Archive for July 2009

Moonflower, En Masse

As promised, the Datura blooms are pretty much all opening at the same time! I am not certain why the photo is blurry, because there was flash and everything, but it's the best of the bunch that I took last night--that just means y'all have to come out and see the plant for yourselves! The flowers will only stay around another two nights or so, and then they'll fall off, to be replaced by the next wave, and the next, and the next. I already need to prune this guy again. I am enamored of Datura!


Spider Pals

I have flies. (That doesn't have the same oomph as "I have worms" did when I first got my little red wigglers.)

I don't have fungus gnats anymore, which is wonderful. But these are houseflies--they move around, and they buzz. At least the fungus gnats stayed pretty localized and quiet! I overfed the worms almost a month back, and since then I have been dealing with tiny, medium, and giant houseflies.

I have killed most of the large ones--I'm working on the medium ones right now. I have even enlisted the help of my little buddy, Mr. Spider, who came to me with the Maranta prayer plant. He relocated to his own pot, which was empty after I transplanted... Um... I don't really know. I moved something into something else and/or something died. Maybe something died.

Anyway, the spider found a new home, built a nice web, and now I use it as a fly-catching device. I picked up the pot; I stunned a fly, which fell into the web; and my new best friend started attacking the fly, trying to wrap it up in webbing so it could later eat it.

I like spiders. I love that this one has chosen an easily removable location to be its home. And I love that it is eating my flies.

I don't know how well you'll be able to see this--not only is it small in Blogger, but it was blurry to begin with. But, the spider is, I think, trying to subdue the gargantuan fly, the fly fights back, and then the spider is like "Ha! You're mine!" and wins the skirmish.


Outdoor Envy

Alright, so I'm jealous. Sue me.

The plants in the Mr. Yogato garden are doing much, much better than my indoor specimens. The owners themselves told me stories they heard about the failures in these planters in previous years, and they asked me what I was doing to make things grow so well. I do nothing at all--I stuck seeds and plants in, I water occasionally if necessary, and I barely weed (it isn't necessary, pretty much). But things are just taking off and growing crazy. I'm proud of my plants, but jealous that "my own plants" don't grow like this.

But then, the Mr. Yogato plants get afternoon and evening sun. My plants only get morning sun. Despite getting about the same amount of time with the light, the afternoon and evening light is of higher intensity, so I think that plays a big role in the differences.

Regardless, I have a wicked green thumb somewhere!

(All photos will appear larger and better if clicked--they will open in new windows, so you won't have to keep going back and forth between pictures and text!)

This is the window planter box. See the about-nine-foot-tall Titan sunflower? It's supposed to be 12 feet tall. Luckily it isn't, or it'd block the sign above it, and I'd have to cut it off. So I really hope it's done growing vertically...! You can also see the grape vine to the left, the squash all up in the window box, and some other sunflowers, as well as spearmint and gladioluses if you look really hard.

These are my (from left) Alternanthera dentata (Purple Knight), Datura sp. (moonflower), Fragaria x ananassa (Honeoye Junebearing strawberry), Arachis hypogaea (Carolina Black peanut), Ipomoea batatas (ornamental sweet potato). I don't know if you can see Cupressocyparis leylandii, the "Gold Rider" Leyland cyprus; he's hidden pretty well by the Datura, my current favourite toxic plant. I pruned Datura significantly just last week, which you can tell, and now all the flowers seem to be set to bloom at the same time, just a few days hence.

Here are my Arachis hypogaea pegs goin' at it with the dirt! I think the soil is a bit too compact, here, so I don't expect to harvest any peanuts, but I think it's a cool plant, and I will likely use them again next year. Also in this picture is the only weed I noticed during my visit to Mr. Yogato today. Seriously. Only one.

Here is Datura showing off again. This flower is probably open right now and basking in the commotion that is Mr. Yogato in the evening. Its neighbours will soon awaken and grace 17th Street with their presence, too.

The gladioluses I planted on Memorial Day weekend are finally starting to think about flowering! This one is one of two in the sidewalk planter bed--the two that have been stepped on. The ones in the window box have had less rough of a life, but are not thinking about flowering yet. This was a grab-bag of bulbs from a dollar store in Winchester, Virginia, so I don't know what colours any of these flowers will be!

This sunflower is a trooper. It was actually a thinning that I had put in a pile to die, but it didn't. So when it needed to be moved yet again, I was going to toss it--but when I ripped it up, it had a lot of roots. So I just transplanted it to the sidewalk area, next to where the rhubarb is now. And now it's about to flower! Such strength. I wonder what variety this sunflower is?

And this--this is the window box. I seeded the Italian squash about six or seven weeks ago. See what it's doing? Taking over? Heck yes! The ones inside my apartment all died (I removed them, so they died somewhere, but they were not dead until after leaving the apartment--although, who knows? They might yet live!).

Here is one of the two fruit--it is hidden next to the wall, behind the Titan sunflower and the protective leaves of the squash plant. Maybe I will eat this one as it gets larger!

Hm... What can I say about this one other than "Extra Long Floppy Donkey Dong!" That is what the general manager thinks of my squash--but, he's wrong, you know. Because this is a female flower.

And what a female flower! Look how gigantic it is--my hand is holding it not only for a better angle, but to judge relative size. This squash plant is showy, if nothing else.

I am definitely a fan of this variety's leaves--the great size of the leaves with soft grey veins and the wonderful green of healthy vegetation. The only problem is that it quickly concealed all the other plants. Here are some marigolds and strawberries trying to thrive underneath the ambitious edible.

The squash also overran the mint and gladioluses, but that didn't stop them. The mint is flowering, and I'm totally going to let it. Hopefully it'll drop seeds and more will come in next year--I want Mr. Yogato to make mojito frozen yogurt with fresh-picked spearmint from their own planter box! And, no, this isn't the deathmint that I had originally planted... It was only there for a single day! They tease me incessantly about that, asking how many deadly plants I am killing the local dogs with. I had to come clean about the Datura, but really, it's a fairly common landscape plant! And rhubarb, too, is a noxious plant! It's not my fault if every single plant tries to kill us out of spite.

Another Evening Sun sunflower has decided to wake up and show its pretty face. Out of the ones I have seen bloom this year, this variety is my absolute favourite. But I will reserve judgement until I see Titan's smile.

This is one of the sunflowers that bloomed a few weeks ago. The seeds are not quite ready to eat. That didn't stop me from popping a few in my mouth anyway.

Such promise...! I do not know what variety this one is, but I am sure it will be a happy, bright thing, hidden behind the leaves of the Titan (see the single petiole arching above the flowerhead? Those leaves are humongous!).

Another beautiful smile. This sunflower is on a stalk of one that was brutally vandalized at the height of its grace. But now there are about a dozen tiny buds on the stalk waiting to show that they can outshine their predecessor. And, since they're are also well-hidden behind Titan's leaves, they might even survive for a while!


Good Little Gesneriad

One of the African Violet (Saintpaulia) leaves I stuck in dirt in my office is making little baby leaves!

The image is a bit blurry--I have not been carrying my camera around in an attempt to train myself out of taking photos willy-nilly. I think I will start carrying it again and see how well I can restrain myself. The Mr. Yogato Garden update will never happen if I don't get current pictures, anyway! It is definitely lush right now, but little is blooming. There is promise of flowers soon, so in a few days, it should look spectacular!

But back to this post. I am happy the little guy is making more little guys. Hopefully there will be many more to come--these are suprisingly easy to take care of! I don't know why I had a fear of them before...


Eating DC

Since I started looking around this spring and summer, I have noticed so many edibles planted in the DC area. Not just the sages, mints, and basils that people use as a border or accent bush, but squash, cucumber, tomato, peas, strawberries, apple trees, nasturtium, all sorts of yummy things in unexpected places in Edible DC! Other area bloggers have displayed wonderful urban edibles all around the city, most notable (to me) Amelia at Gradually Greener.

I don't know if it's because Michelle made it posh, but I'm almost certain there weren't as many edibles being grown last year. It will be interesting to see how many people in DC keep up the gardening next year. The square-foot method seems pretty popular among those with anything resembling a yard.

There are way too many photos to post, so I made a slideshow video with most of the pictures I have taken in recent weeks. You can view them, as well as listen to an awesome Canadian song, at the end of this post.

But before you get to the multitude of edibles, I want to mention a particularly outstanding edible place in DC.

Here is Tim, working diligently in his group house's front yard. It has been very dry, after two months of extreme wetness (this was last weekend, before yesterday's tempest), so he has to hand-water everything now. The yard has a ton of crops, including several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, sunflowers, herbs, carrots, bush and pole beans, okra, lima beans, and marigolds spread about to repel insects and add a dash of splendid colour.

He is part of a social movement to build community through volunteering, but I never did learn what organization he and his housemates belong to. But his mission to build community through such projects as ripping up his front yard and planting food has clearly worked--random people (for instance: me) come up to him to ask him about the yard, the house shares the harvest with neighbours, and even the wildlife get some nice flowers to pollinate and a better habitat than just grass.

The house is across the street from Tubman Elementary School. I don't know if the house volunteers with them, but Tim told me of a school across from the Anacostia metro station that has a summer farming program, during which kids come throughout the week to help take care of the vegetable crops. I got the feeling that Tim was involved with that, or at least went down to chat with the folks, because he told me stories of kids who initially thought "What? Why would you garden vegetables when you can buy them at the store?" and then, after veggie gardening, changed their mind and considered enrolling in agricultural programs at university.

My thoughts on this little plot of Edible DC? It is easily visible from the elementary school across the street. Even seeing someone outside, working in and caring for a garden, will have an effect on children. If some of the kids go say "Hi" to Tim and his housemates, even better. If a few of them decide to grow some of their own plants, the world will be a better place for it.

Every seed, every child, is truly a promise (my favourite book when I was a small child was "A Seed Is A Promise." I haven't read it since I was, oh, maybe six, but if only the title sticks with me, it has done its job.). Having kids understand how the world works, how plants grow, and that everything is a process just like those plants' growth can only lead to a better future, so kudos to Tim and his housemates for helping show people how plants grow and where food comes from!

Music to the video is "Go For A Ride" by Jason MacDonald. He's a Nova Scotian homeboy. I found his music in January, when I was in Halifax. I never did get to see him perform (I forget what took up my time), but I like his stuff. And who needs to go for a ride to see the countryside? It's all around us!

These photos were taken at various times over the past weeks/months, but are in generally chronological order. One of the tomato shots is from New York (Ground Under Repair).


Pepper Problems

Harrumph. Harrumph, I say!

The pepper I grew myself by seed is doing fine, so far as I know, except for a few aphids here and there. It even has some flower buds. But the two peppers I got from Bull Run, my CSA, suddenly just, well, collapsed. Such drama queens. "Oh, I can't take this unbearable life anymore...! Le sighhhhhhhh. Ooooohhhh... Really. It's horrible. Pay attention to me, I'm throwing a fit here!"

Yesterday when I came home, I noticed that one of them had, well, gone limp. The stem from the middle up just decided that it would no longer be healthy and green.

I was upset, but the other pepper looked fine, so I removed the dying one and life went on.

Until I got home today and noticed that the other pepper, pining at the loss of its companion, decided that it too could no longer endure the hardships of life on the windowsill. From the middle of the stem all the way up and, this time, even the petioles of the leaves are all limp. Nothing is falling off--things are still well-attached, they're just very very suddenly limp and brown (click for bigger picture). Yesterday morning, both plants were fine and dandy.

It's not damping off--it's a bit old to be doing that, and it's not the right part of the plant. If it's an infection, I would think bacterial. It looks weird to be bugs, but I'm not an insect-damage expert.

My one hypothesis, if I can't blame it on anything else, is that misting the area to make it less happy for spider mites may have caused too much water to accumulate around the petioles and on the stems of these peppers, possibly allowing things (like bacteria) to grow, slowly weakening the plant until, at basically the same time, only these two pepper plants succumbed, although every other plant seems to be fine (or, at least, not doing this--they are dying in other ways).

Any hypotheses?

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Master Gardener

No, I am not one. But I did apply today for the course here in DC. Interviews are in December, and the course is in February and March. 2.5 hours every Tuesday and Thursday night. Geez! The 50 hours of volunteering afterward is much easier to swallow--I volunteer anywhere from five to 15 hours in any given week anyway (an average of about six or seven, however--15 is peak time, which has been in June and December for me here), three or four of which is at a Master Gardener-approved volunteering place already (the Youth Garden). For a lot of people, I think, the 50 hours of volunteering is more difficult than the book learning and the test, but for me? That'll be a snap.

But, since being a Master Gardener is basically just being a plant-information-disseminating volunteer, I guess people wouldn't go into it if they didn't want to work a ton of hours without getting paid, eh?

Personal experience is a great teacher. But I find that I don't learn as well (or, rather, I don't have as good resources to refer to) if I'm not in a classroom-type setting. So, despite the relative intensity and shortness of instruction, I think this will be an awesome experience for me. If, after the interviews, I'm one of the lucky 35 who get to take the course.

Is anyone out there a Master Gardener? Do you know anything about DC's program (which, I think, is fairly new)? What are the Master Gardeners like in your area? Are there similar programs in other countries?


Makin' Pesto

First off, a blender does not a food processor make.

Also, flowering lemon basil adds a, how do you say, kind of bitter taste.

But other than that, this was delicious!

About 2 cups of home-grown basil (lemon basil, Greek mini basil, some basil I'm growing from my farmer), after rinsing (some of it had dirt on it, ew!); a sprinkling of sunflower seeds and sesame seeds (because I don't have nuts); three cloves garlic; and olive oil (I didn't measure, I just poured in until the pesto seemed pesto-y).

I pulsed the seeds first, then added the garlic, then the basil. That's where things got a bit tricky, because a blender is not a food processor. I added the olive oil and kind of mushed everything down, blended for a few minutes, and still ended up with large chunks of leaves/stems.

It seemed like not much product from the amount of basil I thought I had harvested. But I spread it on half a loaf of bread, and it was a lovely meal. Mmmmm, so garlicky and basily... Next time, I will add some mint and lemon geranium to make it a bit more refreshing!


"You And I"

I swear I have a real life. Truly. I do.

This took me about 45 minutes--I was pollinating (trying to pollinate) my Cherokee flowers. Sometimes I talk to my plants. Sometimes my talking is lyrical. Sometimes I turn it into a short, 30-second song. Sometimes I take photos, record the song, and make videos.

I'm not a singer--don't expect much. But this was fun!

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Effulgent Flowers (Part 4)

I swear, I will stop carrying my camera around for a while. This is the fourth and final in this week's series of posts. These are pictures from around DC in the past few weeks.

This flower is in a yard only a block or two away from my apartment. The yard is surprisingly full and beautiful, but this was the best flower, in my opinion. It was nice to see such a yard in an area that doesn't boast much in the way of landscaping.

This is my lemon basil, flowering in my planter box! I need to use it up before it gets worse. The flavour is already getting off, but the flowers are pretty, so I'm torn.

This flower looks like a peach! I want to go buy some peaches and make a pie. I made a blueberry pie the other night, and it was wonderful.

What is this, a double-flowered zinnia? Awesome!

I have come to love Hibiscus. Giant flowers, giant plants, such awesome colours... I can't wait to have a yard!

Well, maybe I don't need a yard. This is the "Evening Sun" sunflower at Mr. Yogato. Before someone ripped most of the plant and its neighbour out of the ground.

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Effulgent Flowers (Part 3)

This is part 3 of my recent flower overload. I originally said there would be two parts--I hope you are eagerly awaiting the fourth installment this weekend! I have to stop carrying my camera around, clearly.

I went to New York City for the first time ever on 5 July. I went without a plan and with no idea of anything that exists there (beyond some of the names of places); luckily, my friends had maps and wanted to visit specific places. It was only a 13-hour trip (sans commute by bus), and beyond having to verbally harass the Chinatown bus company manager to let us on the bus when the guy behind the glass wouldn't accept our tickets that we had purchased online the day before, calling the cops, and making a general ruckus, it was an awesome trip. I have more pictures of plant life than I do of my friends, but that's alright!

This is my favourite photo-of-a-building. I took it a few minutes after we got off the bus (at 7:30 AM)--the glass building reflects the blue of the sky, and at the right angle, it looks like it disappears just a few floors up--but it was easily a 30- to 40-story building.

All the cannas in DC garden-company-managed planters seem to be the red-leaf variety. In New York, they had green leaves. I think I like the DC ones better (having a tiny red-leafed one on my windowsill)--since the flowers don't do too much for aesthetics, the leaves have to make the statement. I haven't seen many flowering cannas here in DC, but the New York ones were all these orange and yellow tiger-y flowers.

I want this blue flower so bad. I think it's ridiculously beautiful, and all of them bunched together in spikes makes them look amazing. This was outside of... Um... Some famous library in New York?

The blue flowers were in the same planter as these pink ones. I think it was my favourite planter, but I don't have a picture of the whole--it had a few edibles in it (sage, mint), some Caladium, and other things I couldn't identify. The awesome pink flowers next to the vibrant blue ones made a wonderful contrast!

These Elephant Ears (Colocasia, right?) were in Times Square, right across from the Toys R Us. I hadn't noticed any in DC until after I returned from New York--I adore gigantic leaves! I want to grow one in my apartment, but I'm not quite that crazy.

These little yellow and white flowers were alongside the path around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park. I thought there were a lot of runners and joggers in DC--whoa, New York, slow down!

Also in Central Park, southwest of the Great Lawn, was this bush with a profusement of tiny pink flowers that had copious amounts of anthers utterly coated with pollen. I spent literally five minutes trying to get my camera to focus on one of these flowers; my friends got bored and started walking ahead, so I'm glad I finally got one.

My signature picture-of-the-sun-shot-through-something-that-is-partially-blocking-it. This was while laying on the Great Lawn, taking a break from all the walking and dashing about. Then, skywriters went overhead advertising some website, but the top plane ran out of cloudstuff, so the letters were a bit off.


General Garden Update (Not Just Pretty Pictures And Fluff!)

I have been getting carried away, I think, with posts about all my side activities and little individual posts about interesting things going on in the garden, but now let's get back to giant updates that would take too much time to spread out. My garden is, well... A mix of extreme highs and extreme lows. But, without great experience or knowledge, I expected such results. I have learned a lot, but there's no use lamenting the dead when the survivors need my attention! Next year, when I'm more skilled at keeping some plants alive, I can expand my skills to those who didn't make it this year.

Just a quick look at the ones who didn't make it. Carrot, parsnip, chard, eggplant, purple basil, garlic, radicchio, turnip, radish, even the Cheyenne pumpkin--basically, anything in the big planter box except for the tomatoes, beans, peas, and lemon and Greek basils.

These are most of the plants, although it's hard to photograph the entirety.

This is a yellow crookneck squash that I have growing in a large black plastic pot (with myriad other plants who ended up in there as well). It is doing well, but spider mites have been a constant fight in recent weeks, and this crookneck has played host to mine enemies once or twice. This one is doing much better than its neighbour down below, in the planter. I have the pot set into the planter, but because the plant is raised up, it gets more sun, and the other gets less.

These two Cheyenne bush pumpkin plants in the old strawberry pot are doing happily--unfortunately, the one in the planter succumbed to spider mites and lack of light. The azuki beans in the strawberry pot are almost done being harvested. I had removed their leaves a week or so ago as the pods ripened, only because I wanted less living space for spider mites.

Now, this is the Italian squash. Once you see the update on the Mr. Yogato garden (coming soon to a blog near you!), you'll understand why I'm a little perturbed at the slow growth of my indoor plants. But, I can't compete with Mother Nature, clearly. Anyway, this Italian squash got all weird on me--the leaves and stem fused together and I don't know what's going on here!

Mrs. Burns' Lemon Basil is flowering! I am going to harvest this and make pesto, or tea, or salad, or something else. Hopefully I'll get more growth after harvesting, because this is my favourite basil so far!

I am not certain what type of pepper I'm growing here--it could be one of three kinds (King of the North red bell pepper, Aurora hot pepper, or either habanero or jalapeno from Whole Foods). I will see! To the right, partially covered by the yellow crookneck's leaf, is an eggplant seedling. It is doing much better than its older compatriate in the planter box (see above), and much better than all other previous seedlings--a few aphids have found their way up to this container, but the plant had enough time to get large enough to handle the crushing of the bugs.

I replanted the nasturtium planter--way too many small leaves, way too many spider mites, and I wasn't happy with the soil (I had peat and sand, to which I added fertilizer, when I set up that windowbox. Now I have potting soil.). In four days, the edamame popped up--five for chard. Nasturtium will be along shortly!

These are my Cherokee cutting experiments. Which pot (if any) can I grow a Cherokee tomato in and get a harvest?! The planter is too ridiculously large for most people.

Aw, look at Ace! Six months old and making a comeback! He is a true trooper--he needs a name. I'll think on it.

Those promising lilies? Yeah, they died. But then the one who had the flower went and started doing this... Is it growing new leaves? Plants never cease to confuse me.

My willow cutting is growing leaves and getting big, but the leaves are starting to turn yellow. There were some spider mites here, too, so maybe that's the cause. I hope the guy survives, he's been with me for months!

I stole a Zamioculcas zamiifolia leaflet to root from a plant in some mall in Virginia. Next year, I hope to have a leaf or two. I refuse to pay $13 for a four-inch plant! I put him in with Barton, my Gynura aurantiaca, so I will (hopefully) pay attention to him.



Cherokee has been giving me conniptions, no word of a lie.

There had been so many flower buds, and I figured that once he hit the ceiling, he would settle down, bust open those petals, and pump out produce.

I hadn't counted back, however. In one week, he will hit the three month transplant date from the time I put him in the planter box. Cherokee tomatoes take about three months from transplanting before they will set fruit. (Why does it seem that size of the plant before transplant doesn't matter? And time from transplant for Ace doesn't seem to matter--he's six frackin' months old and he's been in the planter just as long as Cherokee, but he hasn't born any fruit, or even flowers, despite having a similar maturation requirement. Then again, he was only an inch tall [at three months old] when I put him in the planter...)

Cherokee did have one flower open (the one pictured here--see, I wasn't just imagining it!), but despite my best efforts, it didn't turn into a fruit. It dried up and fell off with barely an "Adieu."

But glory of glories, look at what I found today!

No no, this isn't the glory of glories...! This is what I encounter on a regular basis. Tiny flowers that never open and shrivel up, dead.

This is what they look like before they get shriveled. Tiny, unopened, just sittin' there in promising little clusters, mocking me, making me think that Cherokee (the little rooster-tease) is going to put out (some produce).

But these--these are the glory of glories. These are much bigger than those little harlot flower buds. I think these might actually mature, open, and bear fruit! But, I've said that before. I must remain zen, so I'm not disappointed. (OMGs yes, a harvest!!)

Here's Cherokee, on the left, towering over not only the light sources, but also little Ace (now 47.5 inches tall) on the right. Despite the fluorescent and incandescent grow lamps behind them, both tomato plants position their leaves to catch the sun's rays. It's like I spent money for nothing. Thanks, guys!



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