Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Incredible Link from BBC News Story

Apparently, a new species of huge, carnivorous plant had been found in The Philippines. Here is a link to the story:

This thing even eats rats!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Edible Window Boxes

Window box gardens are an easy way for beginners to get started with gardening. They can offer easy maintenance right from a kitchen window. They are simple to maintain and much less work than preparing an entire backyard garden area. For more advanced gardeners they can become auxiliary specialty gardens.

Even starting them in the Fall you can produce a cornucopia of herbs and vegetables. Broccoli is a productive plant, and turnips will mature quickly. Dwarf variety tomato plants can be more of a pain, but may alternately be productive plants. Lettuces and salad greens, combined with herbs, such as compact basil, chives and oregano make for a beautiful edible display.

When considering a window box garden consider the following:
  • Pair plants with similar cultural needs (i.e., watering needs, sun/shade preferences, etc.)
  • One key to success is not putting too many plants in one box
  • Consider plant heights and growth habits, such as spreading, upright and trailing
  • For best growth, set box in an east or west-facing window outdoors, or a south-facing window indoors

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tomato Bonanza!

All of my tomato varieties are ripening. From the Black Cherry, Micro Tom, Window Box Red to the Roma. I just had to share this photo of yesterday's harvest.

Pico de gallo Recipe

4 large or 6 Roma tomatoes, chopped or diced (with or without seeds)

1 large green bell pepper

2 TBS fresh cilantro, chopped coarsely

1 medium or large white onion, chopped or diced

4 cloves fresh garlic, diced fine

1-2 jalapeno or serrano peppers, diced fine (with or without seeds - depending on desired level of heat

sea salt, to taste

juice of one lemon or two limes

According to Wikipedia, "In Mexican cuisine, Pico de gallo (Spanish for "rooster's beak) is a fresh condiment made from chopped tomato, onion and chilies (typically jalapenos or serranos). Other ingredients may also be added, such as lemon or lime juice, fresh cilantro (leaf of corriander), cucumber or radish."

I use pico in place of salsa because of its freshness and bold flavor, and because it has less liquid than typical salsas or chutneys, I use it in tacos and fajitas.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

First Harvest

Today upon inspection of the tomato plants, I was surprised to find many ready for eating. I have actually been harvesting jalapenos for about a month, and they are truly hot. Spicy would be an understatement!

I shared tomatoes and peppers with my Mom and neighbors, and still had a handful to sprinkle over a fresh grilled chicken salad. I am literally salivating for more.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Johnny's - Product - 2198 - Diva Seedless Cucumber Seeds

Johnny's - Product - 2198 - Diva Seedless Cucumber Seeds

These are some of the best salad-quality cucumbers that you can grow. They are seedless, not bitter, with tender skins so that you don't have to peel them. Diva is award-winning and is one of the tastiest cucumbers out there. They look like typical salad cucs, but with thin skin and crisper fruit.

Cucumbers need full sun, at least an inch of water per week, rich soil and pollinating insects to produce. Pick fruits regularly so that the vines will continue to produce. Bush varieties are suitable for containers, but if you have the space try vining types because they will produce more fruit. (via

Johnny's - Product - 19G - Tavera French Bush Beans

Johnny's - Product - 19G - Tavera French Bush Beans

My favorite variety of green bean --- sleek, tender and flavorful. This type of bean has to be picked when it's young and tender, in order to avoid toughness. This new variety is stringless! These seeds are organic, but nonorganic is available. They produce medium-sized, medium dark green plants. Get growing and bon appetit! (via

The Garden Primer: Second Edition: Barbara Damrosch

The Garden Primer: Second Edition: Barbara Damrosch

A serious must-have for gardeners at all levels. This is a book/manual that has the latest information soils, plants, tools and techniques. The methods suggested are all organic. It has a huge plant list, expanded in this edition. Includes garden design plans. It contains dozens of superb line drawings, but that happens to be the only thing about the book that I wish were different. When it comes to plants, I prefer photos. It also contains organic pest control methods. (via

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Garden Update 6/28/09 - Evidence

In spite of the excruciating heat that we have been experiencing here --- my plants are doing more than fine. I would say that they are coming along splendidly.

They are all heavy with their various fruits, surrounded by dense green foliage.

Today, I got up early enough to escape the most severe heat of the day. I potted two new "Black Cherry" tomato plants, laid down brick platforms for them, fertilized and watered everything else.

Above is the photographic evidence of the current state of my garden plants.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Kick Blossom-End Rot's Ass!

Blossom-end rot is physiological condition caused by calcium deficiency in the blossom end of the fruit. It occurs most notably in tomatoes, but also occurs in peppers, squash, watermelon and any other fruiting vegetable. It is characterized by the decay of fruits at their blossom end; appearing as a dry brown spot about the size of a dime, that may blacken and sink in as it grows to about the size of a half dollar. This disorder is most severe following extremes of over or under-watering.

There are steps that can be taken to greatly reduce this condition:

  1. Lime soils to a pH of 6.5 to 6.7 before planting. Gardens not limed within the past 2-3 years will need 2 cups of lime per plant. The lime should be worked in to a depth of 12 inches.
  2. Fertilize properly. Applying too much fertilizer at a time can result in blossom-end rot. Following soil test recommendations is the best way to ensure proper fertilization. Terracycle makes a Tomato Plant Food based in worm poop that has a calcium boost. I have found it to be very effective.
  3. Mulch plants. Use straw, pine straw, decomposed sawdust, plastic or newspapers. Mulches conserve moisture and reduces blossom-end rot.
  4. Water when necessary. Tomato plants need 1-1.5 inches of water per week during fruiting. Extreme fluctuations in soil moisture can increase blossom-end rot.
  5. Spray calcium. Plants may be sprayed with a calcium solution at the rate of 4 level Tbs of calcium nitrate or calcium chloride per gallon of water. The spray should be applied 2-3 times per week, beginning when the second fruit clusters bloom. Several foliar sprays containing calcium are available and all work well for tomatoes. Calcium chloride is only suggested for tomatoes.
  6. Quick fixes. Foliar application of a weak Epsom Salt (magnesium) solution can effect calcium uptake. Other suggestions include powdered milk, crushed egg shell tea, bone meal tea, Tums tablets, etc., but prevention is the key. Removing affected fruit is also recommended to reduce stress on the plant. "Gardens Alive" sells a product called Rot-StopT Spray that can be applied to plants weekly to supplement calcium reserves and prevent rotting.
Now let's go and kick some ass!

Friday, June 19, 2009

After The Storm


After the storm


June 15th, Monday nights storms produced hurricane-force winds. I did not know the full extent of the destruction until the following day. The hard drive on my computer crashed. The pride of my garden, an almost 4 and a half foot Black Cherry tomato plant, had been broken in two.

I know that it's only a plant, but it hurt to see it damaged to that extent. I admit to "babying" my plants --- short of talking to them and playing classical music.

I went down to a local garden center and purchased bamboo rods to shore up and stabilize my plant. Part of the reason that it broke, is that it had outgrown its cage by a few feet. I got to work and now the plant looks as though its going to live and still produce tomatoes. I guess I really lucked out this time.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Little Green Tomatoes

All four of my tomato varieties have sprouted a plethera of small green orbs. I am more than pleased --- I'm almost proud. Now comes the wait for them to grow bigger and more colorful. I just hope that the birds and squirrels decide that there are tastier pickings out there.
Wish them luck!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Deadly N. Deroose Alata - Bug-Eating Houseplant

This plant is a hybrid developed by a Nepenthes grower, DeRoose in Beligium.

Most pitcher plants aren't easy to grow in the typical home environment. However, this one makes an excellent houseplant. It tolerates a reasonable amount of growing conditions, and is very forgiving of mistakes. In really bright conditions the pitchers turn completely red!

The adult pitchers can reach up to 6 inches in length. This tropical perennial is a true tropical, and in colder climates must be grown as a houseplant. Now to the "deadlier" aspects of this plants personality...

It attracts prey with its brightly colored pitchers of red, gold and green. The pitchers also bear scattered nectar glands on the lid, peristome or "lip" surrounding the lid. According to Barry A. Rice in Growing Carnivorous Plants, "large glands on the inner edge of the peristome entice insects to the very edge of slippery danger."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Plants Are Teasing Me!

Right now, my tomato plants are bursting with blooms and new growth --- but still no tomatoes! I realize that patience is a virtue, but I can hardly wait! The thought of my first home grown tomatoes since 2005 provokes tantilizing images of fresh salads topped with savory fruits.
I have four varieties growing currently: Black Cherry, Window Box Roma, Micro Tom and Basket Boy Red.
If you listen very carefully, you can hear the plants laughing at my impatience...

Attack of the Killer Tomato!

Over the past few weeks, this Black Cherry tomato plant has gone from taking up only half of its cage to bursting out of it. At this point the cage can barely contain this beast! I've watched this plant grow on a daily basis. Every day its height and girth increased. Above is a before and after photo spliced together. I could barely get this crazy plant in frame.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sundew (Drosera spatulata) - Bug-eating Plant

I've been inspired by Gayla at You Grow Girl - The Dirt to blog about one type of carnivorous plant that I have in my collection --- Sundew (Drosera spatulata).

This pretty, alien-looking plant has been sitting in my greenhouse collecting fungus gnats for several months now. I have read that it is considered to be a "weed" by many carnivorous plant lovers. As it tries to "take over" other plants in its efforts to propagate. It's true! I found spatulata appendages sprouting out of a nearby plant a few months ago, and had to pinch them off!

The spatulata's methods for attracting and capturing prey are somewhat more subtle than that of say, the Venus Flytrap. Their leaves are densely covered with stalked and sessile glands. The stalked heads look like tiny red-capped mushrooms up close. Each capped with a droplet of mucus. Insects are lured by the nectar-like mucus glands and the intense honey smell the entire plant gives off. According to Growing Carnivorous Plants by Barry Rice, "when an insect touches a stalked gland, the mucus does not glue the insect to the plant: instead, the entire blob of mucus is transferred from the gland to the insect. As the impaired insect careens from gland to gland, it eventually accumulates so much that it eventually drowns."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Experiment: Sweet Potatoes in Containers

The experiment has officially begun! I have read nothing on growing sweet potatoes in containers. So, aside from what I know about growing them in general --- I'm on my own.

Sweet potatoes are grown from the "slips" or sprouts that appear after you've held onto them too long. I had a few potatoes from the winter, that had taken on lives of their own. Pre-sprouted, even. I also stuck a couple in jars, submerging the ends in water, held in place by toothpicks. Sounds a lot like the low-tech science experiments done in grade school, doesn't it?

When the slips are about 8" long, they are ready to be removed, with a twisting motion and planted. Another shortcut I have taken is to stick the slips in an organic potting medium, so that they can develop a good root system.

Apparently, sweet potatoes do well in a slightly acidic, loamy, sandy soil that is rich in organic matter. Too much nitrogen with produce rampant vines and distorted tubers. A cupful of organic liquid fertilizer per plant, rich in phosphorus will get them off to a good start. One specifically for transplanting should do the trick.

The sweet potato slips have to be kept well-watered to keep them from withering. Sweet potato plants need at least 1" of water per week. Then the amount of water can be decreased as maturity approaches, in order to keep the tubers from cracking.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spiderwort (Tradescantia x Andersonia)

What a curious plant! They open in the shade of the day, and closes in bright sunlight!

  • Like Daylillies and Day flowers, each blossom lasts only one day.
  • The common name refers to the numerous hairs on its sepals and buds. They look like a spider's nest of webs, especially when covered in dew.
  • "wort" is an archaic word for plant.

I love these plants and their "alien-like" appearance. Their strange habits. The fact that they are perennials pleases me to no end. I can expect to behold their wonder, year after year.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Gardening In the 'Hood - Neighborhood Gardens, Part ll

The neighbors that know about my blog keep jokingly saying that I should have named my blog "Ghetto Gardens". This is because we live in the urban core on the southside of our fair city. Whatever, you may say about where we live and garden --- it is beautiful! So, I'm continuing my survey of neighborhood gardens, as there is so much beauty and diversity to be found.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Did You Plant Marigolds in Your Garden this Year?

They are exceptionally easy to grow, and they keep away aphids, thripes, Mexican Bean beetles, squash bugs, tomato hornworms and whiteflies.

Marigolds also repel harmful root node nematodes (soil-dwelling microscopic white worms) that attack tomatoes, potatoes, roses and strawberries. The root of the Marigold excretes a chemical that is toxic to nematodes, and kills them as they enter the soil.

Marigolds will bloom well into November. These flowers make charming and beneficial garden companion plants for many different types of herbs and vegetables: including beans, basil, cabbage, cucumber and tomatoes.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Richters Loot: The "Piss Off" plant and Mojito Mint

I received a recent order that I made to Richters Herb Specialists in Canada today! The contents being three foundling Piss Off plants and three Mojito Mint plants. Richters is a favorite of mine because of their wild selection of vegetable and herb plants and seeds.

The Piss Off plant is reputed to repel cats, dogs and rabbits. After my earlier experiences with the local feral cats, this sounded pretty good to me. According to the Richters website, "The Piss-Off Plant was developed four years ago in Germany when a Plectranthus canina plant was crossed with a Plectranthus esculentus plant. The goal was to produce an ornamental plant with compact growth habit. It was only later that the plant's unique animal-repelling property was discovered." We'll just have to see.

The Mojito Mint is a native of Cuba and the true mint to use in my favorite Summertime alcoholic concoction. It is mild and warm, not overly sweet like other mints. I tried my hand at overwintering the plant this last winter, but was far from successful. I'm not sure if it was spider mites or just the atmosphere in my greenhouse. At any rate, I was left with sickly, spindly plants that eventually bit the dist. So, I'm psyched to get my hands on these healthy specimens. They will no doubt flourish in the mid-Spring sun.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Neighborhood Gardens

Smoke Bush

White Regosa

"Improved" Climbing Paul Spaulding Rose

Spirea close-up


Natches Mock Orange

Monday, May 18, 2009

Garden Update

The garden space as of 5/19/09

Healthy but naked

What I wouldn't do for a home grown tomato right about now! However, these things take time as anyone who has grown them knows.

Tomato plants like it warm, and the weather has only been mild so far this spring. I haven't grown tomatoes in over 30 years, and I'm excited. This year, I am growing five different varieties of them. The peppers don't excite me as much, but they're pretty cool, too.

As the weather gets warmer I'll add Asparagus Beans, sweet potatoes and cucumbers. I can hardly wait...

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Jalapeno and Bell pepper plants.

Teenie baby jalapeno peppers

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