Tuesday, March 30, 2010

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Easy gardening

Is it unforgivable to have a gardening blog and not post for the entire month of April, or is it the other way around?

Given other commitments , I expected that I might not have much time for the garden this year. But truth be told, aside from some mowing left undone and some hoped-for projects unstarted, I'm about as set as I've ever been gardening-wise.

Mainly, I'm just not worrying about too much this year.

Once again I failed at tomato seed-starting , but rather than having a mid-March panic, I picked up some nursery seedlings and got the show rolling. I added a few more by the beginning of April, tucked them in here and there among the still-producing lettuce and they're looking great. I also haven't pinched a single sucker so far and don't plan to -- just to see how it goes.

That lettuce, along with the spinach and chard that the squirrels were going to town on in the fall, came back to life and provided plenty of salads. The chard is actually still going strong and keeping the un-thinned leeks company.

And while my struggles with the Squashbane are well documented, I'm trying a new approach this year -- the all-you-can-eat squash-vine borer buffet.

In the new in-ground bed I cut in the fall, I've got zucchini, tromboncino, crook-neck, cucumbers and canteloupe -- all cucurbits, plus a volunteer tomato and some garbanzos I planted as cover late in the winter.

Come get it!


Monday, March 30, 2009


Man, I got so much done this past weekend, I can't even blog about it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

And they're off

After a wonderful 3-day rain last week, and temps back in the 80's this week, it looks like Spring may be here for reals. So let's get to plantin'!

Tomato seedlings, y'all ready to go?

Hmm. OK, not sure what the problem was this year, but I'll guess a combination of waiting too long to pot up from sprouts, sowing the seeds too densely, and maybe a weak grow light situation for the first month. Give me a break though, my attention was elsewhere .

If I'm lucky these guys may be big enough to plant out sometime in August. So, today after baby's first movie outing (The Watchmen is totally appropriate for a 6-week old, right?) we headed towards Great Outdoors, but instead stumbled across the very friendly and affordable PlantEscape Gardens, where I picked up some professionally-grown seedlings. You know, just to get things started.

That's Brandywine, Better Boy, Rutgers and Valley Girl. I've been meaning to try some hybrids, so I'm particularly interested to see what the Better Boy does.

So away we go. Tomato sandwiches are on the way. And hopefully my seedlings will put on a growth spurt and let me get them in the ground by April. I'll get seedlings figured out one of these years.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Let me just avoid any seed planting, bean sprouting or fruit ripening cleverness and cut to the chase.

The Crazy Billionaire household got a new gardener on February 3. She's been a pretty good baby so far, generally scheduling her fussy awake times to mostly daylight hours. And she's left me more time than I expected for seed-starting, bed-digging and watering, if not garden blogging.

Her arrival has accompanied another tempting early Austin spring that has everything in the garden perilously sticking out stems, leaves and blossoms, and me, as usual, itching to plant with no idea where to put everything.

But those are minor problems. It's been, metaphorically, a long cold snowy winter, but here comes the sun and it's alright.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wake up.

Mystery tomato. Seeded 1/19/2009.


Saturday, January 17, 2009


It's demoralizing, y'all.

I was making a ham sandwich to take for lunch the other day and had layered on my meat and cheese and went to the crisper for something green only to find it empty. Any other year since we've lived in this house, I would just march out to the garden and trim some lettuce or spinach and be done, but not this year.

I've come close to declaring a total loss on the winter garden this year thanks to those fluffy-tailed rat bastards. Spinach -- gone. Lettuce -- gone. Chard -- gone. Beets -- a handful of survivors. And all this is despite my heroic security efforts.

On the bright side, the carrots have remained relatively untouched (except by drought, which is another story). But the primary saving grace has been the greens -- specifically the side bed patch of Chinese kale (aka Chinese broccoli, kai-lan, or gai-lan) and broccoli rabe.

We actually had enough that we didn't quite keep up and some went to seed.

Most of the time, it got a quick trip through a skillet with some hot bacon drippings.

That's the Chinese kale. It has a good broccoli flavor and even the stems are pretty sweet, they just need a little longer on the heat.

The rabe is a little tougher, but it found its way into several pasta dishes.

The ultimate winner, however, had to be kale with bacon and oven-dried tomatoes. It was a fine partner to the mac and cheese on the other side of the plate, although next time, we may just put them all together into one dish.

Sadly though even the greens have now come to an end, but I'm not mourning them too much -- I've got seed packets strewn around the kitchen and will be off to Callahan's shortly for supplies to get the spring crops started. That big wheel keeps on turning.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nestled all snug in their beds...

Happy holidays everybody. Get your seed list together -- Spring will be here sooner than you think.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Looks like I picked the wrong week to tell my coworkers about my blog

'cause this shit looks kind of crazy to the untrained eye:

That's the sight of 14 bags of dead leaves that fell in other people's yards and made it as far as the curb the night before trash day before being stealthily loaded into the back of my Jimmy. Well, stealthily, with the exception of those that fell in the yard of Evelyn, the sweet little old lady who was finishing up her yardwork in the dark and just pleased as punch for me to have them.

Hopefully sooner than later, these will all make a run through my recently acquired leaf shredder. Then they'll sit in an inconspicuous heap in the backyard awaiting a slow feeding to the compost pile, or thick layering as mulch around the spring plantings.

With luck, they'll hold out until about this time next year when the circle of carbon sequestration will begin again.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Winter time is here again

Nine PM, and I'm in a rain jacket and gloves with a headlamp under my hood wrangling wet plastic over the garden, because the weatherpeople were right for once and it's sleeting. I'm not actually worried about the temperature so much, but I'm now on my second set of beet and lettuce seedlings, and the third set of spinach, and I figure they can use all the help they can get.

As you may recall from my last post, lo those many weeks ago, something mysterious had decided to chew on every new plant in the garden. I suspected insects and disbelieved my rodent-phobic wife's accusations against the squirrels. But that was before I caught one of the furry bastards in the act of jumping into the Swiss Chard box.

I released the Kraken on him ...

But he was too fast. (The Kraken, by the way, has honed her hunting skills since the departure of her mentor, and has already upped her career body count by one.)

The squirrels still don't seem to get the message though, which is why I had to institute some food security measures.

The chard has been netted.

The beets are on lockdown.

Lettuce dreams of freedom.

And the spinach is awaiting due process.

I think operation "garden-tanamo" has been a success, as everything is putting on new growth and not getting eaten to the ground. However, I worry that all the setbacks may not bode well for my fourth-season gardening. With the sleet currently falling outside and first freeze looming, these leafy greens have missed out on some prime cool sunny fall days.

And, hard as it is to believe, we're about a month away from tomato seed-starting time! I might be pursuing a different approach on that front this year though.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Still growing ...

It's so nice this time of year to remember that we don't actually live on the surface of Mercury.

The artichokes have taken advantage of the cool weather to put on some growth. I may have helped a bit by completely excavating their roots and packing in fresh compost and fertilizer.

The serranos have also finally decided to get busy.

Green beans are in.

Swiss chard has made its debut in the crazy billionaire garden ...

joining the broccoli raab, Chinese kale, shallots and garlic.

But all the news is not so pleasant. After promising starts, every beet, lettuce and spinach seedling got devoured over the course of about 3 days. I still haven't identified the culprit. Squirrel? Grasshopper? Caterpillar? Beetle? Pill bug?

I put in some fresh beet seeds over the weekend, and am waiting for the green beans to finish before reseeding lettuce and spinach. Hopefully whatever it was has reached its low temperature limit. otherwise, I'll just have to keep replanting. I do have plenty of seeds.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Updated: Carnival of the green and brown

I notice Anthony at The Compost Bin wrote a post today about the state of his eponymous bin. I'd totally accuse him of stealing my idea, if he wasn't already the Internet's leading compost enthusiast.

However, it does remind me of an idea I've been kicking around -- I think it would be really interesting to see how other folks out there in the garden blogosphere handle their composting.

So if you're reading this, how about taking some pics and writing a few words about the current state of your bin? Come on, you know your real-life friends don't want to hear about it.

If you comment here, I'll add links to the post, or you can link to others in your post ... or something, I'm not sure how that should work.


And so it begins ...

Linda puts some big culvert pipes to good use in Australia

Anthony the compost man explains just how little effort composting requires.

Dean and his junior composter army dig a shallow grave.

What horrors lurk in the East-Side-Patch bins?


Monday, October 6, 2008

The plantening continues

New seeds planted this past weekend:

Spinach, Bloomsdale Long-Standing and Catalina baby leaf

Chinese Kale (I think this is the same as Chinese broccoli)

Broccoli Raab




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Saturday, October 4, 2008

A couple of bugs

Pardon the terrible photo, but I came into the kitchen one morning a couple of weeks ago and found this fat walking stick sitting on the floor. When I went to scoop him up with a piece of junk mail, I suddenly felt a fine spray of liquid on my hand. Some Internet searching reveals that walking sticks (the Phasmida order of insects) do spit as a defense mechanism. Conventional wisdom that the spit is acidic and can blind you if it gets in your eyes seems to be untrue.

I was a little disappointed not to have seen any mantises in the garden this year, but this giant showed up in the carport recently. Crazy, isn't it? I relocated her to the herb patch in hopes she might enjoy some of the leaf-footed bugs that are still hanging around hoping the tomatoes are coming back.

The Compost Report

If I was prone to poetic overstatement, I'd tell you that the compost pile is the beating heart of the organic garden -- the living organ that pumps the very life force into the soil and thus the plants which, when finally spent, return to the pile to begin again the cycle of life.

Wait, maybe that would make it the lungs then. Regardless, I want to talk about compost.

Here's my pile, which got a long-awaited turning last weekend.

It's been an especially hot and dry summer, and I've been especially stingy with the water, so the pile has been very dry since the spring and therefore, not very active. Composting, as I'm sure you know, has 3 basic ingredients:

Browns -- dry leaves, straw, twigs, etc.
Greens -- grass clippings, garden cuttings, kitchen waste, etc.
Water -- enough that everything is damp, but not so much that there's no air in the pile.

Mix them together in some some magic proportion and a menagerie of bacteria, fungii and bugs go crazy eating it and each other until it's all broken down into a pretty fundamental mass of organic material. Put that in your garden and it improves the texture and water-holding ability of your soil. And all that bacteria keeps eating any organic material it can find, breaking it down to the basic molecules that feed your plants.

The magic proportion can take a lot of fussing to find, but fortunately, even if you never manage to come anywhere close, it's all going to end up as compost anyway. It may just take longer and get kind of stinky at times.

Or you might find that 6 months of stocking a 40 cubic-foot pile gets you about $6 worth of compost.

But then it's all about the journey, isn't it?

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