Saturday, October 31, 2009


Hello all! Sorry for the late post...I've been running around like a mad woman with the relatives here and I figure hey, getting this in now rather than later is still better than not at all!

 I did a pumpkin for myself that is a repeat of one I did in a past year (sadly was too busy to think originally at the time!)

(yeah... pic from last year, but it's the same idea)

...but I made a cat pumpkin and mouse thing for the place I volunteer at:

 (Sadly didn't take this pic, the place I volunteer at did... since I forgot to after I carved it.  It's a cat--- that had awesome spaghetti whiskers that broke off in some high winds :(  Maybe I'll go back and add them back on)

(Mouse to with the cat)

Also, I found these at the Dollar Store and while I'll plan to paint them up with fun Dios de los muertos designs in the future, it is plain now other than the festive flowers!

Have a great spooky season!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pod People: specifically Green tea mania

I have a great attraction to all things pod-like.  Don't know what it is specifically but it's as though pods are sort of nature's boxes, inflatable organic gifts (ok, no big surprise what the gift is, seeds of course) but still the variety of shapes and sizes of pods that are available just dazzles me.

Here are a few that I enjoy before I get to the real rarity:

I was recently bopping around my potted green tea plants checking out this green fruit thing that feels like it's been hanging out there forever when I noticed it had split!

The lovely bright green seed pod exposed a creamy white center and brown seeds.  Pretty snazzy colors there Mother Nature!

Interestingly enough the pod itself was relatively soft and spongy (much less so a couple of days later)

Germinating green tea seeds to my understanding is somewhat tricky and needs to be done when they are ripe, therefore just dropped from the seed pod and not shriveled.  Many places simply take cuttings for tea propagation, but I suppose if I plan to live until I'm a 150 years old, I have time to make more green tea plants! (It doesn't take 150 years for a good tea plant to develop, it would just feel  like that to me mentally because I'm impatient!)

Here are some sources I found on germinating the seeds:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

House guests and plants--- particularly relatives

AH!!!!!!!!!!!!   My mother is visiting from out of town today and she's going to see all my crazy plants!

(She's not into the plant thing as much as I am, as you might guess)

Here is where I wave the green leafy flag and hide behind it in shame:

I know, I know, I know, I don't need 5 pots of kohleria... but they are SO cool and easy to propagate!  The rhizomes just SPAWN like bunnies!

 (Last night I was moving them around to get to some dust, and did a stupid "Oooh!" because one bud bloomed!)

I know I don't need one of every kind of citrus (that have still yet to produce fruit for me and barely a bud last year--- despite receiving/purchasing them in bud/flower)...

I know I have an orchid fetish (they're my guilty pleasure... when they're in bloom.  Come on guys, you can do it!)

And while I try to keep mostly edible things (herbs and peppers) indoors, the random begonia with some AWESOME hairy foliage comes in (and thrives on me for once) so how can I say no?

I have no idea why I have the stupid fern or tiny parlor palm... but... they were cheap?  (*smacks self* WHAT WAS I THINKING WHEN I BOUGHT THOSE?!?!?)

But yes, houseguests.  Particularly relatives.  Specifically, moms.

The nagging, can you feel it?  Can you feel its power all the way from where you are at???

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bring 'em in! (and the every fall/winter this happens post)

We had a mini-bit of frost here earlier, that worried me a little enough to cover the vegetable beds with a sheet and bring in some of the other more tender plants, but when it said 39 degrees F for the low with another week of nice weather before consistent lows at night in the 40s, I said, "Not worth it," and decided I might as begin the process of isolating them in the sunroom for a while where they could acclimate themselves to the horrors of less light.

I know you're supposed to acclimate them my bringing them in and out of the house for some hours each day, but with this:

I don't even bother.

After a week in there, with the sunroom window panels being opened and closed here and there depending on temperature and light conditions and for air flow, I figure they'll be fine mostly with the changes in the house and survive.

There's almost always whining and crying on their part in the form of some leaf drop and other issues, but in my house, only the mighty are allowed to survive!

(I find it funny when people comment I have a "green thumb."  No... I just grow easy things to make it look easy ;)

When I first bring the plants into the sunroom, I tend to do it in the early evening so that the temperature and light isn't a big change.  Then I douse the plants with neem oil solution to get rid of any pests that might have been brought and also drench soil with neem oil solution as well because many things probably made it their home their over the summer.

The day before I haul them in slowly, I give them another neem spray for good measure and after it's all dry I inspect them and haul 'em in!

I have REALLY limited sunshine and room, so I always need to make executive decisions as to what deserves the most light/room/etc. and most of the plants end up in the dining room and on the china cabinet.

Every so often through the winter I need to move the plants around from one room to the other so another plant can get some much deserved light.  It's tough work!

I am very excited though about a new addition to the house this winter which I have big plans for:

(ignore the messy house background...)

My jasmine I hope will grow very well and eventual give me a lot of perfumed flowers this winter/spring.  I'm having it climb all over the place (maybe even the chandelier to my husband's chagrin!)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Buried Treasure!

(Before I plunge into this mini-post I want to explain that I am taking a mini-blog vacation as I prepare for visitors!  Posts will still go up, they're just be a little abbreviated and juicy truly informative posts will be on their way next week.)

AND, back to regularly scheduled programming:

I have an admission:  I am a lazy gardener!

Earlier this summer I prepared a nice large half barrel to grow sweet potatoes in but was worried worried worried about making the soil "just right" for these babies because they were the first time I was growing sweet potatoes and I didn't want to mess this up.

Using some potting soil I had around mixed with the nasty clay stuff naturally here in Tennessee I also added some sand for drainage because I hear soggy sweet potaters are a definite non-desireable.  The pot was filled mid-way high because I figured as the vines grew I would just keep adding more soil mix to bury the vines in until the pot was filled at the top and then the leaves could ramble around merrily.

Sort of wish I could have had this sort of setup or this one with the tires, but alas, no tires nor extra scrap wood here at the time.

I planted 2 plants of the 6 that came in the pack because I figured all 6 would be a mite bit crowded in a half whiskey barrel and resolved to get back to it after the vines grew a bit more.

Then it rained.  And I got busy. Time marched on... and the other 4 sweet potatoes still in their plastic planter plugs on top of whiskey barrel full of soil where I had left them decided, "This gardener sucks.  Let's just root up here!"

...which I discovered later in the summer and subsequently yanked them out (sorry guys!) (and as my husband would say sarcastically, "They can TOTALLY hear you say that!") and I figured it was too late to get sweet potatoes from them still, but planted them around my garden to make some great ground cover and eat their leaves, in the process, so score there!
(Also, I never ended up filling the barrel devoted to sweet potatoes with more luscious dirt because I got busy >_<)

But getting to the point...
The leaves were starting to get nasty and yellow from the cold and I decided it was about time to yank up the foliage because I wasn't interested in eating it at that point.    Half way through yanking in the garden I noticed a stone-like thing, and realized I had a SURPRISE sweet potato!

I ran to get my husband to show him and he and I then began scrambling around on our hands and knees like delighted squirrels digging around for roots!

Here's the result of our efforts (including after the checking the barrel):

It was definitely a nice surprise though we just bought sweet potatoes from the store (silly us).  I'll have to cure them though to get the starches to convert to sugar, so the store ones will last us well until then.

My point is:  sweet potatoes: darn easy, literally no work!

I still think they make a great groundcover and while it might be a pain to some to go searching around for them, use it to your advantage and make it into a game or something with your family and/or significant other.  It really was like Christmas!

(N.B. Don't forget to comment here if you are interested in winning some plant label/tags by the end of the week!)

Monday, October 26, 2009

'Bout that lemongrass...

So, remember that lemongrass that I left in the shower to chill until I could get back to it?

Yeah, I got back to it, and spent about 3 hours finagling with the blasted thing, cutting it, taking apart the bulbs/clumps, and simply washing it.  After quite a few days in there it still was housing its own little eco-system and the slugs came tearing all out.

I ended up bringing the food processor INTO the bathroom because I was in no mood to carry dripping piles of lemongrass nearly 4 feet long across the house into the kitchen.

Oh, and as it turns out and I should have thought about this before starting, lemongrass leaves do not process well.  I saved the bulbs whole in the freezer because they have the most flavor and are great on their own, but the leaves... yes...  instead  of my brilliant plant of finely shredded lemongrass, I got a massive spool of it looped around the processor blades >_<.

I had to get my hand in there a million times to turn the shredded stuff to the top and the hoops of lemongrass to the bottom.   Much aggravation.  After I completed the leaves of one clump I said, "screw it, this is too painful," and decided that I would not process the other clump I am saving in a pot to overwinter in the house.

I didn't need the leaves of the clump in the pot and I knew that it'd do better if I gave it a haircut so that the rest of the plant could get a fresh start indoors and not be too stressed (and start pushing out fresh new leaves for me).   I just couldn't deal with anymore lemongrass!

The idea of just chucking it in the compost bin made me feel guilty (it's so precious, worth it's weight, expensive grocery store lemongrass?) and thought about donating it to the local Vietnamese restaurant, but realized that they might not accept non-grocery store produce, but instead fell upon the idea of just giving it to a friend who was having a party and that was that :)

No guilt and no shame!

The great thing about processing all the lemongrass was that the bathroom and the house smelled obviously lemony fresh.   The bad news is that my bathroom looked like this:

 Blargh.  Mother visiting in 3 days and counting... Maybe it would be easier to just tell her in third world countries many people use the sink?  Just kidding!  I'll clean it up *grumble, grumble*

(DON'T FORGET, LABEL/TAG GIVEAWAY STILL OPEN UNTIL END OF THIS WEEK so comment if you'd like to be in the running!)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

(100th+ post) GIVEAWAY: Tag! Maybe you're it?

Hello all! My time has flown by fast! I've been much more diligent about this blog than I expected and I appreciate all the comments and encouragement from people.

This is about the 100th (+?)  decent post I have made here after the deletion of the intro post of this blog (I know a crime, but it was so bad and incongruent I felt it had to go)

As I enjoy celebratin' and giftin' I would like to do both of those things below:

Remember I talked earlier about garden craftiness and labels/tags? Well I did some more experimenting and found that I could use my nifty glass paint on the metal can tags I make and thus create really nice durably designed ones, woohoo!

These are BAKED on, so won't wash off like regular paint or nail polish a person might use.

Here they are, being modeled with a little Cuban oregano so you can idea of them being in use. (kind of crowded I know)
So, in celebration, I will randomly choose by the end of the week (Happy Halloween) one person who commented to send these to (you'll be contacted via email as to where you'd like me to send it).

NOTE: I'd like to apologize about the purple-yellow one... I was trying to do a lotus type thing, but it didn't turn out quite as well I would have liked. I still enjoy it personally myself, but if you want tags and don't like it so much, just tell me.

Thanks again and best of luck!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Crafty gardening: Pots

Fall replanting/transplanting reminds me that I am in constant need of pots.

I am a bit of a snob about my pots too, as I hate the readily available plastic type. I hate: its texture, flimsiness, non-breatheability, essentially cheapness in quality.

Granted, they are great in a pinch and I horde the ones that I get from the store/nursery so I can do starts, propagate and etc because I am so cheap (aka poor, ok, not too poor, just cheap).

Give me terracotta, lovely glazed pottery, or metal (yeah, yeah, overheat/gets cold) pots, but plastic makes me cringe.

In my search for proper plant-ware, I hound stores like TJ Maxx, Tuesday Morning, thrift and antique stores for interesting pieces and find some awesome deals, like this plain white pot for a buck:

Which brings me to my obsession for color (I do like the minimalism of the white pot, but I get bored easily). Having just learned of glass paints I wanted to get some garden crafty on.

Also being utterly pretentious I wanted to paint a design on this pot too that I would find humorous, so here's the Space Traveler commonly known as The Little Prince:

(Little Prince on his little planet)

(The Lamplighter and King)

(The Business Man and the sun behind the Lamplighter's planet)

(The most famous Little Prince quote translated: "One cannot see well but with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes")

When I came up with the idea I realized that this would be best for a friend of mine who enjoys The Little Prince as well. When I was done I sort of wanted to keep it, but I knew that she would probably gain more enjoyment from it than me.

I think it's obvious she should plant a miniature rose in it, but it's her pot, her choice.

Luckily I have 3 more pots that I can brainstorm on.

But back to being cheap, in need of pots and glass paint!

My cheapness has gone to the next level and recently, I had a mini-flip out about buying yet another simple ceramic piece I wanted to paint for a buck, and thought to myself, what can I use as a pot, that I can paint cool stuff permanently on, like a glazed item?

The idea of something metal led to the idea of TIN CANS, as I already use large tomato sauce cans as planters already and glass jars and beer bottles.

Though I find the aesthetics of plain tin cans and glass jars/bottles to be fine on their own, it's nice to spice things up a bit!

Here's the result:
A gold colored design glass paint beer bottle might make a nifty vase?

Large baked on glass paint tin can to be a pot. Maybe I'll work with the lines/grooves more another time?

I would like to note, like plastic shrinkies, I think the large tin can has a lining and may off-gas (I could be paranoid about a smell coming from the oven, but I like to always add caution when necessary). So, while it was fun to make, I may just stick with regular tins or paint that doesn't need to be baked on, even though this makes them super-able to weather the outdoors!

Either way, fun experiment and may the garden crafty be with you, especially during the doldrums of winter!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gentlemen (and women)! Please prepare to activate your compost!

Baby it's starting to get cold outside and you want, nay you NEED to keep the heat on in your compost pile, so why not do it the easy natural way? 

Pee in your compost.

Ok, that was a little blunt, but really, not to get all "Dodgeball" the movie on you (j/k), but human urine is really a great method to get your compost hot and bothered and eventually broken down.  The urea in urine is chock full of nitrogen and trace minerals (little did you know your were a little fertilizing machine!) and heats up compost like nothing else.  In case you were worried about sanitation, do not fret.

OK, there is the issue of cold buns, and while I could talk about men having it easy and methods akin to the doctor's office, I'll get off the topic of bodily fluids/functions and mention the other natural methods because purchasing something labeled: Compost activator? Phhbbbtt.  Don't buy those.

Before I continue on to what a person can use as compost activators, let me explain what it is (other than the obvious in its name).

Compost activators are heavy boosts of nitrogen added to a compost pile to get it to heat up and break down faster and thus giving your your pirates booty of black gold quicker, because hey, am I not American?  I loves me the instant gratification ;)

So yes, cheap easy activators (other than urine):

Alfafa?  I've spoke of it before, and here I'll say it again.  It's awesome! And will heat up your compost too, so chuck some pellets in there.

Dry dog/cat food is also considered a good compost activator.  Just watch fido/fifi in your garden for a while.

Coffee grounds will jolt things right up, especially if you are a daily drinker or are a Starbucks stalker.

Beer, though this seems like a crying shame to waste a brew on, it's less of an issue if you are poor and have some of the more flavorless type.

Ammonia is a killer of slugs too (and our nasal passages), but did you know that it also is a byproduct of urine?  Oh the connections!

Really, there are so many easy, accessible ones there you'd be surprised!  This post may seem like a reiteration of me spouting on and on about amendments and such, but this is a great time to get things in the ground/compost bin/pile so that the freezing/thawing of the upcoming seasons will allow for organic matter to decompose and release nutrients more fully.

For the most part, many of you who compost already most likely are consistently keeping your bins hots without trying by inadvertent addition of these elements above, but for those who are trying to figure out why things aren't heating up or breaking down accordingly try the above materials and always remember that you need a good mix of browns and green and sometimes, you may need to water your pile.  Don't forget, your in luck, you have an easy source right in you! ;)

Thank Google! (and I am sorry Rodale if this is your bane) but here is an excellent link with more amendment info:
The Rodale book of composting - Google Books

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Halloween decorating with a little help from my garden friends

I'm not much into holiday decorating. Just this thing I have about keeping stuff around that you only take out once a year.

I have a few Christmas things I have been given that I like to take out here and there because of sentimental reasons, but as I : 1) have no children who care about that stuff and 2) no one visits during those times to see it, yeah, I'm kind of boring in that regards.

I do have a soft place for Halloween though because I loved it as a child and I decorate a bit then because pumpkins can be bought, eaten and used/composted each year, so there's nothing left to store/put away once it's over!

This year however I have some little (well, not so little depending on your definition) friends to help me with some extra special decorating!

I was surprised too by their enthusiasm! On a recent rain I only noticed this :
(pardon some bad pics, it was rainy and some angles were difficult and shot from inside my sunroom grainy screens)
(over 3 ft in diameter! ...and near the hummingbird feeder, hmmmm...)

(This is web is unfortunately by the back door, however built intelligently out of the way of human traffic!)

(Once again, I keep tilting the camera video feature the wrong way. My apologies, but I think it's still worth it when you tilt your head right a bit. The rain and wind make this so beautiful I think. Ah spiderwebs, lightness and strength.)

(Hi-five for effort!)(ooh! Click on this one above! The hairy detail is great! I had to get really close to this, it was in the huge web and the background was cloud white, thus the brightness)

So, yeah, Halloween decorating? Me and my little friends have got it down.

Now if only I could convince them that the front door would be an excellent place to catch introduce children to the joys of spiders.

(N.B. The golden orb spider traversed to my next door neighbor's backyard, and spun a huge web outside her kitchen window.  My neighbor hates spiders, dubbed it Bruinhilde and then called me and asked me if I might want the spider back.  So I brought it back, let it loose and the next day it ate the spider in the last pic :(

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Save the Basil!

Luckily I have LOTS of basil in volume and variety, but unless I want to re-purchase them all each year, I have to make a mad dash each end of season (well, only mad because I procrastinate) to get all my cuttings, seeds, and basil preservation in.

The seed issue is only for the sweet basil which I like to use as companion plants around many of my vegetables like the tomatoes every year, so I need that in abundance.  I often forget to cut the flowers/racemes of the other basil varieties off, so many of them self seed in my garden, oftentimes better than the sweet basil which I wish would!

As basil grows quite large, I only take about 3-5 cuttings per plant to make for a manageable pot each winter and then let the actual plant itself die down.  Well, what is left at least after I harvest all leaves possible to freeze chopped up in jars with a little canola oil for easy scraping out or whole leaves in bags for flavor and visibility in soups (LIKE TOM YUM). (Ok, if that Tom Yum thing gets annoying, please someone tell me, but it's so hard to suppress the enthusiasm for something so great).

Basil Preservation Primer (very simple):
Take your basil cuttings, strip the last 2-3 leaf nodes of their leaves and place in a cup of water in a sunny place.  After they form some good roots, pot them up and enjoy!

Frozen -in Jars w/Canola oil:
Strip all the leaves from the basil you wish to preserve.  Puree the leaves in a food processor or blender as fine as you like, drizzle just enough canola oil that it doesn't look oily and won't affect the flavor of what you will eventual cook them into.  Find an appropriately sized jar and freeze.

Frozen-in cubes (aka Basil pops):
Same as instructions above minus the oil addition.  Place the basil puree in ice cube trays that you can leave you basil either in, or pop them all out eventually for storage in a freezer bag and use the trays to make more basil cubes.
(Um, I would have shown you a picture of this, but it really wasn't pretty... lots of brown... if consensus states that they want to see real, pureed Basil pops in the raw I will post it, but yeah... a little icky)

After rinsing leaves, freeze them whole, or on a tray if you wish.  I don't care if mine are wrinkled and get all crunched up, as long as they are relatively whole I'm happy.  This method is if you like to see your basil.  Fragrant of course still, but not like fresh as you can imagine.

But for the most part, your basil is not going to be as pretty as what you can find in a tube at the grocery store because that stuff has color stabilizers and preservatives and etc.  If you are fast and your basil is still looking at its peak (which is doubtful about now) you can prob get a reasonably lovely colored puree.  Mine for the most part always gets a bit oxidized and brown tinged at the edges, but it's still delicious!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More motes of randomness: Psycho Lemongrass

I had 2 ginormous clumps of lemongrass started from very humble grocery store roots, only about 5 bulbs per clump...

I dug one up to pot up for the winter and have fresh on hand.  The other one I dug up (as we can't overwinter it here) and plan to preserve it using the food processor/canola oil method.

Due to not having a good clean bucket to hold it in I popped it in the bathroom shower and added some water for it to survive until I could get to it:

 I closed the shower door soon thereafter and now freak out when I enter the bathroom because I keep forgetting that I left a HUGE CLUMP OF LEMONGRASS in there and it looks like a person is in there instead.

I probably ought to take that out before my mom visits soon.

Just thought I'd share :)

Let's do the Time Warp again... for some reason, this never got posted in April?!

(Funny posting that never happened and I didn't notice in April quite possibly because I was not diligent)

I have been making the effort to grow most everything by seeds since it’s cheaper and my husband and I enjoy pretending we are old Depression era souls. Growing by seed is a labor intensive and not so labor intensive process all at the same time because sometimes you’ve got seeds like peas and mustard and beans which means you just chuck them in the ground when it’s warm enough and it’s like, poof! there’ s a plant. Other seeds, I think I’ve learned it’s better to start ahead because you want the delicious faster and sometimes those plants need to be big and strong when they are put out in the garden to combat the toils of Memphis’s crazed weather. It’s like Mother Nature is on crack here and you just can’t predict what she’ll do next. So some of your babies are delicate and need the abuse of a personal gardener such as yourself before MN (and the monster bugs) can get a whack at them.

Most of the time I can be super dumb and decide to seed start early indoors because I NEED to see something potentially delicious growing during the chill of winter and the dream of home grown food can sustain me whilst I stroke my deer foot fern like the cat of a crazed evil doer commonly depicted in movies. (I have heard that ferns are edible, esp their fiddleheads, but I still have yet to go there. If I started eating the ones I have there would be no ferns left. Do you any idea how long some ferns take to grow?!? If only that cinnamon fern tasted like cinnamon and if that Japanese painted lady tasted like…. Just kidding).

Luckily once the season gets warm enough and I have decided that M.N. isn’t looking, I tend to plant in say….. the warmest day in February (that was one beautiful 80 degree Fahrenheit day by the way this year) only to find out (because I am the best gardener ever) that it was going to rain, potentially hail and freeze over several times over the next day. I decided that the seeds, screw it, they’re cheap, if they live, they live, if they don’t, I just notched more points on the experience-o-meter. Not only did some live (even the tender nasturtiums!) through the freezes through my covering up efforts, I got peas and some veggies in late March! Booyashaka to you naysayers, you, “doom to all who plant before April 15thers!” I grew the delicious! It’s done and will proceed with regular programming!

Already, April 26, my bean plants are sprouting their tender necks above the soil rim, my strawberries are showing the beginnings of green berries and the asparagus, it’s been producing and I’ve been whacking it. That sounded wrong, but hey, life is good and growing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mote of randomness: It's a boy!

Er... I mean, it's a face!

So yeah... what caused this... "protrusion" shall we call it, I have no idea.  I imagine some sort of insect thing, potentially entombed within the eggplant flesh now (more research on that later and if anything really exciting happens when I slice this thing open, I'll tell you).

Anyways, disturbing.  Uni-eggplant?

Plants have needs too.

(slightly weird, but relevant pic from photobucket via clashfever, thanks!)

I'm researching plant nutrients which I will post here in the future, but my reasoning for looking up nutrients was because I was musing on plant needs and of course, as living things like us, they're needs are more similar to ours than you might expect.

Think of a plant as a human here.  Just like any person, plants need beneficial bacteria for nutrition (like the much touted pro-biotics in our guts), and helpful microorganisms that naturally exist and collect inside and outside of us, often called flora/fauna by the scientific community to crowd out and compete with bad bacteria/microorganisms in order to stay healthy.

A good balanced diet and getting vitamins and nutrition this way (compost)  rather than eating crap or processed junk foods (harmful purely chemical fertilizers) and popping a million vitamin pills to make up for poor eating habits.  (Ha, can you imagine a plant thinking/saying, "Does this fertilizer make me look fat?")
Exercising and having positive stresses is good for humans and keeps us physically and mentally prepared and sharp.  Plants similarly, by having to fight against the elements and pests when not overwhelmed are healthier and won't get "fat and lazy" by having too many conveniences, like being sprayed with pesticides all the time so not one bug or insect bothers them and they thus build no response to a nibble.  We don't go to the doctor over the slightest headache or fever do we? (Plus, lots of plants make their own aspirin... and so do we, sort of!, see links!)

(Better methods other than pesticides: )

Taking food (nutrient dense food like whole grains/compost) in slowly rather than all at once (high calorie fast food/straight chemical fertilizers) is better for both of us.

We both need plenty of water so that those nutrients can float all through our bodies, but not so much that we'll die of dihydrogen monoxide poisoning (

 Perhaps this is a stretch but plants too need many varied diverse and interesting relationships (companion planting and beneficial insects) with those they are similar to like humans need other people for support, an ear or to bounce ideas off of.

A good clean home environment (garden bed) that doesn't hide any unexpected guests or intruders (weeds and pests) and makes it easy to just chill and spread out.

If you're a gardener or camper at least, you understand the benefits of a good air movement (who likes to be in a stale room?) and the appropriate amount of sun.  Too much and the burn (sun scald/sunburn/skin cancer) on either plants or us isn't pretty.

So, this was an analogy filled post, but I think when you can relate by remembering that plants are living things not far from yourself, you will be able to relatively easily anticipate your plants' needs.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Amending on the cheap

 Not many people have perfect garden soil when they start out their gardens, unless they had a hardcore gardener living their prior, live in rich wooded area or made raised beds and filled it with the finest compost.

HOWEVER, most people don't simply because the land that their house was built on typically was just meant for that, a house, and not with the thought in mind a person might want to grow wonderful luscious vegetables on the property.

Worse of all, I have noted that many houses seem to have clay trucked into the yard and foundation, my only assumption being that it eventually forms a stable surface for the house and boring landscape plants.  I only make this assumption because every house, especially the new ones that I've dug around in ALWAYS have a about a foot of clay on top before I hit anything resembling real delicious soil. 

At my house when I began gardening, it was all clay, well still is other than in my raised beds.  It's taken YEARS before it has begun to look even vaguely good and amendments up the wazoo are still in need before I get that cake-crumbly goodness that I see and salivate over in other gardens. 

As I am cheap, and most everyone likes to not have to invest so much money in anything to get a lot back I just wanted to share this awesome link on cheap ways to amend your soil.  I felt like I really couldn't add much to the contents of this link other than some personality and sometimes I think you all might want less of that ;)

Where can you get Cheap Natural Fertilizers and Soil Amendments?

 In addition here is another excellent link talking about the NEED for  inexpensive gardening in Mexico City slums that will prove that absolutely anyone can garden on the cheap, and it should not be intimidating, but really a way of life.  At least a pot of salad people, please!
-Organic food production in the slums of Mexico City

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sunroom Greenhouse Conversion Fantasy

So.... I have a sunroom... a crappy one with a metal frame, screened in with cheap dark vinyl-y sheets over the screening to keep out sun or all the cold in the winter and leaks a bit when it rains.

I just had a slight mad epiphany and fantasy that maybe... MAYBE I could convert it somehow into a GREENHOUSE.

Problems though.... it's north facing and there is no good heat source, nor would I or my husband be interested in jacking up our energy bill for a project such as this and changing the crummy screening/vinyl to glass is doubtful as what's the point since the frame is no good.

BUT, I've been musing... could there be a potentially natural method to warm it? Like the huge pile of compost that leans next to the Growing Power greenhouses?

Except I can't really/don't have room/don't think husband or neighbors or authorities would really allow me to do this and keep a hot compost pile next to a dwelling.

Um, what about a sort of compost thing inside the sunroom? Leak proof? Smack dab in the center to dissipate heat and not touch any sides with ickiness?

How much waste would be needed to heat a say, 12x12 space enough for plants to be happy with a somewhat drafty door? (Ventilation, I say!)

Is there a physicist in the blogosphere to help me here?

Could I manage a compost pile in there without it smelling things up too badly?
Or cause a ridiculous invasion of fruit flies?

Grrr.... Hope.... fading fast.... knowing that this probably a very very very bad idea, but so tempting.

Some how, some way may there be a greenhouse in my future using some sort of creativity, luck and hard work on my end here without doing something too mad.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Extra! Extra! Newspaper in the Garden!

For the longest time I felt guilty about getting a daily newspaper (this was also the time I thought my community didn't recycle newspaper, where I go that I don't know...)

Good thing I started gardening soon afterward because newspaper makes for excellent use in the garden. I was worried about potential ink chemicals when I started, but after research I found that those worrisome inks have been replaced by soy based one. I still take out the glossy paper though for the recycling bin as I am always wary of those coatings they use.

It takes a few weeks to build up a really good pile, but I find it most excellent keeping the paths around my garden beds weed free, usually only able to do one side of the side at a time. I apply 10-15 layers of newspaper down and then add a good thick pile of dried out grass clippings I gather around the neighborhood and stomp them together. A bit of rain makes it flatten and stick real well, but if it gets very soggy, you may want to reapply. This path method is especially good as I have a tendency to toss my weedings into the paths, but all the stomping and smothering them with newspaper keeps them at bay.

Newspaper is also a wonderful, inexpensive mulch. Just shred it up as fine as you like and apply to your beds. Water goes through it and retains moisture quite well too. The earthworms take it down eventually or it just breaks down into the soil as a amendment. It also makes for some fine reading as you garden :)

Another neat trick is to loosely roll up some newspaper and rubber band it in the middle so that there are lots of little nooks and crannies. Wet the paper bundle thoroughly and leave it out by a pest ridden area of the garden. Come back early in the morning your newspaper trap will have slugs, sometimes problematic woodlice, and other pests will have congregated there and you can either toss the entire batch of them with the paper or pick them off.

Also worth mentioning, though I haven't done yet because I have trays, is that newspaper can be made into inexpensive starter pots.  Take a large can and a smaller one to fit within it, and place a few sheets of open newsprint on top of the mouth of the large can, then fit the smaller can within to shape the newsprint into a can shape!  Your paper pot is complete and just fill with appropriate soil and seed and voila, ready to grow!

My favorite use for newspaper in the garden however is for composting. I have difficulties finding good "browns" for my bin (few branches/twigs, plus no good method to chop them up here) and I don't want to use the neighbors' potentially treated grass clippings in my compost that I put in the garden, so I shred up newspaper and add it to the large indoor compost bucket to soak up any smells and extraneous moisture before I add the entire thing to the large composter outside when I have the time, adding more newspaper at that trip.

May all your use of newspaper be put to good use!  Let's give our trees some dignity!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Finally! My Seven Things: You Grow Girl Meme

To me, and many of you out there, there is nothing like growing edibles.  Specifically, if I lived in a smaller location than I do and had such limited space that I would have to choose only a few things to grow with me and take along with my travels, it would probably be my herbs/spice plants.

Herbs/spices are space and resource efficient plants that make a great difference when used even sparingly.  Many too that I love and choose taste, smell, and look great structurally and texturally and my even favorite aspect of them tends to be their ease of propagation, with usually a simple cutting in water to get the process started.  Therefore not only can you increase your herbalicious numbers easily, but you can also have SUPER easy gifts on hand.  Why do you think I got into plants in the first place?  Cheap gifts? I'm there! (j/k, I do spend money on those who I love ;)

I am afraid that the items I am posting may be somewhat banal to those in the edible gardening world, but there is a reason why people love these specific plants!  Hopefully my banter will make up for the predictability of the seven.

(1)  BASIL(s)
It would be a crying shame (and I would probably be beaten by many) if I left out basil.  Or to be specific, the entire basil family.  The sheer variety of basils from sweet, Italian, spicy, lemon, clove, cinnamon, lime and MORE makes it an extremely versatile herb loved in all cultures.  To not love basil would be inhuman.  Basil means pesto, Thai/Vietnamese springrolls, tom yum soup, teas, and many other deliciousness.  Though the basic shape within the varieties is the same, the leaf colors and sizes are delightfully mixed.  A garden devoted entirely to basil would be a worthy feet.  I would have tiny miniature spicy globe basils in front and an undulation of purple/blue ones with the larger ones in back of course.  If possible I've love to roll around in it too :)  Not only do basils tend to self seed in my garden, but as with many of my favorite herbs, overwintering is a snap:  take cutting, strip off bottom leaves, place in water!

(2)  MINTS(s)
 So many people talk about the horrors of mint let loose in the garden and I can empathize, sort of.  I tear this lady up all the time, but I believe there is so much use (and tea) that mint is capable of that I don't mind its stubbornness.  As with basil, oh the variety! Chocolate mint is the ultimate no calorie non-candy delight, and who can fault a mint julep on a hot summer day?  Now THAT, is how you garden!  Though I do only have 2 mint varieties, with a million and a half kinds out there (see the Richter's online catalog), I shudder with ecstasy and fear at the idea of have many varieties.  There would simply be nothing in your garden after a summer!  Like the basil though, this would probably be as or more roll-around-in-worthy

(3)  Ginger

My life would be so much less fantastic without this herb/spice.  How would I make it through the cold days without a cuppa of boiled ginger and brown sugar "tea"?  My faux-asian cooking would be so obviously faux-ake without it!  I love ginger so much that I may name my first born child Ginger (if it's a girl... potentially Basil for a boy... they are going to hate me aren't they?)  So easy to grow here too, and propagating with the fresh stuff at the Asian-mart!  At one point in the season, the ginger is red speckled and perfect, I just chew on it after I give it a good rinse.  Ginger is my hot other soul.

(4)  Rosemary
Another spicy hers that I could not live without.  I actually use this less than I like as I make so few meat dishes nowadays.  It's a little depressing, but the scent!  it's evergreen nature and cure little blue-purple flowers make it so worthwhile.  As a child, and obsessed with herbalism, I loved the mythology behind rosemary, its symbolism for wisdom and the fact that a boiled to a red color rosemary makes my black hair shiny and spifferific.  I liked to pretend too that wisdom = smart and I would gain a few IQ points with its use, but alas, not the case.

(5)  Pineapple Sage
The cooling weather for some reason brings out the the brilliant scarlet tube-like racemes of pineapple sage, and am I ever grateful for that extra color when everything else is dying!  The leaves are lightly pineapple scented and make for a great tisane.  I think its addition to a something like a pork dish would be great too for real pineapple in a pinch.  Hummingbirds love it, so I do too. The fact that it spreads like the absolute dickens in the garden is a plus/minus (I think it decided it was alpha sage to the culinary one next to it and summarily smothered it).  And... like all my favorites, this baby roots up like nothing else.  It got so big this year (and it was rainy enough to spur this) that its branches were attempted to root its 6 inches above ground!  Talk about wanting to spread!  Usually I dig the entire thing up and bring it in for the winter, but I think I'll just go with a cutting this year.

     These belong in their own category of awesome.  Scented geraniums, are not true geraniums but perlagoniums, and like basils and mints, come in nearly every freaking color and scent!  From my "intense reasearch" (aka, obsessive internet and catalog clicking/page turning), their foliage and scent variety is seems innumerable and my excitement about this plant makes me want ONE OF EVERY KIND, they are totally not outdoor hardy for me here and the prospect of hauling them all in for the winter is daunting.
    Currently I have mint, ginger and rose scented varieties, but I think gaining the coconut, apricot, apple, chocolate, lime, and... gooseberry (?!) are all worthy ones to get and not too much of a hassle to bring in for the winter...?  Oogh, that greenhouse needs to happen.
    The other reason scented geraniums are so near and dear to my heart is because they are one of the smuggled plants I brought with me from my trip to California this year.  Nowhere near me stocks scented geraniums (oddly other than Home Depot was stocking these, though their selection was very limited) and so for me to procure them would be slightly expensive and highly mail-ordery.  Something I try to avoid doing.  Perhaps I just need to make more trips to California (because THAT is cost effective... at least I'll be in the state?)
      Though I have had less luck propagating these, once I get the hang of it, I hear it's a pinch (no pun intended).
 Links on Scented Geranium info/purchase:

(7)  Lemongrass

This was a surprise to me, as I usually am not into grasses, but as it is delightfully edible, I give it exception to that fact it's a grass especially as it is a main ingredient in one of my favorite soups, Tom Yum.  It tends to be so expensive at the normal grocery stores and dried out, and much less expensive at the Asian stores, but nothing is as good as mostly free and freshly grown, and GROW IT DID.   I found a couple of bunches of lemongrass with the bulb still intact and after using all but the last 3-4 bottom inches of the stalk, and popped it in a glass of water.  Soon it grew proper roots and pushing out leaves, and though I thought it was late enough in the summer that it wouldn't grow too tall, it of course did and front in center of my herb garden I have 2 large clumps of lemongrass that I cannot possibly use up!  I think I will use one patch to grind up and freeze and the other will be potted up for fresh use over the winter because as I've said, TOM YUMMY!

Thanks to the:
You Grow Girl™ - » Seven Things (Plus some extra fun things at the end)
for motivating me to complete this!  Hope I can get some free goodies, may lady luck take a shine to me!

Richters is a wholesale plant plug place that I like to fantasize about and hope that my relatives and I will go into and I can fill my yard with their splendid stuff that I can find nowhere!