Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The right fountain at the right price

My parents bought a house that came with a monstrously oversized fountain complete with spouting lions. It was in a circular bed surrounded by pavement. I can't even remember if there were plants in the bed. All you saw was lions. They lived with it for awhile but eventually the fountain went to a better home (where it reportedly looks nice). We (I) planted bloodgrass in the empty bed and it has filled in very nicely.

The other day my mom and I were at Costco when we saw these really tall, ceramic fountains in earthy greens, teal, amber and ivory. At the bargain price of 162 bucks, it didn't take long to realize how perfect it'd be in the middle of the bloodgrasses.

We brought the thing home yesterday and the men set it up today while my mom and I sat together in nearby chairs trying not to tell them how they should be doing it. Exausting work, I tell ya.

Water sheets slowly down the sides and all you hear is a peaceful lapping sound. In addition to the parts you see, there is a wide matching basin that holds the water. It had already been placed in the grasses when I took the pics.

As if the fountain wasn't cool enough to begin with, the fountain top is like a birdbath, complete with recirculating water!

Monday, May 29, 2006

My next chair planter

My aunt snatched this chair out of a junk pile for me! Kind of reminds me of an ice cream parlor chair. It's white-painted metal with a tasteful hint of rust. Can't wait to plant the seat.

Plant suggestions?

This chair is fairly segregated from the green chair planter. It's near fragrant roses and lavender.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Grow your own grass furniture

Saw this on Inhabitat. Very cool. Very strange. Very cool.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Teacup birdfeeder recipe I used

from P. Allen Smith

Teacup and saucer
1/8 inch ceramic tile bit
1/4 inch masonry bit
36 inch long 1/4 inch threaded metal rod
30 inch long copper tubing
1/2 inch wide2 stainless steel nuts with 1/4 inch wide hole
2 stainless steel washers with 1/4 inch wide hole
Safety Glasses

Directions: First collect your cups and saucers. A good place to look is a resale shop or junk store. (That's what I did)

Next prepare your cup and saucer. Mark the center of each and carefully drill a hole through them one at a time. To reduce breakage and frustration (I gather you've tried this yourself, Mr. Allen), first make a starter hole with the 1/8 inch ceramic tile bit and then widen it with a 1/4 inch masonry bit. (Easier said than done if you use a china teacup. Do it with a friend, wear ear and eye protection and take turns when your arm gets tired.)

Now take the 36 inch long, 1/4 inch wide threaded metal rod and screw a nut about 1/2 inch from the top, place a washer on top of the metal nut and then the saucer and cup on top of the washer.

At this point you will have the tea cup and saucer balanced on the metal nut and washer with about 1/2 an inch or less of the threaded rod rising up through the middle of the tea cup.

Take your second washer and slip it over the threaded rod so that it sits flat inside the teacup. Next add a metal nut on top of the washer and screw it down tightly so that the teacup and saucer are secure.

Select the area in your garden where you would like to place the feeder, push the copper tubing into the ground about 2 or 3 inches and then insert the threaded metal rod down into the ground through the copper tubing to give the feeder a finished look. (I recommend drilling an additional hole through the cup and saucer for drainage).

Aw, shucks!

"Best area blog and site"

Angela Pratt, a horticulturist, has designed a masterpiece. For area gardeners, this is a must-bookmark Web site. Her blog (personal gardening diary) is fun to read and filled with digital images to illustrate what she's planted and where she's visited. Colorful images are showcased throughout the site. Links to Sacramento-area gardening information will lead you to just about anything you desire. There's advice for planting and maintenance. The message board seems to have vanished (Yep, there wasn't enough momentum for a Sacramento-only forum to make it worth my time, but you can still access GardenWeb and Dave's Garden California forums on my home page), but there's now a list of Northern California gardening blogs.

Dan Vierria: Online gardening is almost as good as the real thing.

Most entertaining Web site
Renegade Gardener

Best nursery Web site
Annie's Annuals & Perennials

Honorable mention: Golden Gecko Garden Center

Best regional blog
Dirt http://dirtbyamystewart.

Best area hobbyist site
Baldo's SactoRose Web Site

Congrats, Trey, Amy, Annie, Baldo, and Don!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Squash and tomatoes in a barrel

One of my half-barrels contains yellow crookneck squash and a sprawling cherry tomato... my only remaining unstaked tomato. My bad. I'm behind, as usual. The reason some of my veggies are in barrels is because a) I ran out of ground and b) I wanted to grow some things in fluffy potting soil and above the snailosphere. The plants are lovin' it.

Baby crookneck squash are just the cutest things.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A chair grows in Sacramento

Quite a change from April to May...

From one epiphyllum leaf cutting grew...

I was feeling pretty cocky... until I was sent a photo of the mother plant. It looks more like the mother ship! Turns out my plant is just a gangly teenager.

Note to self

Buy these books.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

South Central Farmers need help fighting developers

Another community garden... this one in south central L.A... needs our help.

Watch the short movie.
Visit the website:
See the Los Angeles Times Article
Make a tax-deductible donation.

For God's sake... help out... even if you're only doing it to get Joan Baez to come down from the walnut tree.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

No thunderstorms... just a gentle rain

My tomatoes are looking fantastic, thanks to a lucky shift in the weather and a little bit of TLC. I got them caged today using concrete reinforcing wire shaped into 18-20" diameter cages. It's reassuring to see plenty of flowers and immature fruit. Unlike last summer, I think this is going to be a great tomato season.

Went to POW Nursery the other day and got some great deals on one-gallon perennials to fill in some gaps in the garden. Home Depot has some nice stuff too. When I'm done shopping thriftily, I'll head for my favorite nearby independent retail nurseries like Capital (Sunrise), Windmill and Bushnell's.

Here are some quick and dirty pics of the plants I bought for filling in some gaps in my backyard beds. The campanula, sage, pretty pink million bells and lavender verbena are from POW. The 'Peter Pan' agapanthus is from HD. I think I bought one campanula, three sages, five million bells and five agapanthus. When I looked at my filled cart at POW, my overall impression of my selection was that I picked very girly colors. Go figure.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Why dost thou smite me, Tomato gods?

(Raising fist to sky) Just when my tomato plants are looking fantastic after a good feeding and some warm weather, I start hearing words like "thunderstorms" and "temperatures dropping."

Was it because I was dissing coastal tomato growers? I guess I had it coming...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hot tomatoes!

It's the heat, 'Stupice' by Lynette Evans, S.F. Chronicle.

"Wah, wah... we live in the sophistimicated urban wonderland that is the Bay Area, yet our home-grown tomatoes taste like paste wrapped in cardboard... wah, wah."

You can't have it all, ya big babies.

Just give up and go down to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and buy a sizzlingly delicious Valley-grown tomato.

You'll also want to get this book.

Monday, May 15, 2006

More May Flowers

Sandersonia aurantiaca blooming

I'd first purchased this as a cut flower, then ordered it from Easy to Grow Bulbs so I could try it in a pot. I really love the cantaloupe orange color and lantern-like flowers. So dainty!

Sandersonia aurantiaca
Common names:
Chinese Lantern Lily,
Christmas Bells
Genus: Sandersonia (san-der-SON-ee-uh)
Species: aurantiaca (aw-ran-ti-AYE-kuh)

The treacherous life of a tomato

Of the nine tomato varieties I planted this spring, 'Lemon Boy' was slain in a brutal snail attack and yesterday, 'Copia' lost half its limbs when a trellis I was moving fell on it like a guillotine. Doh! I hope it recovers.

Who knew the life of a tomato could be so treacherous?

Dead: 'Lemon Boy'
Wounded: 'Copia'
Doing fine: 'Black', 'Black from Tula', 'Costoluto Genovese', 'Sungold', 'Sun Sugar', 'Celebrity', 'Early Girl'

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Amy Stewart's NYT Op-ed Piece on the Cut Flower Industry

Great article and a hint of what's to come in her new book, Flower Confidential : The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers.

Click here for the New York Times article.

Here's one ecologically aware florist you might want to try after reading her article:
Send Organic Flowers & Gourmet Gifts – from $29.95

Saturday, May 13, 2006

In-ground tomatoes versus containerized

So far, my containerized tomatoes are winning the growth-rate race. The ones in containers are being spoiled with Black Gold Organic Potting Soil, while the in-ground plants are thinking, "Uh, Angela? When's the last time you added compost to these beds? Our roots can barely breathe down here! And would it kill you to feed us more regularly? Sheesh!"

Actually, I think the in-ground soil temperature hasn't caught up with the pots yet. Later in the season, it'll be trickier keeping the containers watered often enough.

Will the in-ground tomatoes catch up? Which plants will be the healthiest and put out the most tomatoes? The tastiest tomatoes?

Stay tuned!

Hanging strawberries & tomatoes update

What they looked like on planting day, April 27, and today, May 13. Growing nicely.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What's blooming

Rosa 'Chicago Peace'

bearded iris

'Mahogany' nasturtium

Million Bells (Calibrachoa)

Million bells, nasturtium and Sandersonia

Busy time in the garden

I didn't protect my tomato plants from snails and slugs because they seemed preoccupied with my basil and peppers, but overnight my 'Lemon Boy' plant vanished. Snails, it appears, judging from the slimy beheaded plant left in the ground. Unless I see a replacement at a nursery in the next few days, I won't bother replanting 'Lemon Boy'. I have other varieties to look forward to. My containerized veggies are more established and less bothered by pests so far. It'll be interesting to see how everything's faring later in the season.

All of a sudden, it's warm here, and by warm I mean hot. We skipped spring and went straight from winter to summer. All that rain and chill and then... boom... time to sit in the shade drinking lemonade. Where's my cabana boy? Where's my cabana, for that matter?

On the bean front, I got sporadic germination from my tricolor bean packet and of the few that did germinate, most were munched. I re-ordered two packs of seeds from Renee's and replanted today. Soaked the seeds this time and added more compost to the soil. The poor bean show is partly my fault and partly the snails' fault. With twice the number of bean seeds planted, greater care and vigilance, I am pretty confident I'll see these damned purple, yellow and green beans climbing up my damned bean poles soon. Damn it. I wonder if Dan and Annie (dogs) will eat beans right off the vine like they did snap peas. Weirdos.

Oh, I also resurrected my tile sconces. Just in time for all those summer parties that happen mostly in my mind.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Morning Stroll in the Garden

Watch the video
This is a video of a walk in my garden.

Music: Antonio Vivaldi, Guitar Concerto in D Major, Part II

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Grounds for Your Garden

Hannah in Cleveland, Ohio, who has a blog called This Garden is Illegal, reminded me about the Starbucks Grounds for Your Garden program, where they give away free 5-lb. bags of used coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are great for side-dressing plants in need of a little nitrogen and there's some evidence that snails and slugs are repelled by caffeine. At high enough concentrations, it kills them. The amount of caffeine in used grounds might be enough to repel them, which is all I ask. Either way, I'm feeding my soil. The worms in my kitchen worm bin love coffee grounds, so maybe "outside" worms will too. Worm activity is good for the soil!

Corporate giant or not, I love Starbucks.

The Snail Battle Escalates

The copper-colored Plant Defender base had me hoping it would repel snails and slugs. Now, I know it's the chemical reaction between snail slime and copper metal that produces a mild shock for the snail, like an electric fence would, but what's up with this painted base because snails don't seem to mind traveling on it?

While I wanted to believe the bases were painted to repel snails, they didn't repel the small snails and slugs that sailed on in to eat my basil. My sweet peppers are being left alone now, but the new basil plants are in need of help. To show the depth of my devotion to basil, I added copper sheeting to the Plant Defender cages. Let's hope this does the trick.

I wonder if you can buy paint with real copper in it? Then I could spray the base of the cages with something that actually repels those slimy gluttons.

News flash! I just re-checked the description of the cages on the PVFS website and it states the cage bases are "copper-plated"!!! This, I assume, means they have been sprayed with a metallic copper paint. Why, then, did snails cross the barrier?

Here's the description-- "Protect plants from browsing birds, snails, slugs, raccoons, deer, and rabbits with this effective barrier. Safe and humane method of protecting young seedlings without resorting to poisons, traps or ineffective repellents. Allows for overhead watering. Cut top off to allow plant to grow taller while maintaining base barrier. Made of molded plastic with copper-plated base."

Apart from the issue with small snails and slugs, these cages have effectively blocked larger snails, cats, dogs, squirrels and birds (the main threats to my veggies and herbs). Additionally, I now have the option to apply Sluggo inside the cages and not worry about my dogs eating it. Since I added copper sheeting around the base, no snails or slugs have reached my basil seedlings.

I'm happy enough with the results that I plan to order more cages and more copper sheeting. The Plant Defender really is a clever invention that's inexpensive, reusable, allows for easy watering, and reduces or eliminates the need for trapping, poisoning and smashing (Ew). Organic gardeners will love this.

There are more helpful hints for controlling snails and slugs in UC IPM Pest Note 7427.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Basil and Peppers, Take Two!

Since my basil and pepper plants were decimated by snails, I decided to order some Plant Defender cages from PVFS. They must have sensed my desperation because the cages arrived lickety split. I figure since I've already lost about 20 bucks feeding snails organically grown Genovese basil and gourmet bell peppers, an additional $2.99 per plant for a reusable Plant Defender cage still makes good sense.

Yesterday, I picked up some new plants at Capital (Sunrise) and planted them in the early evening. When I checked on them during my morning ritual of taking the kid to school, feeding the canines and felines, making coffee and going out back to check on my plant babies, this is what I found.

Though smaller snails could probably fit through the cage (didn't see any inside) and clever snails like this one can nibble the edges of my basil leaves, it's no longer going to be the plant carnage it once was. I may order more cages for my seed-raised breadseed poppies and zinnias, which are also under attack.

Coffee grounds and leftover cold coffee are also being employed as deterrents, but I don't really have enough for all my plants. Cages and coffee are a good combo. Wish I'd known about the cages sooner, though.

May 3rd P.S.-- Remember how I was saying I have a hard time, physically and philosophically, killing snails and slugs and so prefer to block and deter them rather than poison them or smash them? Well, put me in the freak category because this GardenWeb thread makes it apparent many, many gardeners have no qualms about killing slugs and snails as they smash, smother, drown, hurl or poison with a not-so-subtle hint of glee.