Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hover Fly

I saw a hover fly laying eggs on my salad ball. Hover flies eat aphids and have these huge eyes so this pleased me greatly. I'm not sure what drew this fly to my ball but it was laying on a pansy that was infested with aphids. I understand hover flies, and other good guys like lacy flowers and on my ball I have some alyssum, an annual I have come to consider a must.Here's a shot of a chervil seedling I tucked in my ball. I'm sorta amazed that it's survived. Chervil flowers are a good guy magnet too, but this one's got a lot of growing to do 1st and I might eat it before then.

It really pays to know who the good guys are, especially when they are still larvae, and not so cute.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Just a random post here with eyecandy.

My posh saladbowl planter is filling in nicely. I rotate it slightly clockwise everyday to ensure even daylight for all sides.

I am very happy to see these tulips gradually bloom. I got them late last fall and they were marked down considerably. A few of the 40 bulbs were rotten but I planted the rest here in a single spot. A lot of the bulbs have more than one bloom. They are smaller but wow! I'm easily impressed. Another thing about this planting is that it is elevated about 2 and a half feet above the sidewalk next to it. Everyone walking by may look closely at these tulips.

When I looked out my window this morning on the 3rd floor, this is part of what I saw. I am showing what is currently the prettiest part of my yard. You'll recognize the tulips and the swan, but then there's the bonnie artichoke I saved from last year. It grew huge but did not bloom. This year it should bloom if I don't eat all the artichokes. There is above the bed a shepard's hook with a robin hanging out and a hummingbird feeder. I haven't seen any yet, but somebody claims to have seen one around here on April Fool's day. Maybe that was a joke. Below the feeder next to the tulips is a patch of fennel that braved the winter. That should be pretty nice eating soon.

Mizuna is a very nice green. I like to let it get bigger but I enjoy thinning it. The more feathery leaf is a fennel seedling. There's a bunch all over my front yard. I still haven't decided if I want to let any grow up.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Backyard

Gentle reader, you may have noticed that I give little airspace to my backyard. I find it a bit of an embarrassment. Well, I have decided what I will do with it this year. It is a gardening technique I used a couple years ago in some cases with great success. I am going to do some straw bale gardening.

This is quite useful for spaces that are not tame rich clean beds. These misfit spaces include the wild and weedy, the poor possibly toxic, and perhaps all you have is concrete, or maybe you're into being experimental which is much of my reasoning.

Anyway, I learned a bit when I tried this a couple years ago. My biggest success was a couple cherry tomatoes on my front concrete stoop. They needed a considerable amount of water but they were very productive on that hot alley way. I have pictures somewhere.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Salad Ball

1st I must give some credit to Organic Gardening for giving me this idea, though I put mine together a little bit differently. I haven't filled it out completely, but you get the idea.One problem with planters that have things coming out of the sides is that watering can be very tricky. It tends to seep inside and not get evenly distributed. I can't remember where I saw an idea similar to mine, but mine is unique.What you see here are 2 toilet paper rolls and a small piece of landscaping cloth. I use the rolls to make a temporary brace for this tube.
The tube is stood up in the center of the planter. I guess the ideal length is to a little bit past the center, though mine is a bit longer.

I put the top basket up there to make sure it's not too short or too long. Notice I have it a little short of the top. as I filled this in I moved it up a little.Once it is in place you need to fill it up. I used hydroton, I think pebble would be fine. The idea it to use some inorganic stuff that will let water flow through easily.
Then you plant the stuff in. It's easiest to plant it up, layering dirt on top. The coco liner I used for the bottom is aquasav which made this harder than plain coco, which you can just push stuff through, this required me to CUT into it, though in theory this will need less watering.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My canvas is not blank

I garden like I get dressed everyday. I'm no fashion plate, indeed, I have contemplated doing youtube type videos of things I discuss here but that means I have to do something with my hair! I guess I feel like my garden is half naked right now. I'm a little embarrassed to show it in its entirety just yet.This being its 2nd year, my garden is taking on a number of 'sink or swim' aspects. This budding onion is a leftover from last year. It might be a welsh onion, but I'm not sure. I noticed it budding and have decided to encourage that. Whenever it blooms I should have a better idea of what it actually is.Next my canvas shows what I decided to call 'beau disordre' a reference I recall to some Congolese Afro-pop I read about and encountered years ago. Um, I won't get into what made my brain stray that direction. The largest plant here is an artichoke, then there's a red cabbage. My strategy is to plant fairly low lying plants in front, with lots of little annual flowers at the border including allysum, pansies, lobelia, german chamomile, calendula at the edges. Much of this is selfsown from last year. I will fill in the middle later with more tender taller things like eggplant and tomatoes. Thus you see that I did not start this year with a blank canvas.On the newel post I do have a blank slate. Last year I had a rather anemic planting there. I hope to put something there spectacular but I am torn as to what that should be. There are some logistical problems to growing a globe like this. I should devote an entire post to this when I get around to it. At this moment I am think that perhaps some nastertiums would be nice here, the type that cascade. But alas! It's too early for them here! What to do?

You might notice that hanging from the left side of the sphere is a tiny hummingbird feeder. In the Pittsburgh area hummingbirds typically start showing up in mid April. I intend to make them feel welcome in my yard. More on that later.This final picture shows some of my palette. Lettuce, pansies, allysum, and broccoli. Broccoli is a definite no for the sphere. The rest I could manage.

Anybody out there have any opinions about my sphere? I am trying to decide mainly between edibility and ornamentation. One thing I am pretty sure of is that my whole yard would look better if I covered it all with a fresh thin layer of compost. I probably will do that soon.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Planning your garden

One thing that's nice about a vegetable garden is that in most cases, every spring you have a clean slate. You may rearrange your garden in new ways. Indeed it is often better that you do so. If you grow tomatoes and brassicas in the same spot year after year, it is highly likely that they will be afflicted with various diseases as pests settle in.

Last year was the 1st vegetable garden in front here and I had a lot of weeds and english ivy slowing me down. It started out being fairly structured but that didn't last. I don't seem to have any current full bed pictures this year. I guess there's a reason for that but these 2 '08 pictures were probably taken in late April. Maybe in a few weeks I'll have some idea of what I am doing.

I got trigger happy when I was uploading and lost track of an image. I guess I'll reload it. This one is my lovely 'stage left' garden bed. What looks pretty sparse here rapidly filled in. One thing that is different this year is that I have more stepping stones.

What you see here are 6 red cabbages, lots of lettuce, various onions, some pansies to pretty it up, and some tulips to pretty it up. When the tulips faded I ripped them out and planted tomatoes.On stage right I planted some strawberries in a nice diamond. They barely resemble this shape now but I think I'll let them be. I should have kept the runners in line but strawberries are so cute. This year I have taken the ivy back a bit more. Last year I spent a long time ripping it out of this bed. Sure, it's great groundcover but I like other things more and I just don't have much space. Again, I have put in more stepping stones.

I don't do rows but I try not to walk anywhere in my beds unnecessarily. It does not take long for them to become covered as I tend to overplant.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Catnip is the controlled substance of the herbal world. When planting it certain precautions are necessary.
This cage, which is actually an inverted planter minus the liner secured with metal stakes
It became pretty apparent to me that this cage was a help, but not adequate.
This plastic screen might do the trick.
I'm sorry that I did not document Abe clawing at this fruitlessly, but he did. Here he is walking away. He'll get his fair share of catnip later on.

I didn't plant this just for the cats. I have found that catnip repels japanese beetles. Really, they will flee when they smell it. Japanese beetles not only love to eat roses, but raspberries. I just planted a heritage red raspberry which was excuse enough for me to spoil my cats.

Catnip also is supposed to repel fleas but I have not seen this. Catnip tea is supposed to be good for lactating women as well. I do not have as 1st hand experience with this either.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Each week I will post images of stuff as they grow. Red Mustard is just lovely. You may see its progress, including last year's predecessor by clicking on the red mustard link below.

This salad bowl planter will also be highly documented. I want it to be just covered with growth so that you cannot even see the container

One of my favorite permanently potted edible plants is this bay laurel. It is in its 2nd year and since I have put it outside a few weeks ago these leaf buds are opening. Though I wintered it indoors, it is hardy to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit so light frost is OK. In a year maybe I'll use some of its leaves. It grew slower than expected last year.

I hope I am not violating any terms of my agreement by acknowledging that I have decided to use adsense. Anyway these are sponsored links, not favorite sites but hopefully some inadvertently will be selling things that I would personally endorse. They are chosen, not by me, to correspond with the content of my posts. They seem to be pretty low-key so I don't think they'll hinder the 'Gabrielle's Landscaping' experience.

Anyway, outside of this post I will not really mention them. If I endorse something in a post, or anywhere in this blog it is because I personally like it. From what I see it's pretty obvious which is an ad, usually there is an "Ads by Google" somewhere, and what isn't, like my 'supplies' box. That's my uncompensated opinion, not an ad.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

How much compost do I need?

Maybe this should be in the sidebar but it is an important consideration. I keep putting off writing about this because it's kinda a basic consideration and for my garden I didn't exactly figure it all out because I developed my garden gradually out of a weedy mess.

The 1st thing you know, if you do things like me is the unit of compost is a cubic yard. To most easily translate that to your garden you need to figure how many square yards of garden needs compost. I like to put 2 or 3 inches of compost on each bed, especially if it's a new bed. Sometimes it's a good idea to cultivate a bed a shovel blade or 2 deep and to amend the soil with some compost. I believe that in most cases ideal soil is 25% organic material.

If you have a rectangular garden this is easy, if not you might need to measure each bed remember of course that 9 square feet is equal to one square yard. I like to have extra compost around for topping off beds, making some potting soil, or just to mix in as I plant something, or maybe it just makes me feel safe.

Potting soil is easy mixed yourself. The general formula is compost, peat moss, vermiculite, perlite and some sort of fertilizer. The idea balance depends on what you're growing but I guess I do about 1 part each except for fertilizer. Even though I have a bit of land I still like to grow some things in containers. I also use potting soil to start seedlings and to root cuttings or just to split things up, maybe to share something with a friend.

One thing to remember is that compost breaks down. In most areas it breaks down at the rate of about an inch a year. If your climate is warmer, and perhaps moister, all things living are more active. So in most places you probably do not need to top your garden with compost every year but...

I suppose I primarily subscribe to the author of The Vegetable Gardener's Bible, Ed Smith's W-O-R-D philosophy of gardening. He recommends WIDE beds, rather than skinny rows. The rule of thumb is just wide enough for easy access, so that's 3 to 4 feet wide. ORGANIC because well, it's just a better method. He also recommends RAISED beds, and that's the point I wanted to get to. Before I do that, just for completion sake, I must say he likes DEEP beds. I won't go into each point here, just read the book or maybe I'll paraphrase him more, though it is all echos of what others have said but he said it well.

OK, I was trying not to paraphrase anyone but that's it. I greatly enjoyed his book. The difference for me is that putting it ALL together takes a lot of W-O-R-K. A conflict I have in this blog is deciding what audience I want to speak to. I am perfectly willing to W-O-R-K for anyone willing to pay me but I also wish to encourage and H-E-L-P anyone less wealthy to realize their own garden. Or maybe you have money but aren't certain exactly what direction you want to go. At any rate I am here to help all of the above.

My personal philosophy towards gardening is a sort of evolution. Nothing is constant. So, a bed needs an average of an inch of compost topping it a year but my garden is evolving into a RAISED bed so I think I'll end up topping my beds with 1-3 inches a year until I either need to build something to contain them or I just let them spill over. I guess I am building little hills, not a flat topped bed. Now my memory banks recall something I read about rounded topped garden beds in Japan(?) perhaps in a Joy Larkcom book, but I digress.

In short 12-18 square yards is 108-162 square feet and may be covered adequately by 1 cubic yard of compost. That's a rectangle that measures 9 X 12 feet to 12 X 14 feet, though I fudged the larger rectangle. Really, the backhoe just dumps a big bucket into the back of my truck which probably is a bit bigger than a cubic yard. I haven't measured but above is a photo of my half-unloaded truck.

Any questions? Please, pick my brain!