Archive for April 2009

Flaming Fiasco, Excitement At Work!

Less than an hour ago, a building was on fire about two blocks from the White House (although the garden is a few blocks further removed)--that makes it pretty close to my building, too.

Smoke surged up the street, blanketing the buildings as if they were floating in a murky cloud of burnt marshmallows. Looking out the windows of my building, offices, streets, and people were veiled within the billowing gray clouds. The morass muffled the sirens' warble as fire trucks and cop cars raced to the blaze, onlookers gasping and crowding on the sidewalk for a peak at the commotion.

By the time I finished stuff and was able to escape from work, however, there were just fire trucks and police cars, nothing really exciting.

I was disappointed. And then I felt bad. I'm a total rubbernecker, looking for excitement in others' disasters. Schadenfreude, right?

Picture from my mobile phone to come after I get home. No pictures, sorry! They're too blurry and small to make out any detail. Too bad I didn't bring my camera to work, eh?


Pumpkin, Zucchini, Squash

Cucurbita pepo
Sow depth1 inch
EmergenceAbout a week or two (Summer Crookneck and zucchini seemed to take slightly longer to germinate than the Cheyenne Bush).
TemperatureHm, I'm going to say hotish. There is a dearth of information, generally, about temperature, and since this species is so diverse... Just "hot."
LightLotsa light, but can live with a little shade.
SoilNot a fan of sandy soil.
HeightVaries. Generally bushy (1-3 feet tall), but much wider (2-4 feet) than tall (Pumpkin might be a surprise, even though it's a bush variety--most are vines, which are crazy-long.).
PollinationHave separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Female flowers are on a tiny ovary, to differentiate them. Can cross-pollinate, normally via bees, so hand pollination is necessary as soon as flowers open, as the flowers may only be around for a single day, in some instances.
MaturityNot daylight sensitive, so will continue flowering as long as it's hot enough, I guess. About 90 days for Cheyenne Bush pumpkin; 80 days for zucchini and summer crookneck. Most pumpkins take longer, but Cheyenne is a smaller variety (only 5-8 pound fruits) of ornamental pumpkin with fair culinary use. I thought growing 40-pound pie pumpkins would be a bit ridiculous in my apartment.
HarvestPumpkins should be harvested when they have a uniform colour and the rind is hard (poke a fingernail at it, and if it goes through the skin, well, it's not ripe). Fruit will survive a frost, but not a hard freeze, for those of you gardening out of doors. Harvest zucchini and summer crookneck when they are immature and about 6 inches long--any longer, and they will start being tough.
Culinary UsePumpkin: pie, roasted seeds, immature pumpkin used as squash or zucchini, mashed, soup, leaves cooked or used in soup, tempura, steamed and used as dessert with a custard filling, ravioli filling. Zucchini: edible flowers (tempura, fried, stuffed, sauteed, baked, used in soups), salad, soup, stir fry, roasted, stuffed and baked, used in bread and muffins, barbequed, souffleed, stew, pancakes, bread. Squash: eh, you get the idea. Pretty much the same as above.
ProblemsPicky about root systems--don't transplant or mess 'em up. Sow where you want to grow. If you have to thin, use scissors, don't rip the plant out. You'll be upset when the happy ones die suddenly. I'm still uncertain why C. pepo are so picky about the roots, but they are (or, mine were when I "transplanted" them). All I can figure is that the roots are close to the surface of the soil, and therefore it's more traumatic if they're disturbed, because there isn't anything deeper that can maintain the plant's water/nutrient requirements. I just think they're too melodramatic. Powdery mildew (to avoid this, don't water leaves, water beneath the leaves); Fusarium wilt; scab; bacterial wilt; insect-born viruses that cause stunted growth, chlorosis, and death; cutworm; wireworm; spider mite; aphid; squash bug; squash vine borer; striped cucumber beetle.

This species contains squash such as acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and, of course, yellow crookneck squash; it also includes some (but not all) pumpkins, as well as zucchini. All of these varieties of C. pepo can pollinate each other, so the seed/fruit might look a bit funky if they are grown in close proximity and pollinated by a different variety (or maybe next year's seed/fruit--I'll let you know). It reminds me of the Cukeloupe I grew one year as a child. I had cucumber plants growing next to cantaloupe plants. They are different species, but I'm convinced that the cantaloupe pollinated the cucumber because I had a rough, circular fruit (looked like a cantaloupe) on my cucumber vine that smelled and tasted like cucumber. Upon googling (the steward of all knowledge), it seems that maybe the seed I had saved from the previous year's cucumber had been the culprit cross-pollinated fruit, which yielded the awkward interspecies love-child. Unfortunately, I harvested the Cukeloupe fruit before they were ripe, and none of the seeds were viable. (Also, during my googling, I found someone whose answer was cucumber and cantaloupe can't cross-pollinate because cucumber is a vegetable and cantaloupe is a fruit. Huh. I didn't know the English language prohibited flowers from gettin' it on, just because we call their baby unripened melons "vegetables" and ripe melons "fruit." I shouldn't be so mean. But really. This is exactly how misinformation on the internet spreads, people who claim "professional experience" as their source for this knowledge and other peeps go around saying "Hey, guess what? A cucumber isn't a fruit." See how that works? It's horrible! Cucumbers are fruit. So are tomatoes, and bell peppers, and habanero peppers, and shelled peanuts, and green beans, and sunflower seeds!)

But now, I'm allergic to all melon and cucumber. A veritable shame.

Anyway, I'm curious to see how this'll work out with the pumpkin/squash/zucchini. 2-4 feet wide? Hm. One plant = my entire planter box. Guess how many I have growing? Like, five.

Lucky me!

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Cicer arietinum
Sow depth1.5 to 2 inches
EmergenceAbout a week, from personal experience.
Temperature20-27 C. Can withstand cold like a pro, but likes heat during the growing season.
LightLots of sun.
SoilPrefers sandy or loamy soil.
pH5.5 to 8.6
Height8 inches to just over 1.5 feet
MaturityAbout 100 days?
HarvestHarvest when entire plant has browned and withered. Dry pods and collect chickpeas when pods crack. One pod contains 1-3 chickpeas.
Culinary UseSoup, salad, roasted, falafel, stew, fermented to make alcohol, roasted and used as coffee substitute, roasted roots can be eaten, ground for flour, curry, hummus--good source of protein. Young seedpods and young leaves can be used as a salad green. Young pods can be used like snap beans.
ProblemsPods and leaves contain oxalic acid, which can irritate the skin. Humidity is problematic--excess water on seed pods encourage fungal growth, rotting the pods.

Another nitrogen fixer (my garden will be nitrorrific).

I found mention of the pods/leaves/sprouts being used as salad greens, but I'm not a fan of oxalic acid, and there are reports of the leaves and pods being poisonous, although cooking resolves these problems. But I'll probably leave it alone, even though younger pods/leaves/sprouts have less oxalic acid than the older ones.

I found a site that actually gives information about growing chickpeas in containers of at least 8 inches deep, but it says that the amount of containers that would be needed for a good harvest is pretty prohibitive. I'm thinking along the lines of lentils, for which it takes a whole heck of a lot of plants and work just to get a single bowl of soup. But, hey, it's not a tall plant, it can be grown beneath taller plants and amend the soil with happy nitrogen, so it's totally not a loss at all!

The above-linked site has a good list of pests and some diseases, too.

More complete list of diseases is here.


Did Anyone Order Some Drum Circles?

So, I guess they weren't circles, per se. But as a side note, I'm deeply red from the whole enjoying 30+ degree weather all day without sunblock.

I went to the U.S. National Arboretum's plant sale on Saturday. I bought some dwarf Begonias (Little Darling and Puffy Cloud, although that one seems to be misnamed because I can't find information about it anywhere), a Trachilospermum asiatica (Dwarf Climbing Jasmine), and a Scilla violaceae, all from Meehan's Miniatures. I also bought four types of sundew seeds, three native to Maryland (Drosera intermedia Bird's Nest Sundew; Drosera filiformis var. filiformis Thread Leaf Sundew; Droseris capillaris Pink Sundew) and one from South Africa (Drosera capensis Cape Sundew). I sowed these in half coke bottles and taped some plastic wrap over them to create mini greenhouses; the seeds will take 70+ days to germinate, the packets say. But, in less than... Half a year, I will be controlling insect populations using natural methods--more plants!

Speaking of plants, a friend and I went around with some soybean, sunflower, and sugar snap pea seeds and put 'em in some dirt in the neighbourhood. Let's see how they turn out, eh?

But on to the drums.

This is... I don't know, I was on the bus going back home one day after buying stuff from the Garden District. It was last weekend, 18 April (I can tell because it's nice out in the video; it has been rainy and overcast every single workday for the past few weeks). I thought it was fun, so I shot a video out of the window of the bus.

At the Arboretum's plant sale, this group of children kept the crowds pretty well entertained. The kids' drumming was pretty awesome, and then some of them started dancing!

While walking to the farmer's market today (Sunday), I came upon this drumming group, too, but I didn't stick around too long--there was food to be bought, and I had been entertained similarly the day before, so it was less novel.

We really like our percussion groups here in DC!


Man, I Gots All Sortsa Pests

Thrips. THRIPS!

Aphids. APHIDS!

I bought a few Cherokee tomatoes at the farmers' market a week ago.

I potted them in their own single pots that I bought on Wednesday.

Today, I noticed that there were these weird blobs on one of the stems.

I touched one.

It moved.

I shuddered and grabbed the Neem bottle and finally found out how to set the nozzle to mist. I misted the hell out of those effers and I clipped off all the leaves with thrips aphids on them.

Ugh. Never will I buy plants from others again. That's one of the reasons I'm such an adamant seed-starter... You avoid so many insect pests if you start yourself from seed. You never know what the plants might have if you get them from someone else. Gah!

Also, I determined the bug ID on the basis of a swift Google. If any of y'all have more insight, click on the picture and let me know (it's a large one, you should be able to see some pretty good detail).

Grumble grumble grumble bugs grumble.


Happy Earth Day, Wormies!

Earth Day is wonderful! Also, Happy 50th Post! Party all around!

But I wish I had done something for Earth Day.

So, inspired by Rosengeranium over at the Indoor Gardener, I redid my Ecological Footprint quiz to see how I've been faring on my goal to halve the number of Earths it would take to sustain humanity if everyone lived as I do.

I got a 2.90 this time--in two months, I decreased my ecological footprint by almost two Earths! My previous number was 4.73 Earths. Then, I still shopped primarily at the organic market and I didn't compost, but now I shop pretty much only at the farmers' market and I do compost with my cuddly friends. Also since then, I added a couple more planters, so the size of my garden has increased. I still put a lot of travel-related stuff in there, which keeps my carbon footprint higher, but since I now shop at stores like Greater Goods for as many household needs as possible, my consumer rating went down. But, to be honest, living in DC, it's hard to get the whole consumer category really down. Or, rather, it hasn't been my focus.

Speaking of focus, one of my goals for this month was to keep my little pals alive so I can continue to compost my organic "waste." It has not even been two weeks since I set up my worm bin, so why would I be worried about their fate so soon?

See? This looks nice and healthy, right? For a few days (like, since late last week), I hadn't been able to find any worms. This was when I noticed... Well, see this picture and tell me what you'd think if it was in your living room:

Hm, lots of fungi growing in a wet, dark, plastic container right next to your nice couch... I let it go. I did some research that said mold is normal, natural, desired for a worm composting bin. The mold starts breaking down the food so it's easier for the worms once they get to it. If there is too much mold, however, it might be a problem.

What's too much mold?

I don't know.

But after the first week, I decided to stop feeding the system, because I had put so much in and the worms had been trying to crawl out (further research suggested that this is normal worm behaviour in the first few weeks, because the worms aren't from a composting system and aren't used to the environment, but I thought it was because it was too wet/too much mold/something else). So, without extra food, maybe the mold will stay in check. The bedding is still pretty moist, so I think we're good on that score, although I think I'm allergic to the mold, which would explain the crazy sinus infection I think I have right now. I'm nigh delirious, but I will stay sick for another few days, 'cause I can't afford to slow down.

So, despite my worries about the mold, and the mites (yes, I think I have mites--I couldn't get a good picture, but they're said to be a good part of the system, too, so I'm leaving them alone for the moment), it appears that the worms are pretty happy! I found a lot of them today--maybe a dozen or so out of the five hundred I was told I bought, but they're surprisingly easy to miss among all the bedding. Ever wonder why Eisinia fetida are called "Red Wigglers"? They're natural-born dancers, they are!

Hope you enjoy the short selection of "Kylie" by Akcent, one of my favourite Romanian bands. It's a translation of their slightly dirtier "Dragoste de Inchiriat." I think in the English version, they're talking about Kylie Minogue. It makes sense--they have another song, "King of Disco," and at the end they spoof Madonna.


MACA Denounces Michelle

I am sure most of you have heard of this by now, it's almost a month old. I had been waiting to see if Michelle would, like, say something back, but she clearly has chosen to ignore this tripe.

The Executive Director of the Mid America CropLife Association, Bonnie McCarvel, as well as Janet Braun, the Program Coordinator for the CropLife Ambassador Network (which is the educational community outreach program of MACA--these are the people who send speakers to schools and other places to teach about industrial agriculture), sent a letter to Michelle (I can use her first name, she's my neighbour) saying "Hey, why is your garden organic? Look at the agriculture industry and how much we've done for you, we know how to farm, you should use chemicals or not have a garden at all! The food tastes the same, anyway, and it's not like you or anyone else has time to farm, so you should just give it up. Think about it, we put a lot of money into the economy. ::shakes fist::"

There's no mention of this letter on CAN or MACA's website, nor has the White House responded. It's probably just going to be ignored. It's clearly ridiculous.

Props to Michelle for rousing the ire of an entire industry!

I understand the amazing amount of technological advances that came about by trying to improve agricultural practices. The Haber-Bosch reaction, for one, not only allowed for easy access to nitrogen fertilizers, it also helps in generating explosives for warfare purposes. (I think I have a photo of a bust of Bosch from the farm I lived on in Germany...) Hell, if we didn't have industrial agriculture, we wouldn't have a buttload of all the "green" technologies that are being developed now--we wouldn't have the need or background to develop them, because we wouldn't have (so soon) come to the point where they're needed to clean up the mess we've made of the Earth. So, props to agriculture for developing amazing technology and necessitating the development of further amazing technology.

But, that doesn't mean there isn't a place for the hobby gardener. I mean, really. If you look at what Michelle is planting, it's just herbs and some lettuce, with a couple of peas, carrots, broccoli, onions, and berries thrown in. There aren't even tomatoes, seriously! That isn't very threatening, I wouldn't think. I don't see any cows, or sheep, or cotton, or corn, or chickens running around.

I'd like to see a barn and livestock at the White House. I really would. But Michelle's garden isn't a threat. Not yet. Maybe later, when it starts taking up all of DC's national parkland (some streets, like Pennsylvania Avenue, are technically run by the National Park Service, according to this guy Ed, whom I met at the Cherry Blossom Festival and who organizes the recycling efforts during such events).

The letter is below for your viewing pleasure:

March 26, 2021
Mrs. Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mrs. Obama,

We are writing regarding the garden recently added to the White House grounds to ensure a fresh supply of fruits and vegetables to your family, guests and staff. Congratulations on recognizing the importance of agriculture in America! The U.S. has the safest and most abundant food supply in the world thanks to the 3 million people who farm or ranch in the United States.

The CropLife Ambassador Network, a program of the Mid America CropLife Association, consists of over 160 ambassadors who work and many of whom grew up in agriculture. Their mission is to provide scientifically based, accurate information to the public regarding the safety and value of American agricultural food production. Many people, especially children, don't realize the extent to which their daily lives depend on America's agricultural industry. For instance, children are unaware the jeans they put on in the morning, the three meals eaten daily, the baseball with which they play and even the biofuels that power the school bus are available because of America's farmers and ranchers.

Agriculture is the largest industry in America generating 20% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Individuals, family partnerships or family corporations operate almost 99% of U.S. farms. Over 22 million people are employed in farm-related jobs, including production agriculture, farm inputs, processing and marketing and sales. Through research and changes in production practices, today's food producers are providing Americans with the widest variety of foods ever.

Starting in the early 1900's, technology advances have allowed farmers to continually produce more food on less land while using less human labor. Over time, Americans were able to leave the time-consuming demands of farming to pursue new interests and develop new abilities. Today, an average farmer produces enough food to feed 144 Americans who are living longer lives than many of their ancestors. Technology in agriculture has allowed for the development of much of what we know and use in our lives today. If Americans were still required to farm to support their family's basic food and fiber needs, would the U.S. have been leaders in the advancement of science, communication, education, medicine, transportation and the arts?

We live in a very different world than that of our grandparents. Americans are juggling jobs with the needs of children and aging parents. The time needed to tend a garden is not there for the majority of our citizens, certainly not a garden of sufficient productivity to supply much of a family's year-round food needs.

Much of the food considered not wholesome or tasty is the result of how it is stored or prepared rather than how it is grown. Fresh foods grown conventionally are wholesome and flavorful yet more economical. Local and conventional farming is not mutually exclusive. However, a Midwest mother whose child loves strawberries, a good source of Vitamin C, appreciates the ability to offer California strawberries in March a few months before the official Mid-west season.

Farmers and ranchers are the first environmentalists, maintaining and improving the soil and natural resources to pass onto future generations. Technology allows for farmers to meet the increasing demand for food and fiber in a sustainable manner.

• Farmers use reduced tillage practices on more than 72 million acres to prevent erosion.
• Farmers maintain over 1.3 million acres of grass waterways, allowing water to flow naturally from crops without eroding soil.
• Contour farming keeps soil from washing away. About 26 million acres in the U.S. are managed this way.
• Agricultural land provides habitat for 75% of the nation's wildlife.
• Precision farming boosts crop yields and reduces waste by using satellite maps and computers to match seed, fertilizer and crop protection applications to local soil conditions.
• Sophisticated Global Positioning Systems can be specifically designed for spraying pesticides. A weed detector equipped with infrared light identifies specific plants by the different rates of light they reflect and then sends a signal to a pump to spray a preset amount of herbicide onto the weed.
• Biogenetics allows a particular trait to be implanted directly into the seed to protect the seed against certain pests.
• Farmers are utilizing 4-wheel drive tractors with up to 300 horsepower requiring fewer passes across fields-saving energy and time.
• Huge combines are speeding the time it takes to harvest crops.
• With modern methods, 1 acre of land in the U.S. can produce 42,000 lbs. of strawberries, 110,000 heads of lettuce, 25,400 lbs. of potatoes, 8,900 lbs. of sweet corn, or 640 lbs of cotton lint.

As you go about planning and planting the White House garden, we respectfully encourage you to recognize the role conventional agriculture plays in the U.S in feeding the ever-increasing population, contributing to the U.S. economy and providing a safe and economical food supply. America's farmers understand crop protection technologies are supported by sound scientific research and innovation.

The CropLife Ambassador Network offers educational programs for elementary school educators at covering the science behind crop protection products and their contribution to sustainable agriculture. You may find our programs America's Abundance, Farmers Stewards of the Land and War of the Weeds of particular interest. We thank you for recognizing the importance and value of America's current agricultural technologies in feeding our country and contributing to the U.S economy.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions.


Bonnie McCarvel, Executive Director
Janet Braun, Program Coordinator
Mid America CropLife Association
11327 Gravois Rd., #201
St. Louis, MO 63126



Lens culinaris
Sow depth1 inch
Emergence5-8 days, just based on personal experience.
Temperature24 C. Cooler temperatures during early planthood lead to taller and hardier plants.
LightI'm going to go ahead and say full sun to partial shade is okay, just on the basis of cultivation practices I've read about (companion cropping with rice, wheat, or a variety of other plants that provide support and could shade them).
SoilPrefers clay soils, but thrives on all types.
Height6 inches to over 2 feet
Maturity80-135 days, who knows?
HarvestPods have about two seeds each. The pods readily shatter, so care should be taken when harvesting.
Culinary UseSoup (Daal, lentil soup), stew, casserole, side dish, salad, powdered for use as flour additive for baking, cereal, etc.
ProblemsPlants can withstand cool temperatures, but over 27 C is bad. Tolerant of drought, but excess water is problematic.

Another nitrogen-fixing legume. Supposed to be bushy and low-growing.

Indoor growing? Heck, try finding information about outdoor hobby gardening for your own backyard! With one to two lentils per pod, you have to collect between, say, 3,000 and 9,000 pods to get a pound of lentils, according to one estimate (scroll down to the seventh comment). I haven't found a reliable source of information regarding the number of pods a single plant is supposed to have, but that 1 lb comes from calculating acreage yield assuming 20 plants per square foot. So, that's anywhere from 150 to 450 pods per plant when grown agriculturally (read: pesticides, fertilized like crazy, and grown specifically for production). My lentils are organic, I assume, but I don't know what true variety they are, nor how much to expect on my plant. But, basically, I probably shouldn't budget for more than just enough for maybe a single bowl of soup.

Does one wonder why it isn't a more popular home garden plant? Actually, one does. From what I read, although it's a pain to harvest, it is pretty much perfect for backyard gardens with little space to waste. Lentils should be planted under taller, sturdier plants, so it's not like they are taking up any extra room; they fix nitrogen, making the soil better for the other plants; and they're super-nutritious. If only for the nitrogen fixation, I think they should be planted. Plus, who doesn't like to see Fabaceae plants in bloom?

Diseases here.

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Kidney Bean, Black Bean, Navy Bean

Phaseolus vulgaris
Sow depth1 inch
Emergence8-10 days
TemperatureLet's say 20-27 C, at least.
LightFull sun
SoilLoamy soil
Height1-3 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
PollinationSelf-fertile, and one reference says self-fertilizing. I assume that means self-pollinating. But another reference says P. vulgaris is normally pollinated by bees. So... Bzz bzz.
Maturity55-95 days, depending on what you're harvesting and the plant variety
HarvestHarvest as snap beans (when pod is soft), shell beans (when beans are mature but still soft and pod is tough [aka, inedible]), or dry beans (when the beans rattle inside the pods).
Culinary UseSprouts can be used in stir fry or salads; immature pods can be used in stir fry; soft mature beans can be steamed as a side dish or added to salads; dry mature beans are used in soups, stews, or ground and used as a flour additive; roasted mature beans have been used as a coffee substitute; young leaves can be added to salads; mature leaves may be cooked (check out some African dishes--boil the leaves, add some peanuts, and spice with salt, pepper, and paprika to taste).
ProblemsDo not like to be transplanted (sensitive to root damage). Soaking prior to sowing may damage seed (I trust the Cornell University website more than other sources that tell you to soak the seeds). Prickly about temperature; below 15 C and they're not happy.

No info on growing indoors, unless you just want the sprouts or are planning experiments for the kiddies. My assumptions: keep 'em watered, keep 'em well-lit and hot (closing the window on cool nights, like right now, probably is good for them), maybe get another lamp for closer to the beans. Allow to grow as tall as possible and bush out naturally to save much-sought-after horizontal space in the garden.

All of the above-listed beans (in the head) are of the same species and are all bush varieties. When the plant reaches the desired height, you can nip off the apical meristem (top of the plant), and that will allow the axillary meristems (the ones in the nook of the leaves) to start growing new branches. The apical meristem generates auxins, which are hormones that are involved in a whole load of plant processes (ie. growth, apical dominance [what I'm talking most about here], maturation, regulating flowering times, inducing root growth on cuttings, etc.). Auxins only move from top down; so when the top is removed, the bottom bits start getting the chance to expand. The plant will do this naturally, I'm sure, because they are bush beans, but I haven't found anything to back this up. But it makes sense; you can't become bushy unless you are wide, right? And to get wide, one must have lateral growth. So at some point, the plant probably stops vertical growth, shuts down the auxin production, and lets the lateral shoots do their thing.

Side note: Auxins may help play a role in plants' gravity-detection abilities (what causes stems to grow up and roots to grow down no matter what orientation the plant is in). If you knock over a planter or something and don't notice for a few days, auxins are what make the plant grow upright again. They pool in an area and cause cell elongation. So, when cells on the bottom of the stem are elongating while the ones on the top aren't, it causes the stem to curve--up, in this case. Plants are cool. Auxins affect roots differently. They do stimulate root growth (they are applied to cuttings to force root growth), but high levels inhibit root elongation and lead to more lateral roots, basically. Removing the root tip actually inhibits secondary root formation--the exact opposite effect that removing the top of the plant does for the side shoots. Odd, eh?

P. vulgaris is another nitrogen fixer--it's part of the Fabaceae family, which we call legumes. Ceratonia siliqua, carob, is another legume. It's popular as a chocolate substitute. A lot of legumes are great for enriching the soil with yummy nitrogen for other plants, but commercially grown varieties should be rotated every couple years. Oh crop rotation, how I long for thee! I probably won't have to worry much about in my tiny plot--or rather, I won't be able to "rotate" them far enough away to avoid a build-up of potentially bad critters in the soil.

The Wikipedia list of bean diseases is much shorter than that for soybean!

There's some pretty wicked information here, but I didn't reference any of it in this post as it wasn't really the type of detail I'm looking for. But, warning: Don't eat the mature beans raw. They might be slightly toxic. P. coccineus, Scarlet Runner, is, I know (even though I planted some outside of Mr. Yogato), but they are definitely edible if you cook them. The compound responsible for toxicity is phytohaemagglutinin, which induces cell division, messes up cell-membrane transportation and permeability, and causes red blood cells to clump up. It's in highest concentration in kidney beans. I think the worst effects you'd feel are from the effing with the cell membrane--if nutrients don't cross your cell membranes, they can't get from your gut to the rest of your body. So, with nothing being absorbed in your intestines, it just goes right through you, and you have diarrhea. There's also vomiting and nausea, but the symptoms only last a few hours and generally don't require any medical treatment--so it's a good option if you want to stay home from school or something, although don't blame me if something goes wrong--I'm not McDonald's, you're responsible for your own actions! Immature beans should be pretty okay, but go ahead and boil/steam them for a few minutes if you're worried, I guess. Edit: Added information about bean toxin at 13:12 on 20 April.

Post Scriptum: Two... No, three notes about the series. I won't list specific diseases anymore--I will just link to a pretty comprehensive list (Wikipedia has good ones). I mean, unless I notice it on my plants, then I'll talk about it that disease. Also, I am not listing water or fertilizer requirements. All these plants require added nutrients and moist soil, but good drainage--they're vegetables. It's a given. Unless it actually isn't a given, and then I will note it. Also, I'm not providing links to every place I get my information. The entire post would be riddled with them and look ugly. These are best guesses at accuracy from pretty widely varied (conflicting) information. But I try to select reliable sources. (Oddly enough, my textbooks speak little about specific plants and more about general themes among them. It's almost as if they were introductory texts. Le gasp.)


Ding Dong, The Witch Is... Decorating

Well, I don't know if it's the palm reader, but someone is. I walked by Mr. Yogato today after the farmers' market (I went early, so I have to go back to Mr. Yogato this afternoon for my frozen yogurt--my flavour came out on Wednesday!). I saw a little butterfly stuck in the ground and taped at the back. It isn't holding on very well, so I'm going to attach it more thoroughly when I go back this afternoon. The lawn chair is the palm reader's, so that's why I assume it's she who is decorating the planter bed.

It makes me oddly proud that my few minutes of attention to bare soil is being respected and even added to by people whom I don't even know. The fact that others out there value vegetation and the work of others, well, that's incredibly special to me. I mean, I have noticed little dog paw prints, the occasional heel print, and one single high-heel print (really? high heels? come on, DC!), but these plants have been here for a week, the mint is not limp anymore, and they're growing. They survived near-freezing temperatures and two weekends of rowdy DC crowds.

The chalk art? Clearly done by some of the locals. It looks nothing like the chalk Mona Lisa I walked all over as a guy was finishing it in Köln. But it's wonderful that people want to beautify the area. I think I might also get my hands dirty in the tree bed across the sidewalk. It has a tree in it, but I can get low-light-loving plants to put in there. Does Mr. Yogato regret allowing me to plant? We'll see. Oh, we'll see.

Just to compare the skill, pure artistry, and level of love for the community that these two chalk portraitures exemplify. But the fact that DC even has chalk drawings, I think that's a good step in the right direction! Mona Lisa was right outside of the Hauptbahnhoff, near the Münster. It's a really high-traffic area, and I was the only one (being from the DC area, originally) who ignored the "crazy guy" on all fours and walked over the chalk without noticing it. People who are from here definitely have this conscious unconsciousness thing going on--we often ignore what's directly in front of our faces, like the homeless or the effects that our actions have globally. It's that exact mindset that leads to lack of community, and community is so incredibly important in creating a better future for ourselves and for the kiddies, who will be deciding global policy shortly enough.

So if we all just walk around putting conscious effort into ignoring everything around us... How will we build community?

So, I repeat. It makes me feel wonderful that someone noticed my effort and chose to help in her or his own way. That's what this is all about.

Post Scriptum: For those of you who might have read this in the first hour of its posting, I added a photo and a few paragraphs. I wanted to show the Mona Lisa (comparison of American and German chalk art), but then I went on a rant.

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The White House Garden

To start, I have been really busy. My German class just started up again and there has been a confluence of other random events.

I am still working on the informational posts, but I think I am readjusting the time frame--basically, they'll come when they come. Getting the information just in list form is pretty difficult, and I want it to be at least a little bit reliable. I'm looking into a few books at the moment.

Yesterday during lunch, I walked with a coworker down to the White House to see if we could spy the kitchen garden Michelle put in.

At first, all I saw was a beehive, which I thought was nifty, and a bit surprising, but not what I wanted. The Obamas (and all Presidential families, I guess) do have a beautiful yard, however. But if I were President, I think most of you know what I'd do to all that wasted land that is full of grass... Yeah, that's right, I'd plant an orchard, have a vegetable garden (a larger variety of vegetables than just lettuce and herbs), maybe a little hedge maze (or a corn maze!).

I keep thinking "Dang, the Obamas should plant pumpkins, y'know, 'cause it's one of the few plants native to North America that we still maintain in our diet." And just think--if they grow their own pumpkins, they could bake pumpkin pies and auction them off for $1 trillion each to friendly nations so we can reduce our national debt!

Anyway, that's crazy-talk. The kitchen garden that Michelle put in is hidden behind shrubbery/tree-ery. Of course, the dense vegetation is also behind a fence through which I was taking these photos. So if you click on the picture above, you might be able to see a sliver of the garden through the trees.

I think as the summer goes on, less will be visible as the shrubs and trees fill out with leaves. But I'm excited--maybe I can be a community volunteer to help take care of the garden?

More crazy talk. But hey, you never know.


Earth Month

Rosengeranium over at the Indoor Gardener tagged me in a meme. I didn't know what a meme was, but Wikipedia helped out. Rickrolling is apparently a meme, as is religion (so say some).

But anyway, in the blogosphere, a meme seems more like a chain letter (close your eyes for five seconds, blog about it, then pass it on). This meme is about Earth Month (April). I must post five things I can do to help the environment and blog about it. It's also a contest; some lucky blogger will win a Brita gift pack.

For someone living in the states, I'm pretty environmentally friendly already, but there are always ways to improve! So, here are my five things!

  1. Stop using public transportation to get to/from work. I will walk. I know the bus isn't using any more or less energy whether I'm on it or not, but reducing my dependence on any form of fossil-fueled transportation is a bonus, right?
  2. Keep my new worms alive so I can compost as much organic "waste" as possible.
  3. Cut down the time I spend in the shower by five to ten minutes. I am horribly groggy and slow in the morning--taking shorter showers is the area in my life that needs the most improvement!
  4. Don't eat out. Purchase food only from local farmers (at the farmers' market) to reduce fossil fuels necessary for food transportation. Vendors at the farmers' market I go to also tend to use less pesticides and use organic growing practices.
  5. Green my city with edible and beautiful plants to encourage others to respect the environment and eat healthy!

Who shall I tag?

First and foremost, the Urban Self-Sufficientist! He has a wonderful setup at his home, and I really enjoy reading about his adventures. I'd love to hear about the awesome ideas he would come up with for Earth Month!

Next up is the 6x8 Garden. Her blog inspired me to start my indoor garden, and although she doesn't update often, I am certain this would be right up her alley.

I can't leave out Growing Human. I'm also really interested in what she'd come up with as five ways to be environmentally friendly (friendlier).

I will tag Garden Amateur and A Leafy Indulgence as well.

I hope y'all have a fun go of it!

FYI, Earth Day is Wednesday, April 22. Go nuts!

Here are the rules from the FilterForGood blog, the originator of the meme:

"The rules are simple. If you’re tagged, post five things you plan to do for the environment this Earth Month on your blog. At the end of your list, tag five of your favorite blogs, and include a link back to this post using the hyperlinked text “FilterForGood Blog Meme Contest.” Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs, or on their Twitter accounts (using the hash tag #FFGBlogMeme). Also, be sure to include these rules at the bottom of your post."


Envy Soybean

Glycine max
Sow depth1/4 to 1 inch, depending on whom you trust (1/2 inch seems a safe bet)
Emergence7-14 days
Temperature20-30 degrees Celsius
LightFull sun. Less than 14 hours at peak.
SoilLoamy soil
Height2 feet
PollinationSelf-fertile (which doesn't mean they self-fertilize, there needs to be a breeze or a Q-tip or something involved sometimes, but mine seem to have quite a good time all by themselves, y'know, never having seen a flower on them before)
Maturity75 days. (Probably photosensitive; flowers when days get shorter. I say probably because there's a dearth of information about which varieties aren't photosensitive.)
HarvestHarvest all green pods on a plant when seeds flesh out and almost touch. Any yellow on the pod and it's past harvesting point for edamame-eating purposes; keep on plant until pod fully dries and collect seed for next planting.
Culinary UseBlanch and salt as edamame, or use beans in salad, stir fry, chili, or soup.
ProblemsSoybean rust, bacterial pustule, downy mildew, brown spot, frogeye leaf spot, bacterial blight; beanfly, pod borer, stink bug, thrips

No info whatsoever about growing indoors (of course). Apparently the "vegetable soybean" varieties have only recently become popular in the states (in the past decade, maybe), so a lot of available information for backyard gardeners says stuff like "Try this shocking new plant, you'd never have thought it is good to eat, ZOMG you'll love it!"

Fixes atmospheric nitrogen and enriches soil. Root nodules form with Rhizobium japonicum bacterium. I'm pretty certain that Rhizobium species are common soil microbes, and they are symbiotic with leguminous plants. Seeds are often inoculated with the specific nitrogen-fixing species that associates with whatever bean is being grown prior to sowing to ensure a good chance of root nodule formation. Nitrogen is fixed in root nodules--fixing nitrogen just means taking it from the air as a gas and turning it into a form that plants can use. Most plants can't do this, but beans can, with the help of Rhizobium.

So, to summarize: maintain an average room temperature, pretty much; keep soil moist, but not soaked; allow natural increase/decrease in amount of sunlight for best production (just in case my variety is photosensitive); test soil pH; use better soil. I think I should rename my blog to "Holy Cow, I Didn't Even Look At The Seven 40-Pound Bags Of Soil I Put In Here." I don't know if it's topsoil, garden soil, potting soil--well, I am almost certain it's not potting soil. I was in a daze of euphoric garden-box construction. I'll fix it, with fertilizer and compost and stuff!

Now. On to the drama.

At first, I screamed, "Oh no! Soybean rust! How unlucky could this indoor gardener beeeee????"

I fell to the ground, I sobbed, I raged, and eventually I googled. (Click above to "See?" better.)

It's not soybean rust, Phakopsora pachyrhizi. (I worked with this fungal plant pathogen during an internship in Germany. It's pretty horrible! For plants, that is.) But I think what my soybeans have is just "bacterial pustule" as opposed to some of the other likely candidates, mostly due to the lack of leaf deformity and the general health of the plant, along with other telling characteristics about how the infection presents itself on the plants. Just to give a little frame of reference on how to go about figuring out what a soybean plant might be infected with, there are 71 listed soybean diseases on Wikipedia. Most of them don't have nearly similar symptoms to what mine exhibit, but that is a pretty hefty list! But anyway, let's start with a bit of locative facts. I have three soybean plants: the single one and the couple, who live twisty-tied to the stick.

Weeks and weeks ago, I noticed the raised, slightly lighter green bumps on most of the soybean leaves, before even finishing the planter box (looong time ago). Click on the picture above to see the raised, light green bumps in better detail.

The loner, who grew the first two soybean pods, started losing its trifoliate leaves, leaflet by leaflet, from the oldest leaf up to the newest. These leaves had become generally chlorotic (yellow) prior to defoliation, and it was a pretty fast process. I didn't know what the problem was, but the onset of defoliation corresponded with the intense-light incident, so I took a hit to my ego and assumed it was my intender care and the light shock that caused the problems.

Once I started growing worried about that specific plant (which didn't show the same exact symptom progression as the other two), I also started noticing that some of the raised bumps on the others (which I had just assumed were natural to the plant, due to the uniformity and because the bumps had pretty much always been there) had started becoming brown, the areas surrounding the brown bits turning yellow. Not all mind you, just some.

But some is enough. Such infections on plants can reduce crop yields significantly, from 20% all the way to 100% (probably because the plants die). This worry drove me to do more research on the plants that I am growing, so I know what they look like when they're healthy, when they're sick, and when they're about to drop a huge load of fruit on me.

But the soybeans, back to them. Or rather, back to what is ailing them. Bacterial pustule's causative microbe is Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. glycines. ("pv." just stands for "pathovar," which means the variety of this bacterial species that infects soybean and other legumes. A lot of pathovars are just the same species of microbe found in different plants--like dogs. Same species, but each variety looks and acts differently. I'm glad they have the pv. notation here, because with Giardia, all the pathovars, basically, were named their own species: Giardia canis for isolates obtained from dogs, Giardia bovis for cattle, Giardia equii for horses, and so on, and so on. Most, I believe, are just plain ol' Giardia lamblia, which is also called Giardia intestinalis or Giardia duodenalis. It doesn't really matter what you call them, I guess--if you have an infection and start exhibiting symptoms, the name won't mean much to you, you'll just want to be left alone with a bathroom, a mound of toilet paper, and a good book.)

For those who care or for those to whom this will mean something, X. axonopodis is a gram-negative rod. Some species of Xanthomonas can degrade hydrocarbons (I won't get into the research, but during university, I used a Xanthomonas species as a positive control for hydrocarbon degradation--or, I would have, but it was extremely difficult to grow). X. axonopodis can live in soil, but it is (clearly) a plant pathogen that affects a broad range of plants, and so it could have been already present in the soil that I purchased and spread to the plants during germination or watering. Or, even, the seeds could have been infected. So many possibilities, it's crazy...

A severe X. axonopodis infection can cause defoliation. But I guess it depends on what you consider to be severe--the sources I found don't give such information. So it seems as if the lone wolf got the worst of it so far, probably because it had't yet started lateral growth prior to deciding to put energy into reproduction, thereby reducing its nutrient resources and its ability to make energy (fewer leaves, less photosynthesis, less energy, less able to survive an infection). Mostly humans can fight off illnesses (we have drugs!), and plants can too, but if they don't stop expending resources (such as fruit production), I think it's harder for them to survive an infection. And they can't verbally explain the symptoms they feel before their caretaker notices them--by the time they're noticeable, well, sometimes it's fighting an uphill battle.

I have been pinching leaves off to try to prevent the spread of whatever it is. The new leaves seem to have less symptoms, so maybe we're good.

Hopefully the plants will survive and thrive. I'll worry about pests if they come, but other than household-type pests (fungus gnats, thrips, whitefly, or some of the bacterial and fungal infections), I think I'll be fine.

Post Scriptum: Photos were taken on 8 April. The plants, now, are mostly defoliated from pinching. The duo have lateral growth--little leaves growing from the nodes. The singlet plant is thinking about growing leaves, but at the moment it's a leafless twig with a single bean pod on it (the second one fell off).


Will Flower For Food

No? I also do impersonations. I'll run for policital office! Anything!

... I don't know either. It just seemed like the thing to say. All these flowers seem to be scrambling for any spotlight they can get, like they'll do anything at all just for their few seconds of fame, or for anything else, for that matter. So gaudy, so bright, so... pretty!

Here's a short Photo Shoot. I have some pretty nice pictures queuing up, and I don't want to wait too long to share them, or else other, newer, more beautiful flowers will be out!

The only reason I know that these are of the Centaurea genus is because I read the PATSP blog pretty religiously for the past few months. I recognized them, but of course I had to check back to the recent post to identify them. I don't know if the white bits will turn blue as PATSP's are, but Google says this one is C. montana "Amethyst in Snow." I think they're pretty!

These? No clue. The flowers are ridiculous, however... It's like doing fractals!

It's almost insect-like, with creepy slimy legs. But it was really wet yesterday when I took this photo, so maybe they aren't as gooey as they seem. Very intense red bits, however, and a unique flower, so I'm intrigued by them.

Tulips with a pink flowering tree in the background. I liked the layered effect of having the tulip in the foreground while focusing the picture on the tree.

And then I decided it would be nicer to have a matching colour in the shot.

But then I thought "Whoa, lemme get a look in here!"

This tulip, however, is letting it all hang out. Like Britney.

So. These Violas take a while to track down. I don't know if they have a variety name, or heck, even a species name. People just call them "purple and white pansy." I'm cool with that. This one is missing a petal, so it looks like a Mardi Gras mask!


Twitchy Critters

I love squirrels. I want one as a pet when I grow up. Er, get a house. Another house. One that I pay for myself. And isn't a townhouse.

I prefer more of a log cottage-type home in the mountains, in a clearing in a forest near a stream. So I will have lots of squirrels there.

But, for the moment, I get to stalk the cute little twitchy rodents here in DC! While waiting for a friend to come down to go to the farmers' market with me, I paparrazied the local wildlife. Then I put the photos together with some the first couple seconds of a 6-minute-long remix of a song by a band I'm going to see on Thursday. (It's the Komodo remix of the song "Stakeout," by Freezepop. It is an absolutely perfect theme song for a squirrel. The first few seconds don't include my favourite line: "From far away I check you out." So stalky.)

I swear, I'm working on the soybean plant profile. It is hard to decide what to include and what not to include. It's already 825 words, and I haven't even gotten into any information about growing it, I just talk about random fungal and bacterial infections. I know I'm pretty wordy, but hell, that's ridiculous.

Random mention number two: I replaced the puppy-killing pregnancy-remedy mint with some spearmint at Mr. Yogato. I don't want people spontaneously aborting if they're preggers (unless they want to), and I don't want everyone's pet to die (unless it's their choice, of course). Spearmint is a much better option. (By the way, the Man of Yogurt at Mr. Yogato let me know that he has a Google alert set up, so he knows about the seed surprises, because he knew about the post... A shame.)

So, hier ist das Eichhörnchen (here is the squirrel).


Ever-Expanding Obsession

I see bare dirt. I want there to be green things in it. I can't resist.

So, since the threat of last frost is so shortly going to pass, I started thinking "What can I do to the planter in front of Mr. Yogato?" I thought it would be neat to grow some of the frozen yogurt toppings there: Strawberry is about the only thing that's easily amenable to the climate and space constriction, so strawberry it is! There are a lot of "surprises" in store for Mr. Yogato, however... I sowed some seeds, too! And I won't be telling anyone what's in there. I mean, unless they read my blog.

Also, click on the pictures for a larger view, it'll be easier to see if'n you're curious.

My canvas. A triangle with a narrow row at the end and a small area underneath the windows (with the peacock head decorative things).

Wow, suddenly there are plants!

I broke up the soil (a lot of clay and potting soil, it looked like) with my trusty hand trowel (my arms hurt). The tree is a ... I forget. A little evergreen that will grow up to 30 feet tall if allowed, and it is naturally yellow in new growth (a nice variation effect, I think, when you're using mostly vegetative growth for designing a garden). I'll check the tag (you can just see it in the photo) tomorrow when I go back. The rocks around the base of the tree were ones that I collected while hoeing/troweling/whatevering. In front of the tree are lots of strawberry plants (only four can be seen, but there are some root systems under the soil that I have faith will grow leaves as well). On the left, there is a Alternanthera dentata. I was convinced that this was a good, generally vigorous plant by the PATSP blog, and I did a little bit more digging around. When I ran into a flat of them at Garden District ON SALE, I couldn't resist buying two (or were they just ridiculously cheap? Either way, great deal!). They get purple/maroon leaves in sufficient light; I'm pretty sure this area gets a good deal of sunlight during the day (It was overcast and raining when I was planting these, so not much light!).

You can see both A. dentatas here in the middle. They grow one foot to three feet tall, if I remember the plastic info label correctly. I want them to spread out a little and get bushy, so I might pinch off their apical meristems at some point. Or, I might not. But they are good for cuttings, so I might spread them in the planter a bit in a few weeks or so, depending on how well they're doing. Oh, almost forgot! At the top, I sowed a few Scarlet Runner seeds (Phaseolus coccineus). I checked out companion planting with strawberry, and it said beans, among others, were a good choice, and Scarlet Runner can climb on the railing, has nice red flowers, and even produces edible beans!

On the left and right are the Mentha pulegium (Pennyroyal mint) I bought. In the middle? Some bulb-type of plant that was there before I started. It was the only plant that I ran across in the entire bed, although there was evidence of previous plantings (little pockets of potting soil). I left the bulb--if it's growing back, then more power to it!

I sowed a few sunflower seeds behind here, too, just to see if they like it. The soil is only a few inches deep, so I'm not overly optimistic.

Whoa, I just read on Wikipedia about the mint species that I bought. Several notes: 1. The little plastic info tag said something like "Braid into a wreath as a natural insect repellent for your pet!" Wikipedia says this: "Dried pennyroyal should not be used as a natural flea repellent due to its toxicity to pets, even at extremely low levels." Pennyroyal tea is also a natural way to abort a pregnancy.

Awesome. Put that on your yogurt!

Despite the potential reproductive side-effects, these little mint plants also spread like crazy. I bought two tiny little pots of them, and I split them up into about five or six bunches each, because branches will just start producing roots and can become their own plant if you cut 'em off and put 'em somewhere. It's one of the reasons why mint is so tricky and pervasive--chop it down, pull it up, you're almost bound to leave a little bit behind, and that little bit will then reroot and grow into a big bit.

But in the window boxes, I planted more of the mint and strawberries (in front of the windows). In front of the bricks, I planted random sunflower seeds. I also had some zinnia from years and years ago that I just found in my "junk" storage box (same type of bin I made my worm bin out of). These will get tall, so I didn't want them to block the window (y'know, if they grow). If they don't grow, there's plenty of mint to fill in the box!

It's sparse now, but soon, oh so soon, these planter boxes will be overflowing with beauteous vegetative growth!

And this isn't even my Guerrilla Gardening project... I got permission to do this gardening.


Making My Worm Compost Bin

I made a video. Of course!

It's long. But it is, if I do say so myself, one of the most informative vermicompost videos that I've seen.

The only thing I want to add? I want to defend bacteria. They're not really the bad guys. Each tiny microbe has its role in the cycle of life. But for vermicomposting purposes, we don't want them to break down the food without oxygen. Many bacteria can use both aerobic pathways (with oxygen) or anaerobic pathways (without oxygen) to obtain the nutrients they need, but anaerobic decomposition creates compounds that, when large quantities build up, smell bad. Vermicomposting requires dampness, because the worms have to be moist to survive, so there's a tough balance between wetness and aeration (oxygen doesn't travel well through water). That's why I think it's important to include more than just newspaper and flyers in the bedding mix, so there's a complex yet moist matrix that allows good air flow so that the bacteria can use oxygen (they get more bang for their buck using oxygen, anyway).

Oh. Also. Why I put it in an area that doesn't get much sunlight? You don't want the bin to heat up too much. It won't be too good for the worms, and it might encourage the growth of microbes that we don't want. Also, I cut out the bits when I added a bit of shredded dry bedding on top. It's just another layer to help prevent bug problems. I do NOT want fruit flies in addition to fungus gnats! Although I haven't seen fungus gnats in a few weeks, I'm not chancing it!


Sweet Potato Et Cetera Soup Puree

Here's another wonderful recipe!

At least, I say it's wonderful. We'll wait until you try it yourself to deem it tasty or not, but I'm pretty sure you'll absolutely love it! I hesitate to say I "stole" this recipe from the Soupergirl, because what I cook is not close to the same class as her soups, but she is where I got the idea for this Sweet Potato Et Cetera Soup Puree.

This is pretty much a "what do I have in my fridge that can be pureed?" type of soup. I had three smallish sweet potatoes, three turnips (two were tiny, one was quite big), a yellow onion, an apple, a bit of lemon zest, some cinnamon, a tiny touch of crushed red pepper, a bit of fresh-ground pepper, and some salt. I used the turnips only because they absolutely had to be eaten or they would have soon gone bad. The soup puree isn't overwhelmingly turnipy, but I would have used less given the option, and more sweet potato or apple.

Anyway, so after you chop everything up into itty bits, chuck 'em all into the pot of salted boiling water (which you started beforehand, of course, even though I haven't yet mentioned it). Add the cinnamon, lemon zest, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste (or whatever else you like, this is just what I had in the kitchen--nutmeg? I should buy some!). Cook for a few minutes; I think I boiled for 10 or 15 minutes, enough so that everything is pretty soft. Drain most of the water (leave about a 1/2 to 2/3 of a cup to make the pureeing process easier) and use a blender or somesuch to puree the mess. Garnish with a bit more cinnamon and zest, and you're good to go!

I used about 1/4 cup of apple cider that I had left from the farmers' market this weekend. I don't think it added a whollop of flavour, but instead of saving water that you boiled the veggies in, that's a wonderful alternative, or even a touch of orange juice would probably be nice.

This seriously takes only about 30 minutes and provides four bowls of soup (if your bowls are a tad smaller than my very generous helping!).

Post Scriptum: You might notice that my cropping skills leave a little to be desired... But I'm quite proud of the whole "invisible background" thing, so cropping can go to hell!

Besides... I tried for about an hour to retain the cute little steam wisps. Cropping doesn't work like that when you're taking your photos in your living room with the garden as a backdrop instead of a seamless solid color backdrop. Gah!

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And Now For Something Completely Different

Hm, well, not completely different. Just a little off-center to what has come before.

I have a mission.

the lights darken immediately, the audience gasps, and after a few seconds, a tiny spotlight slowly fades in, focusing on the Indoor Gardener, who has moved to center stage left

I have decided to catalog information about the plants that I'm growing in my apartment. Similar to the "Seeds Say What?" post, but instead of one gigantic post with a few tidbits on many plants, I will post two or so profiles per day with in-depth information about the post's specific plant.

So, for example, my first post will be on soybeans, of course, as the star of my show. I plan on expanding upon what information I already have (germination, seed-saving information) and include common pests, infections, treatments, water and light requirements, preferred acidity, nutrient levels, and all these things that I should have looked into before I stuck things in any kind of soil. (Can't squash the gardener's sense of wonder, adventure, and discovery, however ill it causes plants to become!)

I'll be working on this for a while, so for the next few days, things will proceed as usual (randomly, no real rhyme or reason), and I will almost certainly have extra posts that will not be along this vein. But shortly, these profile posts will start trickling in. It's not just good information to have readily available, it's the only way I'll be forced to learn about what I have living with me in my own bedroom and how to best take care of them.

Besides, I started thinking that Die Pflanzenfortschreibung posts were too long and too frequent, so I wanted to break them up. By focusing only on one plant at a time, it'll be a true update by the time I get a chance to talk about it again!

I really want to succeed in my garden. And if anyone else finds benefit to the upcoming posts? That's just an added bonus!

Post Scriptum: This post was really written after the soup puree recipe post, at 21:58, but it's more a note of upcoming change than anything of true interest, so I fudged the time stamp so the recipe would show up first when someone comes a'lookin'.


Round Two

After transplanting my initial seedlings, some didn't quite make it. So a week or so go (depending on which seeds you're talking about), I reseeded some of the plants. Cheyenne Bush pumpkin, Summer Crookneck squash, Red Russian kale, Bush Ace tomato, French Breakfast radish, Purple Top White Globe turnip, Russian tarragon, Monnopa spinach and Correnta spinach, King of the North pepper, Listada de Gandia eggplant, Aurora pepper... Whoa, that's a big chunk of the list. Well, I didn't replant most of them. I just set in supplementary seeds. In case the trauma from the ALL-SUN-ALL-THE-TIME-EVERY-DAY had a negative effect on my beauties, or if the transplanting messed them up. The basil, soybean, other beans, radicchio, and chives seem to be doing well. But as you can tell, that leaves a large proportion of plants that are just meh. (The almost-complete list of what I am growing is here.) Since I started my new-and-improved lighting regimen, most of the plants are doing quite well!

I also (very) recently bought snap peas and a second variety of tomato. The baggies are in the gardening drawer in my dresser, so I can't tell you what they were. That's also where I keep my volunteering uniforms (like for the Science Museum), my three-piece fighting staff, and random other important-ish things.

I got the snap peas because I like stir-fry. The tomatoes were because I only have one surviving seedling, and I'd be pretty miffed if I didn't get a single tomato plant to grow. I have 20 little peat pots planted with tomato seeds, too--not a single one germinated. I didn't have much success with those peat pots. I blame my lack of watering... I should probably water a tiny bit once or twice every day, but I give them a lot of water once every two days. Those things dry out incredibly quickly! But maybe I should get to the plant update (Die Pflanzenfortschreibung) and explain it more.

So, here's the Guerrilla Gardening/Plant Sharing project. Most of the plants have popped up and are green, but I had a little "Whoops, forgot to water for a few days" incident, which I think decimated the germinating sunflowers. Grr....

And the tomatoes for the Seed Sharing? Hm. Still waiting on them. So I bought that new variety and planted more seeds. My coworkers won't have a clue what type of tomato they'll get. If they grow.

Here's a lovely overall shot of my planter box. If you click the picture an view the larger image, you can see there are a lot of dirt-coloured places where plants are attempting to grow, but there are other green-coloured places where they're thriving. Soon, I hope not to be able to see the dirt-coloured, um, dirt.

I freaked out for a while when I noticed all my bean plants getting droopy all the time. Every night when I got home, I would see them limp and depressed, as if there was nothing for them to live for.

But over the weekend, when I'm here during the day and not as bleary-eyed as I am most mornings, I notice that they're happy, turgid, and pretty darn photosynthetic. I guess the whole nighttime limpness thing is normal?

Here's a shadowy shot of some of the kidney bean's flowers. None of them have opened yet--they're taking their time developing.

Some lateral growth on one of the soybeans. You can see little flowers popping up. I haven't seen any open, yet, but they must have, or else I wouldn't have little soybean pods growing. I was promised little pink flowers!

This picture reminds me of an excerpt of the book Adam Bede. The excerpt is entitled "Old Leisure." I read it during AP Literature in grade 12. It's amazing that I can even remember these details, let alone the fact that the excerpt complains about how "new" leisure is fast, glitzy, sinful, all those things that we youngins enjoy today, but "old" leisure is sedate, creative, intelligent, admirable, and productive ("back in my day, I had to walk X many miles to school" type of deal). The old always seems tougher, yet more worthwhile, than the shiny, glitzy, cheap plastic of today. And yet, when you're looking at two-and-a-half-month-old radishes next to one-week-old radishes, you wonder, "Are the old ways always the best?" Sometimes, for some people, sure. But those old radishes... I think they need to be shown how it's done. Youngins, get to it!

These Cheyenne Bush pumpkins are doing much better than their predecessors... Then again, I didn't dig them up and put them in 19 hours of grow lights indefinitely. We'll see how they fare under my care, mon frere!

Zucchini... By the gods, what was I thinking? More than the pumpkin, I believe I will regret growing these. They get absolutely hunormous!

I will NEVER, EVER, EVER regret buying these! Strawberries are my absolute favourite fruit. It was NOT impulse. Saturday, it would have been impulse. But no, I bought these during lunch today.

And this plant too! I have a houseplant! Wahooooo! It has some flowers--I'd love to see what they look like!

Here's another closeup of the leaves. They are a deep green covered in soft, deep purple hairs. They look like horribly pricky invasive weeds, but the leaves are soft and fluffy. I want to make a bed out of them!

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