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

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Vegetable Garden 2009

The vegetable garden is completely planted. This is strongly modeled off of the Square Foot Gardening method, with "Mel's Mix" as the planting mix of choice.

You can see both beds here. They are 4' by 8'. The raspberries are to the south of the beds.

This is the bed with the tomatoes. There are 2 Early Girl, 2 Romas, 1 Sweet Cherry 100, 1 Purple Cherokee, 1 Better Boy and 1 Brandywine.

There are also some sunflowers, 'Autumn Beauty' and a mound of zucchini and yellow summer squash each. There will be a trellis (like the one on the other bed for the cucumber) for the vines.

This bed contains lettuce, mesclun, and spinach. Nearest to the camera are a bunch of marigolds. There are also onions and carrots, green beans 'french fillet' and cucumber 'market more'. Basil, oregano, rosemary and cilantro are the herbs. And there are 5 peppers -- 2 California Wonder (green), 1 yellow, and 2 red (one is the 'Fat and Sassy' -- yes, it was only purchased because of it's name.)

For many reasons, I am hoping for some of the best produce and in huge abundance this year. I'm trusting in SFG and Mel's Mix...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My "how to" on Building a Rain Barrel

Almost a year ago I purchased a 55 gallon drum via CraigsList. My intentions were to make a rain barrel and, finally, I've completed (well, almost -- you can see I need to do some more painting) this project.

I should have painted it before putting everything together. This was electric blue, so I found some spray paint, specifically designed to be used on plastic. This color is cocoa bean.

After all of the recent rains, this bad boy is full and ready to water.

Here are the steps we took to make this happen (which is a bit different than other instructions I've found):
  • Acquire large container. I'm told pop producers generally sell these for pretty cheap.
  • Remove old downspout and affix an adjustable downspout (I bought this one at Lowe's for about $8), so that the water will run directly to the input hole of the barrel.
  • Cut a hole in the top of the barrel (we used a hand saw for this, I'm sure a reciprocating saw would have make this simple)
  • Drill a hole near the bottom of one side (we used a 1" hole bit) -- this is where the water will come out, and one near the top of the opposite side -- this is where the overflow will leave
  • Cut a piece of window screen/wire mesh for the input hole on the top
  • Screwed the wire into the plastic to cover said hole
  • Installed super handy (and available at my local Ace Hardware, $10 each) contraptions that take the place of washers, silicone, etc. to make a tight seal for both the spigot at the bottom and the overflow valve
  • Attached 3/4" spigot and 3/4" bib (to attach a a drain hose)
  • Painted it (I suggest doing this at the beginning of your project)
  • Put it in place on 2 cinder blocks
  • Attached 5 foot hose to the overflow bib attachment
  • Collected water!
Remember to close (aka turn off) the spigot, or your rainwater will just run out of the barrel...

Or, if this sounds too complicated, you can always buy one. If you're in Indianapolis, I suggest buying one from Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. They will plant a tree for each barrel purchased.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2009

May is when things really start picking up around this Zone 5b garden. I've almost made it through one complete year at this house, so I'm still finding new gems (and some that are not-so-gem-like) that were left by the previous owner(s). Slowly but surely the gardens become more of me and less of them. Here are some thing I found blooming...

Many "firsts" happened this week:

The first peony -- our state flower.

The first blooms opened on the clematis vines. I'm not sure of the name of this pink one, but I really like it.
The first perennial geranium, barely peaking out of the foliage.

The first irises. I love the smell of irises--it reminds me of helping my neighbor in her garden as a child. (Anyone know the name for the bi-color bearded iris above?)

Other blooms have been around for a week or so...

Lily-of-the-valley lurks underneath the lilacs.

Huge alliums bloom balls of purple.

The azalea has several blooms this year.

One of my favorite blooms tells me that raspberries will be here soon!

And now we come to wonderful blooms for which I have no name -- any help is appreciated here!Interesting, almost neon purple-blue flowers with a black base.

Large bush that within a few days went from nothing to spectacular!

And finally, I believe these a bulbs, perhaps related to crocuses as they have similar foliage. These tiny white flowers I've found in the herb garden and near some peonies.

Happy Bloom Day to all -- may the next month be full of beautiful blooms!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Finishing projects... and a new tool for the garden

With all of the beautiful weather, I've been able finally work on some projects that have been building up for some time...

The raised beds are complete. We mixed a final batch of compost/vermiculite/peat moss over the weekend. Peppers and tomatoes (I'm really no good at growing these from seed, I've decided) were purchased from a local garden center, Habig Garden Center (oh, how I love Habig's). The majority of things were also planted on Sunday -- bush beans, cucumbers, various lettuces and spinach, basil, oregano, carrots and more. We got a late start to a few things (lettuce and carrots, but we should get at least a salad or so). The carrots I ordered were order specifically because they can be planted a bit later. Mel's Mix (from Square Foot Gardening) is terribly expensive to create. I better get the best produce ever to compensate for all of the money spent on this stuff...
More detail to come on the varieties of peppers and tom-toms...

The rain barrel is almost done! It's primed--all I need to do it pant it. Right now it's that electric blue, which doesn't exactly complement the brick facade. I bought the special plastic paint in "cocoa bean" and, after two coats, this puppy will be ready to go. Must finish it before the big rain tomorrow!
A future "how-to" post on this one to come as well...

And finally, because sometimes I feel like a old lady, and because I am really in the weeds (they are everywhere!), I bought myself a Vertex GARDEN ROCKER!! This small contraption is built of magic--it works so well for weeding an area and not feeling like your back/knees/legs are going to aching the next day. I picked mine up a Meijer near my Mom's house for only $20. After using it only once, I can tell you that it is worth it's weight in gold to me!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rain Gutter Gardens

What a cool idea -- especially for those who don't have a ton of space.

Attach nice looking rain gutters to the side of your house for a row of garden.

This idea came all the way from Alaska via the Juneau Empire.

Monday, May 4, 2009

New plants for me!

I recently acquired several new plants through various means and I am pleased to share some of them with you...This lovely bleeding heart was a present to myself. I've been looking for one and this one just so happened to be right in front of me as I was entering, of all places, Kroger, my local supermarket. I've found they have some gems from time to time.

This was a fun find for me at the Indianapolis Museum of Art's annual Perennial Premiere. There were many plants that I was familiar with, but some very new and unusual plants as well. I found this cordylis lutea and loved it. It's great for shade, which is what I have the most of...

I also saw a Heuchera 'caramel'; it was beautiful but a bit rich for my taste (they only had one size: BIG) -- I'll try to find it elsewhere, though.

Finally, my neighborhood had a plant swap this weekend. It was great fun! Each person brought some plants to spare and share and the hostess even allowed us to take some starts from her own garden.
Besides the bee balm pictured above, I got a few irises (white and a yellow), a beautiful variegated hosta, and a geranium among a few others.
I think we're going to do this semi-annually (in the spring and the fall) and perhaps a neighborhood garden club will grow from this.