Friday, October 14, 2011

South Bed Replanted

I finally got a new camera, posts with photos again!

So after my shopping expedition on Friday, I replanted the first flower bed on Saturday. I did the South one, and will work my way around counter clockwise to the NW one. You can check out my plan for more info.

It was 2 hours worth of work:
  • Step one: ripped out the bishop’s grass from the triangle spots below the planter where it meets the driveway & replanted those spots with a pink flowering yarrow.
  • Step two: carefully dug out all the plants from the flower bed except one white mum (which was later pruned down). I divided the original 3 shastas into… well a bazillion shastas (actually 19) and put them in plastic totes etc.. for now until I’m ready to move them somewhere else and WeeWren picks hers up. Oleander and the other white mum are also in temporary containers at the moment.

  • Step three: once the bed was emptied I hopped over to the fence side to try and rip out all of the grass growing below the planter on that side (under the fence and between the neighbor’s driveway. Very difficult, kept banging my hand against the planter and the fence. I resorted to pouring 3 kettle-fulls of boiling water over this strip to try and kill the damn grass. Next time I'm working outside and I see the neighbor I'm gonna ask her if I can sit in her driveway and try to get at it from there. Eventually I will either plant wooly thyme or seed alyssum here.
  • Step four: tilled up the soil to about 9" deep. Then tilled in compost, poultry manure, bone meal, kelp meal, granular gypsum and just a touch of chelated iron (the oleander had a good bit of yellow) to about 4".
  • Step five: transplanted all the planned plants except hollyhock. I wanted a purty peach variety Michigan Bulb has on their site, but no nursery has anything like it right now. I substituted a super blue delphinium I found instead.
  • Step Six: clean-up. I HATE this step…. took about 10 trips back and forth between the tools, fertilizers, empty nursery containers and full totes of daisies. Not to mention the Felix catus that tried to trip me half a dozen times.
But she is DONE!!! hoorahs! Here's some pics of the plants that went in:

  The white mum that was already here, pruned down.

 A variegated perennial stonecrop

the blue delphinium (and neighbor's Canis lupus familiaris) from International Garden Center

annual stock to fill in space around the perennials that shall grow in
(pink to please mother *blah*)

my Echinacea double decker from Sunflower Farms

Lewis Flax I grew from seed in spring

 the Buddleja from my feeding the Archie Jr's fiasco... 

Gaura grown from seed, I hope this runt grows up quick!

There's a couple other plants I didn't get good picks of. A weird succulent and a pink mum plant.And the overall affect:

Hopefully I have Bloom Day pics tomorrow. The next installment of the 2012 replanting won't be for a couple of week, got a trip this weekend. Happy gardening to all!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nursery Exploring

*updated with photos*

So last Friday I went shopping for the plants on my list (and naturally ended up with a few extras). It was a nice afternoon and I made time to visit two new (to me) nurseries.

First I hit up Sunflower Farms which was really cool! It is not like any other nursery in the Southbay. It is alot like what I image my nursery would look like if I ever ran one :9 You have to go there to understand, it's like someone's backyard forest jumble with plants loosely grouped into different areas. I love it. The lady on duty (I think Melissa?) was very helpful and pleasant to talk to. I showed her my plant list, she was sad they wouldn't have half of the items until spring, but had a guy from propagation go hunt down my echinacea. Here I found the coneflower "double decker" that I thought I'd have to order online, and the yarrow from my list. I also impulse bought two woolly thymes, a catnip and chocolate mint. I want to put the woolly thyme into wide low containers for my Felis catus to hang out on instead of plastering my flower pots again next spring..

Then I checked out Deep Roots Garden Center. It is nice, but I was sort of disappointed somehow. From their website info I think I was expecting something more California natives & xeriscape focused. It was way more upscale. They did have a nice patio with drought tolerants and natives, and a succulent section. But most of the their plant space was devoted to tropicals/indoor plants, and popular water-loving annuals. Inside was about 75% pottery and decor, a quarter fertilizers n' such. The soil & fertilizer choices were not bad, quite a few options, but not what I was looking for. Took home some petunias and succulents, but nothing from my Need list :/ I did see a shrub of which I already have a dwarf version but had forgotten the name of, I was happy to re-discover it (alas I have already forgotten its name again).

Finally I fell back on my 'safety' the International Garden Center. Plants here are often a bit more expensive than my usually nursery, but they always have a HUGE choice of all kinds of plants. I was super suprised to see their display of plants from Annie's Annuals, with good signage really giving good info about the plants. The guy (damn, I forgot his name and he was sooo helpful and patient that day!) told me that Annie's doesn't use growth inhibitors like most commercial growers, so their plants don't flower until after they are brought home and planted and grow - so they need awesome signs to show buyers how they will look. Nice touch. Guy also spent at least 20 minutes trying to track down if they could order the vanilla milkweed I have my heart set on. After a long catalog & online check he found none of their suppliers are carrying it :( but I was so appreciative that he tried. He also walked me out to check out their Clerodendrum ugandense - which was going by a common name that I've never heard for it before. I was interested because I haven't seen that plant since I bought two at a Home Depot about 10 years ago. I asked him how it was selling, etc. and he was surprised I was interested and happy to talk about how he'd been caring for them for the past year or so and was disappointed that they weren't selling. His explanation is that semi-deciduous is a bad word in our area :9 I did find a gorgeous bright blue delphinium that I'm going to use instead of a hollyhock. I also found the cottonseed meal and kelp meal I've been looking for.

So that is what I on a Friday. Next time the start of 2012 planting :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

2012 Front Yard Plan

Hey there. So I haven't been posting because I had my camera stolen and for some reason I don't like posting without pictures. My cruddy 8 year old backup camera doesn't take very good pictures anymore.

But I can scan stuff!

So for weeks I've had thoughts abut what to do to the front yard for 2012 stewing in my mind. The main themes: want natives, want hummingbirds, want butterflies (Archies!) and want perrennials. I did info lookups via and and made a spreadsheet that really helped me narrow down what types of plants we should actually get.

Then I made scaled diagrams of the flower beds and scaled cutouts to represent the plants we have and what I want to see what will fit. Voila:

I realize the way I cropped it together some stuff is upside down, but that's the correct positioning :)

 The size of the circle is how much horizontal space each plant should need (larger gaps around plants I don't trust to stay within their listed spacing) and the numbers noted under the name is the average height (so tall doesn't end up in front of short).

With this I now have my shopping list ready! Also did a new soils test last month so I need some fertilizers as well.

Most of the very drought tolerant stuff is going the South Bed as I could, because that always suffers the most. Thing that need more moisture are going in the North Beds, because that's where I'm going to hook up a drip system this winter. The East Bed gets all the average water need plants.

I feel accomplished today :D

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What am I gonna do with these Geese?!

When I visited Archie's Garden this past spring I was somehow talked into bringing home two geese (which started the Archie Jr. fiasco). Goose milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa )  that is ;9 haha. I vaguely remember asking them about pink milkweeds because my mom doesn't like hot orange/red flowers (doesn't like to be doubly reminded of the heat in summer) and she didn't have pink ones, but she had the white goose type seedlings.

Somehow one seedling from each little pot she gave me managed to survive the little jr.'s that ate every leaf up and had started on the stems :Z They rebounded very slowly though, it was just last month that I potted them up to slightly bigger containers from the square 4" ones they came in.

Last night I was trying to come up with a 2012 front yard garden plan. Want to eliminate some flowers that aren't working for us and move others to better suited spots. When I went over my list of what I've got in my propagation area and saw my Geese (yes, I shall enjoy calling these Green Children the Geese) on it - I realized I had no clue what size they grow to. Looked it up this morning and it turns out they have the potential to reach 7 FEET. Um, I think that will violate the 36" height limit truce currently in effect for new plants...

But they are Monarch magnets and have purty decorative seed pods....

photo: Wikipedia

So I ask: Anyone with any experience growing these? Is this a plant I can prune in a way to limit it's grow without sacrificing it's health? Any advice would be very appreciated!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bloom Day July 2011

I missed last month but damnit I'm ready this time! Mostly. This isn't a complete record of everything blooming today, just the best ones :)

 hybrid echeveria

calendula "zeolights"


 tomato blossoms

 lemon blossoms "pink lemonade"


 pansy "bewitched"

 lobelia "cambridge blue"

another hybrid echeveria (i think...)

 lobelia & alyssum



 blue butterfly bush


 marigold "kilimanjaro white"

zinnia "art deco"

And don't forget to visit the orginal GBBD!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Worms... :)

So, before the Ortho rant I had promised worms... Well here they are, my cheapo homemade worm bins :)

Just two 99 cent plastic (#2) shoebox container nestled inside each other. The top one has the bottom cut out to about 3/4" in from the sides. Two strips cut lengthwise from the removed plastic rectangle bridge the opening in the short direction for a bit of support. A piece of 1/4" metal mesh (hardware cloth - $12.99 and the leftovers made a screen for my regular compost bin)  with the cut ends folded over cover the opening in the bottom. (sorry, don't have a pic of the bottom of the top container)

Here's the top container so you can see them better. The bottom container is to catch the worm leachate (pee) and other moisture dripping out. It can be used to fertilize plants too. I think I spent total about $15 buying the materials for these two containers (and part of the leftover is in use for the other composting bin) which sure as hell beats even the subsidized $60 commercial worms bins.

the two bits of broken terra cotta help keep the mesh from the container above from sagging onto the bottom

Originally there were layers of newspaper strips over the mesh to keep everything from falling into the bottom box. But my wonderful know-it-all worms ate it up and now their castings (poo) has been spilling from their feeding container above to the bottom one where I can easily scoop it up as needed. I put most of the worms back in the feeding container, but sometimes I put some of the big ones into my flower pots.

If the worms thrive and reproduce enough I may have to build larger bins at some point, but knowing how easy it is I think it will still be super cheap. For now I have a third container prepped to add whenever it's needed, and still have enough materials to build a fourth and maybe a fifth one of this size. I could have myself a deluxe worm penthouse :)

Originally I got a handful of worms from a gardener in Gardena (of all places) in summer 2010. The first few days they were just in a bucket with some dirt until I built the worms bins. I didn't really know what I was doing and at one point forgot to tend them for over a month. When I looked inside it was fairly dry and I thought for sure I'd killed them. So I let it all sit another month before I opened it up to use whatever castings there were and was astounded to find some worms still alive!

Well, that immediately got me to tending them properly. If those suckers had the will to live through my neglect I was gonna make an effort to keep them alive. And since then checking on them every day or so has become a fun habit and they still live. However, since I started with such a small batch of worms it would take a very long time for them to eat through any food. I got in the habit of putting scraps in the blender to make it easier for them. When I sorted through my regular compost bin or dug in the flower beds I'd save any red worms I found and add them to the worm bins. But there still weren't enough...

Recently I got a super boost to my worms when Archie's Garden gave me almost a full shoe box container full of worms & dirt from their vermicomposing setup. There were plenty of worms in there and they have made friends with my first worms (I hope) and now the bin colony is thriving! I've been giving them a good sized feeding about every two weeks, with a few little scraps in between. They seem to be keeping up with it.

Last Friday I collected a full cup of castings at once and made worm tea for my container garden :) The young seedlings and eager transplants really seemed to like it. When I was picking the worms out of the castings there were quite a few really tiny ones which I think means.... my worms have breeding!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Just Checking In...

It's been a crazy few days for me and I haven't had much time to garden let alone blog :P So because of unexpected business I have no Bloom Day post :'( but I will do a belated one sometime this week.

I am still working on the Ortho Elements research, I have more info I will share soon. I just need time to organize it all.

So, happy bloom day to all who had time! I envy you!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ortho Elementals - More Questions than Answers

Yesterday I wrote about the lies that Ortho put on their Elementals Insecticidal Soap. I also emailed the info to Green UPGRADER and today they've got the info up also.

On my way home last night I stopped at one of the Home Depots I sometimes shop in to see if the final labeling of the product is the same as on Scotts website. Look like yes, if there were any changes they weren't to the info I'm concerned about. Red outlines by me.

Product on the shelf. Includes the "MAY BE USED UP TO DAY OF HARVEST" and OMRI Listed labeling.

"May be applied to edibles up to day of harvest"

Thanks for telling me which foods you want me to use this on Ortho.

I did a little (or rather a LOT) of thinking on this last night. I went back to ORMI's website to look more into them (after all, I've only known of them for a day or two). I am thinking on their statements on their About page

screenshot from OMRI - Copyright © 2010 OMRI

  So this insecticide could be used for a USDA certified organic farm... You know this leads me to think that a small scale farmer - like a local farmer's market vendor - could see this product on the shelf, spot the OMRI logo on the label and assume it was perfect for their organic produce. Especially since the packaging of the product is screaming at you to use it on your food from every angle. A small scale grower might even look it up on OMRI's website to make sure it's organic. And if that grower looked up this product on OMRI's site they'd see this:

 screenshot from OMRI - Copyright © 2010 OMRI

Farmers are people, and people aren't perfect. It's reasonable to assume that a farmer large or small scale might see the above result for their search for Ortho Elementals Insecticidal Soap and accept that as OMRI's approval - then go ahead and use the product just like its instructions say to... on the organic crops he/she is growing for consumers who want certified organic produce. What that farmer might miss (because we all make mistakes) is the info when you click the drop down for this product and the restriction against food crop usage:

screenshot from OMRI - Copyright © 2010 OMRI

I am more confused than ever about this. Why would OMRI approve something for organic growing - for products farmers can use to grow USDA certified organic produce - but not directly on that produce? Why would they allow their OMRI Listed logo to be used on that product's label if the label is also specifying the consumer to use it in a way not consistent with their approval restrictions?

When did I start sounding like an adult?

Sorry, tangent thought there. Their About info also has me thinking about OMRI. It says (and you can see in one of the screenshots above) they are non-profit and receive funding through donations, and "generates income through fees collected for the review of products intended for use in organic production or processing." For some reason this gives me a chill and reminds me of the USDA's deregulation process for Monanto's GMOs.

I am trying to find answers now. Unfortunately OMRI doesn't list an email address for questions. They have an online inquiry form that I filled out, but couldn't submit because their Captcha engine isn't working (it's not even showing up) and I keep getting error messages that the Captcha I entered being incorrect (can't even see or type one).

I have sent an email off to Scotts through their website reading:

I was considering using your Elementals Insecticidal Soap product in my edible container garden. I am working towards a fully organic growing method and by this point I am only buying organic products. Preferable ones I make myself, are certified organic, or approved for USDA certified organic operations. This is just my own personal garden, I'm not selling any produce from it, but I want to make is as pure as I can.

I first heard of the Elementals line through Home Depot. I was happy to see on their (and your) website that it is safe for use on edibles and for organic growing. But then I noticed another info section on Home Depot's site that said it was not organic. I double checked Scotts product page which says it is.

I then checked OMRI since the product labeling states this item is ORMI Listed and found the following use restriction: "nonfood crop uses only; use on any food crop or fallow fields is prohibited." But your product clearly says it is food safe. Why does your ORMI approval depend on it not being used on food crops? If I understand OMRI's usage correctly, it means that this item would only be ok for USDA certified organic growing standards if I don't use it on edibles.

Would you please clarify this for me? I need an insecticidal soap for the summer, but it must be safe for my edibles.

Thank you,
Mary C.

That's non-threatening enough, no?

I think I'm going to continue to update on this...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ortho Elementals is a LIE!

Yesterday thanks to Mike I learned about a tactic called Greenwashing. It's basically deceptive marketing to make people think a product is certified organic or all natural and safe. So yesterday I learned that the few Organic Choice products I had picked up are not really organic. Damint! I am going to either toss out what's left or take it to a S.A.F.E. disposal site. Of course that doesn't undo the fact that such product is already in my soil :/

Anyway, after the learning I soaked up yesterday I returned to my computer with a fresh brain today... and started thinking about the coupon Home Depot emailed to me yesterday... A biy one get one free for any 32 oz. Ortho Elementals.  I had looked up what the product was briefly yesterday to see one (there are four types listed on HD's site) was an "organic" insecticidal soap. I was thinking of getting it this weekend.

This morning I decided to investigate this product a little. It turned into much more than a little and I am not happy at all (except that I didn't buy it). I sent what I found off to Green UPGRADER and Mike, and I was gonna wait for more experienced people to look into it... but I'm so pissed I'm sharing now! All emphasis in quoted text is mine.

So here's our culprit:

Notice that big blank green area at the bottom of the sticker?
Remember that for later...

So the most important info gained from Home Depot's site is the following:
  • If you click the Zoom View link to read the labels you find -
    •  The white sticker on the spray head reads "MAY BE USED UP TO DAY OF HARVEST"
    • One the main label sticker it reads "For organic gardening"
  • Product Description tab has the following statement: " "The soap can be used up to the day of harvest and is organic for safe use" and "Organic formula for safe use in your garden"
  • Specifications tab states: "Organic : No" <---- RED FLAG PEOPLES!
Um, that's some kinda contradiction there. Is it organic or no? Also the use of the word "harvest" here obviously implies they expect you to use this product on your veggie, herb and fruit plants. So it has to be safe right? Off to the manufacturer's website!


 This product is owned by Scotts! On that subject let's just say Scotts=Miracle Grow=Round-Up=MONSANTO for now...

On to Scotts info on the Ortho Elementals Insecticidal Soap.  First the product's General tab states "does not persist in the environment, can be used for organic gardening" and under the Details & Usage tab subheading Benefits "For organic gardening" I also found a link on this product's page to a PDF of the product labeling. The one saving factor I find is a note that "THIS FILE IS NOT PRODUCTION READY". So there may have been changes before the final labels that appear on the product were printed. That said:
  • PDF Page 1 (FRONT LABEL): states "For Organic Gardening"and has the OMRI Listed trademark in what is a blank green area in the picture from Home Depot and Scott's product page for this item. This area also includes active ingredient info and some typical warnings.
The rest of the PDF pages include info for label you can't see in pics of the product online and would probably only read after your took it home including the instructions for use:
  • PDF Page 2 (BOOK-OUTSIDE VIEW): "May be applied to edibles up to day of harvest."
  • PDF Page 3 (BOOK-INSIDE VIEW PAGE 2): "May used on edible crops up to and including day of harvest."; "For use...on: fruit and nut tress (e.g., apples, cherries, peaches, pears, pecans, almonts); corn; soybeans; melons; tomatoes; vegetables (e.g., beans, cabbage, cucurbits, peas, potatoes); figs; small fruits (e.g., grapes, strawberry, rasberry); citrus..."
  • PDF Page 5 (the spray head sticker): "MAY BE USED UP TO DAY OF HARVEST L0270356000"
Please note - I have not physically seen a bottle of Ortho Elements yet to see if the above statements from Scott's product website made it all the way to print. I am going to try to stop by a Home Depot today to check it out and will update this post after that.

***UPDATE - I have physically seen this product***

So Scott's really WANTS you to use this on your edible plants. No way that they can deny that after seeing this label info final or not. And since their label is at some point intended to include the OMRI Listed endorsement... off to!

On the Organic Materials Review Institute's site under the info for Ortho Elementals Insecticidal Soap I found the following Restriction for this product's use cleared stated on the drop-down tab:

"May be used as an algicide/demosser, herbicide or insecticide if the requirements of 205.206(e) are met, which requires the use of preventative, mechanical, physical, and other pest, weed, and disease management practices. When used as an herbicide may only be used for farmstead maintenance (roadways, ditches, right of ways, building perimeters) and ornamental crops, nonfood crop uses only; use on any food crop or fallow fields is prohibited."

Holy CRAP! As of this moment it is blatantly apparent to me that Scotts is not only misleading, they are flat out LYING about this product, and probably the other Elementals product as well. I admit I don't know enough about OMRI and their standards, etc. to know if this means this a truly organic product or not - but the fact that it's PROHIBITED TO USE ON ANY FOOD CROP leads me to strongly believe it is not. In fact, it also lacks and USDA Certified Organic labeling either.

So in case you didn't guess - I'm not buying the product. I'm going home to quarantine anything I can find labelled Ortho, Miracle Grow or Scotts in the garage (though dad shall be pissed that includes his grass seed). I don't know how or why OMRI has restricted it from use on edible plants. I don't really care at this point, because if that is the most up to date info OMRI has on the product, then Scotts is LYING and very possible PUTTING THE CONSUMER AT RISK by pushing this product on your organic edible garden.

I'm gonna contact my local Home Depot's about this and the nurseries I visit as well.

Shame on you Scotts.


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