, Not Your Average Ornamental Vegetable

2008_0803image0070 This is my Romanesco Broccoli plant that I started from seed indoors.  These seeds, along with the Lemon Cucumber, were sent free with my order from Baker Creek seed company.

As you can see, this thing is enormous.  It has never produced a single head of broccoli, probably because I planted it at the wrong time (as usual).  And, even though it is hogging nearly an entire 4x4 bed (I only have 2 beds, by the way) I can't bring myself to pull it out. 

I'm so in love with the big beautiful blue metallic looking leaves. 

I figure that, at some point this thing will either start producing broccoli, go to seed, or become a tree.  I'll be the only person on the planet with a broccoli tree!

Do you have something growing in your garden that makes absolutely no sense other than you like the way it looks?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Garden Whimsy

This month's Garden Design Workshop being hosted by the Gardening Gone Wild clan is one of my favorite topics to hate on, Garden Whimsy.

I fully admit that I'm a snob but I really don't like most garden whimsy.  I find the vast majority of it to be extremely corny (especially the kitchy kind).  But last year after I attended my first garden walk, I was bitten by the whimsy bug when I realized that I felt much more comfortable in the gardens that had it than those that didn't.  I realized that, in addition to sitting around being cute, whimsy in a garden draws you in for a closer look. 

You can tell a whole lot about a gardener by paying attention to their whimsy.  Here's mine.

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If you had to judge me by my whimsy, what kind of person would you think I am?