Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Catnip Protection Part II

I recently expanded my catnip dome. In this 1st image, the new catnip cage is barely visible unless you enlarge the picture by clicking it. I just have to show you how my whole wall here is progressing, especially the sunflowers, though it looks as though they have a blight.
Anyway, here's the old dome. As you can see, the catnip has been bitten down and there is a good bit of cat hair on the dome from the cats going crazy getting as much nip as they can. It was time to give the nip more room to grow because the cats were not going to.
I simply extended the space by attaching the dome to a short wire fence. In doing so, I made certain that it was VERY securely attached.
Based on the primary color of the fur on the dome, the Cheddarhead seems to indulge on catnip the most. It is his habit to go straight to the nip after I feed him. Must be tough dealing with a lady trying to tame him.
Anyway, so far it seems to be holding up. See Catnip for more info on how I 1st planted this catnip.

Also this. There wasn't enough spare catnip left for me to spoil Sally.
One reason I expanded the cage is that Sally prefers her catnip fed to her. She doesn't like getting her paws dirty by harvesting it herself. This video below, filmed a few years ago when Sally weighed 6 or 7 pounds more than she does now. She likes it when I 'fight' with her while I give her catnip. I rub it on her face and tickle her hind paws. Really, she loves it!

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Wall Tomatoes and CATS

I am pretty happy with how these are growing. Tomatoes are basically a vine, if indeterminate. That's really why it is necessary to stake or cage them.

A few years ago, I had some supersweet on a stoop growing out of strawbales. This experiment ended up being fairly high maintenance as I lacked any soil and had to thoroughly water and very frequently fertilize them but still, the results were very spectacular. They grew much better than the ones in back. One major reason I believe is that they were growing on a very hot, tar paved alley, my place's front entrance was a crowded, alleyway, largely devoid of any life except litter, some weeds and irresponsible neighbor's dog poop. I swear the sweltering heat made them thrive.

I am happy to say that I have moved up a bit. Now my neighbors... well, I won't get into specifics, but my surroundings are closer to 'middle class'. I suppose it depends on your perspective. They do pick up after their dogs. Er, so out of this experience I realized that tomatoes will grow endlessly if the conditions are right and you let them. I imagined building a tomato hut.

I will return to the present. I am not keen on this railroad tie wall here not the globe arborvitaes. Arborvitaes are an interesting tree and shrub native to North America that the locals ate for its vitamin C content. I can't remember the specific history, but it has been used to prevent scurvy in many situation where fresh food was not to be found. So I do have some admiration for arborvitae.

I just don't have much room and these plants are in a very prime location as far as light and warmth are concerned. Rather than destroy them I compromised by trimming them back a bit and planting some things in spaces that they aren't supposed to grow.
If you click on either tomato picture you'll see a stake coming out of nowhere and a staple or 2 driven into the railroad ties with some velcro tomato ties attached. I've been limiting these from branching out a lot. I consider these tomatoes to be my 'guerilla style' tomatoes. Click on that link for more info and many fun pictures, like people planting cabbages while police lights flash. I thought it was pretty funny that they refer to a 360th anniversary of guerrilla gardening taking place at the same time of the G20 protests in London because the G20 is going to be in Pittsburgh in September. That doesn't have much to do with anything but I like the idea of people defiantly planting vegetables in 1649.
I probably should have made this 2 post but anyway, here's a couple cat pictures. The cheddarhead and abe aren't exactly friends but they do swat playfully at each other every once in a while. They have a rivalry over the catnip dome.
Sally prefers solitude but does tolerate others. She's just a little queen.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's hard to decide

Which photographs to publish. My camera decides sometimes, like the coriander seeds forming I thought I had focused on came out blurry. Everyday my garden is different. Especially after lots of sun and warmth.

This faded sunflower still has a sort of beauty. There are now 5 others blooming in its place. I ponder whether when this is ready for the birds whether I should leave it standing, save it for myself, or saving it for the birds when it is winter again. I suppose with more than a dozen blooms I may do all of the above.
This broccoli must be harvested. Oh the burden of fresh vegetables.
I want to do a post on my 'wall tomatoes' as they grow up to the stakes I have poking into my shrubbery. I have a feeling that they will end up growing better than some of my tomatoes this year despite their unorthodox location.

These are 'juliette' what I think of as a cherry plum tomato. These are larger than the ones i grew last year which also were quite susceptible to blossom end rot. These don't seem to have this issue, at least not yet. I have been pretty vigilant about watching for that as I have had this problem with quite a few of my tomatoes over the last couple years.
These are tansy flowers. I think I got these at a garden swap. I got another variety at a garden event outside Trader Joe's. I like this variety better. I know that one of them had some babies in my garden which I chose to remove. I understand tansy can get pretty invasive. I ended up transplanting my other tansy to a part of my garden that is dark and less visible. This tansy here is more delicate looking so I might end up making it my only variety.

Tansy is one of those herbs that has been eaten by people but more so I believe during medieval times. Based on what I've read, I don't think I will. I mean, it is sort of poisonous. It could be handy if I had worms. I think it's one of those herbs that kills worms which would make it more useful in midieval times than now. It does have an interesting flowers and ants do not seem to like it very much.
I have so many kinds of plants in my yard. I should count them sometime. There are still a few I haven't documented.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I know I am not doing right by my peppers

Look at how crowded they are! I wanted to put them up front but last year I had potatoes up there and you're not supposed to follow them with peppers. So I put them here but still haven't had the heart to pull up all the beets.
This bull's blood beet doesn't have much of a root but this variety is largely grown for its tops. I do have more in back that I can let mature.
I just love that red! I actually pruned a few leaves of this to let in a little light for my peppers. I know that's feeble but it's early yet.
My overplanting does reduce any weed's chance.
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Monday, June 22, 2009

No Eggplant is Better than one from your Garden

This morning I am craving what I had last Friday, eggplant, quite simply sliced, salted, then fried in olive oil with onions(in this case a small red onion from my yard) and wilted basil(here it's thai)on a cracker. As the 1st eggplant, I couldn't make a full meal out of it, just 12 crackers.
I am certain, I hope, to have more eggplants than I can use soon. Here's my green striped orange turkish plant, slightly battered from that bad storm. I pinched off its lowest branches to make it grow taller but now I intend to let it branch out and set fruit. I wonder how they'll taste. The different varieties do taste a little different from each other. I've never had an orange eggplant so I am pretty curious. These are supposed to be pretty small, egg sized I think.
Here's the ichiban looking glorious but not growing fast enough for my craving today. "GROW, GROW," I keep repeating in my head whenever I look at it. I might end up harvesting a small eggplant earlier than I have intended just to satisfy myself.
Do I deserve this? Perhaps I do. Things always taste better in small quantities. I'd better eat something now, maybe just some toast.
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

After the Storm

Our basement's water level peaked at about 3 feet(1 meter). Needless to say, everything is very lush.

My prostrate rosemary is filling out again. I poked an italia pepper in its pot. The small mint pot looks less pale, my tarragon is doing all right and perhaps my yuzu citris will do better this year.
A few sunflowers fell over during the storm but I righted them and they seem ok. The black and blue salvia are hummingbird magnets and everything else up there is growing all right.
My ground tomatoes are growing up well though they look slightly paler than the box tomatoes. I keep trying to equalize that with fertilizer and a bit of lime. Almost all of my tomatoes have small tomatoes growing now. I am denuding the stems somewhat and reducing their tendency to branch out like crazy. There's a whole lot more going on in this picture. There are 2 varieties of beans, some basil, nasturtiums, kale strawberries,and garlic.
I have 2 cabbages that are growing monstrously. It sorta amazes me how many people walk by and ask me, "Is that cabbage?" That's one reason why I feel like I should stay in an urban location, just to set an example and to just help people understand what vegetables actually look like, rather than finding 1-5 acres out somewhere. I am somewhat inclined to take over the small yard of the apartment building next door completely, but I must conquer my back yard first. Alas, it doesn't have the light that the front does. I could grow some wonderful tomatoes next door, and cabbage. I have enough to deal with here.
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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Flash Flood

High water
After the flood
Wheelbarrow filling up
Very wet chamomile(there's a street behind this)
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Growing Local

In response to my little survey, not as of this posting completed and what's in my head this rainy day, I have decided to write at least partly about compost. Compost has more than one definition and it seems to mean something else in different areas.

this compost came from local gardens throughout the Pittsburgh area.In the United States, we tend to think of everything that we throw into a compost heap as compost. In more British areas, I believe that they tend to think of the final product from a compost heap, and potting soil as compost. I have had a few clients ask me if I can deliver some 'soil' to their garden for topping when what they really mean is 'compost'. All that really matters is that you reader, wherever you are understand what I am saying.

OK, so where was I? Growing local, yes, I am trying to establish a self-sufficient garden, but I have imported a lot of material into it. The 1st is compost, meaning the final product. I get mine from a local source, Agrecycle. I also use Agrecycle to dispose of yard debris, both my own when it's bulky, and that of clients. They compost it and sell it right back to me. So that means that the compost that I have topped my garden with is local.

I also supplement my garden with various fertilizers. I am not a scientist but I try to balance out my various plants need, especially my tomatoes. This year I am finding it easier to fertilize them with my bokashi, which because it allows meat and cheese waste, is richer than other self-produced fertilizer. I also have buried a lot of pet hair and some alpaca fleece waste(I started spinning last fall after I acquired some very inexpensive western Pennsylvania raw alpaca fleece).

I became very interested in hair and other things composed of keratin after I heard about smartgrow. Smartgrow is simply a mat made out of human hair which sounds really bizarre. I won't explain it here, visit their site. Anyway, it seemed to me that I could replicate smart grow results just by using my hair, my pet's hair and all the alpaca waste I accumulated when I carded my fleece.

Anyway, It occurred to me today that not only am I reducing the waste I am producing but I am truly turning my garden into a locally grown garden in more ways than I thought. And by doing so I am greatly reducing my carbon footprint. I am also reducing my fertilizing costs.

And I haven't even discussed my rainbarrel project. There are multiple levels in which that is beneficial. But that is a future post.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

One more tarp post

I do love my tarp. In this case I have some yard debris wrapped up tight. The load here was much bulkier before I packed it in here.
I decided to post this picture of lasagna to show how I load up my yard debris. Pasta is to tarps as tomatoes, meat and cheese is to yard debris.

You cannot see it here, but there are 6 layers of yard debris between 7 tarps, including my super-tarp. Why am I making such a big deal out of this? Because loading up your bed lasagna style saves a lot of time and energy, both in loading but more so in unloading. It also makes it easier to really pack it in.

I'll just pretend that most readers can figure this out without an extensive explanation. I impressed a number of landscapers, especially those working on a smaller scale like myself when they see how fast I unload at the dump, and all by myself too. I just pull each tarp out one at a time, each with a manageable load rather than one heavy one.

This last photo is from a previous post showing how I spread and secure my tarp when getting a load from a backhoe. For yard debris, I am not this elaborate. I don't use the blue cab tarp shown here and I only use 2 bungee cords though really i don't need any, it just keeps things in place in case the wind blows. What is pretty key here is packing down each layer, something that is harder to do without tarps.
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

#1 Ichiban, 1st eggplant

I have finally harvested my 1st eggplant. It was just a bloom at the end of May.
About a week ago it was this big.
And here it is just before I harvested it. I probably could have let it get bigger but it is my habit to harvest my eggplants when they are certain to still be tender.
Alreadi I have 3 more eggplants growing on this plant. My other eggplants have yet to bloom. I delayed blooming on this one and my other just a little bit by pruning them a little. I know that eggplants on an eggplant like ichiban grow straight and are more salable if they are started higher up the stem. Once they hit the ground they might started to bend. I know that by the end of summer,if these grow well, I will be tired of eggplant so I am in no rush.
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1st Sunflower Bloom

These pictures were taken over a period of 5 days. This is my 1st and currently, my only sunflower bloom.

I am happy that I caught this green bee looking creature

I just found the great sunflower project. I am registered and recommend others do too. This is a bee counting project which I think is pretty important now.
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Friday, June 12, 2009

Backyard Chaos

I am a little embarrassed by my backyard because I haven't given it as much TLC as the front and it shows. It has however been productive in some ways.

The best thing I've got going here is my cilantro bed. Everything in here is self-sown and though I should probably weed it, it is mostly cilantro. In addition to cilantro are chives and numerous mitsuba, a japanese herb that I am not fond of but I haven't had the heart to eradicate. I did however pull up the original generation of mitsuba and replant it in a dark corner. That is why there is some bare soil here. I also poked in a couple tall growing snapdragons just for fun.
This white queen tomato is my centerpiece. In front of it is some giant red mustard, all self-sown. To the right behind it is some birdfeeder sunflowers that I transplanted here. There's more stuff in the background. I'll try to get to that later on.
Here's the Dr Wyche straw planting. I have tided up this area a little bit. The bark mulch helped a lot but I think Iwant to lay down some sort of stepping stones as well. I might want more bark mulch too in other bare spots.
Here's a spot that was planted with a thyme groundcover that has turned into weeds and parsley. The jug has some weed tea. I am trying to really go all organic and LOCAL, as far as fertilizer is concerned. So far I think it is working out pretty well. I feel I'll feel certain as to whether this really works for me when this growing season ends.
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