Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday Update

Woohoo -- I can upload more than one image! I think I may be getting the hang of this blog thing!
Well, here's the garden today. If you go back to last Saturday's image, you'll see how the beans have grown by leaps and bounds. I love beans for that reason. I'm going to plant another container with just wax beans tomorrow. I'll add more marigolds around the outside to deter the bean beetles, which may or may not be a problem here (they were a huge problem in Indiana and the marigolds helped quite a bit), but they're pretty, and they can't hurt, right? Too bad they don't smell better ...
The Crazy Daisy has settled in and is growing well. It's probably almost twice the size it was when I planted it. I'll probably be able to pick a few leaves of baby lettuce next Saturday, and I'm looking forward to that.
I received notice from Burpee that my tomatoes and herbs have shipped and are scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday. I'll try to leave work on time so that I can get them planted right away.
Tomorrow, along with planting beans, I'm also going to dig up the strip of dirt between the hedges and my patio to plant the tall red and lime-green zinnias. I'm also going to head to the local nursery to buy a trowel (for digging up the strip) and a cool, non-self-watering planter for the herbs, since they do better if they're stressed from time to time by lack of water. Who knew? The nursery opens at 8:00, so I'll be able to work outside in relative peace before the sun gets too warm.
When I moved here, I didn't have room for my baker's rack. I put it on the patio with the intention of putting plants on the shelves, and I think I'll try the herbs there to see how they do. Guess I'll need a watering can, too, since I'll have to water the pots frequently when it gets really hot here. Right now I'm watering the containers with the hose from my Python aquarium cleaner. I take off the part that goes in the tank, so there's no worry about contaminating the fish with anything, although with the muck they're swimming in right now, I don't see how anything could make it worse. I'm having horrible algae problems, and the Algon can't even keep up with it. Guess I have to take out everything and give it a good scrubbing to get rid of some of the spores. I can't move it anywhere else -- my apartment gets good light everywhere!
That's it for now -- I'm in the middle of making a bunch of thank-you cards, and I'm going to try to get more of them finished tonight. Four down, eighteen to go ...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

She flies through the air with the greatest of ease

until she crashes on the floor. And then she runs and hides under the desk.

I have to face the facts -- my heart, my muse, my furry soulmate, the love of my life is getting old. Chelsea turned 13 last September, and while little dogs live long lives, she's still considered geriatric and she can't do the things she thinks she should be able to do.

Chelsea is as close to a cat as a dog can get, without all the aloofness that a dog could never pull off. She stalks prey, she isn't afraid of heights, she sleeps on the windowsill in the dining room, she's nimble-footed. I love watching her jump from the sofa to the chair to the ottoman to the other chair. She can just about make a circuit of my living room without setting foot on the floor. She jumps from my bed to the side chair and back again, and hardly shakes the bed. Until last night.

When we go to bed, Doodlebug hops up his little doggy steps and settles right in beside me. Chelsea comes to bed until she thinks I'm asleep, and then she hops into the chair to sleep alone until about a half hour until the alarm goes off, then she comes back to bed and stays there until I get up.

Last night, she missed the chair and landed in a heap on the floor. She sat there a bit dazed for a minute, then literally shook herself off, jumped into the chair and settled down for the night. She moved a little slowly this morning, but she does that from time to time -- we're all getting older. When I got home from work tonight and let them out of the bedroom, she made a mad dash for the chair in the living room -- she likes to be as close to my level as she can get, probably in a ploy for the alpha position. She tried to jump to the ottoman, but misjudged the distance and fell again. She sat hunched over for a few minutes, and I felt everything to make sure she hadn't broken or dislocated anything. She seems ok now, but she's still moving slowly. A visit to the vet may be in order ...

I'm not worried about losing her -- she promised me the day I picked her up from the shelter that she's immortal. But, damn, it sure is hard watching her get old.

And on the garden front, the beans are growing, the lettuce is starting to look like lettuce, the zinnias are working on their second set of leaves, it looks like the blueberries will survive (even though I haven't put peat in the container yet to acidify the soil), the daisies are getting taller and the lavender is still a no-show.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What a different a day makes ..

or two days, or three -- especially in a garden.

My little garden microcosm is no exception. Look at today's photo (taken yesterday afternoon) and then go back and look at Saturday's photo. Amazing, isn't it! Yesterday all the plants just had their original seed leaves (cotyledons to all of us seed geeks), and now most of them are starting to get their second set -- the leaves that look like what the grown plants leaves will be. In two weeks, I'll be having baby lettuce salads with a fruity vinaigrette dressing, and won't that be very, very good.
While I very much like these containers and enjoy poking in the dirt, I'm finding myself at gardening odds. In my big earth beds, I had something to do every. single. day. I'd plant a square foot of something, or pick radishes to give to a friend and her family (I don't like radishes, but after a long, gray winter I just had to plant something that would grow quickly to harvest size), or pull baby weeds that would grow after I turned the soil and exposed them to light. I'd have to water every few days, or transplant seedlings, or move mulch from around the perennial daisies and coneflowers. I'd spend hours out there in the morning, just zen-ing out while I was working, or meditating about different things, or feeling my heart and spirit mend. Here, all I have to do is go out every day and take a photo of what's growing. I don't think there will ever be the same level of involvement that I had with my earth beds. For instance, I can't see myself sitting out on my patio tending plants and crying over a broken relationship or disappointment in my job. And maybe that's a good thing? I don't know. It's good, I guess, but just very different.
I found out why I had wasps on the patio! It seems those crafty little beasties are building a nest in the corner where my upstairs neighbor's deck adjoins the wall. When I spotted it Sunday evening, it was the about 2" in diameter and contained about 10 cells. Now it's a good 5" in diameter and has 35 cells -- yup, I counted them. I called the apartment manager, and the exterminator will be taking care of it on Thursday. Normally I'm thankful for bees and the busy work they do, but wasps are a different story. The gloves come off and it's a fight to the finish. At least this time I don't have to worry about taking care of it! One of the bennies of apartment life! I still don't know why they were eating the glider ...
PS -- I'm really not writing in stream of consciousness mode. I'm putting in spacing between paragraphs, really I am! It just isn't sticking when I post the entry! Blog help anyone?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Watching the beans grow ...

Today has been kind of a quiet day, and long, which is the BEST on weekends. It feels like it should be after 6:00, but it's just 3:15. Ahhh, extra hours today ...
I sat outside for quite some time earlier, just reading and watching the beans come up. I swear, they're growing so fast I could almost see them break ground, unfurl their leaves and reach up to the sun. But not quite -- I think they knew I was watching and would only grow when I looked away. Anyway, this is how they looked this morning. In no time at all, they'll be shading the lettuce, which is exactly what I wanted them to do. I was finally chased in by two wasps who insisted on buzzing around the glider. It looked like they were trying to eat it -- even though I washed it off, perhaps there's still pollen left in the pores of the wood. I've been stung too many times by wasps and wasn't in the mood to be stung today, so I surrendered and left them to it. I needed to clean the aquarium anyway, and now the fish are happy and I can see them again. I know I skipped cleaning for two weeks, but that tank was just way too murky for normal fish muck. They may be getting too large for the tank -- I probably should start thinking about moving them to my friend's pond.
The pups are enjoying the day, too. Chelsea has been sleeping on the chair by the window with her head propped on the windowsill, letting the breeze blow over her and waking up to bark at passing people, cars, bees and whatever else goes by the window. Doodlebug has been right by my side, as always. He had quite the accident early this morning, so I've been trying to take him out every hour today, and I'll pick up his water around 8:00 tonight so that he doesn't drink so much before we go to bed. Not a pleasant experience for any of us, but I can't yell at him for it because he can't help it. He's just getting old. I guess I could put him in his crate at night, but that would be punishment for both of us. I'd miss his furry little body curled up behind my knees.
Since I still have a good part of the afternoon stretching out ahead of me, I think I'll go rubber stamp some cards. Or read a bit more before starting dinner. Or take a nap with the pups ...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Welcome little beansprouts!

Lots happening in my happy little garden today (anyone else miss Bob Ross?) -- the tall plants in the planter on the left are the blueberries (there are two in the planter -- you can't see them both in this photo). I didn't get the soil amended with peat to make it more acidic, but unbeknownst to me the box was sitting in the apartment office for a week, and I thought it maybe was better to plant them and get them rehydrated than it was to have acidic soil. I'll go to the garden center tomorrow morning and amend the soil around the plants. Fingers crossed all will be well with them. They weren't totally dried out, but they were close.

In the center planter, making their sunshine debut, are the beans! I can see two of them that have broken the soil in this photo, but unless you know what you're looking for, you might not be able to spot them (and I haven't figured out yet how to put text on photos). See the greenish clump in the center? That's a bean spout breaking the soil. There's also one right above the white watering tube. There are also several others that are thisclose to breaking through. The green seedlings in the bottom right corner are marigolds. The other green sprouts you can see throughout are lettuce.

And in the right planter, the row on the left is thickly sown lettuce. The thin line in the center contains white zinnias. The daisy plant is in the upper right corner and the lavender (lower right corner) is still a no-show.

I'm still expecting tomato plants and herbs. I almost bought a beautiful rosemary plant last night (along with parsley plants), but I'm pretty sure I have one coming, so I didn't. I can pick it up later if I still want it.

I watered these containers thoroughly last Saturday and filled the reservoirs. The soil has been nicely damp all week (not too wet, though), and this morning's check of the reservoirs shows them about half full. Of course, our weather this week has been coolish and overcast most days, with high wind the beginning of the week.

In other news, I spent too much money at Wally World this morning. I stopped in specifically for dog food, light bulbs, batteries and hair color and came out with all that plus ribbon, snacks, rechargeable batteries and a charger, the latest People magazine and Joe Hill's novel -- Heart-Shaped Box. Joe is Stephen King's son, and it's interesting to see that he has chosen to write in the same genre as his father. I can't wait to start this one! And what is it with Wal-Mart? I seriously cannot go in that store without dropping at least $100, and here lately, it's been closer to $200. Every time! I think stuff just jumps in my cart when I'm not looking, because I totally don't remember buying Crunch & Munch, but there was a box in the bag when I got home. And it's the good toffee kind, too, with peanuts and almonds. Yum!

It's in the 70s here today, and sunny, so I think I'm going to annoy the dogs and go sit out on the patio and read for a bit. With the Crunch & Munch, of course, and a glass of pomegranate juice. And I'll wave to the dogs through the window ...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Every battery I own is dead ...

... except for the one in the car, and I'm ever so thankful for that. In the year plus a few months that I've owned it, I've gotten so much better at turning off the lights. I haven't had a dead battery in a few months now. Yay me!

Anyway. Not to be outdone by the lettuce, the marigold seeds broke ground today and I'm very excited by that, but I can't show you because my camera batteries are dead. So are the ones in my Wisp air fresheners. And the ones in my CD player. I got all excited for a second to see the calculator sitting out on my desk, but then I realized that it's solar-powered. Stupid calculator. I was just so sure I had extra ones somewhere, but I guess I used them all in the camera, such sucks the power out of batteries at an alarmingly fast rate -- what's up with that?

So, instead of a photo of the marigold babies (which sprouted in just five days), here's a photo of Doodlebug, my worm-jerky afficionado--snoozing peacefully in the corner of the sofa. Pleasant dreams, Doobie!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Salad, anyone?

Ok, I've started this blog entry twice, and I've deleted what I wrote both times. I'm not going to try to comment on current events, because it just makes me sad. I'm also not going to comment on my job, because I didn't like it today. And I suspect I won't like it for the next month, but it's my job and I have to go to work to pay for all the dog, bird and fish food (because Ryukin goldfish get constipated easily and have to eat the really expensive goldfish food to prevent Swim Bladder Disorder. constipated fish -- who knew?). Anyway. Stupid job.

Since the point of this blog is my patio garden, let's see what little surprises were waiting in store for us today, shall we? And look -- here they are! Lettuce seedlings! They're almost microscopic in and among all the rich, dark potting soil, but they're there all the same. Right now, the only thing sprouting is the lettuce mix. I also planted marigolds, lavender and green beans, but none of them have broken ground yet. I'm sorely tempted to dig around a little to see if the beans are sprouting, and if this were an earth garden I would, but since I planted containers and the number of seeds is very limited, I won't disturb what's there just because I'm sometimes very impatient and I can't stand to not know what's going on under the soil. Since this blog is supposed to my record-keeping attempt, I'll just note here that the lettuce seeds sprouted in 4 days (temps were cool -- in the 60s, and weather conditions varied from sun to high wind to rain to overcast).

I think I'll just zen out a little and watch the lettuce grow and pet the dogs and listen to the bird chirp and watch the fish swim and forget about my stupid job for a bit. And maybe in the morning, I'll sit out there again while I drink a cup of tea -- just so I have enough calmness banked to get through another day at my stupid job. You know, the one that won't be any fun for another month and then will be a total blast again for a while.

(Disclaimer: If anyone from work is reading this, I really do like my job! Just not this week. And not until all of these books get to the printer.)

PS -- I do have to share something I read today: "God bless everyone. No exceptions." I won't comment on this any further except to say it was in the back of my mind all day. To go any further would be getting into current events, and I'm just not going to do that.

Monday, April 16, 2007

All the more reason to dig in the dirt!

Evidently, scientists have discovered that there are "feel good" microbes that live in the soil. When we play in the dirt (or eat them somehow -- I didn't figure that out), those microbes travel around in our bodies giving off all these little happy vibes that make us feel better. Mice injected with the microbes swim around longer in a water-filled beaker before giving up than mice that didn't have the microbes.;_ylt=Ao_E8o_fZHXIaeHv.myYavnq188F

I hope they rescued the mice. Seriously!

This is a really interesting article and doesn't take too long to read. Check it out -- you might need to copy and paste the link. (and thank-you, Angie, for sending it to me -- big hugs to you)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Well, it looks like a flower.

And besides, it's my blog and I can talk about food if I want to. And food is the end result of a vegetable garden, so in a weird way it's all related, right?

Anyway, I'm going to a rubber stamp workshop at a friend's house today, and she's stressed out over selling her house and buying another house and her husband travels quite a bit and her mom (who lives with them) had surgery a while back and still can't get around too well and she has two very young children -- so I volunteered to bring the food.

I know ya'll have been making these fruit pizzas for, like, ever, but this is my first attempt, and isn't it pretty? Yes, the chocolate is a bit blobby, but I'm sure that will NOT affect the taste. I'm also making sesame chicken strips which are in the oven baking right now, and I wish you could smell them, because they're making the dogs walk around sniffing with their noses in the air. And I have a cheese ball chilling in the fridge. Oh, and I have to leave in 10 minutes and the laundry is still spinning in the dryer.

My god, I can seriously NOT get anywhere on time!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Shhh--be very, very quiet ...

... the seeds are germinating.

I planted two of the planters today -- the one with plant already growing contains a Crazy Daisy (the green stuff you see), lavender from seed (which may not grow -- lavender can be weird that way) and lettuce of all sorts but mostly red. And green. And frizzy. And mixed in with other yummy lettuce-y things like bull's blood beets and mustard greens (which were both in the mesclun mix I bought).

The second seemingly naked planter contains green and yellow (my fave) beans -- why did I plant green beans which I like when I LOVE the yellow ones -- marigolds in the corners and lettuce broadcast thinly over top everything. Yes, I know the lettuce is going to grow where the beans are, but by the time the beans are getting big enough to do anything, the lettuce will be bolting and I'll pull it out to give the beans more room. And I did warn you -- I push the limits of what can grow in a finite amount of space. I'll fertilize and thin. Don't worry -- it's all good.

The other three planters are still empty. In two weeks, I'll sow more yellow bean seeds in one (with more lettuce and marigolds) for a continuous harvest. My blueberry plants are on the way, so I'll plant them in one when they arrive, along with whatever else I can find that will grow in acid soil. And hopefully my tomato plants will be shipped soon and I'll plant the last one with them. And basil. Lots and lots of basil. I grew Summerlong two years ago and absolutely loved it -- the flavor was superb. I kept the flower heads cut off, and they just branched out into gorgeous mounds of green deliciousness that smelled wonderful whenever I walked past.

I bought Summerlong again this year, because I just think its the best. I'm not into lemon or chocolate or cinnamon or other unusually scented/flavored basils. While they probably smell wonderful, I really think basil should taste like basil and not cinnamon. Or lemon. Does it taste cinnamony enough to put on my oatmeal? Will my green tea taste better with the addition of lemon basil? And how about a nice glass of milk with lots of -- you guessed it -- chocolate basil. I think not, so what's the point in growing them? My basil will go into summer salads or be layered with mozzarella cheese and tomatoes and dressed lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I can hardly wait!

For now, I'll just be quiet so I don't disturb those little seeds from getting on with what they do best.

And come to think of it, I don't think there's a chocolate basil plant. Maybe I'm thinking of Chocolate Cosmos ...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

We interrupt this gardening blog for a book review.

Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers by Edward C. Smith. Copyright 2006; published by Storey Publishing.

As I mentioned below, I've been gardening for years, but only in raised beds in my backyard in Indiana. I grew flowers in containers, but not vegetables, so my patio experience with vegetables is new to me.

Being the consumate book collector, when I find a topic that interests me, I look for a book to support it. Or two or three, and then I buy them all. I'm all about having information and choices. Deciding to raise veggies in pots on my patio was no different, and I found a book! Huzzah! Sadly, the huzzah is for finding the book, not for the book itself.

Let me start by saying the photos are drop-dead gorgeous. Close-ups of luscious vegetables at their peak abound. And there are LOTS of them. All very exciting and inspirational. The actual gardening info, not so much.

The most helpful part of the book, to me at least, is the chapter on soil. Explaining how a plant takes up water and nutrients and why putting regular garden soil in a container is not a good option was very helpful info. The part of this chapter that just seemed silly to me is about starting and maintaining a compost heap. Good info, but if you're an apartment dweller -- not really an option.

The author also spent a great deal of time taking about what he planted in his earth garden. I would have rather had that space dedicated to more info about what to plant in containers -- that's supposed to be the focus of this book. And I wish the info had been more on patio gardening, rather than the author's experience of using his containers to supplement what he grows in his earth garden. What also slightly annoyed me is that the focus of the book is self-watering containers, but Mr. Smith spends a large amount of time talking about growing herbs in regular pots because they thrive on poor conditions such as dry soil and hot weather. That's great to know, but please don't devote a whole chapter to herbs that can't be successfully grown in self-watering containers. Instead give me options--tell me about the ones that will do well.

I guess I'm jaded. I know a lot about gardening. I have many, many gardening books -- from Square Foot Gardening (my holy bible of gardening) to books on starting seeds. I thought I needed to know a lot more to garden in containers, but after reading this book, I probably knew enough to get started without it.

If you're new to gardening, read the book. But try to borrow it from a library first before you spend the money for it. I found most of the information it contained on the Internet. If you already have earth-gardening experience, my advice is go to and visit the container gardening forum.

All that said, this is a beautiful book, and I will refer to it from time to time, especially the last part about varieties of plants that work best in containers. It just isn't going to become the reference that I'd hoped it would. And all of this is just my opinion -- yours may vary (that's what makes the world so interesting).

Saturday, April 7, 2007

And today's garden news is ...

... there's no news! I came home yesterday with every intention of spending the day outside planting all my little seeds. And then I woke up this morning and took the dogs out for their walk. Brrr! We all froze our butts off! Even Miss Chelsea, who stares wind in the face with her ears aerodynamically held back and just lets it just blow right over her, didn't want to stay out today. So I turned the heat back on and we spent the day inside, rubber stamping (me) and sleeping (them, and then me this afternoon). It's been seriously warm here for over two weeks, with above-average temps in the 80s, which makes this cold snap seems even colder.

Or else after being here over a year, all of our blood is getting thinner ...

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Almost after

The seeds arrived yesterday. Little packages of life held dormant by a hard seed case. Seeds are the absolute most amazing thing to me.

Take a tomato seed, for example. One little seed, if watered and given sunlight, can grow up to be a plant over 10' tall that willingly provides a bushel of luscious, juicy red fruits that are perfect for adding to a slice of bread slathered with mayonnaise and garnished with lettuce. And bacon. And sprinkled with generous amounts of salt and pepper. One tiny, seemingly lifeless seed is where it all starts.

I've had tomato seeds survive the worst of winters in my garden (I was never very good about cleaning out the beds at the end of the growing season). At the first thaw, those little seeds crack open and out comes this amazing plant that can grow inches in just one day. Multiply that by the dozens of tomatoes that got left in the beds in the fall, and you can just imagine what I had growing in the spring! And nothing smells more like spring than a tomato plant.

You know, God sure knew what He was doing with all the seed business. And I am so humbled by it all.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The before view

The self-watering containers arrived. The casters arrived. All the various accoutrements were in the box. No container gardening book was to be found, though. Anywhere. I called GSC, only to find out the books were on back order. Sigh. I need the book. But my seeds aren't here yet, so as long as the book arrives soon, it's still all good.

I originally wanted to ask the Fedex delivery person to take the boxes around to the patio, but it was really hot yesterday. I figured I could carry them through the [cool, air-conditioned] apartment to the patio. Turns out I got some exercise -- those boxes were heavy!

So here's a photo of the containers and everything that came with them. I hope to finish assembling them after work today!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The before before view

This is a view of my patio, sans garden. We're looking out from the west corner to the sidewalk and the street beyond. The patio faces south. There's a good view of the short hedge in front of my patio. There's a 12" wide strip of dirt behind the hedges. Empty dirt people!!! It won't be for long. That's what all the zinnia seeds are for. I figure they're hardy enough to start growing in a semi-shady location, and they'll be taller than the hedges in front of them in no time at all, so shade won't be an issue at that point.

My patio looks small in the photo, but it's actually quite large. The strip along the front is about 10 feet wide and 4 feet deep. The shaded part under the porch of the apartment above me is about 6 feet wide and 8 feet deep. I have a table and chairs tucked in the corner -- just right for having a cup of tea and reading outside. You can also see the corner of my wonderful glider, which I don't use often enough.

My garden containers are supposed to arrive later today. I'm working at home today to wait for the Fedex delivery person. Since the containers were shipped with soil, I'm thinking those boxes are going to be heavy. I'm going to ask him to just wheel them right around front to the patio.

Woohoo -- I can't wait to get started!