Monday, July 28, 2008

Odds and ends

That's what I wrote about this week - a little whining about the weather, broken peppers, and being a lazy gardener. Good news - I borrowed a camera, so I have pictures this week! This one shows the tomato vines that are two feet taller than me:

I forgot to link to last week's update, when I made pesto out of my own basil and parsley. I have officially cooked with my own produce. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the vegetables, assuming they don't all fall down.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Customer service

I'm really not a demanding customer. I almost always like to find things for myself and fly under the salespeople's radar. But when I have a question, I go in expecting that someone will greect me and ask if I need any help. Particularly at a privately-owned business. It's a bit of a shock to be completely ignored.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mini mantis

I found this little guy on one of my tomato plants today.

This makes me happy, even if my camera makes me slightly furious. It was such a tiny perfect little bug that's actually GOOD for my plants. After a week of setbacks and
attitude problems, it was nice to see this little creature on my poor plant, which has suffered at the evil little paws of the neighborhood squirrels.

Monday, June 30, 2008


You can read about it here. Sigh.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Well, that was fast

I planted the radishes on Monday, and they sprouted on Wednesday. Now it's Friday and they have visibly grown. I am pleased. There is a lot less waiting around with radishes than with carrots, and it's kind of satisfying. Now if they can just stay cool enough, we're all set.

In other news, I re-staked the tomatoes on Monday night, because I watered and they all fell down. My largest plant was the height of the stake on Monday. This is that same plant today:

Is that not insane? It grows VISIBLY from day to day. It's almost as tall as me. I grant that that's not very tall for a person, but for a tomato plant, I'm impressed.

Monday, June 9, 2008

This week's column

Is viewable here. I finally planted radishes, bought bigger stakes, and picked up an organic bug-killer. And it's hot.

Friday, June 6, 2008


I suppose it was only a matter of time.

I think some of them are aphids, although I haven't found a good picture yet. The majority of them are the exact same shade of green as the tomato plants. I think there are some whiteflies, too, but when I went out to take pictures they were gone.

Now I need to decide what to do. I'd like to avoid chemicals if possible, so if there's an organic suggestion I'll go with that first. I'll also go over the plants and hand-squash as many as possible. Spraying with water is supposed to help with whiteflies, so I'll try that too.

It seems only the tomato plants are affected. I looked over the peppers and didn't see anything amiss. I already needed to go to the garden store to get taller stakes; pest control is one more item on the list.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

New column

It's here. I finally planted the raspberries, although not where I'd planned to. They're looking more perky now that they're in the ground. I think a couple of peppers are juuust starting to start, and cherry tomatoes are budding. The Early Girls are enormous, and I do think they're expending more energy growing than they are in making actual tomatoes. I do have several more tiny green tomatoes than I did last time I posted, though, and that makes me happy.

I watered on Monday for the first time in weeks, and several tomato branches buckled under the strain. Not having any stakes long enough to support them, I had to twist-tie the short stakes together and then twist-tie the plants onto them. They're currently listing a little drunkenly. Maybe it was all that extra water.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Baby tomatoes

I have two of them. Observe:

They're blooming more too. I even have a teeny little micro-cherry tomato starting. So now I'm wondering whether I should re-pot it like I planned. It needs a bigger pot and better soil; I just don't want to disrupt it.

The pepper plants are also starting to flower.

They seem to be growing better, too.

I planned to do some planting today, but I didn't get it done; the holiday meant I had to work on other things. Hopefully I'll get a chance this week. Summer unofficially started today, and I can't keep dragging my feet.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I forgot about the column

I'm writing a column about this same topic on Mondays that goes out on our Home & Garden wire. Here's a link to this week's in the Raleigh News & Observer. We had a hailstorm on Friday, and my tomato plants suffered for it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Testing 1, 2, 3

I got another test kit the other day, the kind with tablets and tubes. So far I've tested the pH in both locations, as well as the nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the main bed. The soil in the raspberry spot is still alkaline; I'm not sure if I should add more sulfur or give the current lot more time to dissolve. In the main bed, the pH is good, the phosphorus is good, and the nitrogen is quite low. I still have to test for potassium.

I know how absolutely thrilling this is for the three of you who read this.

In other news, I bought radish seeds and a new packet of carrot seeds. I figure I'll give it one more shot before moving on to something less snooty. I'll also look for nitrogen-heavy fertilizer in the hopes that they'll be more likely to sprout if they're better fed.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Well, the carrots never came up, and the peas aren't progressing. It looks like I need to think of something else to try. Shade looks to be more of an issue than I thought, too. There's a big tree to the side of my house that blocks the sun for a significant chunk of the afternoon. (I finally had a sunny Monday when I could observe.)

My nemesis.

So what now? One of my friends suggested radishes, which I'd actually considered before. I'm also entertaining the notion of trying the carrots again, this time soaking the seeds first.

The good news - the tomatoes have recovered and are growing, although they haven't flowered yet. I'll have to stake them soon. I haven't noticed much growth in the peppers, though. They're still green and healthy-looking, but they don't seem to be much bigger. The herbs are healthy, even (apparently) the dill, and I need to get to the farmers' market this weekend and get a couple more.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Nothing to report

It rained (AGAIN) on Monday, my garden day, and I didn't get much done. I did prepare a spot for my raspberry bushes, which I think is far enough from the leash that the dog won't be able to pee on them. There are other spots in the yard I like better, but this one gets more sun.

Still no sign of the carrots. I'll give them maybe another week before I dig up the row and re-plant it. The little peas don't seem to be growing much, either, and that's a little disheartening because it's too late to start them again if they fail to thrive. The tomato plants have perked up, though. And the raspberries are shooting up in their pots. On Monday I plan to put them in the ground. Barring another downpour.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I found my worm

Actually, it's a grub. I'd been finding these c-shaped white larvae every so often as I dug, and I wanted to find out what they were to see if I needed to do something about them. Turns out they're beetle larvae that usually prefer turf. I haven't found that many, so I'm not going to worry too much. I'll have to keep a lookout as the summer wears on, though.

I haven't used any pesticides so far, and I want to keep it that way as long as possible. Besides being distasteful, they're also another thing to keep track of and learn to use, and I hope to keep things as simple as possible.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I have baby pea plants!

They are just emerging, obviously. I'm just so terribly pleased that they are growing. This is the first time in my memory that I've grown something from seeds. Now I have to hope the rabbits stay away, because if my mother is correct, bunnies love them some peas.

I saw some more berry bushes at Whole Foods last week, and I *covet* them. They are staked and sturdy and gorgeous. Unfortunately I already have two raspberry bushes and I don't know where to put them, since the place they were going to go is probably too shady. I might have to put them there anyway and hope for the best.

Here is one berry bush, flourishing in its pot.

My tomato plants, on the other hand, are looking a bit sickly.

I waited longer than I'd planned to put them in the ground, since we had some frost problems and I had to take them inside a couple of times. They should get more sun and food now that they're planted. Hopefully they'll look less pale and spotty in a few days. I also transplanted the red bell peppers today, and they're looking much heartier.

I might as well include a picture of the dill, too, before it dies.

Dill apparently does not transplant well. I had a dill plant in a temporary pot, however, and it had to go somewhere, so it went in next to the parsley. If and when it kicks, I'll have another opportunity to grow a plant from a seed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I thought about planting my seedlings yesterday, and it's a good thing I didn't, because it's a lot easier to haul them inside than to build them all little pup tents. Although is a little confused - predicting a low of 35 in one place and 30-32 in another - the consensus seems to be that we'll probably freeze tonight. I don't have any sprouts yet, so I only have to be concerned with my herbs, and I know the mint will be OK because nothing on earth will kill it. We'll have to see about the parsley. I can't think of anything in my house that could serve as a potential parsley shelter. Maybe inspiration will strike once I get home.

I did plant my row of carrots yesterday. I tried to keep track of how many I was planting per foot, but it's HARD to keep track of those tiny seeds while you're inching across the row. Whenever I shifted position I'd lose my place. Assuming they grow, I'll have to thin them anyway, so I'm not terribly concerned. Also, I'm kind of happy about the cool snap, because I'm hoping it'll encourage the peas. Now that I have seeds germinating, I'm less eager for the weather to warm up already. Plus the cold was an excuse to buy a jacket today.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ow. My back.

I planted a row of peas on Friday. It's probably too late, but I had to try. Next I'll put in carrots, because apparently those frozen veggies I ate at age three made quite an impression.

Last week I tested my soil, and if the meter is right, it was a bit too alkaline. So I added some sulfur along with fertilizer. I also bought and used a long-handled cultivator, and let me just say ouch. I have a feeling I didn't till quite deep enough, but those few inches were all my spine could handle. Good thing it is such a tiny plot.

Also, when I went to move my mint over, I discovered it was even tinier than I'd thought; there was a shelf of concrete a few inches under the soil at the narrow end. Bah. I'd been wanting to thin the rocks at the wide end anyway, so I moved them down to cover the inexplicable concrete. (My back loved this undertaking, too.)

For today, I think I'll get the carrots in, and keep weeding the potential berry arbor. Fortunately I have a lot more of Jim Dale reading Harry Potter to keep me company.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

And we're off

I've never been a gardener. I can keep houseplants alive, but they survive in spite of me, not because of my horticultural talent. While my mom kept small garden patches in my youth, my greatest contribution to their life cycle was eating raspberries. My gardening education, in other words, has been inadequate.

The thing is, I have this lovely little patch (pictured above) in front of my house. It's spent most of the last five years overgrown with weeds - like I said, not a gardener - but last year it occurred to me that perhaps it could become, well, sightly. And useful. I wasn't working nights anymore, and I needed something to fill my evenings. So I started pulling weeds and digging roots.

I don't know how long it's been since anything grew in that spot on purpose, but there were a LOT of old roots and crap in there. After awhile I went to Target and bought actual gardening tools - a trowel, a hand rake (apparently called a cultivator), a kneeling pad, and gloves - so I could attack my bit of earth with greater vigor.

Once I dug it up, though, I couldn't figure out what to do with it. Was it too late to plant? If not, what did I want? I bought a couple of herb plants at the farmers' market, then went out of town before planting them and killed them. I did manage to get the mint going, but you could set mint on fire and it would still take over your yard. Pretty soon the weeds came back. My little plot sat empty and sad, a monument to my indecision and sloth.

But lo, a new year didst come upon us, and the seedlings didst return to the Lowe's Garden Center. And it was good.

So this year I'm really and truly going to plant stuff. We'll see what happens; this is more complicated than I imagined. You put seeds in the ground and water them, right? Snort. Different things need to be planted at different times, and at different depths. Some plants like their soil more acid; others prefer it alkaline. I have two small plots with completely different types of soil, and at least one of them is going to need assistance if I want to grow anything there. I am not a good organizer. There are a hundred different points where this project could go off the rails.

If it does, though, I'll write about it. I'll be keeping a journal of my horticultural maiden voyage. If any gardeners out there have tips for me, or if I do something hideously and shockingly wrong, tell me. I can take it. I'll also be writing about the garden's progress for the McClatchy newspaper Web sites.

Wish me luck, and let the games begin.

My plot from the side. Note the four plants my landlord unexpectedly planted one day while I was at work. I hope they haven't gotten too comfy, because they're moving.

This is the sandy strip under my kitchen window. I'd like to use it, but I'll have to test and see if anything will grow there.

From my perspective here (facing the street) this is the left side of my yard. I'd like to clear out the area by the stones and maybe plant some berries.