My Other Garden

So as most of you know, I do the majority of my gardening over at my old house (the brief story of why told here.) But I love plants and gardening so much that I just couldn't bear the idea of not having something to play with on a daily basis. So I improvised and made a mini garden that fits in a small space in our backyard. I keep it up on a table so that the lawn service can get around it easily, and it also makes it a good height for plucking and inspection.

It consists mostly of herbs, but I also have some cat grass growing (in bottom photo) and also some morning glories that haven't gotten any blooms on them yet. We have lavender, rosemary, sage, basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, cilantro, and mint at our finger tips at all times, which is perfect for summer cuisine. I of course also have my trusty Big Red garden stake watching over all the plants making sure that everything grows well.

I'm also growing a growbot... a Mr. Growbot to be exact. Just kidding, but we are growing some cherry tomatoes as well. We have one plant of yellow cherries and another of red cherries- perfect for a little color and flavor on a salad. We also have already had some beneficial visitors to our mini garden:

Our little lady bug friend just stopped by for a moment (long enough to get a photo!), but hopefully there are more from where she came from. Here's why.

Until next time.

-Mrs. Growbot

Better Late Than Never

At least that's what I'm going with. Summer is fully upon us which means great gardening, but also copious amounts of other fun events- which will be mentioned in upcoming posts. But for now, we'll stick to gardening. These photos are actually from about mid June, so things have grown quite a bit since these were taken. However, I thought you might want to see the full progression of summer in the garden (and it helps me remember when things are at different stages through the season!). The photo above is of our very first zinnia, probably my favorite summer flower next to sunflowers.

As you can see above, the garden is really in full growth mode right now. In the first photo, the larger plants are sugar snap peas that we have since pulled because they are spring plants and don't like the summer heat. The smaller plants are green beans. We have planted a second crop of green beans where the sugar snap peas were, but that will be for a later post. In the bottom photo, that huge mass of greenery is our roma tomato forest. There are actually other plants around the perimeter of it (peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, edamame, and carrots) but the romas really took off and took over. There is actually some string wrapped around conduit holding everything in so that they don't totally crowd out everything else. And now for some close-ups...

The top photo is of a breed of yellow zucchini. It was a gorgeous color, but unfortunately shortly after this photo was taken, we got squash bugs that decimated the entire plant :( We will try and replant and see if we have any success this year. The next photo is of the teeniest, tiniest little baby cucumber. Yes, that tiny little spiky green blob with a flower on it is a cucumber. It was probably around an inch long when that photo was captured. Next up are some small green tomatoes, and the photo after that is of our tiny little corn plants. We planted them in the bed with spaghetti squash plants (that were compost volunteers and we originally thought were pumpkins). The idea is that when the corn is taller, it can be a sort of trellis for the spaghetti squash plants to climb up. And now for a blast from the past...

These photos were taken mid June in 2008- my first year gardening. Overall, the layout is pretty much the same, except that we added the roma tomato bed last year. We got a late start on corn this year, so the corn plants in the second photo were much more mature than what we have this year in the same time frame. It will soon catch up. 

Until next time (which will be very soon!).

-Mrs. Growbot


Rain Barrel 2.0

Greetings, readers! I know it's been a while (it's summer, can you blame me?), but this post is a particularly exciting one. As you know, Mr. Growbot and I currently garden at our former residence (read the whole story here. ). When we actually lived there, we had built a rain barrel for the garden, but sold it when we moved away. Had we known that we would be back weekly spending time in our garden with our great friends Chad and Beth, we would not have sold it, but thus is life. Here is what the old barrel looked like:

It was very basic. The gutter went through a hole we sawed out in the top to get the rain water in (no filter involved), and I used a watering can to get the water from the faucet on the bottom. The only over-flow system that we had was that we left one of the bung holes open in the top, so that when it got full, it basically just flowed over the brim. It was a very slow process to fill up the watering can and was really a bit of a nuisance having to wait for so long. But no more of that... 

Introducing Rain Barrel 2.0! That's Mr. Growbot in the photo and he's the engineer behind this amazing new spectacle. Here are some of the awesome details of the new barrel:

For the new barrel, we used the existing bung hole in the top to put the gutter in, instead of sawing out a new one. In the existing hole, Mr. Growbot affixed what they call an "atrium grate" (code for leaf-keeper-outer)  in which the gutter fit perfectly. That means no little gaps for mosquitoes to crawl through.

In addition, we have an overflow pipe attached to the side so that any overflow will have somewhere to go, instead of having standing water on the top of the barrel. This was also a mosquito preventative measure. And now the best part....

It has a handy-dandy hand pump! Now instead of having to wait for water to trickle out of the faucet, this bad boy will push out a gallon of water in 4 pumps. And, once again, instead of drilling another hole in the top of the barrel, we used the other bung hole to affix the pump, thus no mosquitoes! And of course, we had to have the old standby...

But now the faucet is just for draining purposes, not for having to water the garden. It's like an accessory to our our giant watering outfit :)

Our garden simply cannot wait for the next big rain (and we're pretty excited too)!

Until next time.

-Mrs. Growbot

Less Growing, More Bot-ing

It's been a crazy but good couple of weeks for the Growbots. The photo above is the only one from the garden, because, well, I haven't been in the garden much lately. But clearly, the garden lives on. We've now had the pleasure of receiving two harvests of broccoli and will probably be seeing more in the near future. I've been terribly busy so I haven't seen the garden in about a week and a half, but Mr. Growbot did have the pleasure of seeing it yesterday and gave me a full report. Apparently the plants that we thought were pumpkins are actually yellow crookneck squash (not that I have a problem with that, yum!), the tomatoes are thriving, and Mr. Growbot tasted a sugar snap pea pod and gave his full approval. Hopefully I'll get back in there soon and have more to share.

In other semi-related garden news, Mr. Growbot and I picked 10 pounds of strawberries last week. Let me tell you, 10 pounds of strawberries is more than you can imagine. I've so far made 24 half pints of jam and a strawberry rhubarb pie and have barely made a dent in the pile. The rest had to be put in the freezer and will be processed into more goodies soon. I plan on making "sundae in a jar" which is strawberries, raspberries, and chocolate liquer and is used mainly as an ice cream topper. I also am going to try and branch out and make some more savory creations like strawberry, mint, and black pepper jam and maybe strawberry balsamic jam.

My little Growbot brother graduated from high school this past weekend. In celebration, I made him a cake shaped like a rainbow trout for his party. My brother is an avid fisherman, so I thought the cake would be perfect. Per his request, the cake was funfetti (it was a 9x13 that I carved into the fish shape) with funfetti icing, and I made marshmallow fondant and hand painted it. Overall, I believe it was a success. My brother ate the face, always the tastiest part of the fish :)

In addition to all of my general busy-ness lately, I've been experimenting a lot with shutter speed on my camera. Chad and Beth had a fun summer party last weekend and one of their guests was a fire hooper, meaning he literally hula-hooped in a hoop with flames one it. This was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at leaving my shutter open for an extended amount of time and seeing what would happen. The photo at the top was normal speed, or 1/80 of a second. In the next couple, I had the shutter open for 3 seconds. In the last one I had the shutter open for 6 seconds. The photos turned out really interesting, and I learned a lot about shutter speed and exposure. It left me thirsty for more, so....

...introducing ghost Fancy Pants! I created this photo by leaving the shutter open for 10 seconds. Fancy stood there for about 4 or 5 seconds before walking out of the shot, thus leaving what appears to be a ghostly image of a cat. Interesting and a bit creepy, just how I like it.

No cats were harmed in the making of this blog ;)

Until next time.

-Mrs. Growbot

Snake in a Compost Pile!

 It doesn't quite have the same ring to it as Snakes on a Plane, but I'm pretty sure it was more entertaining. Yes, that's right- we found a snake in the compost pile. Did I scream? Sure did. Was it dangerous? Nope, not at all. I emailed my snake-expert brother the photos and he has informed me that it is merely a rat snake. A snake that likes to eat rats and moles, but has no interest in humans. Beth-the-Brave kindly moved him elsewhere and we have not seen him since.

In other garden news- we now have protective plastic walls around the beds which seems to be keeping all the animals out (rat snakes included).

Here's the newest bed that we've planted. This bed is composed of Roma tomatoes, various sweet and hot peppers, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, and edamame (aka soy beans). I'm particularly excited about the cucumbers because they are a pickling variety, so later this summer I will get to try my hand at a new method of preservation. I'm also looking forward to the edamame. I figure that they'll probably grow and appear like normal bush beans, but cooking them will be different for sure. Just a light steaming and some salt- delicious. Also, some tomato knowledge for you novices out there- Roma tomatoes are what we call "determinate". Determinate basically means that instead of growing up and needing a trellis, these types of tomatoes will grow horizontally and sprawl. Determinate tomatoes also tend to bear all of their fruit at once instead of over the course of the season. While these characteristics may seem to be cons, the pro is most certainly the fruit that they bear. Roma tomatoes are great for sauces both in texture and in flavor.

We also planted the rest of the herbs in the herb bed, including the Lemon Thyme pictured above. With a very pleasant fragrance and lovely variegated leaves, I think it's an awesome little plant. 

Here's a quick glance at the flower bed that we planted. Beth and I started everything from seed, so there's not much to see now, but I'm guessing that in a few weeks it will be thriving. Also, check out the clematis in the background. Mr. Growbot and I planted it in 2008 and it has really just blossomed into a handsome floral vine.

And now the mulch icing on the garden cake (gardening jokes never get old!). Beth and I dug up the yard behind the garage and started a new trellising bed yesterday. While I love the ease and maintenance of the raised beds, some things just need more space and more trellis than the raised beds can provide. In this ground bed we have planted butternut squash, mini watermelons, cantaloupe, honeydew, galia melons (see link for explanation), and what we believe to be pumpkins. The supposed pumpkins were volunteers that started from seeds in the compost pile and had really started to get quite large in the raised beds. Also, here's a bit of info about our trellis. It's made from electrical conduit and a very sturdy nylon net. We pounded 2 foot rebar one foot into the ground and put the trellis onto the remaining foot. This is the same kind of trellis I have used with the tomatoes and will hopefully prove to be just as strong. And now something not related to gardening...

Which of these things is not like the other? Fancy Pants has a tendency to hang out in the dryer when it's open, so Mr. Growbot caught a quick photo before kicking her out. I just thought it was funny. Good thing we didn't try to fold her :)

Until next time.

-Mrs. Growbot

The Beginning of Summer Planting

At last, full-blown garden time is here! Temps are staying up in the 50s at night and all is well in the land of garden. Since the last time I posted, we have actually put some of my precious seedlings in the beds. Below are some tomatoes: Beefsteak, and Heirloom varieties Green Zebra, Brandywine, and Marvel Stripe.

And also an entire herb bed: There will be rosemary, lavender, chives, thyme, lemon thyme, cilantro, parsley, sage, oregano, dill, and basil.

Not only that, but we have mesuculun and sweet peas sprouts everywhere and our first official head of broccoli has popped up as well. 

We also put the tomato trellis back up, but this time we attached the two trellises at the top for more stability. I can hardly wait until that entire bed is filled with lush, blooming tomato plants! In the background of this photo, you can also the beginning of a new rain barrel. When we moved out last year, I sold my old rain barrel not knowing that the new renters (Beth and Chad) would use it. Luckily, I have another plastic barrel, so we're going to make a new and improved one. That's one great thing about starting the garden completely over- I've learned a lot and can now apply it to the new garden and the new rain barrel.  

 In other not-so-happy news, we've had some pests digging up a couple of our squares. First we tried putting plastic forks in the beds as a deterrent (don't ask, I read it on a forum), but that proved to be nothing for our varmint friends. Beth has since put up a barrier of plastic sheeting wrapped around pvc pipe around all of the beds, and that seems to be doing the trick.

Last thing. I was recently talking to Mr. Growbot about how much I enjoy looking at photos of the garden from past years. It really helps me remember what things I grew each year, and how different growing methods worked out. So I'm going to start posting older photos as a comparison to this year. It should prove interesting. I'm starting out this theme with some vintage (ha!) 2008 photos. These were taken on May 7th of that year, so just about a week from now.

That was the first year I had done a big garden and I definitely learned a lot from it. As you can see, I tried to plant more than just tomatoes in the tomato bed- big mistake. By the end of the summer, both the squash and the watermelon that I had tried to plant  were pretty much choked out. Also, all of the little protective water bottle domes proved to be pretty pointless. They got knocked over by the wind all the time, and nothing seemed to be bothering the beds anyway. I had started broccoli from seed that year and they were certainly not the size of the ones we started from plants this year. I also had started my lettuce from seed, and it did great! That was the first thing I got to eat from my very first garden.

Until Next Time...

-Mrs. Growbot