Friday, October 10, 2014

Autumn Changes

Today was a very busy day in my little garden. Three new apple trees arrived from One Green World, a Golden Sentinel, another North Pole, and a dwarf Hidden Rose. The timing is perfect because the Rose is supposed to be a special birthday apple for my daughter, who turns 2 tomorrow. In later years it should ripen around her birthday and the fruit should have red flesh.
But we had to make room for the new trees, which meant pulling up most of the vegetables. As much corn was harvested saved as possible, though the yield was pretty sad looking. The dry stalks were thrown into my very green-waste heavy composter. The tomatoes were pulled up and all the ripe ones consumed on the spot by my daughter. The basil was turned into 21 oz of pesto and frozen. The only vegetables remaining are the two pumpkin vines (which have one ripe gourd for Halloween and two that might be pie in November).
While digging the tree holes I uncovered a dozen white grubs, mostly by the onions that never produced. I'm guessing they're Japanese beetle grubs because I saw the adults all summer. They're probably causing the dry spots in my lawn too. I'll have to look into treatment for that.

Friday, August 1, 2014

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down

My dog is now leaving the planters alone, thanks to the plants filling in and the lawn being a nicer place to lay, but now I have a new problem.
Shortly after we got our dog, our neighbor supplemented his pack of small happy canines with a larger puppy. This dog has been significant trouble, jumping over the wall, escaping his yard, etc.
Through the strategic application of dog treats, I've convinced this new dog that he doesn't need to snap at me but that doesn't mean he's become friends with my dog. The two snap at each other over the wall constantly. The fights have become aggressive enough that they're knocking bricks out of the 60 year old wall that separates our yards.
14wall01 photo IMG_20140801_123103558_HDR_zpsc2zvcig5.jpg Gotta do something about that while I still have a wall.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Desolation of the Wyrm

One garden pest that I can't stand is the tomato worm.  They're big and squishy and in my garden.
I found one chilling on the underside of a leaf last week. I realized that had to be an accomplice this morning when one of my plants was practically denuded.
14tomato03 photo IMG_20140725_095701428_zpscuyu8ksn.jpg A few minutes of searching revealed the vile worm taking a rest after a busy night of plant pillaging. For most gardeners, this would be the end of the problem. Having found it, they'd just grab it and smash it. I can't do that. I just can't bring myself to touch their gooshy little bodies. They're SO GROSS!
14tomatoworm01 photo IMG_20140725_095719445_zpsp8mtiodb.jpg Fortunately for me, this guy decided to camp out on a sucker that I needed to prune anyway. I snipped his perch off the plant and scooped him up with my daughter's sand shovel. Then I deposited him in the middle of the street where a hungry bird might find him. Or he'd get run over. Of get fried like a green egg on the hot asphalt. I don't really care as long as he's not my problem anymore.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Midsummer's Update

While I struggled away with the lawn and the garden covers, the rest of the yard hadn't been in suspended animation. Obviously. Gardens never stop growing.

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The pumpkin bed is doing well. The pumpkin further from the wall has a much thicker and longer vine but they both look healthy. Not that you can see that in the photo since the bed is pretty well dominated by lush Hopi blue corn. It got planted in all the vegetable beds on a whim when I remembered I had seed saved from a few years ago.

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The tomato bed is doing all right. There's been one ripe tomato so far, which was fed with all appropriate pomp to my daughter. Two of the tomatoes are much greener and larger. The basil are doing great with the exception of the sweet basil on the end, which is being eaten by something. I've decided that I don't care for the Greek tower basil. It looks too neat and formal. Some of the onions are doing alright. They've been taking the worst of the beating from the dog.

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The apples are doing great! I really need to start planting around them. I want comfrey, clover, walking onions, day lilies, and asparagus.

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The watermelon beds are hanging on. The melons have healthy leaves but haven't really grown or spread much. I doubt we'll be getting any melons this year. The corn in these beds isn't as green as in the pumpkin beds but it's still doing fine. I think these beds dry out much quicker than the ones against the wall.

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I showed off the grass last post, so I won't waste more space on it but I will add a photo of the play area I'm adding on the side. A patio rug under a sandbox, wading pool, and slide. It needs another rug. And maybe a swing hanging from the porch.

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While working on the grass I did uncover some more archeological artifacts of people who used to live here. There's more evidence of young boys but also the first things that I could call girl toys.

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In the front yard, the white carnations are doing well and the mint is happier looking than any I've ever seen. The globe basil, on the other hand, has had a rough time. It had large chunks die off and it was an unhealthy looking pale green. I think it was too wet. Looks better now though.

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The cucumbers are doing very well. They're starting to produce flowers, which my wife is pollinating so cukes shouldn't be far off! The purple carnations are pretty dead though. Time to replace them.

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Lastly, this little yucca is doing well. It was a tony little plant when we first moved in.  Shortly after, when I had some plumbing dine, it was trampled and buried under rock.  Slowly it's bounced back though.  A Google street view of our house suggests that before we moved in it was a rather tall plant that got chopped down so I'm pretty happy to have this legacy volunteer around.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Field of Daydreams

I greatly dislike grass. It's everywhere, produces nothing of use, and, especially in the desert, consumes a lot of resources.
However, my dad is a major advocate of the all american lawn. He's been trying to convince me that my yard isn't complete without a patch of green for my daughter to run around on. He finally won me over by offering to pay for sprinklers and sod, as a present to his granddaughter.
So, for the past month, I've been hard at work digging trenches, laying pipes, amending the soil, and finally putting down grass.
Now, at very least, I guess I have a use for the lawn mower dad gave me for my birthday two years ago.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Attack on Dog

On that day, vegetable-kind received a grim reminder.  We live in fear of the dog...

I'd written previously about how I'd hoped, by reserving two spaces of the garden bed exclusively for the dog's use, that the dog would stay out of my plants.  Obviously this peace offering was ineffective.  In addition to lying between the newly planted apple trees, he's been digging at bit in other parts of the garden, burying plants.  He destroyed the poor honeydew.
I had planned on writing detailed, step-by-step instructions for the dog-proof fortifications I built.  But, honestly, no one is really interested enough to read that and what I built is simple enough that it could probably be recreated with a little imagination from the after-photo of the finished bed.  Besides, I'm already taking photos of the next project for the next post.
Here you can see the garden's new fortifications.  Three of the beds have net-covered pvc frames.  These took a while to build but they should last a number of years and they're designed to be stackable, when not in use, for easy(ish) storage.  Eventually, when the plants are more mature, they will have to be removed but my hope is that, once the're more filled in, the dog will leave them alone.  The tomato bed and the apple trees are protected by left over pvc and landscaping stakes that I've driven in around the perimeter and in the dog's favorite laying spots. The theory was that if the bed was hard to enter and uncomfortable to spend time in, he'd choose other spots. I haven't seen him in the beds all week so they seem to be effective, if ugly.

If I had to do this again (and I probably will when I build the other garden beds) I'll probably build in attachments for garden hoops.  Seems like they'd be cheaper and easier to construct and serve the same function.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


I'm working on a rather long post but I wanted to make a quick note that the city has been overrun this past week with grasshoppers!
They're everywhere and came from nowhere!  All of a sudden, you can't go for a walk without having a small horde of them leading you down the side walk.
I'm sure this is making a lot of gardeners out there very unhappy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Garden Again

Following the planting of the trees, we've been excited about growing things again.  Before we add other trees, while we wait for evidence that we can actually grow a tree, there is a whole garden bed begging to be planted with something, anything.  When soft dirt beckons, it's impossible not to pick up a trowel and heed it's loamy call.
And so, of the weekend, plants were planted.  In any of my previous gardens, this many plants would have filled all the available space nicely, even as little baby plants.  In our new giant garden bed, they hardly show up in the photo.
Hopefully, they'll fill in a bit.  Specifics and lots of photos after the break.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Call Me Johnny

Just for the record, my name's not Johnny.  But I feel like it could be today (as in Appleseed, get it?).  Yesterday, 4 days after I ordered them from, I received a box in the mail with 2 little apple trees.  Really, they're no more than sticks but to my untrained eye they look happy and healthy.  One is a Scarlet Sentinel and the other a North Pole.  My grandparents have columnar trees like this in their yard and, though they look kind of unnatural and odd, they seemed like just the right thing to plant against this wall, under the powerlines.
Following directions I found online I dig holes in my new raised bed, planted my little trees, and watered them.  Hopefully they will take root, grow, and eventually make some nice fruit!  The planting process seemed simple.  Too simple.  I'm always suspicious of things that are too simple because it usually means I'm missing some critical detail.  Hopefully I did it right.
I hopefully they should be joined by friends soonish, one columnar tree in each 4 foot section of the bed.  There are lots of columnar varieties out there, and I'd like to get as many as possible, but I started with just these two because they were the ones offered by this particular nursery.  And this nursery seemed to have the best reviews online, the most responsive customer service, and offered a 1 year warranty.  The warranty was a big point for me because I've never planted a tree before, I live in a harsh desert, and I don't have the greenest thumb around.  If these survive the year and do well, I'll order some more varieties from some other companies.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Progress is still painfully slow but, after years of planning and false starts, I almost have something that could be considered a garden.  It really shouldn't surprise me that it's taking so long.  The lower yard at my parents' old house, which is about the size of my yard and started in a similar condition, took a decade to turn from a weedy lot to a play-structure, patio, and garden.  And I feel like I have less ambition, experience, and resources to sink into the project.
In December my brothers helped me wall up the raised bed I sank the posts for last summer, though I neglected to take a picture of it at that stage.  And, emboldened by a sizable tax return, I filled the bed with "compost" last weekend.  With luck I should have some plants in the ground by the end of spring!  I am most looking forward to planting some small fruit trees in the bed, including a special apple tree for my daughter which should ripen around her birthday each year.
I've been warned not to plant in pure compost but I used the compost available from the city recycling center which is definitely not pure compost.  It does look like pretty good soil, though, compared to what sand in my yard.  It also cost a fifth of what the area's most reputable dealer wanted for top soil mix.
The biggest problem we encountered filling the beds was the wind.  It had been relatively calm and nice all week but on the day I had set aside for yardwork we for 60 mile per hour winds and almost no visibility due to all the dust in the air.  It felt really good to get out and do some manual labor, to fight with nature because I wanted something a certain way, to get covered in grit.

We also have a few things in pots on the front porch but I'll save those for another post.