Monday, March 22, 2010

Landscaping in Progress

Updating on my parent's landscaping - about 3 weeks ago now everything in the front yard was completely torn out and we had a heap of "stuff" in the middle. My cat certainly enjoyed playing Queen of the Mountain that week. Then everything not needed was taken away last week and they finally got the new fence up and then put in the flower beds <3. I am so happy we now have a walk-through gate instead of having to open up the driveway gate to get in. The roses are now elevated to my dad can get to them for pruning without straining his back so much and they'll have good drainage. And of course we now have plenty of room for other types of plants now. That last bit is the sideyard - aka my personal space and where all the containers have been squished into while the work is going on.

Saturday, after clearing the driveway for another portion of the work, I was able to till and plant a couple of the new beds. I thought alot about the color and texture mixes, Fern's blog helped. On the left my dad requested we put the smaller of the two Butterfly Bush in. My dad had claimed I killed it when I tried pruning it a couple months ago - but it sprouted new growth! Tiene ganas de vivir papa! To the sides he wanted cosmos so I put in the new Cosmos and in front of those the Shasta Daisies he's been growing for so long. And finally the Cupid's Dart along the front. It should be a nice cool mix of colors when they all grow in. I might tuck in some white Alyssum when they've really gotten a foothold in. Behind that planter (street side) there are 3 peat pots of Portulaca  and between them Ranunculus. Behind the higher Rose planters are Calendula.

The right photo has 3 Autumn Sunflowers, Dill tucked into the very back corners (to attract ladybugs near the Roses). Some Bright Lights Cosmo seeds were sowed between the Sunflowers.  Then several Statice to the middle and front corners and a couple of Calendula at the front. This bed should be very colorful!

I got lucky - Sunday was overcast all day so the transplant all got a break! Today is supposed to be sunny and high 60's so I'm crossing my fingers that they're taking root and all going to make it - especially the itty bitty Portulaca babies...

I'm hoping to get the other two beds planted this weekend...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Found Free Ladybugs!

Yesterday I visited Vencie Fishing Pier just before sunset and got the bonus of my week! I don't know why it happened but there were just loads of baby shrimp washed up along the water line (too hot maybe?), and not just shrimp - there many different types of bugs also washed up there including Ladybugs! There wasn't really much to do about the shrimp - they got washed back up after being tossed into the water - but many of the Ladybugs were still alive. Maude gave me her water bottle and I picked out about 30 of them.

Because we were out all evening I didn't get to refridgerate them, but they seemed to go pretty dormant after dark anyway. I released them into the roses when we got back very late (but was too tired to spray them down). This morning I was happy to not find any dead ones although I think some very likely already flew the coop. I did find a few of them still hanging around. Sorry for the pic quality, I'm still stuck using only my camera phone.

I can't really convey how excited I am about these Ladybugs! You see, they can be bought at the nursery but those are not local native Ladybugs and may not decide to stay in the garden they're released in or just have a terrible time adapting. Nurseries in my area usually sell a container of 50-100 for about $8. So if it hadn't gotten to dark to see I'd have about the same number of local native Ladybugs that should be very happy in my garden for free. *glow*

Anyway, I hope she goes after those aphids attacking the rosebuds! Oh nearly forgot, the front yard renovation has finally been moving forward. That's one of the new flower beds and we got all of the roses back in the ground. They've been having a hard time of it between the aphids and being in temporary containers for 2 weeks. I will do a post all about that very soon.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tomato Pot #1

I found a couple big metal tubs at Goodwill a couple months back that I knew would make great containers. They were originally from Target, the type for filling w/ice and beer bottles, and had a funky Christmas green hammered metal finish. Not so nice. I had taken a "before" pic but lost it along with my camera before I could download it. Anyway I was pretty sure they weren't galvanized so I primed it with Rustoleum, picked up a spray can of a lovely aqua blue color, and added white accents with some enamel leftover from another project. Turned out rather nice.

Oh, I put three drainage holes in the bottom before I started painted them so that rust won't work it's way in from them (at least not so quickly).

Anyway, the new containers are almost 2 feet wide so each can hold a small variety of plants unlike the ones I used for tomatoes last year. I've been looking up info about companion planting and decided on basil (Purple Petra) and carrots (Scarlet Nantes) to go with my Brandywine tomato plant. Carrots are supposed to help loosen and aerate the soil for the tomato roots, and basil is supposed to somehow help invigorate tomato. I don't mind if the carrots come out funny shaped from the tomato, it's an experiment anyway since I tried starting them in peat pots to see if they still come out crooked from transplanting. I may also tuck in some purple alyssum once those have grown in well, it attracts hoverflies whose larvae eat aphids. I put the tomato in the back so it wouldn't block the basil from getting sun and I figure once it starts getting height it can be guided toward the center of the cage.

Not bad. For the other container I might try it with marigolds, chives and parsnips. I hope I get to that this  coming weekend. Any other good tomato companion recommendations?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Kettle Pot - LOTB Blog Carnival!

I'm happy to get to be part of:

When I saw Fern's call for non-traditional containers this month I knew it was time to attack the coffee kettle on the scrap shelf. The only reason the parents didn't want to use it anymore is because the lid broke off o.O Anyway when I noticed it outside w/the scrap metal I asked if I could use it and had been putting off getting around to it until the Carnival call :)

This metal coffee kettle is actual a perfect fit as a flower pot for me. It's already galvanized, the handle is still sturdy and it's small so it's easy to relocate, the spout is cute and will make is easier to drain any accidental serious over-watering... The only thing it needed was a couple of drain holes hammered in with an awl. I hate putting holes in the bottom of containers if they don't have a thick rim lifting them off the ground so I put them along the outside bottom edge, one below the handle and another an inch or so away from that toward the less "photogenic" side.

I chose to make this a flower pot because I haven't done one in awhile. Left to right: Cupid's Dart, Purple Alyssum and Desert Bluebells. You can't tell from the angle but the kettle is at least a good 8-9 inches deep so there should be plenty of room for the roots. And since the Bluebells and Alyssum are annuals there will be more room for the Cupid's Dart later on if it starts getting too crowded. Here they are after tucking them in:

And I hope it grows in looking like:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My First Leaf Miners :/

The little buggers went after my quinoa! At first I thought it must have been a hell of a lot hotter than I thought on Tuesday and that I must have forgotten to water one of them. Wednesday morning all the leaves were shriveled up. Then I notice that they were shriveled in a funny way and I though "omg they have that curling disease!"

Then I saw it was starting to affect the other quinoas so I investigated closer and found (dundundun):

Hmm there is something odd about those dark spots within those odd bubbles on these leaves. Perhaps it is time for some exploratory surgery here...

AHA! That's it - that's one of them! That pale wormy thing! I discovered 2 or 3 others between this and the other plants. All affected leaves were immediately snipped off and deposited in the trashcan with the tightest lid on the other side of the house. A quick internet search says they must be leaf miners! Larvae hatched from eggs inserted into the leaves, safe from predators but not bicycle cat ladies with pointy pruners and alot of angst /:) They could be baby flies, wasps or moths. I don't know what species this is and I'm not going to waste all morning looking. The only decent solutions I found were to use a certain organic pesticide (which needs to be reapplied twice in the growing season and not when there's a chance of bees hanging around-no) or companion planting my columbines nearby so they will attract leaf miner parent bugs away from my food crops.

...I think I love my columbines a little to much to do that to them...

I'm just going to keep a very close eye out for any more of them in that seedling area because they decimated the one quinoa in a day and got several more leaves on the other ones. I think they will recover since they didn't lose all of their leaves and they seem to be pretty tough little guys.

And thanks Em for finding amusement in my severe annoyance at these bad bugs.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thinning the Seedlings - oh the HORROR!

I woke up extra early this morning and spent the time with my Green Babies. Looking at all of the newer sprouts I actually remembered that I should start thinning some of them - a task that usually I conveniently forget about until I want to transplant them or they need a bigger container.

After all the anticipation and worry of whether at least one seed I plant will sprout I am usually super happy if more than one sprout because then there really is a chance that at least one will make it to the garden. Doubling or tripling the chances say. When they are still small I like to wait to thin (don't want to narrow it down to one seedling and then have it damp off or something) until the first pair of true leaves are well grown in. And by then I'm partially attached to all the little Greenlings and it seems like such a waste to snip the extras off.

I need to get better at thinning the flowers earlier, no point in letting several start growing well and then killing them trying to separate them later. It's not so bad with the veggies though - I made a nice breakfast snack out of the bok choy, cabbage and kale (I'd let them grow to 2 pairs of true leaves). Some veggies I learned do fine growing several seedlings together and separating later - onions, garlic, cabbage & sometimes broccoli and cauliflower. I'm sure there are more but I haven't figured it all out yet.


Tip for today: 99 Cent Store peat pots are highly prone to mold and fungus (that's why they're in the toss-bucket). It's paper & Starbucks cups and TP rolls from now on!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


After a long long long period of debate my parents finally decided to re-landscape the yard this year. We were supposed to start in January right after pruning the roses but there was yet more debate on the layout so it was delayed until now. We're starting completely from scratch - everything goes (well, not the potted plants). They ripped up the main area of the yard yesterday. Say buh-bye:

We're widening the walkway along the front of the house (seriously long-gone designer, did you think 22 inches would be comfortable?), re-grading so water doesn't get stuck or flow towards the house, replacing the fence with a purty one (with a sliding driveway gate and a separate walk-through gate <3), putting a new walkway from the new gate to the door, building raised flower beds for the roses and building some for other plants, and building an arbor with built-in bench. You know, just to spruce up ;)

The only part I'm not excited about is that my personal corner flower bed will also be wiped out with the new fencing and raised beds. I have scooped out all the plants that I could to re-plant in the new beds later - but there are several I can't. I'm especially sad about the poppies, I started them last fall and they're nice and healthy - I'm sure they'd be gorgeous during bloom - but because of the tap root I know they're most likly die anyway if I tried to transplant them. Better to leave it to the contractor when I'm not home :/ Most likely it's coming out today or tomorrow. Buh-bye:

I'll update on the progress of the yard soon.

Monday, March 1, 2010

My First Succulent Arrangement

I meant to post this last week but things were too busy. Anyway, finally got around to making a succulent arrangement. My unbiological brother keeps talking about one he wants to make (well actually his is going to be a succubus arrangement-but that's another story) and he kept getting me thinking that my aloe must be lonely in its wide pot....

On the way home from the office one evening I stopped at Lowe's for some other errand and noticed their succulent racks. I was ecstatic to find they had the exact one I've been looking for everywhere! Echeveria gibbiflora hybrid - I like that the leaves are rather slim not plump and have that bit of frilliness and touch of color. Apparently that's the hybrid part. My friends have 3 at their house that I really like but couldn't find anywhere for the longest. I spent way too long picking out a third plant to go with them and ended up getting a fourth I spied while at the register :/

Anyway I think the arrangement worked out well enough for now. I was going to place the echeveria centered and discovered the aloe has started a new offset which I decided to allow to grow. Maybe I'll fudge with it later, I'm waiting to see how the new ones grow in first.

Far Rear Left: Felis silvestris catus "solar itis"

Back: Aloe Vera
Front Left to Right: Echeveria gibbiflora, sedum makinoi, sedum morganianum "burrito"

Retro pot hand-painted by yours truly :)

Mary's Gardening Calendar