Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Very hot, but very productive weekend.  I have completed transplanting it all!  That's 277 plants that have been moved from their seedling containers to the garden and does not count anything that was direct seeded at all.  Getting the rest of the stuff out took more time (as usual) than expected because those bazillions of propellers are still needing to be yanked and I had a few areas of soil that needed cleaning up, weeding and compostifying.
 Tonight I though I would put up some starter pictures.  I like to refer back to them as the season goes on.  First, here are this year's balcony tomatoes.  I wasn't going to do this, this year because we are replacing this balcony railing this summer, but I needed good space for tomatoes and they grew so well here last year that I did it again.  This year I used about half the volume of soil in the containers.  It will be interesting to see how that impacts yield and watering.  In the containers from left to right are Galo De Melon, Black Cherry and returning this year, Dr. Carolyn.  No blooms on any of these yet, though BC is close.
This is the rose bed.  It is another bed slated for improvement this year as part of the patio project.  The roses in this bed are 20+ years old.  They are hardy.  I ignore them always and they still live.  They are very fragrant and are different colors depending on the weather.  I should enjoy them more but since they frequently impale me with their giganormous thorns, I tend to resent them.  OK I wish death on them from time to time too.

The brick wall and nearby concrete patio get a lot of heat, so this bed always gets some of my heat lovers.  In addition to the roses and perennials in this bed, I have four eggplants, two tomatoes, some cilantro and some chard.  The tomatoes are Striped Roman (left pole) and Chocolate Stripes.  Both of these are blooming but man is SR one wimpy plant.  It constantly looks limp and pathetic.  It's a healthy green but it has the demeanor of a frail, overbred lady in a heatwave.  It always  appears as though ready to keel over in a dead faint.
This next bed is currently breaking my rule for productive AND attractive.  This is the hot bed and is my hope for actually producing melons this year.  The last couple of years I had no luck.  This year I made two more changes.  1) Direct seeding to avoid stunting and 2) increasing bed and plant temps by using the cold frame to do it.  The seeds I planted in here sprouted after two days.  My fingers are crossed that I'm on the right track.  

Planted in front of the frame is amarynth and cukes and cilantro.  To the right of it you can see Mystery 1 and Mystery 2, the volunteer tomatoes from the worm poop.  Both of these already have little tomatoes on them.  Mystery 2 is starting to look like a relative of Sungold.  I'll know soon!

In the back of this bed you can just see three tomatoes in their self watering container peaking out.  These were my shrimpiest seedlings, White and Pink Stripes, Illini Star and Black from Tula.  These varieties have their twins planted in the garden.  Their twins are currently bigger.  My shrimps might be needing a pep talk, or perhaps a bit of organic fertilizer.  This is the one container where I reused about half of the potting mix.  They might be potting about that.

This is getting long.  I'll post pictures of the other beds tomorrow.  For now, I'm going to start enjoying phase II which is water occasionally, watch for pests and sit back and watch the growing!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pictures After a Weekend of Work!

Transplanted out this weekend:  Chinese red noodle beans, all the rest of the tomatoes except for two, all the peppers, all of the eggplants but three.

Removed this weekend: 2839723429 sprouting  &^%$^&$ propellers!

Seeds started this weekend:  Cukes and melons.

Bags of cocoa bean mulch spread:  Only three!  It goes far.

Motrin required after 17 hours of digging:  4

Hope everyone had a great weekend. 


Friday, May 14, 2010

Ramping Up for the Big Weekend

I heard on the radio this afternoon that the Farmer's Almanac says this is the weekend to plant.  I didn't catch what it was I'm supposed to be planting but it doesn't matter.  I plan to try and plant it ALL!  If I am to have any hope of getting the patio project done this summer, I need to get this stuff in and growing.  The ten day forecast looks good.  May 15th is the last frost date.  It's time.

I got a jump on things tonight after work.  I hit the nursery for some mushroom compost so that I don't have to waste time tomorrow running out and then I came home and started planting.  Three more tomatoes went into the tub in the hot bed.  These are currently my puniest seedlings.  It will be interesting to see how Black From Tula, Illini Star and Big White and Pink Stripes do now that they are in the hot zone.

Once those were in I planted all fourteen Molten Lava Amarynth.  In hindsight, my placement of these was a bit off.  I forgot they get to be four feet tall and planted them in the front of the beds.  Oh well, maybe it will still look cool.  

I stayed out until about 8pm since it was such a nice night.  The whole rest of the time was spent on propeller removal.  I filled one huge pop up bag already and have barely made a dent.  Nevertheless, it was a good start for what I hope will be a very productive weekend! 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


This is horse chestnut Fort McNair.  Its a good tree.  A bit susceptible to mildew in the fall but otherwise not remotely needy.  To be fair I suppose the eight maples in the backyard are not particularly needy either.  They are better described as annoying in the springtime.  Annoying due to the propeller factor.

Propellers are what I call the seeds of maples.  They fall from the trees like thousands of little helicopters.  The kids have a rip roaring good time throwing them up in air and watching them spin downwards.  Unfortunately when weekends are spent taking apart all of the gutters to remove the propellars, our joy at throwing them off the roof is much more limited.  We have grates on all the gutters to prevent this sort of maintenance need of course.  The problem is, propellers laugh at these grates.

Beyond, the hint of not  planting maples within 500 feet of your roof, my only advice with respect to propellars is about mulch timing.  Try to avoid mulching before propellar season.  If you don't, you get this. 
Once it rains, all these propellers sprout.  They then become weeds with very sturdy roots.  Better to take a leaf blower at them to blast them into the yard then to let them sprout.

I've considered spending the upcoming weekend on propeller clean-up but the ten day forecast is looking just too good.  Instead, if the forecast holds, I'll be giving Mystery 1 and Mystery 2 tomatoes some company and will be emptying out the cold frame and planting it all out. I already have baby tomatoes starting on Mystery 1, in the foreground as well as several other varieties that I put out a couple of weeks ago.  It's time to get their brothers out there and producing.  Times a wasting, propellers have to wait.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Landscape Design Software

I have spent the last few nights working on the design for the reclaiming the patio project.  We generally refer to this area as the dog's area.  That's because currently it is a glorified dog run.  Our yard is not fenced, so when Spazzy McDrool goes out, he heads to this area.  In the picture from the balcony above, you can see the path he is most fond of taking in this area.  We are planning a complete overhaul here.  The balcony rails and treads are getting replaced, the fence-line is getting replaced and moved outwards, the patio is getting expanded and beds are getting dressed up.  The new area will hopefully also include a pond provided we don't have issues with underground utilities in the area.  There will not be much grass.  This is because grass is not all that eco-friendly, we hate mowing it and the weirdo pooch hates walking on it.

I've been doing it using a software called PUNCH Landscape, Deck and Patio Designer.  This product does lots of cool stuff but the learning curve is not small.  If you are familiar with CAD you'll have no problem with it.  If not, while the 490 page instruction manual pretty much tells you how to do everything.  It does not tell it in any sort of rational order.  

It does also not tell you what NOT to do.  A component that contributed to significant colorful language on more than one occasion.  Several days later I still have not figured out how to draw a decent curve, as evidenced by the weird shape of the pond.  I also am finding roofs impossible, after many hours trying to do them.  Posts are easy.  Spacing them not so much.  Can you tell?

This program was really designed for house building.  Many of its features are related to building a house.  It has a robust landscape component though, so they repackaged it and called it a landscape design program.  For gardeners, it does a ton of cool things.  The plant and tree library is huge and if by some weird chance you need something that isn't there, you can import it easily.  You can sort thru the library by gardening zones, sunlight, or whatever parameter you are challenged with.

There is a plant aging function which allows you to see what your design will look like in 5, 10, up to 20 years!  Even cooler you can plug in your GPS location and your property's position related to the sun and the program will accurately project shadows depending on what season you look at.  That's huge!  Want to know how much mulch you need for that bed you just drew?  Press the calculate materials button and it will tell you, once you plug in how many inches deep you want it.  Plug in some prices and it will total up all your material costs related to your project.  

My favorite thing I have discovered so far about this program is that you do not have to view your design birds eye.  If you click the person icon, you can walk thru it as if you are doing it in real life.  It allows you to feel what the space will feel like.  It was this feature that clued me into the fact that the design above needs a bigger area.  The patio pad feels too small for what we'll be using it for.  Unfortunately I haven't figured out how to correct that without redrawing the whole entire thing.   Sigh.

The software was $39 at Best Buy.  It's a memory hog and will require a reasonable decent system to run it without wanting to heave it out the window.  If you want to mess with design and have a bit of skill related to figuring out software though, you might find this fun for rainy evenings.