25 March 2010

Blooming Pitcher Plants

When I first got carnivorous plants, I wasn't sure how to take care of them. I figured it out for the most part and the pitcher plants in the "Lowes Death Cubes" lived through the first winter. During the early summer, I was researching the best way to keep them moist without being high maintenance I even took a trip to Trident Tech horticulture department's pond and carnivorous bog garden. I believe their's is planted in a hole with a liner to retain moisture. After all of the research I came up with my own idea.

I took a shallow - about six inches - barrel liner, drilled holes in the bottom and lined it with landscape fabric. I filled it with moist sphagnum peat moss and planted my pitcher plants and sunk it in the pea gravel bog. The holes make sure it stays wet, but the landscape fabric keeps the peat from washing out.

I was looking at how crowded they've become in that container in the past year and I've decided to repot them. I've got a larger container that will fit in the bog that I can modify the same way I did the original one. I just need a little more peat and some time - maybe later this summer.

This past summer I was reading a book on carnivorous plants when I noticed a photo of ae blooming pitcher plant. At the time I had no idea this kind of plant would do that - although in hindsight, everything must flower to reproduce, I suppose. After that, all I wanted was for mine to do the same thing. I forgot about it over the winter, but recently I've noticed they've started growing again, producing more pitchers. Robin and I were in the yard last night when she noticed what looked like a flower bud. I was so surprised - it did look like it could be a flower. I went back outside with the camera to take photos of a few things and as I was taking photos of the flower bud on the pitcher plant, I noticed another and another and another. I'm pretty sure that's what this is. Right now I'm holding my breath a little - I can't wait to see this flower I have only seen in books. Look for the photo slideshow soon. I'll also update it as I get more pictures.

Spring Cleaning

When I walked outside yesterday morning, the amount of spring gardening chores briefly overwhelmed me. I think I had gone out there to lay out the new landscaping - smother grass and mulch - but I saw weeds to pull and lantana to prune and a pond to clean. After a little weeding and pruning, I got to the mulching. I've been saving our newspapers during the past several months for just this purpose. I also had several bags of shredded leaves that I was saving for this as well.

I didn't plan to mulch the whole area that day, but I thought I would do as much as the leaves lasted. I spent an hour or so laying down newspaper - about four sheets thick - and then spreading leaves over it. I probably mulched half the area I needed to cover - one side being an arc near where I plan to put a stone path from the lawn to the gate. I've been planning to do this with broken concrete instead of for cost reasons. I hadn't looked for any recently, but there was a post on craigslist yesterday for someone to haul off broken concrete, so I plan to do that before the weekend.

We had plans for the mid afternoon, but I realized it was a good day to clean out the pond. I was going to have to get in it and clean all the dead leaves and plants out of it. When I was knee-deep, it wasn't bad - it was 65 degrees - but it took a little getting used to when I had to squat down to reach the bottom. I managed to finish and take a shower in time for our plans. Overall, it was a productive day.

24 March 2010

Garden Update

I have a lot of gardening and landscaping plans for the spring and summer - I just haven't gotten to them yet. I realized as my seeds* were sprouting this week that I was using my only completely free raised bed as a cold frame and I needed to do something about that.

*Both varieties of squash are sprouting, Razzleberry tomatoes, a few cucumbers and maybe a pepper, coneflower and agapanthus. I've also got another tomato, another pepper, watermelon, beans and corn to get started as well.

I can't decide what to do with my pole beans. I was going to put up a trellis made from conduit and twine, but now I'm wondering if it would be easier to do a tripod/tepee in the flower beds where I plan to grow watermelon, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins. I have so many questions about that - I was going to grow cucumbers up a trellis, but they're "salad bush hybrid" - does that mean they will be less of a vine? And am I planting too much of the same family together - squash, cucumber, pumpkins, watermelon?

Anyway, I got some more compost this morning. I opted to get $2 bags from the Romney Street location rather than loading my own at the landfill. I don't need as much right now - just enough to improve the soil in the landscaped beds so I can plant veggies out there. I'm rethinking the design of the bed, now that I've included part of the front yard in my vegetable gardening plan. I've got citrus that I want to put back into a pot, daylilies that I'll eventually move somewhere else - the same goes for the lilies, irises and phlox. I've got garlic that I'll harvest this summer. After all that, maybe I'll be able to design a nice planting that lets me incorporate long term landscaping with vegetables.

Other things growing - The potatoes I planted just over three weeks ago have broken the surface and the spinach is getting to be large enough to start harvesting. Daylilies have sprouted. The water hyacinths in the pond - I had given up on them, but hadn't tossed in the compost pile - they've got new growth on them.

My list of things I want to do is growing as well. The area in the front yard where the garden is, will become a continuation of the side flower bed and curve around in front of the house. I have to edge and smother the grass and mulch. Then I have to decide what to plant and put a path through it to the side gate. I'm planning to use pieces of broken concrete to make something that looks like a stone path. I've started collecting it recently.

I'm planning to take another shot at a shade garden, my first attempt not being the best location, as it turns out. I hope under our oak tree will be good enough. It gets a little morning sun and a little more evening sun - I hope it won't be a problem. I have a 50% off coupon for a garden catalog that I was going to use to buy all the plants for the shade garden when I was ready, but the coupon expires in April and I just don't think I'll be working on it at that point - and with shipping, who knows how much I'll really save.

According to my plan, I need to build two more raised beds (maybe three). I also need to lay out beds in the back yard. There's a strip of grass about a foot wide along the driveway that I want to rip up and plant a ground cover...

More rain barrels, chickens, rain garden/bioswale. The list goes on...

18 March 2010

Seeds are sprouting!

I'm just going to say it. I had my doubts about growing lots of vegetables from seeds. I haven't had the best luck and I don't have the ideal setup. I've been religiously opening the cold frame in the morning (when it's 45 degrees) and trying to close it a little early some days to help it retain some heat overnight. I would stare at the soil every day and hope something would come up - and something did. These are the year-old squash seeds in the photo. Also Razzleberry tomatoes have begun sprouting. Most of my concern is with the vegetable seeds. I know the other seeds might take longer, or are no good, but that's just par for the course.

There was another reason I worried - I skimped on buying a seed-starting potting mix. I confess. I was at Lowe's and I couldn't find it and I gave up. Then I thought I would make my own, which was a bad idea because of time constraints - so I winged it. I had various soils lying around and I mixed a little of this with a little of that - perlite, compost, peat moss, shredded bark, anything that I thought had the qualities of a good potting mix, however oxymoronic - holds moisture and drains well.

Despite having succeeded the smallest amount, I am still holding my breath a little longer for more seeds to germinate. I have more to plant after this. I was at Lowe's and picked up watermelon seeds, and on a whim, I got some cactus seeds as well. I was cataloging my seeds for myfolia.com and I realized the beans I have are bush and not pole, so I need more of those too. A gardener's work is never done.

14 March 2010


I know I usually do something outside before I have something to write about, but my friend Russ told me about a site that lets you manage your garden online. It's called MyFolia.com and I was hooked immediately.

Depending upon the size of your garden - vegetable or other - there could be a lot of information to enter initially. You have to create "beds" and add "plantings" - the site will ask you where your plants or seeds came from originally. Some of these details are optional, while others aren't. This became a problem when I was inputting information for plants I was starting from seeds that I had collected from the wild. In these cases, I had to add these seeds to my "seed stash" before I could use them in a "planting".

As the process got more complicated, I debated whether this was something I should be spending my time on, but I think I'm going to see it through. I think I have all of my vegetable garden info online now, and I'm slowly adding other plants as I find a place for them - in the yard and online.

There are some features that you have to be a subscriber to use, but I haven't spent too much time dwelling on those. I'm happy with what there is for now. They have widgets to display on your site, like "Last 3 Plantings" or "Last 3 Harvests", but I feel like these give too little information. ( I've added these widgets to this blog but, will most likely replace them with a link to my MyFolia page.) MyFolia.com, in contrast, tries to be a one-stop shop for all your gardening needs, including a blog. While I plan to use it as a place to collect detailed information about my gardening activities, it will never replace my blog. To view my MyFolia page, click here.

07 March 2010

Spring Seed Starting

I got some of my vegetable seeds started today. Here's list:

Tomato - Razzleberry Hybrid
I got this free with my order from Park Seed.

Squash - Early Prolific Straightneck
Hopefully these will be ok. I've had these for two years, apparently.

Squash - Dixie Hybrid
Same goes for this variety, too. I got these last year and never planted them.

Cucumber - Salad Bush Hybrid
They looked like nice, small cucumbers, and are recommended for our area. I'mn planning to grow on a trellis.

Pepper - Sweet Spot X3 Hybrid
These look like sweet banana peppers that Robin wants.

Pumpkin - Autumn Gold Hybrid
I got three varieties of pumpkins to play with - small, medium and large. The first two will probably make good jack-o-lanterns, and I'm curious about the large one. They're supposed to be hundreds of pounds. I heard my brother-in-law tried these a few years ago - I thought I ought to try them out.

I'm also starting some non-vegetable seeds. If these get to a decent size in a month, I may take some to the plant swap - probably not likely.

Confederate Rose (hibiscus mutabilis)
I got a seed pod off of one around the corner from our house.

I read an article about these in the paper and I started seeing them around. When one set seed, I collected some. PJ Gartin said she collected seeds the same time I did, "though I suspect that what I'll get (if anything) might not exactly like the parent plant. However, that's just the risk seed collectors take." She also told me that it may take 30-90 days for germination.

Devil's Trumpet
This plant had a couple of huge seed heads, almost the size of a golf ball. I harvested the seed and we'll see how it goes.

Echinacea - "Bravado"
Robin really wants coneflowers, so I bought a number of kinds from Park Seed.

I'm still waiting on several things from Park Seed:
Tomato - Better Boy Hybrid
Coneflower Collection
Pumpkin - Howden, Big Moon

06 March 2010

Cold Frame / Raised Bed Completed

Today I managed to start and finish a new raised bed, one that will be used as a cold frame for the next month or so. As I wrote last week, I planned to use one of the smaller raised beds as a cold frame by putting windows on top, opening them in the morning so it won't get to hot during the day. After measuring the old windows I had, I modified my bed design a bit, to accommodate the size of the windows.

I plan to start my vegetable and flower seeds this weekend, although by looking at the weather for the coming week, the weather doesn't seem so bad. At the moment the vegetables I have to start are tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and squash. I'll be sowing corn and pole beans in situ. I've got non-vegetable seeds I want to germinate, like coneflowers, agapnathus, cotton hibiscus and devil's trumpet. Depending upon how many seed trays I have, some of the non-vegetables may have to wait. I also may try to grow stuff to take to the plant swap on April 10th. Wish me luck.

04 March 2010

Spring Vegetable Gardening

Last weekend I finally got my potatoes and onions in the ground. While I was at it, I planted more lettuce and spinach as well. I planted so much that I had to make a diagram to know where everything is planted. Not really - I made the diagram to help me with crop rotation in the future. I planted three kinds of potatoes, two kinds of onion sets, two kinds of spinach and two kinds of lettuce.

I know I bought five pound bags of potatoes, but I don't seem to have as many as last year - there are a number of big ones, so maybe that's the reason. I got a third variety this year and ended up planting all of them in two raised beds. Last year I got white and red, and this year they also had Yukon gold. I'm expecting a better crop this year in the raised bed than I had in the ground last year.

I think I bought a pound each of white and purple onion sets. I was expecting to get yellow ones too, but they didn't have any. Until I'm am expert at this, I'm not going to be picky. I need to pay better attention to them this season. I think my biggest problem with the onions was my own neglect, so I'm going to vigilant this spring. I know everyone who plants onions uses sets, but I think when fall comes around, I'm going to try growing them from seed.

I planted Melody spinach several weeks ago, after I pulled up my broccoli. It's been growing nicely. I thought I would see about growing Space spinach as well. I planted that in the holes in the concrete blocks around one of the beds of potatoes. I'm not sure how long they will last into the warm weather, but I know at least one of them is more heat tolerant than average.

I already have lettuce growing in the garden from the winter - I think I planted it after Halloween and we have been eating on it since Xmas - but I had seeds for two more varieties I wanted to plant. Since I'm short on space I decided to plant the lettuce in the same bed with the potatoes. I've read many times about "intercropping" vegetables that have different needs, etc. In this case, the lettuce will be ready about 45 days after planting, while potatoes may take 100 days of more to mature, however you can harvest them real young as "new" potatoes. So if I can get some more lettuce without interfering with the potatoes, why not?

Instead of worrying about how much space I have in the raised beds - because I will never have enough - I've decided that one of my landscape beds is going to be part of the vegetable garden. I've got garlic planted out there right now and I had planned to watermelons and pumpkins out there as well - to give them room to spread - but I'm already thinking all the other things I can plant - cucumbers, squash, corn. I can't wait!

02 March 2010

Starting Summer Vegetables in a Cold Frame

I know it doesn't seem like it, but it's time to talk about planting summer vegetables - not full grown plants, but starting from seed - when it's nice and warm they will be ready for the garden. A lot of people have a sun room or grow lights or a greenhouse for their seedlings, but I don't - I have to improvise. Don't worry, I have a plan. I'm planning to build a cold frame, which is basically a box with a window on top that protect tender plants from the cold.

I've considered building them before, but it seemed like a lot of work for not too much benefit, especially around here. I decided I needed a lot of space if I was going to grow warm season vegetables from seed this year. I've tried this in the past and had better luck each year. What I'm planning to do this year is build a cold frame out of concrete blocks and old windows. I brought this up with Darren and he thought it sounded like a good idea. The concrete blocks will warm up during the day and let off that heat at night, and the window would help hold that heat in, but during the day I would need to crack the windows open so it doesn't get too hot.

Originally I planned to put it in the backyard, setting up concrete blocks on the lawn, but I thought of a better idea. I still have at least three more raised beds to build (according to my master plan), so I should build one of those and use it as a cold frame before filling it with soil. So that's probably going to happen in the next week, and I'll start my seeds and be on my way gardening.