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Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

My Spring Flower Garden

And yes, I am woefully behind in posting! My apologies, I’ve been kinda busy. Not to fear, however; yours truly has been feverishly (well, OK, maybe not that feverishly) working on her spring garden! However, without much work and a lot of spring rain, relatively cool temperatures (for Texas) and sun, my flower garden has just exploded with color and beauty. The pic above doesn’t do my garden justice, but you get the drift.

The veggie garden is, of course, underway. I’ve been pulling out plants from my fall/winter garden that were going to seed and I’ve been prepping the raised beds. This weekend I look forward to planting summer lettuce, bok choy, and basil, and will be giving it the old college try again for yellow squash and butternut squash (and try to be even more vigilant for the evil Squash Vine Borer) and all kinds of beans (got bean innoculant this time, so I hope my bean crop this year will be much better than last’s).

And, yes, my famous Malabar Spinach is in full swing, with two seedlings coming up in the Malabar bed, and three coming up in seedling pots. I’ll probably be giving a couple of plants to loved ones this year because even one plant just explodes into hundreds of delicious and beautiful leaves, and I don’t need five plants just for me! I’ve also got a bunch of volunteer Thai Basil coming up in the spot in front of the Malabar bed where I’d planted the basil last year, so I won’t have to plant any of that myself, thanks to Mama Nature’s help!

Closeup of Compost Tomatoes

What about tomatoes, you ask? After all, it is a perennial summer favorite of just about every gardener worth their salt, you say. Well, funny you should ask! Earlier this spring, I moved my compost pile but instead of bagging up the compost that I had in the old pile, I forgot about it and left it where it was. I had previously noticed that there were several small weeds growing in the old pile, but last weekend looked at it more carefully, and low and behold – in addition to what are truly weeds, I have about 25 tomato seedlings popping up out of the old compost pile! While I don’t remember it, I must have thrown chopped tomato with some seeds into my compost, because these are almost undoubtedly tomato plants! I’m very excited about that, and it spares me from having to actually buy any tomato plants.

However, I’m not sure what kind of tomatoes I’m going to have – these could be seeds from last year’s crop, or regular-sized or roma tomatoes I bought from the store, or maybe even a mixed array. It will be interesting to see what comes up! My mom also gave me a hanging cherry tomato plant for Easter, so it looks like my tomato bases have been more than covered!

Also, I have just planted several berry plants along my fence near the main flower bed. My sweetie (who is also a gardener) gave me two blackberry plants and two blueberry plants for Valentine’s Day – best Valentine’s gift EVAR (well, for a gardener like me, anyway). I waited until after Easter to plant them, because we kept getting freezing, or close to freezing, temps late into what I call our Texas spring (which usually starts in February). I also planted another blueberry plant I already had, and I finally planted my Goji Berry plant that I’ve had in a pot for about 3 or 4 years now. All of the berry plants are doing well in their new locales, and I look forward to having various berries later this summer.

Speaking of berries, I was amazed to find that most of the strawberry plants from last year survived our many hard winter freezes despite me not covering them up. I replanted them in a big stainless steel tub utilizing the Lasagna Gardening method (more on that later). And I already have several strawberries ripening! Very exciting!

And finally, I have some asparagus crowns that I need to plant this weekend as well. These were also a Valentine’s gift from my sweetie. However, I’ve had the crowns so long that they’ve already sprouted a coupla stalks! I could have planted them earlier, but since they are a long-living, perennial veggie, I’ve had a difficult time deciding where to put them. Finally decided I’d put them in my little raised bed next to the house where I’d planted butternut squash last year. I’ll probably plant either lettuce or baby carrots with it, or I might transplant a couple of tomato plants from the compost pile, since tomato and asparagus are suppose to be excellent companions (though lettuce and carrots do well with it too). Of course, I’ll have to wait a year or two before I can enjoy my harvest, but that’s OK. I do love me some asparagus!

Well, I guess that’s about it for my little update. I am going to try harder to keep this blog updated more frequently, though, you know – promises, promises! But I will try. In any case, if you’ve never been here before, please check out my other postings, cuz you might find some useful gardening and cooking info, at least I hope you do!

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As promised, tonight I bring to you the heart-breaking saga of the second Squash Vine Borer (hereafter known as SVB) attack on my beloved b-nut squash.

After neglecting to meticulously inspect my butternut squash vines due to reading somewhere that the dreaded SVB ceases attacking after August, I was horrified to find one Sunday morning three weeks ago that the SVB had revisited, leaving its progeny to decimate my b-nut squash. I had noticed some time before that the leaves on the vine were sort of withering up and turning yellow, but I thought maybe it was because they were older leaves. My squash fruit seemed OK, though small, and I just stood stubbornly steadfast in believing what I read, that I had nothing to fear from SVB after August.

But of course, this is Central Texas, where we continue to experience summer, or at least late spring-like temps well into November. Duh! I fergot! Which means it’s still perfect weather for the SVB to go a-laying its little eggs.

In any case, as I watered the squash that fateful Sunday morn, I decided to remove some of the dead leaves. As I removed them, I noticed the tell-tale sign of SVB infestation: SVB “sawdust.” You can see a picture of it below, after this post. Now, up til this point, I’d never seen it before, but I had read about it, and I knew that this had to be it. Then I found some dark eggs, and more “sawdust.” Then I removed some vine where I found the sawdust, and striped back the stem: yup, there it was, an ugly, slimy, segmented, inch-long larvae munching its way through the vine.

Well, I was essentially heartsick, and mad at myself for being so lax in checking for signs of SVB. I decided I’d try to save my b-nut squash as much as I could, and so cut back vine, but I kept finding more signs of infestation.  I wound up basically ripping out one of the squash plants. Amazingly enough, the other plant didn’t seem to be infested at all, so I was able to keep that. I was so grateful that I had one un-infested plant!

My first-b-nut squash (and some acorns) -- very fall-y

Unfortunately, the plant I had to rip out had all the fruit on it. However, while the fruit was relatively small, it didn’t look like it had been infested. I understand that SVB larvae like to eat the vine, but leave the squash fruit alone. I decided not to throw them out and see if I could still use them. You can see a pix of them to the right.

I was a little worried that maybe the squash was infested when I saw some larvae creeping on the counter I sat them on. I decided if any more crept out that I would cut the squash open to see if it was infested and throw them out if so, and cook them if not. But no more crept out, so I decided to keep them intact until I was ready to cook them.

Last weekend I used one of the squash to make a lentil-ginger-butternut squash soup, and as I tentatively cut up the squash, expecting it to perhaps have some larvae deep within, there was none. I also wondered if the flesh would be any good. I had figured that the reason the fruit was small was that the SVB larvae had stunted the growth of the fruit as they ate up the vine, which is the lifeline for the fruit. So I wondered if it would really be ripe, but when I cut the squash open, the flesh was nice and orange like any b-nut squash I’ve bought from the grocery store. And it worked just great in the soup, so I was very pleased. The soup itself cooked into such a mash that it was hard to pick out exact flavors of some of the ingredients, but there was no bitter flavor that might accompany an unripe squash.

As for my intact b-nut squash plant, I have fertilized it and I now check over it as often as I can. So far no SVB infestation as far as I can tell, and it’s now starting to produce some more fruit, so I should continue to have squash for this season.  I think, however, that the fruit is just going to be small, as I’ve got one that is maturing that isn’t much bigger than the others I harvested earlier.

I figure that growing veggies in containers may lead to smaller veggies. This seems to be the case with the Malabar spinach that I’m growing in a container; its leaves are a lot smaller than the ones of the Malabar spinach in the square foot garden. Maybe it’s because the root system has limited room in which to spread, I don’t know. It’s not a bad thing; the produce still tastes good, it’s just that it’s smaller.

In any case, I’m just glad I was able to save the other b-nut squash plant, and glad I have more fruit growing on it. From now on I will make sure I keep a sharp look-out for any SVB infestation!

Because I couldn’t ever find pictures of either the SVB sawdust or pix of the larvae on the Internet, I decided to take some pix for others who might be curious what to look for. Unfortunately these pix are not in focus very well, but hopefully you can see the sawdust and the larvae. The first picture is of a squash stem with sawdust hanging off of it. The picture caty-corner to it is one of a stem pulled back and exposing the larvae. It’s all white, slimy and segmented and shows up in the middle of the stem.

SVB sawdust on squash stem

SVB sawdust on squash stem

Can you see the icky, slimy SVB larvae?

Can you see the icky, slimy SVB larvae?

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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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