Friday, May 31, 2013

A child's imagination

Sometimes things just happen. Like over the winter Brother was putting dishes away and one of my favorite tea mugs fell from the cabinet. This is a cup that was given to me by a dear friend and it was great for my magic sleepy tea another friend makes me (it helps me get to sleep).

The cup missing the broken part
I looked at the cup and was sad. Pooka swore we could reuse it so "Mommy wouldn't have to get rid of it." I was skeptical, but didn't want to drink out of a superglued cup, so I set it aside to figure out come spring.

A new house for fairies
Spring comes, and I found the cup in the garden cabinet. Pooka looked at it and said it was a house. We turned the cup over, and the broken part did look rather doorway shaped. Next thing I knew Pooka was looking for the perfect place in the front bed for the baby fairies to live. After a bit it came to rest at the bottom of my lilac tree since she said that it needed the fairies to take care of it. I will admit it has had some transplant shock, but its holding on, and maybe this is what it needs. Maybe.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tidying up

With all the transplanting, a few more minor things have been pushed to the side. As a result, it seemed that everything was getting a tad untidy. Now while this didn't mother me too much, it was one more thing I needed to work on. In times like now where I am trying to play catch up, that one more thing can drive me nuts.

A perfect example of this was that the sunflowers needed tired up. It is a five minute job, but one that gets put on the back burner way too easily.
Sunflowers before
 The sunflowers had fallen over, the weeds were getting bad mostly due to the rain, and you could barely see some of our sunflowers. 10 minutes, the plant tape and a pair of garden shears and it looked much much better. You could really see the height the sunflowers have started to reach. A few will be needing taller supports very soon. I am happy to say we only lost one velvet sunflower. The velvets are smaller, but they look healthy.
Sunflowers after
 Another thing I realized this morning was that the tomatillos are getting fairly good sized, and would need some support soon. Especially with all the flowers on them. I was getting worried if I didn't them some support soon, I may not be able to get a tomato cage on them.
Tomatillos before
During the tomatillo caging process, we had one flower that was given in sacrifice to the gardening gods. May they have a wonderful harvest as we hope to.
The tomatillo for the gods
 After a bit of trial and error between me and Pooka (especially since I have never used a real tomato cage before) we got the tomatillos supported. You can really start to see how much they have grown. We hope to get some good crops out of them.
Tomatillos after
While I had the cages out, I realized I really needed to get them on "Captain Eggplant" as Pooka calls him. That is the name that the Growum's call it, and thats what she has decided their names are. Anyway, Captain Eggplant and his little buddy were getting rather big as well and I wanted to get them supported since supposedly they can get a bit heavy as well.
Eggplant before
 A bit less fumbling from Pooka and I and we had the cages on. However, I forgot that since they are in pots, the cage won't go down as far as they will in the dirt, so they stand up a bit taller. But this should help the eggplants from trying to take over the deck.
Eggplant after
I did manage to get the peas connected to the trellis and the deck a bit better this afternoon. However, I was running in and out between storms, so there is no good pictures. I can say for certain we have not only flowers on our peas, but I saw a few pea pods as well. Pooka might be able to harvest her first pea in the coming days.
While there is still plenty to do (trellis's for the morning glory, squash and zuchinni, weeding, start corralling the tomatoes, ect), it is nice to be able to say the day was not wasted, and I knocked off a few things off the old list. 4 things done. 200 to go.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A gift from a friend

Pooka was playing at her friend K's house the other day. K has her own garden that is mostly flowers, but her mom has a veggie garden like Pooka.  K's mom said she had some extra flower seeds and asked if Pooka would like some. Pooka... Free seeds... yeah they came home.

Turns out K's grandmother found them in a closet where she works. She had tons of them. Like any good grandmother, she brought them home for K and her siblings. K's mom, having probably 30 packets decided to share the wealth.
Free Seeds for a Pooka
Now, as I have said many times, I do not understand flowers. If I am going to work for it, I want food. However, make it free, and we can try it. and while I have no idea what a Zinnia even is, I figure its worth a start and then we can go from there. Just a day later, Pooka was asking when she could plant these seeds. We pulled out our newly emptied blue pot, put a tad bit of dirt in it and Pooka planted some seeds.
Zinnia is in the blue with basil and dill in the other pots
It has been a few days, and the sprouts have begun. These may need uppotted later, but until then, who knows. Maybe this is the year that Pooka gets to have some extra flowers running around.

Transplanting, transplanting.

That is all we have been doing of late. It seems that I am constantly dodging rain drops while I run outside and try to get a couple of plants in the ground or bigger pots. Sometimes I come in not looking too worse for wear, othertimes, I am pretty sure swamp thing would be a relation.

Pooka's new strawberry plant
Pooka has had plenty of time to enjoy digging her holes. She has named and counted every worm, and makes sure they all go back into the holes. And to her credit, she has hung in there, although I know planting 8 plants at a time can be a bit challenging for a 5 year old who would rather find some way to exercise "to get more energy."

Tomatoes and peppers all done
However, through all this, the regular broccoli and the cucumbers have been planted, all the hot peppers and tomatoes are now in homes. The tomatillos and the beans and the peas are settled in. The eggplant, some squash, zucchini and the mystery plant are getting comfy in their new pots.

Mystery plant all settled into a new home
While we still have some things to plant (the sweet peppers, a couple more squash, and about 8 new herbs) we are getting there. That is something to remember when you are dodging raindrops to plant, or when you sit on the ground and hear it go squish. Plus the more I plant now, the less I need to water. Mother Nature is taking care of that.

Squash in a recycling bin

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Just one more trip

As I get closer and closer to having the front beds finished, I realized that I forgot to plant parsley almost completly. Parsley of all things, which we use and dry all the time. This meant another trip to the nursery.

Pooka and I went to our favorite nursery and they had some very nice curly leaf parsley. But sadly they were out of flat leaf parsley and I love having both in the garden. So Daddy suggested restarting the seeds straight into the beds. It can't hurt right.

On the way out, Pooka found a curry plant. Pooka loves loves loves indian food so the smell alone made her very happy. I thought it would be rather nice to have a curry plant, and we had an extra spot or two to in the front bed. Pooka was able to talk us into a curry plant, that is going in one of our empty spots. I was sure I could figure out what to do with the leaves once I got it home.

Curry and parsley
Now its home, the curry and the curly leafed parsley is all planted and we managed to get some seeds for the front bed. Soon that bed will be all done, and I can may even start drying things in the next month or so. We have already been harvesting the herbs. It is so nice to have fresh herbs in the house again and the dollar a time in the yard is already adding up.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Holy Tomatoes

I can officially say that yesterday I got the last of the tomatoes in the ground. I now have over 30 tomatoes in the ground. I started so many planning for some dead loss, but have yet to have more then one or two die.

We have a bit of a method to putting tomatoes in the ground, so I thought I would show it to you. We did about 4-7 tomatoes a day for awhile to get through them all.
Most of our tomatoes
First we would check that there were no flowers on the tomato plants.  A couple did have flowers but we pulled them off so the plant could concentrate on roots when it was first planted. I don't have a picture of that step, so lets move on to step 2.

Step 2 is to pull back the mulch and dig a really nice deep hole. We were trying to stay with the square foot gardening method of one per square foot, and our bed here was 2 feet wide which allowed us to go 2 deep with them. Since they are in the sunniest spot in our yard, I am not as worried about the back ones not getting enough sun.

Nice deep hole.
Step 3 is a bit gross. We have been saving egg shells for awhile. Once we cracked the egg, the shells went into a glass jar with a lid (These were unprocessable jar and a lid that had been processed once before).  As long as they were mostly dry when you put them in the jar, it worked well. However, this step I did not let a Pooka do since it involved eggs.
egg shells from the fridge
I brought our egg shells out to yard and after I dug a hole I would take a couple of the shells out the jar and crunch them into smaller bits. These bits were dropped into the hole. The egg shells will break down and give the tomatoes some extra calcium through the summer to help prevent blossom end rot (that nasty black spot on the bottom of the tomatoes).
Crumbled egg shells
The next job was Pooka's. We bought some Dry milk and marked it for the garden. This container will never be in the kitchen so if I get a bit of dirt in it, it won't hurt anything. This helps again with the blossom end rot as well as giving the tomatoes an initial burst of calcium to get established with.
Special garden container of milk
Pooka would take a handful or two and throw it in the hole as well. She loved to make it "snow" milk.
Adding milk
Then we would take the tomato out of the pot and lay it on its side. in the hole. This allows the tomato to develop more roots along the buried stem which should help the tomato find plenty of nutrients.
Add a plant
Then if I had any stem that I could bury a bit more I would bend back toward the center of the hole and cover it before replacing the mulch. This should help the tomatoes to be firmly rooted and hopefully produce a ton this summer. Then replace the mulch. We did notice that the mulch has been doing great at keeping the soil moist like we had hoped it would.
Cover the plant back up
The last step is to walk inside and wash our hands with a good soap. Then we cross our fingers and see what Green Thumb and her friends can do to get us a great tomato harvest.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tomatillos tomatillos tomatillos let me go

After all the headaches to get the tomatillos for Pooka. I was quite ready to get them in the ground and be done with them. The minute we got home on Saturday, Pooka and I got them planted while Daddy made lunch. First Mommy had to see what kind of spacing they needed. Turns out they need about 12-18" between them, so I gave them plenty of room this first year, and we can shrink them later if need be.
Figuring out spacing
Some of the plants were already flowering or had tomatillos growing on them. While this is a great sign that the plant is healthy, it also meant the plant wouldn't be focusing on getting good roots when it went in and I would rather it get established and then make even more tomatillos.

I pinched off the flowers and tomatillos and gave them to Pooka. She was going to put them in the bottom of the holes as compost.

No flowers now
Then Pooka and I dug a fairly deep hole. Turns out tomatillos are like tomatoes, and if you bury part of the stem, that stem will grow roots and it will help give the tomatillo a better root system. (More on this later)
Hole before Pooka put in the composting flowers
Lastly, we put the mulch back around the tomatillo's and gave it a good drink. Now to let it get established and then hopefully we can get some nice tomatillos out of it for some salsa verde. Pooka is dreaming of salsa verde, and I am sure I will be coming up with other recipes for them.
Tomatillos ready to go

Thursday, May 23, 2013

All the seeds are done

I am officially calling it. I think I finally have all the seeds in dirt. If I don't we don't need whatever I forgot.

First I really needed to get the Blue Corn in the ground on Sunday morning. That's right, I said blue corn.
Blue corn
 Aunt Pooka gave us these seeds since she knew both kids would love them. Brother is nominally responsible for them. He loved seeing what the corn would look like once we pulled the seeds out of the packet. There were only 7 in there, so we won't get much, but this should be a good indicator on if it works and if we like it. If both hold true, I can buy more next year.
the corn
I was worried I wouldn't have anything the right size to pot them in, until I remembered that the city gave us this GIANT new recycling bin, so our old ones are empty (and they didn't cost anything), so we repurposed it into a corn pot. This will also give us room to plant some green beans in the 3 sisters method of planting. I don't think I will be putting any squash in it, but 2 out of 3 sisters isn't too bad.
Free pot holding our corn
On Sunday we also had to get the romaine lettuce going. I Know it may be a bit past the start date for the romaine, but its worth at try. The packet didn't have a planting date on it, so we are going to plant and see what happens. I would really like some lettuce I don't have to convince the kids they like. Since I didn't have any space in the ground (and I wanted to make sure it lived) we put the romaine in baskets that I have hung on hooks around the planting beds. I bet the neighbors think they will finally see flowers. They will be very confused later.

Hopefully we will get romaine
Lastly, I thought I was done, but with the front bed nearing completion, I realized I didn't have any dill plants or cumin. I guess it all died off when I wasn't looking. I swear my brain is useless lately. Pooka and I replanted those into these red pots to go on the front porch until I find a better home.  In the little red watering can are some marigold seeds I promised Pooka she could plant after her egg plants died. And really, marigolds can be eaten in salads and things, so who knows, maybe we will try that this summer.
Cumin, dill, and marigolds

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Going to the nursery, Pooka's going to get plants...

If you remember, Last Thursday Pooka and I went to the nursery to "plan out what she wanted to buy."

Well, if you remember, they didn't have tomatillos that Pooka has been asking me for since January, but said to call on Friday to see if they got them in. We called Friday, and nope, they weren't in yet. We called on Saturday morning and someone said they had come in. So Pooka and I talked Daddy and Brother into coming because I wanted to know what I had to save space for in the garden and Pooka wanted her tomatillos.

We got to the farther away nursery and couldn't find them. We asked and apparently there was a miscommunication because they had not arrived and were probably not going to. Sigh...

Yes, this meant a very very upset Pooka. I jumped in and made a deal with her. If she gave me $10 of her birthday money to buy herbs for the front bed, I would take her to the nursery we usually go to and I would buy her tomatillos with the $10.

This meant she would get to go to 2 nurseries and get her tomatillos. So she wandered around the Far Away nursery and found a few things she liked. Another strawberry plant, a lavender plant, a chocolate mint plant, a venus fly trap (Wait, how does this make food for me?) and I got us an aloe 
plant (since I had a feeling we may need it with all the outside time coming up), some more thyme.
Haul from store A
The venus fly trap has become a favorite with Pooka. She has also asked for a drosera plant, but she didn't have enough money. I told her one carnivorous plant at a time please.
Flies anyone?
But now the search was on for tomatillos. I called our favorite nursery just blocks from our house and they said "We should still have some." Luckily it was on our way home so we stopped by. Daddy and Brother waited in the car since as Brother put it, "It is just another nursery." True, but this one had what Pooka wanted.  
We went back to the greenhouse with the vegetables and they had 6 tomatillo plants left. Thank goodness. Pooka decided to get 3. Since she still had some money left over, we got some romaine lettuce seeds so that we can hopefully grow some lettuce everyone will like.Now to just get it all in the ground.
Tomatillos and lettuce seeds

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Already seeing flowers

As many parts of the country, we have had a good chunk of rain come through with more due the next day or so.

However, all the rain has been doing really well for Pooka's garden. In fact, we have started to see our first sets of flowers.

I wish I could say this was my first stargazer from the bulbs we bought. But sadly, those have yet to even break the surface. However, Daddy brought me home a stargazer that had yet to bloom on Mother's day, so I was suprised when this bloomed yesterday.
Pooka's strawberry plants from last year have their first bloom. They did okay over the winter, but it looks like they are ready to start gearing up for another year as well.

Tomato flowering
This tomato plant from the growums kit has been in the ground for over 2 weeks. It saw the nights of frost and yet seems rather happy. I don't know for sure if it will actually produce fruit yet, but I gave it a good dose of dry milk powder at the base under the mulch to help it along.
The cucumber plant we just got in the ground a few days ago is flowering as well. I had to pull buds off when I planted it and I am wondering if I missed one. I doubt much will come from this flower, but hopefully the cucumber likes its new home.
Goodbye blooms, hello fruit
In some cases the flowers have already finished blooming like the ones on this blueberry bush. Here is to hoping we get our first blueberry yeild. It looks like at least some of them took.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mommy's gifts from a Pooka

Now that life has given us time to actually celebrate Mother's day, I can show you all what Pooka has been working on for a few months.

In Febuary when we started all of our seeds, Pooka asked if she could grow some Tomatoes for Nainai and her other Grandma. I said sure if we kept it a surprise and gave it to them on Mother's day. Pooka loves the idea of giving people things, so this was a great surprise. So when we started our seeds, I threw a few extra tomato seeds in for the Grandmother's.

Our seeds plus Tomatoes for Grandmas
At the end of Febuary, Pooka and I found some nice hanging pots on Clearance for about $2 each, maybe a bit more. About mid March we filled them with dirt since Pooka wanted to give them flowers as well.
Pots for all 3 grandmothers
Pooka then went through and sprinkled purple morning glory seeds in each one. She was very careful and we picked out these they said they would be perfect for hanging baskets. Call it the weird weather, but the initial seedlings grew then died off, so we replanted with the same seeds and a few cosmos or something that were originally bought for Pooka's teachers, but we knew we wouldn't have time to get them grown before giving them to the teachers. (I don't remember and I don't have a picture sadly).

Seeds and more seeds.
By Mother's day, the first basket had been given away, since we don't see that grandmother as much and she got hers in April. However, the other 2 Grandmothers had these to look forward too. The tomatoes were a bit thin looking, but they should do well once transplanted. and the pots both had plenty of seedlings that had been grown outdoors and everything was well hardened off. Next year if we do this, I may try to start the flower seeds earlier, but all the grandma's got gifts straight from Pooka's garden and Pooka got to say with pride that she grew them just for her.
Happy Mother's day.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Going to the nursery... part 1

Thursday was Pooka's last day of school, and I had made her a promise. I promised her we would go to the nursery that she got a gift certificate to for her birthday in January and she could spend it as a "graduation from preschool surprise". Pooka was very excited.

Thursday she had a wonderful day and was very happy aside from the very moment she was due to leave and fell and got road rash on both knees. What should of then been a happy goodbye ended up with her sobbing that she didn't want to leave and that her legs hurt. I even tried to remind her of the nursery trip and she said she didn't want to go.

I got her calmed down, she said goodbye to all her teachers who all said they would miss her and her helpful nature and her huge smile. I took her out the car to bandage her knees since she didn't want the bandaids in her room but the ones I keep in my car instead. After she was all better, she still didn't want to go to the nursery, but I asked if I could go since we were having homemade pasta sauce for dinner and I needed some herbs. She agreed she would go see what she wanted and make a plan on what to spend her money on. We agreed we would spend the money the following day.

Once we got there Pooka was fine. She was excited to run around and look at all the plants, but they didn't have the tomatillos she had been hoping for since Febuary. Pooka went and asked someone where they were and the nice older man replied with "Michigan". Apparently they hadn't come in yet, so we decided to use her money later.

However, Pooka helped me pick out some herbs for the front bed that we would use for dinner. She picked out a thyme, tarragon,oregano, purple basil (Her favorite kind) and parsley. I just couldn't justify buying the herbs when the plant costs the same as a packet of herbs.

Some plants for dinner.
After a long day Pooka was much better and she had some herbs for the front bed, I had the ingredients for dinner and a brand new almost kindergartener. It just didn't seem possible.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Finally something in the ground

Even with all the insanity of late, we have finally started to get plants in the ground.

First was the tomatoes that were getting too big for their pots. Those went in last week before we even had the beds finished.

On Monday before we had to leave to deal with family matters, a pot of broccoli fell and the terra cotta pot broke. I grabbed the plant up and got him into the ground.  Not the way you want to plant, but it worked well enough.

But Wednesday Pooka and I finally got a chance to get some real planting done. The weather was nice, the lows were going to be in the 50s, we decided to take a chance. First we started by gathering all the sunflowers in the front yard. It didn't seem like that many when I counted them

Sunflowers all gathered up
Then I had Pooka put the pots where the plants were going to go. There is no rhyme or reason, this was how Pooka wanted to plant them. I did go out and write down on a piece of paper which variety was which so we would know.

Ready for a new home
Next came lots and lots of planting. I don't have pictures since I was getting a tad dirty and moving the rocks to plant was a bit of pain. I will say the rocks have helped with the weeds in this bed. But I am going to be watching it to make sure they stay that way. Once they were all in the ground, this is what they looked like.

Welcome to your new homes Sunflowers
Sadly, the sunflowers due to rocks and weeds took a bit longer then I had expected and we had to leave to do some other things. However, after we were home with Kiddo and Daddy started to make dinner, Pooka and I got the Pak Choi in the ground. They were a tad wilted that day due to the heat, but their new home is in bit shader place which should help. They perked right up after we watered them.
Pak Choi (Bok Choy) that can grow 4 in a square foot
Hopefully this means over the next few days Pooka and I can really get to work getting things in the ground. I know Daddy would like to be able to walk on the deck again, let alone sit down in a chair. Lets all hope the rain holds off until its too late in the evening to do much for the next few days.