Wednesday, March 31, 2010

We're rolling, rolling, rolling: Tea Rolling

A while ago I pruned my tea tree (Camellia sinensis) down a bit as it was done flowering because that's when I heard it was best to do so.  Since then I've heard potentially other reports as to when to go about it and now I'm a little conflicted and worried, but if anyone has any advice, feel free to give it here.

Anyways, I pruned the darn thing as much as I hated to do so, because everything looks so sad when it's pruned and now I have to wait for new growth, which is the point of course, to create new and exciting branches that will increase my tea leaf load in the future.

I had read that I should prune it a few inches from the ground (pot in my case) but that just was so severe that I decided to demur on that advice and just did about half the plant.  Bah, I need to be more of a risk taker don't I?

The leftover prunings I saved to attempt to root up and thus be able to have more tree trees/shrubs/plants in the future for my use and as gifts for friends.  Cross fingers!

Many of the leaves I stripped, while older than for usual tea drinking use, I really did want to give it a go.  If I only did that one bud and 2 leaves thing that apparently all great tea is made from I'd have very little new growth and probably only a couple good cuppas a year, so I've been biding my time.

My methods were pretty crude and my steps not exact I know:  I rolled and pan fried the leaves, rather than roll them at the final step...but hey, still homemade green tea and hopefully things will be better the more I do it, right?!

My wonderful husband went through the effort of helping me figure out the rolling process, which was first awkward as I just literally rolled the leaf, then I made little balls that didn't hold their shape and finally we figured out a cool pretzel-ly thing:

It's  necessary to allow the leaves to wither first for a day or 2 so that they are not so turgid and brittle for rolling.  After that you want to pan fry or fire the leaves to stop oxidation (for green tea at least) and I'm sure to drive off water that might cause fungus or mold which is not only bad for flavor, but also potentially bad for one's health (funny, 'cuz this is the much touted health benefit drink).  Lastly you roll the leaves (the firing and rolling, I got inverted), probably more for a shape and storage aspect in green tea, because whole open leaves take up lots of room.  In other tea types, like oolong, the leaves are rolled prior to firing, to rupture leaf cell walls and give more flavor.

So what I made was like a weird white and oolong combination...?!

I pan fried my rolled leaves and they took on an interesting characteristic: the leaves got slightly shiny from oil I can only surmise that came from the leaves (unless the pan was not perfectly clean and there was residual oil in it) and they got obviously drier, but emitted a floral, nutty toasty smell that was quite delish to my nose.

I had saved some non-pan fried leaves and made myself a cuppa tea:

There was so little to no color and I was worried that there would be no flavor, but WHOA was there flavor!  Oddly seaweed-like and fresh,  grassy but slightly musky at the same time?! (Musky possibly not so good to some, but I don't mind it, or maybe I totally screwed something up here).

Either way, the unfired stuff was interesting, so I can't wait to see what the fired stuff will be like!

Interesting links:

Monday, March 29, 2010

*To the Smurf theme* La, la, la la la la! La, la la la LAVENDER!

A moment of brilliancy hit upon me a couple of days ago.

I've been pruning my Munstead lavender quite a bit as of late, noting its sad misshapen Quasimodo-esque appearance, trying to free it up so that the inner new growth will look fantastic rather than blob-tastic. (BTW, if anyone can direct me to a miniature Notre Dame Cathedral that is weather hardy, that would be EXCELLENT to place next to my lavender).

After some massive pruning, I saved some of the small pruned bits to soak in vinegar for a hair rinse and then looked at the massive amount of leftover cuttings.

I can't bear to throw anything away if it can be propagated ('cuz that's just what I do) so I wondered if they might root up easily and after a couple of weeks and some new growth coming from the pot of cuttings, that answer would be a very easy YES.

Awesome. But what to do with all this lavender other than gifts?!  This is the epiphany... as I've been trying to go a little prettier in my garden and attract pollinators, I will outline my somewhat unattractive wood raised beds with the lavender and make mini-lavender hedges!

Ta da!

As with many things I've learned in life, and in my home, when something doesn't look good, cover/hide it until it does.

As it turns out, research on Google proved this to not be an entirely unique idea, but rather than just edging, I plan to keep it neatly trimmed all the time.  Besides, if I don't, I won't be able to reach into my beds with my short little arms anyways.  (Flashback to 3 years ago:  Me to my husband building the beds, "Those look a little wide... I can't reach really well into the center..." fuzzy past blurble something response from husband that probably equates to an "oh well!" or "Grow longer arms!" :P)

As it turns out too, the lavender I have: Munstead and a random clearance Spanish lavender I picked up on the cheap at Lowe's/Home Depot is perfect for edging because it's naturally lower growing.  Talk about weird luck eh?

I'll probably start out in the corners of the raised beds and maybe a little in the center of the sides, ignoring the far back facing north side because of the amount of shade and potentially ignoring too the skinny center path between the beds just so I can be sure I have plenty of walking room.

So excited now about this project (until I have to maintain it of course...)!  I hope by the end of fall it will look great!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Wishing and hoping and thinking and praying...planning and dreaming...

...of some plants...

(to come my way or be in the area for reasonable price...)


-fuchsia (the edible kinds)
-bamboo (UPDATE: A nice reader gave me some plants! woot! Sis in law offering too, hurray!)
-luffah squash (EDIBLE, btw! Sad though because I can't grow it since I'm waiting a year to ride myself of borers...!)
-martynia (so cool looking on M.E.N.)
-winged beans

-every scented geranium ever (Dangit! Goodwin Creek is having a sale *sniffle*)
-ok, I take it back, everything on this Mother Earth News heirloom plants link 
-um, and  probably every herb from Richter's
-curry tree
-spicebush (delicious sounding!)
-sweet woodruff
-ranunculus (they're pretty spiffy looking and awesome sounding when it rolls around in your mouth) (UPDATE: Home Depot had a buy one bulbs package get 2nd free!  A friend was so kind to help indulge my bulb lust.  Blooms in June! *cross fingers!*)

-aconite (need something to break the blah-ness of winter)
-more daffodils! (My grandmother, when I was little gave me a tiny bottle of perfume, Diorissimo I think, that smelled like daffodils I thought.  I never used it as I don't like wearing perfume, but I loved to sniff it.  The perfume went missing one day and I've never encountered it since.  Daffodils also remind me of the Wordsworth poem, a favorite of mine) (UPDATE: more sis in law kindness!)

So, if anyone is aware of any of these plants just hanging around or being sold in the area or are in need of thinning, I'm here, waiting with bated breath and trowel to help out with some thinning or at least will know where I could eventually purchase these pretties!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hellebores aren't a bore!

Hellebores, aka Lenten Roses are what keeps me going in crummier times when the weather reverts back to rainy, colder nastiness.

It's a tough plant that makes me think of s bike chick or something, with those leathery dark green sharply serrated leaves, the older ones often scarred and slightly tattered up (if you leave them as long as I do in their au naturale state, not pruning off the old bits).

It's interesting to watch the stages of the flower development, sometimes a difficult task as their heavy heads are always drooping towards the ground.  The young "flowers" (I suppose like most flowers at their best) are at my favorite stage with their yellow green cupped circle of the hellebore's true flowers.  The larger petal-y areas surrounding the flowers are actually the sepals/calyces of the plant, usually a longer lasting section of a plant than true flower petals.  Bells of Ireland are another plant I like that with a similar "flower" concept. 

Later when the "flowers" get older the inner true flower shrivels up and a pod fills the inside of the sepals, which is equally pretty and I will try to document.

Here's some more pics of my Hellebores on a nicer day (pardon the sort or repetition, I often find subtle differences in light or angle that make them interesting to me.  Also, as always, click on pic to expand):

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fickle things: Ladybugs

I've been slowly taking indoor plants into the screened sunroom where the air and slight light change will hopefully acclimate them to the outdoors before I thrust them entirely out there to fend for themselves.

One plant that I've been aching to chuck out is my ornamental pepper, Black Pearl.

Out of all of my plants, the ornamental peppers have suffered greatly from an aphid infestation that I couldn't shake this winter despite repeated neem sprayings until I simply killed the Tricolore garda and then the Purple Calico soon thereafter (which I think got water logged and rotted too... my bad, I had a container that was spiffy and thought I'd be good at not overwatering.  Crud.)

The Black Pearl has held out pretty well out of all of them and was attacked last.  I didn't know of the infestation for quite a while I think because the new leaves on it are this lighter green the aphids hid in.  Later when they moved on to the darker purple leaves/stems did I CLEARLY see them.

Learning from my prior neem frenzy with the now dead other ornamental peppers (and there was poor light, and it's been cold in the house! They were weakened I say! Weakened!)  I just started snipping off the severely infested bits and made a good effort to check every day and squish any aphid stragglers.  Ick, that was a sticky mess.

So, as the weather appears to be more regularly now, I moved it into the sunroom and lo and behold, there was a a LADYBUG on the screen area, basking in the sunshine.

I promptly snatched it up and thought, "Haha! Now I've got you, you stinking aphids! Meet my leetle friend!"

Then placed the ladybug onto Black Pearl. AND, like all ladybugs it tried to fly away.

So I put it back on the plant.  It attempted to fly away again, but hit a leaf above it (brilliant bug, obviously).  Either ladybugs have a bad sense of smell/sight because I placed it on a plant with a veritable feast in front of it, and it didn't care.  After this long and starved winter? What gave?!

Luckily it appeared to start sniffing around and moving its mouth parts like it was really getting at stuff and began to explore the territory.

"PERFECT!  It's like my own aphid ROOMBA!" I sort of cackled in my head and rushed off to get a pic of this momentous occasion.

When I got back the ladybug had decided to fly off and thus, no pic could be got.

Then I found a small stem COVERED in aphids and got a bit huffy and chucked the Black Pearl outside in a sheltered location.  Here's where I do a little prayer hoping that the aphids will not like the weather and just melt down or something (like be discovered by smart ladybugs) and allow my Black Pearl to continue growing merrily along.

In the mean time, I've started some new Tricolore Garda and Purple Calico ornamental peppers from seed again.  Luckily for me, those things really put out little pepper fruits!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I feel like a weird voodoo priestess or something

GAH.  The seeds in the mini greenhaus have been coming along merrily, even the purple calico ornamental pepper (I've determined ir's that one rather than mixing it up with the tricolore garda, as the leaves are purple), EXCEPT I noticed that last couple days that a couple seedlings keeled over.

GOSH DAMP IT!  It looks like there's some damping off going on.  I've possibly been a little too water bottle spray happy and the cracks in the plastic of my geenhaus obviously have not done a great job venting (I know, not their purpose, but I still had hope).  I also had been gone for a while and got carried away by other household things I probably was not opening up, checking and airing out the seedlings enough as I should.

I've pulled out the sad flopped over seedlings, only 2 and it looks like that they're all purple calico peppers and it hasn't spread too much I hope.

As a potentially too late method to prevent further damage I'm taking one from the Gayla Trail/Martha Stewart advice book (not a collaboration, just things they've mentioned in the past) that I constantly forget to use: CINNAMON.

So, there I was with a palm full of cinnamon in front of my little seedlings just blowing all this powdered cinnamon into the greenhaus box and on the seedlings and surface of their dirt in fervent prayer that this will protect them or heal them and whatnot.  It reminded me of all those cheesy stereotypical scenes from movies that had an indigenous medicine man/woman blowing some sort of mystical powder on their patient or something. 

Everything in there smells delicious at least.

*sigh*  If I had been smart I'd have blown the cinnamon on top of the surface of the pots BEFORE I plant the seeds.  I've never really had a damping off problem before, so I'll just hope that it doesn't proceed to total seedling meltdown.  My own personal tomato/pepper/tomatillo Chernobyl I swear.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pot cleaning, the lazy way

I've been weening myself off of bleach for a while now (other than my toilet tank cleaner, so hard to let go! Anyone know of a good alternative?), in favor of washing soda, borax, baking soda and oxyclean (which I think is like dry hydrogen peroxide, didn't check the chemical formula).

I'm trying not to use bleach because of its effects on my lungs, the environment and its potentially carcinogenic nature (I know, I know, what isn't carcinogenic nowadays...) But as many good gardeners are supposed to wash their pots out with a dilute bleach solution to rid hem of disease I've been in a bit of a quandary.

My solution thus far, part in due to laziness/timeliness is to place my pots outside, in the sun and ESPECIALLY the rain where the rain can naturally clean all the dirt and grime off of them and let the good ol' UV rays of the sun kill whatever is on them.  Like bleaching your clothes in the sun is my theory.

No chemically water to dispose of and really, no work at all! It's great!  Anyone have any brilliant ways to wash their pots (children not included)?

UPDATE: OK, I clean vinegar with everything... and after a couple of "what about vinegar?" comments (from my sister included) I feel like an idiot.  Where was my brain (as usual?) when I wrote this???  Ooops, too busy noshing on morning glories.  JUST KIDDING.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tales from the Garden: Orange Thing

So while poking around my garden searching for a already established good low groundcover to fill the garden paths of my large garden beds, I contemplated the woodland/Indian strawberry (edible, but no flavor, best for the birds) that's taken over the main shrubbery/azalea bed (which I'm fine w/ because that means no mulching, woohoo!)

I started pulling up some that was invading a pebbly portion  of a path adjacent to this bed when I noticed this:

Thereupon I flipped out and screaming in my head, "WHAT THE HECK?!" and many frightening things such as strawberry blight or rust or whatnot flitted through my brain.

ALL of the woodland strawberry runners that I pulled had this weird orange-y spotted stuff on it, as did a lot of the stuff at the edge of the bed I was pulling from too.

Off to Google I went and my racing heart was able to slow down after I have concluded that all is well. Well, mostly.

(another closeup of the horror)

What I think my woodland strawberry has here is some orange slime mold.  Innocuous from what I have been reading unless the slime mold decides to totally smother the plants, but as I have so many I am not worried.  The slime mold probably cropped up due to the wet weather we've had as of late and has been partying right beneath my nose.

I'll keep an eye on it and see if it makes any moves I don't like, but for now, it's some additional color to the garden?

This slime mold scare made me rethink my idea of using the woodland strawberry as a good path groundcover (it's invasiveness is frightening and I shuddered if my husband was to mow over it and it were to get into the big compost pile we chuck our grass clipping into).

So, I've pulled up a bunch of the oregano I allowed to spread as ground cover underneath some other bushes  and have placed them in the garden paths.  I'm hoping that they'll spread nicely and I'll get a good oregano scent when I stomp around on it in the garden and supposedly oregano oil keeps the mosquitoes away (HOPE).  Either way, probably more pleasant than the strawberry in the long run.   In addition, I had some straggling roman chamomile and stomped it down into the path as well in hopes that I'll get some green apple-y scented goodness too this spring/summer AND also popped some pennyroyal that was running around in the back of the beds in hope that the sun sheltered area will allow them to flourish.

May there be scented deliciousness this summer by my garden beds!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It's official: Melissa officinalis sure gets around

As I mentioned before, the lemon balm, aka Melissa officinalis, LIKE THE MINT, is slowing making its way around the garden.  In the path... in the gutter areas... by the compost bin.. in random places in the yard.

In the yard it will just get mowed of course, cool, fine.

In random places in the garden beds, not so good.  Plus, I like to utilize this stuff or at least give the herb away so others can enjoy the agony of keeping it in order it's lemony presence.

As its Greek/Latin name says, Melissa means bee and you can surmise this is a great bee attractor with its tiny little flowers develop later.  This is a plus as I am trying to attract more pollinators, so the plan is rather than seek and eat/destroy this herb, I'll be moving it around to far corners of the yard to try to increase bee/pollinator production, yet keep it in places where I hopefully will not accidentally drag seed around when I cut the stalks.  It's always so hard for me to cut the stalks when there are flowers on it because the nectar starved bees go at them even when they're in seed it seems.  Another note: CARRY A PLASTIC BAG TO HOLD SEEDS IN WHEN I CUT THE SEED STALKS OFF.  This would probably prevent all the seeds from going everywhere in the first place.

Unorganized gardening (bending down for a weed here that catches my eye, pruning there) walking aimlessly around in the garden is fine, fun and relaxing, but you'd think I'd have learned my lesson with crazy plants like perilla/shiso/beefsteak plant and now lemon balm.  Brill.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Taming of the Mint

Being a gardener with very little brain sometimes I do dumb to extremely dumb things.

Like, plant mint in my herb garden... unpartitioned and not in a container >_<.

My mom in law warned me about its invasiveness... which I was aware of and breezily said, "Oh, I'll just keep it in check by making lots of mint tea all the time..."

Ha. ha. ha.  Yeah, it's jumped a mini barrier I had and now I have been digging the undershoots up and laying down some cans to create a barrier.  At this point, I don't think there's any chance I can eradicate it at this point, not like I want to either, but it does need to be tamed/kept tame.

(I still need more cans to fill the barrier up, and so I guess a lot of canned tomatoes need to be eaten soonish :)  (I think I'm going to try a double barrier too, which I suspect might be futile, but hey I can hope)

They really need a garden tool that looks like a lion tamer's whip to handle this.  Oh... oh yeah, I did win a cobra head tool (thanks again Anneliese!) a while back... probably a good start to my hot minty mess.

It's such a a pity too, because while I like mint, my husband doesn't for the most part (he can't even handle mint toothpaste).  He does fine with it in certain ethnic food dishes, but yeah, at my house I am the mint consumer of the year.

Mint, like basil is also one of those great herb types that have a  MILLION varieties that sound great.  I'm rescuing a chocolate variety that got pot bound and sucked up water like mad and was thus sick and dried out for a while, but they're real survivors... too good almost.  Like the roaches of a post apocalyptic plant world.  But yes, variety!  Lemons, limes, Vietnamese versions... so many it's astounding, but unless I have some good pots or a field... no extra mints for me.

(Augh! There goes ones now... getting between the cracks towards freedom!)

Mint! The natural FreshMaker!(Please don't sue me Mentos!)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Garden Update: Plants bolting like greased lightning!

I didn't think the weather had gotten that nice, especially when I went away for a last minute trip for about a week, but over that time my tatsoi mustard decided to bolt when I wasn't looking:

It looked delicious, beautiful and rosette leafy when I left it, I made a salad from quite a few full heads before transplanting these guys before I left (to bolt, honestly) for eventual seed saving.  I still didn't expect the dramatic metamorphosis in the week I was gone.

They look great, and if they're like other mustards, will probably give me a plethora of seeds (ha, anyone seen the Three Amigos?) 

I wonder if my moving them might have stimulated bolting, or if one near 70 degree F day when I full-on gardened prior to my departure kicked them into bolting gear? Probably that one day, I don't think I've ever heard of transplanting to cause bolting.

In anticipation of the tatsoi mustards going to bolt, I planted kohlrabi seeds right next to the mustard base so that I'll have something to make up for mustard once it seeds and I have to cut it down.  Not sure if this will work well, but I figured I might as well give it a try.

Another plant that's bolted (and has been in that state for quite a while now) is the baby bok choi).  It's nice to see some flowers in this weather, and their spoonlike cupped leaves beneath the flowers are pretty dandy too.  They've been in flower for good time... I wonder when they'll seed.  I realized that I didn't eat the bok choy as often as I should have, but I think I hadn't prepared/research enough recipes.  Ah well, seeds for me.

My gargantuan garden to do list is 3/4 done (except I always keep thinking of things to add to it...) The biggest change was some of the planned garden layout.  This change is due greatly in part to my rampant strawberries.  The daughter plants/offshoots have been wild and I have not had time to move them/thin them properly, so either I should allow the beds to be primarily strawberries, thin the strawberries to plant seeds in the bed with them,  or I need to seed start and plant large enough seedlings in with the bed to be able to compete (terrible I know) with the strawberry plants.  I'm going with the latter and will just start some seeds on a nice sunny day outside and then plant them in the bed.  There would be no way a seed could find some sun and air in that mess.

Here is the new garden setup (click pic to see all the detail):

Monday, March 15, 2010

Self seeders. Gotta love 'em. (and some perennial veg goodness thrown in for good measure)

A boon to having a ridiculous amount of plants/herbs: self seeders.

Many years of letting the plants "just go" has made my garden basil/parsley/cilantro/oregano (a perennial.. I know, but it's flowered and seeded too!)/garlic (off shoot bulbs, yada)/Egyptian walking onion (YES!)/dill (sort of) and now recently feverfew, California poppy and bells of Ireland seem to be going on autopilot.  I find my India mustard to be easily self seeding too, but I know I'm supposed to "rotate" my beds and etc to avoid pests and disease.  I try to tear up the mustard from the bed each year and replant it in a different place, but those everlasting seeds always crop right back up in the bed or wherever I've dragged the plant off to.

Not that I mind (I eat all the errant little child plants), but it can be a little weird when I find self sown seedlings in the garden path or in the flower bed or by the trash can.

Ah, an entirely self seeded vegetable/herb garden is THE perfect garden for me...
Diane Meucci at Gardens Oy Vey has self seeded Siberian kale ALL over her nursery, not just for looks, but for eatin' too.  Definitely a worthy goal to aspire to. 

On top of the self seeders, I'm working towards the perennial vegetable garden and have the asparagus bed, mache/corn lettuce/lambsquarters, (hopefully sunchokes), strawberries and garlic down.  I'll probably be getting rhubarb sometime soon-ish from my awesome mother in law.  Artichokes are a possibility, but seems a bit limiting for the space they use and I understand that sunflower buds are just as nice.

I'm still working on getting the horseradish to take to the pot I've been babying it in, but it was an abysmal mess last year.  Incredible for horseradish too.

I had an air potato plant that I was worried would be invasive but never got to eat it.  Then I lost the little seed air potatoes in the great frost/amongst the vines.

This book: Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles caught my eye a while back and I am somewhat interested, but I think it's geared towards those who are lucky enough to live in very nice zones, ie 8/9+

If you live in the right climate, lots of vegetables can become perennial.  I hear in Florida eggplants and tomatoes are known to live just about forever .

Either way, I can't move my garden to Florida (and I'm not a huge fan of beaches anyway).  So it's best to make do, get tricky with Mother Nature and build cold frames.  Lots of them.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tomato fertilization: crazy talk?

A little early to be talking about this, but when there is a vegetable garden involved, tomatoes invariably come to mind (if you don't like tomatoes, BLASPHEMY! ;)

Anyways, the first year I ever grew tomatoes was embarassing.  I didn't quite understand the concept of pinching off the suckers/off shoots/axis shoots, and ended up with a BARE tomato stem with a mere 3 leaves per tomato plant.  So stupid...

The year after that (and learning to be smarter, I did real research) I planted my tomato seedlings to their first axis and gave them a cute foil ring around the base and just below the surface of the stem to prevent dreaded cut worms (which I have never encounter, yea!)  Prior to planting the tomato seedlings though, I placed a whole uncracked raw egg at the bottom of the hole.

I read in theory, there's sulfur in the egg and nutrients such as calcium in it that will make your tomato grow well.  I admit, the tomatoes went GANGBUSTERS that year (though anything compared to my first year might be considered awesome).

I would like to add that after I pulled up my tomatoes at the end of the season my dog got VERY interested in the hole the tomato was in and as it turned out, at least one egg was still uncracked and chilling just fine where I first placed it so many months ago.

Of course until my dog decided she wanted to eat it.

Then the egg cracked and the smell proved that no, not fresh anymore ;P  Ick.

Anyways, as I continue to read and learn about gardening (because it never stops?!) I keep running into all sorts of random thoughts and ideas as to how best to fertilize or give your tomato plants a good start. 

A recent tip was to add hair to the hole you're planting your tomatoes in, because of the "trace amounts of sulfur" in your hair (your hair does smell sulfur-y when it's burnt).  Unless you've been saving your hair... (which I do... I always figured that it was compostable anyways and it's so easy to save when it's in your  brush or on the shower floor, sorry for that image, I know some of you are squeamish about hair), but I also can only assume my dog's fur/hair would work in the same concept and considering the way she sheds, it's great to find the dog is still finding ways to pay her way in this house!

If only she was a reliable hole digger...

Another tip was to use leftover raw fish parts/bones to bury in with your tomato plant.  You think cats like fish? Well so does my dog.  Actually, she LOVES fish. She ended up having to be quarantined from the yard for some weeks after that. 

Anyone else have any interesting or bizarre "How to fertilize your tomato plants?" ideas/tips that I might be unaware of?  (compost tea, and seaweed excepting)  It's interesting to see what our tomato-phile loving culture does to make the best and most delicious 'maters!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Garden ornamental eating epiphany!

I recently got a coupon from Home Depot, as I'm part of their "Garden Club" or "Home Improver club" (or maybe that's the Lowe's version?) or whatever they want to call or lump it in with now.

(Oh, and also not affiliated or whatnot with them, I'm just stating a fact and am not special in any way and it's easy to be a part of this "club")

Back to the point, the coupon is for a buy one, get one free houseplant.  I have plenty of house plants I think and in the winter that explodes because some of the edibles become houseplants, so obviously I was trying to think of houseplants of potential (especially ones that hang to save space because horizontal space is precious here).

I had a duh moment and remembered that I've always wanted to try fuchsia, because the flowers can be spectacular, it's commonly hung and finally YOU CAN EAT THE BERRIES.  And make JAM!

The only tricky part that I've heard is that some of the berries are significantly better than others and finding the variety that is tasty can be hard as big box stores tend to carry houseplants for show, rather than for actual use.

Double petal/flower fuchsia are what's often seen in the stores I know and I hear that the large showy flowers can cut down on fruit production, so that's a minus.  Also I find that many of the big box places don't always list the Latin name of the plants, so I don't know if I'll find any of the suggested fuchsia varieties below if I can't figure out their true identity:

-Fuchsia corymbiflora
-Fuchsia excorticata aka Kotukutuku
-Fuchsia splendens  and cultivar 'Karl Hartweg'
-Fuchsia boliviana 'Alba'
-Fuchsia regia
-Fuchsia venusta
-Fuchsia procumbens
-Fuchsia magellanica and cultivars 'Globosa' and 'Tresco'

While researching, I've also found that the F. magellanica is potentially hardy in this area! Some places say zones 7+ and others 6+.  Either way, here in zone 7a, if I

The coupon expires mid-March and I am also uncertain if they'll have plants like that even out yet.  Crud.  Maybe it would be better to just order online for certain?

Another silly epiphany I have was bamboo!

Down here it can grow pretty rampant and I know that some people have difficulty controlling it.  Someone I know controls her's by kicking the bamboo shoots multiple times each time they pop up and that controls them well enough.  I luckily reminded her that you can totally eat bamboo shoots and we did end up cooking them up with some soy sauce and sesame oil, which was excellent.

So, why the heck did I not think about growing bamboo before?!  (well, I was worried it would get out of control...I can eat it, and it would be an accessible resource for gardening!  I am such an idiot, why didn't I start this earlier?!  Adding to my list... "see if I can trade for bamboo this year..."

If anyone in the area has some of the either above, tasty fuchsia and bamboo (all young shoots are edible, is what I've read), please tell me if I'd be able to trade for it.  Grand plans this year, grand plans! :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Quick Blotanical update

Just a quick update to all of those from Blotanical who have commented that they are unable to add/favorite and etc. my blog.

Stuart's help desk has informed me that there was an error with my RSS feeder updating to Blotanical, and it is now fixed, so feel free to add/comment/favorite me on Blotanical and thank you once again for visiting!b

Chilis! (for when it's not Chilly)

As you may have noticed, if you've frequented my blog before, I have a thing for chili peppers.  More the spicy and ornamental kind, though I do like the sweet bell ones too, the versatility and variety of the spicier versions (the ancestor of the sweet bell types types, btw) really excites me.

I've been slowly building up (and killing) my stock of ornamental and regular chili peppers.  Peppers are quite perennial if you live in the right locations or can offer good cover/shelter/conditions when unseasonable times arrive.

I had a jalapeno growing well for 2 years straight producing fruits in the winter for my use (it loved me I think) until I've begun playing aphid invaders and the aphid squish game this winter.  My calico, tricolore garda and black pearl chili plants have been attacked and luckily they've all fruited and set seed and I've saved seed of them for re-starting if need be, there's nothing like having a mature, well established plant.  One established plant of each variety I'd like to add because I have a tendency to not want to get rid of a cool plant and then it takes up space... but then some lucky person can have my cast off!

The reason for this post however is to address a recent Herb Companion article on Chili Rellenos, because plants and food for me go hand in hand nearly always.

I have tried in the past to grow poblano/ancho/mole chilis for the past few years will little success, partially due to bad locations, another time because swallowtail butterfly caterpillars decided that they wanted to snack on it. (I suppose it was near the dill and parsley plants...)

I've only been successful in growing 2 of the peppers (really sad) and once I discovered that my local Mexican mart sells them dried for the obscene cheap, I said "screw it" and decided to just buy them in the bags as they last forever.

This recipe reminded me of the joys of fresh poblano chilies again and as I don't usually plan in advance what I'm going to eat, and instead wing it, or just run out into the garden to see what's good, I would love to be able to have on hand fresh poblanos (and I guess have some ready in the freezer as was done in the article)  I might attempt to grow these again.

Since I don't want to pay for seeds (as usual) I still have dried poblanos in the pantry, I will attempt to grow them from the seeds in the dried ones from the bag.  I hope it works!  With luck, I can dig up a good plant before the winter and keep it inside (where with luck it will keep giving me more fruits) and make deliciousness in the winter too! Woot! (and not have to re-grow the plant again next spring).

Hmmm... as usual, where am I putting this....? (You see, there is a problem with having planned your garden ahead!)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Taking the Tomatoes to the next level

The tomatoes are growing so fast! (Surprise there...)

It's soon coming to the point where I will need to graduate them and their fast growing selves from egg carton holes to TOILET PAPER ROLL TUBE POTS!


Big step for these guys.  I contemplated shoving the whole kibosh (seedling with egg carton cutout) into the toilet paper roll tube, but as I have yet to meet a not hardy tomato seedling, I'm just yanking the seedling out of the paper egg carton and carefully moving it into a more vertically soil rich environment of the toilet roll tube.

Such an easy cheap little pot until I move them to spacious digs such as the NEWSPAPER pot, but I'm try to keep them at bay for as long as possible as the garden-garden outside needs time to fill up.

These toilet roll tube pots are so simple.  Take one toilet paper roll tube and cut 4 little snips at one end equidistant from each other:

Bend into each other until they hold and are flat and will stay relatively upright when filled w/dirt and a plant.

Voila! (Viola!):

Instant drainage too is pretty sweet.

Their roots will grow nice and deep in this for a while and I'll let them get a bit "tube pot bound" before their next move.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Garden To do Overload (but hopefully not going to need to reload)

As I've mentioned in the past I want my garden to knock me out this year and have grand plan(t)s.

Unfortunately I am the type that likes to knock nearly everything out all out once, as with gardens, maintenance is a forever to-do, therefore let's get the mains stuff done once in one concentrated go.  A shot in the arm in getting things done because my garden therapy eventually is to meander around the garden in my bog boots and sun hat, with a beer in hand, watch plants grow, eradicate a weed here and there.  Maybe frantically water when the weather gets a bit too hot and I suppose train or attach things to trellis/stakes when the time comes.

I want all the real hard work done in a weekend (or two...) or it'll be BLITZJARDINING time!

As the weather looks to be good this weekend, starting today,  here is what I want to accomplish:

-move recycled gazebo frame to be trellis in beds
-spray paint gazebo trellis to avoid rust
-make LOTS more aluminum can garden tags
-string off areas of garden for good sectioning
-weed garden path
-turn food compost bin
-re-string all nail fence trellis (may need to buy more twine)
-CLEAN SUNROOM aka sunroom that dreams to be a potting shed
-clean, sharpen and oil garden tools (make a good place for them in sunroom)
-try to create a PERMANENT place inside sunroom for wheelbarrow
-do something else w/weird student desk in sunroom
-fit a plastic rubbermaid container in sinkhole of potting bench made from someone's old laminate kitchen countertop.
-get more bamboo and branch trimmings for cage/trellising material
-ID a mystery plant in garden

-clear/clean up garden work:
    -move random organic debris to composter/compost area or trash
    -recycle or trash unneeded plant pots or trays
    -move all dropped pine needles to a good spot for easy use
    -remove dead plants/plant bits still hanging around
    -take down old trellis string along fence

    -inappropriately placed herbs (esp those that get watered on accident by neighbors)
    -pitcher plants
    -black eyed susans
    -extra canna bulbs
    -indian strawberry (to garden path? &/or side path?)
    -lemongrass plants
    -mother of thousands

-use newspaper to:
    -make newspaper pots for transplants
    -shred for cheap mulch
    -smother weeds in the garden path

-take cuttings of:
    -tea plant

            -asian veg
            -green onions
            -sunchokes! (in a small raised bed for permanent plants)
        -salad burnet
        -horseradish! (in a bucket)
        -bachelor's buttons
        -morning glories
        -cardinal vine
        -hyacinth vine
        -bells of ireland

Garden barters/purchases needed:
    -espazote herb (for beans, as we're semi veg)

-PROJECTS (not to be completed this weekend):
    -have plants hanging off waterbarrel to hide it (make look attractive)
    -make more moss garden/graffiti stuff
    -make another rain barrel?
    -use beer/wine bottles to create path/edging
    -get bathouse up
    -make 6 birdhouses
    -make mason bee houses
    -make cold frame
    -work on making a good all season garden

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hirsute-riffic plants

I have a confession to make:  I like hairy plants!

It's not meant to sound salacious, but hairy plants are awesome in their furriness.  It feel like they're diverging from their normal evolution.  A plant that yearns to be mammal, like my dog yearns to be human, have opposable thumbs and sit at the dinner table holding shiny things that shove food into her mouth.

Hairy plants are the closest thing to a pet that a person can have that you won't have close of an emotional bond to and feel guilty about if they decide to kick the bucket out of neglect from your silly self.

You just want to name a plant when it has fur.  Like this one is called Dotty:

My lambsears are unoriginal in their given name: Super Lamb-tastic (I have 4 patches of this stuff and they all are called the same thing.  It's like a hive collective mentality.  Borgs anyone?):

The Cuban Oregano I am dubbing to be Libre:

Even tomatoes are a little hairy when they get bigger, but as there are so many varieties and those names are interesting already, I'll let them keep those given names. (Random fact, did you know that tomatoes might be considered carnivorous?)

While velvet-y plants (lambsears are hairy and velvety to me... I think the gray color is closer to hair in my mind) are equally cool as hairy ones, but the velvet-y plants  just make me think of cloth and drapery. And I hate drapery.  Perhaps this is why I probably let my buck apiece violets die in my cold sunroom over the winter.  That and I always can never get them to rebloom and they just make me feel grandmotherly.  Nothing against grandmothers! (I love mine a lot!) But the idea of ever  being one is just weird.

I need more hairy plants, ones that will keep me warm for the upcoming winter!  I keep my house thermostat set so low... maybe this would be an ideal, green way to insulate a house!  Hirsute Plant Jungle House!  Are there any living hairy viney plants that would be ideal to be a scarf?  They have those wooly pouch plant holder things, purses with plants in them, why not a scarf?

A purple wandering Jew plant I have (Tradescantia pallida purpurea?)  is a nice color, doesn't need to much room for roots:

... I wonder if it's crochet-able?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Gibberellin overload? Lessons in Tomatillo seedlings...

So, the tomatillo seedlings.  They seem happy.  Almost a little too happy.  Or just supermodel leggy, which makes no sense because I KNOW they're getting adequate light.  Everyone else seems happy and NORMAL in the mini greenhaus.

The tomatillos on the other hand... what the heck?
(pardon for dirty side of greenhaus... too small to get my camera in there properly to show the legginess)

I think I might be needing to transplant/re-pot these sooner than I thought.

I'm really hoping (and assuming) just like tomatoes they're a hardy bunch and will take well to being moved around and yanked out of their little soil-y home because, Immagonnahaveto.

Funny how everything seems to take so long to get started, and once it does, there's a feeling of "SLOW DOWN! PLEASE"

Like I tell my husband when I go garden crazy in the spring and seem manic in the garden, "MOTHER NATURE! I CAN'T STOP HER!  I have to plant, NOW!"

By now you're probably wondering, "When's she going to get to that weird thing in her subject heading?  Gibb-a-what?"

Gibberellin is this super spiffy thing in nature that has never left my head since I heard about it in a high school biology class.  (That and cane toads).  Anyways, gibberellin, besides being a fun word to say is a plant hormone that is involved in development.  It's involved in the aptly dubbed "foolish seedling" disease.  You can read the linked wiki article, but the main point is ridiculous plant growth in the seedling stage that causes it to be tall and thin and thus delicate and easily breakable at an early stage.

I  don't really think my tomatillo has this issue, but I just think of gibberellin every time I have seedlings that act this way or I see tall skinny people or my patience wears thin...

That's my bit of science trivia for today!

Hope all is well in your gardens and that you're babies aren't growing up too quick!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ze Seeds! Ze Seeds! A garden fantasy.

The seeds have actually been sprouted up for a few days now, but my have they made progress!

They seem quite happy in my mini greenhouse and I will be sad almost when the greenhouse is empty.  I'll be an empty mini-greenhouser "Oh how they grow up so fast!"  Wait. Stop.  This is too close to the idea of myself propagating, aka having children.  I still have a good 5-6 years before my eggs start totally dropping off!  There's so much to do, so many vegetables I need to grow to can little jars of pureed stuff I need to make in preparation for that time...  But seriously, biological clock is NOT ticking despite all the links my mom sends me about babies.

There's nothing more hopeful than seeing seeds germinate.  The swell of the soil by an impatient little plant cracking open its piece of earth.  I can totally empathize.  Even the part where it is unceremoniously taken from its comfy bit of land and transferred to larger and larger pieces of land UNTIL IT CANNOT BE PAMPERED ANY FURTHER AND MUST COMPETE!

Oh the world can be such a harsh place.   But, only the strong can survive in Persephone's garden :P  I can forsee my children to probably not be so forgiving to me as a parent...

The tomatillo seeds have been amazing!  One night there was nothing and the next, 5 seedlings pop up, all straight and "Hello there!"

I'm a little concerned that maybe they plants will be getting a wee big in the year and I will just have to plant them out earlier than I expect... maybe late March? Mid April?  Eh, a cheap bottle cloche and/or sheet will do the trick if need be.

I am going to PACK this garden tight this year and really go seriously French Intensive.

The tomatoes will probably be tucked in with the all sorts of lettuces and root vegetables growing this year as they'll grow well above them.  The tomatillos could sprawl (like the tomatoes I suppose, but why possibly promote waste and disease and encourage pests?

The goal this year was to not only have high quality and quantity of crops, but also "make it
 prettier."  "Prettier," is a concept a little more foreign to me, but with this past winter, I have been seriously tired and have been craving color, bees, birds and a place that's more.. approachable.  It was mostly attractive before I think, but I'm really looking for something to knock my socks off.

Tall order eh?

Well, we all can have our fantasies.