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Archive for July, 2008

is a little like Nightswimming (ala the REM song), except that I wasn’t naked. I was, however, under the moon, just me, the cats and my trowel, digging in the dirt wet from the evening lawn watering. I had really wanted to get my trellises set up for the coral vine that my mother gave me from her garden almost two months ago. If I didn’t, it was threatening to crawl up the wall of my house!

But the daylight had gotten away from me after a busy day of working elsewhere in the yard, cleaning house and running errands. However, I’m a stubborn and foolish sort (see Indiana Jones and the Square Foot Garden below), and by god and by gum, I was gonna get my trellises (trellisi?) in the ground, and a hole dug for the coral vine beneath it (I’ll reserve the actual planting of the vine for Sunday morn). At least I wouldn’t be trying to do this in the sweltering, 100 plus degree sun in the middle of the day!

So I started digging. The first trellis went in fine, and so did the second one. The only problem was that I’d decided to put them close together, but then I decided that it would be better to leave a couple of inches between them. So I pulled out the one to my left because it was in a little bit looser dirt than the other one. It didn’t take me too long to get the two of them in the ground the first time, so I didn’t think it would be difficult to move the one trellis and get it in the ground.

Well, of course I was wrong.

I dug, thinking I had dug enough dirt for the trellis, stuck it in, and guess what? It was up about two inches higher than the other. No problem, I thought. I’ll just dig a little deeper. I dug some more. It was still two inches higher. I got my rubber mallet and whammed it into the ground. Nothing. Dug some more. Started sweating almost as much as when I set up my tiny SFG. Still too high, though maybe now by about an inch. Dug some more. Sweated some more. Still an inch too high. Dug some more. Same thing. Hit it with the mallet. Sweated. Same result. Lather, rinse, repeat. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I could not get the dang thing into the ground no matter how much I dug. I never could figure out why. Finally I got my gardeners gloves, sat on the wet ground, got my flashlight (I did have the back porch light on, but it wasn’t helping much) and dug. And dug. And dug. As I shined my flashlight on my work, I started wondering if my neighbors were thinking I was digging a place to bury a body, I’d been out there so long.

After a while I got the trellis again, and while it was lower, it was still too high. I grabbed my mallet and hit the trellis again, and this time – success! I finally got it in deep enough into the ground. Then I filled the holes back in with dirt and patted it all down.

Then I started digging a hole for the coral vine, so I wouldn’t have to do that in the hot sun on Sunday. Even though the soil was wet from the lawn watering, it was still diffcult to dig because of the danged St. Augustine grass. That stuff is just woven all together like a tight net, and it is really hard to dig up the soil with that kind of grass. I did manage to dig a hole. It was only about three inches deep, but I’m going to do a raised flower bed in the fall around the trellis, so I’m just going to take some of my Hill Country Garden soil and make a little mound of soil around the coral vine. The container it’s in only has about 3 1/2 to 4 inches of dirt in it any way, so I think it will work OK.

In any case, I’ve got the trellises in the ground and my hole dug. I’m just scared to death that in the morning I’m going to get up and the trellises will either look crooked in the unforgiving light of day, or will be totally in the wrong place. I guess we’ll just have to see in the morning, won’t we?

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OK, so I said to myself this week, “Zip, last week you got to bed at 11:30 pm almost every night, when you had to get up at 5:30 am to get ready for work, so this week you are getting to bed as close to 10:30 pm as possible.” Well, I did that Sunday, I did that Monday, and tonight this night owl is itching to stay up late, damn the consequences (and the two pots of coffee I’ll have to drink to stay awake at work slaving over mind-numbing spreadsheets). And yes, I was one of those kids, who, as soon as Mom shut the bedroom door, I’d turn on the light and whip out the latest book I was reading and read late into the night. Sometimes Mom would catch me — “Zippy, are you still awake?” Other times I’d hear her coming up the stairs, and I’d slam the book shut and turn out the light, and fake sleep real good when she’d creak open the door, then as soon as she shut it and went down the stairs — click goes the light and out comes the book again. What can I say? I was born at 2:02 am on the first day of summer, my parents are both night owls, and, well, I just can’t help it! I was born this way!

Geez, I even had a boyfriend I lived with for seven years, who, many a night would have to say to me, “Zippy, you need to go to bed — NOW!” Now that I’ve been living alone for another seven years, I’ve had no one but the kitties to tell me to go to bed, and they give up on me after 5 minutes. So I’m like the Home Alone kid with no one to tell me what to do — Yaaaaay! Yes, I’ll regret it in the morning, but oh, what fun now!

Now, to the point of my latest ramble, and the reason I am staying up late — UrbanGardenCasual.com. Well, actually this is the reason I’m staying up even later — I initially started out Googling sites about growing sweet potatoes in containers. I’ve got two beautiful organic garnet yams I bought at our local food coop, Wheatsville (http://www.wheatsville.coop), and they decided to sprout on their own, no water, no soil, nuthin’ but thin air. I was going to use one for slips anyway and eat the other with my beautiful Malabar spinach, which is growing by leaps and bounds (I’ll have to show you the latest pic tomorrow or so), but I pulled them both out of the brown paper bag and voila — the beginning of little sweet potato vines.

Anywho, back to the main point, which is this cool site I found. The first one I clicked on Google was UrbanGardenCasual.com, and I really wasn’t paying any attention to the name or anything, but they had a really good article on growing sweet potatoes in containers, and then I saw some links on the site and started clicking around, then I noticed the name of the site, and the theme — wouldn’t ya know — Urban Gardening! So another resource for you and me! Yaaaay!

This site really has a lot of good info — how to keep the neighborhood cats out of yer urban garden, lasagna gardening for those with little soil, and even, yes, you guessed it — Square Foot Gardening. It was actually a review of Mel’s first SFG from about 20 years ago. They said that was more of a beginners book than his recent, but I don’t believe that at all. The new one is an updated version of the old one, and I think is very, very easy to use — heck, I’m using it, and if I can use it, anybody can use it, angst over using sphagnum peat moss and all! In any case, it’s got alotta good schtuff, so truck on other and check it out — and I will add to my list links.

And with that said, I will now head to bed — I still won’t get to bed until at least 11:30 pm. Better load up on the coffe tomorrow! Good night! 🙂

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Well, forget what I told you about using sphagnum moss instead of sphagnum peat moss in your SFG. Turns out I was wrong, wrong, wrong (to the tune of the Amy Winehouse Rehab refrain).

For one thing, I found out Saturday in my daily idle Internet surfing that sphagnum moss, the stuff I had said is a more environmentally sound replacement for sphagnum peat moss, actually may contain a fungal disease that can infect your skin. It’s OK if you use it, but make sure you use it while wearing gloves and long sleeves, which is a good idea anyway when you’re dealing with dirty stuff like compost. And this fungal disease doesn’t really seem to affect plants, just human skin — go figure. That’s not to say that it’s in every batch of sphagnum moss, but, of course, no one knows for sure what batch it’s going to be in, hence, wear the gloves. It’s not in sphagnum peat moss, because like compost, beneficial microbes in the dankness that peat moss resides in kills the fungal disease.

The good news is, you can use coconut fibers, which are commonly called coir (I think it’s pronounced ‘koi-er,’ not ‘choir’), in place of sphagnum peat moss. From what I’ve read it holds moisture even better than peat moss, and you can also use it in your compost. You can get from Gardeners Supply at http://www.gardeners.com. You can get it in varying sizes, but to save money, it’s probably best to get the 10-brick count, which should give you about the same amount or more of stuff as a 3.5 cubic feet bag of sphagnum peat moss. It is more expensive, though — almost $22 bucks + shipping costs.

I did find, also that, contrary to what I’d read previously, Canadian peat moss is harvested sustainably, though there are still some issues and questions with this. The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association claims that peat moss is actually continually renewed and accumulates 70 times more than the rate at which it is harvested. This can be found on the FAQ of the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association’s web site at http://www.peatmoss.com/pm-efaq.php.

At first I got all happy about that, and so marched happily to Home Depot to purchase Premier Sphagnum Peat Moss, which is harvested by a member of the CSPMA. Then I got home and read that even if peat moss is harvested sustainably, there is still question as to whether the harvesting itself is actually upsetting the delicate ecosystem of the peat bogs, as well as releasing more carbon into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to global warming. Some studies have been done that points to all of this being the case. You can read about this at Washington State University scientist Linda Chalker-Scott’s web site here.  This also says to me that even harvesting sphagnum moss could disturb the eco-system as well, and I would think it’s harvested at the same time as the peat moss anyway.

~Sigh~ I just don’t know what to do. I try to do my part for the environment, but it just gets so damned difficult. I’m debating about using up more gas to take my sphagnum peat moss back to Home Depot, then order coir brick from Gardners Supply, and further contribute to global warming by having it shipped to me UPS (not to mention having it shipped from coconut plants in India and the Philippines in the first place). Damned if ya do, damned if ya don’t, I sez.

I have read other sites that say just use mulch or leaves or whatever that is gotten locally, but Mel is so danged adamant about using 1/3 compost, 1/3 sphagnum peat moss and 1/3 vermiculite (or perlite) and to not skimp on the soil mix in order to have a more trouble-free, successful SFG. Not having been a gardener all my life, I want to be able to grow my own food, which lowers my carbon usage, and I want it to be as successful and trouble-free as possible, or I might give up and demand all my organic food be shipped to me directly from California or something drastic like that.

OK, I exaggerate a bit, but still, isn’t it better that I use a little peat moss to set up my garden, never to use it again, maybe use some coir if I run out of the bag of peat moss I just bought, and grow my own food, thereby lessening, even by a small amount, the amount of carbon being emitted into the air to bring me food that I get in the grocery store? I don’t know – decisions, decisions. What’s a suburban farm girl like me suppose to do in this little ethical dilema? 😦

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No fabulous gardening news today. If I’m feeling energetic enough this weekend, I may try planting a small circular SFG, though I’m not sure if it’s circular you can technically call it a square foot garden. In any case, I thought that might be nice, though I feel so drained from my (insert pathetic whine here) soul-sucking day job that I may become like my little green friends and veg all Fourth of July weekend.

Ah, if only I could win the lottery! Then I would become a suburban farm girl extraordinaire! Yes, there’s Ms. Zip, in her overalls and Hawaiian-shade hat made in Mexico, toiling joyfully in her SFG veggie beds, gleefully stirring up her compost, picking goji berries from her fabulous goji berry bush. What a happy thought! I’m absolutely serious! My West Texas farming genes have suddenly wakened after 40 something years and have roared forth and if only I had the time (and the money), I’d have my whole backyard and front yard planted in edible and floral glory in no time flat. But the day job kinda gets in the way. While I’m slaving over Excel spreadsheets and telephone and circuit bills at work, fantasies fill my mind of growing gorgeous ripe vegetables of all shapes and colors, exotic and antioxidant-rich fruit, crops of alternative grains, useful plants such as medicinal herbs and soap nut trees (yes, grow yer own soap). ~Sigh~

But that’s OK. I’m getting there, one veggie at a time!

Ah, yes, and if only my homeowners association would allow me to keep a goat or two. I guess I’ll have to be a suburban farm girl without one. Doug Fine, however, doesn’t have that kind of problem, nor does he have a pesky day job to keep him from completely realizing his dreams to be a farm guy. He lives on a farm in NM, and yes, he has cute, adorable nanny goats to provide him and his family with goat ice cream, goat yogurt, and goat milk, in that order it seems (though I think you have to have the goat milk before you can get the other stuff).

Anywho, Doug is the author of a book, Farewell My Subaru, about his adventure in low-carbon footprint, self-sufficient living. He appeared recently on Jay Leno, but I just read about him tonight on Salon.com. And I am soooo jealous! Not because he’s written a book or because he appeared on Jay Leno, but because he has goats — cute, adorable, saxophone-licking, ink pen-chewing, rose bush eating goats! And his own farm, called the Funky Butte Ranch, in New Mexico, for cryin’ outloud. I love New Mexico! Almost as much as Austin!

Oh well, I guess it’s time to practice acceptance — it’s OK that I don’t have my own farm in New Mexico, it’s OK that I don’t even have time to make my own backyard into a suburban farm haven right now this minute because I have a soul-sucking day job, it’s OK that my silly homeowners association won’t let me have any goats, or even any chickens for that matter (a pesky rule about banning “farm animals”) — well, I have to think about that one, cuz those goats of Doug’s are pretty dadgum cute, even if I couldn’t get any milk from them. Maybe I could pass them off as pets, n’est pas? Why, that worked for a goat in my old ‘hood in 78704 — except his owner was only dealing with the city; I gotta deal with a homeowners association. And I doubt my grumpy neighbor, who yelled at me one Saturday morning for waking him up with my weedeater at the crack of 9 am, would take kindly to bleating goats. Even though I live in deep South Austin, they’re just not that funky in this hood. I guess we’re just too close to hoity-toity Circle C!

In any case, check out Doug’s Funky Butte blog at http://www.dougfine.com/. It is a hilarious site — I laughed out loud several times. And of course, he’s got many pix of the afore-mentioned cute adorable goats.

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