Monthly Archives: May 2015

Mint Update

I rescued a mint plant a while back from the grocery store and stuck it in my garden. I immediately dug it back up and put it in its own pot.

Mine Plant moved into its new home

We’ve done okay. I over fertilized a bit. That is so easy. It feels like they need more than they do. That left me with a bit of nitrogen burn on some leaves and I should probably clean those up. However, it sent out runners which was weird. It just jammed some of its limbs into the ground and later they came up as more mint.

The lower yellow edged pieces are nitrogen burn. My fault. I’m having to cut down my idea of fertilizer in half. It just doesn’t seem that a teaspoon of food would be bad but it is. In the bottom right corner is a plant. I have no idea what it is. My mother and I think it may be a marigold. The chances are that my previous one created seeds and when I turned the soil and reused it, said marigold sprouted.

You’re not supposed to reuse. Everything says to throw the dirt away in case it contains anything bad. I’ll wait till my stuff dies. For now, I plan to reuse and re-imbue it with goodness with compost.

Now that the mint has tripled in size and is healthy and growing, I’ll probably start making fresh mint tea. I’m only growing three herbs. Mint, Thyme, and Basil. I need to figure out stuff to cook with them since they are all doing well.

The Development of Food

My squash and zucchini plants are developing fruit and its fascinating.

So, vegetables and fruit are different things. It isn’t just sweet vs healthy, its what they are and where they came from. A lot of vegetables are fruits. Seed carriers for a simple explanation. Fruit comes from flowers. Not all flowers make fruit. I think its cool. Flip over your apple and look at the bottom and that is the flow end.

Different fruit develop differently.  The squash and zucchini are fascinating. They have male flowers and female flowers. Male flowers are very classically a flower. They have a stem coming from the body of the plant with a large, flashy flower on it full of pollen. The female flowers are interesting. Their stem is a tiny, miniature version of the fruit they will be producing with a flower on the end.

Developing yellow squash blossems

This will continue in the other vines. The cucumbers, the melons, and the butternut squash. I have trimmed several branches from the yellow squash. One reason is that it was crushing its own fruit. The number of leaves a plant needs isn’t as many as the plant has. The plant will attempt to grow out to gain as much of an advantage as it can.

Developing Male and Female yellow squash flowers

The yellow squash shares the bed and its enormous and damaging other plants. It broke off two marigold flowers with this one huge branch it sent out to replace the branch I cut off last week. I cut that one as well.  It has a large area of space to grow in and some of the best sunlight of the day. The fruit come off of it at any damn angle it pleases. I’m debating giving it a stake to help haul it in the direction I want it to go.

Over on the tomato plants the fruit will form out of the blossom. The tiny nub at the end will be what used to be the blossom. My lemon boy tomatoes are looking good. From their pretty little flowers will hopefully swell a tomato over the next few days.

I also suspect I’ll get some mellon buds and blossoms soon. The butternut squash is a bit behind everyone else but things seem to be progressing well.

A Weeks Difference

Real Time and Post Time are a bit delayed here on the blog. I have been amazed at what some warm weather will do for the plants. The first picture of my raised bed was taken May 2nd, 2015. The second May 9th, 2015.

Some things have changed in there. The yellow squash lost two leaves to me. Its about to lose a third if it can’t stop abusing the Marigolds and basil.  The removal of the two leaves gave the second one time to grow as well. The squash are to big for the raised bed but oh well! We will work it out.

The basil has doubled in size. Every day I wonder, “is it growing?” The answer is yes. The thyme seems just fine. The greenbeans are doing their thing. The derpy one and the mini one are catching up and two of the eight seeds I planted a while ago hatched derpy ass plants as well. Sigh. Not getting that brand again.

The cucumber’s are interesting. I created stakes for them and started them climbing. The two in the back are the oldest. In the center I had four young ones that I didn’t want to separate for fear of them dying. What I did instead is let them grow tall enough to stretch in different directions. Then, I tied them to stakes and stretched them. Their leaves turned towards the sun and every few days I’ve been moving my ties and applying pressure to the new growth. We’ve almost gotten them fully to their new homes.

Over in the lettuce bed things are just as spectacular if a bit more messy. The photos are of the same time frame as above.

I Now Have a Yard

I’m not a fan of grass. In the US a lot of the grass we use was cultivated in Europe and brought to america. We then try to force it to grow in conditions it is not suited for. A lot of the area is to hot and to dry for the stuff. To counter that we use a lot of water and chemicals to try to keep a species that does poorly, alive.

That type of thing bugs me. Sadly, I’ve joined into the grass regime because I live in a townhouse and have a HoA. Home Onwers Associations are fun things developed by real estate developers and sold to the high maintenance suburban dwellers. They have become their own business.

My neighborhood contracts out to a company and that company manages HoA’s. When we first moved in they didn’t. But this new company is a horror show. Last year they did inspections and the little horror story of last summer started. We needed painters. The first painter we contracted came but we needed water for them. At the time the pipe in the garage leaked terribly and we had to much stuff in there to let it flood the ground. So he had to go and we wound up getting someone else weeks later when my husband was in town. The trim needed to be painted and there was ‘moss’ on the northern exposure. That exposure is about two feet wide and the moss was a vague green haze. However, it was a huge daily fine after a certain date.

As pissy as it made us we did sign up for it. We got the stuff fixed and done. However, we learned that they also peep over fences. My backyard has a six foot privacy fence but they took pictures over the fence and also cited us for an untended lawn.

That did irritate me. My back yard was a mess. It was a dust bowl in fact. It comes from having to many dogs and not enough time to walk them for every single thing they did. You see, when we moved in we had three. Then, that went up to five because of my mother. I’m not going to discuss all of that but five was to much and everything in the yard died. Dirt was okay at first but then the weather has been hell and it would rain and rain and rain and dirt became mud and mud came in the house and the dogs splashed and coated each other in it.

Even with baths and rubs downs and moping and vacuuming the dust was overtaking the basement. It finally got into the ac unit and clogged that which leaves us with another problem. So, now we have this massive issue and we need to solve it. But, we still have dogs and will for some time. Last year I looked into decks, patios, and putting down rocks. Those projects were running up to ten thousand dollars. Plus I needed neighbor and HoA approval.

So, we got by with straw. Imperfect but it kept us going for a bit. Now, this year, we sat down and just decided to go with grass. We’re back down to three dogs and our walking regime has improved. With care we should be able to keep grass alive. It was also cheaper.

And that’s how we got sod installed yesterday.

The area under the steps was always dirt. It was mulched when we moved in. The dogs kicked the mulch all over the yard. This helped create the dirt and kill the grass. The green things are some horrible weed that we can’t kill. We can only fight battles as it pops its heads up and tries to overtake everything. Last year I had given up completely and had weeks as tall as the fence. That was not approved of by the HoA. A combination of laziness and reality led to this.

The dogs didn’t help.  My calm and sweet Doberman, Autumn, will run herself stupid outside. I’m talking about endless laps around the yard and she will run for hours. She wore a trench in the yard and that trench filled with water. The water never fully dried which left mud and damp dirt all the time. This only caused further erosion and dirt to come into the house.  We can no longer leave her unsupervised outside. She will just start running in circles. However, she hates walks. HATES them. She endures but she isn’t happy about it. Upstairs shes a sweetheart always calm and relaxed. Let her in the backyard and this running creature happens. She’d run all the flesh off her body and we were feeding her more and more to try to keep weight on her from the hours of running in the yard. So she has to go on walks where her weight is more normal and she is calmer.

This is the lawn now. We sodded every square inch. They took away the nasty little red trim edger things. I have a hose and a fan sprinkler to water it. Now we will see if I can keep it alive and rooted. I will also lay seed in the fall. I’ve learned a lot.

The goal isn’t to have a perfect lawn. It is to have a good and healthy coating of grass to stop the dirt from coming inside. We’re converting the basement room that leads outside to the server room so this is very important to keep the dirt down.

A Type of Understanding

I have been somewhat horrified by the endless streams of elitist posts that fill my gardening searches. Some of that I can write off to people who have become obsessed with their personal style of thing. Going organic may give some a superiority complex.

I have, however, found a few nice forums. I’ve been back reading information because a lot of it does not change. And I realized today, as people begin to celebrate their plants producing their first fruit that many of my gardening forums are incredibly kind to bad pictures.

I have seen so many out of focused, to close, sideways, upside down, incomprehensible photos. People compliment the photographer on getting their first blossoms. They calmly discuss the potential infections the plant may be suffering. They tilt their heads and never suggest that the sideways photographs be turned upright.

I’ve become used to rudeness being the baseline on the internet. Someone will correct your grammar or your spelling. I’ve spent to much time on video game forums where people consider the incorrect use of ‘to’ as something so offensive as to make an entire post unreadable and incoherent.  I lost my taste for forum posting because dismissal had become the normal state of being.

After looking at a series of out of focus photographs from an enthusiastic new grower and realizing that not a single person commented on the horrific quality of the photographs, I smiled. I do not know if it because so many of the gardeners are older people who have had to learn to use computers instead of being raised with them. I suspect that is a little bit of it. It is not that I think they are naturally wonderful people in all ways. It is that I suspect they have a bit of forgiveness in their souls.

No Romance Here

There is no romance in my soul. Sometimes, I wonder what it’d be like to have such a personality trait. Then, I talk with my mother and wind up resisting the urge to roll my eyes at some of the things that she says. I think I will stick to my practicality.

We were out at the store and discussing coin rolling for some reason. I commented that they often weigh the rolls to help verify their proper amount. She got exasperated about how deceptive people are now a days.

“Now a days.”

I hate when she says that. She says it a lot. I don’t know if it is because she has reached her sixties and retired and spends all of her time reading trash on the internet that she has become disconnected from reality or if it is her base personality bubbling up to the surface now that she spends her time at my house and relatively comfortable. I suspect it is the latter simply because she continues to make horrible mistakes when it comes to dealing with people. She believes in karma and often says, “They will get what is coming to them for doing wrong.”

Back to the coins. When she got exasperated about how dishonest people are now, I changed the conversation. What was on the tip of my tongue is that people have been weighing money and produce on scales for thousands of years. Faking currency, short changing people, filling things with the wrong item on the bottom… these are things that we can track for thousands of years. This has not happened in just the past ten, twenty, or even fifty years.

Deceit is not new. It is not current. No more than greed, selfishness, or violence. Yet, she sits and reads the stupidest articles on the internet and goes, “They will get theirs for what they did.”

I think it is a way to cope with unpleasant realities. What causes people to fall is more often greed than the fact that they were deceitful. There is no universal karma that comes rolling in and kicks people down for figuring out how to get on top or abusing ignorance. Often people fall due to their own pride and greed. A bank robber that gets away several times continues because they start to feel invulnerable and smarter than everyone else. A belief of infallibility will cause someone to make poor decisions where a belief in failure may have made them proof their work.

But if karma was real, ‘good’ people would not suffer. When I hear someone say, that they got what was coming to them of a person that dies in their bed super rich in their nineties I find myself again, fighting the urge to roll my eyes.

(Eye rolling is a bad habit and easy to get into and easier to not realize you are doing. I deal with the public a lot so I try to avoid some habits.)

It goes back to my reading of Sherlock Holmes. Watson is reading a news paper and unhappy with how the news paper makes the event shocking and horrible. That was over a hundred years ago.

None of this is new. Yet, she shakes her head and comments on ‘things these days’. I feel like I’m in a book or old television show sometimes.

It is not that the world is complete horror. It is that normalcy only appeals to some. The stories about the average only appeal to those living inside of them. It is the extremes of good and bad that capture our attention. When people make money off of that attention it is only understandable that they will focus on that good and bad.

We can blame ourselves for being enthralled. Voyeurism is appealing but I often tell my mother not to complain considering shes reading it. Always she got there another way. I just snort.

And all the tomatoes

So, I finally pulled the last of the tomato seedlings that seemed to be doing nothing and have my final bed laid out. We decided to pick up two more types of red tomato at the store in case my two beefsteak plants didn’t produce anything. I nabbed a purple cherry type while I was there and now we’re set.

End results are:

Yellow Pear (yellow)

Yellow Lemon (yellow)

Red Current Cherry (red)

Beefsteak (red)

Heatmaster (red)

Big Boy (red)

Black Krim (black)

Black Prince (black)

Indigo Rose (purple)

That’s a lot of tomato. I thought I had yellow cherry and yellow pear but the yellow cherry package is actually yellow pear as well. That means I have a lot of yellow pear plants, about six of them. The red cherry was planted last and is behind. I have one or two plants that made it.  There are two beefsteak. Two yellow lemon. And one of everything else.

My from seed are doing very well with the oldest ones looking like real plants after half a week of heat.

I have tons of pot colors because the stores have no consistency in what they keep in stock. I kind of enjoy it however. I’ve settled on a pattern of where the plants are. The store purchased plants are all to the edge. Mine are in the center. I went through and pulled everyone that looked pathetic. That left two plants per pot and that is where I am going to stay. It was hard to start but once I was doing it and seeing how weak the plants were, I felt better.

The black prince and black krim have had the most problems so far. Wilt. Leaf roll. Fertilizer burn. They were not happy with the transfer over. They appear to be bouncing back and have new growth. The yellow lemon’s are super happy. One has two flower clusters forming and the other has about four or five.

Over in the main bed I did some pruning. The yellow squash was developing leaves larger then my head and taking over the entire bed. Most of it is sprawled out but it sent a few leaves deeper into the bed to cover all of the available sunlight. After looking at it, I decided that it could afford to lose two stems to open of space for everyone else.

Now the bed is a bit more open. Those marigolds worked out well. They are growing and blooming like crazy which is good for the bees. I also added stakes and tied out my cucumber plants. After some of the transplant disasters I had at first I was to scared to move my four freshly germinated cucumbers apart from each other. So, I’ve been letting them grow as a blob with the goal to use stakes to train them to grow away from each other.

That day has come.

I leaned each one away. Every day I’ve gone and pressed on them a bit and moved them. Today, I tied them all at an angle to a stake that I want them to grow towards and up. As I expected only a few hours later the leaves that were sideways are now facing up. Go me.

The greenbeans are still a complete failure. I have the first three up and one out of the eight I soaked has sprouted but that sprout looks like its pathetic. Maybe I picked a bad bunch but this bag is going to go in the trash I think.

The derpy greenbean has produced one derpy leaf that has a weird arc of leaf missing where the tip should be and the rest are normal.

 

Pollinators

I have Carpenter Bees. Mission attract pollinators has been unexpectedly successful.

It started when I went to change the hummingbird feeder. The fluid level has been going down fast. I have no idea if it is attracting hummingbirds but I don’t think it is evaporating that quickly. I’m doing the 1/4 sugar to water method and I boil it. But, it goes down fast. Faster then the red sugar mix that came with it.

When I went to switch it out, I found an orange ladybug in one of the ‘flowers’. They are Asian Ladybugs and while ladybugs they are an invasive species of ladybug that are pushing out the american red ladybug. However, they are an aphid eater and a pollinator and I was glad enough to see it.

I’ve mentioned my bees, I believe. I assumed they were bumblebees. They are large, black and yellow, and somewhat slow moving. It turns out that they are carpenter bees. There is even a species that is named Xylocopa virginica after my state.

A Bowlful

I’ve been scheduling my post so when this one is read, the pictures are from two weeks ago. I comment because we are deep in the growing season by this point and right now I want to admire my lettuce. They should hopefully look better and be bigger at the time this posts.

It has warmed up. With eighty plus degree days (26c-29c) this week and into the next my plants have started taking off. So, I decided to discuss my lettuce. Here is my romaine four days ago.

I was pleased. It was starting to look like lettuce. Then three hot days happened.

Damn. That made a big difference. I thought lettuce was supposed to like cool temperatures? I guess cool means not a hundred. Yet, what about those fields of lettuce in the west desert fed by the Colorado River where they grow tons and tons of lettuce? I need to do some more learning in this direction. Right now some of them are reaching baby lettuce size but we’d like them to get a bit older and larger. More salad for the bulk.

The seeds I used are a ‘salad mix’ pack with a bunch of types. I find it really irritating because I’m trying to figure out what it what. We have some pretty curling red ones that we figured out what they were. However, today, my mother goes, “We only have three red ones,” and announces that she wants more red lettuce.

Well… okay. If one ignores the haphazard layout this bed has become my lettuce bed but she is right, we only have about three red ones. Also, my romaine has been very disappointing. So, we decided to grab some more lettuce seeds. Lettuce is a very important crop for us. We eat a lot of it. A salad a day is the norm for us. I figure that I can get some sun shades and keep them growing all during the growing season so that we can eat to our hearts content.

The reason my mother wanted more red lettuce is just the vitamin content. Plant color reflects a lot about it. A colorful meal or salad is not just ascetically attractive but healthy as well. The food pyramid teaches people to balance their meals but the body is not such a simple thing. You store stuff and a steady and varied diet will keep you healthy.

I’m always amused when people act as if drinking milk is the only way to have healthy bones. I stopped drinking milk when I was three and my bone density is beautiful. There is an old and wrong commercial where they equate a grocery cart of raw broccoli to one glass of milk. That type of marketing pisses me off. It doesn’t work that way but people are ignorant and they use that against them with fantastic imaging. I remember the commercial even knowing it is wrong.

We went to Walmart. I was looking for a container for my composting. I went into the garden section and to my horror they had moved it outside. I wasn’t horrified until I found the seeds out there. This outside area is covered. But, it is still outside. I thought about how all the seeds were going to have to deal with temperature and humidity changes. Its going to shorten their life span. I think I got my romaine from them last year. Maybe that’s why I’ve had such a terrible, terrible rate of germination with my romaine. I’ll be avoiding their seeds in the future.

We did go to Home Depot and got a few more types of lettuce. I’ve planted a few groups of reds so hopefully they pop up. My southern bed is the lettuce bed. It also dries out first because it gets the wind first. The roots are not very deep so I have to water it a bit more. The bed has drains however and they work quite well to keep things from turning into a mire.

Pretty, Pretty

On Monday, I was at the store and noticed the ‘discount’ rack in the produce section. This rack does not often appeal to me but this time I noticed they had bags of avocados. Six to a bag for a dollar a bag. Normally, avocados on the cheap are two dollars for one fruit. These avocados were ripe and pretty much past their ripe date. Very soft they were starting to go bad and if they did not sell them they’d toss them. That means a dollar for six is better then zero for six.

I got a bag of them. My mother and I eat avocados on many things. My mind told me that even if we only ate one we’d win. We made it through the entire bag and cutting out the deep bruises and over ripe parts gleaned five full avocados out of the six. Not a bad deal. The fruit was not always pretty but it tasted fine.

We are inclined to pretty things. Plants create fruit and flowers to attract animals and insects. It is reasonable that we like them pretty but pretty in the modern world has come to mean perfect.

A few years ago, my husband and I watched a ‘how is it made’ that went over pineapple harvests. It said that pineapples sold in the store may only have three damaged eyes. The eyes are the diamonds on the side. Any more then that are removed and graded by their damage. That goes from sliced, to canned, to crushed, to juiced. It was not about the quality of the fruit inside of the tough hide. it was the beauty of a hide. One that appears damaged might not sell well. Or, it is not good enough to sell to the current market. However one wraps it up, perfection is the standard for the main market not quality or even taste.

I thought of this because I typed a search into google that said, “why are supermarket tomatoes tasteless”.

My mother often laments about ‘hot house’ tomatoes being tasteless. She discusses how good vegetables used to be. I’m in agreement that tomato quality changes and that farmer market tomatoes taste better but the question I was why.

My search came back with an amazing bit of information.

Discovery News: Why Supermarket Tomatoes Taste like Cardboard (2012)

If you read the search there are many theories. From ‘love and care’ to ‘my soil is tastier’ and how natural environments make things taste better. But it was science that answered the basics of the question. Mass produced tomatoes for the supermarket have something in common. They ripen evenly and that gene that causes them to ripen evenly is also the one that makes them have no taste. It effects not only the fruit but the leaves and causes the plant to absorb less light which causes it to create less sugar. The quality of the fruit to our palette plummets even as the quality to our eyes skyrocket.

I have ten types of tomatoes growing this year. They should each have different flavors and textures. It should be a fun year and hopefully, none of them will taste like cardboard.