ar_wahan: (Default)
I've been wanting to get more serious about my vegetable gardening this year. I built raised beds eons ago, and enriched them with composted horse manure, and kitchen compost, and the occasional freezer-burned brook trout (from husband's catch, which he'd freeze and then forget about) over the years, plus lime because, like much of New England, our soil is acidic.

But in recent years, the garden has done poorly. I blamed part of it on the fact that since the beds were built, we added a story to our original one-story house, and this has reduced the light in the afternoon. For this reason, I decided to try straw bale gardening this year for at least the tomatoes, positioning the bales in the center of the back yard where the light is best. Things like broccoli and lettuce, even green beans, do OK in the raised beds, but tomatoes and peppers have not been happy.

So a week or so ago I stopped by a garden center to get the fertilizer mix I need to get the straws bales ready. On impulse, I also bought a soil test kit.

I spent a lot of time doing it! I took samples from six different parts of the property (two from front yard circle garden, which is for flowers; one from the original little bed against the south side of the house; one from the rock garden with the hydrangea that Samurai created several years ago; and one each from the two raised beds). Each sample was in a separate paper cup, labeled with origin. The Ph tests were easy, and all came in at about 6.5 (slightly acidic, less than expected), with the amusing result of akalinity in the raised bed that I'd heavily limed in an attempt to get rid of moss! The hydrangea area was actually less acidic than blue hydrangeas want, which explains why this past year the flowers were more white than blue.

The other tests (nitrogen, phosphorus, potash) were more complicated. I had to take soil from each area and measure out a precise amount into their separate cups and then add a precise amount of distilled water, and let it settle. I did this a week ago Friday, and last Saturday morning began running the tests -- each took about 10 minutes, and there were 18 tests! (Six sample areas x 3). So it took all morning.

Having read the symptoms of potash deficiency, I was already expecting that result, given what I've experienced in the last couple of years. But I actually thought all my lovely composted horse manure might have meant I had TOO MUCH nitrogen.

WELL! The old bed on the south side of the house -- the one we've been using longest -- does have a surplus of nitrogen; the hydrangea area, which was only recently established (with horse manure added) is "N1," or deficient... and all the other areas are N0 -- DEPLETED in nitrogen!

The old bed at least registered a little phosphorus and potash. Maybe from rose food I'd given the climbing rose in the past. Not sure about that.

Front circle garden also had sufficient potash -- not sure why.

And both raised vegetable beds were inadequate in phosphorus and potash.

I feel both accomplished for having discovered this and foolish for not having done this sooner!

I'm still going to try the straw bales, though, since I know there isn't enough sunlight to make tomatoes happy in the raised beds, but maybe the peppers will be OK there if I fix the soil.

FYI to Samurai, I put a Miracle Gro product to acidify the soil in the area around the hydrangea, so maybe it will be blue again.
ar_wahan: (gardening)
I bought a very cool hand-operated pressure sprayer, made out of recycled milk bottles, for the copper application in the garden.

See it here:

I should have "practiced" using it with plain water at first. When I got it going, the copper antifungal solution I'd mixed up in it came out in a powerful stream. One was supposed to be able to adjust the stream into a spray by turning the end of the nozzle. BUT, as I was turning it, the end popped off and flew into the raised bed somewhere.

And of course . . . IT IS GREEN.

Hidden quite beautifully among the green leaves and stems.

Why could they have made it bright RED, or something?

I will have to wait before searching for it with more than my eyes, as apparently, despite being OK for "organic gardening," that doesn't mean it isn't toxic. (Hey, it kills fungus, after all.) So I can't go pushing leaves and branches and stems back in the undergrowth to find it just yet.

Doesn't look like they sell replacement nozzle caps on line either.
ar_wahan: (gardening)
Makes perfect sense, because it and the Septoria leaf spot (on the tomatoes) develop under the same conditions. Fortunately, I found an organic gardening product at Farmer's Supply today which claims to help both. It's Bonide Copper Fungicide, to be used as a spray or as a dust.

Onward . . .
ar_wahan: (gardening)
Something's suddenly yellowing some of the leaves of my previously thriving tomato plants and causing them to dry up and fall off. I looked up possible causes in my ancient Rodale Press Encyclopedia of 'Natural Insect & Disease Control. I found something that matched the description, but there were no pictures. So with the magic of Google, I found some images from Virginia and the midwest that looked pretty close, but not exactly the same. Then I found a link without a photo, but with a physical description that is, pardon the expression, "spot on." It's from Maine (hence the "Ayuh"), not that far from here in the grand scheme of things, so perhaps the fungus has regional variants.

The weather that the article mentions has certainly been ours this summer. Very hot and humid, and then last week, the temperature plunged and we had rain, rain, rain. The last two days have been gorgeous.

Of course, I just watered the garden with a drip hose because things were looking a little dry again, so I shouldn't go out and pick off the affected leaves, because I'll just spread spores! Still, it's good to know there are things I can do to minimize a recurrence next year. I can't really rotate my plants that much, but I used the square-foot-gardening method for spacing plants this year, and as a result, the tomatoes are fairly crowded (and the presence of the luxuriant zucchini and yellow squash leaves further keeps things humid, since they are close by the tomatoes.)

Speaking of squash . . . my "volunteer" squashes have grown a bit bigger, and I can now say with confidence that they are winter squash of an acorn type.
ar_wahan: (gardening)
(As you know if you follow my journal at all, I volunteer quite a lot. Too much, maybe.)

I wrote earlier how I'd found volunteer squash growing in my raised beds after I'd intentionally planted zucchini and yellow summer squash plants bought at a garden center. I'd considered pulling them out, because they were crowding my green beans coming up, but I . . . well, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I assumed they were also summer squash, since I'd tried to grow some there unsuccessfully last summer; I figured one of the few blossom-end-rotted squash they'd produced must have developed enough to produce seeds.

Well; surprise! They are both now producing, and what I'm seeing look like some kind of WINTER squash!

Now I'm glad I didn't pull them up. I don't know if the seeds came from the compost I added to the soil this year, or what. They are small and yellow still, with heavy ridges, which makes me think they could be acorn squash rather than butternut. We shall see. It may be too short a growing season for them, but perhaps I'll get some results.
ar_wahan: (Japan trip?)
Samurai's Japanese rock garden gets an unintended addition.

Two photos from today (also showing various New England autumnal hues). )

ar_wahan: (Default)
Not much to say here. Another VERY VERY VERY rainy day.

We had a UU Small Group Ministry potluck today. I brought a thai noodle salad with chicken, and realized suddenly (as I was putting it in the more attractive bowl than the one I'd made it in) that I'd brought the same dish last year!

Elizabeth, the wife of our Small Group member, is an avid gardener. Their new house has a greenhouse area, and she started tomato plants there months ago. When she heard that all my tomatoes were struggling and still very small and green with our weather, she offered me one of hers! (They are all still in pots, and have RED, RIPE tomatoes on thsm!!!!) It tipped over in the car ride home, and three ripe tomatoes fell off, but it seems OK. I have rubber floor mats in the car, not the original carpeted ones, so no damage done.

When in town, I checked VM and learned that an AE had left one. I called him from there. He wanted to talk about a letter I'd submitted yesterday -- said he thought it was good, but had a few tweaks. He said to call his office phone when I got home. (I told him I'd be home in an hour.) Just in case he'd already left by the time I got home, he'd email me his cell phone number.

So ... I got home around 4:30 (1 hour, 15 minutes), called his office; his VM immediately picked up. I figured he was on the line, left a message that I was back. Checked email, no message from him with cell phone #.

So, it's now 6:30 p.m. on a Friday. I figure he just forgot to send me the email. Ah well. Too bad. I'm outta my office now. :)

Samurai is going off tomorrow to spend the weekend with Mai and two other girls (including her future apartment mate) in New Hampshire. At least the weather will be nice for her drive! (We have flash flood warnings here at present.)
ar_wahan: (Default)
My rototiller has a two-stroke engine which requies a fuel mixture of gasoline and lubricating oil. The ratio is 50:1. The example it givs is 1 gallon of gasoline to a 2.6 oz. bottle of oil (provided by the manufacturer, Mantis in this case.). Problem is, you're only supposed to mix enough fuel to use in a month. No way would I go through a gallon in that time! Not even in a season.

This site lets you calculate the amount you need for different amounts of gasoline and different ratios. So if I only want to use 2 cups of gasoline, for example, I'd use .32 oz of oil,

This might be useful for other folks out there with two-stroke engines.
ar_wahan: (Default)
I didn't get everything on my to-do list done today, but I made progress. (And yes, the insulin pump is STILL in its box. Which reminds me, I need to phone CVS and refill my insulin prescription.) *leaves to do that*

I got a lot of indoor stuff done upstairs, and then cleared the planters off of the deck and cut back all the tall, dead flower stalks in the front yard. I also realized, while putting the planters in the garage, that the backyard faucet needed to be shut off inside the basement so it wouldn't freeze. I went into the basement and climbed up into a very cobwebby, and possibly spider-webby, place high up near the ceiling and shut off the faucet.

After that, I brought in the empty birdfeeders to clean them for filling, wondering all the while whether it was safe to put seed out. Supposedly the bears start hibernating and you can safely put out seed after Nov. 1 (I think), but Alison had a bear take down a feeder just a week or so ago. Anyway, I will get them cleaned up.

After running off to buy some groceries, I came home this evening to startle two deer (at least two -- I think there may have been a third) with my headlights as I pulled in. I saw them leaping away in the back yard. Spouse saw a buck a few weeks ago in the back yard (I wonder if it was my adolescent male who used to visit regularly, now grown up), but I myself have not seen any deer here in some time. I was glad to see them, but sorry to scare them.

And then, once inside, I started getting this itch just above one ankle. A BIG INSECT BITE!!! With the very cold temps (down to 15 F) we had a week ago, I can't believe anything was around to bite me while I was gardening. I wonder if a spider got me in the basement? Even though the webs were up near the ceiling, far from my ankles? Whatever it was would have had to bite through a knee-high stocking, too.

We have no anti-itch spray or calamine lotion here. But I remembered we have an aloe plant. Thank you, aloe, for the balm of one of your succulent leaves! The itch is still there, but not quite as maddening.
ar_wahan: (Default)
I just brought in all the plants on the deck I want to keep alive for another few weeks or even another season (a potted orange tree, a rosemary, some parsley and majoram).

Normally I'd also be frantically covering my vegetable garden with floating row covers, but this year . . . nah. I feel like a bad parent, but this has been such a pathetic season for me this year that I'm not sure that the ONE green tomato on the one plant that really produced ANYTHING (I got ONE ripe tomato off of it a few weeks ago) is worth the effort.

I hope you make it, oh my green beans (the only non-herbs that have done well), my thriving basil, sage and in-ground parsley, and my three struggling tomato plants. You did your best. The weather was not kind to you. Too wet, too cool. Not your fault. But you are on your own tonight.
ar_wahan: (Default)
Slideshow of photos taken by spouse around noon today (except for final photo, taken by me around 5 p.m.) When I asked him why the sudden interest in flower photos, he explained that he wanted to capture them because once he mows the lawn for the first time this season, they'll be mowed down! (Many shown have self-seeded into our so-called lawn.)

Under here ) 
ar_wahan: (Default)
This is just a note for next year (if I remember to look at my tags!). I had very nice planter boxes on my deck this summer. At Andrew's Greenhouse, I had one "Petite Licorice" on one side of each box, Waterfall Azure Mist Lobelia in the other, and (this part was a mistake) some pink impatiens in the middle. They were the right color, but the wrong height for the rest of the plants.

I've never used any type of licorice plant before. It was nice!

Maybe could do one on each side, with the lobelia in the middle.


May. 19th, 2007 07:31 pm
ar_wahan: (jesse blah)
It is unseasonably cold today, and raining. Feels like March. It's going to be slightly warmer, but still rainy, tomorrow.

I went to the "rain or shine" plant swap down the road this morning, and was the only person to show up. The hostess, M., someone I kind of know because we've both been volunteers in the government of our small town, was hosting it. I'd never been to her home, and she invited me inside, in case other people were just taking their time getting there (why should we hang out in her cold, damp garage?). Her home is huge and gorgeous, and surrounded by gardens of different types.
Garden stuff )
The spouse and Samurai and I went out to lunch kind of late (Samurai got up around 1:15 or so), and began firming up our Ireland plans just a tad.  Read more... )
I paid a lot of bills today and winced. I was going to hire the two guys who pressure-washed our house and porches last year to come back and do the deck, which was so mildewed at one point that it was slippery. But they are probably out straight right now, and with the root canal copays ($825 or more) coming up starting Tuesday, to be shortly followed by the remainder of the fee for the Ireland vacation (not counting the airfare), I'm not sure I want the expense.

But ...I stopped by a hardware store this afternoon to see what a pressure washer cost to rent, and realized that the electric ones are much cheaper than I'd expected. I moved on to price some at Target and just did some research in Consumer Reports. I think I'll take the plunge and pick one up tomorrow, if there are any left. There were two left at Target for $119. A more expensive and powerful one that is on sale for $129 (from $169) is out of stock, but supposedly (from the Target on-line info) is in stock at another Target about 50 minutes from here. Not sure the difference is worth the drive.

Monday I don't have any paid work to do, and it's supposed to be better weather, so I could pressure-wash the deck then, and later put sealer on it (it never had sealer! O.o). The porches had never been sealed, either, and the pressure washing and sealing the fix-it guys did last fall made a very impressive difference.
Samurai showed me a video this afternoon that she and another girl made as an assignment for her Audio/Video Tech class.  It was very well done!
ar_wahan: (Default)

Bob is coming to repaint the pink kitchen walls "summer melon" tomorrow! He set this up yesterday, so I've got to get everything out of his way by around 9 a.m. Aaccck!

Pray that the Account Exec. doesn't demand endless changes in the letter I sent her this morning, because I'll need time to get the kitchen cleared out for Bob.

Saturday )

OK, that's my life the past few days. The AE hasn't been back with comments about the letter (I know she got it), so I think it's time for me to leave the building. We are out of coffee!
ar_wahan: (Default)
Well, I got off my sore buns (see yesterday's mini-post if you wonder what I mean) and rototilled and cultivated and limed the vegetable beds! Yay Mantis rototiller! What a cool toy! And yay me, that I, who had never ever started an engine like that before I got it last summer, was able to get it running immediately this time!

It was so warm out, even at 7 p.m., that I had to take off my light jacket. And yet ... we're supposed to get a frost tonight.

That's New England for you -- even without global warming.

But having done this work, I should be able to put in some seeds tomorrow, even if I wouldn't dare put in actual plants yet.

Oh ... and I have to do paid work tomorrow, too, plus write up an annual report on the Emily Dickinson weekend for the church. Well, I'll plant on my lunch break.

On Thursday night while I was at a meeting, my husband and Samurai saw a raccoon get up on the deck and steal seeds out of a bird feeder. The next morning, I was reading the paper in the kitchen by the deck door, and saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. For a silly second, I thought I was seeing my dear old late horse walking along the at the edge of lawn where the forest begins. But it was a doe. Very lovely. It might have been the same one we saw at the end of March, but if so, she's given her teenage fawn the hoof.

Just learned that Samurai is going to church youth group this evening (she just got out of work). That means she won't be home until 9 p.m. Guess I'll hop in the shower before starting dinner.


ar_wahan: (Default)

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