Monthly Archives: April 2015

Flower Gender

My Yellow Lemon tomatoes have started to produce flowers.

I am quite excited. This will draw in the pollinators. It also means tomatoes, soon (I hope). This plant was purchased from the store and it has been doing very well.

Day one, planted with the tomato spirals I got on a whim instead of cages. They look very sad and pathetic. I wondered if they’d grow.

The answer is yes.

They have doubled in height and breadth and foliage in about ten days. The seedlings are also mostly doing well. Two of the buckets just didn’t make the transition. I blame my clumsy handling. I’ve since started replacement seedlings and I think we will be okay at the end of the day. I’ll get more spirals or cages or whatever suits my fancy after they show me that they are going to become real plants.

Seeing the flowers excited me. I was still stuck with potentially needing to pollinate so I’ve gone to learn which flowers are male and which ones are female. I don’t know that I have the insect population that I need for heavy pollination. In fact, that is probably why I didn’t have what I expected to have last time around. Another thing that I needed to learn. I had plenty of flowers but few fruit.

Tomatoes it turns out self pollinate. The flowers have both male and female parts to produce the fruit. They need some vibration to release their pollen and that’s it. Some people add a puff of breath to move it around. Now I realize that my fear of handling my plants didn’t help. Last summer was not windy. Summers tend to be calm here. So, once the flowers open up I’m going to shaking them about.

I want a large crop of tomatoes. Between my mother and I we can eat half a dozen a day. I’m not worried about being overwhelmed. That would be a lovely, lovely place to be. In fact, it is my secret hope that I have to spend days eating garden vegetables because they did so well.

Bliss.

Botany: An Introduction to Plant Biology

I realized I was going to need a book.

When I started gardening last year I did it on a whim after seeing someone with the bright red Home Depot containers on their porch. It was mid July and it seemed like a great time to grow plants. It’d be bright and sunny. Plants need sun and water and fertilizer. Total sense to me and so I started my great garden adventure. I’d also been passing by a tomato plant someone had outside a door at work. However, it was those tomatoes in those home depot buckets on that lady’s front walkway that made me decide that I needed to do this.

I did almost everything wrong. I started to late and in the hottest month. I did’t water properly because my mother kept telling me not to over water. (Don’t let your parent live with you and dictate your gardening when they haven’t gardened in almost twenty years.) I didn’t fertilize because I believed the mixture. I didn’t make sure I had proper drainage and that is what killed my squash plants.

I made mistakes and I learned from them. I got out the drill and fixed my drainage problems. I got a raised bed to work with some species. I expanded. I learned about watering. I started with seedlings at the end of March. I read, and read, and read, and dove into it.

Yet, as I sat watching my seedlings growing and their leaves expanding I realized I had no idea what was going on.

How was all of this happening? I know what photosynthesis is in the broadest of terms. I didn’t know how it actually worked. How did they turn light into leaves? What was going on?

I hit wikipedia and the article on photosynthesis cleared up a lot. I realized that my chemistry was lacking. But basically the plants take carbon dioxide and water in and use light to create a reaction that strips away electrons and creates sugars. They shed the excess molecules as o2 and water.

And I eat this.

I was also reading about light. You will read over and over again that this plant needs 6 hours of direct light or 5 hours or 8 hours. Well, light isn’t direct but being under the sun gives you more then the reflected light in the shade. If you can see light is getting to you. It isn’t just the sun. However, the hours are just about energy conversion. Bright sun is so much energy an hour. Plants need a lesser amount. A cloudy day just means an extra hour of light is needed. Not having direct light doesn’t mean the plant cannot get enough light. It may just take longer. It is why plant shades don’t kill them.

It is utterly fascinating to me. Even if nothing grows, I’m just caught up in the information. I decided that I needed to learn more. My county has gardening classes. I’ve seen them advertised. My work schedule does not allow me to indulge in that type of thing for the most part. I will look for one but I decided to start at the basics.

I needed a text book for introduction to botony. That is how I settled on Botany: An Introduction to Plant Biology. It isn’t just gardening I want to know. I want to understand how plants work. It will help my own efforts. It is fascinating. And I am already looking at the world a bit differently.

I picked up the softback edition from Amazon after agonizing about used copies. The difference in the end was about ten dollars between a new softcover and a used hardback. This way I know it isn’t written in. I hate highlighting and writing in my books.

At just under four pounds and almost 700 pages, it is quite a book. I’m going to have to put away all the fiction for a little bit I think and spend some time learning.

 

I’m a Potato

I said that I got potatoes a bit ago. I was struggling to understand how a starter potato produced more potatoes. So, I went to look at pictures. Google images is an incredible resource. I’ve been going through my imgur photo album and identifying my plants as what they are and making the album public so that things can pick it up.

But potatoes. You can grow them from seeds but you can also grow them from other potatoes. The ‘eyes’ of a potatoes are little germination groups and when they sprout they are using the potatoes energy to start a new plant similar to a cutting. That makes starter potatoes an easy way to propagate potatoes.

However, I drove myself crazy reading about starter potatoes. How big should the eye be. If the potato was shriveled or not. The people who have been doing this for a while do not depend on big box stores. I’m deeply reminded of the dog show world and general snobbery that happens in anything. Maybe later I will go there but for now I went to Lowes and got some starter potatoes. Since he is a potato man, I let the husband pick and he chose russets. He understands them by what I make with them so he got to choose, “The little yellow ones I cut up, the purple ones you sometimes see, or the ones we bake.” I choose a pack that had sprouted and looked healthy and took it home.

Once home, I discovered that my lone sprouted seedlings were evil and I should set my entire deck on fire with the failure that is my attempt to garden. Once I moved past that I did some searches for long sprouts and discovered that my potatoes had already expended energy to make that sprout and might not have enough left to make potatoes or thrive.

There is a lot of discussion about thriving and stunting and such things. I was pretty dismayed but I was going to try it anyway. I also learned about mounding. As the potato grows you add dirt to the base otherwise it will pull its potatoes free and they will go bad. Possessing a basic understanding, extra dirt, a large tub, and a cage to control the leaves, I planted my potatoes.

That left me with a depressing pot of dirt. I carefully slid in the circular cage to catch the hopeful leaves and watered the spots were the potatoes were. They are against the house and a bit out of the wind. The dirt around the potatoes looks damp and the rain seems to have been watering them fine. I figured that my potatoes would just die and rot in the ground for not being good enough to grow or use. Real gardeners start seedlings in December. Real gardeners do everything right. Real gardeners don’t go to big box stores. Etc, etc, etc.

Its been about ten days. I check the dirt, water it if it looks dry, and leave it alone. Well, today I checked it and…

Found green things poking through in two spots where there are potatoes. Dirty and small they are indeed potato leaves.

I did it! I had given up on them thanks to all of the negative crap I read.

Organization and Vines

Qwinn often comes out and smells the air when I go out. At our previous place he was an indoor/outdoor cat at his leisure. He has had an interesting life. His first four years he was a house cat. His next six he was an indoor/outdoor cat on a mountain where we had ten acres of land. Now, he is a house cat again and at fourteen he is okay with taking some fresh air and going back inside to warm up. On warm days he collapses on the rug and knees it while rolling around. We don’t have carpet inside so this is quite an indulgence for him.

The deck carpet is an indoor outdoor carpet we got at Sams Club a few years ago. It is fraying at the edges, stained, and worn. It still looks nice but I may remove it after this year. and get a new one I’m not sure.

I absolutely loved reading My Madison Square Garden. I wish she had wrote into the next year but I guess he gave up on gardening or life and such got in the way. Her trials with her zucchini was the reason mine were evicted so early as well as warning me for the Acorn squash. I expect that my yellow squash will over grow the bed but I’m ready for it. I was also able to identify some of her problems such as pollination, erratic watering, and blossom end rot. I feel pretty cool. The information that I have learned is starting to gel into a greater, over arcing concept.

A lot of this is about management. How are people getting lovely crops in tight conditions? What a plant wants and what a plant needs are different things. With management and training I hope to make my life easier. If I’m wrong, I’ll share it. So, that led to one of my first projects. Giving the cucumbers sticks to climb.

Bamboo stakes are nice and I can cut them to size and use them for various things. For my first two cucumber plants they have their own. For the next ones I will train them across the floor and up stakes in different places. Cucumbers send out special leaves that look like tentacles and these leaves wrap around whatever they make contact with.  This helps them to climb. What I’m doing is encouraging them to climb their own damn bamboo stake.

This is important to keeping vines from just sprawling and crawling. The same will happen for the watermelon and butternut squash as well as the peas and green-beans. Stakes can also be used to help support fruiting bushes when their fruit gets heavy. I decided, for instance, to toss down some green pepper seeds. I will give them stakes when they come up so that they can lean on them for support as they fruit. I’m not lashing them super tightly, just encouraging the plant to do what I want it to do. Eventually, some of this will also lead to pruning but I have a lot of reading and a good bit of time before I have to start that.

I have no idea how the green beans are going to go. The one that is healthy and lush is great. The other two that are up are derpy. The two that are still down have not come up but it took the first one quite a while . The two in the back there are rich green so I assume they are gathering some photosynthesis action. I may plant a few more if no more sprout in the next week.

Who knew that sugar snap peas were so pretty? This is the second set. I lost the first set to transplanting and trying to separate the seedlings and plant them properly. I learned that snap peas hate to be bothered and they all died. I had started germinating a second set and I moved them outside. This is the only one that germinated from that group. Sometimes these guys start and then just tucker out. I had expected by now (a whole month after starting) to have six foot long pea vines overflowing everything. That’s how the reading made me feel. Instead, I have these beauties which are about 2 weeks old working their way into the world.

Five have sprouted. A sixth is confused and I am not sure if it will make it. It broke the surface but somehow with its base. Its formed a tiny, tiny green tip and I’m just watching it to see if it can make it over that hump. I’d expected more to sprout but so far its a no go. So, I planted some more. We’re still plenty early and this will cause production to stagger… I think.  They have a cage to climb but I will use ties to encourage them to climb vs strangle each other and be ridiculous.

And last but not least the watermelon is doing well .

The butternut squash seeds I planted outside to match the one that sprouted inside are sprouting. The first one is gaining a true leaf.

And this is another one that is coming up. One of two I might add.

It has been cold this last day and a half and all the germinating seedlings have paused with the chill. Overcast and cool with the temp dipping into the high 30’s overnight. It hasn’t killed anyone but it has slowed down the younglings.  It is supposed to be cold the next two evenings and then everything should stay warmed up.

I decided to drag all of the tomatoes inside for two days. I then covered all the vines, closed the house, and wished for the best. Some of my reading causes me to feel that they will all ‘stunt’ their growth and just lay over and die. However, two cool nights that are not freezing should be okay with all of the vigorous ones. Maybe the babies will not make it but I have more seeds for that problem.

The Raised Bed’s Almost Final Form

I was staring at my raised bed the other day and I wondered if the Home Owner’s Association will complain about it. It is not a permanent structure. It’s not obstructing any view. In fact, the part that you can see from the ground is transparent. But, home owners associations are miserable things. Still, I’m very proud of what I’ve done with my deck.

I need to sweep but it keeps raining! No, I am not worried about the deck. It is not new and it needs to be pressure washed and re-stained. That will probably happen next year. Most of my stuff has built in water catches that only overflow after heavy rain. I installed buckets under my greenhouse drains. They are just hoses so you could let them drain straight down or catch it. I catch it and recycle the water since it is heavy with fertilizer from the fertilizer in the mix.

I also try to put my water cans outside after I fill them. This lets the water come up to outside temperature so its not shocking to the plants like my super cold tap water. Also, it aerates. I’m on city water so some chemicals such as chlorine work their way out of sitting water after an hour or so. It is not a perfect system. I’ll have hose access in a few weeks and if I have to water them I have to fill the container, but it is good with the seedlings.

I have two big cans and one small can. The small one lets me do focused watering at the base of a plant. It seems that watering them from above isn’t the best way. Go figure. It rains from the sky but we don’t want to water them the same way. Anyway, it is about introduction of infectious material. Wet leaves can stay damp and attract mold. Water can splash up and coat leaves in bad stuff. The articles often call it ‘introducing disease’ but I feel that is an incorrect statement. It is introducing infection… but maybe I am incorrect.

I have sugar snap peas behind me as well as the mint and the potato pot. The potato pot is just dirt with a cage in it. I’m hopeful but it has only been a week. The sugar snap peas are doing okay. They are coming up after my first transplant attempt killed them all over the last two weeks. Sigh. I planted a lot of seeds and have five new pods up. Hopefully a few more will break the earth soon.

That brings me to my lovely raised bed. The green beans are coming up and I have more cucumber plants then I expected. Don’t lose track of seeds. Nor assume that because they have not germinated and everyone else has that they won’t suddenly go, “Sup?” I now have seven cucumber plants. We will see how they do. If I need to prune some out I will.

I evicted the Zucchini into pots and I’m just going to have to be diligent about searching for squash moth eggs in general. I may even have to get a tank top to help my tan even out. My forearms are already the color of dark caramel which makes the rest of me look like tea with milk in it. But, that’s not plants.

So, my raised bed has two sides. Yellow squash on one side with cucumber and green beans. The top has hooks to help with vined plants and I have sticks of bamboo to use for supports as well. The other side has lettuce and beets. The two long containers house broccoli and onions.

Having had poor germination with some of my seeds I got frustrated and did a massive seed dump. Yeah.. that turned out interestingly. I went from having one single broccoli seedling to…

We will see how they do. Big ones get to stay. Weak ones get pulled. Hopefully I’ll get a few successful heads out of this. I did the same thing on the lettuce side of my bed and have lots of little lettuce leaves peeking up. I’ve learned a lot about seedlings and how some thrive and some just don’t so I’m not overly stressed. Any baby lettuce that is to crowded will become a dinner salad.

I’ve had a very bad germination rate with just trying to plant a few seeds so I went for the whole packet. I need to find a happy medium.

This handsome man is a green bean. He is one of five that has come up. Another one is kind of pathetic looking and derpy. A third is in between. A fourth is coming up that looks like this one. A fifth just cracked the surface today so I have no idea. I planted about ten of them and so far I have a fifty percent success rate.

While at the store I decided to get some herbs. My attempt to start from seeds has been a no go. I spent some time reading “Our Herb Garden” and discovered more about companion plants and paired plantings as well at what herbs discourage things that will be bad for my garden.

I got some sweet basil, German thyme, bee balm, and marigolds. The bee balm and marigolds are to give the honey bees something to look at that they should like. The bee balm is supposed to be very pretty but it can be invasive. I’ll be putting it in its own put but inside of the bed to give it some rules. Marigolds chase things away and kill some types of root investing nematodes.

When I first started this last year I looked for plants that had what seemed to be to be well established root systems. I learned that I was doing it wrong. Those roots often meant that the plant was rootbound or getting there. It’s quite fascinating. They bloom early and lovely because they are dying and they need to spread themselves. They can recover but they are just a bad decision. Instead you want a younger plant still growing with plenty of room.

I’m still a novice so I buy at bad places like home depot instead of the garden stores that are harder to get to. I picked this thyme plant and it has almost no roots showing from its biodegradable pot.

My pictures are out of order because it kept raining on me and I would forget to take a picture here and there.

As you see, this pot is moldy. I need to inspect better. It isn’t a lot of mold. Its just from the wet conditions the plant is kept in. Its in this pot but inside of plastic and its been warm the last few days. Mildew starts. Sigh. So, off the pot comes. However, please understand that I hate these so called biodegradable pots. My second set of tomatos did terribly last year because I followed instructions.

Never again. That pot never degraded and my tomato plant just sent out a few roots and sat there like a damn idiot. I dug it back up, peeled off most of the pot and tried again. It started to grow almost overnight once I did that. So these pots now come off. I carefully peel them away.

With a plant hat hasn’t been in here for to long the pot comes right off. A few gentle tugs and you wind up with a nice mass ready to be planted. The white things are perlite. They are used to stop the soil from compacting and make it easier for young plants to grow in. Interestingly enough, perlite is a finite resource.

However, I sent my mom to pick marigolds and I forgot she can’t read my mind.

Not a good sign.

Well shit. Hopefully I can save them. I cut away the container and extracted the thing. They are not a solid, hard ball, but its pretty bad. I have read some websites on it. I found root simple where they discuss trying to save these poor creatures. I should have checked what she got. I would have gotten younger, smaller plants. These looked pretty and that is exactly why she picked them. It is why anyone would pick them. It is something that I’d never have thought about a few months ago.

If they die I’ll try again. My last marigolds just laid over and died on me last year. Now I know that we roughly transplanted them and did just about everything we could to kill them. Money wasted. Lessons learned.

I also don’t know what this is.

It looks like a seed went astray. It came up on its own and is doing its own thing. It probably mint and the invasion has started even though I moved the plant. Actually, it came up with the little cotyledon leaves showing. I’m at a loss as to what it is.

After I planted Merigold number two over on the lettuce side, I had devastated a swath of area. Welp, I decided to toss in a few green paper seeds. I don’t like green peppers so I expect that they will be fruitful and I’ll be baking green pepper stuff for everyone but me in the near future.

I’m trying to figure out watering. I don’t want to over water. I don’t have drainage issues, I’ve been checking carefully so I’m more prone to water. However, we’ve had storms the last few days. That means they are getting daily rain. I have all of these worries but mostly I’m just driving myself crazy.

I can see that the top of my bed is going to stay permanently up in about six weeks if everything grows well. I’m learning about trimming and training now so that I can get them started up their stakes and hooks and out of the bed before they become a problem.

Snobbery

I used to be a dog snob. I showed dogs competitive. I got my AKC companionship. I bred two litters. And then, I left the world of dogs when I was thirty. Several things happened that year. My father died and the death of a parent, even one you are not closed to, will change your perspectives. I was tired of being poor. I worked a full time job and received a reasonable wage but all of my money poured into dogs and I was not climbing out of debt at the speed that I wanted to.

I was also tired of the snobbery. With my work schedule what it was, getting to shows was hard. I had two lovely bitches that I was showing at the time. Stunning dogs. I was proud of them. Being a black female at a dog show I was often asked who I was working for. People would be stunned that the dogs on the end of the leash were mine. It was a different world sometimes but I didn’t care about those things.

Or, at least, I didn’t care about it until I couldn’t win. I had sent my other dogs to a handler to show. After that, I decided no more. Things did not go as I wanted. My dogs finished and came home mentally healthy and physically sound. Little things bugged me. Nails that were way over long. Poor muscle tone. Along with the notes that he often handed my dogs to Jr Handlers to show. Then he was charging me for going to shows when he took only my dog only to not handle my dog. Anyway, yeah, I decided not to dot hat again and did my own showing.

That was when I was told, “Your dogs are lovely and if we see you around more we will place you. We don’t want to waste points.”

I’m not a competitive person by nature. Showing animals made sense to me. The ones who best fit the standard, won. It did not matter if you’ve never seen the dog before and will never see the dog again. That is the dog that won. Only, it wasn’t. I was still looking at dog showing through the eyes of a teenager and I discovered that day that I no longer wanted to participate in the sport of competitive dog showing.

However, I was a dog snob. I still am to some extents. I like purebred dogs and I like them because I like my dogs to be predictable in looks and personality. I’ve spent a lot of time doing genetics. I was part of a research program for canine color codes. The idea that purebreds are unhealthy and mutts are healthy is bullshit. Purebreds are the result of recessive genetics. If people don’t cull (as in not breed) the ones with issues they will breed issues into their lines. Now, crossing dogs can hide the recessives but not always. And not every aspect of a dog breed is recessive ether.

But long ago, when I was still showing dogs, I spent a lot of time on pet forums being a dog snob. I was a polite and helpful one but I was still a snob. I stopped that when I learned more about snobbery. I instead focused on training and understanding dog psychology so that people could have a happier time with their pets.

But, for a while I was a snob. And I decided not to be ever again.

Starting a new hobby is a good way to see snobbery in action. I’ve gotten into gardening. Like anything I decide to learn I’m in a state of frantic energy. Yet, as I read the gardening sites I keep bumping into my old friend, snobbery. They don’t even mean it. They are often helping and ready to educate the person who is messing up. But it is still there. It makes me grit my teeth as I read the information I need to know.

Ignorance can be cured. We are not born in a state of complete knowledge.  And yes, it is so easy to chuckle at the ignorant. It is easy to laugh at the mistakes that we know better while forgetting there was a time we didn’t know.

I don’t want to be that person.

Ever.

Once I thought that I wanted to be the popular person with friends. It would be the exact opposite of my life as the bullied outcast. But that isn’t what I want at all. I don’t want the snobbery, the ridicule, the better then thou. What I want is a life without those negatives.  It is one of the things that I mold my life around. I’m not always successful. It does make me humorless to many. I cannot laugh at ignorance. I can not chortle over peoples mistakes. I cannot look at someone as find myself better then they are just because I possess something they have not had a chance to take in.

It is amazing how the same thing comes up over and over again.

In gardening.

In dog shows.

In games.

In life.

It doesn’t have to.

Transplants and Crowding by Choice

These last two days off have been big gardening days. With one more trip to the store I’m actually done. I needed containers for zucchini, acorn squash, and some tomatoes I picked up. i grabbed a few more cages and with my failure to grow herbs from seedlings I’ve picked up some fresh herbs as well.

The first problem to tackle was the zucchini.

In the end, I moved all of the zucchini out into pots. The reason is because of a blog I stumbled upon where I saw just how large and long the plant can get.  The top of my little garden hut is only about two feet tall. That is not going to contain very much and its not going to contain a month old zucchini plant. Plus, I now had three. A third had cropped up from a forgotten seed. So, I decided to move them all out now before their roots were even more set, cage them to control the torrent of leaves and hope for plenty of zucchini.

Some of the marks on the leaves are stress signs. When I first moved them I messed with the roots to much. I’ve since improved my technique but some of those first leaves are a bit rough because that seems to be what happens. The plant did recover just fine. The bit of leaf damage is the signs that I’ve seen they didn’t like being touched. Sadly, they don’t have any choice and touch I did again as I scoped them out and down into their own pots.

 

Zucchini #1 is doing fine in his pot and growing still. It looks like I did a successful transplant. There were a few fringe roots that I lost in the process but I’m not surprised by that They are young however so I went wide and deep. Unlike the tomatoes, I’m noticing a lack of a big tap root.

I’m now up by three Zucchini plants and hopefully they will thrive. The two of them should provide a lot of food if all goes well. Last year I had drainage issues and fertilization issues. I’ve since corrected that. I’ve learned a lot about container gardening in the last few weeks and I think one of my failures last time was that I did not fertilize theme enough. I believed the bag and I knew that over fertilization was bad. However, container gardens drain the fertilizer out quickly so my plants were hungry.  Education is the key and I’m quickly learning that I am ignorant.

Next, I decided to pot my acorn squash babies. I checked my pot and discovered that I had a new member of the family. I had planted two seeds to each pot and yesterday I had 2 in one pot and 1 in the other. Today, the second seed in hte solo pot broke the surface and I should have four plants to work with.

In some ways I am crowding them with containers. I’ve done a lot of research on that as well. With enough soil the plants will do well with fertilizer, light, and water to supplement them. The volume of soil is a few things but one of them is nutrition.  I’m doing a mixture of ‘square foot gardening’, container gardening, and ‘what the fuck let’s try it out’ and see how things grow.

What I have done is improve with my transplanting. I watered these earlier in the day. Today has been overcast with periodic rain showers. That is great transplanting weather.

Having learned some lessons and deciding that nature isn’t utterly dumb, I decided to just leave them beside each other. If I was a good gardener I’d give each its own container but I’ve decided that if they can grow away from each other they will. There is no way seeds naturally set themselves at perfect distances. Maybe it will effect my yield. Maybe not. This is part of the ‘what the fuck let’s try it out’ gardening method.

There we go. What a lovely root ball that is. I’m so proud of my plant. Not root bound but they are growing fast and need some space! It is amazing how roots lock dirt down. Erosion is one of those things that people ‘know’ about but I find that actually working with the plants and seeing how the roots interact with the soul is quite eye opening to how much they keep the dirt where it belongs. When the Great Depression happened, all of that farming had ripped away the natural plant layer that kept the dirt down and fertile ground turned into the dust bowl.  These are pretty big roots for a small plant. They are not and pale white and healthy. I didn’t keep them out for long but set them into their nice, moist, new home as is. They will grow out and into their new containers.

 

Aww yiss! While not the ‘proper’ thing to do, my melons seem to be thriving from using this method. Next year I will be planting directly into the pots and will skip the seedling indoors part. I don’t have the space to make a grow house. I don’t have the time to harden my seedlings to the weather and nature. I will just plant after first frost and hope for the best. I know that I should do one per thing. I do know. Yet, I’m very interested in trying this experimental method where one may kill the other, nether may thrive, or both may do just fine.

A lot of it has to do with controlling growth. I’ve been reading things on where gardeners pare down their leaves to only enough to keep the plant going so that it doesn’t waste energy on anything but fruit and staying alive. In fact, I read so much conflicting information that I’ve reached the overload point that I’m coming up with my own rules and learning from my mistakes. Otherwise, I should go set my back deck on fire and stop even trying.

Next year, I may try a different way depending on my failures and successes.  I’m already a bad plant parent so I might as well be a productive one.

I also decided to grab two types of black tomato. I have red cherry tomato seedlings and yellow pear seedlings that needed to be planted. The occupants of their buckets didn’t make it past my first, clumsy transplant attempts so we are on the second try.

So now I have a lot of different tomatoes

Black Prince and Black Krim are my two newest. They look quite pathetic beside my yellow lemons that I got at the same size but a few weeks ago. They are in a black bucket with a blue cage because I thought that seemed neat. I have yellow cherry tomatoes, red cherry tomatoes, beefsteak, yellow lemon and yellow pear. I have never eaten a yellow or black tomato but I will be this year.

Faces on Food

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe has a scene that always stuck with me. While they are eating a core comes out to discuss what cuts they will have fun him. He is pleased to be eaten having been bed to desire this end as it was concluded there most humane solution.

Such is a common course of thing in the hitchhikers universe. However as I did in the grocery store looking at breakfast disk I could not help but be reminded of that scene as I looked over boxes with cereal shape announcing how treasure that are and how yummy a meal with them would be.

I was disturbed. I’ve been looking at these pieces leering at me as I passed the cereal isle for some weeks now. I loved cinnamon toast crunch as a kid. The bakers with their white aprons and obsession with over sugared cinnamon amused me. Yet, the distorted almost horrified yet joyous expressions on the pieces bothered me in a way that was much harder to describe.

 

It turns out that I am not the only one that is given the creeps by these little pieces of cinnamon toast crunch. While looking for the box I tripped across several articles mentioning them. I’d never seen the commercial but after finding an image I looked it up. They cannibalize each other. Its quite horrific.

But, I am sure that it is funny to a kid and makes them join in on the eating. Things are simpler. At the store today I saw a tooth brush companion. Its a frog and it holds the handle of the tooth brush and you brush it with this frog with a huge mouth of teeth grinning at you from the mirror. Its a reward system. It works with the mind of a child. It is, I guess, what advertising is.

But, at some point it becomes creepy instead of cute. These things are creepy.

Are These Things Even Growing?

Plants are fascinating. I’m in love with horticulture now and must get some books about them and understand this more. I knew that plants were not as static as we know them to be but watching the dancing of my seedlings as they turn into plants and grow is amazing. They move a lot during the day as they follow the rays of the sun. I’m sometimes torn by fret when my squash and zucchini wilt under the first hot spring sun only to find them taunt and healthy when the heat passes.

My two largest tomato plants are from the store. I stared at them and wondered if tehy were growing. Had I failed in even transplanting them? Watching my first attempt at transplanting peas die had left me frustrated. Then I had several seeds fail to grow and I was deciding that I was the worst gardener ever. My reading had told me that I should have started this back in February when we still had snow and the ground was frozen and the temperature below zero.

Feeling neglectful and depressed I wondered if my tomatoes were even growing. I should be thankful for the wonders of technology and my habit of taking photographs of my projects.

Things have moved around on the deck some and I took out the poles because they were flopping in the wind. They have bushed out and grown upwards some. They look healthy and green. I find myself stressing over every damaged looking leaf. I just don’t understand enough about the plants cycles and health.

I lost one of my transplanted Squash plants. It just shriveled up and died. The other is doing well as are the rest of the transplant group which involved two zucchini and a cucumber.

And today I noticed buds on the largest squash and zucchini plants.

They may outgrow their home. I’ve tried to leave room and there is depth for roots and feeding to do. I have stuff for vines and have been learning about pruning. Its fascinating how few leaves they need to do what you want them to do. I’m going for a weird sort of planned nature. I’m giving them room and trying to get them to thrive and then I will kept them fed and watered with plenty of light and hopefully enough soil.

However, as I started reading a bit more I figured out that my idea of how big the zucchini will grow is at odds with reality. That means ANOTHER transplant. Sigh. The little greenhouse just isn’t big enough for the size of the leaves much less anything else. So, Wendsday I will be transplanting it out into a larger container and hope for the best. I left a ton  of room around each plant so I should be able to get them moved without killing them, I hope. If I do manage to kill them I’m still early enough in the season to start over. I’ll still have lost a month of work with these two babies which would be disappointing.

I have to look at pictures a bit more often. Some of these leaves are enormous. I also assumed the acorn squash was a vine plant too. Nope. Another big leafy canopy plant. That’s fine because it is getting its own pot. Wednesday is going to be move day. After that I’m going to stick with what I have and hope for the best.

 

How Does My Garden Grow?

Mistress Mary, Quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With Silver Bells, And Cockle Shells,
And so my garden grows

My ability to transplant from my starter sets to my outdoor pots is mostly successful. I do find that I take the losses pretty hard. Today, one of my yellow squash laid over and decided to die. I wasn’t overly surprised. My mother had damaged it a few days prior by smacking it into another put when she was looking at it. It was one of those times when I was just angry. The seedlings are fascinating but they don’t need to be handled every five minutes.

Then I found the yellow squash back up this morning but with its cotyledon leaves wilted. By the way cotyledon is a real word and they are the first leaves that you see on seedlings, pretty much the seed itself turned leaf form. That’s why they all look the same (rounded) while the leaf on the plants are more complex and different. I ‘m learning so much. Anyway, its cotyledon leaves are wilted but its true leaves seem fine and its standing back up. I have no idea what is going on so I’m just going to run with it and hope it sprouts. I planted another one when I thought my mother killed it a few days ago so we will see who is successful at thriving.

Playing with dirt is a new skill. Getting the seedlings out and their roots undisturbed and into the holes becomes a game. Watering and not watering are deep topics of thought. I had inadequate drainage last year as well as planting to late in the year so I am correcting both of those things.

And today, I discovered how potato plants work. I’ve been trying to figure out how they worked. I finally stopped reading and just looked at pictures of harvested potatoes and went, oh. The tuber system is part of the roots not just the root itself as with some other root vegetables. They are more storage pods all through the plants system.

I grabbed a bag of healthy looking starter potatoes at the store. The sprouts are a bit long but I figured that wasn’t a big thing. Then I did some reading and decided that eventually, everything is wrong to someone. I’ve read that it is not a big deal. I’ve read that it is. I’ve read about exhaustion of the plant and what has started to feel like an endless discussion about it.

I decided to stop reading and just plant the damn things and at least one of them should do fine. Even if they have a low yield that will probably be enough for us. One of the side effects to reading about gardening is that I feel dumb and late.

We’re in mid April and just got past our last frost warning. Everything I read tells me to start weeks and weeks before the last frost date and there are sighs and hmms about getting any yield. I’ve read about temperature and covering and hardening your seedlings. Use peat pots not regular ones. Only use this fertilizer mixture. Don’t do this. Start at this time. I’m ready to pull my hair out.

That meant it was deep breath time. I will pick my three shortest sprouted potato and plant them in my new potato bucket. I will be happy if I get a few potatoes. I’m not that picky. I’m still very new at this.

I do plan to avoid dancing naked to the vegetable garden gods on my deck under the moonlight.

Maybe under the deck.

Right now I have about 70 % of my goal planted. Tomorrow is the potatoes. This weekend I plan to do the butternut squash, acorn squash, and prep for the red current cherry tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes.

In the ground I have beefsteak tomatoes, yellow cherry tomatoes, yellow lemon tomatoes, jalapenos, mixed lettuces, broccoli, onion, yellow squash, zucchini, sugar snap peas, green beans, watermelon, cantalope and beets. My deck is full of containers and I love it. I am also trying to start basil, thyme, and oregano from scratch. If they don’t sprout I’ll just get plants and have them go keep my mint plant company (from separate pots). I’ll probably do more rescue work as well.

To top it off, I read an amusing article talking about the health benefits of gardening. One of them is the whole satisfactions aspect of it. I do admit I am amazingly proud of a bunch of pathetic, scraggly plants that don’t look as if they will ever grow big enough to produce food. When I transplanted the tomatoes they collapsed and I was ready to lay across their containers sobbing my salty tears in to help kill them some more. Yet, a few hours later they were standing up and basking in the sun. That’s what made me kick my jalapeno plant out into the cold. Fare thee well seedlings.

On the side of no more cares, I threw down all my lettuce seeds onto the bed and told it to grow. I’ve had almost no success with growing lettuce which I am told is super easy to grow. I’m guessing that I’m not planting enough seeds to get a reasonable amount of germination. The solution? ALL the seeds are planted. All of them. The great part about lettuce is that we can eat the seedlings when its time to thin them out.

Why so many veggies?

My mother and I spend a lot of money on vegetables. If I do this right I will be able to supplement our vegetable consumption for about 5 months. That will be a significant savings even with what I’ve invested in dirt and pots. Fresh fruit and vegetables often compose 2-3 meals for us. There are few things I like more in the morning on a day off then a large bowl of salad to start the day.

There are sound good reasons for what is going on but the second thing is that its pleasant. I really find a lot of pleasure in understanding how to feed and care for myself. I’m learning a lot about plants, the environment, the weather, sunlight and clouds, soil, temperatures and such things. I can tell my cantaloupe from my watermelon by leaf structure. With such a limited area I’ve had to plan out where the vines will go for the melons and integrate my deck into the architecture of my garden to compensate. It is very interesting and I’ve been more active in the last few weeks setting up, lugging things about, and tending then I have in quite a bit outside of work and walking.

My husband listens with amusement. I could have worse habits then trying to grow food on the deck.