Monday, July 19, 2010

So Long, and Thanks for all the fish!

I am writing to announce that I am taking an indefinite leave of absence from my gardening blog to free up time for myself as I work through some personal goals I have been attempting to pursue for the past 3 years.

Here and there, if time wills it, I may throw up (ha) a post about the garden or something of that nature, but as of now, I am am placing my focus on other things in life as they are of great priority to me [finishing my novels(s), getting a book of poetry together and etc] or else I'm going to have some serious issues in life later on if I don't complete those things.

There are many more consistently updated and better blogs than mine that I admire that I suggest people read, such as The Home Garden and In the Garden and another of my favorites, Plants are the Strangest People , all of which have a lot less parentheticals and tangents :P

As going a week or more (as I have) without a post pretty much declares a blog go dead on the internets, we could call this a blogbituary if you like.

Hopefully I utilize this extra time I have in a better manner and that I find what I am looking for.

Best to you all and if anyone has any gardening questions that they don't have time to research but care to throw my way, I am always still very happy to answer things or would love to research your question for you if I'm unfamiliar with the topic!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Vacation/Mini break

Hookay, life crazy now.  On break/vacation until next week. Won't go crazier.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Combo days! Thursday Hort Lesson: Leave Morphology & Friday Foliage, Flowers and Fruits Photog

Busy busy busy busy busy.  Holidays good. But, busy.

Since the weather getting a little cooler I've been trying to catch up with the garden for all the hours missed from the heat wave.  So, I was outside for 4 hours yesterday chugging away, unfortunately not during the wee hours of the morning as I usually like, but I started at noon because from morning until then I was curled up in bed with a ridiculous tummy ache from eating 6 plums and 3 peaches (all delicious btw) from the 20 pounds of fruit the husband and I picked from out local Jones Orchard ($0.89/lb for peaches, nectarines and plums!) (but unless I turn them into jam fast, they need to be devoured!).   Needless to say, my stomach protesteths at that much acidity and told me so.

Thus partly the reason why I didn't get to my regularly scheduled posting.

So, I am attempting to combine yesterday's planned leaf lesson with pictures for today as scheduled.

I really am interested in learning the horticulture terminology of leaves (and eventually flowers, fruits, roots and etc) because I (1) like knowing what the heck all those scientific papers are talking about when describing leaves especially on websites that talk about specific plant anatomy and I can't get a clear idea of what the plant looks like and (2) it makes for plant identification easier when you can use formal terms rather than descriptors such as  "sort of zig-zaggy but curved and hairy...."

Leaf morphology is broken down in 3 sections: Shape (of one leaf/the leaf set),  Margin (what the edge of the leaf looks like), and finally Venation (how the leaf veins are laid out).

There is a great diversity in leaf shape, which I was aware of but didn't realize all the subtleties until I encountered the leaf chart in the link below. Because of the diversity of simply leaf shapes I'll be focusing on shape in this entry rather than margins and venation.

This very handy leaf chart on wikimedia (you can blow it up to an easier to read size) is wonderfully detailed and I will only address and give examples of common leaf shapes/margins/venations that a person might encounter and those in my garden that I can show examples of.

Some common leaf shapes include acicular, rhomboid, lanceolate, linear, cordate, obtuse, deltoid, pinnatisect, elliptic.

The nice leaf chart explains beneath each of these names the characteristic of these names.

Acicular literally does mean needle shaped and those with that shaped leaves include many conifers such as firs, pines and some junipers.

shaped leaves are fairly common and an many trees exhibit this basic diamond leaf shape.

Lanceolate leaves are reminiscent the spearheads of lances, pointed at both ends, (but also a similar to those of the ensiformis shape which are thinner and pointier than wider in middle lanceolates) can be found in many types of grasses and daylilies.
(lemongrass, chilling in my tub.  Pardon if these are old images, didn't have new ones on hand)

Linear leaves are as they sound, like lines and are single leaves with long even edges such as those of chives.

Cordate leaves are heart shaped (cord- being the Latin term for heart) and an example of a leaf of this shape can be seen in the redbud tree.

Obtuse leaves are blunt tipped, wide leaves such as those seen in smoke trees from the genus Continus

Deltoid leaves like the muscles of your shoulder area are triangular such as those of aspens.

Pinnatisect leaves are often seen and vilified by those who enjoy perfect lawns, but enjoyed by gourmet salad eaters as commonly seen pinnatisect leaves can be seen in dandelions! Pinna-is Latin for feather with -sect meaning "to cut." These leaves are deeply cut up to the leaf's midrib.  Many ferns that do not exhibit separate leaflets fall into this leaf category.
(do not pay attention to the mutated 2 headedness of this dandelion, please take note of the pinnatisect leaves!)

Elliptic leaves, just like rhomboid leaves are fairly common in many plants and trees.  Some examples of these sorts of leave are citrus, apple and some viburnums.
(many, many elliptic leaves on a citrus tree)

The former are all very common leaves and while walking about my garden some more very interesting leaf shapes can be seen:

Tripinnate leaves, where there are multiple leaflets on one stem can be seen on a rue plant

Spatulate, or spoon shaped leaves like loose leaf lettuce leaves

Hastate (with lobes at its base) vs Spearshaped leaves of the garden sorrel plant.

Trifolium or ternate leaves or leaflets in sets of three are not unusual, commonly seen in clover and medic, but there are freaks of nature.... such as the 'Dark Dancer' red clover variety that can often have 4 leaves!

Pedate leaves are a version of palmate type leaves except they are divided at a single point usually. Not that uncommon either like the trifoliums above, and often see in Japanese maples or are very cool like in my Haight Ashbury hibiscus:
Finally, one more unusual leaf type that I get to enjoy in my garden is the whorled kind such as sweet woodruff that I take great delight in

Another excellent leaf chart and more leaf help (with a test!) here.

Finally, leaving (ha!) you with some foliage, flowers and fruits pics:
(self seeded Grandpa Ott morning glory, love this color so much!)

(Sunny dill days!)

(Self seeded Thai basil flowers slowly opening)

(Not so much contrast here, but Fruit Basket peppers going gangbusters, so happy! These will be delicious when fully orange ripened.  Self seeded tatsoi mustard greens sprouted in the basket from when I hung the seed pods to dry near the basket)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Garden Creative: Lucky for you, no poetry!

Ha. So I stated that this day I wanted to be creative, and the plan was to do poetry, because I usually have a million nature inspired words to write upon that could be considered poetic, but then I realize hours later is pure... well, compost.

LUCKY FOR YOU, I instead have been creative in other garden crafty-useful and fun ways.

I keep my gardening boots in my sunroom, which is not airtight, but a relatively safe place to set plants away from too much sun or wind and other elements that can be problematic if I need to neglect them for a while.  In the process, I have introduced all sorts of flora and fauna into the sunroom, namely spiders which I am in constant battle with to keep their webs and children at bay.  I really need to institute a weekly clean up and purge of that area to make things saner in there...  Plus this might encourage the spiders to just MOVE OUT and not continuously making homes in my baskets, under the table, in the corners of stands and etc.

The biggest problem I have, that I can't ignore are spiders in my boots.  I get very bad reactions to spider bites, when, depending on the spider the bites can grow to the size of a grapefruit, or the itching is so intense that its take a month for it to stop and then months or a year for the bite bruise to heal.  So, I keep a good eye out for spiders.  I'm not scared of spiders, I'm just nervous about being bitten by them.

To combat accidental boot biting I've taken to stuffing rags into my boots so that I can foil the crawlers from nesting inside them and then surprising both of us when I put the boots on.  Sadly I have found the rags to ineffective in completely keeping spiders out as the rags tend to slide down, exposing the top part of the boot, allowing for some space to exist between the top of the boot and the slipped stuffed rag.

I also wanted to be sure that my boots could stay upright and keep their shape, so, in deference to fancier boot devices, I thought and thought and decided that I need to make some sort of stuffed/filled boot shape keeper/spider obstacle.  It needed to not be able to rot or mold (so the easy cloth tube sock wouldn't do it), and not attract pests/feel like a waste of food (so no beans or rice as filling).

I remembered that I saved an old heavy plastic duty rice bag:

and had some extra sand sitting around for random acts of soil mixing.  So I began winging my little spider preventer.

Measuring? What measuring?  Mostly I just halved, then quarter this plastic rice bag, retaining the stitched part to my use.  I then halved that to form each "boot bag" that I'll fill with sand.

Essentially I restitch the already loosely stitched part to reinforce it, and made a bag with an opening to fill with sand.

After filling with sand I stitch up the top and tada...! It doesn't fit the boot, properly (too big down the bottom) because I don't measure.

Brill.  So I squish some of the sand up and adjust the bottom half to be a little smaller and tighter with some cursory stitching and FINALLY it works! woohoo.

Round 2 worked out a lot better (do things in pairs, and finish the first one before going onto the next half of the set so you can learn from your mistakes I say!)

Hurray, now my boots will stay in shape and the spiders won't dare to build webs at the mouth of my boots and can't get inside!

One final bit of creativity:

I've been getting these beautiful multicolored cage free eggs from my farmer's market.  The egg shells themselves are too pretty, so I decided to make something with them as a gift to the vendor people who I get my eggs from (since one of the them is unfortunately having to deal with bad luck left and right as of late).  Plus, they're "pay what you can" eggs and the concept of this is so wonderful to me I think they deserved a little gift:

On the back of one for the lady who's been having issues in life I also wrote: "So things stop clucking up!"  The metal chickens shown are also a slightly modified version of what I made for her originally (this is a round 2).  The originals had the phrase written on the chickens, here I decided I liked using extra soda can metal to make small signs to say it.

Pretty much free little garden craft for me: stolen borrowed recycling soda/beer cans from neighbors, dired lawn clippings, wood glue on hand, eggs shells after contents had been used, bottle caps from already drunk beer, and special "Dark Dancer" red clover that I've been growing and has spread that insures 4 leaf clovers for true luck ;)

Happy Wednesday and hope any of this helped or was interesting!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Plant Spotlight: Tomatillos, Verde and Purple types!

I've talked briefly on tomatillos in the past, but haven't given them enough verbiage on this blog and my excitement on growing them this year.

In my effort to find relatively easy, pest free things to grow that can hold for a good while without refrigeration, I came upon tomatillos.  The fact that they sound like "tomatoes" helps too, because just about anything that sounds like/reminds me of a tomato seems to be delicious.

My first encounter with tomatillos was at an amazing international mart in my hometown over last Thanksgiving.  I had seen and heard of tomatillos before as I am an authentic cookbook freak and there are a good number of Mexican recipes that cite tomatillos as an ingredient.  The fruit itself is very eye catching: papery yellowing husk with a slight stickiness to it and a globular lime green firm fruit popping out from the husk.  I didn't want to eat the fruit when I was away from home because I wanted to save the seeds properly and was afraid I'd lose them if I attempted tomatillo seed saving away from home, so I brought the fruits back  and after a few weeks, and noticing with glee that they held very well at room and refrigerator temperature, I finally cut into them.

I had actually had never had a tomatillo before then and so I was very surprised by the flavor.  It was an intense, green apple flavor with citrus-y tones and other ineffable notes that I can't describe.  I was impressed, and my husband was too, and when gets impressed by a fruit/vegetable, I take note because he's quite a bit pickier than me about these things.

The seeds can be saved very easily, just like regular tomato seeds via the fermentation method, though I suspect they could also just be washed and dried for later use.  My experience also seems to indicate that the seeds are very vigorous and I've had no troubles with germination.

Tomatillos, also known as Mexican husk tomato, or to get Latin-y: Physalis philadephica, are of the Solanaceae family, where tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are also members of.  Closer relatives to tomatillos include: Love-in-a-cage, aka Chinese lantern plants, gooseberries and ground cherries; all of which are edible and can be eaten fresh or made into jams/jellies.

The green varieties of tomatillos tend to be larger and tarter with the purple variety, which I have not personally tried, but hope to this summer, is supposed to be smaller but sweeter and hold longer and are also less sticky than the green kind.  The green and purple variety both produce about the same amount of total fruit in volume per plant, with fewer individual green fruits as they are larger, but more purple fruits as they're smaller.

There are few pests that affect tomatillos, though I did encounter tobacco/tomato hornworms on some seedlings recently, I have noticed very little damage on my older plants that are in the garden ground other than maybe some flea beetle nibbles.

I've read that the soil should be rich where you decide to grow tomatillos, but as they are like weeds in Mexico I've heard and if they are like the tomato plants from my compost bin, they'll be forgiving of the soil I'm sure.

Tomatillo vines like tomatoes can be stakes or allowed to roam, though obviously you'll get more clean fruit when staked.  The leaves are like a mix of tomato and pepper leaves, though rangier in my opinion.  Mine have still yet to show flower, but from pictures they appear to look like tomatoes for the most part with some darkness in the center.

Once the flowers are pollinated and the fruit begins, the fun too begins!  The fruit swells and is covered by the calyces of the flower, which will form the husk.  The husk covers the fruit and when it's time to harvest, like a turkey with those red pop up things, the fruit breaks the husk to indicate ripeness!  How much easier can it get?!

Harvest as often as possible because like other fruits/vegetables, production goes down if you don't harvest.  Storage is simple, refrigeration with husks on or off, though I've heard they last longer with the husks off.  I've also read that single layers in a cool dark location allow tomatillos to store just fine for months.  In addition, like some tomato tales I've heard, natives in Central/South America will just store entire yanked up plants with fruits on them hanging  upside-down in a room just fine.

Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply sells both verde and purple tomatillo seeds and if you need other seeds anyways, they do have a current special of 2 free organic vegetable seed packets with every order from now until the end of the year, so take advantage if you already need seeds and want to try a new vegetable or variety! (<-- not affiliated btw, just like their free seed thing).

Many pardons for the lack of pics on my behalf.  It's my first year growing growing them, and there hasn't been much activity or flowering, so it's a boring plant to look at now.  Please follow the links provided if you wish for more pics or interesting uses for tomatillos:,0,1107342.story

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Monday Monday, it was all I hoped it would be..."

Whew! I'm glad to know that I've not been the only suffering in this weather, as well as the only one who's garden has gone down hill!  Granted I'm not suffering as bad as poor Dave here, so I probably have less excuse.

Still, can I please just blame the dog and the weather?  My little bitchy (well, she is) has been consistently waking me up at 5:30am for the past couple of weeks and usually I just get up and roll with the hour that she wakes me up at (which used to be a tolerable 6:15am-6:30am) but anytime prior to 6am (even 6 in the morning is pushing it...) is just plain insane to me.  So after a few exhausted pets from me, she starts scratching me like she's a mole and I'm a delicious bulb she wants and if I don't get up, the barking begins.  Then I yell, she whines and I finally get up after cursing up a storm.

That's when I feed her and attempt to creep into bed again, but invariably she starts up again and I get no more than an extra 15 minutes of rest more.  When I finally do really get up, I take my little time (because I'm annoyed at her) and clean up the kitchen, water some houseplants and stuff to dawdle a bit before taking her out since she runs on a 12 hour schedule, of food every 12 and walk every 12 and the later I take her out in the morning, the later in the evening too, which helps in this dagnabit hot weather.

Of course, this means that I've been getting up not only grumpy, but later than I like to get into the garden, and thus as it's warmer, I'm in no mood to garden for longer than a quick sprinkle of water on the potted plants to prevent them from dying.  Mondays and weekends are worst for waking up at a reasonable hour, because you just want to have fun and go to bed late.  I wish I was one of those lucky in the gene pool, super "no need to sleep" people, so that I could get my gardening done before it feels like high noon in the Sahara here.

But there appears to be hope!
Can it be? It really is!  TEMPERATURES BELOW 90 degrees F for a few days! (Then it hits above 90s again on Friday, go figure, but still, respite!)

Perhaps this is over excitement, but I might be able to get some real gardening done again!  Pull weeds! Oh joy! To eradicate weeds again!  Spread more mulch-y stuff, clean the sunroom and garden area up, mow the lawn!

Being able to do these things again will be thrilling, considering how far behind I feel the garden has been and how awful it's starting to become.  I am feeling very little hope for the vegetables this year.  The heat I think has also been preventing good fruit set and I just pulled off 6 little hornworms off some tomatillo seedlings I had potted up, pests that I might have been able to prevent and noticed their damage earlier if I was able to spend more time in the garden were it not for the heat.

I'd like to note that I'm that breed of morning gardener.  Morning are my time because it gets me up and at 'em, stretches my bones and gets my mind going.  Plus, it's usually the least hot and buggy time of the day for me, especially when I perpetually must wear boots, overalls, and long sleeves when I garden to prevent from getting bitten up and lumpy.  Even then, the buggers find my hands, wrists, neck and face to snack on if I'm out for more than 5 minutes.

Either way, I'm thrilled to have a few mornings below 70 degrees and will just settle to the thought that this summer's garden may be a wash and dream of fall.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Start of Friday Foliage, Flowers and Fruits photog

So, working on this organization and discipline thing with the blog (as usual) that will hopefully provide good content, learning for you and me, interesting dialogue and updates on my garden as well as assuring a good amount of photographs, consistently.

Here's the plan, feel free to comment and tell me if you think this is a good/bad idea:

-MONDAYs: Going ons in my garden
-TUESDAYs: Plant spotlight either in my garden, or of one of my interest
-WEDNESDAYs: Plant/nature poetry, sorry, need to get that creative urge out.  If it's painful for you, skip this day
-THURSDAYs: Horticulture lesson, for my sake, I want to understand all those fun terms like pinnate leaves and crap
-FRIDAYs: Foliage, flowers and fruit photographs in excess for your weekend viewing pleasure (I hope)

So, I guess here's to kicking off my new Friday tradition!

The ornamental Black Pearl pepper is fruiting and looking gorgeous!
I'd like to call this pic, jestingly, "Spicy hot pic of myself"  If you click on the pic, you can see clearer the reflection of me in the pepper berries.

 More detail and still some reflections of me

I love the colors of this pepper, the fade of red and black!   Tiny spiders making webs between the berries.

I find the foliage of Black Pearl very attractive too, a purple-green-black-bronze burnish.

A cluster of spider webby berries

Immature berries with lone purple flower

The contrast of the green background was nice I thought.  These are like jewels! Who needs rubies or amethysts when there are these plants? 

Hyacinth bean, or lab-lab bean I learned is another name for this plant recently.  Lovely dark purple edible pods eventually.

Not a great pic, but interesting of inside of a rose mallow flower with focus on stamens.  The petal ribs were a cool pleated effect I thought.

A little duller in color, but more equalized focus here again.  Someday I'll get this one right.

Let's pretend to see beauty in destruction ok?  This is the sawfly (that we identified earlier with Dr. Turpin from Purdue's help) damage.  Specifically this is a hibiscus sawfly that has affected the previously shown Rose Mallow hibiscus and this Red River hibiscus.  It seems that I'll need to get pyrethrin to treat the sawfly larval damage as neem hasn't worked.  Luckily, I learned that the Haight Ashbury, and other hibiscus sabdariffa varieties are resistant to this sawfly, so the hibiscus that are delicious are being spared. Yea.

 Closeup of damage.  Lacey, could be pretty almost.  Who needs to crochet when the bugs do it for you?

Taking pics of these new untouched by sawfly damaged hibiscus leaves was wonderful (Doesn't it look like it's indicating to you to come to it?).  Slightly stupid breathless commentary I wrote in haste of this below:

I hold my breath as I take the pictures, one after another, not wanting to breathe  because the inhalation of air would travel from my nose to my lungs, expanding my chest  and raising my arms and moving my hands, ruining the picture.  I begin to see stars and   blackness creeping in at the edges of my vision.  Beauty is literally suffocating me.   The leaves, cupped up, catch the wind, cups of wind, holding distillations of air from  who knows where.  The leaves, full of wind, are able to move the entirety of the tree  in one direction to another. The tree would travel and follow the wind if it could give  up its rooty anchor, but it's content just to sip the wind that flows into its cups.  I  wonder if it would appreciate me digging it up and putting it on a well oiled wagon so  that it might be able to travel with the wind as I can tell it yearns to, but it is too pragmatic and has set down deep roots.  This is home to it, in my yard, and I am glad that it has stayed despite the bugs, despite my poor watering and neglect.

New leaves, what can be more beautiful?

This one reminded me of a chameleon, with little arms!

One final curl.  

Have a great weekend and I hope your garden is doing better than mine!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Keeping away the Twilight fans and Babies everywhere! (click on title to get)

A week ago (I know, behind on posting in real time) my garlic was looking really scruffy and yellow indicating that it was garlic yanking time!

I've already done a post on garlic harvesting and braiding from a while back so I won't bore you with the details all over again.

When I harvest my garlic each year, I also re-plant it at that time to replace what I've pulled up despite many people saying that garlic planting time is in the fall.  I figure if I have holes in the garden already, why not just plant more in them and my other reason is my garden is sort of self sustaining in the garlic growing area.  The first year I planted, I planted so much garlic that it was way too much for one harvest and it seemed that the cloves I planted might have grown at different rates, some smaller than others, so I left those smaller ones  in the ground for the next year's harvest.  Some I think have even been in there for 3 years just because I wanted them to get bigger.

Well, this year was a little different.  I still is a good sized harvest despite leaving some of the smaller ones in the ground as usual and there were quite a few beautifully sized bulbs to dry for use this year. Smelly joy!

The only change in the garlic harvesting/planting came from the garlic itself telling me something: They wanted to have babies apparently:

Lots of the garlic started sprouting flowers and growing bulbs at their tops like the Egyptian walking onion, but also bursting with little bulbs oddly from the middle of their stems too.  I assume that it was their time and they had matured and these little bulbs can be considered seed garlic.

The mama bulbs that produced the seed bulbs were still small and I set them aside with the idea of replanting them too, but decided later as an afterthought that maybe they had run their course and it might be better to just simply use them despite their smallness (maybe their flavor's more intense?)  I also made the decision not to replant the mama bulbs because there were so many little seed bulbs, those and the already too small bulbs still in the garden would get a little crowded if I added anymore extra garlic bulbs to the mix.

Currently I am leaving them to hang in the garage (pardon the mess o' sports equipment and tools in the background)  It's a relatively dark place with what I hope is some air circulation to prevent rot and sprouting.

(pic of lone mid-section sprouted bulb plant)

(closeup of the midsection garlic, great color!)

Last year I dried the garlic in the guest bedroom, but it did stink the place up of garlic (made worse because I kept the door closed in that room) and as I have guests coming, it's not happening now unless I can confirm my guests enjoy garlic scent as air "freshener."  My only concern about the garage is that it is rather hot and humid outside, the heat not so bad in the garage, but still, a bit of a concern.  I suppose we'll see.  Granted garlic is cheap if it goes bad, but it's obviously nice to use what you grow and that it doesn't go to waste.

(artsy photos of the garlic with my spiffy "it's Italian night!" tablecloth I found at the thrift store)

(who knew garlic could be so pretty?)

(I don't know what happened to this bulb for it to end up looking so weird... spirals of garlic cloves! Maybe I should plant these out in hopes that I can reproduce spiral garlic? Note: this is being propped up by a small bulb of garlic)

(Unpropped by another garlic bulb.  It's like some sort of garlic unicorn horn, or a smelly seashell?)

This, and winter squashes (missing those so bad this year) are amongst my favorite things to grow because of their shelf life.  Someday I'll get/make a root cellar and I might be able to keep carrots, potatoes, broccoli, cabbage and other goodies well into the fall/winter without refrigeration. Someday, one day I will!

I try to use the garlic up as fast as possible because there's nothing like peeling or chopping up your garlic to find that it's all gray-black and nasty smelling.  Any recipe suggestions?  Lots of Italian and roasted garlic use here, so if you've got something real good, send it this way!