Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mystery Solved: Milkweed Edition

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You were right - it's Milkweed

I'm guessing this is more likely memory lapse than serendipity.  I did start some of these from seed that GB gave me but I have no recollection of planting this in the front garden.  But, since it's the identical one that I was oohing and ahhing over at her house last year, I'm assuming that's exactly what it is. 

Either way, I love it and I'm planting way more of it next year if I can remember to grab the seeds.  Since this one is located in my front garden and I rarely go out to the front garden, I've yet to see any actual butterflies.  Next year I'll plant them in the back so that I can see them from my kitchen window and I'll be ready when the butterflies show up!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Kitchen Gardening Expansion: Day One A Virtual Bust

But let me explain...

2008_0919image0002 I'm the type of person who needs a lot of planning time.  By "planning time" I mean I need to see things drawn out on paper.  I need months to agonize over it.  I need people to tell me how I should design stuff so that I can disagree with them and haggle back and forth with them over trivial details until I finally achieve clarity or give up from  mental exhausted.  The reason I'm such a freakazoid over this stuff  is because I simply cannot stand the feeling of regret.  It's too uncomfortable for me - it makes me feel bad about myself and who needs that? 

I blame Pie Guy and GB for this unproductive gardening day.  You see, they've abandoned me.  We used to be able to spend a few minutes per day planning (arguing over) my next garden move but now GB has a new job and Pie Guy has gone off to medical school so I'm all along (cue the violin!)  Yes I know that we can still discuss by phone and email and it's not as though GB has moved to a whole different state preventing us from ever getting together (cough cough Pie Guy) but it's just not the same. 

2008_0919image0006 So yesterday I had my  what-if-my-design-sucks freak out, during the planned work session eliminating any chance at productivity.  Not a single plant was dug up, not a single blade of grass removed.  I mostly just sat on the patio staring at the area we'd marked off, hating the entire plan. 

I. My original plan

  1. Small enclosed kitchen garden area.
  2. Two 3x3 foot compost bins at the back by the privacy fence
  3. Four 4x4 raised beds.
  4. 3 foot path down the center of the two beds and 2 foot path around the rest.
  5. 1 foot raised beds on the left and right sides for strawberries.

II. Problems with original plan

  1. Small ended up being way bigger than I'd expected and I still have this ridiculous paranoia about grass removal.  Even though we've decided we're never moving, I can't stop thinking about resale.
  2. The space is entirely too big to only hold four 4x4 beds. 
  3. The paths, though very necessary, take up too much garden real estate.
  4. It makes my yard seem freakishly boxy, square, harsh.  The house is square, the patio is square, the garage is square, the basketball court is square and here I am inserting another square. 
  5. Surrounding the new garden with a fence seems like it would ruin the scale of the garden compared to the rest of the yard.
  6. I didn't want to move that many plants.  I thought I'd just need to move things from the Spirea to the Weigela but as it turns out I'd need to remove the Iris, Sweet Autumn Clematis and a bunch of other stuff.  I have not had any time at all to agonize over where that stuff should be relocated to.

III. Possible new plans (what's your favorite?)

  1. Scratch the fence all together and keep existing plan. see section I.
  2. Scratch fence and extend the garden further toward the house making it less square and giving me more raised beds.  Still move all the plants along the fence so that the compost area and raised beds are butted right up against the privacy fence. 
  3. Keep existing plants where the are (all along the fence) and place two 4x4 raised beds side by side along from the edge of the garage flower beds to the edge of the house foundation flower beds.  Make all paths 3 feet to accommodate little red wagon or make 3 foot path before each next set of 4x4 beds to accommodate little red wagon and 2 foot path up the center for walking.  Place narrow strawberry beds on each end in the front.  No fence.

Here's the problem.  I just ordered garlic and was really hoping to have a place to plant it but come to find out, it seems I'm so early in the decision making process that I can't imagine have a bed ready to go by the time it arrives. 

HELP! 

More posts about Kitchen Garden Expansion 2008

Prelude To A Kitchen Garden Expansion

Kitchen Garden Expansion: Before Picture

Friday, September 19, 2008

Kitchen Garden Expansion: Before Picture

Yesterday when I posted my tentative kitchen garden expansion plan many of you asked for a before picture.  Ask and ye shall receive! 

2008_0919image0021 Here's the general area where the new garden will be installed.  

You can see one of the existing 4x4 raised beds in this frame.  That'll be removed.  I'm not sure of the dimensions of the new garden yet but it will not take up this entire space.  I'm simply trying to give you a wide view of the general area. 

Check back later today for Day 1 wrap-up.  I've got work to do!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Prelude To A Kitchen Garden Expansion

I'm expanding my kitchen garden and tomorrow is the big day! Garden Buddy is coming over first thing in the morning and we'll get to work.

So that you can keep up with our progress, here's some important information.

Goals
Remove big hunk of backyard to reduce grass mowing.
Increase the growing space for fruits and veggies.

Plan
  1. Mark off area using strings and stakes.
  2. Move established plants.
  3. Dig up Spirea Vanhoutte (I'll miss you!).
  4. Remove grass in the new garden area.
  5. Cultivate entire area.
  6. Build raised beds from wood that will last more than a couple of years (bad gardener!).
  7. Place weed barrier on paths.
  8. Cover paths with pea gravel.
  9. Fill beds with garden soil/compost mix.
  10. Move rain barrel to new garden.
  11. Build 2-3 bin compost system for back of new garden area.
  12. Build short fence around new garden area.
  13. Build Arbor at entrance of new garden area.
  14. Create path from patio to new garden. Material undecided.
  15. Wait for Spring!

I do not have a timeline established for this project yet on the count of my real job is sucking the life outta me. But, it's on the way! Stay tuned!

Friday, September 12, 2008

And The Chocolate Goes To...

2008_0906image0011 Thank you all who participated in the Dagoba Organic Chocolate contest. 

To enter, I asked that you leave a comment to tell me your favorite My Skinny Garden post.  This was so much fun for me!  In addition to giving away chocolate courtesy of the folks over at Dagoba, it was sort of like the People's Choice awards.  It was fun to see what posts people like the most and also gave me some ideas about the kinds of topics I should focus on in the future. 

Winners along with their favorite MSG post

Carol - Still Afraid To Dig

Mr. McGregor's Daughter - Garden Blogger's Geography Project: Forest Park, IL.

Camille Platt- Homemade Composter

Thanks to the rest of you for participating, too!  I wish I had chocolate for everybody!

Elizabeth Licata - The Garden: Earwig Defender Extraordinaire

Katie - No TGIF For Rabbit

Cindy, MYOK - Flawless Brandywine Takes Bronze In Garden Olympics

MA and Buddhist in the West- Chocolates and Gardening and Contests, Oh My!

Blackswamp Girl (Kim) and Tory - When A Tree Falls On A House

Heather - Bastard Garden Flower Arrangement

Debra C. - Watermelon and Worms (not sure if this is the one you are referring to, Debra)

GB - Weekend Warriors: Making Planter Boxes With Garden Buddy

Agnes (the sister of the Garden Buddy) - Pergola Part 3

Carol, MMD, Camille - please email me your home address and I'll get your chocolate in the mail to you right away.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's Brag About Your Blog Day At MSG!

bragging One of my favorite blogs to read is Pro Blogger. Last month Darren wrote a post that I really loved where he encouraged everybody to write a comment to brag about your blog. There are so many great blogs out there but sometimes they are hard to find.

So, today I'm asking you to use my blog to brag about your blog! Leave a comment with the link to your blog(s) and tell us what your blog is about. You can even leave your Twitter and/or Plurk name if you would like some new friends on those applications. This is not limited to gardening blogs!

Also, please take the time to go over and visit some of the blogs listed in the comment section. You may find a new one that you love to read.

Technorati Tags:

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Chocolate And Gardening And Contests - Oh My!

2008_0906image0005 If I had to name a food that I love as much as I do gardening, it'd be chocolate, hands down. Spaghetti is a close second  So imagine the delight when I discovered Dagoba Organic Chocolate,  an organic chocolate company who has aligned themselves with gardening. 

Check out their great Seed The Day website complete with free seeds and a place to tell them what flavor of chocolate bar they ought to make next.  There's also a spot to submit your garden photo (look for my giant Romanesco Broccoli). 

Dagoba Organic Chocolate is a company who is "committed to creating a deeply satisfying chocolate in a socially responsible way."  Doesn't this sound too good to be true?  They do it through their Full Circle Sustainability initiative which you can read about here

Here's what Dagoba's Brand Ambassador, an avid gardener, wrote when I asked her to contribute a few words for my blog.

"Dagoba Organic Chocolate was founded with a passion for exceptional cacao and respect for the land and people that nurtured it. Today, that passion still drives our company and inspired us to plant 60,000 cacao trees in Costa Rica to improve economic opportunity for small farmers, restore native biodiversity and provide habitat for wildlife. The urban gardening movement has similar aspects - culinary adventure, beautifying our surroundings and contributing to the sustainability of our communities - all things we are passionate about.  So it made perfect sense for us to create "Seed the Day" as a way to link our efforts in Costa Rica with the lives of chocolate lovers back in the U.S.    It's also connected directly to our chocolate.  Dagoba has always infused our chocolate with herbs and botanicals such as lavender, mint, rosemary, and more recently seeds and other delicious natural flavors such as lemon and ginger.  These are all things people can grow and explore in their home gardens.  We're happy to give away free chocolate and seeds. We hope they inspire people to go on their own culinary adventures, exploring exotic pairings and combinations with what they grow."

- Liz Kaplan, brand ambassador for Dagoba Organic Chocolate

2008_0906image0002 Speaking of "giving away chocolate" - I'm giving away some chocolate!  Thank you Dagoba for sending these awesome Organic Chocolate Bars for me to share with my readers.  But, I gotta tell you, when I opened that box and that mind-blowing chocolate smell reached my nose, I seriously considered eating it all myself.  

Here's a list of what I've got to give away, thank you Kim V! 

Mint 59% - The refreshment of mint, with a hint of rosemary for relaxation. Perfect for after dinner.

Seeds 68% - Rich dark chocolate is studded with healthy, flavorful hemp, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and finished with a sprinkling of Balinese Sea Salt.

Lemon-Ginger 68% - Crystallized ginger and lemon is refreshing and rejuvenating.

Super Fruit 74% - Acai, goji berries, and currants offer natural antioxidants and delicious flavor.

Lavender Blueberry 59% - Lavender instills calm, blueberries offer antioxidants. A subtle floral experience.

New Moon 74% - Pure bittersweet perfection. One of Dagoba’s best seller.

Xocolatl 74% - Chilies, nibs, spices, vanilla. The Aztec’s enchanting cacao elixir.

The contest is simple.  Just leave a comment to tell me what your favorite post on My Skinny Garden was.  I'll pick 3 winners from a random drawing of the entries and each winner will receive 2 Dagoba Organic Chocolate bars. (I pick the flavors but I will check with the winners to make sure they're not allergic to any of the ingredients - there will be no death-by-chocolate on my watch.  All bars are Kosher) I'll draw the winners next Friday September 12th.  Don't wanna bother with the contest?  You can order these online or pick them up at your local Whole Foods Market.

PS I've decided my new dream job is "Chocolate Ambassador".  Dagoba, call me!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Plotting My Next Big Garden Move: Kitchen Garden Expansion

Now that  few months have passed since finishing all my outdoor projects (pergola, patio), I'm really itching to do something amazing in my garden, again. 

In my effort to be more like the Dervaes or at least get a little closer to Urban Homesteading, I've decided to significantly expand my kitchen gardens.  Here's my kitchen garden history

  • 2007 chose a big awkward spot just beyond the patio (AKA big pile of rubble) and threw down weed cloth over the area (around 8 x 10).  Things grew great, the weed control was awesome and despite the ugly factor, the location was prime for sunlight and maintenance.
  • 2008 built 2 4 x 4 raised beds which I used as temporary leaf compost holders over the winter.  I like that they are contained and raised but the weed control was non-existent and plants are not thriving like they should due to the over-crowding.

For 2009 I'd like to build more raised beds using cedar this time (GB, you were right!) and a more of them!  I'd also like to be able to place a short cute fence around the kitchen garden area to keep the bastard rabbits out. 

I'll be removing a big section of my backyard for this expansion.  I'm not exactly sure of the dimensions yet but I'd like it to accommodate a minimum of (4) 4 x 4 raised beds a maximum of (6) 4 x 8 beds.  I'd also like to have narrow raised beds around the interior perimeter that I could fill with strawberries and a place in the back for my rain barrel and a 2-3 bin compost system.

I have an official plan drawn by Pie Guy (remember he did the official pergola plan, too) which I'd love to share with you but my stupid scanner is broken. 

I'd love to get this done in time to plant garlic.  Anybody know when's the latest I can plant garlic in zone 5?

More to come on the urban homestead project.  GB, call me! 

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Garden Of The Magnificent Mile: Chicks 4-6

Here are the last of the chick pics I have from the display gardens of the Magnificent Mile, "where style blooms" this summer.  This time you get 3 for the price of one.  

I found that these chicks being fully clothed made them quite boring.  Does that make me a freak?

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"Social Butterfly" top right, "Erica's Island top left"

2008_0823image0036 "Table Stories"

I do not get this name at all.  Somebody help me out.

See more chicks from the Gardens of the Magnificent Mile here.