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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ugly is as ugly does...

Summertime is the ugly time to garden in zone 9. Gone is the pretty that had emerged about a month ago. Instead leaves are beginning to yellow and distorted and annuals are starting to dry up and die.
I have been doing an endless amount of tomato pruning. The leaves are tattered and hole ridden from their battle with aphids and caterpillars, but gratefully with a few applications of BT, it seems so far that we have won - the tomatoes and I. As a reward, my heirlooms that had been doing nothing but dropping blossoms in a sign of disgust have begun to fruit blossom after blossom as to say thanks for the help.
To my dismay though, my war on pests is not over. I had discovered entire limbs of one of my tomatoes missing and wouldn’t you know it. The infamous tomato hornworm. There is a reason why this little creature has earned a reputation of being quite a character. He is ornery and doesn’t like to be messed with. And to make matters worse he’s not easy to kill. I thought that I would take care of him as I had the caterpillars by smashing him. But he is thick and filled with goo so I didn’t want to ruin my shoes or squirt it all over the place. So I thought I’ll just pierce him. Well every time you go to poke him he rears his head up. It’s quite scary. I finally got up enough nerve to just do it and thought - huh - take that. Then I came back a while later only to find him trying to crawl away. My final attempt was to put him in a plastic bag, tie it up and throw it in the garbage. Either way, at least he will be removed from the property tomorrow along with the garbage.
Also, with my take no prisoners approach to my pruning, I can finally walk again in the side garden.
The cucumbers are also pretty ugly right now. The box elder bugs have decided that they enjoy sucking the life out of the older leaves. So far it has not been detrimental to the production of fruit. And as long as I have cucumbers coming out of my ears, the box elder bugs can stay.
In my last entry I had been belly aching over whether or not to let the artichokes bloom, and I’m glad I did. One plant has made all of the ugly worth while. Keep in mind, I wouldn’t exactly call it pretty, but it is pretty amazing!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hot Hot Hot!

I was checking my dashboard to see how many views I’ve had (WOW 60) and realized I hadn’t updated in a while.
Summer is in full swing here and I’m having to water many things - especially those in pots - twice a day. That said my cut worm problem has finally begun too diminish (thank god) and my squash plants have survived a bout of powdery mildew. The biggest problem I’m having now is blossom drop due to the intense heat. The one tomato that seems to be thriving regardless of the current environment is the lemon. Everyday I walk out and there’s another 10 or 20 blossoms that have turned to fruit.
In addition my Black Krims have begun to change color as have my sun gold cherries.
The artichokes are going crazy. The two have now turned to 5. I even decided to harvest one even though I had read that for the first year you should let them flower in order to strengthen the overall plant since it’s perennial and will continue to produce for years to come.
Probably one of the biggest pleasures I get from gardening is watching the overall landscape change as the seasons change and things grow and die. This season may be one of my favorites. I decided to give up trying to weed out the bottom portion of the driveway garden. Instead I had sprinkled a tube of wildflower seeds (courtesy of my mother in-law) amongst the weeds and wouldn’t you know it, they are really taking over. My theory was that they would be equally as invasive and eventually push out all of the weeds and so far it seems to be working.
I’ve also enjoyed watching the corn grow as it’s fluffy pollen laden tendrils have emerged. They will be a great benefit in providing some much needed afternoon shade for parts of the driveway garden.

Other notable garden events:
The okra is slow growing. I may try starting some indoors in case the ones I direct seeded don’t make it.
The tomatillos have grown into two very large bushes and have dozens of fruit.
The cow peas and scarlett runner beans are just now starting to take off. It’s supposed to rain a bit over the next few days so I’m debating wether or not to tie them up.
Lastly, it is all about cucumbers right now. I have harvest 3 so far and this morning counted another 10 that have pollinated and are getting long and fat. Anyone have any good ideas for cucumbers?

Monday, May 3, 2010

A funny story...

So one day late last may I was on my way home from work and decided what the heck, and stopped at the very shabby looking Jones-Hall nursery on Beach Blvd. I’m always curious to see what type of plants people carry. It was there that I came across the Sweet Crimson Watermelon and was first inspired to develop the driveway garden. I brought them home, stuck them in the ground, watered them and waited.
It was slow going at first, much like the little engine that could, until finally one day they picked up steam and took off. Vines everywhere. There was still pollinating to deal with. That seems to be my biggest challenge. So as usual every time a little tiny melon would appear I would grab my little eyeshadow brush and go to town.
A few would swell and then I’d take a peak and find that a worm had gotten them, or they would get a few inches big and then rot and fall off.
One weekend we went away for a few days. When I came home I started digging around in the vines to see what was happening and low and behold, two perfect watermelons. They were each about 6 inches long and 4 inches around. I immediately ran and found some bricks to prop them up to keep them out of the mud and dirt. I checked them daily and over the next few months watched them grow bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger.
One afternoon I was just pulling up to the driveway and my stomach sank. What I failed to mention earlier is that one of my beloved melons had taken up residence right next to the road, and on that day someone had run right over it. Smashed it to smithereens, it’s crimson red innards mashed into the dirt. I was sick. Couldn’t speak. Hadn’t been that emotionally deflated since my grandmother passed away. It was truly as if someone had run over one of my pups.
Ok, so not really a funny story at the time. But I did learn a lot about the soil in my drive and continued to find inspiration in what was once an uncontrollable weed patch and have gone on to grow some really amazing stuff there.
This afternoon when I was admiring my garden from the road. I looked down thinking I had seen some new weed out of the corner of my eye, and what to do you know? That smashed up watermelons seeds starting to grow!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Welcome To The Jungle.....

An Urban backyard in an established neighborhood, where trees are old and tall will certainly have it’s fair share of wildlife no matter how densely populated it may be. There are squirrels, birds, mice, bugs of all sorts, neighborhood cats and even the occasional raccoon. Add a garden into the mix and indeed you up the ante.
So normally I weed then water, but the other day I had come home to some desperate looking veggies and immediately ran for the hose. I started with the squash and tomatoes out front and then onto the artichokes. EEEEEK. As I began to spray, out slithered what I know to be a rather harmless garter snake. He may have been as surprised as I was. I had just enough time to run and grab my camera. He hid in the crepe myrtle for a while and then made his way back under the artichokes. Must have been something good under there.
I finished watering the front and moved on to the back. And low and behold as I begin to water the potatoes this slimy skink came slithering out and quickly made it’s way under the deck. He was a biggie too. I have since run into a few of his buddies and cousins.
So, lesson learned. Water first. Weed Second.

The garden is coming along well and is actually beginning to resemble a bit of an Urban Jungle.
I have tomatoes of all sorts. The Green Zebra, Black Krim, Green Sausage, Red Fig, Golden Nugget and Yellow Lemon (yes they actually look like lemons) have all set fruit.
I did end up pulling up my Zucchini in an effort to try and curtail the spread of powdery mildew to my other plants. And, with the help of some neem, it seems like I may have things under control.
The lemon squash (I was obsessed with things that looked like lemons when ordering seeds) are coming in nicely, and all of my other squash plants are growing well and producing lots of male flowers just as they should.
The cucumbers are taking over. Several of the slicers have also pollinated and are starting to swell. The lemons (yes, I know) are a little harder to determine which I’m sure means they haven’t pollinated yet, but soon I’m certain.
Potatoes are harvested. Next year they will all be in grow bags or pots. In the ground the potatoes seem to sprawl away from the plant, so there is no telling how many spuds I may have missed, and they took up a fairly large amount of space for a relatively small yield.

Sowings this week include cowpeas where the potatoes were, scarlett runner beans where the zucchini were and okra where my pea fence once stood.
In honor of International Sunflower Guerilla Gardening Day I even planted a row of dwarf sunflowers in the front of my driveway garden.

And saving the best for last. Early last fall I started two artichoke plants in the driveway garden. I’ve watered and watched, watered and watched. Finally. Artichokes! In fact not one, not two, but three!

And finally a little help from mother nature. We got a really good soaking with some thunder storms last night. And coupled with a full moon this past week my garden is in full swing!