Category Archives: Gardening

One Last Stand….

As I mentioned in this post, I have given up on growing a garden.  They never seem to grow very well in my yard, whether it be because of my soil, or my thumb.  The only problem with that, is that I  really want to be able to grow my own food.  I love the idea of organic produce, but it’s so expensive!  I also love how home grown produce tastes, especially with tomatoes.  So as a last chance effort, I decided to try one more time.  But I didn’t plant a garden.  Instead, I picked up two tomato plants, some potting soil, and decided to plant my new greenery into pots.

Of course, I got Son to help me.  We put our two pots into the wagon, so that they’d be easier to manage, and filled them with some new dirt.

We then dug holes into the middle of our dirt-filled pots, to prepare them for the new tomato plants.  While I was at a farmer’s market last summer, a tomato farmer told me to always cut the lower limbs from new tomato plants, and then bury them.  He said this would create a better root system, and thus better tomatoes.  So I carefully supervised, while Son sliced of each lower branch with a pocket knife.

And as you can see in the photo above, I also typically remove most of the biodegradable pots that the plants come in.  I’ve discovered with my last two gardens, that the pots don’t degrade so well in my yard, so I remove what I can.

After we had the plants trimmed, we placed in their respective holes.

Then, it was time to surround them with new dirt.

The final step was to water each new plant, and for that, Son broke out his watering can…

Hopefully, these tomato plants will actually grow, and give me some juicy, tangy tomatoes.  The packaging said they were “Patio” tomatoes, and perfect for containers.  We’ll see.  My non-green fingers are crossed!

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Filed under DIY, Gardening, Parenting

Spring Planting…

For the last two years, I, along with Husband’s help, have planted an outdoor garden.  You can see them here, and here.  Unfortunately, neither of these gardens have ever done much more than grow grass and okra.  So this year, I decided to forgo the garden all together.  Sure, I love home grown tomatoes, but my plants never fruit, or grow higher than 20 inches for that matter.  And my zucchini?  Well all it ever gave me gave me was flowers and squash bugs.  So I’m just not going to waste my time this year.  Oh, but don’t worry.  I still planted something….

I decided that I had done pretty well with my little lemon tree, so maybe indoor gardening was more my color.  I decided to try my hand at herbs.  I picked up a few different seed packets, and some soil.

And yes, I chose to do all this planting inside, on my kitchen table, on top of my pretty table cloth.  Shhhh.  Don’t tell Husband.

I decided to skip the larger pots, and to only plant a few seeds at a time in some little jars.  This was how I managed to grow my awesome lemon tree there in the background, and I figured I’d start my plants this way for luck.

I started with Thyme, and those seeds are tiny!

Then Parsley….

And Finally, Cilantro…

I only used a few seeds at a time, and simply placed them in my dirt…

and covered them up.  Then I gave each jar a tag, and placed them on my window sill.

Once my herbs were planted, and since I had the dirt out anyway, I decided it was time to re pot my lemon tree.  So I said a little prayer, ok a lot of little prayers, and pulled the plant up out of its mug.  I was surprised by the amount of roots waiting for me on the bottom, and as I knocked the dirt off, I thought I’d try to detangle them.  You see, my lemon tree is really four lemon trees, altogether, in one cozy pot.  I never dreamed I’d even get one tree from my store-bought-lemon seeds, but I got four!  I figured I’d someday have to cut all by one back to nothing, but felt bad about doing it.  What if I cut the wrong tree?  What if the tree I didn’t cut missed his brothers, and died of depression?

Luckily, I was able to get each tree free!  And just so you could see how extensive the root system is, I took a picture of a medium sized plant…

It’s incredible.

I was able to re-pot each tree into its own little plot of soil, and I planted my biggest tree in a footed bowl I found at Goodwill a year or so ago.

Then, of course, I said another couple of prayers, and told them to grow, and be happy.  Here’s hoping it worked!

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Eating the Yard, Part II…

Two days ago, I posted how overgrown my yard had become, and that I wasn’t going to let all my weed crop go to waste.  Instead, I harvested what was good, and made dinner.  (More on that here.)

Dandelion leaves weren’t the only things I plucked.  I grabbed a few wild onions while I was out there.

Of course, wild onions aren’t exactly sparkling clean when you pull them out of the dirt…

So I took them to the sink, washed off the dirt, and pulled off the brown and outer leaves, exposing the clean bulbs beneath.

Then, I chopped them finely, and added some to that dandelion salad, and then rubbed the rest onto some pork chops that I had covered with olive oil and chopped garlic.

See, once they’re clean, wild onions look just like the green scallions you buy at the store, but they’re free!

I was going to grill the chops outside, but we ran out if gas!  So instead, I cooked them in a pan on the stove.

Just the same, it turned out amazingly, and the only thing I paid for was the pig.

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Eating My Yard…

As I mentioned earlier, we recently left our house for a week, and headed to my Dad’s place for Spring Break.  After we returned, it rained heavily for the next week, and come Yesterday, my yard looked like this…

It was rough; you don’t have to tell me.  I couldn’t wait to get at it with the lawn mower.  But just before I did, I decided to harvest some of my bountiful crop.

No, really.  I served it up with dinner!  I walked around and picked leaves from my dandelion plants, and then pulled a few of my wild onions.  You see, we don’t treat our yard with weed killer, as the above photo attests, and so all our plants are safe to eat, providing they are edible plants, of course.  Dandelions are edible, and of course wild onions are.  Just the same, I did some research after I picked my salad.

According to Wild Man Steve, dandelions are not only safe, but also very good for you.  I even came across a French recipe for Cream of Dandelion soup, and we all know how the French are about their food!

So here’s the dirt on dandelion picking…

Dandelion leaves are slightly bitter, like arugula, and as they age, they increase in bitterness until after the first frost.  Since it’s spring here, I don’t have to worry about that.  The leaves also taste better before they begin to flower, but are still palatable until that pesky white seed ball forms.  The only issue with harvesting from your yard, assuming you don’t use any chemicals on your grass, is the imposters.  Observe…

All the leaves shown came from my yard.  All of them came from plants that have yellow flowers, and white, puffy seed balls.  But, they are not all dandelions.  Dandelions keep their leaves close to the ground, and don’t get very tall.  Remember those knee-high weeds in my yard photo?  Not dandelions.  Dandelions also only sprout one flower per plant, at a time.  So you see that plant above with the three flower buds?  Not a dandelion.  And finally, dandelion leaves are soft, and leafy.  They aren’t hard, waxy, or spiny.  If you see a plant with a yellow flower, and the leaves prick you, then pull it out, but throw it away.  All the dandelion look-a-likes are thistles, and not the delicious kind of thistles, like artichokes.  No, you don’t want to eat these.  But the real dandelion leaves are tasty.

I turned mine into a salad, with a bit of oil, vinegar, and wild chives.  I even added some pepperoncini and shaves of parmigian for a little kick.

So the next time someone says weeds, remember, it could just be a salad, waiting to happen.

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Re-Potting…

I’m still working on becoming a great Home Maker, and part of that is keeping green things in the home, alive.  I’ve never really been good at that last part.  But believe it or not, I’ve managed to keep something green, alive, and growing enough to need to re-pot it!

Several months ago, OK, from the time stamp on the blog-post it was only 1 month ago, I planted some lemon seeds from a store-bought lemon.  (You can see that here.)  After they come up, they looked like this…

I continued to water them about once a week, or whenever the dirt felt dry.  They just kept growing.  I couldn’t believe it!  After a while, they started to get a bit too large for the little jar I had them in.

Thanks to the translucence of the jar, I could see the roots were scrawling all along the bottom, and they were running out of space. I’ve heard of plants becoming root-bound, but I’ve never had a plant make it that long to have to worry about it.  I decided to take action immediately rather than risk something so dire.

First, I set the plant, small jar and all, into a larger container just to make sure that it wouldn’t block out any sun.  When it didn’t, I went and got some dirt.

I was pretty sure this dirt came from the same bag as the original dirt that I planted the lemon seeds in, but this dirt looks different.  It has sticks and bits of debris, and it also doesn’t have any of those white balls that is in normal potting soil.  I hope the lemon tree likes the new stuff.

Since this stuff was really dry, I decided to water it BEFORE I transplanted the lemon trees.  Oh yeah, did I mention that all my seeds came up?  I have 4 trees!

I made a well in the center of the dirt, and carefully wriggled my trees out of their previous jar, along with their dirt, and placed them into the hole.  And since the new dirt is kinda ugly, I topped it off with what was left of the old dirt — it was prettier.

Then I watered it a bit so it would be nice and comfy.  The only problem is that now that it’s back on the shelf, it doesn’t have much room.

It fit fine before, even after I placed the small jar into the larger one to test it.  I guess I planted the trees a bit too high.  I hope their OK.  If they are, I’ll have to find a new window for them.

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In a Pickle…

Months ago, I turned my father’s over abundant cucumber crop into pickles.  More about that here.  I love pickles, and I had to look at these lovelys for what seemed like forever.

 

But the day finally came to crack a jar open, and taste how I did.  Well, it was a bit of a disappointment.  Really.  It was a sad, sad day.  The pickles were mushy.  The brine was overly vinegary, and I love vinegar, but not when its so volatile that it burns my nose.  The flavor was just not there.  The pickles had a ‘bread and butter’ smell, and I don’t like those, but really just tasted of vinegar.

So what am I to do now?  I have two big jars of the things, and I’ll have to do something with them.  I don’t want to waste them.  Maybe I can use them in slaw, or other heavily vinegared things.  What would you do?

 

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Tree Hugger…

I have lamented the heat this summer more times than I can remember.  We’re approaching an all-time record for number of days above 100 degrees, and while that is sort of exciting, I think I can speak for us all when I say that it’s time the streak ends.  The heat, and lack of rain, have left yards destroyed, foundations cracked, and trees clinging to life.  And while I may not be a true tree-hugger, I do like them.  I had finally had enough, and decided to take nature into my own hands.

I went to Home Depot, and picked up a few things.  Ok, 60 dollars worth of things.  The first, and most expensive was a splitter for the spigot.  The store sold two kinds, a two way and four way.  I needed a three way, and so went with the four.  It set me back 15 bucks, but installed, it’s awesome, and looks like this…

I also bought two tree stakes, meant to water deeply so the roots get the water instead of just the grass.  Since our ground is as hard as concrete, I enlisted Husband’s help to drive the stakes into the ground, near the trunks of my two trees.

And finally, I picked up four soaker hoses, and one regular hose.   The soaker hoses are to save my foundation.  Deep in the heart of Texas, we have our houses built on clay, I know, the wise man would never do that.  When there is no rain, the earth cracks, some cracks large enough to lose a baseball in.  This means there is no longer any support for the foundation of the house, and it cracks and begins to fall.  To remedy this, we water the foundations with soaker hoses.  I used the one regular hose to feed the trees.

I hooked up all the hoses, and I was wrong about only needing three.

The hoses on each end are watering the house, and the green, regular hose, and the center soaker hose are watering the trees.  See?

I chose to use a soaker hose for the far tree in hopes that it will water the grass a bit on its way to the tree.  And once the ground softens a bit, we can drive the tree stake in the rest of the way.  Amazingly, even though we left the hoses on all night (cha-ching!) there was nary a puddle in the yard.  Yeah, the ground is that parched.

 

So how are you coping with the Sweltering Summer of 2011?

 

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