Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Surprises

Today was a day full of surprises for Daddy, Pooka and I. Pooka woke up and found this little beauty on her morning glory. She was so excited but also asked where the red ones are. I told her they weren't ready yet.
 Pooka surprised me by asking if she could have "the colored leaf chard" for dinner one night. She wanted to decide if she liked it before she grew it. We checked and our store doesn't carry swiss chard right now, but for the cost of a set of seeds, it will be cheaper then trying to find a bunch to try. Granted, Pooka has always been the adventurous child when it comes to food.

Daddy was surprised that I came home with more seeds. I got the Neon Swiss Chard (I couldn't find the rainbow mix, but close enough for now), a Baby Choi seed that should work well in a pot out front as well as one more variety of spinach to try. He is so understanding and he sees that we are getting out plenty for what we are putting in.
A surprise for the whole family was this little guy. We had brought some herbs in to dry from the front planting beds and found a young praying mantis come walking out of them when I reached for the basil. Surprise. We observed him for a short time, then released him on the lemon balm to continue eating all the bad bugs.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

I did it

I managed to kill mint. How, I don't know and may never know, but I killed an entire pot of mint. After I pulled it out of the pot, this is what it looked like. It's dead dead. The lady at the nursery couldn't even figure out how I did it.
So I am trying again. The mint is fairly important to a project Pooka and I are doing, so we are didn't want to give up yet. Pooka and I went to the nursery and brought home another chocolate mint plant.
 It was fairly root bound, but we broke it up a bit and planted it. Hopefully it will do better in the pot.
Now its all planted. I guess I just need to make sure I try and keep this alive. I think part of the problem was there were 2 plants in this pot, so we went down to one.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Making it work

What do you do when you are in desperate need of a trellis, and have a GIANT paper bag of rusted canning rings and some zip ties?
What to do?
 You make a trellis. While this was my test section, you can see that it isn't all the same. I later corrected it, but I wanted to see if the idea would work in the first place.
Trial and error
How did I make it, well the white section is the rails of a shelving unit that was in the garage when we moved in. However, after over 6 years, we have never found brackets that fit it. It was time they were put to a better use.
I connected the rings with 4 zip ties. One to the ring on the top, one to ring on the bottom and one on either side (to either rings or through the holes in the rail sections. About this time, you start to wonder if this is going to work. But it does, it took me a couple of days with 10 minutes at a time intervals to accomplish this part.
I then snipped the ends off the zip ties. This makes for a much cleaner look and allows it to sit flater when laying on the back.
Clip it off
After doing this a million or so times, I had this.
For a cleaner look
Then I spray painted the entire thing with black rustoleum. This took at least 3 coats. Honestly, I would probably not spray paint the thing again since it was a pain and we ended up with quite a bit of overspray. In fact, it was all over the grass and the tree behind it. If I were to do this again, I would probably take a brush and a can of paint to it.
Painting is messy
As you can see here, it turned out quite nice. I do not plan on using it to support food since my concern is that the chemicals can could leach into the dirt. However, it will be perfect for holding up the morning glory. Now to wait for the morning glory to grow up it and see if it works as well as I think it should
Finished product

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Garlic garlic... maybe

On Sunday, I realized I really needed to harvest our garlic. It seemed rather early, and I never did see any scrapes, but everything I read said when it falls over and browns it is time to harvest. Pooka and I went to work. We did this rather early, so Pooka was out there in her nightgown digging. You could not of found a happier child
Garlic has fallen over
 I will admit I think I left some of them too long, so the leaves broke off and I never found the bulb. That means next year I may have volunteer garlic sprouting. Which is not necessarily a bad thing especially if we get bigger bulbs. I do wonder if the reason it died so early is that bed had a bush in it for YEARS and YEARS, and we didn't amend it very well before planting. Something to think of for next year.
Fresh from the ground
As you can see, our bulbs are rather small looking. I think it is about 2 of our bulbs to one from the grocery store. I will have to weigh them later to be sure. Some are certainly bigger then others.
Drying out
Daddy tied them together and hung them in the garage. The smaller set behind them is the first time I harvested and you can see a size difference between the two.
Time to wait for the rest
As you can see, we had some that was still doing pretty good. I am going to leave them until they start to fall over and brown. Which is driving Daddy nuts since he wants to see what the giant garlic plants are doing. Time to wait and see and give them as long as we can. Plus next year we will be making sure to put a ton of compost in this bed. Garlic may be one of those things it takes us a while to get it figured out, but I am not giving up yet.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


In some cases, we are just starting to get flowers, like the mystery squash, the pepper plants and this eggplant.
eggplant flower buds
 In other places, we have too many flowers. Some spinach has bolted. the cilantro and I are arguing on if it can go to seed, and well, I think I may of lost the bok choy. Apparently they don't like being transplanted. Good to know, I am thinking of ripping them out and replanting some new seeds there.
Flowering bok choy
Here is to hoping for good flowers and not bad ones.

Monday, June 24, 2013

"We all need more bugs"

Or at least that is what Pooka told me at the end of May. You see she had a return to take back and asked, begged, and bargained with me to let her get this. Now since it was her own money, I had a lot less bargaining power and she had money left to spare. I did convince her to only get one bug kit at a time (she was trying to get this and some lady bugs). On the upside if this works, we can up the number of predator insects in the garden pretty quickly.

Oh look, more bugs
So she bought her own praying mantis kit. She was ecstatic.  We brought it home and realized if we didn't send off for the little eggs soon we wouldn't get them. The package said they only ship from January to June. Good to know. On May 30th I did the online order for the eggs and waited.

About 2 weeks later (due to a shipping oops), Pooka opened a small box that container 3 vials. One of praying mantis eggs (which can have 200 mantids in them), a vial of wingless flies to feed the mantids and a vial of food for the flies.

The bits of the bugs
 Now I don't remember signing on for flies, but apparently we need them to stay alive to feed to the mantids so they don't eat each other. I really don't feel like explaining cannibalism, so I decided to read the directions.
Dinner for the mantids
 It turns out you need to add water to the food and then give it a few minutes. After the minute or so is over, you transfer some of the flies from the vial of flies to the vial of food without letting them run away.
Making dinner
 We did okay, we got the 10-15 flies in the vial of food and hoped for the best. We did have a few escaping flies, but since we did the move outside, I figure they could become something's dinner. They are gross little suckers, so I will save you the up close and personal picture.
Lastly, Pooka had to set up their little house with a few sticks. We broke one of the bamboo sticks in half and placed it inside. Then the 2 egg sacks got placed in the house and Pooka got to "lightly mist" the eggs. Pooka thought this was a great job and it is her job now. Supposedly it can take up to 6-8 weeks for these guys to hatch, so I guess it will be a lot of watering and waiting, just like the rest of the garden.

Watering and waiting.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I disappeared

Sorry all. We had family come into town and we have had so much time enjoying them while they are here, I got swept away with it. I promise more info tomorrow when I have a moment. Until then, enjoy those around you in the real world. The online world can wait.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Reaping the rewards

Today my kids are merrily eating their veggies at lunch. Not just store bought veggies (which they love to eat anyway) but veggies grown and picked and washed by them. I was torn on what to make for lunch and then we saw these hanging on the pea plant.

Peas are calling
After a bit more looking we also found some green beans.  The kids both asked if they could try their carrots. They are still on the small side for carrots, but we called them baby carrots. They both asked if they could have the greens off their carrots and I told them to try it. Brother was not a fan, but the ever adventurous Pooka loved it. I am thinking of putting the rest of the greens in a salad tonight for dinner, but only time will tell if we get that far.
Yummy Lunch

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

You can walk

On the back deck again. It had gotten rather out of control with pots just having been "just put it there until I decide what to do with it".  In fact, we had a very narrow path to the grill which we use at least once a day all summer.
Deck before
Things had just been put here or there, and in the end, there was no room to walk and no where to sit. Even the table on the back deck was covered in plants. Pooka was too busy playing in the yard to help, but Daddy really wanted to be able to walk again.
Deck before
Even the little rack I picked up on clearance was kinda thrown together with what would live on it. Chaos like this drives me crazy (even if you can't tell from looking at my desk).
Plant shelf before
With a little elbow grease, and some help from Daddy, we managed to actually arrange the plants in a way that made not only sense but some room for other things. First the end tables got put by the extra chairs and Pooka's lavender and a snapdragon was placed on top. There is even room for a drink or two on the table now. On the other side, the carrots are all together with the strawberries, then the eggplants.
Deck after
The black lump is our blueberry bushes. We thought we were having a problem with birds and need a "now" solution so Daddy pulled out some old window screen and draped it over them. Then you have our mystery squash and Daddy's Cubanelle peppers. The black ring trellis is in Pooka's morning glory basket, but that is a separate post on how we made it. The hanging basket that isn't hanging is holding some romaine lettuce.
Deck after
The spinach and lettuce and celery are right next to the table, with a strawberry behind one chair, the zucchini in the corner, and a lavender by the stairs. That red watering can on the table holds POoka's marigolds and we can even use these chairs since we left enough walking space around them.
Area around the table
The black thing is set up a bit better now with the Zinnia's on the top shelf, then oregano and what was suppose to be marigolds in the green Easter basket. Instead it has a couple of squash or zucchini's (That's what I get for using junk dirt). The bottom shelf is all snapdragons. The lilac is sitting next to them, with the chives and scallions on the deck in front.
shelves after
One major thing figured out. 2 million more to go. But now I can sit on my deck and enjoy the summer.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Round 2 planting

I can say I finished our second rounds of planting. Last Friday, Pooka and I started a second batch of carrots as well as some spinach. We were doing so much with the spinach that we had cut it back a bit to far and it was starting to struggle.
For the carrots, we had always planned to try and do a second set a month or so after originally planting them to extend our harvest. This was more like 2 months, but hopefully it will give us more carrots to eat throughout the summer. Now to just hopefully start really getting to see the rewards of our plantings.
We did manage to get some peas and green beans in the corn pot as well. Hopefully the 2 of the 3 sisters works well. That is the hope anyway. We will have to see.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The front bed is done.

The front herb garden is all planted, except for a few pepper plants. But other then that, the lavender was the last plant in.

It is so very nice to know its done and that it is starting to look really good. The smaller plants have started to fill out and are giving it a nice full look. In some cases, I may even start harvesting for drying herbs soon.

The garlic is in the area surrounded by the sidewalk. I did add one oregano plant back there since it had outgrown its pot, (the one Pooka started from seeds) and I didn't have any space on the other side. We did notice that garlic doesn't do very well if you go too close to the house. We also have dill in the pot on by the railing and Pooka's amaryllis plants are on the porch as well.
 On the other side of the front door is another pot of dill. The bottom row from left to right is: Curly Parsley,  purple sage, tarragon, cilantro. The top row from left to right is: Lemon Thyme, oregano, Tarragon and Rosemary.
On the table in the background that you can't see is Pooka's little blue pot of zinnias Left to right on the top row: Garlic chives, Italian flat leaf parsley, Bay, Curry and Lemon Thyme from last picture (I tried to make sure things overlap a bit when taking the pictures). Bottom row left to right: Rosemary, Rosemary, Thyme, Curly Parsley.
In the long gray pot is the extra flowers from Pooka's teacher gifts. The top row has Rosemary, Flat leaf Italian Parsley, oregano, and cilantro. The bottom row is onion chives, purple sage, Curly parsley, and thyme.
The last section of the bed is a circle that where everything on the outside is a type of basil except right behind the lilac tree is one of Pooka's 5 color Pepper plants. The basil (Starting closest to the house) Genovese Basil, 5 color pepper, Thai basil, sweet basil, Purple basil, sweet basil, purple basil, sweet basil. The rest of the bottom row is cilantro, Spanish lavender, Lemon balm, onion chives. The top row is Rosemary, oregano, rosemary. The red pots are full of dill and cumin on the deck and the chair has a pot of chocolate mint and peppermint.

In some cases, I may even be able to start drying herbs soon which was wonderful to have over the winter. We have fallen back in love with having fresh herbs for things and look forward to trying them in new ways.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's day

If there was ever a weekend to not fall behind on, this would be it. Yesterday was our anniversary where I got Cave Johnson. Today is Father's day, and in true Pooka fashion, even Daddy got a plant. When I asked Pooka what to get Daddy for Father's day, she said she wanted to get him "those peppers he likes that we didn't get."

What she meant was cubanelle peppers. You see when we started the garden, I couldn't find cubanelle seeds for the longest time. I looked but I could only find it on the internet, and Daddy and I agreed had that we didn't need anymore internet orders. I felt bad because even though we had all these plants, this was the only one Daddy had asked that we grow at the end of last summer. I offered to buy the plants, but Daddy said we had enough and I left it at that.

Pooka and her mind like a steel trap remembered these peppers. She said she wanted to get him his peppers. Since I lacked any other ideas (or much time), I agreed. So off to the home improvement store we went to get Daddy's peppers. We also needed a pot to put them in. We came home with these. I have them in water because one pot was super dried out and I wanted to minimalize some of the transplant shock (and I didn't want it falling apart when I took the wrapper off.

Rehydrating the peppers
Pooka helped me fill a pot with dirt and then she dug a hole and filled it with milk. Since peppers do suffer from blossom end rot as well, I figured I would try to prevent it now if possible.

Adding milk to the pot

We put both plants in a bit of an oversized pot and let it go. Now to wait and hope this works since there is no room left in the ground. Pooka even asked if she could buy Daddy a clearance butterfly to make it pretty for him. Happy Father's Day to Daddy and all the other Fathers in the world.
Happy Father's Day Daddy.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A surprise for me

Today was a good day. Something that has been rather rare around here. Today is Daddy and my anniversary. We didn't plan on doing much for each other because well, things have been busy. However, I did mention to Daddy that the home improvement store had little dwarf lemon trees when I was there on Friday looking for a tomato cage for my grandmother. Well, that got us a trip to the home improvement store.

When life gives you lemons... Say thank you.
The story behind the lemon tree is that we live in a fairly chilly climate. I never would of thought to get a lemon tree this far north, thinking they were something reserved for those lucky people down south. Then one day I found out a teacher in Kiddo's school had a lemon tree in his classroom. It was a dwarf tree that he would keep in the school all winter and then bring home over the summer and put it on his patio. Well that got the wheels turning and Daddy and I had both thought it would fun to say we owned a lemon tree but we had no idea where to even start looking.
A lemon tree
Fast forward back to today. Daddy said "let's go get you a lemon tree for our anniversary." Well, we did. It even came with almost a dozen little green lemons on it. They are so cute.

Pooka and I came home and immediately got it planted into a pot. The plan is for the lemon tree to come in and live in the computer room when it gets cooler. Pooka said that this one is my lemon tree and she said I should name it. So I decided on Cave Johnson. If you don't know who that is, go here to see the rant on lemons. Now that I have lemons, I will have to get the smart little Pooka to work to make them combustible lemons.
I'm Cave Johnson

Friday, June 14, 2013

The art of Rocks

While we were installing the new herb bed out front, we found these giant rocks. I didn't know what to do with them at first, so I did what anyone trying not to make a decision about something does, I put it aside.
Rocks from the garden
Fast forward a bit over 2 months. Pooka asked if we could paint the giant rocks like she had seen in one of her gardening books. They talked about painting smaller rocks, but I figured the project would scale. The first thing I did was draw some pictures on it with a paint pen. Pooka was worried she couldn't draw the shapes right, so I drew what she told me to and we had to let it dry. My camera puked about this point, so I don't have a picture, but I only drew outlines for her with a paint pen. This effectively gave her something close to a coloring book to paint.

Then Pooka got to paint it. I let her use any of my craft paints she wanted, and she had a blast. As most kids her age, she did have a hard time staying inside the lines. I told her it was okay, and to have fun with it.
Pooka's painting is done.

After Pooka's paint was dry, I went over the picture again with the paint pen. This step hid alot of the oops moments and gave it a cleaner look.
Paint pen coat 2.
Pooka decided to paint her name onto the second rock. So I cannot show you the entire rock, but she did a wonderful job with the dragonfly, so I am showing you that part.
The dragonfly she made
Once everything was dry, I took them outside and gave them a couple coats of varnish.
Varnishing the rocks
After the varnish was dry, Pooka placed her rocks in the front herb bed. The butterfly flower rock (complete with a few green peas) went into the lower bed next to one of her purple sage plants. The dragonfly rock (That I couldn't seem to get a good picture of) is hanging out with the garlic. Not bad for a project that was done with stuff just laying around the yard. Although Pooka is already asking to paint some of her smaller rock collection. At least it will help me try to balance art and science together.
Rocks new home