Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's Easy Being Green: Handling Yard Waste

I compost most of my yard and garden waste (and other compostables) in these two open bins, turning them about once a month. To the right are biodegradable bags of fall leaves that we stacked up next to the bins and will add as needed, or let decompose into leaf mold and use as mulch.
Not all yard waste can be composted, however. Branches, for example, just take too long to decompose. So when this half-a-tree fell in our driveway last weekend, I found homes for some of its parts other than in the landfill.
How about a tree trunk side table or garden stool?
Some things can be composted, but it's not advised - weeds that have gone to seed, anything especially invasive, etc. In the picture below, my neighbor's yard is on the left and mine is on the right. This undesirable vine was taking over my flower bed, so I kept pulling it up by the root and pulled it from my bed through (under) the grass and up to his bed, where apparently it originated. I cut it off at the edge of his bed, but it must have been 15 feet long at that point! (I could only find a 10 ft. tape measure)
I sure didn't put that sucker in the compost! The perfect place for something like a root I don't want to re-root, as well as some of the tree branches from the fallen tree, is the back forty part of our yard where the compost lives. I pile up brush and branches there for birds and other small creatures to use for shelter. The simple pile is one of the reasons my yard is a Certified Wildlife Habitat! It's easy to do, makes birds happy, and cuts down on landfill use. Win-Win-Win.
How do you dispose of yard waste?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Updates from the Inferno

It was 100 degrees here today, and has been in the upper 90s for the past week. No rain in weeks. Things that never wilt, like shasta daisies and purple coneflowers, are wilting. Just about the only plants that are thriving are eggplant and watermelon.

Here are a few flowers that have survived the inferno so far:
Pink double delight coneflower. I've had this for three years and this is the first year it's growing nicely.
Peruvian daffodils. These are so weird-looking - I love them!
Even zinnias are wilting, but they are resilient and respond well to occasional watering.
Beans and a few berries are the only things I'm harvesting from my garden, though yellow pear tomatoes are close. Fortunately, my friends and family are doing better with their gardens, and sharing the proceeds!
Cooking apples from Mom:
Tomatoes and bell peppers from Dad:
The yellow squash in this pasta I made tonight for dinner came from my friend Pam's garden:
(Tyler Florence's spaghetti w/summer squash recipe)
Between the heat and work, I haven't been playing in the garden much. I try to spend a few minutes every other night watering/weeding/cutting out huge nasty squash vine borers. I've lost a few new perennials to the heat, but most everything I planted this year is still holding on. Of course, it's just June - the hottest months of the year are still to come!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Suckers and Borers

The title of this post may sound like a horror movie, but only the latter part of it actually could be. What causes a vigorous squash plant to turn into the dead mess below in just one week?
A: Squash vine borers, a.k.a The Bane of My Existence. If your squash wilt like this, look for orange-ish frass (looks similar to the cheap roe they use on california rolls at lesser sushi restaurants) near the base. Wherever the frass is, the borer is between that point and where the vine meets the dirt. Slit the vine with a knife, pick it (or them) out, and kill it. In the picture below, you can see frass, the slit, and at the top of the slit, a borer.
Here is a smaller borer we picked out and smooshed. They are pretty disgusting.
I had borers in almost all my vines. They say you can mound moist dirt over the slit and the vine may heal (though I'd just pull up a plant that looks as bad as the one above). They also say you can pile moist dirt over healthy stems and they may root at that point. I did both to be on the safe side. I also started more seeds so I can replace the plants if necessary. Supposedly in the deep south, there can be two borer seasons a year, so I may not be able to outsmart them by planting a second set of squash - we'll see!
Luckily suckers are not nearly as nefarious as borers! I'm pretty sure everyone who reads my blog knows how to spot a tomato sucker, but I had no idea when I started gardening, so here's a picture just in case. It's the tiny stem growing in the "v" between the main upright stem and the good sized branch on the right:
Suckers aren't bad if you have unlimited room to grow sprawling, gigantic plants. I don't, so I prune them out.

The thing about suckers is that they aren't just another branch; they're more like another entire tomato plant growing out of the side of your main plant! They are easy to spot at this stage, tougher later - though you can remove them anytime. Tomato plants are actually very forgiving about pruning. I control the height of mine as well as prohibiting suckers.

You can root your suckers in water if you want more plants - I usually let them get about 6 inches long before I cut them off the plant for that purpose.

One caveat about suckers: on some tomato plants, such as yellow pear, the stem on which blooms and babies will form comes from this same area or very close. It's easy to tell the difference, but I don't want you to prune out all your bloom stems by accident!

Friday, June 12, 2009

You know what they say about April Showers...

It's been dry and in the mid-90's here the past few days, so it's tough to even remember "April Showers" at this point. Luckily I have all these "May Flowers" to remind me!
Clockwise from top left: Lambs Ears; Agapanthus (a small variety - Peter Pan, I believe); Daylilies (identified as Kwanso by Rhonda - thanks!); Black-eyed Susans; Crocosmia (Lisa, this is what I gave you recently); French Marigolds; Shasta Daisy; Purple Coneflowers.

Unrelated Note #1: Don't garden bloggers make great friends? Debbi sent me some seeds (angel trumpet, hummingbird vine, lettuce, hyacinth bean) AND this cute bookmark! Thanks, Debbi!
Unrelated Note #2: I'm on the bandwagon with all the Diamond Frost Euphorbia fans. It's just about the only thing in the yard that hasn't wilted from the extreme heat of the past few days, and I NEVER water it!
Here is another plant with dainty white blossoms that can take the heat. What is it?
Out-of-control oregano! I'm transferring this out of the raised bed and into a real flower bed soon, along with my other perennial herbs.
Unrelated Note #3: Impressive fruit harvest, huh? I'm not sure of the strawberry variety, but the blueberries are Climax. Both types of berries are the earliest of the three varieties of each that we have.
Unrelated Note #4: Scott commented the other day about how everything grows so tall in our yard. We live on a hill, so I'm not sure why everything is reaching for the sun like that! This black-eyed susan is literally four feet tall. I love how visible that makes it from the street!
You can see the rose reaching for great heights as well:
I hope y'all all have a great weekend and get some gardening time in!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Progress Report 060709

I've been battling a bad cold and going out of town a lot for work, so I've been lagging on blog posts and visiting your blogs. I'll be back in the game soon! In the meantime, here are some snapshots of what's happening in my garden:
Yellow pears are the first tomato babies I have. All of the tomato plants have blooms.
Strawberries and shallot bed. Strawberries are finally producing now that the beer and heat have taken care of the slugs and the netting has fended off the birds. Shallots are a different story - why are mine taking SO long? I planted these around December! Everything I've read says they should be ready in about 90 days. Mine have lots of healthy top growth, but they haven't really started forming new bulbs yet. Help?
The squash (above) are insanely healthy! Cucumbers (below) are growing well on the chain-link fence (they aren't yellow - it's just the light).
Bell peppers are staked and growing well. They take so long to produce, but I love that they are pretty much pest-free.
Eggplant are finally growing nicely.
I never thought the above plants would get so big after waiting so long for the seeds to germinate and grow! Here was the lone seedling I had weeks after starting my seeds (turns out they just needed more heat):
Here is a side bed that is progressing nicely: rose, lambs ear, gardenia, and one crocosmia are blooming. Iris is done for the year. Mums, peruvian daffodil, daylily and more crocosmia are coming soon.
Here is the same bed in March, after I transplanted most of its new inhabitants from other parts of the garden:
And here it is last year before I removed that awful shrub!
Gardening requires patience and planning, doesn't it? Of course, that makes the payoff extra sweet!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blooming Tuesday - June 2, 2009

Lynn Clark gave me these daylilies two years ago, and this is the first bloom I've had. Talk about worth the wait!
The black-eyed susans started from seed last year are thriving despite the heat.
A close-up of one of the black-eyed susans:

For more of Blooming Tuesday, visit Jean.