Tag Archives: garden

SOIL SOLARIZATION

In soil solarization, you harness the sun’s energy to kill weeds and bad insects/fungus/bacteria, which allows the good stuff to take over. It bakes the dirt into something more palatable to growing gardens. The term is fancy talk for “putting a tarp on some dirt.”

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We have been fighting this pesky vine plant that is growing on part of our future garden plot. As diligent as we have been with pulling them up and spraying them, they just keep coming back and I hate them. So we decided to take things large scale and kill them all at once (in large square sections).

To try soil solarization for yourself, you need:

  • Big tarp (preferably clear)
  • Something to hold tarp in place
  • Lots of sun/heat

1. Ideally, rake the area and pull and discard any weeds. Next, wet the area at least 12 inches deep. We sprayed ours with a hose for a little while. Enough for it to boil the weeds.

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2. Get out your tarp.

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3. Lay out the tarp to cover area, and then anchor in place. We used some rocks and pieces of wood.

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4. Wait. Since it is still hot weather here, and will be for a while longer, the sun should work in our favor to help us out. We plan on rotating the tarp around the area, and crossing our fingers real hard.

THE CONCLUSION OF THE SICK CUCUMBERS

Long weekends are a wonderful invention. In the future, we see a world that revolves around them. When only the best of the best survive, long weekends will rise victorious.

Do you want to know what will not last until the end of time? These cucumbers.

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With the case of the sick cucumbers solved, it was time to deal with the aftermath. Since there was a chance the plants could have had an infection from bug bite weakness, we decided to pull the plants up and dispose of them in a bag, instead of tilling the nutrients into the soil. We cut off the vines, pulled up the roots, and then wrestled them and some of the surrounding mulch into a lawn bag.

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After everything was cleared away, we poured a little soil activator on the dirt, to help strengthen it, and covered it with some leftover straw.

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Once our other veggies are done for the summer, we have some plans to mix up our garden configuration. Think more than just a row of garden beds, but less than a tomato plant labyrinth.

GREEN WITH ENVY

I believe the term originated in the days of yesteryear. A long time ago, a farmer looked over his fence to gaze at the neighbor’s garden. It was much more bountiful than the farmer’s own, which left the farmer jealous. Thus, the intense green caused the farmer much envy.

Such a feeling was burning inside me when I peeked over this fence. Unfair advantage- this garden is located in the Pacific Northwest.

I guess tomatoes like growing in August there. I can hear ours asking for water like Dumbledore in Half Blood Prince.

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This pepper is so shiny, I can see myself eating it.

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If you needed a pepper as long as your arm, you’ve come to the right place.

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Blueberries have to be at maximum bursting blue before they can come inside.

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We had some flowers like those. They burned up in the sun after a sprinkler misunderstanding.

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But I can’t be mad about this. Hens and chicks in a chicken planter. Gets me every time.

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Can’t be jealous about any of it, really. I ate most of it.

THE CASE OF THE SICK CUCUMBERS

Something got to our cucumber plants. We hired a private detective garden gnome to solve the mystery, but he is falling short of expectations. We had a suspicion the perpetrator was a bug, but our detective said the evidence is still in the lab.

Since we are now in the hottest time of the year, not much is wanting to grow anymore, but we would at least like them to have the option, if they feel so inclined. This cucumber stopped growing about a month ago.

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At first, we blamed this bug. Its black. Its red. Kinda evil looking. We have since learned that it is actually a lady bug larvae, which hasn’t formed its more eye-pleasing lady body.

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The plant would grow leaves and flowers, but then they would crinkle up and die. We grew these cucumbers from little baby seeds, so it was heartbreaking to watch them suffer.

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Not ones to stand idly by, we went rouge and did some inspecting of our own. Here is our evidence:

  • Mottled leaves
  • Deformed leaves and flowers
  • Deformed and discolored cucumbers

From the data, we deduce that the attacker was (maybe): Thrips

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Thrips are tiny bugs that feed on flowers and vegetables, causing discoloration, deformities, and disease spread. They are also one of the fastest growing invasive species groups, gaining strength from our plants on their path to world domination.

And with that, our dreams of pickles lay shattered on the floor like glass jars. Stay tuned for a follow-up post where we bag up our broken dreams and dead plants, and prepare to start anew.

REPOT A PLANT

Its summer housekeeping over here this week. We’re cleaning and sprucing up some things on our to-do list, since its too hot to do much else in the garden.

Upon our kitchen window sill sat the cutest little plant. But that cute baby plant has grown into a gigantic monster that is spilling over and threatening to topple off the ledge.

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We are going to upgrade him to a real life hanging planter. We will need some potting soil, the planter, and the plant.

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The pot has holes in the bottom for drainage already, so that is convenient. We’ll fill it with some potting soil.

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Now we’ll place the plant in the soil, gently loosening roots as needed.

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Tuck some more nice, cozy soil around him, and give him a drink of water.

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So much more space to spread out and grow! Now to hang him by the window.

WEED REMOVAL, VOL. 2

If you aren’t feeling up to the work-out of pulling weeds with your muscles, we turn to our handy spray bottle. Since our goal is to always stay cool and organic, our reusable spray bottle is filled with 20% vinegar, which you can get at garden stores, or pretty much anywhere.

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So the strategy here is to spray the weeds. We douse them in vinegar. One of the drawbacks here is that it works best and quickest at the hottest part of the day. You can hear them sizzle in the sun.

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If you have a large patch of weeds, be sure to take a break for fresh air, and not spray into the wind. That vinegar is nasty stuff in the eyes. After they are good and sprayed, then comes the waiting.

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In a couple hours or a longer length of time, the weeds turn pale and crispy. They will be much weaker and easier to pull up now, or will eventually disintegrate into nothing, if you are being super lazy about it.

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Just be careful where you spray. Vinegar only knows how to kill. It doesn’t care what. So if you spray a flower, it will do the same thing to it as a weed. We use a piece of cardboard as a shield if we are spraying around plants.

Spraying weeds sounds like the easier way out, but being out in the afternoon summer sun, combined with the real fear of getting a cramped trigger finger, and mixed with the impatience of waiting until the plants die, can make it just as hard. Weeding is just hard. Weeds are sorry not sorry about it.

PLANTING PUMPKIN SEEDS

We have a pack of evil birds that roam the garden. They might be eating bugs, or doing other beneficial things, but you wouldn’t know it by their awful attitudes. Always up to hood rat stuff with their friends, pecking at tomatoes, and eating our seeds. Especially the seed eating. Then they don’t grow, and we are just left wondering- Was it them? Was it us? What did we do wrong? The not knowing is the worst.

After a fight over some pumpkin seeds, we decided to outsmart the birds, and start the seeds inside. Watching seeds sprout should be a tv show, and I would watch it all day all day long.

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After the seedlings grew to be a couple inches tall, and were rocking a strong set of leaves, we took them out to the garden to plant. We set the pots on their future homes for a little bit. Like a new goldfish.

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With all the gentle and careful, we scooped the seedlings out, and planted them in the mound with even more gentle and careful.

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Snug as a plant in some pine straw. After they were all planted, we fed them a little fertilizer with seaweed, to minimize the stress of moving. Lord knows we all need a drink after moving, right? Their signature cocktail is the John Droomgoole, who has the coolest gardener name, and may be a cartoon in real life.

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And just when you think you’ve outsmarted the birds, and the world is pumpkins and rainbows again, now we have to worry about the bugs. Grrreeat.

TOMATO WATERCOLOR CARDS

Let’s try something new today, shall we? These watercolor tomato cards would be perfect to include in any “garden extras” baskets, for when you are up to your eyeballs in tomatoes, and need to feed them to friends instead. Plus, tomatoes come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, so you would have to actually put effort into messing it up.

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We’ll need the basic watercoloring supplies. Some water, paints, brushes, and paper.

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I cut out a little square of paper, and drew a light outline with a pencil of a tomato. Its basically a potato shape with a spider hat.

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Now to color. To make mine, I wet the paper first, then add some color little by little, until I like it. Don’t think about it too much. Go with your gut. I filled it in, then went back and added a little more red-orange on the edge for shading.

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Wait for a hot minute for it to dry. Then paint the spider shape green, and you got yourself a tomato.

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After I finished the red tomato, I did a green rendition, and also a tribute to my garden favorite, the pear tomato.

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After its all dry, adhere it to the front of a card, and give it away to a friend or enemy, depending on how much you like your painting.

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WEED REMOVAL, VOL. 1

The enemies are among us. Since we know how to identify the impostors, we can start the business of eradicating them. Reminiscent of Helena on Orphan Black.

There are many different ways to get rid of weeds. Today we’ll talk about one of the more obvious ways- pulling them out of the ground with your hands.

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Here is a weed growing in some rocks. We don’t want it to grow there, so let’s get rid of it.

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When pulling a weed out of the ground, you need to locate its main root, the one that is attaching it to the ground and bankrolling its life.

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Grasp it at the root base firmly, and then finagle it out of the ground. The goal is to get as much of the root as possible.

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Be sure to try to get as much of the roots as possible. If you just get the peripheral leaves and appendages, you are just pruning it, and it can still continue to grow.

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It is sometimes easier to weed without gloves, because you can get a better grip. Weeding by hand is good if you are weeding around other plants, or if you want the plant gone immediately. Its also good if you feel like tearing something to shreds. It does require a bit of time and muscle, but think of it as a good workout.

Weeding by hand is instant gratification. The weed is now gone, and depending on how much of the roots were removed, will not return to pester you again. Don’t worry though. Another one will pop up somewhere to laugh at you soon.

PURSLANE AT THE DRIVEWAY MARKET

Happy Friday, farmer friends! Have we got a treat for you today. A super healthy treat.

America’s hottest superfood is purslane. Like the hipster it is, this weed is invading a farmers market near you. This plant has EVERYTHING- more omega-3 fatty acids than any other veggie, the eicosapentaenoic acid of a fishy, all the vitamins, minerals, and a bunch of antioxidants to keep your body running errands around town in workout clothes. And if that isn’t enough for you, its also classified as a noxious weed.

We had to get our hands on this stuff, so we took 3 steps out our front door, and turned towards the closest market. Only the most fresh and local for us.

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Thank goodness we remembered our reusable bags. We chose to proclaim our Austin-ness with the free SXSW tote bag. We keep it weird by sporting a bag that 50,000 other people also have.

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After a short walk, we arrived at the Driveway Market, which is even closer than the Garden Market. We chose the freshest bunch of purslane we could find that wasn’t flattened by tire tracks, so we could be sure to reap all those good health benefits.

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We filled up our reusable tote with superfood, and headed home.

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Now comes the part of consuming vegetables without juicing them. Enjoy purslane: in a salad with flax chive dressing, with salsa verde and tortillas (everything tastes better with tortillas), in tomato and cucumber salad, and mushed up in pesto.

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Doesn’t get more local than that. Enjoy your super weeds.