Friday, September 14, 2007

Getting Back in the Swing of Things

I apologize for not posting. First, at the end of July, I got a new job which left me pretty busy. Then, at the tail end of August, I had a medical emergency which left me in the hospital for a week. I go back to work on Monday, and hopefully will not be too busy for (at least fairly) regular postings following that.

Some balcony updates: We are very pleased with our Patio variety tomato! It's producing like a champ! We've already gotten one Gypsy Bell Pepper, and this morning I counted 3 or 4 more on the plant. An odd note: our eggplant is turning yellow. Not the leaves, the actual fruit. Weird. Don't know what's causing it, but I'm kind of bummed because that's the only fruit on the plant!

Garden Plot updates: Right before my stint at the hospital we planted both Snow and Sugar Snap peas at the plot. Unfortunately, due to lack of watering, they are probably not so great. It's been weeks since either of us has been up there to look (I couldn't for medical reasons, and S. has been taking care of me) at the situation. Hopefully within the next few days we will find the time to go up and assess damage. It's been fairly dry, but we did get some rain a couple of days ago. Probably not enough to help plants that haven't been watered in almost a month...but one can hope.... Hopefully our onions at least will have survived.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


We found this growing in the straw next to a construction site. Thought it was beautiful. Is it some variety of Angel's Trumpet?

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Sunday, July 29, 2007


Does this count as a green thumb photo? We grew them ourselves, at our old garden location.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday

This is our wildly blooming eggplant.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Empty Nest

Early this morning (and possibly yesterday) the baby House Finches flew for the first time. It was actually pretty uneventful, and we missed it almost entirely. This morning, there was only one left in the nest, and as we drank our coffee, I saw—out of the corner of my eye—flapping wings, and then it was gone too. All grown up! I wonder if they'll be back to their nest? I'll be sorry to see them go, it's been fun to watch their parents feed them…but it will be nice to be able to sit out on the balcony again.

The agricultural lime that we added to our watering can to combat blossom end rot on the Roma seems to be helping, there are several tomatoes set that don't have it. Also, our Patio Variety tomatoes are setting fruit like mad now (see photo)! Unfortunately we have lost our cucumbers to some fungal disease. They just got covered in fuzzy white stuff and never put up any new leaves...I had given up on them a while ago, but I think it's final now. We also seem to have lost our Rosemary, perhaps due to overwatering? I water that pot when the Basil wilts, and maybe the Rosemary likes less water than that. There are a bunch more flowers on the eggplant, too, I hope it sets!

In other news, we tried to do more tilling in our garden plot the other evening, but the tiller wouldn't cooperate. I hope it's not a serious problem. We now have two tomatoes, a hot pepper, three bell peppers, three rows of bean seeds, some onion sets, some garlic, and some radish seeds planted. Last evening we met one of our garden plot neighbors, who gave us a bunch more tomatoes (they were in containers so were drying out, but he has physical limitations so couldn't plant them himself.) It was very nice of them! We planted them in the ground, and they're wilting like mad, but hopefully they'll recover. We watered them a bunch to try to ease them through the shock.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A long, hot Sunday

This Sunday we finally got ahold of a tiller to use on our garden plot. It really only took a couple of hours before S. had almost the entire plot tilled. After an hour, we ran out of gas and had to go get some, but after that it was smooth (if extremely hot) sailing. I had a turn at the tiller's helm, and gained a new respect for how strong S. is. I had a hard time steering it, and it started to get away from me (I was doing pretty well until I came to the end of the row. Turns out the tiller likes moving forwards a lot more than it likes going backwards)! But I gave a shout and he came running to rescue me before I got the tines tangled in the fence. He had a nasty sunburn on his arms by the end of the day, but I somehow managed to escape that. We came back in the evening to plant some bush beans seeds (one short row each of Blue Lake, Sonesta (dwarf wax) and Green Crop) and some yellow onion sets. S. planted the onion sets, while I did a bit of raking to smooth out the tilled areas.

It's interesting when you garden on land that someone else used to use. We've found a couple of interesting artifacts lodged in the ground. You can see them: from left to right, some sort of knife blade (it has teeth, but it's not quite a saw, either...perhaps for harvesting salad greens?), then an odd but very sharp hook with a short handle, and finally a hoe head (not the handle, just the metal part.) Fascinating.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday

These are the sunflowers in the garden plot neighboring ours.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

In Honor of Lady Bird Johnson

This post is in honor of the late Lady Bird Johnson, who did so much for this country. Her environmental work included supporting the Highway Beautification Act and helping to found the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of the Native Plant Information Network. Thank you for all that you've done for us.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Balcony Update

Just an update on our balcony garden. The bell pepper is blooming again (although it's still covered in aphids), and the eggplant had an open flower most of last week (it too, has aphid problems, though.) The Roma tomato has little green egg-shaped tomatoes all over the top of it, and the Patio variety is blooming like crazy. We've harvested several more tomatoes from the Cherry in the hanging basket, and the green beans are slowly maturing (we had one in our salad the other evening with dinner.) Oh, and the baby birds have turned into awkward...toddlers? We can see them poking their heads up over the edge of the hanging basket as they wait for their parents to bring them food. Cute, but ugly little things.

Well, I just went out to snap a picture of the little green Romas, and what did I find? A baby Gypsy Bell Pepper! Awesome. I hope we have that kind of good luck with the Eggplant, too.

Monday, July 9, 2007

A Weekend Well-Spent

I am so excited! Both of us are, actually… See, we found a garden plot to rent! It's only 5 minutes away from our apartment! 25 square feet of dirt of our very own! Awesome! We were out there working all weekend long in the horrible heat. Here's a photo of what it looked like before we started.
There are a lot of deer around (the area is bordered by some woods) so our first order of business was to get a slightly less patch-worked fence up. Saturday we shored up the old fence with zip ties, and bought some fencing and fence stakes. Sunday morning, (it only took us one hour—truthfully the work was all S.'s, I just helped out with the zip ties) to get our new fence up around the old one. So now at least it won't fall down. Although it's still probably not tall enough to really keep deer out, it's better than nothing.

Then we went over to Behnke's to see if they had some plants (after having no luck at the TP Farmer's Market—guess it's too late in the season). We finally (after nearly giving up) found some cayenne pepper plants. So we got one of those. Then we spotted some tomatoes! Victory! We got a Sweet 100 cherry and a Better Boy. (all of the Early Girl variety had early blight, so we didn't get any of those). We also picked up some garlic and onion sets. On our way home, we stopped to check out Home Depot where, to our delight, we found a few more veggie plants! So we picked up a Blushing Beauty Bell pepper, a Sweet Banana pepper, and another Bell Pepper (it was a green one, but I don't remember the variety.) Then, back out to the garden plot where S. nearly worked himself to death and heat exhaustion hoeing an area large enough to put the plants in the ground. I helped out by raking up the weeds and hauling them out of the way, as well as some hoeing, and, of course, pushing cold water. So here is a photo of our plants in the ground. After that, we went home to cool off and get some dinner. Then we heading out yet again. This time to the grocery store. See, there's no water up there by our garden plot. We have to haul it all in by hand. To this end, we bought two 3-packs of gallon water jugs. That way we can refill them as needed. Water in-hand, we went back up to our garden plot one last time to water everything. Wow! Now that's what I call a weekend well-spent. Now all we need is a tiller for the rest of our plot!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Cherry Tomatoes

Well, it's been a while since I posted. This was last week's pick from the hanging basket (yesterday I got a bush bean too). Today I got another 6 cherries from it. Had to be quick though, because the baby finches are hatched! They are so adorable! Just starting to get feather fuzz, and absolutely tiny. I spotted two baby birds, and two eggs in the nest. But I couldn't tell if they were just egg shells, or still-to-be-hatched. We'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Eggs & Early Harvest/Progress Report

Today, as I stood on our plastic folding table to water the hanging cherry tomato, I spotted at least two eggs in the Finch nest. I couldn't quite see the interior of the entire nest, so there are probably more than that. I wish I could've taken a picture, but lately it's been a rare event that the mother leaves the nest and she is only gone for maybe a minute at a time, so I had to be sneaky-quick. It's difficult to get good pictures of her sitting on the nest because the hanging basket is framed with sky and extremely backlit, but I'll try next time I spot a good Finch photo-op.

As for our other veggies, we are still fighting the good fight against aphids. The Roma tomato has several blossoms on it, and the Patio variety has some buds. We've already gotten several (3 or 4?) ripe tomatoes off the hanging cherry, but they were a bit mealy and not terribly flavorful. We picked a small handful of Sugar snap Peas, but they were fibrous since it's getting downright late in the year for spring snap peas… Oh! And my fiancé spotted a baby bean the other day. The eggplant has put up another set of leaves (a good thing, since it took the first wave of aphid damage), but the Bell Pepper still seems to be struggling due to aphids. We soap spray them with a mixture of peppermint castile soap and water (this is my favorite kind to use) every chance we get, and it seems to be helping some.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Carpodacus mexicanus, 5 1/2"

Common Name: House Finch

"Nest of twigs and grasses, placed in shrub, vine, hanging planter,"aha!"or birdhouse. Eggs: 2-6, bluish white with speckles; Incubation peridod: 12-16 days, Time to fledging: 11-19 days, Broods per year: 1-3."

"Originally from West, expanding range in East; often build nests in hanging outdoor planters."

Stokes, Donald & Lillian. Beginner's Guide to Birds: Eastern Region. Singapore: Little, Brown and Company, 1996.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Excitement & Updates

So we had an absolutely gigan-tormous storm yesterday evening. The sky got this nasty shade of green, and the finches were nowhere to be seen for several hours. I tied an extra piece of string around the Roma and its stake so it wouldn't get damaged in case of high winds. The clouds were quite spectacular—although we didn't get any hail here (or for that matter…much wind or rain), there were lots of people not too far away that got pummeled.

And the verdict is in! The cute little finch couple is not just looking for eats. They are building a nest. We've decided to not try to discourage them. I considered it (for ease of watering the tomato and harvesting, etc.), but when I took the hanging basket down and saw the little pieces of hair that they had so carefully collected and arranged…needless to say I didn't have the heart!

Oh, and did I mention that we have things ripening? Several of the cherry tomatoes in the hanging basket are ripening (please don't eat them liitle finches…), as are some sugar snap peas. And the bell pepper and bush beans are blooming. We've been fighting the good fight against a horde of aphids in our little balcony garden, but it looks like the cukes—which were hit hardest—are recovering nicely.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wonderful Wildlife Just Won't Give Up

So Swallow tragedy aside, (it's not really a tragedy…I see them flitting around the parking lot and I'm sure they're building a nest somewhere new.) Anyways, there are a cute pair of House Finches that have taken a liking to our balcony garden! They have been landing on our cherry tomato hanging basket and mixed salad greens hanging basket. We're not entirely sure if they're looking for a nesting site, or just waiting for the tomatoes to ripen cause they have the munchies. Either way, they are cute! And they have a beautiful song, too.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Mean People Suck

You may not be familiar with the phrase, "Mean people suck." It was highly popular in my middle school and high school years, and I find it useful now, as well. On Friday night, at around 10:30 PM, my fiancé and I heard a racket just outside our apartment door. Alarmed and curious, he peered through the peephole just in time to see our neighbor (lives in the apartment next to us) wielding a snow broom and knocking the hell out of the light outside our door. The light that, up until Friday night, contained a Barn Swallow nest. (See previous post—Tuesday, May 29—for more information and photos)

I'm not sure why anyone would be so cruel, or heartless, but apparently our neighbor had taken it upon herself to evict the Barn Swallows. This in and of itself is incomprehensibly evil to me, but, it also caused quite a bit of damage to the light outside our door. We have written a letter of complaint to the management team at our apartment complex informing them of the perpetrator and of the damage she caused to their property. Hopefully it isn't a fire hazard. The swallows, thankfully, seem fine, and we don't know if they had eggs laid yet. They have apparently, however, taken it in their cute little heads to build a new nest somewhere else. Although I'll miss watching them, hopefully their new nest will be in a safer location.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Reflections on a burgeoning cultural trend

I was watching the news tonight, and realized that wow—green is mainstream. Take Going Green, NBC 4's eco-friendly (nightly, I think) news segment (while you're there check out the related blog, The Green Room…it's actually very well done). Astounding. When did it become cool to be environmentally conscious? Don't get me wrong—the more the merrier—it just seems like I'm witnessing some sort of a cultural awareness setting in. An awareness that no city (or person, or creature, for that matter) is an island, and that everyone is a part of the—okay, I know it's really cliché, but I blame that on Disney—circle of life.

"This we know — the Earth does not belong to man — man belongs to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the Earth — befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life — he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

Beatiful, very true words. Although they are very widely attributed to Chief Seattle, that speech was actually written in 1971 by screenwriter Ted Perry. (Thank you Snopes!) Are your illusions shattered? I hope not. Because that doesn't make the words any less true. And no, that's not my photograph, that's a Morgue File special.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Update and Wildlife, too!

So here's an update on our veggies: everything is growing very well! It looks like there are some flower buds beginning to form on the Gypsy Bell Pepper (I have to wonder—isn't it a little early for that?) which is very exciting! Also, the cherry tomato that is in a hanging basket (the farmer's market one) has fruit set, and they're getting bigger every day. Only problem is—it's so darned root-bound that it dries out every single day, since the entire pot consists of nothing but a net of extremely fine roots. However, we've been watering it every day, and it seems to be doing fairly well.

In other news, apartment living bring some interesting perks. On the light outside our front door, we have a nesting pair of Barn Swallows. We can't yet tell if there are any occupants (eggs or baby Barn Swallows) of the nest, but the adults are very attentive. Every time we open our door and the swallows are out there, they swoop, and then perch a safe distance away on our kitty-corner neighbor's light. They're definitely keeping a very watchful eye on the nest. It's so cool to hear them chirp and chortle to each other in the evenings as they settle in right outside our apartment. Of course, the one drawback is that we are getting quite a pile of Swallow droppings on our front door mat. But I certainly feel that it's worth it to be able to observe these beautiful birds. They have fascinating habits, too. For instance, they seem to pop in and out to check on their nest throughout the day (in between they are out catching bugs) and sometimes as many as three at once will fly up our hallway to the nest.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Green Food

No, I'm not talking about Wheat Grass, or even about lots and lots of salad (although there's nothing wrong with salad…) Instead, I think that as someone who tries to be socially and environmentally responsible, eating more organic and local food is one huge way to make a difference. That, and I also happened to notice this great TreeHugger article on just this subject. Not really about gardening, but still totally in line with my green leanings. Check it out! It's cool and has lots of links to other resources, like where to look up your local farmer's market, and how to can or preserve the food you buy/grow. Canning is tons of fun by the way!(Plus makes great personalized, inexpensive gifts for friends and family—who can resist a jar of homemade blackberry jam?)For more on canning, this site has links and info. And remember to check out the USDA for info on safety and the best way to preserve anything from meat to peas to peaches. They have a pretty good search function if you can't easily find what you're looking for on their site.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

On a Budget

Okay, so before I go any further, I thought I would explain our ugly—and yet beautiful (I just love green, growing things)…container garden. You see, when we moved to an apartment, we wanted to continue our vegetable gardening. And yet, that many good-quality (of an appropriate size) containers, that we may or may not use for more than one or two years didn't seem like a sound financial investment. And so, I made a foray over to Garden Web home of all things garden (including about a billion message boards) and took a look at how other people do it.

I found this one person with an absolutely astounding 5-gallon bucket garden. This thing was massive. And, according to everything people said, the size was just about right for…say…a tomato plant. Aha! Looks like a job for Freecycle, we thought to ourselves. Several posts later, and voila. There you have it. And yes, those are old kitty litter buckets holding the pepper and tomato. Conveniently enough, when I explained what we wanted the buckets for, we had some offerings of old plant pots as well. and that, folks, is where the hanging baskets came from.

For potting soil, we have packing peanuts in the bottom (not biodegradable cause that would, in fact, kind of defeat the point…) to lighten the pots, since it is, after all a balcony and we were worried about how many heavy wet-dirt-filled buckets it could hold. And we put both potting soil we had from a while ago, old, recycled potting soil—this stuff is great— as well as some "garden soil" with manure picked up at home depot… and boy does that stuff stink. Anyways, there you are. We shall see how it goes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Photographic Evidence

Here is a picture of our hanging basket with leaf lettuce. (At left)

Also, a photo of the majority of our veggies (above) — from left to right, they are as follows: Roma tomato, Patio variety tomato, Gypsy bell pepper, Lavender Touch eggplant, and a pot with some Green Crop bush beans.

The bottom photo (at right)contains (from left to right) snap peas, 3 Bush Crop cucumbers, a pot full of herbs(rosemary, oregano, sweet basil, lemon balm and spearmint in the middle—for juleps) and a pot of radishes on the far right.

Starting out

Well, after a trip to Behnke's Nursery we have a fairly full balcony of veggies. We've planted two tomatoes, one bell pepper, an eggplant, a pot of bush beans, a pot of snap peas (hope they bloom soon!)and some sald greens and herbs. Oh! I forgot the pot of three cucumber (bush variety, according to Behnkes) plants and the pot of radishes. In addition, we have a hanging cherry tomato plant (we snatched it up at the Takoma Park Farmer's Market last week), a hanging basket of salad greens (two arugula plants and some other salad greens started from a seed mix, and a hanging basket of leaf lettuce. Ah, and I mustn't forget our dish garden of herbs. Hopefully, I will post pictures of our setup soon.