31 July 2010

Corpse Flower Cactus

I got this cactus at a plant swap a couple of years ago. It's Stapelia gigantea, or Corpse (Carrion) Flower Cactus. I spent the first year or so dividing it and giving it as gifts or taking it to plant swaps. We had a really cold winter this year and the cactus seemed a bit traumatized by the weather. It just got some new growth recently - really the first sign on life it's shown since last year.

So when I saw a bud forming, I was excited, as well as surprised. It took about two and a half weeks from the time I noticed it until it bloomed today. I've been watching it intently the last couple of days - it's looked like it was was going to burst any minute. I went to take a photo this afternoon, before it opened, and that's when I noticed it had opened. We all had to go look at it, and take pictures, AND SMELL IT!

We really didn't smell anything, so I put my nose right up in it. That's when I got the faint smell of roadkill. I'm just happy my plant bloomed and it didn't smell as bad as I anticipated.

For a slideshow of the bloom, click here.

27 July 2010

From Garden to Table

There's something I've noticed the last couple of summers - there is poor coordination/planning between what's ripe in the garden and what we are eating for dinner. There's nothing better than picking something from the garden and immediately cooking it. For us - and maybe for a lot of people - that's easier said than done. Every vegetable has it's own timeline, which makes it "feast or famine" with a lot of them.

Salad greens were the easiest plants to work with. Once our lettuce and spinach matured, we were able to continuously harvest it from December through April. We could have started earlier if I had planted it sooner.

Unless you plant the same crop a few weeks apart, some veggies tend to be harvested en masse - like onions and potatoes. You can leave them in the garden and pull up what you need, but at some point you will need to harvest the entire crop. Luckily, these two veggies, as well as other root crops, have long shelf lives.

More tender vegetables are what I have the most trouble getting the most from - tomatoes, squash, corn and beans. Either we don't get enough of these at any one time to use - like squash or corn, or we get too many and they get overripe on the plant like beans.

I don't feel like too much of a failure this summer. We had neighbors give us a lot of early squash they started in their greenhouse. When our tomatoes succumbed to disease, we got fruit and more plants form other neighbors. And we spent May and June digging (and eating) potatoes.

I've learned a little more this year and with better commitment and knowledge of what's ripe in the garden, I think we can eat more garden-to-table meals in the future.

Fall Gardening Already?

A recent Sunday newspaper had an article on Fall vegetable gardening and suddenly I'm feeling a lot of pressure to start planting. I was already feeling a little bad about my poor summer garden - diseased tomatoes, roundup-ed beans, unpicked corn, late watermelon, etc. There is plenty of warm weather ahead of us - I was planning on a second shot at warm season crops when I read that article.

It's probably a good thing. I tend to be late when it comes to planting some things, so this really gives me a heads up. I have the rest of July think about what I want and to find seed for what I want to plant. (I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago and, as I am posting it, I realize how close to August it is.)

We were at Lowe's today and I saw the seeds, but I wasn't prepared to buy anything. I'll have to get my act together soon, so I can get some early seeds started, before I put onions and potatoes in the ground in October.

21 July 2010

Never Fear - William Moss Is Here

Ever since the demise of HGTV's Gardening By The Yard, I've been looking for another gardening show that I like. I watch the Victory Garden, but it's too much like a slick landscape design show - also I can do without the cooking segment. Another show I've dismissed - without giving it much of a chance is P. Allen Smith Gardens. My impression of it would be if Martha Stewart had a gardening show.

The other show that has a little bit of promise for me is HGTV's Dig In with William Moss. He is a landscape designer who helps people modestly make over their yards. After coming up with a design plan, he coaches the homeowners on proper pruning techniques, planting depth, etc. He tends to reuse plants already in the yard and he's not afraid to use a plant's Latin name. There is usually a hardscape element to his designs, but he doesn't seem as interested in that as he is in the plants.

HGTV's Dig In is not a replacement for Gardening by the Yard, but it's all I've got right now.

17 July 2010

Hidden Ginger

I got a plant called Hidden Ginger (Curcuma petiolata) from my friend Billy in the fall of 2008. It's definitely not like the ginger lily that everyone knows. Its growth habit is similar to that of a canna or banana. I'm sure it's a sun- and water-loving plant, but it's in a good bit of shade during the first half of the day. Despite all of this, it has decided to bloom this year.

The stalk the bloom is on is only about six inches tall - there are a couple of taller ones. I thought this might be why it's called "hidden", but apparently mine is just a fluke. Billy says they bloom at the top of the tall stalks like everything else.

It's been a couple of months since it bloomed and it hasn't bloomed again - down low or higher - probably due to the amount of shade. I've thought about moving it and our other tropicals to a sunnier spot, but I like them by the pond.

05 July 2010

Yard Work

Ella has been asking to help out in the yard lately. I have things she can do, but I feel like I need to show her or explain really well what she can do to help me out. So, here it goes:

The first thing that needs done is the bed along the azalea hedge needs weeding. The newest part, closest to the fence, has clumps of grass coming up through the mulch. There's bound to be some, when you lay newspaper down and mulch on top of that. The best way to pull this grass up is to grab small clumps of it as close to the ground as possible, and pull slowly, trying to get as much of the roots as you can. I know it won't happen every time, but it'll keep it from coming back in the future. As you get closer to the street, there will be more weeds instead of grass. There will be more of them, but they'll be easier to pull up. Use the same technique as before, grabbing it as close to the ground as possible and pulling slowly. There's mostly grass - maybe crabgrass - among the daylilies, so if you pull that out, that would be great. When you're pulling weeds, pick a spot nearby and make a pile - I'll put them at the street on trash day.

There's crabgrass invading the desert garden as well as dollar weed - it has a round leaf, like a dollar coin - maybe not as large. They've got a long root connecting them, so if you grab one just under the soil, you'll be able to pull up a whole string of them. There are a few other types of weeds in there, but they should be easy to pull.

All around the raised beds, in the back yard and a little in the front, crabgrass and dollar weed has invaded the area. All of that needs to be pulled up. I made the mistake of trying to spray Roundup near the vegetables. I ended killing our pole beans, so I don't want to take any chances with that again.

The last thing I need help with is cleaning behind the garage, where the chickens will be. I've cut down (I know it will come back) and smothered most of the bamboo, but I need the rest of it cut down. It'll probably easier to use the small pruning shears. If you cut it as close to the ground as you can, that'll make it easier to smother later. I'm going to cut down some of that magnolia tree, to let in more sunlight, which will be good for the chickens. The most important thing to remember back there is to avoid the poison ivy. (pictured) Thanks!