Sunday, May 30, 2010

Squash Blossoms, Sunflowers, and other Seed Progress

Weekly Update May 30, 2010
This Memorial Day weekend marks the 2-year anniversary that we moved into this house. Our garden has come a long way since then. We used to have nothing but weeds and holly bushes in the backyard. Now, instead of the sad looking bushes that were here, we have a few veggie plants downstairs, blueberry bushes, a butterfly bush, and fewer weeds. We have containers on the deck with vegetables. The front yard only had the azalea bushes, but we have since added hydrangeas. Good progress!

This weekend's to-do list:
1) weed
2) pollinate the squash blossoms -- after a week of nothing but female flowers, a male finally appeared and we pollinated all of them
3) check plants for pests

We have three containers where we're growing yellow squash. Our little bumble bee lush has returned this year! Unfortunately there were no male flowers around when he made this appearance.

The jalapenos are growing nicely... are my purple green beans...

...and the Patio Princess cherry tomatoes I started from seed.

The first fruits on the Napa Grape tomatoes (bought as plants). We had these last year too and they did very well. Hoping for the same harvest this year.

giant sunflowers, growing tall!
The Chianti sunflowers were started from seed at the same time, but the difference in growth rates is very obvious. Not sure why, will need to do a little research online. They're getting just as much sun and water as the others. Hope they grow big and strong!

butterfly bush bloomSo far, so good with respect to aphids or spider mites NOT being on the plants. There were aphids on this butterfly bush earlier this week, but Matt gave it a good hard spray and squished some--no chemicals here as we have a kitty and some fish in a little pond. He saw some predatory mites a couple of days later, which should take care of any remaining aphids, and now the bush is doing better. It's even got some blooms now.
That's it for today. Time to BBQ!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jalapeno Plant Progress

We have a good progress report on the little jalapeno plant that survived a blizzard, cat attack, and spider mites. It has a lot of healthy looking peppers growing, along with lots of blooms, which means even more peppers on the way!

December 2009 blizzard. It still had peppers from the summer! To me they looked like Christmas ornaments. We picked them, and the redder these things get, the hotter they are.

same plant, May 2010

And these are seedlings from a new plant we're growing. They're very easy to grow. We started this one indoors in April.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Stop and Smell the Flowers

In addition to the beautiful hydrangeas, I wanted to post pictures of some of the other flowers in our garden. We mostly have vegetables, but this year I wanted some flowers to add a little color and variety. I bought some petunias--pretty common, I know, but I love blue and purple flowers and the pale lavender ones caught my eye. For a little extra color, I also bought some yellow ones--"Lemon Zest"--and they're quickly becoming my favorite.

petunias, Lemon Zest

And they look so good next to the Beaujolais!

lobelia erinus

These are pictures of a flash thunderstorm that hit us last weekend (May 14). It was pourting rain while the sun was shining, and at one point the rain beat down so hard that it snapped one of the tomato plant branches (in orange containers). We staked it and the plant is doing OK now.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hydrangeas' Blue Tuesday

Brestenburg hydrangeas, May 15.

Brestenburg hydrangeas, May 16.

Brestenburg hydrangeas, May 18

close-up, May 15

close-up, May 18

What a quick transformation! I planted these Brestenburg hydrangeas this past Saturday, May 15 (top pic).  In just 3 days they've gone from pale white/pale blue/slightly pink to full-on blue and purple, and getting deeper by the day. It really is easier to manipulate the soil pH in a container. I've been wanting to get flowers with these rich colors since last year. I so love blue flowers!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hydrangeas in Bloom (endless summer and brestenburg)

Endless Summer....


 May weather has been a roller coaster so far--just this past week we had daytime temperatures in the 50s AND the high-80s.  Unfortunately we also had lots of cold evenings, which makes me worry for my tomato plants.  But, today's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post is about what's blooming in my garden--hydrangeas, my favorite flower!

The pictures above are of the Endless Summer hydrangeas I planted last summer. I was a little worried for my plants after DC got hit with three blizzards this year, plus some other minor snow storms, and they were buried in 4 feet of snow. I have two Endless Summer bushes, and they're growing bigger and stronger compared to last season, despite freezing to death three months ago. I'd say they're pretty hardy!

We also have hydrangeas of the Brestenburg variety:

I actually prefer blue/purple hydrangeas to pink ones, and I haven't had luck trying to get the Endless Summers to turn blue. I have added special fertilizer to make the soil more acidic (the same kind I use for the blueberries, actually), but it just isn't taking. I don't want to add too much. I hope that by having the Brestenburgs in a container I'll be able to manipulate the soil better than in the ground.

Finally, I planted this heuchera last year, and it too is doing well this season despite having been flattened by the snow. Just last week I moved it to a bigger container, and now it's growing buds!
Happy Bloom Day!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fruit Roll-up

Blueberries are coming!!! Gotta get a net up, the birds are already circling

A look at our strawberries -- I tried one,  it wasn't completely ready, but it wasn't bad either! I hope they do OK and bugs and other creatures don't get to them before I do.

Last week we picked up two plants of Napa Grape Hybrid tomatoes (by Burpee). We had two of these plants last year and they produced a lot of fruit and were so sweet! I knew I wanted at least two plants this year as well.

Come on, buddy, pollinate!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Plant Update and Lessons Learned

The "Lessons Learned" part of this post has to do with some plants and soil we bought, which I'll get to below... Matt & I went to Hong Kong the last week in April. We were gone for almost 10 days, and during that time we kept some of our seedlings inside because the temps here were still too cold overnight to safely leave them out. The good news is that none of our plants died while we were gone, but none of them really developed either.  For example, compare the sunflowers -- we started both varieities from seed indoors during the same week:

giant sunflowers, started from seed, transplanted 4/14, picture taken 5/7

Chianti sunflower seedlings, transplanted 5/1, picture taken 5/7

We transplanted the Chianti seedlings to a pot outside when we got back. The difference in growth rates could just be that they grow differently, or that we transplanted them later, but I think it has to do with the soil. We bought it from a nursery that sells plants, flowers, mulch, and soil at a high school near our hosue during the spring as a fund raiser. We usually just buy a couple of plants, but this year we bought soil, some tomato plants, and the Mignonette strawberries.  Well, mushrooms sprouted in everything we planted in the soil from the school--both what was kept indoors and outside--and the tomato and strawberry plants don't look so good. I'm not sure which nursery the school works through, but that was a little disappointing. Then again, is it us? We're still new at this, maybe we shouldn't have kept things inside? Anyway, we went back to our trusty Home Depot for more bags of soil and mulch, and that's what everything else is planted in now.

We also put more Chianti seedlings in the pot, so this will be an interesting experiment to see if they grow differently in the (better?) soil.

Mignonette and Quinalt

One of the Mignonette strawberries (variety on left) didn't make it when we got back. Things were kind of slimy, but we salvadged what we could and put them in the ground. To replace what we lost, we bought 4 Quinalt variety strawberry plants (right). They're a bigger variety and already have some fruit!

Elevated Squash Bed
This year we're doing something new--we have a special bed just for squash. In this bed we have four varieties which I'll be planting in quadrants--clockwise from top left: butterstick, pic-n-pic (yellow), sweet gourmet (yellow), and zucchini

And here's our container garden: