Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010

Now that I'm a "gardener" (gardener wanna-be ;)) I do have a better appreciation for the wonder that is nature. Since the last time I posted pictures, none of the seeds I planted have made enough progress to deserve more photographs, but they're doing well.  It amazes me that all the beautiful flowers, trees, fruit, and vegetables on this planet come about because of the magical combo of dirt, water, sunlight, and a little seed. 

The white azaleas finally bloomed today, and they're the subject of my post. The flowers don't last long, unfortunately, so I'll enjoy them while they're here. Happy Earth Day!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekly Garden Update

Weekly Garden Update 4/18/10 - Since my post 3 days ago for GBBD, the purple azaleas have started to appear. The white ones are not open yet, but I suspect by the end of the week they'll be in full bloom.

the purple azalea next to the pink one is also starting to bloom

The temperature this past week has been in the mid 60s/low 70s with evening temps below 55. For this reason we brought many of the seedlings inside rather than leave them outside with a cover. We put them in the office and created a bit of a greenhouse effect. We opened the shades so they could get plenty of sunshine and kept the soil moist, but we closed the door to trap the warmth and humidity inside the room. It really helped the seedlings grow. Check out the red sunflower seedlings! They're a rich reddish/purple wine color (the variety is called Chianti). I can't wait to see how the flowers look!

The oregano seedlings have sprouted.

We've got a strawberry! And there are a few more flowers so more strawberries should be coming soon.

In the backyard -- My hostas have exploded! I wish I had taken a picture last week for comparison when they looked like little green toothpicks poking out of the soil. I planted these last year, and they completely disappeared over the winter. They are perennials, so I was expecting them to come back this spring, but I didn't expect them to go from little sticks to full grown leaves within 5 days!

 variety: Halcyon

As for the garden animals--this is our little ant sculpture... :)

...and the fish are doing well. Sadly only 4 of the 5 survived the winter, but the rest look healthy. And the frog came back! We saw him a few days ago.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day April 2010

First of all, a big thanks to my new online friend Vetsy for posting about this and leading me to the May Dream Garden's GBBD. I'm still pretty new to this gardening thing, and it's fun to be part of the garden blogger community and seeing what others are growing. After the winter we had in DC, I can't tell you how happy I am to see green instead of white.

So what's blooming in our garden today?
The pink ones are blooming, the white ones to the right will pop soon.


red blooms

Summer Snowflake, Leucojum aestivum
These first emerged last year (spring 2009) with the rest of my bulbs. I was very surprised to see them growing again, as most of my bulbs rotted (gardening is trial and error, right?) and I dug them out and now have blueberry bushes growing where the bulbs used to be. I love these little bells with their green dots. There are some neighbors down the street that have a huge clump of these growing around their mailbox. So pretty!

And they coordinate with the blueberry blossoms perfectly!

Finally, we used to have a bunch of nice thick, tall spruce trees near our deck that provided a lot of privacy, but the blizzards this past winter knocked down 5 of them. We now have a gaping hole and an unobstructed view into our neighbor's yard. He's got some fiery red bushes, not sure what they are, but I'm glad I see that as opposed to a bunch of appliances on cinder blocks. ;)

 Happy Bloom Day!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sunflowers and Squash

Today we transplanted some of our squash and sunflower seeds into big containers. Yard space is limited so we do a lot of container planting. Since we lost a lot of our privacy trees during the two back-to-back blizzards that hit DC in February, I'm hoping that the sunflowers give us a little privacy...or at least make it difficult to stare right onto the deck while I'm taking pictures of my plants. These are leftover seeds from last year. They did grow pretty tall--taller than Matt, whose 6'! And the best part about sunflowers--they are butterfly and bee magnets! And butterflies and bees are pollinators, so grow, grow, grow little seedlings!!!

The big pots contain giant sunflowers (leftover seeds from last year). The yellow crookneck squash is going in the two blue containers.

yellow squash seedlings

everyone gets a drink

We may thin these sunflower plants out, we'll just wait and see how they grow. If they're clumped together it may act like a fence. That's citronella in the background.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Grow Your Own Fruit: Strawberries & Blueberries Are on Their Way!

blueberry bushes are blooming

all three blueberry plants

strawberry - mignionette

Fruit Update 4/10/10 - The blueberry bushes are now in full bloom! Having never grown them before, I'm pleasantly surprised to see how beautiful the blooms are, like little bells. We also have a live one in our strawberry patch. The variety we're growing is called "Mignonette"--they'll be small but hopefully tasty. Strawberries need plenty of sun and well-drained soil. These have plenty of both!

How To Treat Spider Mites

April 10, 2010 - Jalapeno Plant Update

About 2 weeks ago I blogged about coming home to find that the cat had attacked the poor pepper plant: the leaves were on the floor and one of his big branches -- the only one with a pepper -- was on the ground. A day later it was infested with spider mites. We're not sure how they got in because the plant had been kept indoors all winter. We think that they were waiting in the soil, and after it was traumatized they sensed the plant's vulnerability and attacked. We mixed dish soap and water and sprayed the plant outside, then left it out there, hoping the soapy water solution and cold evening temps would kill the mites. 

Our recipe: using a 16 oz. spray bottle, we added 3 pumps of Dawn Direct Foam and filled the rest with water. It was very sudsy.

We sprayed the plant hard on top and underneath the leaves several times. It seems to have done the trick. We haven't seen signs of mites, and it's even producing a few blooms. I grew this little plant from seed. I watched him grow from a tiny spindly little stick to a pretty healthy plant that has survived caterpillars, a cat attack, and hopefully the mites.  Hang in there Pepe!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Citronella Plants: Grow Your Own Mosquito Repellent

citronella plant

I went outside Sunday morning and found wispy spider web strands going across some of the plants we just put out on the deck Saturday. A year ago, the thought of spiders crawling over food that I was going to eat would have grossed me out so much that I probably wouldn't have eaten it. (Seeing slugs curled up inside lettuce leaves gives me the creeps too, which is why I stopped planting lettuce.)

However, now that I'm in Year 2 of my home garden experiment, I know there's something worse than spider webs--aphids crawling on your vegetables, sucking the nutrients out of the plants and destroying the crop that you so carefully try to maintain. Now I welcome the sight of spider webs, because I know those spiders are eating the aphids and I don't have to send M. outside to crush those nasty critters with his bare hands. We don't use chemical pesticides, and we've lost some plants to various little parasites that reproduce earlier and quicker than their natural predators. I'm happy to see spiders, wasps, and anything else that wants to eat the bug and leave the fruit.

In keeping with our attempts to have a "greener" lifestyle, we also bought citronella plants, which are supposed to repel mosquitos. We'll position them around the deck, and I hope they work. I've never used citronella candles because I don't like the synthetic smell, and I don't use mosquito spray on myself near the veggies (my arms & legs suffer because of it). The citronella plants smell lemony, like the candles, but not as strong or artificial.

So now that I know the good bugs are out there eating the bad bugs, I just have to cross my fingers for a good growing season!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

New seeds came in!

We finally got the rest of the seeds for our crop this year:

Beans - Purple King (purple green beans, can't wait!!)
Tomato - Patio Princess (determinate)
Cucumber - Picklebush (for pickling)
Summer Squash Collection - butterstick, 2 varieties of yellow, zucchini

This is the first year we're trying to grow tomatoes from seed!

I also ordered a couple of flower seeds: red sunflowers and campanula, which should look like this

Someone was watching to make sure we planted everything right...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

2010 Veggie Crop

This year's planned veggie crop:
zucchini - from seed
yellow squash - from seed
tomatoes (including cherry and yellow grape) - some plants, trying cherry tomatoes from seed
bell peppers - will probably buy plants
green beans - from seed
cucumbers - from seed

Although we are planting the majority from seed, we also bought some plants to get a head start. These are the tomato plants (regular tomatoes--Early Girl and Better Boy for slicing/sauces; cherry; & yellow grape):

We're also growing green beans, yellow squash, and zucchini from seed:

one of these is also oregano

We're going to grow more vegetables from seed, but we'll plant them later. We also bought plants for our herb garden today:

We love Italian herbs, and in addition to the oregano seeds we planted, we also bought an oregano plant. We plan on having gallons of homemade spaghetti sauce in the freezer to get us through next winter.

We also bought spearmint, basil, and thyme plants. Last year my spearamint plant mysteriously turned brown over night and just died. Not sure what happened, and I'm hoping it doesn't happen again. This is also the first year we're trying to grow thyme.




Finally, check out this angry little peppermint plant. I planted this last year, and not only did it survive the harsh winter (3 blizzards!!!), it has come back strong. It smells soooo good....
Can't wait to try the mint in some dishes.

2010 Fruit Crop: Blueberries & Strawberries

One week later, the blueberries have developed a lot of buds, and one of the bushes has flowers!! We'll definitely need to put up a net by next weekend.

In addition to blueberries, we're also going to try to grow strawberries this year. We have never grown them before, so here's hoping we get a lot of fruit. Here's how they look today: