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

Proof of My Adventures (and Misadventures!)

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A More In-Depth Look at My Garden(s)

I know a few of you are fellow gardeners, or at least garden enthusiasts, so I thought I'd take a little time to show you around mine (virtually, that is.)  A lot of this is already posted on my facebook, so it may be a little on the boring side for some of you.  Sorry about that!  I'll try to add in extra tidbits and random thoughts to keep it fresh.  :)

We'll start at the front of the house.  My original intention was to build a raised bed with a water feature, but there were just too many factors working against me (no outdoor outlet to run the pump, worry that the maintenance would be too much hassle, cost of supplies, etc.)  I'm a little ashamed to admit that I went so far as to build a box-shaped 'bed' of cinder blocks (they were already here, so materials cost was zero) that was big enough to hold the small pond form (also already here.)  It then sat that way, unfilled except for the leaves that drifted into it and the weeds that freely grew inside it, for two years.  This spring I finally decided a reality check was in order, tossed the pond form behind the garage, and rearranged the blocks into neat rows so the holes would act as planters (for actual flowers and beneficial plants, not weeds!)  I'm calling it my redneck flowerbed, though a brief search on Pinterest might make you want one yourself!

Here it is April 1st after planting gladiolus bulbs (mixed colors, back two rows), Swiss chard seeds (rainbow and neon lights varieties, next row forward), and moss roses (actual plants, clearance at Lowe's for 50 cents per 4" pot.)
Redneck Flowerbed
Here's an updated pic as of this morning:
Redneck Garden May 18
The moss roses are sort of a succulent-leafed plant that's drought tolerant, requires little water, blooms colorfully (orange and yellow in my case) and supposedly trails out around planters.  Mine haven't trailed yet, but maybe they will later.  I've been seeing new green growth lately around their bases so I'm hoping for another mass blooming soon.  Here's a closeup:
Moss Roses
I've also got some additional planters by the front door.  There are pansies in the hanging basket, petunias below them, cockscomb (aka celosia) in the front square planter, and lupine in the back square planter.  This was taken April 1st and I haven't taken an update photo since then.  Everything except the pansies are doing well.  There was an epic battle with aphids (which I won) and it took a toll on them.  You can see I was still futzing with the drip irrigation lines when I took this.

On to the backyard.  I have an extensive container garden that is mostly herbs, but also some flowers, salad greens, and one tomato plant.  It's conveniently located right out the kitchen door.
It looked like this on April 1st:
Herb Garden
And like this earlier today:
Herb Garden May 18
In the background you can see some of the limbs we trimmed earlier this week.  We're still debating the best way to handle them.  I'd love to chip them all for the free mulch, but we don't own one and renting one is a little pricier than I expected.  For now, I'm letting their leaves dry and fall off.  ;)

There are additional hanging baskets of pansies and petunias in this area and on the garage wall (Another April 1st shot):
Hanging Baskets

Around the corner is where I planted Asiatic lilies.
April 1st (the wire mesh protects them from squirrels, dogs, and chickens):
April 20th:
Earlier today:
Close-ups of the colors that have bloomed so far:
First Lily
Edited to add: These grew from a variety pack of bulbs I got at Home Depot.  The box didn't list what varieties of lilies were included, just that there were various bulb sizes which would grow to various heights.  The box picture didn't show the gorgeous orange and black lily above, but does show several varieties that either haven't bloomed yet or weren't actually included:

Next up is a bed I cleared this year.  Part of it gets maybe a couple hours of early morning light, the rest is full shade.  I planted 3 bare root red astilbe in the back and 5 hosta bulbs in the front.
April 1st:
Hostas and Astilbe
And...this bed was a total, utter failure.  The astilbe never came up, two of the 5 hostas grew some but then slowly died, the other 3 hostas grew very slowly but appeared healthy until my dog dug one up to make a nice cool hidey hole while I obliviously weeded in another part of the garden.  I'm back to square one now, but my tentative plan is to get several types of coral bells (their foliage comes in amazing colors!) and a clematis that will thrive in the shade and add some interest to the very white siding of the house.

Next up is the 'old' garden.  This has been established and used of and on for 6 years, and was apparently a garden for the previous owners as well.  I've planted sweet onions (TX 1015 variety), another variety of Swiss chard (started by my New Zealander neighbor whose sister sent him the seeds from Australia), okra, yellow squash, zucchini, round zucchini, cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, and garlic.
April 20th:
Earlier today (it needs some weeding!):
I've already pulled one yellow squash and many more are on the way.  I expect the zucchini to start up with female flowers next week.  The cucumbers are growing well, but still no fruit on those vines.  I saw my first okra flower earlier today:
Then I pulled up one patch of garlic and braided it for hang-drying:
First Garlic Harvest

I've currently got two trellises on one side of the big chicken coop.  Last year I grew morning glories, but they couldn't handle the worst of the summer heat.  This year I'm trying out cardinal climber, a morning glory relative with very red flowers that (I think) stay open all day.  Mine haven't bloomed yet, so I can't say that for sure.  They should attract pollinators to the garden (and hummingbirds!) as well as shade that side of the coop.  They're supposed to grow 10-15 feet tall, so I may end up adding a shaped bit of wire fencing to the coop roof to allow it to fully cover (and shade) as much as possible.  I tossed out some seeds on another side of the coop right before the last rainy days in the hopes that I'll have two full sides and the roof covered with gorgeous vining flowers!  Here's what I have right now (notice the 'frilly' leaves):
Cardinal Climber is Climbing

At the front of the coop I added a teensy space for leftover gladiolus bulbs, a couple zinnia, one four o'clock, two salvias, and some snapdragons.  It still needs to get hooked up to the irrigation system and mulched, but I keep putting it off.

Now for the 'new' garden!  This is the space I cleared this year.  It was clogged with weed-tree stumps.  In fact, there are still a few left at the very back, but I wanted to make sure there's enough light to grow tomatoes (or other veggies) before I devoted any more of my life to digging.  So far, so good:
April 20th (I shared this in a previous post, so this is just for reference):

Earlier today:
Tomatoes After Weeding and Fencing
This area gets morning shade, but midday-evening sun.  I worried that wouldn't be enough, but it's working great so far!  Even after planting all these tomatoes (18 in this area) I still had many seedlings leftover.  I cleared a little more space between the two gardens, but behind the chicken coop and planted 6 more:
These get morning-midday sun and (mostly) afternoon-evening shade.  I'm curious to see which works best.  All my tomatoes have marigolds companion planted with them for their pest-repellant properties.  Next year I think I'll alternate marigolds and nasturtium, which should make the tomatoes taste even better.

The only plants I have left to show you are my sunflowers.  I've never felt that strongly about them, but Ben likes them a lot so I decided to plant some this year.  To get the most bang for my buck, I decided their height made them excellent camouflage for an otherwise ugly part of the yard...the forge.  At the time, the forge hadn't been used since my landlord moved out and I expected it to stay that way.  Plans changed, and Ben decided he wanted to try his hand at smithing (yay!)...a few weeks after I'd planted the sunflowers just inside that area (boo...)  Luckily he's managed to set the space up in such a way that they're not in his way too much, and they don't get blasted by heat.  They work pretty well as a living curtain:

I'll leave you with one last image of the backyard, as seen from the garage roof after tree-trimming was complete:
View from the Garage Roof

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What beautiful garden spaces!
(What are you doing up on the garage roof, ma'am? *clicks tongue* Risky, that.)

Which two Asiatic lilies are these in your photos? The second one is especially interesting.

Thank you! Don't worry, it was the hubby on the roof. He had to get up there to trim the trees. Branches had started to rub on the shingles, and that's never good!

As for the lilies, I honestly don't know! I bought a variety pack of 20 bulbs that were marked 'Asiatic lilies' but had no breakdown of the specific varieties. I'm curious to know as well. I wasn't expecting orange and black, but it was a very pleasant surprise!

It is certainly dramatic, that orange and black! Very handsome, and very unusual-looking. Around here "Stargazer" lilies seem to be the most popular of the Asiatic lilies.

Did the package say if each of the twenty bulbs is supposed to be different? That might be very cool. And anyway, as they mature and grow and make bulblets, the plants get bigger and eventually can be divided so if they were all different, you could in time sort them out and create drifts of Asiatic lilies with one or two varieties in a drift.

I'm a fine one to talk, though. Almost anything and everything flowering at my place either was there when I bought it, or is a daylily I purchased and planted except for one Montenegro Asiatic. The daylilies are actually on my neighbor's side of the property line, hiding the lower portion of his garage-workshop. He gave me permission because for one thing, he doesn't care; for another, he was fine with me doing the mowing over there because it meant his household didn't have to do it and now neither of us has to mow that strip; and last, as he said, "Sure; after all, you're the one who has to look at it."

Did your neighbor tell you the name of the Swiss chard variety he shared with you, by any chance? I know new, or rather "different" varieties become available all the time. The only "different" or unusual chards I can name are the Verde de Taglio, and the Winterbi Mangold. Next year, I want to try the Verde de Taglio.

The package just said it included various sizes of bulbs that would grow to varying heights. Not very helpful, is it? I added a photo of the somewhat faded box to the entry since I can't seem to figure out how to add it here. 20 different bulbs would have been great! Though I will admit I've lost two almost fully-developed stems due to cutworms so far, so in that sense I'm glad it was a more general variety pack. I'm really looking forward to these developing more so I can divide them! They're a little sparse in the bed now, but that just means there's room for future expansion...or maybe I'll look around for types that weren't included in the pack so I'll have even more color next year!

Sounds like your neighbor got a great deal with your lilies! Not only does it cut down on his maintenance, it probably gives a boost to his property value.

My neighbor never mentioned the specific variety. He did say he's never found them in the big seed catalogs (Burpee, Ferry Morse, etc.) or in the stores that sell seeds. It's a white/silver variety, but that's all I really know. I'll ask him the next time I see him.

H'eh. I forgot one other chard. "Italian Silver Rib," found at "Renee's Garden."

So far I've grown only Fordhook Giant and Vulcan chard; I include Vulcan chard just for the color which is so lovely and glow-y when it's back-lit by the sun, and then, too, it makes a pretty contrast with the Fordhook Giant.

Chard is such a cool-weather lover and gets so tough and rather bitter in the heat that I would think you'd grow it in the autumn weather, all through your winters, and into the cool part of the spring and enjoy the fresh greens while they're at their best. (Elliot Coleman, by the way, says to grow chard in hot weather, make regular, frequent successive sowings just as you would for beets, and harvest the entire chard plant when it's just about the size of a young beet. That way, they don't have a chance to get to be mature enough to get big, tough, and bitter or to bolt and set seed. I ONCE made the mistake of allowing some chard to go to seed. Two gardening seasons later, I'm still weeding volunteer chard plants from that bed.)
The stuff gets kind of mean on us up here in Northeast Ohio where summers are considered to be only moderately hot and by some folks, "only moderate and NEVER uncomfortable," but I can't begin to imagine trying to grow it in your Texas summers.

Re: your beautiful Asiatic lilies. No, the packaging doesn't sound very helpful, but if you feel about those the way I feel about a lot of the narcissi which is that pedigree or rarity doesn't matter as long as they're pretty, you can enjoy them without reservation. I shall keep my fingers crossed that your lilies all survive and thrive and flourish and multiply for you!

Cutworms! Such a pain, such a pest! It sticks in my mind there's a companion plant which is usually used to protect tomatoes from cutworms but I don't recall what it is (I can look it up, though) and I don't remember whether it's a trap plant, drawing the cutworms to it, or a mask plant, concealing the identity of the tasty lilies.

Fingers and toes crossed against the cutworms!

Hrm...the ribs of mine aren't quite that silvery. I'll have to get a picture the next time I'm out there. It tends to do well in the heat here, with very little bitterness even during the hottest part of the season. Of course, it needs more water during that time! My guess is that it's a type bred specifically for the harsh Australian conditions, which is why it also does well here. :) Thanks for the heads up about the volunteers after bolting. Mine have never gotten that far because the chickens LOVE greens...generally to death. This year the garden fence is a little more critter-proof though, so they'll only eat the greens at my discretion! I'll have to see if they like the colorful chard just as much. I'm really growing that for decoration, but it's nice to have something that can double as food.

I've never cared at all for the pedigree of any particular flower. I'm far more concerned about how hardy it is, how easy it is to care for, and how long/what part of the season I can expect it to bloom. In the case of these lilies, the real draw was that they'll come back year after year and shouldn't need to be dug up and overwintered in the garage (provided they're mulched properly.) Really, I'm a newbie flower gardener. In the past I've picked up a flat of annuals here and there (mostly for hanging baskets and containers) and I tried planting some bulbs once several years ago. Nothing grew from that...I think it was too late in the season and the bulbs had dried out completely. I know from talking to some of my flower gardener friends that there are many more levels of thinking/learning ahead of me. Someday I want to have the skills to plant a flowerbed that has different perennials popping up from early spring through fall, but for now I'm just happy to have planted bulbs that actually grew!

If you're partial to chard, are you also fond of its cousin, spinach? If so, did you know there's a "New Zealand spinach" which isn't the same species as the typical spinaches but which does do better in the heat than chard or regular spinach?

New Zealand spinach:

And there's this, Red Malabar Spinach, which isn't any kind of spinach at all:

" In the case of these lilies, the real draw was that they'll come back year after year and shouldn't need to be dug up and overwintered in the garage (provided they're mulched properly."

Do I hear this! If it wants a lot of fussing and demands a lot of time and attention, it hasn't any place at my place. I recently abandoned two varieties of leeks because they don't do well for me (and why they don't stymies me, but they don't so they're gone.) Two others perform like champs, so I still buy seeds for those.
They have to be happy in the conditions I can provide, or someone else can have the pleasure of the challenge of growing them.

The chard's probably not a bolting problem if you stay on top of it. Two years ago I had thought I'd save the seeds, and sort of the way deer will get into your garden between dark and daybreak tonight and "harvest" at its peak of perfection everything you were going to harvest tomorrow, a heavy rainstorm with some hail flattened the flower heads and seed capsules into the ground literally by mere hours before I intended to get out there with collecting bags (paper sacks.)
But if you don't stay on top of it...well, I won't call the situation disastrous, but I will say chard flower spikes produce an awful lot of seeds! ;->

I love spinach, but I have to admit that I've always had a soft spot for Popeye's canned spinach. In some ways, I like it better than fresh, frozen, or cooked fresh spinach. Even so, I actually sowed some traditional spinach seeds early in the year intending to add it to salads, sandwiches, and pasta but the squirrels dug up every last bit! After that I covered all my containers with hardware cloth. I'll probably sow some again in the fall. I've got an area in the garden where the irrigiation tubing is actually tiny soaker hose. Right now it's watering my onions, in July I'll sow sweet corn in its place, and after that it should be just right for spinach.

Those are some very interesting varieties you linked! As luck would have it, I talked to my neighbor this afternoon. He gave me the empty envelope from his chard and I found it for sale here: http://www.bunnings.co.nz/mcgregor-s-seed-perpetual-silverbeet_p00170935 'Silver Beets' is Aussie-speak for Swiss chard. I've also learned that 'tiles' might mean shingles, and 'chooks' are chickens. :)

Hee! I know I tend to prefer whatever was familiar in childhood, and for convenience, spinach in our house was the "fresh frozen" stuff from Bird's Eye or Green Giant, dropped into a saucepan of boiling water.

You can get "perpetual spinach" seeds from the same company offering the New Zealand Spinach and the Red Malabar Spinach.
The botanical name is the same as the "Silverbeets" your neighbor shared with you, Beta vulgaris var. cicla, and supposedly the perpetual 'spinach' is pretty heat tolerant, too.

Squirrels! My neighbor puts out unsalted roasted peanuts in the shell for them, and the squirrels, having recognized easy digging when some silly fool provides it, scamper next door to my place to bury their prizes in my garden beds and my containers. I'm forever finding peanuts when I plant, transplant, or harvest anything which has to be dug from the soil, such as leeks.

"Chooks." I've heard and read that in use by some folks in the eastern U.S., both north and south. It's used fondly, and now that I think of it, mainly by people who keep chickens. ;-)

Edited at 2014-05-20 08:57 am (UTC)

I had a fast look-see and admit I don't have all the details in my head except for the first recommendation, which is mechanical:
According to Louise Riotte of "Carrots Love Tomatoes" and "Roses Love Garlic" fame, cutworms can be deterred by "collaring" the plant you want to protect. Cut a four-inch long tube from the core of a roll of toilet paper or from the core of a roll of paper toweling, and get it over the new, emerging shoot or stem. The collar should sit halfway in and halfway out of the soil, about two inches of it below and two inches of it above the soil surface.

If cutworms do get inside the collar and cut off the stem, anyway, you need to dig down and remove all of the plant before putting another plant---same or different---in the place of the cut-down one.

Oak leaf mulch and tanbark laid on the ground to make strips will repel cutworms, she states.

She also says tansy can be used against them, and that elder branches (with leaves) can be used to bait "traps" made in hills from which you have to remove the cutworms and destroy them.

ETA: Came across this, too, which I found interesting. To protect squash plants against squash borers, soak the squash seeds overnight in kerosene (!!!) I'm guessing, but I admit I'm only guessing and there was no explanation provided and so I don't know, that the emerging squash plant will carry the kerosene's "scent signature" in the roots, vine/s, and leaves, so the squash borers leave it alone, but that either the kerosene just doesn't get into the fruits, or by then is so dilute as to make no difference. Nothing was said about applying this method to deter cutworms.

Edited at 2014-05-20 09:36 pm (UTC)

I've had some local folks suggest wrapping the lower stems (sometimes even below the soil surface) with aluminum foil. That wouldn't work too well with my lilies since they have such an abundance of leaves, but on something like a tomato or pepper plant (which is what they were addressing) it seems like an easy preventative measure.

Kerosene though...wow. Thinking about it makes me shudder! I just had my first encounter with a squash borer moth a couple days ago. I thought it was some type of wasp (great mimickers, aren't they?) and since I'm extremely sensitive to stings and bites of all kinds I just avoided it. Now I know - next time it's going down! Later that day I picked off the eggs I could see. They weren't neatly laid in groups like some of the googled photos I saw, but scattered willy-nilly on stems, leaves (top and undersides), on immature fruit, pretty much everywhere. I'm sure I missed some (if not many) but I'll just have to stay vigilant and hope for the best. It's too late to employ kerosene now! :)

I don't know that I'd go the kerosene soak route, either.
I'm more of a "confuse 'em, bemuse 'em, outwit 'em or just plain head 'em off at the pass" kind of gal, myself. Plant before or after (after makes more sense) the moths lay eggs and / or use a physical barrier like that poly-spun row cover stuff.

If the beasts are already cocooned in the soil.... I dunno.

From what I've read, the moth lays her eggs---about 200 per female moth---one at a time instead of all at once, which is why the eggs appear so random.

Wow! I loved getting a tour of your space. It all looks wonderful. It must be a ton of work, but it would be so nice to have all of those fresh veggies and herbs!

Thanks! It's actually not too much work now that I'm just maintaining and occasionally fertilizing. The real work was getting the soil cleared/tilled, planting, and routing the drip irrigation to everything. Luckily that's a once-a-season deal! I'm still trying to incorporate more fresh herbs into my cooking. It's challenging when most recipes are written for dried herbs! It makes that area of the patio smell good, so even if I slack off and don't use them as much as I could they still serve a purpose. :)


It's amazing to me to think of hostas NOT growing well. They are freaking everywhere here. They are a total afterthought plant, people use them to fill every single gap. They never die and you can get them for free by the dozens from people's divisions at yard sales. Such a different climate down there!

That's what's so weird about this for me too! I've now done some research, and there are lots of varieties of hosta that should thrive here (zone 8) and in even hotter areas. Since I didn't think twice about it when I was buying bulbs, I just checked to see that it was marked for the right zone and that it was pretty. LOL I don't think I messed up on my end (I added some Miracle Gro garden soil to the bed, watered regularly but not to the point of overwatering, protected them from the terrible digging squirrels, put them in a mostly/completely shady area...) I don't get it.

You'll laugh at this, but some of my sunflowers are growing in soil that was clearly a dump site for gas, oil, or some other petroleum product. The soil just reeks of it. They're doing great! Completely unfazed by it. It's just weird!

Maybe not so weird.
Sunflowers are--or can be---used (and there are requirements about how you dispose of the sunflowers afterwards) for phytoremediation for soils contaminated by lead, for sure, and possibly other of the heavy metals.

Also, although I can entirely understand anybody's hesitation to consume anything grown on soils contaminated by lead, or by cadmium, nickel, mercury, and so on and so forth (because the whole idea creeps me out; I wouldn't and won't knowingly do it), plants are pretty good about self-regulation when it comes to up-taking "stuff" in their environments. Iron, for instance, is an element which most plants self-regulate very easily and they won't absorb more than they need or can use or tolerate. Erm...for the most part. I know there are exceptions.

Corn also can be used to take up lead. I'm not sure about the other gunk in petroleum products, but I know there are ways, doubtless far too rich for my budget, of cleaning soil of various contaminants, particularly lead. (I do know that unless you go the phytoremediation route, you have to have your soil first tested to identify the contaminants, then find someone to do the cleaning, then get someone to haul away all your soil to "the cleaner's," and then deliver it back to you. And it isn't as if these government approved or government operated soil-cleaners are as common as dandelions, so all this costs a very pretty penny.)

That's really fascinating! I guess I just assumed that once you had a contaminated area, it would always be contaminated unless you had a remediation company clean it up. They built a park in downtown Dallas that was formerly a parking lot. During construction they discovered that during the 1880's, a building had burned down on that spot and caused significant lead contamination. The whole process was held up while they did soil remediation.

I hadn't planned on eating the sunflower seeds, but I have wild and domestic birds who might have different ideas. I'll have to research what to do about it.

Eh. When it comes to phytoremediation, there's quite a lot I don't know, so don't take any of this as a silver bullet cure-all, nor as gospel. I can easily imagine needing to have a remediation company handling, well, things plants can't take out of the soil for you. And remember that if you use plants without soil contamination tests before and after, you're guessing.

I only came across this because the rather crusty old fellow who stays at my neighbor's place informed me a few years ago that he'd be very concerned about eating anything which came out of my garden beds, because the bottom end of the garden (which so far hasn't grown anything except cherry tomatoes) used to be where somebody would spray paint cars they were fixing up, and the paint was lead-based---of course.
So I went looking.
Well, if I plant sunflowers, they should absorb a given amount of whatever lead might be there. Assuming that they are uptaking lead, then the sunflowers themselves have to be disposed of in a prescribed manner the specifics of which I don't recall except for two: they must be taken to a certified heavy metals disposal facility, and they must not be cut, broken, hacked into, or otherwise "opened," and that includes the flowers.
Or, I can just assume for the time being that two or three cherry tomatoes---if ever he ate any when they were given to my neighbor---per year wouldn't put enough lead into his body to be a major concern. I don't know if tomato vines even take up lead. Or anything else toxic, for that matter.

But I never know what mood will take him. Last summer, I was using a "salad tray" (bottomless box with hardware cloth lined with landscape/weed barrier fabric, planted with scallions and lettuces) and he simply ripped out the "weeds" (the scallions) and never touched the lettuces, telling me toward the end of the season that he "never eats salads," which isn't what he'd told me two years ago: at that time, he ate one or two salads every day.
*sigh* I'd thought the box, filled with a commercial container mix specifically for vegetables, would have eased his mind on the lead contamination question.
Ah, well.
Curiously enough, he accepts garlic from those beds. ("It kills germs.")
If this sounds illogical or nonsensical to you, well, it does to me, too.

Edited at 2014-05-20 12:43 am (UTC)

So nice! Augh! Your photos make me want to join you with weeding and digging. :)

Thanks! You (and Christopher, of course) are welcome anytime! I know it's a bit of a drive though. :(

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