The Ramblings of a Seamstress, Gardener, Chicken Keeper, and Housewife

Proof of My Adventures (and Misadventures!)

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Garden Update

After my back-breaking first day of stump removal, I decided taking it slow was the best course.  I also had a little luck on my side, seeing many of the remaining stumps were significantly smaller (and less rooty) than the first few.  I've still got a few more big ones to get out, but they're lower on the priority list because they're in a shadier area which won't support my tomatoes.

Speaking of those tomatoes, I have 18 plants in the ground now!
Yes, there is a chicken photobombing in the corner.  Also, I need to get the fence put up so that the dogs and chickens can't get in there and wreak havoc.  I burned the crap out of my arms and chest got some sun during the planting, so I've been playing it safe in the house these past few days.  I may work on it tomorrow morning before it gets too sunny.  I've got a few more plants to find room for and a little more tweaking to do to the irrigation setup, and then it'll just be maintaining what I've got.

On the sewing front, I need to get something together for our Fantasy picnic this Saturday.  I had an amazing idea for a fire sprite costume, complete with ombre fire-tone wig, but it got too expensive and complicated for the time I had.  Maybe next year for that one.  So now I'm torn...do I go as a lady hobbit, with portions of the outfit possibly doubling as Ren faire garb?  Or do I visit the costume shop up the road from me, get prosthetic elf ears (if they have them) and make an elf dress?  Or, do I go with the crazy plan I thought of earlier today and try to make fairy wings from heavy wire and cellophane, plus a fairy outfit to match?  I've been trying to mentally engineer the wings to attach to a corset (or maybe tuck into it) instead of the typical harness so they're less likely to shift around and get wonky.  Three and a half days isn't much time, but I think I could probably do it...

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Please may I ask - I'm fascinated by your "wire basket" type things. I have not seen anything like them in the U.K. and would love to know what you are growing there. I am redesigning my tiny back yard (concrete, with tubs/pots/sinks etc., and and always looking for new ideas.

I'm always happy to talk gardening! :) Those are wire cages that will support the growing tomato plants. Since they vine out so much and get very top heavy, it's important to keep them contained and raised off the soil. I got mine at Home Depot: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Gilbert-Bennett-54-in-Tomato-Cage-901592A/202295650 These are uncoated galvanized steel, but I've seen them coated with a brightly colored rubber or vinyl that would be better if you're growing something pretty in them. Each cage you see in my picture has a tomato planted inside and there is a marigold planted between each cage. I've read they keep away some of the predator insects and attract beneficial ones.

Thank you - we don't have Home Depot in England, but I'm thinking a shape like that would support my new clematis. I have an inner city yard which doesn't grow vegetables as it is mostly shady, but shrubs and climbers do well.
 photo P4220029_zpseff693b0.jpg

The view from the first floor study

Edited at 2014-04-23 03:02 pm (UTC)

(And I must send a separate greeting to kaesha_nikovana, since this is her journal and I've never visited before. I'll do that, directly I post this comment.)

You don't have Home Depot in the U.K., but you do have Amazon:

I will say that after a year or two clematis gets heavy, probably a bit heavier than tomato cages will support.
If I may, I'd like to recommend using three sturdy stakes arranged triangularly around the base of the clematis, with sturdy strips of fabric making triangular "rungs" around the clematis vines.

Here we also have tomato cages which are hinged and are intended to be set up triangularly in cross section, around the tomatoes. Again, I'm not certain these will support a clematis more than a few years old unless you're diligent about cutting away the old, dead wood.
Some folks have had good success building supports using three or four pre-made trellises, attaching them together (small ends up or broad ends up, depending) and sometimes chopping off some of the bottom if they wish for the support to have a larger base.

I'd love to have something like this for a rose shrub:

Do you grow any veg? Being in a first-ring suburb which amounts to being in the city proper, myself, I can appreciate the challenge of limited sunlight. But there's a rule of thumb for vegetables and fruit: "For root or fruit, you need full sun; for leaf or vine some shade is fine." (Too bad the whole thing doesn't rhyme, but---oh, well.)

Thank you so much for your comments. I have done the "tepee" shape for clematis, and yes, it does work - I just thought I'd like to try a different shape - thanks for the Amazon reference. (I love Amazon!) My other three clematis are growing up the walls, supported by wires, and my wisteria, in its second year, has a trellis attached to the wall.
I've tried tomatoes - one year brilliant, one year pathetic! I also tried zucchini - indifferent! And as for potatoes in tubs - I grew the most expensive pound of potatoes you ever saw! So now I grow shrubs, unusual plants and put in annuals, which often last through the following year.

Thank you so much for your thank you! :^)

I love Amazon, too! *chuckle* The Sears & Roebuck mail-order catalog of the internet!

What about window boxes for some veg? Some of the smaller carrots such as the "Parisienne" or "Tonda di Pargi" or "Little Fingers" don't need deep soil (although they're happier in heavier soils) and many of the greens do very well in only a few inches of soil, and vining or "pole" green beans have shallow root systems and might also do well for you. Actually, so might the bush-type haricots.
How much reflected light do you get? Light counts whether it's from directly overhead or banked off some other bright surface.

I hadn't thought of the window boxes - they usually have the annuals - pelargoniums, petunias etc. This year is all planned out, but I'll get organised for next year re veg, thanks to your suggestion. There isn't a great deal of reflected light into the yard as it's quite narrow, and the tall houses block a lot. I'll have a word at the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society - I'm a member) and see what they recommend. Thanks again - you've made me think differently about veg!
Might we friend each other? Are you on FB as well?

Edited at 2014-04-23 09:47 pm (UTC)

Many years ago, I came across a paperback book called, "The Apartment Gardener," by Stan and Flo Dworkin, two horticulturalists living in New York City. They taught horti classes and had a radio show and wrote in a lucid and actually a very entertaining as well as informative style.
Because of these folks, I have a vastly better understanding of what light requirements are and how readily they might or might not be met indoors.
They devoted an entire chapter to growing salad on the window sill, and they meant indoors. Remember that for them, most "houses" are apartment buildings, cheek-by-jowl, and tall enough that light is going to be a challenge a great deal of the time.
The book is out of print and if you can find a copy it's almost certain to be found going for a price most of us are neither able nor willing to afford.
My copy is being held together by several repairs and some delicate handling. It's my indoor gardening bible; I've reasoned that most of what works in our dry, centrally heated indoor air in this country will stand me in good stead in houses, too.

If you get round to second-hand shops, however, and you find it, I urge you to snap it up.
ETA: Found it on Amazon-UK. £4.47, used.

There are bound to be British equivalents, however, and I think you'd be able to find those.

Beetroot and beetleaf can be grown in window boxes, too. The big question is light. Well, light and deeper containers for beetroot.

From the photo you posted of your garden, I understand what you mean about light and surrounding buildings. I lived for years and years on the lower level of a highrise on what you'd call the first story or first floor, which in the case of that building was on a level with a rooftop "garden" situated over the garages of the building I was in and its sister building across the garage rooftops. Since my apartment/condo unit was on the west side of the building, people tended to assume I wasn't bothered by early morning sunlight, but the east side of our "sister building" reflected it right into our west-facing windows! I'm an early riser, but I've always preferred not to have the first direct rays of the sun slanting into my eyes at the literal cracking of dawn!

I am delighted for us to friend each other! I shall add you directly I post this comment.

I'm not on FB, no. Perhaps some day. I'm a complete techno-Luddite, and very much behind the techno-curve. LiveJournal, a private Dreamwidth account solely for me to track my projects and sometimes mutter darkly under my e-breath, and e-mail, and that's about it. My Google searches have improved considerably over more than ten years, and they're still nothing to get all excited about. %^S

Edited at 2014-04-23 10:18 pm (UTC)

Oooh, your garden looks very serene! I love all the different colors of foliage.

Thank you - I try to get mixed colours - I love dark crimson and purple foliage too, but you can't see in that photo. Many plants are scented too - everything has to work hard in that garden!

Wow! You've been busy with the garden! Once of these days I'm going to grow tomatoes. I love them so much but can't seem to get off my lazy butt to plant them.

Good luck with the dress for this weekend. I keep daydreaming about an easy GoT dress, but I'm trying to force myself to stay focused on the bustle outfit so I don't sabotage my chances with that one. *snort*

LOL All my time has gone to this lately, and that's left no time for sewing. I very seriously considered wearing the same thing I wore last year, but darn it- I want something new! I'm thinking the crazy winged fairy idea is winning at the moment...

I have a LOT of extra tomato plants if you decide you want some. Lots of varieties and colors, all grown from seed. I'll even come plant them for you if you've got a space or big pots ready. :)

Could you talk a bit more about your irrigation system and how you'll be tweaking it? Usually, we have sufficient rainfall evenly distributed throughout the year that a lot of watering and/or irrigating of vegetable or flower gardens isn't necessary, but if the Old Farmers Almanac (or other almanacs and gardening guides) are correct, we're only a few weeks away from unusually early unusually hot and unusually dry summer weather. I could use a good system for delivering water to my vegetables!

Ooh: having mentioned vegetables, I'm curious about yours: what in addition to tomatoes are you growing?

I'd be happy to talk more about it! Here in Texas, every summer is very hot, and we're in a perpetual state of drought or near-drought. Luckily we're allowed to hand-water or use drip irrigation systems even when there are water restrictions in place. The first year I gardened here I watered my veggies by hand every morning, but that was less than ideal for a variety of reasons.

The tomatoes especially are susceptible to several different fungal diseases, and the water that hit the soil then splashed back onto the plant helped spread those diseases. By the middle of summer I'd lost several plants and the rest were barely hanging on. Also, the water from my sprayer wet a fairly large area of soil around the plant, which then encouraged weeds to grow and thrive in that space and also gave me the impression that it wasn't the most efficient way of getting water to the plant. Finding time to weed was difficult because it gets hot very early and stays hot until well after dark. Plus I was balancing work, family, and everything else in life too, so time was a limited resource. Lastly, it was a pretty big hassle to drag the hose up and down every row, trying hard to keep it from getting tangled up or kinked.

A drip irrigation system was the perfect solution to all those complaints. It allowed me to direct a thin stream of water right at the base of the plant. There's no splash-back, and the water stays right at the plant base which means drastically fewer weeds. Once I'd installed the system and gotten the lines run to the plants, there was no additional maintenance needed. It can be easily altered and added to as needed (which is what I did for the tomato garden in the picture.) Best of all, a simple hose timer can be added at the spigot so watering happens automatically even when I'm not home.

I started out with this kit: http://www.amazon.com/DIG-ML50-Vegetable-Garden-Irrigation/dp/B004YWSN4U/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1398350138&sr=8-3&keywords=dig+corp+drip+irrigation+watering+kit

It came with a booklet that helped me understand how to install everything. The basic idea is that flexible plastic lines connect at your hose spigot and are run to your garden, flowerbed, or containers. Smaller flexible lines connect to that main line with barbed fittings, and drip emitters (also with barbed fittings) dispense water to your plants. There are many kinds of drip emitters - some mist, some drip, and some spray water in a pattern similar to a sprinkler. They also dispense water at different rates, with some being a static amount (ie, 4L/hour) and some are adjustable. Now that I'm familiar with it, I find it's easier to buy individual components and build a customized system as opposed to adding on with more kits.

The tweaking I mentioned is for my decorative flower beds. One bed needs an additional line run, and one new bed needs to get hooked up to the existing system. Those are in the back yard. I also have a bed in the front yard whose system isn't getting enough pressure, so that needs some troubleshooting and a bit of luck!

The tomatoes in the picture are each a different variety. I know some will perform better than others in this extreme heat, but I've kept no records of my past successes/failures. I know that generally the tomato plants with smaller fruit produce better here, but I've planted some larger varieties as well. This time I'll keep track of it all! The chicken coop separates my two vegetable gardens. In the other one, I have sweet onions, Swiss chard, okra, two types of zucchini, two types of cucumbers, yellow squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, and garlic. I also have a container garden right outside the kitchen door with herbs, salad greens, and carrots.

That drip irrigation system looks splendid!

I've been using soaker hoses, but I expect that this year I'll be losing a lot of moisture to evaporation unless I either mulch heavily or bury the hoses---which I might do. (H'mm...I need another hose. Or two.)

I'm a big fan of companion planting and "French" intensive gardening, the idea being that the vegetables, fruits and flowers themselves help to keep down weeds by not giving them the space to get a foothold or at least not a firm one. Theoretically, having the plants shade the soil so nearly completely also slows evaporation, too.

We've had actual water restrictions only twice in my little life that I can recall, one of those times having been during the Heat Wave and Drought of '88. We weren't allowed to water lawns, but we could water flower beds and vegetable gardens. I never water the lawn, anyway: grass always comes back. One fellow was working his way through his garden, something like half an acre or so, on his hands and knees hauling a five-gallon bucket (which he refilled as often as necessary, one supposes) and patiently pouring water from a large can which had held crushed tomatoes or the like and which he was using as a dipper, at the base of each and every plant in his garden---twice a day. He had a regular job, too, if I'm not mistaken, so I'm guessing he was getting very little sleep.

My goodness, that's a lot to grow!
Have you tried any of the tomato varieties from places like Uzbekistan? Hot, dry...they're bred to it. (Somewhere I read that tomatoes originated as desert plants, but if they came from meso-America, I'm kind of doubtful.
So far I've had little or no success with melons although a few years back I got one---ONE---Sugar Baby watermelon. My fault: planted that one much too late in the season which is only 150-155 days long, here. Melon grew and developed but didn't have enough time to ripen before the frosts hit it. I haven't fiddled about with melons, since, but next year might be the year I give them another go.

Do you have a particular garlic you favor?

This will be my first time growing melons. My soil may not have enough nutrients to support the watermelons, but I'd still like to try. I'm not much of a melon person myself, but my husband likes them and my chickens go crazy for them. One way or another, they'll get eaten!

I don't think I've tried any Uzbekstani tomato varieties, but I had trouble tracking down what's bred to grow there. I've been utilizing the Texas Agriculture website quite a bit, and they have a list of recommended varieties of veggies for my area. I'm not following it to the letter though - I tend to do things the hard way. :)

This will be my first year of harvesting the garlic, so I can't say anything about my preferred types. I have three separate bunches that were planted by the landlord's then-girlfriend 4 or 5 years ago and have grown unchecked ever since. I honestly thought they were some type of native or tropical plant until a neighbor pointed them out to me as garlic. They may be all the same type, or all different types. I'm excited to find out!

One of my favorite on-line seed sources is Baker's Creek Heirloom Seeds at www.rareseeds.com .
You have to do a lot of reading to get through their section on tomatoes and tomato seeds, but they'll often tell you where they got the seed from: a number have come in from Iraq and the various "--stans" (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan----don't take these countries' names as gospel; I just recall having seen several of them in the product descriptions over a handful of years.) Best of all, you can read reviews of most seeds of all types and usually the reviewer will give you an idea where they're doing the growing.
Texas seems to have a lot of reviewers compared to other states and other regions (well, she does cover quite a lot of territory!) and the one thing all the Texas reviewers mention is the heat!

I'm not a melon person at all. I like them, but they don't like me. I had this lovely fantasy, though, about inviting some of my neighbors to sit in the shade, enjoy some iced tea or iced coffee, and have fresh melon direct from the garden on a summer morning. Er...a weekend morning.
So, I acquired watermelon seeds (the one watermelon I did grow was from a "start") and some seeds for Charantais melon, an especially heavily perfumed cantaloupe from the Charantais region of France; seeds are available here from a number of seed houses.
So far---pphffftt!
I know melons are extremely heavy feeders, and I also know my soil's not rich enough to support them---yet. We're working on it, though, the micro-organisms and I!
Do you by any chance have a source for horse manure, preferably well-rotted, for your melons? It's said to do wonders for them.

I tend to learn things the hard way, too.
'Dja ever notice, though, how small children can plant almost anything in soil which ought to grow nothing and get flowers or vegetables or fruits where grown-ups fail? One gardener on some website was talking about seed shelf life and said that no matter what the charts say, he's getting good results (germination and growth) from seed nearly twice as old as its "maximum" life expectancy and declares it's because "Seeds don't read books." Neither do young kids read about gardening facts of what's possible and what isn't, so I'm reckoning that must be the explanation.

I hope you'll report back when you've sampled your garlic! :^) That's very exciting, that you have garlic growing in your garden!

Wow, so much vegetable gardening! Well done! I'm reorganising my yard, and should be able to find space next year for a few odds and ends. We thought we were going to move a few years ago, then I was ill, so we went through a stage of neglect. Now I want pretty, but next year, thanks to some suggestions from virginiadear I have veggie plans.

Edited at 2014-04-24 06:10 pm (UTC)

Thank you! This is the most I've ever grown. I'm fortunate to have more time on my hands than previous years, so it's allowed me to expand the vegetable garden and put in some small decorative flowerbeds. My in-laws will be visiting later this year and I'd like to have the place looking its best. We're renters here so beautification has been low on the priority list until now. I'm enjoying the transformation, and the neighbors keep complimenting the yard!

I'm reckoning you can have pretty and vegetables.

Please hop on over to my journal; we can get into detail there without hijacking kaesha_nikovana's journal. One thing I do want to mention here is that you don't have to rely on the surrounding buildings for reflected light: you can set up your own reflective surfaces, the shinier, lighter, brighter, whiter or metallic, and every little bit helps.

I'd love to talk on your journal, but I've been trying for some time and my computer simply shows a tan coloured blank page. Please send me a link.

"Tan colored blank page"---this comment's for me? I almost didn't see it, but my "Friends" page finally loaded and I noticed that there seemed to be more comments here on this entry in kaesha_nikovana's journal and I popped by to read them.

Other than my home page (when I log in) and my profile page, I'm not able to get to anything on my journal quickly, any more than you or anyone else is able. I get the tan page with the header or tool bar at the top, and then it'll take anywhere from forty minutes to an hour to load.
I asked my existing F-list if any of them are having problems, because one LJ friend had reported having the same difficulty in their journal, but to the best of my knowledge it's just the two of us, that one of my F-list and myself.
I can appreciate that this is frustrating for you: it is for me, too. I don't know what the problem is or how to correct it other than to wait and see if LJ sorts it out. Very disappointing!
I'm able to cruise or puddle-jump all over the rest of the internet, which suggests to me that the problem isn't in the machine I use.

If it doesn't clear up within another day or so, the only other thing I can think of to do (besides beleaguering LJ) is to establish a new account and start over.

It appears that now I can comment, but not read my messages, or my own journal!

No, I don't need links, thank you - I was just happy to keep chatting. I'll keep trying!

My error: above, you asked for a link, and that was in my mind but you meant some kind of link that would act as a by-pass pipeline and get you straight to my journal or friends-page or some such, rather than gardening links? (Silly of me!) I wish I had such a link. I'd be sure to be using it, my own self.

A few other people have indicated that they are having similar difficulties in their own journals and with those journals they read belonging to other people, to it isn't just your journal and it isn't just my journal.
But 'tis a puzzlement.

And now I'm going to stop talking about this in my friend's journal, because hijacking on-topic is bad enough and here we are hijacking off-topic.

Profoundest sincere apologies, kaesha_nikovana!

Edited at 2014-04-27 02:14 pm (UTC)

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