Trials and tales of a not-so-advanced gardener--both in the dirt and beyond.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bloom from this summer

My aunt and garden mentor sent me home with some plant starts this summer. Among them was what she called a moon flower. I planted the starts and waited patiently. In September, it happened! A bloom and what a beautiful one!

From my research this seems to be a Datura Wrightii. Some common names include Moon flower, Jimson Weed and Thorn Apple.

It has some hallucinogenic qualities I hear and is considered poisonous. YIKES! I like it enough to keep it around, though.

We'll see if it decides to come back next year. Several of it's common names I found for it included the word weed, so it's likely that it will come back even stronger.

I don't remember seeing any of these seed pods, but they look pretty neat.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to everyone!

My stockings are hung and so is the mistletoe.
The tree is bedazzled and so is my mantle.
Poinsettias are here and so are the cinnamon smelling pine cones.
Presents are wrapped and the cookies are baked.

Here's to a great weekend of holiday cheer!
(I'll be seeing the Polar Express tonight in 3-D!)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bloom Day December 2008

Oh the weather outside is frightful, and nothing is growing in my garden. Inside, it's another story. I have houseplants galore--many of which are passalong plants or ones I've seen at the store and thought were interesting.

Surprisingly, many are blooming right now, which makes for a great bloom day post (the indoor edition).

This little gal is in my bedroom and it matches perfectly. The little white with pink stripe flower just appeared this week.

This is a passalong plant; I have no idea what it is. I gave some starts to my mom. Her plant is probably 4 foot in diameter. It develops these pods of tiny white flowers.

This is a bloom on a spider plant that I started from a co-workers plant.

This is the end of a Wandering Jew (I don't know the technical term). I bought a huge hanging plant of this from a gal at the Broad Ripple Farmer's Market this summer. It stayed under my sugar gum tree until fall and was then divided into 3 plants for me and 2 for my mom.

Finally, this Gerber Daisy was a hostess gift from Ginger that I received today. I hosted a new tradition in my new house: a holiday baking day (girl's only)!

Friday, December 5, 2008

A better way to view the garden

While I can't be outside right now (I think the high today is 28 degrees...brrrrr), a project that has now been completed does influence how I see the outside.

Earlier this week, this is what I looked through to see the front yard:

Single-pane, aluminum windows; original to the house, built in 1964...the epitome of energy efficient ;)

Now, THIS is what I look through (ta dah!):

Beautiful, double-pane, wood windows from Pella; tres chic; and the best thing...I have screens for my windows now! This means I can actually open them on fine spring days.

Yay for home improvement.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Do you see what I see?

It's not very often I am home when there is light outside these days.
Isn't winter great (<--sarcasm)!?! Today, however, I had to run home to accept the delivery of my new windows (WOOHOO! <-- not sarcasm). Looking outside of my patio door, I saw birds--lots and lots of birds.

Do you see them? They are the black dots.

What about in this picture? Do you see what I see?
I see a bunch of unfinished projects from this fall. I see the stack of pavers that I am using to edge my new vegetable garden beds. I see the old pieces of rotting wood that used to be the edges of my vegetable garden. I see crates up against the fence that will eventually be the "walls" of my compost bin. And I see the leaves that were going to be put in that bin to make wonderful compost for next year.

I see all of the projects that I can think about this winter while I am trapped inside, waiting for spring to come.

Monday, November 10, 2008

RIP: Raised Garden Bed

This weekend was one of many triumphs. The rest of the brush/limb/tree pile was chipped into tiny bits (it was left over from the last time we rented a chipper). The lawn was mowed and leaves collected. Many annuals were uprooted and composted. Indoor plants were repotted and brought inside.

But one of the most exciting things done this weekend, was tearing apart the raised garden bed. This is where the tomatoes and the zucchini were earlier this year and where the previous homeowners planted tomatoes and squash and eggplant for years and years. You can see it in this photo it's small, but it's the best one I have.

But now it looks like this:

This bed is approximately 4' x 20'. While this was plenty of space for the sparse garden of 2008, I have big vegetable plans for 2009. So we're going to build 2 beds in it's place. This one runs east-west. The two new beds are going to run north-south and will be 6' x 10'. We'll gain 40 square feet and it will all be usable space (where as at the end of this bed, it was pretty messy and the boards didn't align correctly at the end).

Look for a post soon on the finished product! Well, it could be spring by the time this happens. Perhaps the sun gods will bestow some more 60 degree days on me, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Someone should tell those hornworms they are too late!

A week or so ago I decided it was time to compost the tomato plants. While cutting them into smaller parts, I noticed some small white things on some of the leaves. Upon closer examination, I see there are more and they are attached to the ugliest, most disgusting thing ever: TOMATO HORNWORMS!

ACK! Someone should have warned the hornworms that they were a bit too late. They didn't get a hold of my tomato plants until after I was through with the harvest. Nevertheless, we squashed them. No hornworms are going to go into my compost pile. I found three in all. And they all had these little white things on them. I had no idea what they were, so I consulted my good friend Google on the matter.

According to this article they are parasitic wasp cocoons. They are wasp larvae that attach themselves to the hornworms, eat it's insides and eventually kill the thing. Good to know me and the wasps are on the same side.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Some days I do really like fall

Like the other day, when Tod and I went for a walk around my neighborhood. We collected pretty leaves to press. They will perhaps be used next fall in Emily's wedding.

I like fall colors.
I like fall smells--pumpkin, bonfires.
I like fall sounds--crunchy leaves.

Crisp, but sunny days. We've been really lucky to have such wonderful weather in November. I hope it stays around for my big clean-up weekend this weekend!

Monday, November 3, 2008

My new favorite garden tool

With fall clean-up comes several special projects this year. It's my first fall at this house and there are several projects I'd like to accomplish before winter settles in.

I've found a new favorite gardening tool for edging the flower beds.
Enter the Fiskars edging tool (I thought they just made scissors). I picked this guy up at Lowe's.

And it's done some amazing work at my house so far. I forgot to take a before picture, but here is an "after" picture of the bed between the sugar gum and the patio.

You can see the lovely edge the tool has created. And it's so easy. I assume I could have done this with another hoe, but I felt like this tool would make the job so much easier.

You can see the clumps of grass and soil it unearths when in use. The grass will go to the compost bin and once I have some bulbs planted beneath the tree, I'll add some wood chips on top.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Garden Sketch: by the Mailbox

This is a small space that I've prettified with some plants.

I made this sketch with my Tablet do I have a Tablet PC or even know about them? Because I work for a company that creates and sells Ink enabled (I won't write it here, because it will come up in everyone's email thanks to Google alerts)software to schools. But if you are really, really interested (hey, we're doing really cool stuff for education), Google search "Tablet PC replay education." A post about the company will be the first result. You can take it from there. :)

Anyway, I created this picture in InkArt, part of Microsoft's Experience Pack.

It has all of the flowering perennials and I make mention of the bulbs, tulips and hyacinths, that are planted there. This is the one spot, thus far, at my new how, that is truly mine. I dug up everything and put in what I wanted and took out what I didn't. More sketches to come for sure!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vacation Pics, Part Two (Grand Canyon)

If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, you're missing out. This was my first chance to see one of the coolest 7 Natural Wonders of the World. It is amazing! It's very difficult to really understand how big it really is.
We drove along the South Rim, stopping at several points to look out over this massive hole in the ground. You can see the different types of rocks in layers, which indicate how old they are.
And of course, there's the reason the Grand Canyon exists: the Colorado River. We didn't actually hike down the canyon or get to the river -- hopefully, though we can on the next trip! You can hike down, ride mules, go rafting and more. An entire vacation could be spent in the Grand Canyon alone.

Fall Clean-up 2008

Fall clean-up will be happening this weekend. I need to get busy like the squirrels.

Moving the compost pile will be first.

The tomato plants will head to the compost pile.
The sad-looking annuals will head to the compost pile.
The leaves will head to the compost pile.

Oh, and the rest of the bulbs will be planted.

Those are the goals for this weekend. According to the weatherman, Sunday looks like the best day to do it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Vacation out West , Part One (Sedona)

The view from our suite. We stayed at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliff Resort in Phoenix, AZ. One day it reached 100 degrees. Luckily I was just a few paces from the pool. That's where you could find me most of the week.

ROAD TRIP: Here is the Bell Rock near Sedona in the Coconino National Forest. They call this area red rock country...because the rocks, the "dirt", everything is

Quick side trip to Montezuma's Castle. This homestead actually had nothing to do with Montezuma, but the first folks who found it figured it belonged to him, but it was actually built by the Sinagua tribe about 600 years ago. I watched a squirrel race about 100 feet up the cliff to continue to build his home.

These are just a few highlights from vacation and more will follow soon.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Vacation out West

On vacation this week!

Got to Phoenix on Saturday and spent the day on Sunday at the pool.

We're doing some traveling throughout Arizona now and taking lots of pictures. Future posts will include some. :)

Monday, September 29, 2008

All in a weekends work: Tree trimming and brush clearing

When I bought my house this spring, I really did fall in love with the yard. It was just the right size for my first yard, there was an area already there for vegetables, and lots of flower beds, too. I also liked that the yard had several mature trees--my house was built in the 60's as one of the Indianapolis 'burbs (now it's a part of the city, for sure). I also appreciated the fully fenced back yard with some trees growing around the fence line which provided some privacy.

Here's what I saw once I took off the new homeowner, rose-colored glasses:
Mulberry trees, overgrown bushes and shrubs, mulberry trees, brush piles, rotting wood piles, over flowing flower beds, mulberry trees, and a raised vegetable bed that was sure to be falling a part within a few years. Oh, and did I mention mulberry trees?? So that is what led to my fall project list.

I know the list is long, but I felt like these things really need to happen now instead of later (I'm now re-thinking the list...considering I'm not yet done with even one of these things and it's practically October).

My parents came to town to help out this past weekend to assist with cutting down trees, trimming up shrubs, and chipping it all.

I immediately took my post at the chipper rented from Sunbelt Rentals. A word about Sunbelt and my experience with this chipper: On-line it says that this is a 4" chipper. This means it should chip up anything with a 4" or smaller diameter limbs, sticks, etc. I called to ask a few questions about the chipper and was told it is actually 3" and was immediately "up-sold" to the 6" chipper (amounting in about $125 more). I declined. When the guys went to pick up the chipper they said it would only handle 1.5" diameter---excuse me? But you said 3" on the phone!
The chipper worked fine...for about 5 hours off and on...then white smoke bellowed from the belt and no more chipping occurred. Mind you this is Saturday at about 4:40. They close at 5. We called and they wouldn't take back the chipper that day (had to wait until Monday morning) and they wouldn't let us come get another one.

Nevertheless, the work was not finished.

My dad, aka Rambo, is seen here sharpening his tools. He is preparing to tackle the back edge of my lawn, where these woody shrubs have grown out from the property line about six feet.

He and mom are just getting started on the area.

And this is what it looked like when they were done! I've gained about 5 extra feet of yard!

Now I can see my neighbors and the transformers back here. This is unacceptable. I'm going to check out ornamental grasses that will grow tall in part shade.

With the chipper dead, Tod and I decided to just start piling it up by the maple tree in the back. On the left you can see the pile of wood chips we were able to create. On the right you can see the new brush pile. That new brush pile is about 7 feet tall and 12 feet long. Now I either have to rent a chipper again or see if there is a tree service who will come out and chip it up and leave the chips for me.


Backbreaking work this weekend...hauling, digging, raking, dumping, cutting, moving, chipping, stacking.

I can't wait to get pics up. I can see a huge difference in my yard, but I'm not so sure if you were a new visitor to my house, you'd notice.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My bulb booty bounty

Many reasons for the name of my post...
1. I love alliteration. It is one of my favorite things to use in fun writing opportunities (I serve as the VP of Funness, aka Social Chair, at work and have to get co-workers excited in e-mails. Alliteration is way to do that...)
2. the word "booty" is used in the post to pay homage to Talk like a Pirate Day, which just took place on September 19th. According to this website which schools you in how to talk like a pirate says that, for pirates, booty is treasure...which is exactly what this was! BURIED TREASURE!
3. And lastly, it is certainly a bounty! Check out these pictures...

This is an entire work bench in my garage. On it there are all of the bulbs that I dug up from my old place. There are alliums, tulips, daffodils, crocuses, a few minor bulbs, and a couple of surprise lilies.
That postal box on the left is full of seeds from Tod's mom--we went through her garden and gathered tons of seeds! (Those are California Poppies peeping out.)

This is a picture from the side that was cut out of the above pictures. Those are the surprise lilies and muscari.

This picture is of the top of a bankers' box. It is full to the brim with tulips and a few crocuses.
All together digging all of this up took four trips to my old place (and Tod helped on two of those trips). All of these beauties are going to go in my new yard soon and there will be tons of beautiful color next spring!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fall projects: raised vegetable garden beds, edging, bulb planting

So there are a number of projects I'd like to complete before it gets too cold to be outside. I'm making an ambitious list--after all, this is my first fall in the house. This is a great time to do plenty of projects--it's cool outside and the rush of things to do in the summer is gone.

Fall Projects:
  • Plant bulbs -- I have tulips, daffodils, irises, crocuses, alliums, and a few others (that is all from the old house, which I dug up and brought with me). New bulbs include hyacinths, minnow daffodils, dwarf iris, more crocuses, and wood hyacinths.
  • New bed in the side yard -- at some point a previous homeowner thought it would be smart to put down a ton of pea gravel in the side yard. My goal is to dig out about 6" of a section of this, along the privacy fence, and put in some plants. It's under a big maple tree, so these plants have to like the shade. I'm thinking hostas, astilbe, bleeding heart, spring bulbs, wood hyacinths, etc.
  • Raised veggie beds -- I have one now...but the soil is trash, it runs east-west, it's too close the raspberries, and the wood is rotting. I think I want to create 2 beds that run north-south, with fresh soil, encased in the composite decking so that it will last longer and I don't have to worry about painting it and making sure bad things don't leach into the soil.
  • Clean up the raspberries--these things are running wild! There are black-eyed Susans, a peony, a rose bush, and lamb's ear through out and at the edge of the raspberries. In an ideal world, I'd put in a post at each end with wire between to get the brambles to grow up, instead of out.
  • Prune trees--this is a massive undertaking. Everything is so overgrown. My dad is coming to visit next weekend with the "machula" (aka the chainsaw) to work on this. I'm renting a chipper for this as I don't see how I would possibly burn everything that will come down. I anticipate easily gaining 6 extra feet on the back of my property once all of the shrubs are trimmed back.
  • Re-seed the lawn--honestly, it's more weeds than lawn and with the addition of more land near the back, we'll want to seed that, too!
  • Edge the flower beds--was gifted some black plastic bed edging and I purchased a bunch of limestone recently. None of my beds have a clean edge and this should be done.
  • Thin flowers--since I've not lived through a full season of the flowers here, I don't want to get too crazy since I don't want to pull out flowers. BUT...some things have got to go..or be moved at least.
Can I get this all done in time?? I'll keep you posted on the progress!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bloom Day -- September 2008

Well, there are a few flowers the high winds didn't destroy yesterday. The elephant ears look like they've been pelted by a B.B. gun and the black-eyed Susans are partially horizontal. I had 3 good size (~12'-15') fall out of the sugar gum tree. Thankfully it didn't fall on the house and only damaged some of a butterfly bush and ripped my patio table umbrella.

Now for the blooms!

This little bee is getting his fill of pollen from the golden rod.

Some of the hostas continue to bloom through September.

The Japanese anemone does as well.
I'm assuming this is some sort of morning glory. It is a bright blue with purple stripes. At first I thought it was from the clematis that grows close by.
The tall phlox continues to bloom and be incredibly beautiful and fragrant just outside the back door.

The mums are blooming on the front steps, the hanging baskets of petunias and geraniums continue to add color to the front of the house.

Friday, September 12, 2008

What bulbs to order? Minor bulbs, spring bulbs, summer bulbs...

It's dreary outside and fall has certainly started showing it's face around here--falling temperatures, leaves turning.

I'm debating about what, if any, bulbs to order. I dug up a huge bounty from the old place and need to get those in the ground. But it just feels right to order some more!

Minor bulbs do a good job for some low lying, early spring color. Color is something I definitely need in the front yard. It's just too plain up there for me!

But I remember before I bought the house, there were hyacinths blooming in the front and so were a couple of sparse tulips. I love hyacinths...perhaps I'll buy some of those. Tulips I have a ton of...but they are one of my favorites. You can never have too many.

I think I might check out Habig's selection. they had some lovely dwarf irises a few years ago that I really liked.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

It sho' wasn't a fungus -- Squash Vine Borers

So remember when I said that a stinking fungus attacked my squash and zucchini?? Yeah, a few weeks ago in this post.

Well, it turns out I was wrong! I consulted Carol, over at May Dreams Gardens, another Indiana gardener and asked for her opinion. "Squash vine borers," she, a comment in my blog.

While I believed Carol, I wanted to see it with my own eyes. A few articles I read on the Internet said you can find them gnawing through the stems of your vines if you catch them earlier enough.

With steak knife in hand I marched out to the last crookneck yellow squash plant and slit that sucker down the middle. Sure enough, there were two little culprits responsible for destroying my last squash plant.

So naturally my response was to stab them, several times each, and them burn them with the rest of the vines in the fire pit.

You can see them there on the left in the middle of the picture. They were less than an inch long and cream in color with a spot of brown on the end.

Upon further inspection I also found these little brown dots and whole load of ugly, nasty little creatures. You can barely make them out in the picture, but this webpage has a better image.

SQUASH BUGS! EVERYWHERE! I found tons and tons of these little brown eggs on my squash.

These suckers when into the fire, too! BURN SUCKERS!

I think next year I need to wage organic pesticide war before these take over another veggie garden of mine.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"Name that Plant" forum makes me swoon

Magic and the power of the Interwebs have combine forces in the "Name that Plant" forum on iVillage's GardenWeb.

In my last post, I put up some pictures of beautiful, but name-unknown plants. I decided to try my luck with the forum. I believe I first saw it in a comment on another blog.

I'm happy to report that in less than a day, both of my blooms were identified!

The tiny purple buds are from a meadow rue plant and the magenta flowers are a Japanese anemone.

So anytime you're not quite sure of what plant you have on your hands (be it a weed, a tree or shrub, or a flower), go to the Name that Plant forum, post a picture and watch the magic happen!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Some pretties around the yard

Time to share pictures of some pretties in bloom!

Black-eyed Susans! There are a ton of these and they are stunning!
I have no idea what these dainty flowers are. They grew from a woody stem and at first I thought they were columbine because of the shape of their leaves. These blooms are about as tall as I am.
This is another plant that I don't know. The buds look like a furry sphere and then they bloom into the little purple buds that you see here.
I believe this is butterfly bush. It's pretty and tall and has several stems.
And more black-eyed Susans--'cause they are so great!