Friday, July 29, 2011

The Wilted Garden and an Edible Hostess Gift

dead oat grass

on right--cilantro, my nemesis!
various dead herbs--basil and parsley :(
Things have been busy around the Bumble Lush Homestead, some of it fun, but most of it work related (blah). As a result, I have neglected my gardens, both real and in blogger land. My regrets to my online garden friends for not responding to comments or visiting your sites. I also apologize to my herbs and to my cat's oat grass for letting you all die. (How the heck do you kill cat grass?? I didn't think it was possible). This is all quite frustrating for many reasons. I hate that I'm wasting perfectly good plants, but also, space is such a premium in my little container garden that I really get upset when something dies.

The cilantro is another story. Cilantro has been our nemesis plant for two years running now.  Maybe Year 3 will be the charm?

I don't want to end this post or start my weekend on a negative note, so I will wrap up with this picture of a recent harvest. We went to a BBQ last Sunday and I didn't have time to get a pie, or flowers, or some other kind of hostess gift. So we picked a few fresh veggies from our garden, and our hosts were very happy. The husband LOVES to cook. We collected cucumbers, Early Girl tomatoes, cayenne peppers, a yellow bell pepper, a Spanish pepper, and a jalapeno--all freshly picked! That bag smelled so good. Happy Weekend!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Introducing Coconut Ice Sunflowers

Yes! They're here! The Coconut Ice sunflowers have finally bloomed. There are only two flowers, but I'm just glad they made it, considering the other sunflower troubles I've had this season.

Like my other sunflowers, the Coconut Ice hybrids are in a container and they were grown from seed. My sunflowers seem to do well in pots, but I'm sure they would be taller in the ground. The beauty of containers is that I can move them around and they make a nice little privacy screen from my neighbors. They're not quite as tall as I am (5'2"), and it doesn't look like they'll grow any taller. I'm really pleased with these flowers; I love the contrasting white and chocolate brown colors.

And just so they don't feel left out, this is a picture of my Teddy Bear sunflowers from yesterday. We now have six flowers! They're in a container and the tallest stems have grown to about 3 feet high. They are really pretty and I think they'll be regular flowers in my garden from now on. 

I'm so excited about my flowers and am sharing them with Fishtail Cottage's Cottage Flora Thursday today.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hot Gardening Weekend

bell pepper plant--carnival mix
It was unbearably hot over the weekend--a perfect weekend for staying inside with air conditioning, or lounging by a pool and drinking iced tea and margaritas while being fanned by a cabana boy. Unfortunately I didn't do any of that. I ventured outside to tend to the plants, which I did very early in the morning before the sun could have a chance to sauté my skin. The heat was GREAT for the tomatoes and peppers. The picture above is of a bell pepper plant that I started from seed. (That picture is not blurry, by the way, it's the heat waves making it look out of focus). ;)

The seed packet was called "carnival mix," and the peppers could either turn out red, orange, yellow, white, or purple.  I haven't seen white or purple ones yet. The picture above was taken on Saturday morning, and I noticed that one of the peppers had turned orange.

carnival mix plant--yellow
Overnight, two more peppers started to ripen. On Saturday they were green. By Sunday morning the other plant in the pot had two yellow peppers! I love seeing some color in the garden.

Speaking of hot--the cayenne peppers are getting redder by the day. We haven't yet tried them ourselves, but we picked a few to give to a friend. We're going to cook with them this week and find out how hot they really are.

We also harvested eight cucumbers! We gave two to the neighbors, and the other six came inside with us.  The ones on the left are from the plants in the ground. The ones on the right are from the containers we have on the deck. These are the ones on the hanging vines that are forming the cucumber curtain.

This week is supposed to be just as hot, so I'm expecting to see more color in the garden as things ripen. I hope everyone stays cool this week!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Finally, A Sunflower!

Over the weekend, the first Teddy Bear sunflower opened.

Then I came home from work Monday night to find that two more Teddy Bear flowers had opened!

...and although the other sunflower plants have not really made much progress, the Coconut Ice plants have finally developed buds.

On a different subject, there's a new tomato to add to the list we're growing this year: Supersweet hybrids. They're supposed to be small (about an inch wide) and sweet--SUPER sweet. We transplanted the seedlings to pots over the weekend. They're calling for blistering heat over the next week, so maybe that'll help them grow.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekend in the Garden: Rearranging

We grow the majority of our vegetables in containers. We do not have a lot of ground space for everything we want to grow, and we have found that tomatoes, peppers, and even squash and cucumbers grow nicely in containers. Our plants are on our deck, and as of today I counted 65 (!) containers. As the plants began to grow and spread out, deck space becomes limited fast. So over the weekend, we rearranged things to make it easier for us to move around when we water and harvest.

We grouped the pepper plants in one corner.

The squash plants are short, and it was often hard to reach them underneath the sprawling tomato vines, so we moved them on top of the rail.

We moved our grape tomato plants and a jalapeno, Sweet Chocolate, and Purple Beauty pepper plant to the center and created an aisle so we can walk more easily in between plants when watering, inspecting for aphids and other bad bugs, and for picking vegetables. It's easier to get to the squash plants now. The sunflowers (right corner of bottom picture) are near the back door where they'll get plenty of sun, and it should be more difficult for the squirrels to get to them. Squirrels have been after the seedlings and buds this year.

Our Black Krim and tomatillo plants are on the table.

The most interesting thing we did was put the cucumber plants on the edge so that the vines can hang down. Before, we had them tied up to trellises but that was taking up a lot of space and the curly tendrils would often weave their way into the window screens. We still have some dried up tendrils stuck in there from last year. Having the vines hang over is definitely more fun when it's time to harvest. We'll see how this arrangement works.

Everything is so much more organized now. I liked being in my garden before, but now that things are orderly and I'm not stepping on squash and cucumber blossoms, it's a lot more fun too.

Friday, July 15, 2011

July Blooms (and Non-Blooms)

I'm linking up with Carol's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Unfortunately, this month I have more non-blooming flowers than blooming ones, so I'll be getting my July floral bloom fix around the internet instead of in my garden.  First, here's what I do have in bloom:

The pink diamond hydrangea tree has started to bloom. These flowers start out white and by Fall they turn pink.

The butterfly bush has blooms too. These dark purple flowers are so pretty and have a pleasant, sweet smell. I've seen a few white sulfur butterflies, but no other kind of butterfly. These flowers attract bees too, and I do like my bumbles, so that's been nice.

Now for what's NOT blooming.
My mammoth sunflowers look weak. {sigh} Last year they started blooming in June. We're now at July 15, and I haven't seen so much as a bud. To be fair, the seedlings I started early this spring got clipped by a vile creature commonly known as a squirrel, so I had to start them over. These haven't been growing as long as they would have had the original seedlings not gotten clipped, so developmentally I guess you could say they're a few weeks behind.  A little fertilizer may be in order. 

More non-blooming sunflowers--On the left I have Coconut Ice hybrids, and in the square container I planted Chianti hybrids. I've never grown Coconut Ice before, so I have no basis for comparison. But I did grow Chiantis last year, and they were blooming by mid-July. The Chianti seedlings I started in early spring also got clipped, so these are the second try.  For the mammoth and Chianti flowers, I have done nothing differently this year. They get plenty of sun and are even in the same containers they were in last year. Maybe a little more time is all they need.

All my hopes for mid-July blooms rest on the Teddy Bear Sunflower. These are also new to my garden this year, and I spotted a few flowers trying to open last night. Maybe I'll have some blooms in the next few days. And I hope by next month to see all my sunflowers in bloom. 

Happy GBBD!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday

{100-degree heat yesterday. This is what the plants looked like when we got home.}

{Heart shaped tomato (sort of)}

{Bee on a Black Krim blossom}

{Cucumber plants bursting through fence}

{six bush bean seedlings instead of the five I originally thought}

{Zucchini and yellow squash on the vine}

Monday, July 11, 2011

First Cucumber Harvest! and Kitten Update

Over the weekend we harvested our first cucumbers!
These cucumbers are in the small 10x2 plot in the ground. We also have some growing in containers but those haven't developed fruit yet.

We harvested a handful of onions from the bulbs we planted early in the spring. These were also in the ground. I'd say this ain't too shabby for our first time growing onions. They smell delicious!

We also harvested a few early girl and grape tomatoes, as well as some yellow squash and broccoli (not pictured because we ate it). I saved these containers from produce I bought from the farmers' market a few months ago. It's great for storing these small harvests.

This is one of the few pictures I have of all five foster kittens. They love sleeping on the bathtub like this. They're doing well--very playful, eating well, gaining weight, etc. Two of the boys are big enough to get neutered this week, and then it's on to the adoption room for them. I'll probably only have the rest of them for another week or two. I would love to take each one individually out onto the deck so they can be in the garden, hear noises, smell different things, etc., but the paranoid part of me is worried about compromising their health in some way. I attended a kitten care workshop over the weekend that, quite frankly, scared the crap out of me! That sounds a bit dramatic (these were strays, after all), but the instructors did present worst case scenarios in terms of diseases and parasites that can affect kittens in your care. I would feel so horrible if something bad happened to any small creature that is in my care, and heaven forbid anything should happen to my own little pet cat. I think they told one story too many of a kitten suffering from burn marks from being left on a hot concrete sidewalk, so no hot deck for them. The kittens are sweet little animals; I hope they find their way to loving and responsible families.

Do you have any pets? I'd love to hear about them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The 2011 Tomato List

July usually marks the point where we being harvesting tomatoes fairly regularly.  To date, we've harvested a handful, but there is still more green on the vines than red. Below I've compiled a list of the tomato varieties we're growing, and indicated whether we bought them as plants from a nursery or started them from seed. All are in containers:

Bush Early Girl - Everybody seems to be familiar with this variety.  We bought these as plants from a garden center. They're great for containers and ripen early in the season, which is great for an impatient tomato lover. We've harvested a handful of these already, and there are many more on the vine in various shades of pink/red.

Black Krim - This is a new tomato we're growing this summer, and we started it from seed. I posted pictures of a few weird looking Black Krims that have formed, but I do have quite a few normal looking ones too.  According to the seed packet, "the Heirloom Black Krim Tomato is one of the oldest varieties of Black Tomatoes.  It originated on the isle of Krim in Russia.  They are extremely dark in color and have a slightly salty taste. "

Tiny Tim and Oregon Spring - These are two new varieties in my garden. Both are grown from seeds which were a gift from my friend Emily. Emily has an amazing vegetable garden with more varieties of tomatoes and other vegetables than I could ever hope to grow. Tiny Tim is a determinate tomato, and therefore perfect for containers.  I don't seem to have a picture of the Oregon Spring, but it is indeterminate and is supposed to be an early season tomato. I haven't harvested any yet and I can't wait to try them.

Bonnie Grape - Grape tomatoes are probably my favorite kind of tomato. They're easy to throw into salads or other dishes without having to cut them up, or they can be eaten by themselves because they're so sweet and perfectly bite-sized. I've seen house guests pull them off the vine and pop them right into their mouth. I've even watched two 10-year-olds clean through these plants like a couple of locusts (just kidding, guys! But not really). We bought four plants and I've picked a handful of grapes already. I hope to be collecting many pints of grape tomatoes this year.  The vines usually grow wild so we have multiple stakes in the plant for support.

Better Boy - We've never grown these before. We bought them as plants, and this hybrid is supposed to produce a high-yielding, sweet-tasting, fungi/bacteria/parasite resistant tomato. That's a tall order! We'll see how they do.

Patio Princess - We are growing these tomatoes from seed. These small determine plants are perfect for containers. We grew them last year and they were good producers. The tomatoes weren't big enough to slice for burgers, for example, but they were juicy and good for chopping up into salsas.

The Rescue Tomato - The tomato we rescued from the weeds is doing really well. I still don't know what this will be when it grows up, but I know for sure it's not a grape tomato plant.

And as I mentioned in my last post, we also have green and purple tomatillos growing.  That's it for our tomato inventory.

What tomato varieties do you have in your garden?