Sunday, May 31, 2009

I need to document my backyard

This morning I took 80some pictures. We had a good week of rain and warmth and it shows. I have fallen into choosing about 8 pictures a day to post and discuss. Today the choosing was pretty tough.

Here is a slice of the saladbowl, which probably should be harvested soon. The lettuce is starting to get bitter. I will replace it with something more suitable for summer weather. The pansies will probably die out as they get too hot, the chervil is bolting so something should replace those 2 as well.

Also shown is red giant mustard which I will probably all but eliminate. I'll leave one or two to go to seed.

In the background are the birdseed sunflowers which please me more and more each day. They have buds now. I imagine they won't get much taller than they are now but I could be wrong.

This tomato is a clear indicator that I do not grow my veggies for maximum productivity. A few years ago I grew a cherry tomato on a stoop that faced an alleyway that I encouraged passers-by to sample. I guess I like to share. As long as they don't end up throw tomatoes around. This will takes some engineering of this habitat.
I could call this photo 'gratuitous cat picture.' Sally tolerates the Cheddarhead, especially since he doesn't really take any guff. She used to run at him full speed but he always held his ground. Lucky for her, he didn't retaliate. Now she leaves him alone but she still is annoyed by him, as all cats annoy her
Finally my self-sown calendula is beginning to flower. Calendula has a very interesting story. It has excellent medicinal properties that have been known at least since Roman times.
Posted by Picasa

Bean Seedlings and Catnip

I kept putting off sowing my beans. Last week I finally got around to it. These seedlings are flageolet beans, the frenchie gourmet beans. I've never had them before. The description sounded nice. I actually got these seeds a year ago. I am trying to use up my old seeds. In this case I only used a handful. Hmm. Will they still be good next year? These are by the way, bush beans.
Next we have scarlet runner beans. These I've sowed beneath my water meter. I will have to keep the window visible. The last couple years all I grew were these but they really got out of hand. I think these could grow to the sky which is why some call them magic beans. I have to sow some in back too, but where? Scarlet runner beans are pole beans but I consider them their own thing beyond that. They have been cultivated for thousands of years.
I keep trying to get rid of all these seed trays but something makes me acquire more as I use up others. My uncertainty made me sow some royal purple pod beans, a bush bean, in a seedling pod. This is not really recommended but my indecision forced me to rather than putting off sowing them. To the right of them below are my remaining leeks. I think in this small pod that there could be 50 leeks. I will try to plant them ALL. I do overplant but I have found that it's not necessarily a bad thing. I just harvest things as they get too crowded. Leeks are perfect for that.
The 4 photo increments made me post this photo here rather than a new post. I think I could post a 100 photos at once but that would make this more of a boring slide show.

This catnip would be chewed to the ground if it wasn't caged.
I almost forgot to mention. When planting beans it is a good idea to mix a little bit of bean inoculant with the soil. This will boost the productivity of the plant and will also increase the nitrogen boost in the soil which will help future plants that grow there.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 30, 2009

May Garden

This box planter I found on the street turns out to have come from a friend. He did use it to store glass because that is his business. When he saw how I was using this box, and the boxes in back(I swear I will post about them soon) he was very pleased. Everything looks pretty good right now.
Here's the ubiquitous saladball. It's hard for me not to photograph it. I am trying to make it transition to summer smoothly. I just pulled out the large mizuna that bolted. I think other things will fill out and I tucked some more basil in it.

You can also see some other things growing here. I started one of those hanging grow bags with less than spectacular results, thus I have not photographed it much. There is also the ichiban in the background as well as the saladbowl, both looking very nice. The lettuce is starting to get a little bitter but it hasn't bolted yet. I might need to make some transitions with that planter too.
I love lemongrass. This is a stalk I rooted from Lotus, a local Asian grocery store. It finally is growing a 2nd stalk! Lemongrass grows really fast.
Here is the driveway side of the main bed. Visible is chamomile, sorrel, chives,broccoli and some birdseed plants which I just figured out are safflowers.
Posted by Picasa

May Blooms

I said before that I have too much chamomile. I have taken to cutting it back and vasing it. Right now I have 4 vases full of chamomile which has been surprizingly cooperative in the vase. Some has started to root, but sadly I do not need anymore.

The Cheddarhead likes to jump up on the wall here and threaten to jump. He is a fine looking cat and actually purred for me yesterday. I think though that he did not purr in pleasure, it was an annoyed purr.
This is an ichiban eggplant bloom. It is growing pretty fast. Unlike the rest of my eggplants, this came in a larger pot and the cost reflected that but I can't complain about its progress. I think it might be weeks until any of my other eggplants bloom.
Here's a slice of South American flowers. Heliotrope and salvia guaranitica are from Peru and Brazil. I talked at length about the salvia, heliotrope has an interesting story too. Unfortunately I can't remember exactly what I heard and google isn't helping me glean much information. There's something about prophetic dreams. If I find a good source of information, I'll link to it. It does have a nice scent. Maybe its story is a little too interesting, if you know what I mean.
This is a rainbow lantana. I never grew them before but I understand that they are lovely and a magnet to butterflies and hummingbirds.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ladybug Larvae

If you see something like this in your garden, don't be alarmed. They are your friends. I have seen a lot of these guys in the past few days. I think they like chamomile or maybe they are easier to see on it, but it is heartening.

I also think that like adults, they like to take breaks from eating pests to smell the flowers. Actually I think it is enjoying some nectar.

This guy I found on my shirt yesterday so I put it on this aphid infested flower. The 1st thing it did was to climb up to where it is in this photo.

This 2nd image is a 2nd larva. It too seems to like the flower a lot too.
This final image was previously posted a week ago. It could be these larvae's parent. The chamomile was just opening up.
What a week can do!
Posted by Picasa

The Final Tarp System

I have perfected a way to keep your pick-up truck bed and everything else tidy and also to save time unloading. If you are one of those weird people that has a truck and are anal about keeping it clean but love to garden, you MUST read this. I worked out this system over the past few years, perfecting it this spring.

WARNING: Please be aware of the weight capacity of your vehicle. Most things I haul are pretty light. A load of gravel that is the same VOLUME as mulch is much heavier and can do considerable damage to your suspension. When in doubt ask how much it weighs and consult your owner's manual.

What follows is a detailed explanation with photos that explicitly shows you too how to be a master of mulch and other bulk things, just like me. The 1st photo shows the final set-up. The key is to use 2 tarps. One should be larger than your truck bed, the other may be smaller. I have a compact truck. If it were full sized, I would need slightly larger tarps. I will trust you to do your own math, but get 2 new unscathed tarps for this. I have tarps I use for other things but these are my truckbed tarps.
The tarps however must be firmly secured. For this you need 3 four foot bungee cords, 2 carabiners and a weight, I use a brick. This picture shows where one carbiner and bungee cord goes. Remember, the cab tarp goes on top of the bed tarp. The brick(weight) goes on top of the cab to keep the cab tarp from blowing over.You kinda need rearview mirrors on both sides of your truck. If you don't have that well, I guess that will be a puzzle for you to solve. It's a good idea to make sure your windows are rolled up too.
The 3rd bungee cord goes under your tailgate, which should be kept open. You want the large tarp to fall outside the bed, sorta like a piecrust.
Here you see what an inexact science it is to dump a load of whatever into the bed of a truck. Some operators are pretty good. My guy knows whats up but some are pretty sloppy. Anyway, he doesn't worry about messing up my truck when I come around.
I did a post last fall showing my tarp method, but not with these improvements. If you compare, you'll see that this is superior.

I should do a post about saving time and effort when doing a drop-off. I developed a lasagna method of filling my truck with yard waste which I am certain more landscapers would use, especially small scale ones, once they realized how much time it saves.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lazy Man's Way

It isn't readily apparent here, but these lettuces are growing in the shade of an artichoke. None of my lettuces have bolted but it is early. Lettuce is great for growing under plants, especially those that like cool roots. They aren't heavy feeders and with so many varieties, they are quite pretty. I tend to start with seedlings from a nursery for faster gratification then later I start some in a small tray to plant out. Usually I do a mesclen mix for variety.

Lettuce is like a little firecracker that goes off all the time while you wait for the bigger bangs. A lot of greens are like that as well as chervil and cilantro, both pictured somewhere in this picture.

The lazy man's way to keep these going is to just let a few of them go to seed. This leads to chaos but it is my approach to many of my plants. Decades ago, somebody signed my yearbook, "The lazy man finds an easier way to get the job done." I can't say that any better.
This artichoke looks pretty spiny to me. I think it won't be the best eating so I am going to let it bloom. I am sure my neighbors will be impressed. They get pretty confused by a lot of my plants and yet they cannot deny their beauty.
Sometimes I think I should talk more in detail about what I am doing here. After some thought I have decided that for the most part if you want to replicate what I am doing, you really need to read some books.

One book I recently read was the e-book "Double your tomatoes," which is actually one of my advertisers. I do not completely endorse the author's philosophy but I have taken away a few good points. He does not however cover as much as I thought he would. Again I say, read some books. Tomatoes are kinda complicated.

I do not grow tomatoes to be highly productive but I have experienced late blight on some of my tomatoes in the last 2 years. I think "Double your tomatoes," gives some good advice about that which I intend to use. I am experimenting with fertilizing my tomatoes with bokashi. Most of my tomatoes have the contents of one bokashi bucket buried beneath them. There's a few other quirks I threw in that I will not elaborate on until later.

Again, I say read some books. The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Ed Smith has some very good specific advice that I will always remember.

On the other hand if you do have specific questions for me, please feel free to leaves them in the comments or email me directly. I am perfectly willing to keep your identity confidencial if you are a 'private person.'
What was I saying about being lazy? Here is the perfect image of that. This chamomile grew here all by itself. I have weeded other plants out of the cracks but left these and a few other plants alone. However, I have found it necessary to trim this a bit. If I had done it again I would have trimmed this back earlier though I think that right now this looks rather pretty even though it is also untidy.
Posted by Picasa

Bored Cats

Sally was a very bad girl this morning. She took a dump in my flowerbed that borders the sidewalk. For a second I thought, "Hmm, one of the dogs walking by will take care of that." I ended up digging a deep hole, in a dark corner, far away from anything growing because she unfortunately has done this before. No, I don't compost their kitty litter though I suppose I could. That gets disposed of another way.

I don't think that there's much I can do to make her stop except to stick bamboo skewers in the ground. If she does this to this highly visible bed, I might resort to that.
Here's another bored looking cat, the feral boy I sometimes call "Cheedarhead". I actually brushed him while he ate this morning. I always make him eat at my feet so I can pet him. He pretends to hate being petted but I think he likes it. I think he liked the brush. Cat hair, actually, any hair, and nail clippings, are an excellent fertilizers. I've been burying it just below many things I have planted.
Abe is nipping at the catnip which is finally growing beyond its dome. I am very, very pleased with my birdseed sunflowers. I have no idea how big they'll get but I haven't seen any bigger than mine, at least in my neighborhood.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


This morning I got up as the sun was rising. Unfortunately many photos I took were under exposed but it makes choosing easier.

Today I intend to dig up a large part of my berm. This part, and angle looks pretty nice. I have a few orphan plants that need a home, as well as a couple butterfly bush. I just need to make sure that people understand not to step on some of these plants.

Yarrow is fine with being walked on, as well as chamomile, if anything I should encourage people to walk on my chamomile to keep it in line. I will attempt as well to reduce the grass and various weeds, that is plants that I do not favor.

Maybe next year I will have less chamomile. I imagine that I will not need to propogate it any any manner anywhere next year. This spring, I actually transplanted a lot of seedlings all over. Behind the chamomile is one of my mint pots.
Here's Abe giving me a look. There's but a few sidewalk plants visible here. Honestly, I wish the crack were wider so I could plant something nice, like some thymes and other stepable groundcover plants.

I am very happy with how my porch is filling out. I don't think I need anymore plants up there, indeed, I have moved the pots surrounding my blue planter a couple inches away as the black and blue fills out.

So far, I have my vase offering, a lemongrass I rooted from an Asian grocery (Lotus, if anybody's wondering), a dracula dahlia, and my blue planter, at least that's all you can see. I think the black and blue will get at least twice as tall and much wider. I am waiting quite happily for that. There's also some cypress vine that is still quite small that should be pretty fun too. We'll see if it gets out of hand.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rainy view from my porch

I love rain. This is a good thing because Pittsburgh gets a lot. Actually, this city is one of the most overcast cities ever, which I also like. Sunlovers can't stand it but I'm not one of them. I like overcast days because I can surf my computer on my porch. So here's a few things I idly photographed from my spacious dry porch.

This vase was an anonymous neighbor's offering. Last year this appeared on my front step one day with a few other ornamental containers. I think there was a geranium too. I fianlly planted it with some stuff more in the 'old lady' style of planting. There's asparagus fern, corkscrew grass and lobelia. These guys aren't perfect potmates but I think they'll get along. The vase does not have drainage but I got it set up with a sort of false bottom. I just have to be careful not to overwater it. It should fill out in a few weeks I guess, at least the lobelia might be blooming by then.
I don't know if you've noticed but I am rather fond of blue. This is my blue planting. Almost everything is blooming. The lantana is just opening up, but you can't see it in this photo.
Here's my birdfeeder sunflowers. They are directly below the blue planter.
This lemongrass I wintered from last year. It doesn't look as glorious as it did, but I think it will. I used some of its withered leave in the tea I am drinking right now. It's very refreshing. The vine is he shou wu.
Posted by Picasa

Spider and other things

This spider has been around for a few months and keeps getting bigger. Have I said before that I LOVE spiders? I kinda don't let them build webs where I pass but I try to let them have some space. Anyway, this jumping spider gets around a bit. Here he seems to be eating an ant or maybe a small bee.
My garden is definitely coming into its own. The tulips above are done, but I am letting them feed their bulbs for next year. There's a lot going on here, many different plants growing together and none that I can see are weeds. I suppose I overplant but I think it's prettier that way. There is a bit of bare ground in the foreground.
I'm always happy to see my broccoli start heading. This is pretty small still. I'll let it get a bit bigger before I eat it.
Here's Abe wondering around. He always uses the stepping stones. Really, I need more of them. If anything they keep me from overplanting, just a little bit.
Posted by Picasa