31 May 2010

Seeds from the neighborhood

Robin and I were walking the dogs the other afternoon when we passed Mr. Hiers' house. We saw him working in his vegetable garden and I thought I would take this opportunity to go talk to him. I say "garden", but he has closer to a field of vegetables in his back yard. The lots on our street are a third of an acre and the placement of his house leaves probably close to half of that available to farm in the back yard. I always think I'm doing well with my garden until I see his. Although I did feel that way this time too, I'm proud of what I've done and wouldn't trade it for anything.

We spent some time looking at what he had planted and swapped stories about what we had planted and harvested, etc. He showed me his fruit trees and his grapevines and then we went into the garage. He opened up a cabinet with all the seeds he has saved over the years. He had some he had collected himself, and others he had bought at the Cross Seed auction. He started pulling jars, medicine bottles and paper bags full of seed off the shelves and handing them to me. By the time he was finished, I could hardly carry everything home - that includes the bag of squash too.

The containers of seeds have been sitting on the desk for the past week, waiting for me to have time to plant some and I finally did that today. I planted whole seed flats of each type of seed he gave me:

Butter beans
Bush Lima Bean
Brandywine Tomato
Beefsteak Tomato

Actually, I didn't plant the vegetables yet, but I did plant the flowers.

Gloriosa Daisy Yellow
Hibiscus "Dinner Plate"
Hibiscus "Poinsettia"

Those are his descriptions on the containers of flower seeds. When I opened the bag of gloriosa daisies, there was another bag with more seeds. They were different than the seeds in the original bag, so I planted those as well. I've labeled them separately on Myfolia.com and on the bags themselves so I'll know in the future.

Yard Waste Bags

I've been wanting to write about the compost I buy at the landfill for a while now. It's made from the yard waste of the residents of Charleston County, so there are no guarantees about anything. We can hope their piles heat up enough to kill or break down all the bad things like diseases, pests, herbicides, pesticides and weed seeds, but there is one thing that does not break down during the composting process - plastic.

People put their yard waste out for collection in plastic bags. I'm not sure, but the composting process probably begins by taking all of the yard waste and dumping it in a shredder, which puts very small pieces if plastic into the compost. I see it all of the time in the compost that I have gotten from the landfill and I think that has had a negative effect on my feelings about getting compost from them.

I decided this weekend to try something new and use the paper yard waste bags that you can buy at Lowes or Wal-Mart or other stores that sell lawn and garden items. I have two reasons for trying these out. The first one is I refuse to use plastic bags for my yard waste - it's obvious that the plastic is ending up in the compost that they sell. The second reason has more to do with the aesthetics of our landscape than anything else. For nearly four years I've been dumping piles of yard waste near the street every week without bagging it, and the city workers come by and pick it up with a large bucket/scoop loader attached to a dump truck. Over the years, or maybe it happened to very first time, the bucket has scooped up our grass in that one area and I want it back. Instead of complaining to the public works department all the time, I thought I would be proactive. By putting everything in bags, maybe they won't need to use the scoop on my yard waste and will leave any future grass untouched. I've got two full bags on the street now, waiting for pickup in a couple of days - we'll see what happens.

27 May 2010


Before I had daylilies, there seemed to be so much hype surrounding them - all the different varieties, etc. So, last March, I bought some off of craigslist - they were just putting out new growth, so I had to wait with anticipation to find out what colors they would be.

Once they finally bloomed, I was a little disappointed. They were mostly yellow, some having touches of red on the edges. I tried to cross pollinate one last year, but I didn't get any seed from it. Oh yeah - another disappointing thing about daylillies? Blooms last only a day.

I've got a different outlook this year. I plan to catalog and label each of them, so I know what color each of them is - and maybe I'll try some cross pollination again.

26 May 2010

Cactus Collection

I bought these five cactuses from Lowes on clearance. I really didn't know what to do with them, but they were either $0.88 or $0.48 each - and they didn't look bad either. I potted them up together in one pot and I thought they looked nice for a while - one recently bloomed, but they're starting to look crowded. I had amassed a small collection of ceramic pots that I never knew what to put in them - so I figured this would be a good idea. I tried to match the cactus to the pot, taking into account size, shape and color. I'm happy with the outcome and so is Robin. Now I don't know where t o put them!

Prickly Pear Cactus

Our Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia) is blooming for the first time since we've had it. We call it the "Murder House" cactus, because I grew it from a single pad that I got from a cactus at a house where a recent double murder had occurred. Soon after, the owner spruced up the house and the yard, removing the cactus and selling the house. So, in a way, I feel like I did this plant a favor by propagating it. We've had this cactus since 2007, but it's only been planted in the yard since spring of 2009. Last year I saw a couple of other cactuses bloom, but not ours. This year, it finally happened.

15 May 2010

Fall Plant Swap

I know it's not even summer yet, but the date for the fall plant swap has been announced - Saturday, September 25 at 10am at Park Circle. For more information click here, or the link above. To see how the plant swap works click here. I'm looking forward to seeing everybody there

Squash Bugs?

I think I have squash bugs, although they weren't on my squash. Now that I know what they are, I'm going to have to check my squash in the morning. Actually, I was trying to take some photos of my blooming yucca for an upcoming post when I noticed these bugs all over the flower stalk. It even looked like they might be mating - they were backed up against each other. Sorry for the slightly blurry photo - I wanted to get the closest photo I could. They seemed familiar, but I really didn't know where to start to figure out what they were. I had to narrow it down a little since there are a large number of bugs and insects out there. After consulting the "Basic Entomology" chapter of my MG training manual, I narrowed it down to bugs or beetles. Then I searched Google images for "beetle", "beetle pests" , and then "garden pests". Found on the first page of results was something that looked pretty similar to what I had - it was a squash bug.

I'm quoting from the manual: "Squash bugs overwinter in protected places as unmated adults. They appear rather slowly in the spring. They mate and begin laying egg clusters about the same time the vines begin to grow and spread. Eggs are yellowish brown to brick red in color and are laid in clusters of a dozen or more on the leaves. They hatch in about 10 days into nymphs that become adults in four to six weeks. Only one generation of bugs develops each year. New adults do not mate until the following spring."

So how does one control them? Advice on the subject varies, from not planting squash, to killing them as you see them. I may leave the ones on the yucca alone, but I'll make sure to check my squash and related plants for eggs on the leaves. If you have any, good luck with getting rid of them.

Potatoes and Lettuce

I get curious about potatoes, probably because they're growing in the ground, where I can't see them - too curious, perhaps. Last year we ate most of them as new potatoes, but I'm trying to be patient this year. I dug up one small plant last weekend, because it was dying and I got a single Yukon Gold potato from it. Then I decided to dig up a potato without pulling up the whole plant - so I got two new potatoes last weekend, but I'm trying to hold out. I pulled up a plant one morning this week before work and got a large handful of them. I and going to be good and wait, but we've got enough for dinner this weekend if we want them.
Earlier this week I knew Robin was planning to cook dinner, but I was hungry when I got home from work. There was nothing I really wanted, so I went out to the garden and pulled up some lettuce and spinach and had a big salad. We did this one night not too long before that, and I told myself I should do that every day this week. Unfortunately, I didn't stick to that plan - when I dug up the last potatoes, the lettuce was in the process of bolting. Summer is definitely here!

14 May 2010

Garden Ramblings

It's been a slow couple of weeks for gardening. We had a neighborhood cleanup three weeks ago and I was a little under the weather for about a week after. I'm mostly over it now, but it's been too hot and humid recently for me to want to do much outside.

I guess I've done more virtual gardening lately. I reformatted this blog a little - there was getting to be too much stuff along the right hand column. I've consolidated most of it under individual tabs. It's also allowed me to add more information without making the site cluttered.

I've been updating my garden at MyFolia.com a good bit recently - adding new plants and photos. I have spent a little time outside taking photos of plants and doing a few little things, like starting seeds and repotting plants, deadheading, pulling a few weeds, etc - really just observing the goings on of the yard.

I don't know if anyone's seen the MyFolia page I have, so if you haven't, go check it out. And if you have, but it's been a while, check it out. I've added a lot of gardens and plants and photos - not a lot of comment, though. I save that for here. Ignore this if you want. It's just a shameless plug for my page there and maybe to pad this blog a little!


I haven't done a whole lot in the yard lately - mainly, I've been noticing flowers. Watching them go from buds to flowers to seed pods has left me wanting to know more. I know the basics of pollination, even if I don't remember what each part of the flower is called. (I started studying today) Last fall I did a little seed collecting and this spring I've been planting a lot of seeds, but I've really become interested in the last couple of weeks. I also tried to cross pollinate a couple of my daylilies last year, but I didn't get any seeds from it.

First it was the irises. I watched each one bloom and die, but I think only the water irises have seed pods - maybe the higher pollination rate is due to the water attracting more insects. Last year I was thinking the same thing - I'll collect the seeds and grow some more - but I always have too many of these things - so I don't know what I'll do with the seeds.

I brought home a few lilies from a now-wild area of the neighborhood and they have since formed seed pods. I've collected seeds from most of them, but I don't know when I should plant them. After some research, there are different techniques, depending upon which type and I don't know what these were. I'll spend some time this summer researching and I'll let you know what I find out.

My pitcher plants have been blooming for the last several weeks and I've been really curious about their structure. I could see into them until a few of the "petals" fell off. It appears that they have produced seeds, but most of them have fallen out of the flower. I'm not sure if I want to bother with germinating them - I've heard it takes months - and the plants you can buy at Lowes - I think those are two years old - too much of a commitment for me.

Before I had planted all of my squash, they started blooming - the same with my cucumbers. I didn't have anywhere to put them in the ground, so I just transplanted them into larger pots. As they continued to bloom, I thought I would try to take advantage of this and hand pollinate the flowers. As I started looking at the flowers, they turned out to be all male. This got me wondering about squash flowers, so I read about them in the master gardener's training manual - apparently most of the early flowers on squash are male. So I'll be biding my time until a female flower shows up.

I know you're supposed to be able to grow potatoes from seed as well as from a potato, so when my potatoes began flowering, I held out hope that maybe there might be seed pods when they were done, but no such luck. That's fine - they're very easy to grow from a potato eye. Same goes for water lilies. I've always wondered about getting seed pods out of them. A big problem is that there are so few blooming at the same time in most situations - except for the wild, white cowlilies that you see in ponds and ditches everywhere.

The last plant I want to mention is probably my favorite at the moment, at least as far as pollinating goes - it's the yucca. There's one on my route that I've been watching flower for the past few weeks, knowing any day the landscapers will chop it off, but it hasn't happened yet. I've been doing some research and I think I've figured out how to pollinate it. I'll let you know how it goes.

Second Summer Planting

In the near future I'm going to have some empty garden beds to fill and I don't have a clue what I want to plant. I know I can plant more of the same - corn, beans, tomatoes, etc. I'll probably do that - I've got some more corn to plant and various beans - pole beans, bush beans and cow peas (black-eyed peas). If I'm not mistaken, I think you let cow pea pods dry on the plant before picking them. Then you can store them dry until you cook Hoppin' John and collard greens on New Year's Day. If I do plant those, I really ought to plant collard greens this fall too.

I'll probably buy a couple of plants from Lowes. I'm growing peppers, but they're a little stunted and the second group of tomato seedlings didn't fair so well. So maybe I'll buy two pepper plants and a tomato plant or two. I'm also thinking I should plant zucchini - it's not my favorite, but we would eat it - in a casserole or sauteed with other vegetables.

I haven't been successful with everything I've tried growing this year, but it's a huge improvement over last year. I think because I've been landscaping and building raised beds, I didn't start some of my seeds early enough or not at all. So I feel like I'm playing catch-up a little, but overall, I think I'm doing pretty well this year.