Monday, June 28, 2010

My Hosta's they are turning brown!

Loosing a large tent in the back yard last year really hurt. The bed that is up close to the house has lost a very prominence piece of shading and all hell is breaking loose now. Weeds are shooting through the stones, some of the ferns are simply falling over exhausted and my poor poor Hosta is starting to turn brown!

Fortunately I think it has more to do with my watering them than anything else. After reading through some other sites on line I came across this page;

Since the browning appears to be random and spotty, I believe they are simply to moist. I put a large cement bird bath into the middle of the bed and I think filling it up with water is causing my Hosta's to stay damp.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

When to pull a cucumber plant.

If this is your first year planting cucumbers you may have lots of questions about their care. While they can be regarded as fairly standard when it comes to seeding and growing, knowing when it is time to pull a vine is very important. Cucumbers are slightly different than your run of the mill veggies, once a single cucumber has "went to seed" (Turned yellow/orange, puffs up) the entire vine is done producing.

While planting my row of cucumber hills I must have accidentally dropped a seed into the pathway. After finding the sprout  I decided to leave it and see what happens. Everything was going quite well with it, I had trained it down the side of the pathway and it had gotten quite long. Unfortunately the very first cucumber it produced was yellow and very disfigured looking.

Fortunately the other 5 plants are doing quite fine and have been producing quality cucumbers for a while now.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Harvesting Tomatoes!

The last few days I have been able to finally start harvesting some tomatoes, yay! Only a hand full so far, but plenty for tomato sandwiches ;) My wife (not growing up on a farm like me) was surprised when I brought in slightly hard tomatoes and proclaimed them ready. She was used to the kind you purchase from a store, where they have had time to age in packaging and transport.

The basic rule of thumb I have for picking tomatoes comes from my grandfather and goes some thing like this;

  • Note when a green tomato starts to turn
  • Wait at least 3 days 
  • Give the tomato a very gentle tug/twist
If it pops right off the vine, its ready to go. Otherwise give it one more day, and pick it no matter what. If it still looks like it needs a little bit of ripening sit it in a sunny spot inside for another day or so and let it finish ripening. Pulling them a little early relives the plant from having to "feed" it, and as a bonus most varieties get just a little bit sweeter while ripening off the vine. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My pond is a never ending task

I have one of those preformed plastic ponds, complete with preformed plastic waterfall,  available at your local super store. Just finished building the waterfall part of it a nice enclosure, with enough room to plant some flowers around. Even got around to putting a couple different aquatic plants into the water. To date I have 4 lily pads above water, and a fifth one on the way!

One of the things I am very proud of is reusing a cheap stand alone fountain as the sprayer. It creates a nice looking effect to see the water gently gushing up and then falling down a two tiered fountain into the waterfall feature. However this morning I noticed that the water had stopped flowing, it appears that the tubing for the pump and the copper piping on the fountain no longer wish to hold hands and play nice.

Oh well, guess I need to make another trip to my local home and garden store for more supplies :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Broccoli, you are my new arch nemesis

One of my vegetable crops this year was Broccoli. Started from seed I had high hopes for a summer filled with cheese and Broccoli side dishes, fresh cut Broccoli and vegetable dip and even some Broccoli and beef like you would find in an Asian restuarant. Being one of the more expensive vegtables at the market I was even counting on it to help lessen the food bill. But alas it was just not meant to be.

I am not sure where it went wrong, but I have had to pull all the Broccoli plants. Between something unseen eating the leaves and my own in-experience growing them not a single head of broccoli formed. A few different sources online and a couple good friends recommened I sprinkle 7-dust on them, to no end. As I pulled them last night some of them came up without the roots, having been "eaten" at the bast of the main stem there was virtually nothing holding them plant down.

But where one crop ends another begins. Within the next day I plan to have two different vegetable plants put in. A Honey Dew melon that my wife and I picked up from Walmart last night on a whim, and a Pumpkin plant my daughter and I have been growing from seed.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Attention all units, we have a plant down!

The last week has seen some rather strong winds blowing through the back yard, and unfortunately not all of the plants were ready to withstand it. One of the bell pepper plants could not stand against the mighty wind.

Seems the wind was strong enough to more or less snap the poor thing right at the base. I had hoped that it would recover but it looks like that will not be happening. Guess I will need to replace this guy with another one tomorrow.

And some rather happy news, some last minute pole beans have been sighted breaking ground. My daughter got a couple small packs of the beans when she attended the Easter Day event at the White House earlier this year.

While I was out back I snapped off a few random pictures and ended up with one that does very nicely as a wallpaper. Which got me thinking about adding an entire wallpaper section in the future. For now though, here is the original which might kick start something else shortly :P

It works rather well with a multiple monitor setup as well since the sides seem to blend a bit. Taken by setting my digi to closeup mode and just placing the camera near the ground pointed up slightly.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day Project - DIY Tipsy Planter

Today was such an overcast day in North Carolina I decided to do a quick day project and call it a wrap. After looking around at the yard and thinking about what it needed I came to the conclusion it really could use some more color. The biggest problem with that though is 95% of my yard is considered Full Sun and some of the best color producing plants are of course, partial sun.

So I put on my thinkers cap and came up with a crazy idea! A Tipsy Planter! Basically these are awesome looking planters that can bring a ton of conversation to any back yard event. Plus I could set it up in the very narrow strip of shade which would let me use some of the, in my opinion, better looking flowers.

So, a quick trip to Lowes and Walmart with my daughter and I had gathered everything I needed to build a great looking Tipsy Planter. Here is a picture of the final product;

I had planned on purchasing more "hanging" type plants that would flow over the sides and provide a little bit more texture to the planter. However my daughter was firm in her desire for Vinca's, Petunia's and English Daises, so of course those are the ones that came home with us.

As for the other items that you will need.

  • Garden Stake - I purchased a 6' and drove it roughly 2 - 2 1/2 feet into the ground. Be sure the one you get will fit through the drainage holes in your pots.
  • Planting Soil - I went with a pricey Miracle Gro variety but feel free to use your preferred brand.
  • 6" Terracotta Pots - I got five of them, 3 standard and 2 chocolate colored.
  • One large Base Pot - I had an old one laying around, be sure the one you decide on is large enough to accommodate the terracotta pot.
One thing I lucked out on was my base pot had offset drainage holes. This allowed me to set the first pot back a bit and gave me just enough room to plant an English Daisy in the base. If your base pot has a centered hole then you may be better off with some type of ivy or another vine.

Once you have the base pot set how you like it, start driving the garden stake down using a hammer. When I had about 1 foot driven down I stopped and filled the base with dirt and placed the first pot in place to check every thing out.

Ensuring that everything was proceeding according to my vague plans I went ahead and drove the stake down some more then placed the other pots alternating them one way then the other.

Before placing the flowers into the pots I finished driving the stake down so that it was roughly 3" from the top of the uppermost pot. The next step was simply filling in the pots with flowers and giving everything a drink of water.

The only thing I may decide to change down the line is the garden stake. It happens to be a fairly windy day and I can see the pots sway slightly in the wind. As we get closer to hurricane season I may pull the planter apart and replace the garden stake with a length of re-bar*.

*Re-bar is used for masonry work, to help hold slabs of concrete together. You can usually find a 10' length at Lowes for around $5. Whereas the stake has a steel plate around the outside, the re-bar is solid steel.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sunday afternoon, a time for gardening and protection.

Sunday was a fairly productive day for me backyard wise. Finally finished the second vegetable garden, planting onions and carrots. Wish I had the forethought to plant radishes along the carrot line, maybe next year I will remember. Radishes come up early and tend to break way for the late maturing carrots. (It also helps you identify exactly where that row is as the radish plants sprout much faster than the carrots)

Got up the gumption to rework the back "problem" bed. Using a pre-mixed bag of "Wild Hummingbird Flowers" I hope to have a small amount of color from the two corners later on in the year. All the flowers (hopefully) are perinial so next year I will be able to do something a little more permanent.

After lifting up the tarp and having a look at one month without sun light I realized that the brier was loving the added heat and not caring about no light... Pulled what I could, hoed the bed as deep as possible then just covered it with the mix.

Finished pulling the clover from the decks flower bed, was able to get 2 large clumps and one smaller clump moved over to the pond area. The pond is going to look much better once the individual clumps recover a little more. They are already sprouting up small pink flowers again, though the clover stalks are still laying on the ground.

To replace the clover in the deck's bed I pulled some mysterious purple leafy plant out of my extremely small front bed. The front bed unfortunately does not receive a lot of attention. It is small and well, I spend the majority of time in my back yard so the front has to go weeks at a time without being touched. A sprinkling of the mix I used in the back will hopefully give some color later on in the year.

On the non-plant side of things I actually got some other to-do's done. Cleaning the grill was one of my most dreaded things for this season. It had collected a large amount of... well I do not know the technical term for "food that falls off" so lets just call it "Gunk". I did notice some small amount of rust starting on my grating though, will need to pickup a can of high temp spray paint to fix it before it spreads to the top side.

Out of all my activities this last Sunday by far one stands out above the rest. While cleaning out some dead leaves between my secondary garden bed and the chain link fence a small snake startled me. Brownish / Blackish, and only about 6-7 inches long I took it for a baby snake, however not growing up in North Carolina I had no idea what kind of snake it was. I understand there are a couple poisonous varieties that flourish around these parts, so my first reaction was "protection".

I yelled to my 4 year old to get up on the deck and stay there while I, shovel in hand, went outside the fence to deal with our menace. At the time everything happened at once and my desire to protect my child took precedence over any rationale thought. A few minutes, and one 6-7 inch hole later the incident was over.

However I was left with a very confused feeling. 6 or 7 years ago, before I was married, before I became a father. I would have berated someone up one side and down another for wanting to dispose of the snake. "Why hurt it? It kills mice, and helps keep the rodent / insect population under control!" or "It did nothing to you, leave it be!" would have been my first responses. Without fear that I might end up getting bit by that same snake somewhere down the road.

So here I am facing exactly what I fought against, becoming one of those "vile" people who kill innocent animals. I think though that I have a better understanding because of this, I was not maliciously attacking the snake for fun or for sport. I was protecting something. Maybe I am finally understanding what it means to be a father, or maybe I am just getting older and more cautious with age.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The adventure continues!

Been a bit longer than I wanted since I made an update here, never considered starting a blog would be adding another item on the never ending to-do list. Lot has changed since my first post a couple weeks ago. Garden is basically setup and going, of course bi-weekly watering and daily weeding but that's the fun part! This year the main bed contains;

  • 2 Types of Tomatoes , Celebrity and some type of "super" tomato that is supposed to fruit faster.
  • Green Bell Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • 1 Jalapeno Plant
  • 1 Cantalope plant - I have a small garden and those plants take up tons of room
  • 1 Ichiban - Japanese Eggplant I am such an impulsive shopper

Made some significant changes with the pond area this year, incorporating some clover type plant (don't know the proper name) that produces small pink flowers over top a bed of 3 and 4 leaf clovers. This stuff is basically indestructible though, no matter how you cut into it, it will continue growing happily. My hope is that the massive clover cover will be enough to get the weeds under control while providing a nice touch of greenery to the pond area. A few Iris's were mixed in for splashes of color.

At the request of my family I am also setting up a secondary garden patch for carrots and onions. It is not finished yet but hopefully tomorrow will be another bright and sunny day so I can get the fresh top soil tilled in and the seeds planted.

Along with getting the front flower bed weeded and seeded for the season and moving a couple plants to the back yard that is about all for now. I do have some pictures taken but my printer is having an issue, and it has the memory card reader! Hopefully I will have that straightened out soon and will be able to put up some pictures though.

Monday, March 29, 2010

March ends and my adventure begins.

Well nearing the end of March, and finally getting some warmer sunny days down here in North Carolina I got a chance to get out back and start on my adventure for the year. While most things went well there was one causality the winter chill claimed, and unfortunately for me it could wind up being the worst thing ever. More on that later though, for now lets take a look at what I have to work with.

Here is how my yard is starting off the summer. Please be kind, and remember I had a lot on my plate at the start of this past winter and was not able to get out back and properly prepare for the completely unexpected snowy weather we had.

(That's my little one Sophia, she is daddy's helper this year!)

As you can see a lack of weeding leading up to the winter months has left me a very weedy yard to contend with. One area in particular is has been giving me a head ache for the last two years and this time I got serious. An as yet unidentified brier has some how gotten into my back hedge row and has taken root to such an extent that hoeing it over once a week did not get it out. So this year I have taken the fight to the final level. As you can see in the following picture, my only recourse for this year is to cover the area over with a tarp and basically deprive the bed of sunlight for the year.

It is not like I did not try "normal" methods of weed removal. I got out what I could, soaked the area with "The Worlds Best Weed Killer" every day for a week. Then realized Wile E Coyote must have switch my weed killer with Miracle-grow because the brier resurfaced in a few different places. Next was of course, bleach mixed with water coupled with hoeing up the entire part of the bed. The brier persisted. So this year I hope to put a stop to it with my extreme measures.

Something I tried for the first time last year was a small vegetable garden. While I had mixed results with the actual vegetables, my daughter Sophia and I had the best time just working in the garden and learning about nature. My wife, bless her, is not the most outdoorsy of types so it falls on my shoulders to introduce our child (soon to be children!) to nature, and all the creepy crawlies that are in it.

This year I am taking a different approach to the garden, and most notably am getting it started at the proper time of year. Last year by the time I was pulling produce off the vine I was also getting ready for hurricane season. And wouldn't you know it, my back yard flooded and *poof* went the garden. While I have no immediate plans for flood proofing my garden my hope is getting it tilled and planted earlier will give me more time for harvesting before the rains come again.

I was thankfully able to hire some help, whom worked for the small price of; "Ice Cream at Dairy Queen". Well worth the price in my opinion.

(Nothing finer than a freshly tilled patch of dirt in my opinion)

Other than getting things picked up, a good first mowing to get a grip on the weed and of course tilling up the garden. My only other major accomplishment was getting started on clearing out the pond area. No photos of that yet since it is more or less in the same shape as when I started, but there is a significant dent in it.

As elluded to earlier though, I must make mention of the winter casuality and why it of all things will probably be the one thing I get reminded of most. Our precious hammock, did not make it through the winter.

"Well hun it said, "Weather resistant" on the packaging"!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Back Yard Adventures

One of my favorite summer time hobbies is puttering around in my back yard. While it is not a very large yard at all, I try to make the most of the space I do have by incorporating a variety of typical lawn and garden things. With a, albiet small, shrub wall in the back and a great little area on the deck by the middle of the summer there is usually something for everyone who comes over to talk about.

One of the things most of my friends comment on is my pond. The year before last I decided to move a preformed pond into the back yard and while I was able to learn a lot of things during the time I never got it to look quite right. Hopefully this year I will be able to clean out the area properly and *crosses fingers* keep it weed free from here on out.

Unfortunately for me, the end of last summer was a very time consuming period and my hobby area suffered as a result. I did think ahead though and have some pictures I will be adding in the next day or so of how my yard is starting out. My hope is to give weekly or time permitting bi-weekly updates on both how my yard is doing and any adventures I may have while working in it.

Of course I should mention the other big factor in getting my back yard under control. My wife is currently pregnant with a due date in June, so not only will she be home much more this summer but there will be another little one who can enjoy the favorite summer time gathering place.