Friday, May 30, 2008

Peas and Quiet before the Storm

Can we get some regular weather here? Sheesh! We're supposed to have severe thunderstorms today, and the leaves on the trees have turned themselves inside out, waiting for water-manna to fall from heaven.

I have a little heaven in the garden to report today--my first pea blossoms! The plant is sporting four--count 'em, four!--and they weren't there this morning! I did a garden check, ran to Menard's and our local farmer's market with a girlfriend for mulch and flowers, and when I came back, these delicate little beauties were waiting for me! However, if we get the storm the weather people say we will be getting, I doubt the blossoms will last very long. But there will be more, of that I'm certain.

Meanwhile, I crushed several Mexican bean beetles today with my fingers and a nearby stick. I am ashamed to say that I greatly enjoyed it (even though it was a bit gross). I tried putting out chopped garlic around the beans since I didn't have any garlic powder at hand, but with little-to -no effect. However, I am happy to report that the green beans are beginning to bud, despite the beetles.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Deer Dreams

Normally I wouldn't bug all of you more than once a day during busy planting season, but I had to share this moment. I live in a residential area that has a creek and wooded section that is frequented by deer. I've lived here two years now, and today was the first time I had a deer in the yard! Unfortunately, as I approached the deer in an attempt to pet it, it leaped the fence. (I have this thing about trying to pet animals--ask my roommate about the coyote I wanted to pet, or the time I chased an armadillo down the street in Florida while talking on the phone to one of my friends.) In the picture at right, she? is in my neighbor's yard, just out of reach, taunting me with her doe-eyes. Notice how she has aimed her tail end at me, as if to say "kiss my deer behind."

I've always loved deer; several years ago, after reading Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, I thought I'd try my hand at writing a poem for children. I don't think it can actually be called poetry--more like doggerel. Anyway, given the visit today by my little deer friend, I thought I would share it with you.

Deer Dreams

I’d like to catch a deer
but I don’t have any salt.
I’d like to jump a fence
but I never learned to vault.
I’d like to sail a ship
but I don’t know how to steer—


I wonder if some ocean salt
could help me catch that deer!

Planting Frenzy

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, our weather has been, well, icky. But I finally got out to plant tomatoes (Cherokee Purple, Zebra, Amish Paste, Beefsteak, and Illinois Beauty), eggplant (Florida High Bush), and peppers (Buran Red, Orange Bell, and Chocolate Beauty).

Today, I installed five Sun Sugarsweet (or some variety like that) tomatoes, courtesy of Michelle at My Grandpa's Garden, along with a couple of peppers she provided. The tomatoes came from a local horticulture sale, and last year, were very prolific.

In her garden at least.

Mine never got larger than pea-size, because I planted too late. And I didn't weed. Or water. And we had a drought.

Anyway, I'm much more attentive to my garden this year (thank you, antidepressants), and we have not been experiencing drought conditions. Between my garden and Michelle's, we should be rolling in tomatoes! Michelle planted about 4 plants. I planted...hold on, let me go count...

um, 33.

Well, as I've mentioned before, I'm a bit OCD. Let's just say that I'll be doing a lot of freezing this year and sharing with others.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bugs. Yuck.

I really don't care for bugs. I know that some of them are beneficial for the garden, and I do try to leave those to do their special garden tasks, but what I find super creepy are the bugs that eat my food. [I caught one mid-bite--take a look at the picture at left.]

Our weather here in Central Illinois has been crazy--warm and sunny one day, then cold, dreary and rainy for a couple of days, then cold and cloudy, then rainy, and so on. I haven't had two straight days of dry in order to be able to get into the garden until today, only to find that my soup beans are being terrorized--shredded, in fact--by the Mexican bean beetle. These horrible herbivores leave bean leaves in tatters and lay their eggs on the underside of bean leaves. They look remarkably like copper-colored ladybugs, but do far more damage. Now that they have nearly devastated my soup beans, they are encroaching upon my green beans!

How do I kill the little buggers without using any pesticides, I wonder. My boyfriend, David, helped me do a bit of Internet research, and it looks like garlic is the best defense (other than simply squashing them). I'll try some garlic powder on the leaves and around the base of the plants tomorrow, but you can bet I'll be squashing the life out of as many as I can and scraping the eggs off the leaves.

I do find it interesting that they headed for the soup bean plants first, and wonder whether planting cilantro among the green beans (a la "companion planting") has kept the damage to the green beans to a minimum. would think that Mexican bean beetles would actually like cilantro, a pungent herb used in salsa!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tag! You're It!

I was reading My Grandpa's Garden shortly after posting my "April Showers...." post, only to discover I have been tagged with a gardening meme! Since this is my first official tag, it's only right to contribute. Here are the meme rules:

For this Meme, all you have to do is take some pictures and post them. Any embarrassing commentary is strictly voluntary.

1. Flash Your Seed Stash - Show us where you keep your extras. Or, if your like me, dump that big bag onto the living room floor and grab the camera!

2. Your Favorite Garden Photo - Doesn’t have to be current, just the one you’re most proud of.

3. The Secret Spot - Take a picture of that part of the yard that you’ve given up hope on, nothing will grow, sun doesn’t shine, there is no hope. No yard is perfect!

4. Your favorite garden tool - you know it, you love it, its not getting enough facetime on your blog - showcase it!

5. Your garden rainbow. Go out into the garden and try to find a picture to represents each color in the rainbow, whether all in one photo or seperate!

After reading through the suggested meme options, I realized that my blog has already supplied many of them: I have already flashed my seed stash, I already have mentioned "The Secret Spot" (where the pool used to be), and I've already talked about my favorite garden tool (The Claw). My garden isn't mature enough yet to provide a garden rainbow or favorite garden photo.

I thought instead I would provide a few pictures of gardening tools that I use that weren't necessarily constructed as gardening tools.

#1: The Rain Barrel
I don't have any old-fashioned, wooden rain barrels. I did see that Lowe's has DIY instructions for creating your own rain barrels, but that was going to cost money and take time and expertise that I don't have. So I settled for the next best thing--empty kitty litter buckets. I have them sitting out in various parts of the yard, weighted down by a rock, to catch the rain. Eventually I'll try to remove part of the gutter so the water flows directly into the barrel.

#2: The Plant Stake
When bean and pea plants are small but leaning, I've staked them to provide some support. The stake shown in the picture is a bamboo skewer. I found a pack of 200 of them at the dollar store! One end is pointed, so it's easy to get into the ground, and the top end is flat (when I remember to put the proper end into the dirt, of course). Cheap stakes, bamboo, easy to use, what more could a gardener ask?

#3: The Water Reservoir
Okay, I know that this tool looks like a big pile of twigs and branches. It is. But I was recently reading Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden And Your Neighborhood into a Community, which recommended digging a trench in your yard near your garden, placing twigs and branches in it, and then recovering the trench with dirt. The trench acts as a reservoir for water that will help keep some of the moisture in your garden during the dry summer months. Additionally, the branches and twigs break down and contribute to soil building. I haven't dug the trench yet--planting is my priority right now. But I'll dig it (or more likely, hire someone to dig it) soon!

I don't know many gardeners to tag. So the tagging is voluntary--if you'd like to participate in this garden photo meme, consider yourself tagged, post your photos and any commentary you desire, and then post a comment here, indicating that you've completed your meme!

April Showers Bring May Planting

"So, Michelle, how many bean plants do you think I should plant to sustain me through the year?" (My colleague/friend/compatriot-in-garden-crime planted green beans and peas for her family last year, so I thought she might advise me.)

"Oh, three or four plants ought to be enough."

"Oh." I was quiet for a moment. "So about 19 ought to be plenty, I guess."

She laughed. But she also knows my OCD ways, so I can't imagine it was any surprise to her. "How many pea plants did you put in?"

"Uh, about 20."

"You'll be spending a lot of time shelling peas!" She laughed again. I suspect her laughing is because this year, my gardening habits are very different from last year's. Last year, I think it was mid- to late-June before my garden got planted. I threw everything in at the same time--cool season foods and warm season foods. The only thing I really had were tomatoes, and they were tiny. (But I've already told you about my toy Beefsteak tomatoes.) This year, I'm taking my time. Every day we don't have rain (which admittedly hasn't been very many days yet), I'm out in the garden planting.

Yesterday I planted soup beans. Of course, I didn't plant just one variety--oh, no, that makes too much sense. I planted SIX varieties (Old Mother Stallard, Lina Cisco's Bird Egg, October, Hutterite, Jacob's Cattle Gasless, and Ireland Creek Annie), and about 5-6 plants of each. So I'll be shelling a lot of beans in addition to those peas!

Today, I planted three different kinds of beets (Choggia, Detroit Dark Red, and Bull's Blood); 2 types of radishes (Plum Purple and Early Scarlet Globe), 8 types of lettuce (Amish Deer Tongue, Bronze Arrowhead, Forellenschuss, Red Velvet, Susan's Red Bibb, Yugoslavian Red Butterhead, Lettuce Mix, and Apollo Arugula), 2 types of spinach (American and Strawberry), and White Vienna Kohlrabi.

I still have a lot of seeds and garden space in which to plant, but now it looks like it will rain very soon, so I've given up for today. The nightshade family plants (tomatoes, eggplant, and pepper plants) are still growing under the warming lamp, so I suspect it will be time to plant them soon.

I'm afraid to tell you how many different tomato varieties I will be planting.