Thursday, October 2, 2008

Setbacks in other aspects of life...

I wish I could post some pictures of my extremely huge green Pink Branywine tomatoes but alas, we were recently burglarized. The thief managed to snag quite a bit of our electronics, and it happened to include my laptop (which had a card reader in it), my husband's external card reader, and the camera's USB cord... though not the camera.

As I know some will wonder, we are OK but it happened in the dark of early morning while we were asleep in our beds. We slept through moist of it (amazing & sickening to think of it...) until the guy started trying to unplug things in the office. Chad chased him out at that point. We lost a lot of stuff, including both laptops and both ipods, but nothing important that can't be replaced relatively soon. Once my cards have been replaced and Chad has a new cell phone, the rest are mostly just toys. We're far more concerned about the invasion of our home than the items stolen, so we're mainly focusing on making things more secure... We're just thankful the criminal apparently wasn't violent.

Anyway, there will be pictures once we have a USB cord or a card reader again. The huge Brandywine plant is producing massive tomatoes and the more wimpy Brandwine plants have begun to produce a couple, too. I think we'll get a decent number of ripe ones before the first freeze, but I suspect we will find ourselves with a huge supply of green tomatoes to fry in the end!

The fall plantings are going strong and the other tomato plants continue to produce decently enough. I think, however, that I may need to start over entirely on a couple of the potted plants that were below the window the theif cracked. Tiny bits of glass got into them, and I'm not entirely confident that they wouldn't end up in the spinach and lettuce. *sigh*

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fall Gardening Update

The garden already has lettuce, radish, and sugar snap pea seedlings (plus the transplanted broccoli seedlings from indoors). Tiny things, but they're there!

The yellow pansies we added to the front porch are a welcome splash of color, and the mild weather is allowing our fuchsia plant to make a comeback with lovely, delicate new growth.

On Monday, I will plant two pots of lettuce and two pots of spinach on the front porch.  The Monday after that, I'll plant one or two of each in hanging pots that we can easily keep indoors in the winter (and I guess we'll just keep snipping them until they quit).  I'm getting better about doing successive plantings.  I used to get so excited that I'd just seed everything in one day.

My account was charged for my garlic yesterday, so I'm hoping that means it has shipped.  I will most certainly share photos!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fall Gardening. Long Time, No Post!

It's been a while since I updated, because I've been preoccupied with other aspects of my life and thinking less about gardening. But today has been quite a gardening day for me.

You see, I'm far overdue for fall gardening. The only thing I really did on time was start broccoli seedlings indoors. But finally spotting tomatoes on one of my brandywine plants yesterday told me I needed to get busy for fall while I still can!

First, I attempted to get the overgrown brandywine on the side of the house to stand up. Very little success, here. I got a few tomato-bearing vines off the ground before the sun started beating down on me and will try to get a few more tomorrow morning. I also trimmed it up a bit, cutting back vines with no fruit or flowers. I probably should have done away with more, but I can't stand to sacrifice any flowers... though I did accidentally break off a vine with two green tomatoes. One is big enough for frying, so that's what I'll do tonight.

Next, I tackled the Square Foot Garden. First order of things was basic clean-up. I pulled weeds, the dead cucumber plants, and the radishes that were there for the sole purpose of fending off cucumber bugs. Then I started hacking away dead tomato limbs and shortening any too-long vines without green tomatoes or promising looking flowers. Both the cherry tomato plant and Genovese are still doing well, but neither brandywine in the garden has produced a single tomato. I am very disappointed. If I don't see any soon, I'll cut them out to let a little more light shine down onto the fall vegetables.

Then I transplanted my broccoli seedlings and covered them with soda pop cloches, and I put in the radish, sugar snap, Swiss chard, and lettuce seeds. I'll do a bit more once shade falls on the garden again, and finish in the morning.

I know I'm rather behind on a couple plants. Mainly, I should have seeded my carrots well before now. I might decide to replace those with something a little faster-growing.

Here is my current fall garden plan:


I have big plans for my pots, as well. I'll have two hanging Red Robins (one is already almost ready to start making tomatoes & the other has been seeded), both of which can be placed in a sunny window once the weather is too cold. There are also several pots, hanging and sitting, in which I'm going to seed lettuce and spinach. They'll be brought inside for a post-freeze harvest.

My garlic bulbs should arrive in the next couple of weeks. Again, a bit behind-schedule... but this is because the grower had a cool growing season rather than because I'm behind... for a change.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tomato Update

The incredibly hot and mostly dry weather has not been kind to the plants.  In fact, missing one watering killed off two pots of strawberry plants, a few very young basils, and a particularly beautiful lavender.  I'm going to be better about keeping my potted plants moist.

I spent a good half hour pulling dry leaves off the tomato plants today and the job still isn't entirely done.  They're still going strong, though.  My one complaint is that the not one of the three Brandywine plants have produced so much as a single tomato.  I'd heard that they're not a prolific variety, but sheesh!  I shake the cages every time I'm out there to try and help them along, even though the Oklahoma wind should be enough, and still nothing.  I'll keep taking care of them, though.  They mature later than most varieties, so maybe it was already too hot for them to do well by the time they matured fully.  Maybe they'll give me a nice late crop if I keep them healthy.

Meanwhile, in addition to the occasional cucumber, I'm bringing in a tomato harvest like this every couple of days:


And there are always a few over-ripe cherry tomatoes that I throw along the fence-line in hopes of volunteer plants.  I left quite a few on the vine that I felt could stand just one more day of ripening, since I enjoy serving up a bowl of fresh-picked cherry tomatoes at our D&D session each Friday night.

I look forward to having an additional raised bed next year.  I didn't plan for a varied mid-summer harvest this year, but I'd like to have one next year.  Meanwhile, I'm about to start some more seedlings for the fall.  Little broccoli are going strong!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Trip to the Farmer's Market

I went to the farmer's market around 10 this morning and was amazed to see such a crowded parking lot as I pulled in! I'm normally a little later than 10, so I had no idea how many people could pack in there at one time.

As I walked up to the building, there was a loooooong line of people, all with bags of okra in hand, waiting to check out. I'm not a big enough fan of an okra fan to wait in line for it, but I definitely want to grow it next year.

Inside the building I encountered more lines, which was slightly annoying to me but wonderful for the farmers. I found one table without a line that had two things I wanted: green tomatoes and pumpkin blossoms. I don't feel like we have enough of a tomato supply yet to start picking them green, but Chad has never had a fried green tomato in his life and I want to introduce him to it. The pumpkin blossoms, which I plan to fry at the same time, are a new venture for both of us. Exciting!

Since the eggs are all gone by the time I normally get to the market this time of year, I was thrilled to see a line at my usual supplier's table. I got right in line and waited patiently behind a man returning three egg cartons (I love that the farmer reuses them). When he finally reached the table, he put down the empty cartons and said:

Customer: I only need one dozen this week.

Seller: But you always order two.

Customer: Well, we're just not eating enough eggs to get two dozen anymore.

Seller: OK... but I had two dozen reserved for you.

Customer: Oh... OK. If that's a problem, I guess I'll go ahead and buy the two. But put me down for one next week.

This was when I realized that I'd waited in line this whole time and it turns out that the seller is taking and filling orders, not selling first-come-first-serve like she does in the winter! So I quickly piped in:

Me: Hey, wait, *I* will buy the other dozen!!! I'll take it!

Customer: Oh! Awesome, thank you!

Me: No problem! Thank you!!!

So I bought his second dozen (extra jumbo!) eggs. What a stroke of luck for both he and I, huh? I love when stuff like that happens.

I hadn't had breakfast yet and was too hungry to stand around in anymore lines, but I walked the circle of the market one more time to look at all of the amazing produce. I almost decided to spend the time to get some sweet corn, and I sort of wish I had now, but we're currently short on cash and I decided I would make meal plans for next weekend that include corn on the cob and come back for a big bag. Yum.

So now I'm thinking about frying up the tomatoes and blossoms tomorrow and I'm in a great mood. Even if I'm late, I really need to make myself go to the farmer's market every weekend.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cucumber Salad, Eating In-Season


In the middle of the hot Oklahoma summer, garden salads can be scarce.  It's just too hot to grow decent lettuce and my salad mesclun mix was too popular with the bugs to keep going.  But one cool summer vegetable I do have a steady supply of is cucumber.

I have always loved cucumber tomato salads, but I started searching for a simple cucumber salad today and turned up this wonderful dish on Recipezaar.  Somewhere between salad and slaw, it was a hit at dinner.  Below is the recipe (with a couple notes on my variation).

Cucumber Salad

  • 2 cucumbers, very thinly sliced (I scooped out the seeds first.)
  • 1 red onion, very thinly sliced (I used scallions.)
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice (Apple vinegar was great!)
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (I opted for granular Splenda.)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill (I had dried dill and used 1/2 tsp.)
  1. Mix cucumbers and onions together.
  2. Mix rest of ingredients together in a closed bowl and give a shake.
  3. Add to cucumbers, chill till very cold & serve.

(I just threw all of the ingredients in with the cucumbers and onions and mixed it well, instead of shaking before mixing.)

See?  Eating in season is all about a little creativity.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Overgrown Plants!

We purchased one single Hardy Hibiscus from the farmer's market last year. It was beautiful with its massive, satellite dish flowers. The seller told us to cut it back in the winter and it would likely come back in the spring.

Boy, did it ever!

P7060129 P7060130 P7060132

It went from one plant with two or three stems last year to who knows how many plants with how many stems this year! We love it! It's like a giant, tropical bush!

Speaking of overgrown plants, I can hardly believe that this brandywine tomato plant I just kind of stuck on the side of the house was a stunted seedling. P7050096

I should have pruned it down to just one or two major vines and staked it. As it is, I've been doing everything I can to keep the whole thing somewhat contained to the space that the too-small tomato cage indicates is its "home."

Saturday, July 5, 2008

It's Been a While!

It's been a little while since I updated, but here I am now!

We've gotten two big cucumbers out of the garden lately, plus lots of cherry tomatoes!  In fact, I served a bowl of cherry tomatoes as a snack when we had friends over the other night.

Most exciting is our first full-sized red tomato of the season!  A Genovese, to be specific:P7050100We'll most likely pick and eat it tomorrow.

No more carrots in the garden until it's time to seed for the fall.  A few of the onion tops turned yellow, so those got pulled:P7020075 They'll probably be drying outside for about another day, then I'll bring them inside for use/storage.  Most of the others will be picked quite soon as well.

It's also time to start thinking about fall crops, around the Oklahoma City area.  Broccoli should be started inside ASAP, if you haven't done it already.  Here's my broccoli seedling set up on the kitchen window sill:P7050105 It's actually a Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich container!!!  This, if nothing else, is a perfect excuse to eat ice cream!  Not only does it sit perfectly on our windowsill, but our repurposed toilet roll seedling pots fit into each sandwich slot perfectly:P7050106 These little pots are extremely easy to make. Cut the rolls in half first if putting them in a short container like this, but otherwise follow these instructions over at You Grow Girl.  Just be careful not to over-water, because I find that these are more likely to grow mold than peat pellets.  But once the seedlings need more soil, you can transplant it, roll and all, into its next home.  It's totally biodegradable.

Anyone else prepping for fall gardening out there?!  Here's a fabulous fall gardening document for fellow Oklahomans, thanks to OSU.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Showing off the Upcoming Harvest!

Something munched some of our baby cucumbers recently, but there were a few survivors.  One of them is growing so fast!  It's going to be ready to pick in no time!P6180083

The largest Genovese tomato is about the size of a small tangerine.P6180094

I've also been eyeing the onions.  Since the Oklahoma wind blew over all the stalks (which normally fall over when it's time to harvest), I'm just going to have to make an educated guess as to when to pull them out of the ground.P6180090

The Super Sweet 100 tomatoes are still green, but we've had a steady supply of cherry tomatoes for our salads via the Red Robin plants.           P6160051

I love the idea that people walk by our house and see hanging baskets of tomatoes on the front porch.  I think they're as pretty as flowers, and soooo tempting.  No one has yet to steal any that I know of, though.

I've also been harvesting carrots as needed, but they're still pretty small.  I suspect the nitrogen content of the soil was a little high for them, so I won't add any compost to those squares when I do the fall planting.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Moroccan Coleslaw

I've had two requests for the Moroccan Coleslaw recipe I mentioned recently, so here it is! I wish I could claim it as entirely my own, but I modified it from a South Beach recipe. It doesn't have as much tang as traditional slaw and it's not as thickly coated in dressing, so we really enjoyed it like a salad.

Moroccan Coleslaw

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tb fresh lemon juice
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tsp sugar (or granular Splenda)
1 tsp ground cumin
4 cups shredded green cabbage
4 medium carrots, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the mayo, lemon juice, scallions, sugar, and cumin in a very large bowl. Add carrots, cabbage, salt, and pepper. Toss until evenly coated. Serve or refrigerate immediately.

Resource for Oklahoma Gardeners

I just wanted to share a wonderful resource for Oklahoma gardeners.  OSU publishes some wonderful online PDFs on gardening/farming.  I've been eyeing the Fall Gardening PDF in particular lately and will be starting some broccoli seeds indoors before long.

A few garden updates:

  • My Sugar Snap Peas stopped producing and started looking a little dried up, so I've taken them out and plan to grow more in the fall.  The Genovese Tomato plant should get a little more sun as a result.
  • I'll be harvesting the last of the lettuce this week.  I planted some greens so we might be able to keep the salad coming for a while, I but suspect it'll get so hot I'll have to pick them young.  I let one Little Gem Romaine bolt and think we should be seeing a blossom soon.  I'll have to do some research to see if there are any special methods to save the seed.
  • The tomatoes are going strong!  Tons of cherry tomatoes, at least two green Genovese Tomatoes, and flowers on the brandywines!  I am so excited!!!
  • We have wee baby cucumbers, one of which is longer than my thumb.  Their  vines are growing like mad, and it's been a little bit of a challenge to train them to the trellis.

I hope everyone's June is productive!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Seed Sales!

Apparently, it's about time for seeds to go on sale around Oklahoma City!  Lowe's had theirs for 10 cents a packet yesterday, and Chad and I must have picked up about $30 worth for less than $2.  He picked out flower seeds, including three or four varieties of sunflowers, and I mainly picked out vegetables.  Almost all of it is for next year, but we picked up a few things that should work well in the fall, too.

So, keep your eye out for sales right now.  When it comes to vegetables, pretty much everything with which I am familiar will store well for at least one extra year, except onions.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Carrot Harvest

Today was my first sizable carrot harvest!


Red Cored Chantenay Carrots

They're fat, stubby little things right now! And tasty. I shredded them for a Moroccan coleslaw recipe that was The Awesome paired with turkey meat loaf.


I know these guys aren't quite full sized yet, but they've still made me decide I definitely want to grow a long variety along side them next year. And some of them will definitely be purple!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Thinking of Fall...

Especially if you're going to order any fancy garlic, it's a good idea to start thinking about your fall gardening now.

Today, I'm ordering two cloves of Chesnok Red Garlic and DeCicco Broccoli.   The garlic, which I'm going to pair with a generic supermarket (softneck) variety as an experiment, won't be harvested until Spring.  But the broccoli will be a part of our fall harvest....  And maybe the winter, if we're lucky.  I've never grown broccoli, but I chose Decicco because it's supposed to have a good number of off-shoot broccolis after the large head is harvested.

I was also extremely tempted by German Extra Hardy Garlic, Russian Giant Garlic, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Dragon Carrots, Brussels Sprouts, and leeks... But I have to keep in mind that I have a limited amount of space and plenty of other stuff I already plan on growing.

Meanwhile, today is a nice, mild, overcast day.  It rained all morning, so the kitty and I slept in quite nicely.  And I'm developing clever ideas about creating my own bagged and frozen convenience stir fry for nights when I don't feel like doing much cooking, so I think it's time to make a trip to the store and browse the produce section for good, freezable veggies.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Updates From the Impatient Gardener

I needed a scallion for yesterday's dinner, so I went out to the garden to pick one fresh.  And, holy moly, I got a surprize!P6010047

Apparently, I'm just a really impatient gardener!  I originally purchased the set under the impression that they were a white onion that would bulb, but then they didn't bulb at all and I decided they'd been mislabeled and started using them as green onions (very tasty green onions!).  But now, over half of them are visibly bulbing!P6020051

And while we're on the topic of what's going on underground, it looks like some of the carrots are ready to pull!


Above ground, I was ecstatic to discover tiny buds on the brandywine tomato plants!!!  These are the tomatoes I'm really excited about.  Woohoo!!!P6020054

The youngest Red Robin is blooming nicely, which is a pleasant sight just outside out back door.              P6020060P6020062

This is also one of the more charming sights you'll see on our back steps.  Poor little Ali isn't allowed outside, but at least she has a good view when we're tending to the container plants!P6020064

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tomatoes and Tough Love

We're finally seeing the fruits of our labor!  Literally!

Our first Genovese tomato: P5290056

The fist tomato on the in-garden Super Sweet 100 plant: P5290058

The first four tomatoes on the potted Super Sweet 100 plant:P5290066

In the meantime, we've been plucking the occasional red tomatoes from the hanging Red Robin plants:   P5290070

And the much younger Red Robin plant is starting to flower: P5290067

I'm amazed at the luck we've been having with the Red Robins and will probably grow them every single year.

Meanwhile, one of the Alexandria strawberry plants has created a flower!  It's too early to let a brand new everbearing variety set fruit, though.  I pinched the flower off in the spirit of tough love.  I was tempted to leave it, but we'll have more strawberries next summer as a result: P5290053P5290048

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Storms and Children

Well, it would seem that the storm did some harvesting for me last night.  I can't say I'm surprised.  I was up with the storm, watching anxiously as even my sheltered potted plants danced the wind.

Only the lettuces suffered, really, so we'll be having salad tonight.  Everything else fared amazingly well.

Our nephews visited for dinner and board games yesterday, so they got to see actual plants in our garden and were pretty impressed by how big everything was.  We took a bowl out with us and let them pick sugar snap peas to snack on and a couple green onions to take home to their grandmother, but they forgot them on the table... and apparently didn't care when they realized it.  Too bad, really.  So we ate their sugar snap peas.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

15 Minutes of Fame

Warhol was right, we all get our fifteen minutes of fame.

And now, here's mine!  I'm mentioned, quoted, and pictured in an urban gardening article in the latest Oklahoma Gazette!


Hmmm, I need to get a copy ASAP so I can see the cover better, because I think that may even be my Red Robin tomato plant pictured on the front!  (Update on that, no, I don't think it's my Red Robin.)  They're free all over the OKC metro, so pick one up and check it out!  If you're not local, you can still see the article on their site.

So what if they got my last name a little wrong in the print version? My garden and I are still famous!  Woohoo!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Peas & a Shameless Plug

The sugar snap peas are already getting big enough to pick! We had a few with dinner tonight.


They don't really get quite as big as the sugar snap peas from the store, but oh, are they wonderful right out of the garden!

I've gotten a bit more into crafting again, so I've started an etsy store to see if I can get any of it to sell. Since much of it will be nature themed jewelry and maybe (eventually!) some gardening accessories, I thought it would be appropriate to mention here. So if you'd like to take a look, you can see the bare beginnings of my etsy shop here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Days to Harvest"

You know how the backs of seed packets often list "days to harvest?" Yeah, take those with a grain of salt. What I suspect they really mean is, "Days to harvest in precisely what we consider average conditions, even if there's no possible way you can reproduce our 'average' where you live."

I usually mark the projected "harvest day" on my calendar for non-fruiting items (carrots, lettuce, etc.) so I can check on them, but they're never accurate. Much of my lettuce could be harvested well before their date (but I let them keep growing!) and my carrots are nowhere big enough to harvest even though yesterday was the projected date. A million things effect the real harvest date. Weather, nitrogen levels, amount of sun, etc.

And for the record, many of the seed companies state that the days to harvest on the packets usually mean the number of days from the day you actually put the seeds or transplants out it in the garden. (See, isn't that silly? Of course a transplant will be ready to harvest sooner than a seed started on the exact same day!) This was one point of confusion for me when I started trying to read seed packets.

So, don't fret when a harvest date comes around and your carrots are still pencil thin (like mine!). Just use the "days to harvest" as a general indicator as to how fast-growing a particular variety is, or when it's almost time to start poking around the soil to see how big your root vegetables are.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Peas & Progress

Just as I whined about having nothing but radishes out of our garden so far, some sugar snap peas grew while I had my back turned!!!


Of course, I shouldn't have been whining anyway.  I think we'll be harvesting a head of romaine every night this week.  These Little Gems are the perfect size to make salad for two.


I went ahead and pulled all of the ugly greens from the mesclun mix that have been eaten up by bugs and did some reseeding with Black Seeded Simpson (since the first batch is growing so quickly) and the one variety (a lettuce) in the mesclun mix that seems to be both fast growing and not quite as tasty to insects.

I need to take photos of them, or wrangle Chad into taking good photos of them, but all of the tomato plants are doing fabulously:

The old Red Robins in the hanging planters have tons of green tomatoes. Really. Chad counted like 25 on one of them!  I gave two younger plants to a friend who recently moved to a new house and hasn't been able to garden yet and I have two young ones that I hope to bring inside and keep going for winter tomatoes.

The potted Supersweet 100 is getting huge and super healthy looking!  I really need to post a photo of him...  The one in the garden looks pretty good, as well.

The Genovese is the biggest tomato plant in the garden and it has flowers!!!  I am so excited!!!  I have to admit I was a little bit skeptical when it was recommended to me at the farmer's market as an earlier producing variety (I asked someone if they had a full-sized tomato that would tide me over until my brandywines produce!), but now it looks like they'll beat everything but the much older Red Robins.

The brandywines are all looking pretty good.  The one that had no set-backs is almost climbing up into his tomato cage and the one that broke twice is finally trying to catch up to his brother.

I'm fascinated by how totally different all of the tomato plant varieties look.  Brandywines have those wide, stately potato leaves.  The Red Robins are curly and kind of ugly... in an endearing sort of way.  The Supersweets are positively overwhelming with their complicated, veiny leaves.  And the Genovese has a refined, lacy appearance.

I swear, I am completely in love with tomato plants.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Daydreams of 2009

While waiting for my garden to start producing more than radishes to eat, I'm already daydreaming about what to plant next year. Especially since we plan to have one more 4x4 square foot garden. Exciting things on my very tentative list for 2009:

  1. Pink Brandywine tomatoes, from the seeds of this year's plants.
  2. Cherokee Purple tomatoes, because I've wanted to grow dark, mottled looking tomatoes for a long time.
  3. Azoychka tomatoes, both yellow (yay for interesting tomatoes!) and an early producer.
  4. The same Super Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, for which I am saving seeds from the original package. They're not heirloom, but it's hard to beat their early, high production.
  5. Oxheart carrots, if I run out of seeds for the Red Cored Chantenay I currently have, because I'm curious about these stocky looking roots.
  6. Purple Haze carrots, because how fun is a purple carrot?!
  7. Pineapple flavored Ground Cherries.
  8. Three varieties of lettuce including Little Gem Romaine (because we're having so much success with it so far!), Black Seeded Simpson (because it's doing well and I'm hoping the extra seeds we have will still be good next year), and some sort of "heading" lettuce that I've not picked out yet. I don't think I'll plant the meclun green mix again, even though I still have tons of seeds, because they are the one thing in the garden that keeps getting eaten by bugs.
  9. Both red and white onions of some sort, so I can make a beautiful onion braid to last us all winter!
  10. Pumpkins and zucchini, if we make it through the rest of this year without seeing another squash bug. *shiver*

Lots more, but that's what I've been daydreaming of. I'll probably also experiment with potatoes and some sort of beans, and I do plan to do garlic over the winter.

Gosh, I've probably already over-filled the two garden beds with my imagination!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mystery Solved & Photos

An update on yesterday's onion mystery: they are indeed scallions, not bulbing onions.  I'm slightly annoyed at the mislabeling, but I'm not too horribly let down since I enjoy green onions more than yellow.  I was just so looking forward to making our own onion braid....

So I think I'll cheer myself up with a few beautiful pictures Chad recently took.

    (A pink strawberry blossom.)

(Water drops on lettuce leaves.  Some of the earliest lettuce we planted are pretty much ready for harvest, now!)


(The sugar snap peas getting a good hold on the trellis.  These are also blooming!)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Friendly Crawlies & Onion Mysteries

My my, it's been a little while since my last post!  I must watch that.

I made an exciting discovery in the garden a little while back.  I was completely horrified by these creepy crawlies that I'd never seen before:


I mean, really, how creepy looking is that thing???  I killed 3 or 4 before I thought, hmmmm, let's go google the description and find out what the heck these things are.  It took forever, but I finally found out that they're ladybug nymphs!  That's right, these ugly little suckers are baby ladybugs, which are excellent pest control for which many organic gardeners pay good money!  So I called a truce, and I have been quite happy to share my patch of earth with these ugly little beasties.  I've even seen a few full grown lady bugs around, so my garden is getting a little additional pest control until these babies turn into speckled aphid munching machines!

See?  Not all creepy crawlies are bad.

The onions, in the meantime, keep me guessing.  I've never grown onions before at all and I chose what I thought was supposed to be a globing onion (I got the set from the farmer's market and they're called "candy"), but they looked more like scallions when I purchased them and I'm not seeing globes when I push back the soil.  I don't know.  I do suspect the kids planted them too deep, so maybe the globes are way down there.  I think I'll just dig one up tomorrow and see if there's a globe at all.  I'll be a little let down if it turns out that they were merely mislabeled scallions, but I must admit that the tops do look particularly green and tasty!

Friday, May 2, 2008

First Strawberry


We sampled the first of our strawberries the other day, and it tasted like absolute perfection.

I am convinced that there are few culinary pleasures as amazing as a organically grown strawberry so freshly picked that it still tastes of sunshine.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Organic is Easy

Pssst. I have a secret.... Organic gardening is easy!

No, seriously! Especially for urban gardeners, with our smaller gardens to care for, going organic is pretty simple.

I believe the key is to relax and start with the basics. I mean, you're not a farmer, you're not required to comply with certification standards, and you don't have to become a specialist. Just start with the simple conviction that you will grow the most nutritious foods possible without using chemicals. This means swearing off:

  1. Miracle Grow and other chemical fertilizers
  2. Roundup and other weed killers
  3. chemical insecticides

Replace them with:

  1. compost
  2. mulch and a little weed pulling
  3. a spray bottle of soapy, garlicy water

Those three changes are probably the most essential steps in going organic, and I think the rest can be learned as you go. There's far too much to learn it all in one sitting, one season, or even one lifetime! Yes, you'll run across pests that are tougher than diluted dish soap, but you don't want to spray one of the harsher mixes until you really need to anyway (because they can kill off the beneficial bugs, too). And of course "100% organic" produce is grown from certified organic seed, but you're not a farmer at risk of losing your certification because you purchased some of your seeds from Home Depot.

It's also important to appreciate quality more than quantity. Your heirloom tomato plants might not start producing fruit the size of footballs the second you put them into the ground like some hybrids, but they will have exceptional nutrition and phenomenal flavor if you keep to organic growing methods.

Finally, be forgiving of yourself. If you lose a plant to an infestation of bugs, know that this happens to all gardeners, organic or not. Do some googling to learn how to prevent them next year and chalk it up to experience. Gardening leans heavily toward trial and error, after all, no matter how many books you've read.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pictures from Yesterday

I'm up early after an evening of cheap Pinot Noir. That always happens when I have a few too many glasses, but the nice thing about this morning's restlessness is that it was accompanied merely by a craving for Diet Dr. Pepper instead of by a headache.

So here I am with my giant cup of soda, thinking about what a nice day yesterday was. Chad captured much of it in pictures.

A few strawberries in the June-bearing basket are turning red, and this one looks soooo tempting.


I was enamored by our Red Lady Fern, which was nothing but a pot of curly little twigs when we first purchased her.


Chad started taking a closer look at some of the plants in the veggie garden, including the Little Gem Romain:


And the ruffly basil that lives between the Supersweet 100 and Genovese tomatoes:


As I tended the garden, I found that both the basil seeds and some type of grass or weed has sprouted around the tomatoes. I weeded the grass and put cardboard down on the areas where it was trying to grow and will look into buying some straw on the way out to my parents' house in the country later today. Straw makes a nice mulch for vegetable gardens..

Chad worked on part of one of the side flower beds, putting in our creeping phlox. It's a grassy, weedy bed that's had no preparation, but we couldn't really put weed block around a creeping plant we want to creep. So he brilliantly cut cardboard to fit the space, leaving holes for the still small phlox plants, which should kill off much of the weeds before it biodegrades and lets the phlox do it's thing. With some of my super cheap potting soil thrown on top, it's already looking a little prettier.

We then took a walk to the wine store and looked at all of the plants our neighbors have been putting in. These pink flowered bushes were one of my favorites just based on their solid color, and I simply must hunt some down once I learn what they're called:


Can anyone tell me what they are? Perhaps I can catch the owners outside sometime and ask them.

I'm also in love with this funky little tree, manipulated bonsai style:


I'm guessing it's related to a weeping cedar? Whatever it is, we saw a couple on our walk and I'm terribly fascinated.

Well, today should be lovely as well. Nice and cool, in the 60s. We're going to try and make it out to the arts festival for a bit, but I want to visit my parents and take them their tomato and strawberry plants. I'm really eager to see how the flower bed we planted out there is doing!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Storms & Picture Updates

It stormed last evening, here in Oklahoma City, and it apparently took a toll on my lettuce.


One Little Gem Romaine was somehow totally separated from his roots (I checked under everything for cutworms just in case, but no sign) and two (on the upper right) are looking a little beat down. I guess I'll have to give them some shelter whenever the rain comes in from now on.

The onions have been growing like crazy, and they're sort of all over the place after last night's rain.


I walk out there and see those three squares and am just so impressed. I'm definitely going to need to pull a few young onions as "pearls" to even out the harvest a bit.

Our monstrously huge radish plants are overshadowing the still small cucumbers! We've harvested most of the really big ones around the left cucumber, but the right one is still hidden away. I'll clear the worst offending radish for tonight's salad and that should do it. The cucumbers should easily rise above the new crop of radishes I've been planting as we harvest.

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All of the young tomato plants look fine.


Even the brandywine that I thought I'd lose is perking up and getting green again. I'm keeping the extra seedlings on hand in case he takes another turn for the worse, but I think he's almost out of the woods. If he keeps improving, then I'll just leave him alone and let him do his best.


And, just for good measure, here's the potted Sweet 100 looking pretty great. I love looking at healthy plants like this and knowing I raised it from one teeny tiny little seed.