Saturday, March 13, 2010

Back In the Garden Again!

I do not have any photos of the garden to share with you guys- but I will soon! (need to charge the batteries for my camera) but in the mean time- take a look of what the garden looked like before I started last year- and what is was looking like when I was done building boxes and starting to plant last season- I didn’t take any “great” after photos- but I will show you next time what it looks like now.
Stage 1- planning where to put stuff
Stage 2- Start filling them up with the "Soil" (and building Box #3)

Add a Tumbler Composter next to Box #3....

Well Winter is over- and spring is here! I am back in the garden, and things are starting to grow again around here!

I have still not built my 4th large raised planter, but I will be doing that in the upcoming months. (maybe next month!)- I will be sure to take some photos for ya- as a mini "DIY", but it is pretty easy to do. I have refilled the beds with some new "soil", added some more Organic Fertilizers, and have started my planting out. (Be sure to check out the links to see what it is I am using in my garden- just note that it will take you away from this page when you click on them)

So far- here is the Rundown of what I have planted:
~ Sugar Snap Peas (not sure how many- about 12?)
~ Blue Lake Green Beans (4 Plants)
~ "Baby" lettuce- (about 20 plants- butter lettuce, romaine, freckles, red sail....)
~ Anaheim Chili Plant
~ Moved "Chandler" the Strawberry to a new Location and added 6 more of his kin-folk for company
~ Shallots (6 or 7)
~ Tomatoes (1 roma, 1 "ace" (roma like), & 1 Yellow Pear cherry tomato)

That is it for my "planter boxes" for now- but I have a LOT more in store in the coming weeks.
Such tasties as: More tomatoes, Basil, Sage, Garlic, carrots, Jalapenos, other peppers, Watermelon, Cucumbers, and more! I have not made all the planting decisions yet, and so I am sure there will be more to share as we go along. So read up!

I have also planted into my "yard" dirt:
~ Rosemary (1 plant)
~ Lavender (1 French type)
~ Moroccan Mint (2 plants)
& also some ranunculus flowers (6 plants) because while they do not smell, they are some of the prettiest flowers that are out there. Those are all in a “Herb & Flower” bed that I am creating in the bare dirt that runs along the concrete block retaining wall in the back yard. (you can see the wall and dirt in photo #2)
I will be working in the garden tomorrow- and so I will be sure to take some photos and post them soon! In the meantime- I will say that it is nice to be back in the yard- digging in the mosit and soft dirt, planting new tasty snacks, and looking forward to a entire long season of growing and harvesting!
Happy Gardening!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winter-Time is Here!

Well- no Photo today- but it is probably for the best.
Winter has fallen outside, and so has the lush green of my Garden. The only thing still out there that has not died, or been pulled out yet is "Chandler" the strawberry (and he is doing quite well!) and "Chuck" the cherry tomato- who is on his way out quickly. We have had some frosts already (that didn't last more than overnight) but that is about the end of Chuck.

I am already planning for next Spring, and I have some plant and seed lists written up, some rudimentary planter box layouts drawn, and plans for building 1 or 2 more planter Boxes. I will share the drawings when I get them settled in my mind where I want them.

For Christmas I received a wonderful gift from my grandmother, a Large Green metal garden cart that has sides that will fold down, huge strong tires, and it will hold up to 400 lbs. So no more hauling huge bags of soil from my car, all the way around the side yard and into the garden. I am SUPER excited about this gift, and I am looking forward to putting it together soon.

Well- that is about it for the Garden for now- but I will be letting you know when I update my garden plans and will show you all my progress that is coming along!

Happy gardening!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sad- very sad!

The State of my Garden is looking sad. Above is "chuck" the tomato.... and this was 2 months ago. He is now Bigger, "Leggier" and paler. And also, there is almost no tomatoes left. There are a few new small green ones, and a few yellow buds on the top, but it really just looks sad.

The pepper plant is ok. The pepper doesn't seem to be growing, but it is not dying either. All my Lettuce (or at least most of it) has now bolted (again) and I think that was the last of the salad for us. The Basil and Chives are alive, but mostly bolted and unusable. All the Beans and Peas have died and I have harvested all the left over pods that I dried and I am saving the seeds for next spring. The cuke is doing ok, but is probably on his last Cuke as we speak...... Harvest time is almost over in the garden, and the beds are getting more and more empty and sad looking. At least I am planning for next year, and since I have pretty much been forbidden from getting Chickens while in this house, I can take over more space for gardening next spring. I was "saving" the space for a coup, but it seems that I will not be needing it now. Maybe some corn next year would be good......?

Anyway- sorry about the lack of posts, but really- there has been a big lack of things to talk about due to the lack of harvest. I have been making some pasta sauce lately with all the tomatoes from a friend, and I will soon post the recipe on the cooking blog - so look for it there :)

During the winter I will be constructing more planters, and will post about them, along with more "tech" on gardening- the tools, the resources, the planning and so on.... so stay tuned!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Garden Photo Updates

(I call this one "Splendor in the Lettuce", Mr Superchicken said he prefers "Chicken Salad")
Hello Everyone! Sorry for the MIA, but I was out of town for awhile, and before that there was no new progress to report. But I am back with updates for all! You may notice the "warm reddish" color in a few photos here. That is at this time we are stuck between 2 fires (Santa Maria area and the Santa Cruz Fire) and it makes the light all weird around here- pretty- but weird.
(This one I just think was a cool Shadow shot)
Ok- On with the show!
Here is my Pepper Plant. I never did get around to giving him a name... any ideas?
(can you see the small flower "pods"?)
Anyway, I had him in the planter for QUITE a while now, but he never really did anything... just kinda got a few new leaves here and there. And then He made little flower buds, but they never did anything or went anywhere, and I was worried that he would never fruit.
Well as soon as the heat started to get climb, he popped out a few new flower buds and they started to get bigger. You can kinda see them in the photo above.
And then, Wa-lah! In a matter of about a week or 2, they white flowers dried up and then turned into little green bulbs. and then in about 4 days they went from pencil eraser size to this big (see below)

The pepper on it is now about... oh... the size of a really FAT cherry, or the size of a big peach pit.
I am SO excited about this progress.... I had worried that he was not going to make it when I never saw progress. Kinda like Furio the Roma (but more on him later!) Alright- Onto the Lettuce & Cilantro!

(First round)
Here is the lettuce Box Photo that I took before I left for Texas. I have had about 3 cuttings of lettuce from here so far, and was about to take one more before we left (hence the large bushy look of the plants). You can also see the cilantro along the back right area.... yeah.... it Bolted. It went all rouge and feathery on me and became inedible. I have learned that it is FAR easier to just buy this than grow it. The flavor of it was SO potent fresh off the plant, that is made Mr SuperChicken get a stomach ache, and the birds didn't like it. I guess the "real" stuff was a bit stronger than the stuff from the market.

Well, the best that you can really hope for when planting lettuce, is that you get 3 or 4 cuttings of each plant before it "Bolts" and goes bitter. Once we got back from Texas, it was time to rip out all the bolted Lettuce and replace it with new lettuce plants. This was MUCH harder than I had expected.
Yes- it is just lettuce- not a pet- but to look at them and think "you are no longer useful to me and so I must kill you and rip you out of the ground" was kinda sad. Everything in the planter (except Chandler the Strawberry) had to come out. They lived a long full life, and I thanked them for the goodies before I tossed them in our compost bin to start on the next phase of their journey. Then I grabbed some more plant food (more on this in a another post coming soon), some new soil (I have found one that I LOVE, but more on that next time) and started planting new victims- I mean, Lettuce plants. I have always started from planter packs, but I am also going to attempt to plant some lettuce seeds and see how that goes. Below is a Photo of the new planter of friends.

(New Lettuce)
See all that dirt area left? I think that I will be planting some of that Lettuce seed, and maybe some Carrots.... but I still need to decide about that.

In the mean time, you can see Chandler the Strawberry in the back right near the tall chicken. He is really doing well. I had been a little nervous when all his older,big leaves started to get dry and red, but I now know better. They get red, dry up, and then make room for all the new little green leaves that will pop up out of the center of the plant. Chandler is looking really well, and seems to be growing at a nice pace for his "2nd year" (which is really only a few months since his last "season" but don't tell him!)
I think that I may see his 1st flower bud starting soon, and so I will let you know how his progress is doing soon.

Our cucumber plant is also doing pretty well. The cute bushy plant that I used to have is now this (kinda ugly) long stringy looking plant, but has been growing nice fat (but small) Cukes for us on a consistent basis. This one below is my fave. I guess he had aspirations of being a "Crookneck Squash", because he is the only one we had that didn't grow into a normal shape for a cucumber. When you are growing your own, just remember that they are best and sweetest when picked when they reach about 6 inches long. Any longer and you will start to lose that nice flavor. Also- do not leave them on the plant for longer than you have to. The plant will drain it's resources to keep it alive, and the rest of the fruits & buds will suffer.
They are best picked when dark green and before they get yellowed. Remember to put them in the fridge or they will shrivel up and dry out.
I have never been a huge Cuke fan, but when I cut up our first one, the fresh, sweet scent made my mouth water- it was SO tasty!

"Mr Crookneck"
Well that is about all the updates I have for now. Next time I will try to show the tomato progress, show you the new plants, and what I have been using to keep them all alive and happy and well fed (because nobody goes hungry in THIS house!) :)
Happy gardening!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Around the Garden

Chucks Flower Buds Are Forming

Alright- Things have been happening around the garden at a nice pace. Things are growing- things are thriving, and so far- everyone is happy and healthy.
Above is "Chuck" The Cherry Tomato. He is doing really well, and has probably almost doubled in height. You can also see that he is starting to get some flower buds on him. This photo was taken a few days ago, and the flowers are looking much more plump, and white tipped as of today, and I am hoping that I will have full fledged flowers pretty soon. Then it is just a waiting game of how long it takes for the tomatoes to form.
Here is Chandler looking bright red and tasty! This photo was also taken about 5 or 6 days ago, and those 2 red berries have already been harvested and enjoyed. It is important to remember to let the strawberries develop a full and deep red color before plucking them from the plant. Unlike Tomatoes- Strawberries will not get any redder and so make sure they are where you want them before harvesting them.
Chandler is doing Quite well, and is producing flowers and berries at a rapid rate. I think that I will have about another 4 or 5 berries to pick in the next few days.
I will post again soon on the growing conditions, but I will also be posting some "feature" posts about my tools that I am finding useful, and also some of the new items that are lurking around the Garden. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Meet the Friends!

Ok- as promised- here are the New Friends that I have acquired.

Now- to some of you- it may seem odd that I name my plants, but it is something that I have always done, and I think that it adds a sense of responsibility to it all, and once you name something it makes you want to try harder at keeping them alive.
I have a few other Friends, but since they have not yet been planted, those will wait for later.

Here we have "Chuck" the Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato. This guy was named for my boss "Chuck" who is a Cherry Tomato fiend and who is anxiously awaiting harvest time.

Over here is my Roma Tomato who I named "Furio". I needed a good strong Italian name to go along with the "Roma" of it all, and if you've seen "The Sopranos" you know that Furio is a good strong fella to take after. Furio will be providing Tomatoes for homemade pasta sauce.

Ahh... the 3 Amigos. Cilantro is a big player in our house- Mr SuperChicken will eat it on anything- Pizza, Salad, Sandwiches, salsa... you name it. It is also a huge fave of our 5 birds. When I walked thru the house with the little plants my birds got quite excited thinking I was bringing them a treat. I really hope that these guys make it and save me the trouble of buying 2 or 3 bunches of them a week.

Over here are the Basil and Chive Plants. The Chives are just regular Chives- not garlic or any of those varieties. I am unsure what I will be naming them... but I think that I will be calling the Chives "Clive" (random side note: If you have not seen the BMW Short films "the Hire" staring Clive Owen- you have GOT to see them! they are great! watch my Fave HERE -also staring is Madonna and produced by Guy Ritchie- I laugh so hard each time I watch it! best 6 mins of video ever!)
Anyway- back to the plants-
The basil is a Sweet basil- nothing fancy or exotic- if you want a great article about exotic and tasty Basil's you can easily grow- visit here to buy the magazine- or you read about a few of them that I found here. No Name for them yet either- but I will get there.

And last but not least is the Strawberry Plant I named "Chandler" (with berries attached!) This is actually a "Chandler" Variety of strawberry-which in this case is a "Everbearing" plant (some "named" types can be bred to be a different "bearer")- Meaning that during the growing season that I can expect a bundle here and there thru the months of the little guys- getting bigger and bigger as the plant matures. If you want to read about the various type of strawberry plants (June-bearing, Everbearing, and Day Neutral and what it all means for you and your plants) Visit here for some good basic info. But being a huge fan of the TV show "Friends" how could I pass up the opportunity to name it after one of them?

But with the magic they can grow now days- you could end up with a "Chandler" that is a June bearing, or a everbearing or so on- so be sure you PAY ATTENTION when buying strawberry plants. You would not want to think you are going to get a bunch of little guys all summer and end up with 20 huge berries in June and see nothing until the next year.
If you are wondering why there are towels under the plant- that is because with strawberries you need to keep the fruit up off the ground to keep it from getting bruised or rotten (hence the name STRAWberry- because it is used to be grown on a bed of straw) but until I get some straw or ground cover fabric, towels it is- which as a side note seems to hold moisture into the ground quite well without staying wet themselves. But I do not want to leave them there to attract bugs- so I will need to get some straw soon.
I also have a few more friends to share with you- but that will have to wait until next time.

Dirt, Dirt & More Dirt!

Ok, Dirt!

Lots of dirt- MOUNDS of dirt! That is how much dirt you are going to need to fill those amazing Raised Beds that you have constructed. How much you ask? Well first you are going to need to dust off those rusty algebra equations that you told your teacher that you would never need, and get counting. Dirt (or "soil" if you wanna get all fancy-schmancy technical on me), is usually calculated in Cubic Feet- now all you have to do is figure out how much dirt that is.

Now the NICE part of building raised beds that are 12 inches tall is that you can just multiply by 1 and have a nice easy number. So for me, one of my beds is 5x4 so that is AxB and then multiply that by the height of the bed "C", so it is (AxB)C or 5 feet long X 4 feet wide (20 feet) x 1 foot high is 20 Cubic Feet of dirt. Now see how easy that is- if I had used a 8inch bed, it would have been a odd amount of dirt, and most dirt comes in 1 CF (cubic foot- feet?) bag sizes.

So you find out all the CF of dirt that you are going to need for each bed, add the number together, and try to not faint. Just for 4 of the beds that I want to build (and they are not all that big!) it will come out to over 70 Cubic feet of dirt! (yikes!)

Also- when calculating how much dirt you are going to need, always use the height of the boards as a guide. Yes, you may want to only have 10 inches high of dirt in the 12 inch bed, but the dirt will settle a bit, and what looks like 10 inches today, will be 8 inches in a week or less. So get a little bit more than you think you will use to be safe, and if you have left overs, build a new bed, or use the nice soil for top soil for some of your other plants.

You now have several options as to what you want to do to GET your dirt (ahem- Soil). You can get it from your own yard (not a option for me), you can go to the home store and buy LOTS, or you can contact your local Soil companies and see what they charge for some soil, and delivery fees. There are bonuses for each option, and also some downfalls.

When you harvest your OWN dirt (from your yard) it may be the easy and cheap option, but it has a few risks. Maybe it is full of weed seeds, maybe there is fungus from other plants that will distroy and rot your new babies, there will probably be rocks, old roots, and all manner of other items. Now, if you are going to the trouble of getting nice raised beds so that you do not have to deal with all that stuff- why would you just fill it with all the stuff that you want to avoid using in the first place? (just sayin' is all....) Cheap but full of pitfalls...

Option #2, you go to the local home center (or nursery) and buy your dirt in a bag. Easier, but certainly not cheaper. It can run you a few bucks a bag for the "ok to good" stuff (the "really good" stuff will really set you back), and when you see that you will need about 25+ bags of the stuff, it really adds up. "Dirt" is certainly not not "dirt cheap"!

Not to mention that I drive a Honda, and it is HARD to carry that many bags in the car (not to mention hard on the back too!), and unless you have a mondo sized car, you are going to need to take several trip to the home store which is hard on the gas mileage and the pollution factor. Also- you may ask about "what do you do with all those bags!?" I will address that at the bottom.

Option #3, You can call your local soil company and see what they charge for some soil. And you can get really picky about what kind of "soil" you want. Screened, enriched, loamy, sandy.... you name it. Also- most places will deliver a truckload (or however much you order) and will dump it on your drive way or lawn and you cart it from there to your new planter boxes. This will be a much cheaper option, but you will have to do some research on your own, and make sure you have a wheelbarrow, a shovel (and maybe a young man around willing to work for a sandwich and Oreo's for some hauling labor). You can also go pick up the Soil from most places, but you have to have a car that will haul that much weight around and that you do not mind getting dirty.

To be honest, I have only built 2 boxes so far, and I used Option #2. It was a long, slow, and heavy option, and it worked for what I needed, but for all future gardening I think that I am going to be going with #3. But I won't judge no matter which option you pick- you gotta do what is best for you.

I am SO not a expert at soil, but you can find good info here or a TON of info here. There are ENDLESS books and websites about Soil- so do some reading on the kind of soil that YOU will want\need based on what option you chose above (and what you will want plant in it).
And if you are curious as to what I used for my planter already, I used Miracle Grow Organic Choice Garden Soil (check it out here). But they want you to mix it with "Local Soil" and not just use it alone, so I DID do some digging around in a weed free soft area of the yard, but it is about 80% MGOGS.

Ok- back to those bags I mentioned. If you should end up with a lot of bags, you can find many uses for them. They are pretty strong and can be used to carry around with you when you are weeding, or use them to cart compost from the composter to the beds. You can save them, and winter comes you can cut a few holes in the tops of them and place them over some plants that need wind protection, and some extra heat and stake them into the ground to hold them in place- or some places will recycle them for you. Worst comes to worst- just don't use trash bags in the house for awhile, and use the bags instead. (just be sure you wash them off first so that you do not track anything in the house!).

What ever option you use, you will also need to check on the PH levels of the soil from time to time, as well as check the nutrient levels to make sure the soil has enough to give the plants so that they don't starve. Since I have used a "bag" mix, all my PH's and food levels are A-ok when I checked them. You can always send your soil samples off for testing, but you can buy a inexpensive PH and nutrient tester and do it yourself. Any Problems that you find can be corrected, but it will take time. You can always find info at This website on how to fix your dirt, or there is usually some info in the PH tests. Any Garden center will have a PH tester kit. They range from a $7 kit to $200 Digital readout fancy stuff- but for the at home mini garden, I will stick with the $7 tester.

So I am sure that you are now wondering when we are going to get to the Plants..... That is next!
I will introduce you to all the new friends that I am planting out in the garden. Stay Tuned!

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