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Friday, July 29, 2011

'Trombetta' Climbing Squash

One of the more unusual vegetables I am growing this years is the 'Trombetta' climbing squash. Its name is derived from the Italian word for bugle or trumpet which is the shape it resembles. 'Trombetta' is a climbing squash that when ideally placed has the strong support of an arbor or trellis on which to grow.  The squash itself gets very long and is ideally picked somewhere around 12-14 inches. 

This small squash will quickly transform into a much larger version if given plenty of water and nutrient rich soil.  I planted our squash beside our arbor in the hopes that it would climb and eventually cover the arbor. In the past I've used moonflowers but they haven't done much this year. I think this squash is unique enough to categorize as both an ornamental and an edible plant.

According to Renee's Garden Seeds (which was my source for the seeds) 'Trombetta' has a "mild taste with a hint of artichoke!"  We'll find out soon since this one looks ready for picking!

What unusual veggies have you tried this year?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Searching the Cosmos

Some days it's good to go outside and stare off into the cosmos. As you gaze you begin to wonder what's out there in the cosmos? Is there life to be found somewhere out in the cosmos?

Not here, but we'll keep looking.

Maybe here, we should look a little closer...

What do we have here?

There is definitely something ...


Yes, there definitely is life in the cosmos!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Not To Do In The Vegetable Garden

You hear a lot of us garden bloggers always talking about what to do in the vegetable garden, but what about what not to do? We all make mistakes.  We all do things that can be categorized under "OOPS".  I'm going to share one of those "OOPS" moments with you today that quite frankly I'm disgusted with myself for doing. What was my mistake in the garden? I was very carefully weeding the Bermuda grass from around the base of my cucumber plants when out came something other than a nasty Bermuda grass rhizome. It was the shallow roots of one cucumber vine!  My poor cucumbers when into shock so bad that I doubt they will recover. I'll have to replant. Fortunately I had several vines up on this trellis and at least one of them is still alive.  I added some shredded paper mulch and newspapers to try to keep the moisture in the soil in the off chance that my cucumbers have a chance.  I have other cucumbers in other areas of the vegetable garden so I won't be completely without cucumbers but these were pickling cucumbers that I was pretty excited about. I'll still be pickling but without the pickling cucumbers it just won't be the same.

What was your most recent "OOPS?"

Monday, July 25, 2011

Small Potatoes - YUM!

I had a very productive weekend! It's been a while since I spent so much time outdoors and despite the heat, the sun, the sweat, and big case of farmer's tan a bunch of chores were accomplished. One surprise though was my potatoes. The potato bed was overrun with Bermuda grass as I mentioned the other day but even before that my potatoes had seemingly succumbed to a blight. A month ago I had given my potatoes up for lost. Lost they were, until I pulled Bermuda rhizome after rhizome out of the bed and amazingly potatoes began popping up! It wasn't a great harvest by any means but it did brighten my spirits a bit.

The potatoes were small things mostly, definitely not fit for baking in most cases, so I had to come up with a way to use them. Often people boil potatoes this small and serve them with butter but I had another idea. It was inspired by a friend who cooked some small garden potatoes a few weeks ago for us. It was so simple and delicious that I had to take my small potato opportunity to try it myself.

I took the potatoes and tossed them in a bowl then coated them lightly with oil. Then I sprinkled them with pepper and sea salt. Any potatoes that were a little larger than bite size were cut in half. Finally I sauteed them until tender in an iron skillet.

Sometimes simple is the best way to do things!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Weekend Garden Chore: The Vegetable Garden

Over the last two months life has thrown many curveballs that have beaned the batter on numerous occasions. You would think that I'd be making some runs here or there but unfortunately I seem to be getting out at third every time. What does this baseball analogy have to do with anything? Well sometimes we get taken away from what we'd like to to in order to see to things we have to do. Which means something gets neglected and much to my dismay lately it's been the vegetable garden. How bad is it you wonder? (Don't worry I can't read your mind, I'm just guessing that that is what you're thinking.) It's pretty bad.

Weeds are everywhere including the most vexing garden invader to inhabit the United States of America: Bermuda grass. This stuff is nothing short of pure evil when it gets into a garden. The runners go everywhere and every last piece of root has to be removed or else the grass from "you know where" goes "you know where" --- in the garden beds!


Yes there is a garden under that Bermuda grass!
It's enough to tempt a gardener to use some glyphosate. I'll refrain for now. I think I'll see what some good old fashioned hand weeding can do to this mess. 

'Tigger' Melons
The good news is that despite the tomatoes that desperately need tied up and the weed invasion - the garden is producing. We've harvested lots of orange 'Sungold' tomatoes that I got from Renee's Garden, which are one of the most delicious cherry tomatoes I've had. The melons are producing well too including 'Tigger', 'Old Time Tennessee', and 'Sierra Gold' cantaloupes. None of these are fit to harvest yet but if things go well I can see eating some delicious melons form the garden very, very soon.

The cucumbers are producing at an extremely alarming rate too - nothing wrong with that! Some are pickling cucumbers which were also from Renee's Garden and others are plain regular cucumbers from the Greenland Gardener Kit. I need to give you an update on that garden bed soon. 

The trellises I built for the cucumbers are doing fantastic! They are heavy enough to withstand the 50-60 mph winds like we had last night and perfect for climbing vine vegetables like cucumbers and melons.

One other issue with garden neglect is the monster cucumbers that continue to grow until someone gets out there to pick them!

Needless to say I have my work cut out for me this weekend, but all that really matters in the vegetable garden is what its produces in the end - yum!

'Red Zebra' tomato

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Simple Potting Arrangement for the Front Porch

I'm not big into potted plants, but maybe I should be. There's something satisfying about having a garden 100% complete and only having to maintain it with a little watering and a smattering of organic fertilizer. Essentially a potted arrangement is just a simple miniature garden complete within itself. Of course you can get as complicated as the size of your pot allows, you can include bonsai, groundcovers, and of course the potter's adage "spillers, thrillers and chillers!" You can even include multiple pots together to make whole gardens of pots that blend with each other. Today I went simple and planted two identical pots with two contrasting colors: silver and burgundy.

For the burgundy I found two cordyline plants on the discount rack and paid a whopping $2 for both of them. For the silver I picked the old standard annual plant Dusty Miller. Old Dusty sometimes makes it through our winters. I even had one plant that survived two winters before finally succumbing to the winter cold. Together the silver and burgundy colors should make for an attractive entrance to our front porch once they fill out. the cordyline isn't hardy here (it likes zones 9-10) but should make a nice indoor plant if I can remember to bring it indoors when the weather changes. And to make my simple pot garden even cooler, I spent a grand total of $5.75 for 9 Dusty Miller plants and the two cordyline. It's hard to beat that!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Taking Advantage of Aerial Roots

You all know how much I like making new plants, but you should also know that I really like it when plants make it easy for the propagator! Many plants do just that by creating aerial roots that normally will be used to grab onto surfaces and climb. Vining plants (of course) are especially good at this like my Winter blooming jasmine. It's also known as Jasminum nudiflorum and is an especially awesome plant because it blooms when nothing else is! Our Jasmine has bloomed both in February and March before many other plants were ready to start the spring show. If you look along the stem of the Jasmine you will see a few roots extending from one of the nodes. These are the aerial roots that are normally used for grabbing onto structures and give the plant the ability to climb up and through other plants.

Propagating Winter Jasmine:

These aerial roots also make winter Jasmine easy to propagate. Simply cut below the node with the roots place in your medium and keep moist. The roots will take off before you know it!  Don't worry if there aren't any roots extending from the node, if you stick it they will come! Roots or no roots sticking the nodes into the rooting medium usually brings good results without rooting hormone. Winter Jasmine roots well pretty much anytime during the growing season.

More About Winter Jasmine:

Winter Jasmine is a zone 6-10 plant and is actually considered a shrub but grows so vine like in my garden that that's how I consider it. It would be easy to train on a trellis or prune it to become more of a shrub.  It seems to enjoy crawling on the ground and has a somewhat weeping habit if in shrub form. While I haven't done this I think this would be a a great plant to train on a split rail fence or other rustic structure. It's not a native shrub but hasn't shown any signs of invasiveness in my garden. I have it situated in a late afternoon sun location but it should do fine in full sun to part shade. Winter Jasmine also appears to be unappetizing to deer and rabbits which in my garden - IS A MUST! 

Friday, July 15, 2011

July and Some Summer Blooms

To say that this month has been difficult is an understatement. My time in the garden has been minimal and its current state is more akin to a wild meadow (and that's being kind) than a well tended garden at the moment. Fortunately we still have some very reliable blooming flowers to show for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. I've included some links to my previous posts about these flowers that you are more than welcome to visit. If not just enjoy the blooms!

Pink Gladiolas


Russian Sage

Blue Morning Glory

Pinkish-Purplish Crape Myrtle

Purple Homestead Verbena

Lots of Zinnias!

Red Zinnia

Pink Zinnia

Yellow Zinnia


Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Dad

Have I ever told you much about my dad? Probably not. I normally keep this blog close to the garden subject area. Sometimes I stray and talk about my kids, but there is usually a gardening slant. I suppose today will be no different because my dad has always been supportive of my gardening projects. He's been there for most of the big ones.  I couldn't have built the garden shed without his help. He was there for advice, a helping hand, and company too.

He also helped me build this playset for the kids. That really doesn't have much to do with gardening but it is a prominent feature in our backyard and the kids love to play on it all the time.

When I was working on the arbor project he was there. He helped me raise the top onto the posts and did some of the staining.

Over the years we've done other projects too like the retreat in my parent's backyard. It's a pavilion over a patio that they've used as an outdoor living room. On a blazing hot summer day it's a great place to retreat to, hence the name! We also built this bench for my mom, although I can't remember if it was for her birthday or Mother's Day. Either way the bench was both a way to make a present for my mom and spend some time with dad.  It's weathered well even if the paint hasn't.

Dad and mom both helped me to get our house into livable shape after buying our house which was in foreclosure at the time. We spent two months rehabbing the inside, getting the walls painted, hardwood floors installed, carpets removed and installed and several other issues straightened out. Our projects brought us closer together.

I am so fortunate to have had those times with my dad, I just wish they could have lasted longer. This past Wednesday dad passed away due to cancer. My mother, brother and me were there as dad succumbed to that deadly disease. He began fighting the cancer in November when it was discovered in his esophagus. He fought through the debilitating effects of chemo and radiation treatments and prepared to have surgery to remove a section of the esophagus to prevent its return.  During the surgery the doctors found the cancer had metastasized to his liver. He continued to fight but soon discovered it had spread again, from his liver, to his pancreas, to his lungs, and near his heart. To make it even worse the cancer in his liver had grown and was causing pressure on his side along with pain, lots of pain. He went into the hospital a week ago from this past Friday and we truly expected him to come home for a while but the cancer spread too aggressively. To make an impossible situation even more impossible a blood clot in the liver needed treated with blood thinners which prevented a rupture in the intestine from closing. On Wednesday my dad died.

I've been spending a considerable amount of time trying to get a grasp of everything.  It's hard to accept that someone who has been a part of my life since I was born is no longer there. We had the funeral today, with full military honors. Dad was an Air Force veteran of 20 years and served his country with dignity and honor until he retired. And he did the same for his family.

I'll be resuming posting again soon, once life has returned to a new normal. I'm grateful I had the chance to tell my dad what he meant to me but I wish his 67 years would have been more like 87 years.  We don't always get the opportunity to say goodbye.

Edit: I have detailed more of dad's fight with cancer on my stay at home dad blog: This Dad's World.  You're welcome to visit there and read.  I haven't been updating it frequently but I felt that I needed to write more about dad's struggle with cancer.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July GROW Project Update

Another second of the month has arrived and it's time for an update on my seeds for the 2011 GROW project!

Here's the Italian Cameo Basil - I have it planted in a container but I suspect the soil mix is too heavy for the basil. Its growth has been fairly limited over the last month and I may need to transplant the basil into a lighter soil mix.

I planted one Marigold 'Yellow Splash' next to the tomatoes in the vegetable garden but wanted more to plant in other areas so I started a few more from seed indoors. Marigolds are a good companion plant for tomatoes because they deter nematodes. 'Yellow Splash' is a hybrid of the African and French marigolds.

It's way too hot right now to plant lettuce outdoors so I began planting the 'Garden Babies' lettuce inside as well. I'll transfer these seedlings into pots and keep them in the house and harvest lettuce as we need it. There's nothing wrong with indoor gardening in the summer!

I'm growing with the SeedGROW project. Thanks to Renee's Garden for the seeds.

Amazing Ajuga (reptans)

Some plants just really know how to grow! Take this Ajuga reptans (Bugleweed) that I planted in my corner shade garden area last fall for instance. I had one plant that I divided into two and planted on either side of a large stepping stone. Those two plants have now become all those that you see in the picture below.

To me that's just amazing! Ajuga makes a great groundcover for shady areas. You can help ajuga along by propagating more of it through division but that really isn't necessary unless you want the purple and green variegated groundcover to spread in a new location.

Ajuga is great for a little color in the shade or a living mulch underneath shrubs and trees. It fills in thick and doesn't allow for many weeds to poke through. Keep in mind that it spreads fast and has the potential to become invasive. It's easy enough through to control with a shovel and hoe.  Ajuga grows well in zones 3-9, likes the shade or part shade but can handle more sun if in a cooler climate.