A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘bush beans’

Coming home, it’s not only me who has grown

Sometimes, a simple week away from the everyday life can have profound effects on one’s peace of mind.

When we chose our camping destination in Colorado, it was important to us to be in an area that was free of as many artificial distractions as possible.  We didn’t want electricity.  We didn’t want running water.  We didn’t want cell phone reception, Wi-Fi, internet, television, cable, radio …

It was nice getting back to the basics, to “chop wood, carry water”.   We had to haul our water in a water bag some fifty yards to our site, where we filtered it for drinking or for use in cooking, showering, cleaning, etc.  We relied on good old fashioned solar energy to heat our shower water.  While we had a propane stove for ease in cooking, we also cooked over a fire, started from flint and steel and whatever dry tinder and firewood we could collect.   At night, we didn’t have a television to sit in front of, or separate rooms to disappear into.  There was the warmth of the fire, and us, huddled around it, talking, laughing, and letting our minds entirely unplug.

I slept well despite being inside of a tent at 10,000 feet in the wilderness at 45 degrees!  Perhaps it’s because that was the first time in years my body/brain had rested without the constant bombardment of cell phone and wi-fi radiation, electromagnetic energy from the electrical currents we wire our houses with, and the unending stimulus of media at my fingertips!

There are truly important things in life, and then there are unimportant things.   Sitting on the mountain, that distinction became quite clear in a number of areas in my life.  We waste so much time and energy building lives full of man-made things, while we are largely cut off and clearly do not value as much as we should the natural world that has been the cradle of humanity since our days began on this planet.  The grandeur of the mountains has stood for all to see for millions of years, and I’m happy that man – with all of his selfishness, materialism, and overconsumption – had the sense to reserve parts of America as wilderness areas, to be untouched for future generations.

I don’t know where the path leads that our global consciousness has set out upon.  I don’t know why many people have to go through the darkness to understand and appreciate the light.  On our present course, we’re flirting with disaster, destroying our planet with the toxic run-off of our industrialized world.   It saddens me that so much of our society is completely severed from the natural world – their home!   How lost we all must feel at times, as we attempt to conform our lives to an artificial design.

Sitting in traffic for two hours everyday it is quickly apparent how many people look completely unhappy and zombified by their jobs and too many stimuli …

I’m ranting here, sorry.  Isn’t it funny how, after you’ve been gone from home awhile, your house looks different?  Something about the lighting, the colors seem strange … We all noticed it when we returned home.  Surely nothing in the house has changed.  Was it just us that changed?

Colorado definitely left its mark on us again, but we aren’t the only ones who have changed.  We returned to a jungle in the backyard.  Ok, not quite, but MY how everything grew while we were away!  The Austin area must have received a lot of rainfall.  The verbena had all but grown together, choking out the milkweed.  The lantana grew by leaps and bounds and is intertwined with the fennel that has exploded in yellow flower umbrels.  The creeping lantana is spilling out across the gravel walkway and engulfed more milkweed planted nearby.  And the beans are putting on now, and the tomatoes that were void of fruit before we left now have about 15 tomatoes.  The peppers are just chock-full-o peppers, too.

It seems I do better when I’m not trying to garden.  🙂

Texas Lantana in the foreground (I trimmed it back some) and fennel in the back

Butterfly garden bed after trimming. I didn't know verbena spread so quickly. It's branches propagate readily by rooting where they hit the ground.

Butterfly garden bed after trimming the lantana, indigo spires and butterfly weed.

Our pepper bed: cayenne, orange bell pepper and anaheim

Maters!

And more maters! Thought I'd have to wait until fall!

Ring-o-Fire cayenne. Yes, they ARE extremely hot!

Cal Wonder Orange Bell Peppers (green until mature)

Bean-o-plenty

Baby beanlings

Every leaf I turn over reveals more beans ... (Tendergreen and Bush Lake)

Anaheim peppers - marked as jalapenos when I purchased them!

the black-eyed susans are really looking great

the spearmint bed is flowering now

spearmint flower

hibiscus

double knockout roses

Common milkweed is now flowering (grown from cuttings)

common milkweed flowers

Lady Bug oh Lady Bug, do you want a feast?

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Progress in the Garden

Hello gardening world!  It’s been so long since my last garden post, I don’t even know where to begin.   I can’t believe it’s been almost a month.

I’ve made some changes to the garden in the past few weeks.  Most notably, the squash and zucchini both died.  I tried replanting the zucchini, but then something came by and ate all of the seedlings when they were just a couple inches tall, so I have given up on growing those – at least for now.  I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong.  Most of the time, squash and zucchini thrive and produce more veggies than you know what to do with.  The other curcubit I’m trying to grow, cucumber, is doing alright.  It’s just now starting to produce small cucumbers, although two of them that started already shriveled.  Thinking it may need a boost of phosphorous for fruiting, I gave it some bone meal and we’ll see if that helps over the next couple of weeks.

Straight Eigtht cucumber vines

The lettuce/parsley bed was empty, so I worked the soil over really well, added a bunch of compost, a little bat guano and a little bone meal and let the soil sit for a couple of weeks.  Then I planted three rows of beans and they are all doing really well.

Tendergreen Bush Beans

Three of the tomato plants are getting quite large and although they are flowering, have yet to set any fruit.  I sure hope this isn’t a repeat of last year.  I got only a dozen or so tomatoes last year!   I have a total of seven plants going, but four of those got started really late and may take awhile to start producing as well.

Three tomato plants

I’ve got quite a few pepper plants right now.  I thought I was losing several of the ones I started from seed a few weeks ago, so I got more transplants nd started more from seed for fall.  Well, the initial plants rebounded, are flowering and there are even a few pepper nubs forming, so I may end up with a pretty decent pepper crop.  I have probably ten cayenne, ten bell pepper, and four jalapenos going.

The sunflowers are tall and are flowering.  Unfortunately, I planted them along the fence line running north to south, and I’ve come to realize that once they start blooming, sunflowers permanently face east towards the rising sun.  As such, they are not facing the house, but the neighbor’s!  I hope he enjoys them!

Mammoth sunflower

The butterfly garden is coming along, too.  The verbena has spread out to create two good-sized mounds.  The black-eyed susans are finally looking like they’re going to flower soon.  The fennel is reaching high in the back, despite a continual defoliation from the dozens of black swallowtail caterpillars that have grown up here.  The other day, my wife and I counted fifteen new eggs on one plant alone.  We even found three large cats on our dill plant, and we had to remove them before they killed it.  The fennel appears ready to flower in the next couple of weeks.

Purple Moss verbena in the front ...

Black-Eyed Susans with Dusy Miller, Fall Aster and Texas Lantana

Fennel (a.k.a. Black Swallowtail nursery)

Four Nerve Daisies, Creeping Lantana, Milkweed and Butterfly weed ... followed by rosemary, Copper Canyon Daisies and Indigo Spires salvia

The Texas Lantana is growing a little slower than I expected, but the creeping lantana has really spread out.   I continue to love the Four Nerve Daisies that seem to bloom profusely in waves every several days.  The milkweed cuttings are established and will hopefully begin to fill out some more.  I have another fifty milkweeds going indoors, and I plan to transplant them in a few weeks.  I need to prepare a space along the northern fence line for them first.  My hope is have them well-established by mid-August when Monarch populations are highest.  Perhaps I can entice a few to stick around.  Milkweed is hardy in my zone, so it should make it through the winter to come back again in the Spring.

The Copper Canyon Daisies have created one big bush and I can’t wait for their show this fall.  As big as they are, I’m sure that they will be covered with yellow blooms!  The Indigo Spires has grown so much faster than I expected.  I ended up cutting off an entire section already because it was getting in the way of the other salvias!  Not wanting it to go to waste, I’ve started a dozen cuttings inside, so hopefully I’ll have more in the future.  I was thinking that a bed in the front yard would look good, and these would make a wonderful addition there.

The mint bed is standing three feet tall – taller than I thought it would, but makes a nice smelling mound of green in the corner of the yard.  So far, there’s been no sign of spreading, but I am watching for runners constantly.

Mint bed with rosemary, Copper Canyon Daisies in foreground

The Mexican Mint Marigold has all but died (pictured next to the rosemary above).  If it doesn’t come back, I’ve got to find something else to put there.  I’m thinking something red … Any suggestions?

And, the wildflowers are all done.  After a heavy downpour and fifty-mile per hour winds, they were all tore up, laying over and generally very, very sad.  I hacked them down with a machete and plan on sowing more seeds this fall.

Checking up on the Veggie Garden

I have been so fascinated with flower, bee and butterfly pictures for the past few weeks that I have not posted a vegetable garden update.  Before the rain moved in this week, I woke up early Wednesday morning and grabbed a bag of compost, a bag of bat guano, a bag of bone meal and headed out to the garden.   The pictures included in this post were taken Saturday morning.

One of the last pictures I posted of the veggies was of a newly forming yellow crookneck squash.  The plant soon died of neglect, I’m sad to say.  Now I have an empty spot and I’m debating whether or not to try another round, or go with a different variety altogether.  That same variety failed for me last year as well.

Meanwhile, the zucchini is doing well and has been flowering.  Maybe soon it will start producing.  There is no shortage of pollinators in the yard, though I wonder if they are too busy loving on all of the natives to come and pollinate my zucchini!   I went ahead and worked some compost into the soil, then sprinkled bat guano around the plant and watered lightly to let it absorb a little.  The rain did a better job at working it in anyway.  You can see the remaining Red Sail lettuce there next to the zucchini.  It looks beautiful and has a wonderful, glossy, deep red color.  Unfortunately, since weather has been so warm, it has turned bitter.  Yet, I think this shows how resistant this variety is to bolting.  We’ve had several days of ninety degree weather and it is still compact.    This weekend I will actually have to buy lettuce for the first time in six months.

The cucumbers have really started to vine out this past week, which is good because I was starting to worry about them.  I have since tied them to the tomato cage for support, which only seems to have encouraged them.  These, too, did not make it last fall, so I am wary of their success.   I do have my fingers crossed! I gave them more compost and a sprinkling of guano as well.

The Blue Lake bush beans are coming along and they are flowering like crazy and producing lots of green pods!   The Tendergreen variety didn’t survive all of the wind.  I had started them inside and they did get pretty leggy before I transplanted them.  Then all of the strong winds took their toll on their thin stalks.  I will be resowing more this weekend.  As with the other veggies, I applied a side-dressing of guano.

I pulled up the parsley and added it to the compost pile (first, however, I made sure there weren’t any black swallowtail caterpillars – there weren’t).  Then I pulled up the lettuce and worked the soil over really well, adding some bone meal, fresh compost and bat guano.  I’m not sure what I will plant there – quite possibly more tomatoes.  I thought about retrying squash in this location, so a butternut or another summer squash might be in the not-too-distant future.

The carrots are still forming, so I have left them.  I gave them a good fertilizing with bone meal, which is a good source of phosphorus for developing roots.  I hope to be harvesting some carrots within the next couple of weeks, but I think they should definitely be ready to pull up within a month.  I don’t know how long they will last into the warmer weather.

Also in the carrot bed are three tomato plants that are also now flowering.  I will continue to pinch those flowers until I’m happy with the sizes of the plants.  I want them to get bigger and bushier first.  To encourage that, I also gave them compost and a side-dressing of guano.

My pepper bed is coming along slowly.  The cooler nights still aren’t ideal.  They like the soil to be at least 70 degrees.  The larger jalapeno plants have been producing flowers and buds like crazy, but I’ve been pinching them off to encourage a bushier plant.  I went ahead and gave them all a good amount of fresh compost and applied guano around the base of each.

Check back later this weekend for an update on the flower beds and the development of the black swallowtail caterpillars of which I now have twelve on my fennel.

Indoor Seed-Sowing for Spring

Saturday was a beautiful day of sunshine.  I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to spend gardening, but I think I made the most of what little time I had.

I pulled up the remaining carrots.  There were slightly more than three dozen, all with varying sizes.   In retrospect, I need to do a better job of thinning the carrots to 2″ apart.  Most of these were just too close together and it limited how big they were able to grow.   They had incredibly long tap roots, but they just didn’t fatten up and fill out like they should have due to space restrictions and probably less available nutrients.  Still, there were several good-sized carrots.   I went ahead and worked the soil well and planted five more rows – three of the Danver’s half-long and two of the Big Top.  (For the record, the three rows closest to the lettuce and marked by wooden sticks are of the Danver’s variety.   Last time I couldn’t remember what was what after they grew!)  In the fall, I think I’ll dedicate the 3’x3′ broccoli bed to carrots.  The broccoli needs to be rotated, and I need more room for carrots.  So far, they seem like an easy crop to grow and, as I’ve mentioned before, they are a common staple at our house.  It makes sense to have a bigger bed that I can successively sow seeds in.

I transplanted about six more lettuce plants and then cut three more heads down for our use this week.   I have another half dozen transplanted into cups, which are growing under lights in the garage.  I’ll pull up the roots of the heads I just harvested, plus I think I currently have space for a couple more in the bed, so that should give me room to transplant the remaining plants.  That will probably conclude my lettuce planting for the year.  Oh, and I still have many sprouts of the organic lettuce blend coming up, which will need to be thinned out after they’re a couple inches tall.  The blanket of snow we received last week did absolutely nothing to the sprouts, luckily.

It was also time to start the rest of the veggies for transplanting at the end of March.  I’m going to try the zucchini, cucumbers and squash again.  Because I had half a pack of seeds of each leftover from fall, I decided to go with the same varieties:  Black Beauty, Straight Eight and heirloom Yellow Crookneck.  I have eight seeds of each sown.   I started eight containers of Tendergreen bush beans, but I also need to do another eight or so Bush Lake Beans here in a couple of days.   To get a jump start on the sunflowers, I started them in large paper pots – I started about half a dozen Russian Mammoth.   These seeds are all sitting in a sunny window covered with plastic until they sprout.  Finally, I sowed about twelve chives.   These need darkness to germinate, so they are sitting in a closet for now.

The cayenne (4) and bell peppers (5) are now 3-4″ tall.  They weren’t growing very fast out in the garage due to the colder temperatures.  I moved them indoors to the sunniest windowsill where it’s at least 65 degrees.  I placed them into a recycled, clear-plastic Baby Spinach tub and then used binder clips to attach another tub on top.  This created a mini-greenhouse.   As it sits in the sun, the entire container warms up and gives the pepper roots the warmth they need to grow.  Since doing this, they’ve grown at least 2″ in the past week!  Mental note: next fall, purchase a couple of heating mats for germination and seedlings.  This will accelerate growth and I’ll have healthier and bigger plants to transplant.

In addition the all of the above, I have a dozen or so Sweet Alyssum, four Mexican Mint Marigold, six Verbena, twelve Black-Eyed Susan (just starting to germinate!), four Calabrese Broccoli and one Bloomsdale Spinach plants growing from seed.

Veggie Garden Update 10/17/09

Here are some pictures I took of the garden plants this morning:

Carrot tops beginning to form

Carrot tops beginning to form

carrot rows

carrot rows

parsley/lettuce bed

parsley/lettuce bed

Buttercrunch lettuce

Buttercrunch lettuce

cosmo savoy lettuce

cosmo savoy lettuce

Red Sail lettuce

Red Sail lettuce

latest spinach starts ...

latest spinach starts ...

first spinach starts ...

first spinach starts ...

Newest lettuce starts ...

Newest lettuce starts ...

broccoli bed

broccoli bed

calabrese broccoli

calabrese broccoli

the beans are suffering, too - the ones on the right are over a month older than the newer starts on the left.

the beans are suffering, too - the ones on the right are over a month older than the newer starts on the left.

first planting of beans, close, starting to produce flowers

first planting of beans, close, starting to produce flowers

jalapeno plants

jalapeno plants

bell pepper plant

bell pepper plant

Beds finished and carrots sown

So, Sunday was a productive day in the garden.   I got up early to dig the sod under the broccoli bed and then filled it with grower’s mix, to which I added fresh compost and composted manure.  Then I installed the wire grid over the top to keep the plants separate.  I have ten broccoli plants started and some are near two inches tall now, but I’m going to wait a couple more weeks before transplanting them into their permanent bed.

broccolibed

The sun was blazing all day and the veggies were loving it – except for a couple green bean plants that burned up pretty good on Saturday.  To help fix this, I pounded in some stakes on the corners of the bean bed, and clipped a section of burlap onto the stakes to help diffuse the late afternoon sun.  We’ll see if this helps.  I had burlap over the peppers for the majority of the summer, which seemed to work for them…

I also sowed the carrot seed.  I chose two varieties: the Danver’s Half-Long and Big Top.  I gave myself a space a foot and a half wide by 3 feet long to plant.  I dug six drills lengthwise about 3/4 inch deep, watered the soil briefly, and scattered the seeds in a line down each drill.  I then covered them with a thin layer of soil and a thin layer of fresh compost then watered them.  I planted three rows of each variety.  When they come up and get a couple inches tall, I’ll thin to about 2 inches apart in all directions.  I figure I’ll be able to get 50-60 carrots that way.

I’ll be transplanting the lettuce to the section just to the left of the carrots.  I have Red Sail, Buttercrunch and Cosmo Savoy sprouts already coming up, so I’ll be able to move them in just a few weeks.  The area to the right of the carrots is reserved for the Bloomsdale spinach.  The spinach seeds (currently enough for ten plants) are sown in toilet paper rolls and are sitting in the coolest room in the house.  This should keep them about 70-72 degrees or so, which is fine for germination.  Hopefully the lighting is okay in that room –  the seeds are sitting on the windowsill, but the sun never directly hits that window.  If the weather would cool down just a bit more, then I’d put them outside.  We’re still forecast for mid-eighties for the majority of the next ten days …

**********************

Michelle made the comment that the yard is being overtaken by vegetable beds and that the backyard feels crowded as a result.  After thinking this over, I decided I’d move the woodpile and the smoker from the backyard to the side yard – they were, after all, an eyesore.  Having moved these, the backyard opened up quite a bit and removed the visual obstacles to the corner of the yard where I planted the mint.  Using some unused stones, I stacked up a short rock border around the mints, then moved the kalanchoes, lantana, cuphea, lavender and potted mint plants beside the rock border.  The area looked a little empty still, so I built a small wooden planter to put marigolds in and also built a small one-seat bench to sit on and enjoy the morning shade under the Texas Lilac tree (growing in the neighbor’s yard – incidentally, we took a seed from that tree and currently have a seedling growing that is now about 9 inches tall!).  Actually, the entire area is shaded until about noon, which is nice.  The idea is to plant more flowers and provide a meditative area to relax.  We could all use more of that, eh?

I also picked up a couple of jalapeno transplants at the grocery store – at Michelle’s urging.  They were only $1.68 each, so I figured it can’t hurt.    I managed not to kill the bell pepper plant yet, so I think these should do okay.  I planted them both in a pot about 11″ in diameter.   I’m about the only one in the family who likes loves jalapenos, but I can eat them on just about anything!

I'll be growing the jalapenos in a container...

I'll be growing the jalapenos in a container...

Garden update 9/26/09

The garden veggies are now twenty-eight days old from planting.  I honestly thought they’d be a little further along than they are right now, but I’ve never grown any of these vegetables and I certainly do not know what to expect.   The pepper plant has rebounded joyously and is offering up several young peppers.  It is also covered in flowers and nubbins, so I expect that it’s most productive days are still on the horizon.

IMG_5729

The beans – well, they’re doing their thing – slowly.  As you can see, the first set of leaves are dying away and fresh leaves have unfolded.  But they’re still so tiny.   It has been very overcast this past week, which probably explains why they haven’t grown much recently.  The next few days of sun will hopefully renew their growth with much-needed vigor.

IMG_5730

The squash and zucchini plants are doing okay.  They sure have a lot of leaves starting to form near the crooks of each plant.

squash close up

squash close up

zucchini close up

zucchini close up

zucchini (above) and squash (below)

zucchini (above) and squash (below)

IMG_5719

The cucumbers are slowly doing their thing and there isn’t much to report.  I thought that the cukes and squashes would really do well on that side of the house because they enjoy full sun all day long, but they’re still pretty puny.   As with the beans, I hope to see them really go to town this week.

cucumbers...

cucumbers...

Well, that’s what I said last week, too!  I guess I’m an over-eager gardener.

GROW DANGIT!!

hibiscus bloom

hibiscus bloom

IMG_5718

On another note:

The broccoli seedlings are now an inch or two tall and the lettuce has almost all sprouted!

broccoli sprouts

broccoli sprouts

lettuce sprouts!

lettuce sprouts!

And the oregano is trying to escape the herb garden!!

A blanket of oregano flanks the thyme and curry

A blanket of oregano flanks the thyme and curry