Monday, June 30, 2014

Movin on up!

So I finally got my own website! Exciting times, but it means that I'm moving the blog as well (and hey I might actually keep up with it better too) the new address is, so see you on the flipside! :)

Monday, July 1, 2013

I hate wind!

The tempestuous sky as the
weather changed bringing
horrible wind
I had to move all the plants, even the ones I tied to the deck rail. The poor patio tomato was desiccating in the wind, it flopped completely over when I was trying to retie it to it's pole and I nearly had a heart attack thinking the stem had snapped at the base. Fortunately some water
and shelter from the wind restored it fully, the cucumber also suffered it is now being propped up by one of the house plants. Other than that though everything else is okay, but I look forward to the return of sunny, hot days where the wind blows from the south and west!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Death of a Tomato

Everything is growing really well, the aphids are pretty much gone, but so are almost all of the ladybugs! There is one left and it appears to be laying eggs on the eggplant (how appropriate!) so maybe it wasn't a total loss. However we lost the heirloom tomato! It either got blown off the deck or an animal jumped on it and knocked it off so of course I had to replace it. I couldn't find the same kind so I got one called Celebrity and a bush tomato. I also decided to secure the patio tomato and the new Celebrity to the porch railings with twine, I'm not taking any chances.  The bush tomato doesn't fit on the rail, it's supposed to not
need staking so hopefully it will stay short and well, bushy.
The biggest cucumber plant started to put out little tendrils so I rigged up some twine for it to climb. It's amazing watching the tendrils wrap around the twine, you can actually see it happen in real time if you are patient enough. All the cucumbers are flowering, the eggplant put out a beautiful purple flower but it fell off, fortunately it has more buds. The peppers are all putting on buds and two of the habeneros are flowering. The tomato feed I gave all the flowering/fruiting plants is definitely helping!
The orange trees have both sprouted and are healthy, I'm going to sprout some valencia seeds and see how they get on. I sprouted some heavenly blue morning glories and planted them in my remaining peat pots, I'm determined to have a Morning Glory windblock on the the north side of the deck and the two plants I have now are growing too slowly so we will see.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Release the hounds ladybugs!

So using soapy water on the aphids was working fairly well but I decided to get some ladybugs to help keep them under control. The man at the store said to release them after dark and after I wet the area down so that's what I did. There were masses of ladybugs all over the place last night and early this morning but by afternoon a lot of them were either hiding, or flew away. They did eat some of the aphids but not all of them, which I thought was strange but maybe they just need more time to adjust. I will check on them tomorrow and see if at least a few of them are still around, I hope so!
One thing I am noticing now that it is getting warmer is the increase of insect life in the garden. I found this pretty little spider sucking the life out of a fly on one of my planters. I will need to look him up and submit my photos to Project Noah, I haven't updated my sighting list in ages and I have loads to put on there like all of the animals and fungi from Humboldt Park, and even the photos I took at Wellspring last year (the wildlife was only good thing about Wellspring aside from the Guncles!) There was also a fairly large furry spider that I think was trying to hunt the ladybugs but he got all shy when I tried to take a photo of him.
He was cute though he sort of hid behind the planter and would poke his head up over the edge so just his front legs and eyes were showing. Unfortunately he was too shy to allow me to get any closer and I only had my phone with me so he is a little blurry and hard to see. I want to say he was a wolf spider but honestly I'm not sure. Hopefully he will stick around and I will see him again and have my good camera ready!

 I finished five plant hangers and hung them over the railing on the deck. I want to have at least eight hanging down and another 5 or so hanging from above, but I need a taller person to help me hang the ones up top as I am too short and we have no ladder. I think it looks nice plus it will give me room to but the rest of the plants out in the sun, a lot of the seedlings are growing fast and will soon need full sized pots and while the table gets full sun in the morning, it doesn't get it for as long and I want the fruit, herbs, and veg in as much sun as possible. Everything does seem to be growing very well so far, I got an organic tomato feed that I used on the tomatoes but will probably also use on all the fruiting plants. Speaking of which,  the oranges seeds I planted are actually growing! I thought they weren't going to do anything and I used their dirt to plant the thyme but I noticed two of them had sprouted and had roots and one has almost got leaves!
So I pulled them out of the thyme pot and carefully replanted them into peat pots. I have some Valencia orange seeds that I want to try next but I think I am going to soak them first in damp paper towels until they sprout so I don't accidentally nearly throw them away!


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Flowers and Pests

So I decided that we needed more flowers in the garden and I happened to be browsing the flowers outside the grocery store, so inevitably I brought some more flowers. The first thing that caught my eye was a Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides "Black Dragon".) How could I resist a plant whose foliage looks like dark purple velvet? So I grabbed the last one they had and looked for something to go with it. I saw some stocks (Matthiola incana) and thought they would be great for scent and they would tolerate the shade that the Coleus likes, so into the cart they went. I then spotted some "brain" Celosia (Celosia argentea var. cristata) which is one of my favorites, when I was a kid my parents always got some for me to plant in the garden. At first I wanted them to go with the Coleus because I thought that would look really cool but Celosia like full sun so I stuck with the Stocks and looked for something to go with the Celosia.
Now I had always planned to get some Marigolds (Tagetes patula) for the garden as they repel pests like white fly on the tomatoes (and because of their associations with Dias de los Muertos) so when I saw them I knew they were what I was going to put with the Celosia. I love the color combination of magenta, orange and yellow, it's unusual but it works and really flowers never clash anyway. So we will see how my foray into garden design goes as the plants mature, see if the combinations are still pleasing and see if the plants are compatible with each other. The last plant I bought was a sage, all I need now is a Thyme or two and we will have all the herbs we need for cooking! 

Speaking of flowers, all the buds on the roses have bloomed and it seems to be doing okay, except I noticed some strange oil like substance on the leaves. I didn't put it on there, it didn't seem to be coming from the patio roof or anything, it doesn't smell like anything, it's yellowish in color and I don't think the rose likes it because some of the leaves had black spots in them (which of course could be a touch of black spot and have nothing to do with the oil.) I couldn't find anything on the Internet about it so I wiped the leaves off the best I could and i will keep an eye on it. I thought maybe it could be from an animal but it doesn't smell like anything, thankfully! The last thing I need is animal markings all over the patio!

The wildflowers are starting to sprout despite my heavy handed watering technique,hopefully enough of them will come up to make a nice container wildflower garden, I have no idea what flowers are in the mix but I would like something to attract bees.

Unfortunately the Morning Glories aren't doing to well, I'm not sure why. A few of them the stems just withered and the rest look a little peaky, the larger ones seem to be doing better but only time will tell. They might have had too much trauma to their roots during re-potting, if I lose all of them I will start over and sow them in plantable pots like the peat pots but using a peat free alternative like coir which is made from waste coconut shells. I realized I was using products made out of peat and I need to stop which means I also will need to change my potting soil, which kind of sucks because the stuff I was using was good and inexpensive, but not destroying the peat bogs and their habitats is more important than me getting cheap soil! 

Now that the garden is growing both in amount of plants and in plant growth, the chance of pests and problems grows with it. I was checking over the plants last night when I made a horrible discovery! Aphids on the Habaneros! I immediately googled and saw my best bet to combat the little critters without chemicals was a soap spray to kill them and just hand picking them off. I wanted to use a mild soap so it wouldn't damage the plants so I used my homemade soap and sprayed and picked. I got just about every aphid I could find off the plants, they had favored one in particular for some reason, and this morning there were almost no aphids.  I repeated the soap spray and I also noticed that the Chocolate peppers had a few on them so they got the same treatment. They don't seem to have gone for any other plants yet but I am keeping an eye out as this is war and it is a war I will win! 

The good news is that despite the bugs, the weather, and cloudy days this week, everything seems to be doing really well. The dill is putting on adult dill leaves, the fennel has exploded with new growth, the patio tomatoes is full of fruit and the heirloom tomato is full of blossoms. The Jalapeño and Cilantro seedlings are all still doing well but hopefully they won't get leggy looking for the sun, they look like they are reaching a bit. But even the heat and sun loving herbs like the basil and rosemary seem to be patiently waiting for the sun to come back out. Everything will be going back in place either tonight or tomorrow, as soon as the cold North wind dies down, I don't want to lose anything else to it. It looks like most of the cucumbers are going to live but another bout with that wind would finish them off, the same with the morning glories. Until then the rest of today will be spent finishing the plant hangers so they can all start living in the sun again and hopefully this will be the last really cold snap until Autumn!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More garden aquisitions!

Friends don't let friends go to the garden center after watching the RHS Chelsea Flower Show! Ha ha actually they do, they are total enablers! [Kellie!] One thing I was determined to get was a rose because they are my absolute favorite flower, I was thinking of getting one of those small ones but as I mentioned I haven't had good luck with them and they never seem to have much scent so as soon as we got to Adam and Sons, I went straight to the "normal" roses, and was immediately drawn to a pinky mauve floribunda rose called Angel Face. The petals have this lovely ruffle to them and it smells divine, the label said it would bloom all season and I have always had a thing for purple roses
(big surprise I know!) I asked the man at the garden center if I could grow it in a pot and he said I could grow any perennial in a pot as long as it was the right size. So I found the right size pot (between 12" and 16" it ended up being 15" and of course it cost more than the rose!) and got some more smaller pots for the other things we picked up. We decided we need more herbs so we got oregano, cinnamon basil, and rosemary. We also decided we couldn't live without habenero peppers and chocolate sweet peppers and Kellie got a white eggplant. They had some nice sized patio tomatoes on sale so we grabbed one of those as well, it already has fruit on it as well as flowers, our other tomato is still doing really well but it's not like you can have too many tomatoes!

When we got it home we realized it needed staking so I sacrificed my backscratcher to the cause and we ended up re-poting it in the pot the rose came in (I know you aren't supposed to do that but I risked it anyway, the poor tomato had roots coming out of the bottom!) I also got some little peat pots to re-pot the cilantro and jalapeños as they were outgrowing the seed starter.  And of course as soon as we got everything potted up and situated, we realized that we were going to be getting storms for the next few days so we had to move everything to the corner of the patio so they wouldn't get wind damage.
Last week we had some really cold windy weather with a bitter north wind and I forgot to move the plants so they spent a very windy unhappy night until Matt woke me up next morning to move them into a sheltered spot. The wind was so bad I had to construct a windbreak out of the patio furniture. Almost everything came out of it unscathed except the cucumbers, we lost a few plants and all of them lost leaves. I think they will come back but now I am paranoid every time I think the wind might blow so even though these storms are bringing warm humid winds from the south/southwest I moved everything anyway.

I want to be able to move them back to the deck railing as soon as I can because I have made some macramé plant holders out of jute I bought at work. I found a tutorial on YouTube to make some very simple hangers that are very quick and easy to make and hardly cost a thing. They aren't the most attractive plant hangers I've ever seen, but they do the job. My plan is to hang plants down on the outside of the deck railing as well as above the railing effectively tripling the space in the sun we have now, which we will need considering the seedlings are growing up and we keep getting more plants!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The babies are growing up!

The Morning Glories finally got too big for the seed starter so I pricked them out and potted them on and so far they are doing really well! The next bunch sprang up over today and will need to be potted on in only a few days, it looks like I am going to get seven healthy plants out of this first batch! That was much more than I hoped for I was going to consider myself lucky if I got one, but they really weren't as hard to start as everyone says they are. The cilantro is almost all up now and the cumin all burst out today, that one one seedling I kept calling cumin, I am pretty sure that is actually the one of the jalapeños, I am pretty sure we mixed up the labels! 

these are cumin I'm pretty sure
The weather is lovely again if maybe slightly warmer than I'd like for May, mid 80s (29 C) but it's supposed to drop into the mid 70s (mid 20s C) for the rest of  the week. So this earlier this afternoon I thought I would just pop down to the garden center to look at seeds, like you do. I walked through looking at the veg thinking I might also replace the watermelons as every one of them not eaten by squirrels all flopped over and died.
I couldn't resist taking a
photo of one of the bearded
irises at the garden center
I think it was the cold snap, I should have put them indoors and it looked as though we weren't the only ones to suffer losses as there wasn't a single decent watermelons left to buy at the garden center, they were all very sad looking or dead. So I looked around and found some bush pickle cucumbers and I've always wanted to make pickles and the label said they worked well in small gardens and containers which sounds much more feasible on a deck then watermelons anyway. So I grabbed a pack and wandered over to the herbs only meaning to look but then realized I needed some spearmint, I'm not sure why I decided that spearmint was the right no the only mint for mojito flavored infused water but I did so a healthy looking spearmint joined the cucumbers.

Bush Pickle cucumbers
Now at this point I almost bought a miniature rose. I loooove roses, when I was growing up my parents had quite an impressive rose garden, but I have never once in my life managed to keep a mini rose alive. I don't know what it is about them but I haven't been able to grow them. Still maybe I'll get one next paycheck and we'll see what happens, the definition of insanity nonwithstanding....

I did actually eventually make it to the seed section, someone had recommended I get those little stubby carrots that are round like radishes that are perfect for container gardening but they didn't have any seeds for those.
But then I saw the dill seeds and it became obvious that I needed to grow dill if I wanted to make pickles! Our original dill didn't make it, it was too damaged before we got it to ever recover and besides we are going to need a lot of dill for the pickles so growing it from seed seems like the best idea. I sowed them in the container as I discovered dill does not like to be transplanted. It's warm enough now that I can leave them outside and they should germinate just fine, dill's like a weed it grows quickly and easily and like mint it's best contained so it doesn't take over, happily not a problem in a container garden :)

Broccoli Florets, a better view Not giving up on the verbena, those green buds tell me it's going to come back

A slightly blurry baby cauliflower! Cilantro!

The tomato has buds! Le petit jardin urbain!