The Garden (Rated PG 13)

9 06 2009

How quickly we can go from drought to deluge. It has been raining almost every day; and the garden is showing both the positive and negative effects of this.

Let’s go ahead and cover the “challenges” first:

Gardening Challenges

Spots on Cherry Tomato leaves: I have no clue. Nitrogen issues, Blight, Over-watering? I haven’t had time to delve into it; but I did cut off most of the damage. The plant is still cranking out cherry tomatoes, so we’ll watch and wait.

Cherry-Tomato-Leaves

Cherry-Tomato-Leaves2

The stem has a white fuzzy growth, which screams “fungus” to me. Since these photos were taken, things appear to have improved. I’ll focus on this more when I get a chance.

Cherry-Tomato-Stem

Pale Celery. I’m pretty sure this has to do with the haphazard transplanting I did. I did fertilize last week and after last Sunday’s Atomic Grow application they greened up considerably.

Celery

Pale Red Pepper leaves. Possibly root-bound, over-watered or underfertilized. I’ll try to help this plant this week. It is still making peppers, so I think it will be OK.

Red-Pepper-Plant

The pickleworms are back, and are now attacking the broccoli. The advice that I have found is to either poison with pesticide or give up the idea of gardening in the summer. Well, I’m too stubborn for that. The unfortunate part is that by the time I find them, they have destroyed an entire stem. I have begun to alternate between pinching them to death, and leaving the leaf intact and dousing the entry hole with Atomic Grow™. Atomic Grow™ is not a pesticide, but it makes insects pretty miserable, so it’s worth a shot.

Caterpillar-in-Brocolli

Entrance hole with frass (poop).

Frass-Broccoli

It’s not all bad news. When I first discovered these little monsters, some were already dead and rotting inside their hidey holes. I hope they died from alcohol poisoning as an effect of the increased sugars the plant produces on Atomic Grow™. I sprayed everything today and will update when something happens.

Dead-Vine-Borer

Squash Bugs. Shown here on the cucumber plant. I suspect they are responsible for the sick watermelon vine that is not doing well at all. In honor of their name I have been busily squashing them. Feel free to drop by and stomp to your heart’s content. We’ve got plenty to go around!

Stink-Bug

Harlequin Bug. Isn’t she Pretty? Pretty evil! See that shriveled up broccoli leaf? Thanks a lot you little six-legged piece of abstract art with sucking mouth parts! She is now a “Mashed Bug”, too.

Harlequin-Bug

Are you impressed that I knew it was a female? It wasn’t hard, since she left her Beetlejuice-looking eggs under another leaf. I did a lot of squashing that day.

Harlequin-Bug-Eggs

One more downer and then I’ll move on to the good stuff. The three baby cucumbers I got excited about all shriveled up like this. Yes, that really sucks. However, I did some research tonight and learned that female cucumber flowers do this when not properly pollinated. Even though it looks like a cucumber, it is still waiting to snuggle with a bee as long as the flower is there. I figure that since these babies were buried under the big, lush leaves they didn’t get to meet up with the pollinators. I have since learned how to pollinate with an artist’s brush whenever I find one of these little gals. Speaking of sex…don’t go away. There is some sex at the end of this post.

Cucumber-Casualty

Good news and bad news: The bananas are still doing their thing; but there are only going to be six. All of the following flowers have dropped off. AJ has done some research and learned that the bananas are formed from female flowers, Usually there are multiple hands and then many rows of sterile flowers that drop off along the stem. I’m pretty sure I jinxed them by expecting a huge bunch of bananas. We figure this puny output has to do with lack of fertilizer and/or water. AJ is on the job and we will be working to ensure larger families in the future.

Bananas

Gardening Victories

The muskmelons are doing great. Nothing would irk me more than to lose these to the squash vine borers (pickleworms). I learned online that covering the fruit can prevent the moths from laying eggs on them. Paper bags were mentioned, but seemed to be messy and to fall apart when wet. Not a good option for rainy Florida.

Muskmelon

Then I found a blog by someone using pantyhose to protect her melons. Best use of pantyhose ever! I have covered a couple of the largest muskmelons and will track their progress in relation to the uncovered ones. So far, so good.

Muskmelon-covered

Despite the pest problems, the broccoli is still going strong. I don’t know whether or not I will get any broccoli, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Broccoli

The baby heirloom tomatoes are getting big. I have got to get these things planted ASAP!

Heirloom

Pole beans are finally starting to climb. So far, these are the most perplexing of all my crops. They have taken off this week, so maybe there is still hope.

Pole-Bean

Here is a detail of The Oasis last night, showing the Poblanos, Tomatoes and Carrots.

Poblanos-Detail

This is the Poblano on the left before we went out of town. It grew quite a bit while we were gone.

Poblano

Despite the issues, the Cherry Tomatoes continue to proliferate.

Cherry-Tomatoes-Lower-Part

The regular tomatoes also continue to thrive. I counted over sixty on this trellis today.

Tomato-Fest

June 3rd’s Harvest

June-03-Harvest

The Oasis as it greeted us on Sunday.

Oasis-Wet

O2. Both beds are looking a bit overgrown, as the lettuce is going to seed and the tomatoes are completely out of control. I’m formulating the next phase, once the lettuce plants are removed. Be sure to read the Palmarosa post for some great news about seeds I was given by my cousin Alan.

O2

The mystery guests are growing up fast. One day soon, you’ll be looking back and reminiscing about how it seems like only yesterday that they looked just like bird poop. They will move past this awkward stage within a week or so.

Mystery-Guests

And last but not least…

“Birds do it, bees do it, lizards on the trees do it.” Or something like that.

Lizards-Do-It

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Week in Review: Reigning in Chaos

20 04 2009

The overall theme of this week has been finding or restoring order.

If you’ve been reading along you will know that the park has been cited by The Health Department for a plethora of minor violations.  The inspector made it known that they are cracking down across the board in order to compensate for budget cuts. It’s a blessing in disguise because enforcement of park rules has gotten quite lax. We try to keep our lot tidy, but are subjected to the mess of a junk hoarder behind us and blowing trash from a few surrounding lots. The cat situation has gotten out of control creating a crisis of disease, fleas and fighting as the cat population pushes its bounds.

In The Cops are Coming for the Gray Brigade I described how the cat situation affects us and our small herd. Today (April 20th) was the deadline for everyone to get their act together, including cleaning up their lots and leash training their cats, Ha! One resident put collars on some of her cats. One seemed particularly pissed and went about kicking ass all over the park. One look at his backside tells me that he is an un-altered tomcat, or one that was not properly neutered. At least he’s clean, because he took more than one shower from our hose this week!

Even though our lot escaped the scrutiny of the inspector, we had a mess going on in our eyes and set a goal of getting projects finished before today.

Oasis2 “O2” Completion

If you don’t know about the bamboo and Oasis2 made of buckets, barrels and tires…well, I don’t know what to say. Go back and read about it.

I spent a great deal of the weekend on this chair, cutting up this bamboo with this circular saw.

O2 Work zone

I also spent a great deal of time installing said bamboo around the border of O2.

O2-progress

Finally, by Sunday evening I was finished. O2 was done, bamboo scraps cleaned up and gravel dispersed.

O2-Complete

O2-Front

O2-Side

O2-Back

Harvesting and Pruning

The flea market tomato produced the first full-sized ripened fruit.

Tomatoes-ripe

Combined with some baby lettuce and purslane, we had a nice salad.

1st-Real-Harvest

Within two days another tomato is ripening.  Yesterday morning I cut back the branches of this massive plant. It was out of control. At last count there were over 30 tomatoes in various stages of maturity. I started a Harvest Log to document the weight of all produce collected from the garden this season.

Tomatoes

The Inspector Arrives

By early afternoon I was on the couch working, and had almost forgotten about the dreaded Health Department inspection. From the corner of my eye I saw a flash of red. It was a woman in a scarlet polo shirt, clipboard in hand, walking behind our lot with the park manager.

I glanced out onto the patio and saw something that looked like this.

Gray-Brigade-another-day

Perhaps she was completely immersed in her inspection of the septic tank lid repair, or maybe she was kindly overlooking our gross violation of the cat leash law. For whatever reason she seemed completely oblivious to what I did next. Quickly, I sprang into action, snatching up each cat and throwing them inside. Jorgi was shocked and momentarily paralyzed with fear, Smokey was befuddled and Llami just thought it was time for a cheese treat. Bedlam ensued for the next 30 minutes as we waited for the inspector to leave. Once she was gone and I opened the door the cats returned to their normal routine.

Smokey wants to play, but Jorgi doesn’t understand this.

Gray-Flash

Painting

These are the neighbors who left us the box of sealers and stain salvaged from the dump transfer station. I don’t know how else to describe them other than “compulsive painters”. This is their third unit in the park. When they first moved here they had lost their house in the hurricanes. They arrived in a homemade RV made from what amounted to a utility trailer with vinyl siding and a window unit AC. As shabby as it was they painted it multiple times. Next they bought a slightly larger travel trailer in the park. It too, went through various color iterations. Last year they bought this mobile home, which they immediately set about fixing up and painting.

The driveway has been painted more times than I can count and they even bought a boat and painted it (including pin stripes). In a reaction to astronomical electric bills they are now painting their trim a lighter, and much more attractive color. I give it four months until it changes again. Looks great, though!

Painting

AJ has gotten attached to the dumpster chair and titled it “The Epiphany Chair”. It is also getting a coat of paint.

AJ-Paints-Refelection-Chair

Mechanics

A little late, but here is our anniversary present to each other. Our anniversary was on February 21st. AJ has turned into a Mercedes diesel mechanic in this short time, and now knows as much about these cars as anyone. His weekend was spent working on this car, as has been most of his free time since we got it. This project was especially chaotic as it involved removing, disassembling, repairing and reassembling the instrument panel. This was as tedious and frustrating as anything I’ve seen him do. Of course it has all been done with his trademark precision and attention to detail. He promises to start his own blog to document all the “guy stuff” he does.

For now, here’s the car:

Mercedes

Turbo-Diesel

Weed Rescue

And finally, here is a little gem I rescued from certain destruction by the mower. It must be some sort of wildflower, although I have yet to identify it. It adapted quite well to being yanked from the ground and potted. Now it graces our beautiful steps.

Mystery-Wildflower-Pot

Unknown-Wildflower

Exhausted from this grueling weekend I left for work today without my cell phone and forgetting an important piece of equipment. On the way back home I managed to lose my coffee thermos mug. Now that the outside looks great I must get busy restoring order to the inside (of the RV as well as my head). I’m only grateful that the Health Inspector didn’t look in here!





Bamboo, Bamboo and more Bamboo!

10 04 2009

We got home with the bamboo on Wednesday and crashed. Thursday, after work we set up a processing center in the driveway. Bamboo is messy, branchy, leafy and sharp! I processed my pile of thin bamboo and AJ processed the big stuff. Sawzall, branch cutters and a machete were involved.

Processing

AJ deals with the especially difficult pieces.

Finishing-up

I pose with the sawzall.

Cutting

Today, AJ finished processing the big stuff, and put it under the RV to cure. Once it has dried for a couple of weeks we will treat it and use it in the new fence.

Bamboo-Curing

Here is my small stuff. It looks like a lot, but I bet Oasis2 takes the all of it.

Finished-Thin-Bamboo

This shot of Oasis2 should explain why I’m chomping at the bit to get the trellis built and the beans planted. The chaos in the background is Jack’s lot. He’s a fascinating and nice old guy; but his sense of aesthetics is vastly different than ours. This afternoon, Jack came around and sat on his trailer to talk to me while I worked. He said that he loved our gravel and couldn’t get over how great it looks. He said the bamboo brought back memories of WWII. They used it to build traps and cages for the Japanese. While we were talking the park manager came by with a notice about the Health Department citations. Jack has been ordered to clean up his lot, cover the boat with a tarp and get tags on his vehicles. I’ve been in this park too long to expect much of a change. There is only so much you can do with hoarders like Jack. I am very fond of the guy, but I do not enjoy looking at his junk. I keep my fingers crossed that the pole beans, lima beans and cucumbers fill in the trellis and obscure the view.

Oasis2-in-works

Here is the experimental stage of the trellis. I dug holes up to my elbows and buried five poles. The horizontal bamboo wasn’t long enough to span the length, so I changed plans and went for a diagonal look with three poles.

Trellis-in-process

It’s still a little crooked because I ran out of twine to tie it together. I will straighten it out a bit, and AJ said he would trim the ends for me.  I’m not very concerned since it is quite sturdy and I don’t plan to see much of it in a month or two. It’s not large enough to hide the entire mess, but I hope it helps.

Trellis-done

Here is a photo that AJ took when I wasn’t looking. I’m cutting the long pieces into small fascia, which I will pound into the ground around the raised beds.

Cutting-Fascia

Here’s The Oasis. Take a good look at this and try to take your mind off of the previous image.

Oasis041009

The ebay auctions bombed. I didn’t make enough to buy the topsoil. We planned to get it with our pay, but we did not get paid today; so I don’t know what will happen. The beans are sending out very long tendrils and really need to get into the ground. I may cash in my change jar and buy a couple of bags of soil just to get the beans planted.

Tomorrow is another day of labor. We are aching, exhausted and all scratched up.  See you on the flip side.





The Gravel Project: Part 4

29 03 2009

UPDATE: Please see this post for important results concerning this mulching project!

AJ and I awoke Saturday feeling the pain of the previous day’s labor. He laughed when I told him “I feel like I went to the gym, used every piece of equipment and then fell asleep in the tanning bed.”

With company on the road to our place we pulled ourselves together and set about getting the place ready for company. AJ worked on some projects outdoors while I gave the inside a much needed scrubbing.

After our guests had arrived and we had all eaten dinner, we took to the yard to admire it some more. I have been a rock and fossil hound since as early as I can recall; and have eccentric collections of all sorts of items picked up from in and on the ground. This gravel excited me so much more than the common chipped marble  because this is composed of fossilized shells. We now possess an expanse of million year old relics, many of which have survived in perfect condition. Before sunset and with wine glasses in hand, AJ and I went “beachcombing” on our ancient beach to pick out some great specimens.

Here is a closeup of the #57.

Gravel-2

And, here is a closeup of the washed shell gravel.

Gravel-Detail

Here are some of the shells we found. These are true fossils, with no shell material remaining.

Fossil-Shells
Fossil-Shells-2
Fossil--Shells-3

Here is a closeup of  my baby carrots.

Carrots

And here is a closeup of the bibb lettuce.

Bibb-Lettuce

As dusk settled in I remarked upon how much better the yard smelled with the “catbox” far removed. As if on cue, the wind shifted and blew from the West bringing in the delicious fragrance from the nearby orange groves. Imagine the finest, sweetest citrus air freshener filling all of the outdoors.

Next weekend I will get the soil for The Oasis 2 and get my rapidly growing beans and melons planted. I plan to build a huge trellis out of bamboo, which when grown in should block the monstrous eyesore behind us. The Atomic Veteran is a sweet and kind man, but he chooses to collect junk like a professional hoarder.





The Gravel Project: Part 3

29 03 2009

Friday was a looooong day. By sundown the project was completed and we were exhausted.

Here are some shots of our handiwork:

Gravel11
Gravel12

Here is a closeup of the succulent garden.

Gravel3

Gravel2

Here’s the driveway with the car parked in it.

Gravel4

The containers are the beginnings of “The Oasis 2” More pickle buckets and a polyethylene barrel cut into 1/3rds. It contained a soy based liquid used in spray foam insulation. The MSDS states that it is only dangerous when inhaled. The liquid has solidified and I believe the containers will be fine for garden beds.

AJ filled in the gap behind the banana trees on Saturday. It looks even better now.

Gravel6

Gravel5

Here is The Oasis from the other side. The edges look rough in the photo, but in real life it looks nice. I was thrilled to have enough gravel to expand beyond the banana trees and devil’s backbone. It really feels like a beachy desert island.

Gravel13

Gravel7

Oasis032909

Gravel1





The Gravel Project: Part 2

29 03 2009

At 11:05 on Friday morning the gravel delivery girl (yes girl) called to say that she was loading up the truck. We had been out prepping for hours, and her timing was perfect.

AJ dug out strips for the driveway while I cleaned up and organized the target areas.

Pregravel1

I tidied up “The Oasis” and started moving the loose items out of the way. This is beforehand.

Pregravel4

It’s hard to see in this shot, but I’ve got new sprouts of sage, parsley, celery and spinach in the concrete rings, as well as my two year old oregano and some green onions and a pineapple from grocery store cuttings. Up top, some garlic from the grocery store and some ancho chiles sprouting from seed. The lima bean seedlings peek up in the lower right.

Pregravel5

Here’s another shot showing the tomatoes, green pepper, dill, baby carrots, basil and three kinds of lettuce.

Pregravel6

Within minutes the driver was backing up into our driveway. AJ supervised as neighbor, Ralph watched. Ralph is the park landscaper and this kind of thing is right up his alley.

Pregravel7

Erica, the driver, was a cute young woman with a sunny attitude and tight jeans. I think she made Ralph’s day. Wish I would have gotten her picture!

The gravel was divided into sections. We got 3.75 cubic yards of #57 (3/4″ Concreted Limestone). This came out first.

Pregravel8

Behind the divider was the treat for me and the oasis: 1 1/4 cubic yards of Washed Shell Gravel. It is finer, cleaner and cost almost twice as much. We laid out a tarp so that it wouldn’t get mixed up with dirt. Then I had the brilliant idea of  pre-loading the buckets, so we placed them in the dump zone and stood back.

Pregravel11

Erica, as diplomatic as she was cute, grinned and said “We’ll see what happens. When this stuff comes out, it really comes out.” And like the best laid plans of mice and men, so went ours.

Pregravel12

I dubbed this new activity “Gravel Bowling”. I think the buckets were at a distinct disadvantage. We all got a good laugh, though.

Pregravel13

Energized, we began what would be a very long day of moving five tons of gravel. Happy Birthday AJ! Although I’m sure you could have thought of better ways to spend it.