Monday, June 25, 2012

Gardening Fails and Gardening Hails

I'm coming to you live from the middle of the Midwest drought.  Seriously, my poor plants are thirsty.  Watering them once a day is starting to become a bit of a chore.  As I was watering my garden, I realized a few things.  I have had some major accomplishments this year in gardening.  But with every proud moment comes the realization that some of your hard work just isn't paying off.  So without further adieu..... I bring to you a new series--- Gardening Fails and Gardening Hails.

Gardening Fail -  This planter......
 This planter looked like this a week ago......
Isn't it such a sad sight?  Stinkin' squirrels will be the death of me at this house!

The next few Gardening Fails have no pictures attached because it's just too sad.  I have managed to kill one of my hydrangea bushes.  Not sure if it's a watering situation or what, but boo nonetheless.  Also, with a few exceptions, I'm having the worst luck with my vines this year.  Last year I had more morning glory than I knew what to do with.  This year, I have the tiniest little vine that refuses to grow. 

Now on to the "glass is half full" segment of this blog.

Gardening Hail -- Successful use of Sevin!

My perilla plants appear to be saved, thanks to a healthy dose of chemicals.  I'm not ashamed to admit it.
Gardening Hail -- growing annual vines from seed.....

I started this Scarlett Runner Bean Vine way back in March, and I couldn't be happier.  It has grown so fast and provided some much needed and height and greenery against the fence.  When it's blooming, it has the sweetest little red flowers, and near the end of the growing season it will produce edible beans.

And the last Gardening Hail- Eggplant!

I spotted this little guy while I was weeding my raised bed and almost screamed.  Complete pride, like I'm a momma bear or something.  Grow little eggplant, grow.

These last couple pictures have nothing to do with Gardening Fails or Hails, but I just had to include them.  My husband and I babysat (overnight) my niece and nephew and survived!  Sorry to admit to their mother, but we did a lot of this:
......and a lot of this......

Oh well.  At least both kids were fed and clothed---- well, for the most part  ;)  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Raised Bed Progress

I would really like to be one of those bloggers that comes up with catchy titles for her blogs, but alas, I cannot.  So you are stuck with "Raised Bed Progress," which is exactly what this post is about.  In one of my first blogs I talked about the utter failure that my raised bed was last year.  I [hopefully] remedied that this year with some TLC spent on the dirt.

Just as a reminder: Here's what the raised bed looked like after everything was planted.

And here it is 3 weeks later!

The eggplants have blossoms...

And so do the peppers.....

I even have a few green tomatoes on my "Fourth of July" tomatoes.

It's obviously too early to claim victory, but so far I'm thinking the soil and fertilizer tricks are doing their job!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Before and After

I was looking through some old pictures in my iPhoto and came across some pictures of our yard before  I started gardening.  Phew, I've come a long way.   I love the following quote: "Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it."  How true!  I started with a very blank canvas and little experience, but I always dreamed of what my garden could be with a lot a sweat equity.  (and cash....gardening ain't cheap, folks)

Here's a before shot of the area near our house.

Like I said, blank slate.

Here it is during our first summer where I used the sunny spot for our tomatoes and basil:

That's my little niece, Avery.  And those are the cherry tomatoes that literally grew 10 feet high and were a pain in my a**.
The following summer I knew I wanted to move the veggies away from the house to a raised bed in the back, and that I wanted to take advantage of the full sun location of the bed-- one of the only areas of my yard that gets full sun.   The new full sun bed was a success, but because I was studying for the Bar exam, I neglected to take any pictures as documented evidence.  Dang.  You'll just have to trust was an improvement.

And now, here it is this summer:

This bed still has a LOT of filling in to do.  Both trellises will be covered with morning glory and ruby hyacinth vine.  The sweet potato vine (green and purple) will fill in the left side, the salvia in the middle is unfortunately in its in between blooming period and the coleus in the middle will grow large and in charge.  I feel like I'm defending my child or something here.  I promise, people, it will look good!
(the salvia during its better days)

Here is the side bed, which was full of weeds when we moved in.

Don't be fooled by those bush like things in the middle.  They were so ugly, had no flowers, and had to go.
So I cleaned up the entire bed.

And Summer 2012 it looks like this:

The bed on the side of the house:

And the very back of the yard--pre raised bed:

We got rid of the rotted railroad ties and edged with some brick that was left over by the previous owners.  We also added the pavers to make a little pathway.
I have several other areas I'd like to post on here, but haven't gotten any good after pics yet.  So it'll have to wait.  I love seeing these afters.  Makes me thankful for all the hard work I've put into the yard.

And I am excited by the reminder that "A garden is never so good as it will be next year."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Confessions and Progress

I have a confession to make.  After seeing my poor perilla, coleus, and sweet potato vine be demolished by demon bugs, I decided it was time to break out the big guns.

My poor photography skills and lighting don't demonstrate just how torn up these leaves are.  I had vowed that I would stay away from chemicals this summer, but the sight of those bug holes and my leaves in tatters was driving me insane.  I scoured the internet for organic insecticides and actually tried one (it consisted of water, dish soap, onion, garlic, cayenne pepper, and oil).  It failed miserably; in fact, I think the bugs actually liked it.  So in the end, I resorted to this:
I know, I've shamed myself.  However, let the record reflect, that I have not used any chemicals on my veggie garden.  Luckily the bugs have stayed away, and I've used epsom salt to hopefully keep the blight away rather than having to resort to fungicide.

Ok. Now on to the good news.  I finally mulched my flower beds.  Before mulching I had quite a bit of work and edging to do.  I learned how to edge from my Dad.  It's not rocket science, but the angle makes all the difference and keeps your mulch in the bed instead of in the grass.  I did my edging the old-fashioned way---shovel and sweat.

And after:
In this bed I'm growing stella de oro, yarrow, salvia, morning glory, and new guinea impatiens.  On the triangle trellis near in the forefront of this picture I'm growing black eyed susan vine.  Hopefully they will fill in throughout the summer.

The aching hamstrings and sore back were proof that I did in fact finish my mulch beds this weekend!  My veggies garden is also doing really well.  I'll post some picture of it later this week.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tomato Trellis

Last year I experimented with my raised bed tomatoes.  I saw the idea on a gardening blog to use strings to trellis your tomatoes as opposed to the oh so lovely tomato cages.  Now, before you go and think that I'm too good for tomato cages, let me explain my reasoning.  The first year I used tomato cages, my tomatoes got so high and heavy that I ended up having to stake the cage itself and then string the tomato branches to the stake so they wouldn't topple over.  Time consuming and not effective.  Also, with the raised bed, space is at a minimum, and I knew I couldn't fit all the cages.  So the plot was hatched to use the trellis/string system.  And fortunately, it's easy on the eyes as well.  The picture below is me from last year in front of our new system.

You can tell by the gleeful smile on my face that I have no idea what lies ahead for me and my beloved tomatoes.  First, I ignorantly planted WAY too many tomatoes in that small space.  They seem so tiny when they are seedlings, but if I had followed directions, I would have adhered to the 24-36 inches recommendation.  When my Dad stopped by to see my new trellis, he kindly pointed out that there was no way I would get good tomatoes when them growing that close together.   He suggested I pull a few plants out then and there, but being the all-knowing daughter that I am, I refused.  Ugh, he was right.   Second, my dirt was awful.  You can tell from the picture that I barely filled the bed up half way, and even then a good majority of it was dead leaves that I figured would compost and help.  Wrong again.

With the past in the past, I was determined to do better this year.  Here's how the trellising (sp?) looks this year.
Much better. I really do love the system.  As the plant grow, every week or so you simply guide the plant up the string.  The important thing to remember is when tying the string to the base of your plant, be sure you leave enough room for the stem to grow (width-wise).
It's a little hard to tell from this picture, but I tied the string so it's double/triple the width of the plant as is.  
This weekend I have a lot more work to do in the yard, so hopefully I'll have some pictures of the rest of my yard to share to soon.