Monday, December 17, 2012

Ugh, gross...Squash Vine Borer

Okay, so this past summer/fall, I did my great garden experiment.

Overall, I guess it was successful.  I got some produce and what we got tasted pretty good.

But let's be frank, I'm a perfectionist.

In the spirit of working on trying to view the glass (at least when it comes to myself) as half full, I will concede that all of the lessons I learned about garden were successful.  Winter, between the growing seasons, seems like a good time to reflect.

Let's review a rather unsavory lesson.

That would be the tale of the Squash Vine Borer.

Yeah, anything that's called a Borer is probably disgusting.  And let me tell you, it is.

Remember my pretty zucchini blooms?

So, I planted what we should probably refer to as a "whole lotta crap," heretofore referred to as WLC.  (Side note, I now think that when your neighbors say things like, "Wow!  You have the greenest thumb in the neighborhood!," they're actually trying to politely tell you that your yard looks like a jungle.)  So in spite of all the WLC, I had actually planted zucchini before.  Summer '11, actually.  And that zucchini was fabulous.  I harvested a good number of healthy, sizable zucchinis off my two plants in my ginormous pot.

This year?  Yeah, not so much.

In fact, my zucchini looked embarrassingly awful.  Embarrassing like how my dad used to pick me up from after-school activities in high school wearing his slippers (a threat to get me in the car faster).

Actually, more accurately, the zucchini looked disgusting.  The leaves kept turning brown and wilting.  I pulled them off in an attempt to rid it of whatever was happening.

By the way, I don't think that measly attempt would have made a difference no matter what the problem actually was.

Mr. Gardener thought it was a fungus.  So I sprayed it with some anti-fungal stuff.  But that didn't seem to make a difference.  Plus all the WLC seemed fine.  Okra everywhere!  Additionally, even though I live in Virginia and it can get fairly humid, this summer was dry, so I didn't think it was probably fungus.

Then, this stuff that looked like sawdust appeared on the stem.  Let me tell you now that this was probably the most obvious sign.  But I was in serious denial.  There was nothing seriously wrong with the zucchini.  It would just go away.


I was stupid.

Now the deceiving thing was that my zucchinis were still growing.  I got a couple tiny ones.

But once they got past a certain size (or close to a normal size), the ends would go bad.  They'd get all squishy and gross and just rot away.  Literally.  Liquefied.  So I assumed it was Blossom End Rot.  Again...fungus.  But the anti-fungal didn't do anything.  And the zucchini just got more disgusting.

But really, in its sheer nastiness, the zucchini was trying to tell me something.

Finally, one day in late July/early August, I came out of my denial stupor and accepted that my zucchini was, in fact, A) foul, B) dying, C) making the rest of my garden look bad, and D) dying.

So, I finally did some googling "wilted," "sawdust," "rotting zucchinis" and some photos on on Google confirmed what I had begun to suspect.

Squash Vine Borer.

These are the young of a moth species known for killing squash and like crops.  I found the entry wound on the stem and after looking at pictures of the adult of the species, I realized that I had seen a number of them at various times.

These nasty little biotches destroyed the plant.  In fact, I completely confirmed the diagnosis when I pulled the plant out of the pot and there were several in the soil, squirming around in all their self-righteous glory.

Until they suffocated in the plastic bag in which I dumped all the contaminated soil.

Turnabout's fair play.

I did not take pictures of the gross little things.  They were like short, swollen, white worms.  If you must know what they and their adult counterparts look like, I will allow you to google them.


During the winter, I am going to strategize my fight against them.  I will share the battle plan with you as soon as it is formed.


There are no words that I can say, that any of us can say.

But I'll take comfort in a Savior who knew the steps we would take before we were even formed, who can catch us when we fall, and hold us when our hearts are breaking.  Who gave us the freedom to choose Him.

Who keeps His promises.

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:3-4

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dear John...

Dear Singer Simple,

I realize that you and I have been working hard lately.  We pieced an entire quilt top and I recognize that I'm asking a bit of you to quilt it.  But really, it's just straight line quilting a quarter inch on either side of each seam; it's truly not that much.

But, really, do you realize that it's Christmas and I had big plans for you and I?  We were supposed to make a quilt for my brother, a tote bag for my dad, a new eye mask for Josh, and hopefully a quilt for my mom.  Ambitious, I know, but I thought we could get through it.  I know that Jesus gave them the best gift of all, but I do enjoy sharing and showing my affections through quilt making.

You helped me make fun stockings to hang on the shelf.  What happened?

I am disappointed in your inability to sew a consistent stitch length and feed in a straight line.  Pretty much, you're making my sewing look terrible.

Thanks for what you did while I was learning to sew.  We had some great times together.  In fact, my last project had no piece that ended its life in the trash.  However, I think we're in different places now.  It's time to move on to a sewing machine that Grandma didn't snarl into a broken mess after she bought it cheaply at Wal-Mart.

Singer Simple, I think it's time that we broke up.


P.S. The real love of my life promised to help me find a new machine that actually sews properly.
P.P.S. I hope you find new life at the Goodwill.  (Soon, but not yet, I'm still going to try to use your sorry behinny while I still can.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ways to Embarrass the Husband

So I saw this amazing video today....

Well...I thought it was amazing.

Not so sure that Mr. Gardener will find it so amazing.  (Really, I ought to call him Mr. Grass Man - that would be the grass that grows in front of your house, btw...but I will explain that in a later post.)

Actually, I think know that the video creator was pretty much being facetious.  But nonetheless, I now have an overwhelming desire to participate in this "new craze."

What is it, you ask?

Dance Walking.


Oh you read correctly, my friend.  That would be walking and dancing at the same time, in a foolish, attention-grabbing, ridiculous manner.

Right. Up. My. Alley.

Because in fact, I do like spontaneous and ridiculous singing and dancing.  In public or private.  Partly because it's fun.  Partly because hubster always asks, "What is wrong with you?"

So many things, my friend.  Where shall we start?

But I always remind him how BORING and NORMAL his life was before me.  Never again!  hahahaha!  (or should I say muahahaha!?)

In fact, my favorite section of the Wegmans happens to be the beer and wine section.  Besides the obvious, I love it because it is the best place in the store to hear the music.  Which naturally spawns some level of grocery store singing and dancing (and always when Josh accompanies me in the store).

And he is mortified.

But perhaps not quite so much as when we walked past the school supply/teacher supply section of Target the fall I stopped teaching, resulting in a (likely loud) singing of "I don't have to teach anymore! Hahahaha!  Take that bitches!"  It was perhaps not one of my more appropriate moments.

But it was still fun.

Pray for the poor man.  He needs it everyday.  :)

And watch the fabulous video that will likely inspire a dance walking marathon somewhere very public.

And while you're at it, catch Cookie Monster's rendition of "Call Me Maybe."

I love Sesame Street.  So much.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

First Tomato Blooms

Teeny tiny blooms on the Roma tomato have been spotted.  Can you see them?  I know it's challenging in this photo, but they're there, nonetheless.

Please excuse the blurry pictures. :) 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Gardening Lessons Learned - Seedlings

So I promised I would write some of my lessons learned at the end of the season.

Then I decided that was silly.  I've already made a ton of mistakes and I'm probably going to make a billion more and then I won't remember them to write them down until I make them again next year.

Sigh.  To be perfect.

Lesson 1 - I am not above warnings on other gardening blogs

As previously stated, I am something of a perfectionist (my husband would probably chime in here that I am freakishly obsessive).  And I won't argue.  Too loudly.  I did spend the greater part of my planting time stumped by which seeds should go together in which pot and where they should be placed on the sidewalk and attempting not to be overwhelmed by all the options and potential disasters.  But that's totally normal, right?

As such, I've been reading way too many gardening forums and blogs.  ::Burpee has a new one, by the way, Burpee's Backyard.  I think I like it thus far.::  So anyway, after I decided on my plants (plus a few later on), I tried to start my seedlings indoors six to eight weeks before planting.

I used old, clean yogurt cups, which were great.  I will definitely use them again next year.  (Please excuse the hole in the wall and electrical bits - we have a bit of wiring to be looked at to get the lights working by my craft area.)

But I did not drill holes in the bottoms as recommended by nearly everyone on the face of the planet.  Holes to let excess water drain.  Because, you know, I wasn't going to overwater them accidently.  I couldn't possibly lose control of that large watering can in those little tiny cups.

Yeah well, given that this is a lessons learned post, you can probably guess what happened.

That's how some of the first round died.

Oh yes, first round.  Because apparently I hadn't learned my lesson yet.

Then, when I was hardening them off (you have to start setting them out for a little bit longer everyday because otherwise they can get shocked from going from your fairly consistent weather indoors to the unpredictable weather outdoors), I didn't know it was going to rain.  So, I put them out in the morning before work - without checking the weather, mind you.  And then it poured most of the day.

So all but 2 pepper plants, 2 tomatoes, and 1 basil (who died later) drowned or rotted to death.  I think if I hadn't planted one of the tomatoes when I did, it too would have died.


Which explains why I'm a little behind where I'd like to be right now.  I had to direct sow pretty much everything.


I started drilling holes for my fall crop with this little hand-cranked Fiskars drill I have.  I have an electric drill, but I was a little afraid it might be too powerful for the job.

Lesson- you are not above holes in your pots.  If you are stupid like me, feel free to leave them off, but prepare for plant death.

Edit:  This post is an awesome listing of different containers to use to start seedlings indoors and goes through the pros and cons of each, including a bunch currently circulating Pinterest.

First Blooms

This morning Mr. Gardener headed out to have breakfast and came back in excitedly to tell me that one of the zucchinis bloomed.  (I knew he got me!)

Aren't they pretty?  

This is the zucchini closest to the end of my sidewalk and the one that I fear has the greatest susceptibility to the neighborhood children.  But, as I have become increasingly unable to deter my growing collection of containers (because clearly the containers are the problem, not my self-control), one of them had to bite the bullet and take this spot.  Zucchini being a somewhat very large plant, I deemed it a fighter and decided that it drew the short straw.

But I have been rewarded with blooms!  Two, in fact!

One is male and one is female.  If I had been smart, I would have shown you up close.  Alas, I was not and it is dark now so there will be no pictures.

But it's easy with zucchinis.  

Well, maybe not as easy as with people.  But easy nonetheless.

I read somewhere (where?  don't know, I have ready entirely too many gardening forums and blogs lately because I am something of a freak perfectionist and want to know exactly what to do with everything) that when the zucchini first starts blooming it tends to have more male than female blooms. Why?  I don't know.  I would guess that it might increase the likelihood of cross pollination (further the species that kind of thing) if there is another zucchini in the vicinity.  But that's just a guess.  Looking at the future buds on my plant, the majority do appear to be male.

But anyway, telling them apart.  Female flowers have what looks like a tiny zucchini on the stem part.  It's a little more swollen.  It's just like a flower with a zucchini stem.  Male flowers have the stem that most of us are used to thinking of when we picture a flower.  Just a plain, skinny, ordinary stem.

That's all there is to it.

Told you it was easy.  And you should believe me, I'm always right.

Ask Mr. Gardener.  ;)

Two Years Later

Two years ago Monday (June 11, 2010), I married one of the best men on this earth.

He is patient and kind and really put up with a lot with me throughout that first year of getting back on my feet/figuring out who I was post-TFA.  He is faith-filled and holds me accountable to mine.  He loves his family and he loves mine.  He treats my brother as if he were his own by blood, which, honestly, it's rare to find people who are even not unkind to him.

God has blessed him with many talents, including the ability to play really awesome guitar, but also humility and the ability to know when and why to share those talents and to whom those talents really belong.

He is truly one-of-a-kind and blessing.  I am so grateful that he's in my life.

Love you, honey!

We celebrated over the weekend at Shenandoah National Park and had a fabulous time.  It was nice, relaxing, and restful.  We were definitely on the younger side of the clientele, though, haha!  We actually stayed right in the park at one of their lodges, Big Meadows Lodge.  Did you know that they had lodges right on the grounds?  I didn't.  
They even had a pub with live music at night (I <3 Appalachian folk music!) and great local brew.  If you are in the area and like semi dark beers, then you need to try the Big Meadows beer.  It's so good.
It was so incredibly beautiful.  We arrived that Friday right around sunset.

This was driving around the next day.

We went hiking, toured Luray Caverns, enjoyed the scenery, and just had a grand time.

I couldn't have asked for more.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

An Ode to Slug Death

Dear Slugs,

You are among the most foul creatures that I have encountered.  I have yet to ascertain your purpose.  I hate spiders, but they at least eat things that might otherwise enjoy my veggies.  You are merely disgusting.  And, to add insult to injury, you eat my plants.

What is wrong with you?

After my many hours of labor (and sore legs), you had the nerve to eat my lovely plants.  You killed all of the Lemon/Lime Basil and would have killed the Kitchen King Bean and Sweet Pepper had I not declared war.

Among your many ill qualities is a dislike for coffee grounds.  I liberally applied that to my plants.  You were somewhat deterred.  And yet still damaging my good plants.

I also kindly placed beer outside as a place for you to drown.  Unfortunately, the rain that drew you out also served to displace the beer.

I hate to tell you that I am not that easily defeated.  I have three classes of former students to attest that to you.  Some of them may need therapy.

But that is not my wish for you, Slugs.  My wish for you is Death.

And, thus, you forced my hand.  I did need slug bait (the kind that is wildlife safe and safe around edibles, of course).  I'm sorry, but I'm not 100% organic, props to those of you who are.

Since that day, my plants have thrived.

You were adequately warned.

Slugs, I hope your death was slow.


Great Garden Experiment of 2012 Update 1

Okay, so I haven't exactly been better with keeping up with the blog...  But hey, June isn't over and at least months haven't gone by since the last post.  I will give myself points. :)  Not that anyone necessarily cares, but I will pretend that they do. ;)  Gotta take what you can get, right?

So, I took a bunch of pictures of my container garden last Friday/today.  I really wish that I had done that from the get-go so that I could really see the progression.  But at least I have some while they're still growing.  And before they're dead.

Here is a note to self for next year on the ever growing list.  I will publish that list at the end of this growing season, so that, A. I will actually remember for next year and, B. If you are interested in gardening, you might learn from some of my mistakes.  I've actually stumbled upon some really awesome blogs that details people's adventures in gardening and crafting (!!).  I'll probably link to some of those at some point if you have any interest.

Anyway, here's a tour of my little garden...  (I am no photographer...these were taken with my little Canon PowerShot from my sophomore (?) year of college.  These are utilitarian at best.)

Here's the view from the front of my house.  You can see I have a LOT of pots!  Also, I have a side bed, where I am attempting to grow some flowers.  I'm not sure that's going to work out so well.  I should have added some compost or proper garden soil to the dirt.  Virginia clay alone isn't exactly nourishing for flowers.

I believe that this is my Bush Big Boy tomato.  I was impatient and took these photos in the middle of the afternoon on a 90+ degree day, so things are looking a bit wilty.  No flowers, yet, but I'm hoping those will come soon.  I actually initially thought this one wasn't going to make it.  There was something of a disaster prior to transplanting that killed most of my seedlings.  But it's doing quite well.  It's surrounded by marigolds (reputed to keep the bad bugs at bay...and mosquitos).  Marigolds are supposed to be an awesome companion plant.  Supposedly their scent confuses the bad bugs and keeps them away from your veggies.  I've also planted another flower with it...I'm trying to remember what, though.  Cosmos, maybe?

My Roma tomato.  Supposed to be good for sauces and canning.  Also planted with marigold and the mysterious flower.  I'm pretty sure I put cosmos in there.  

This is a hanging pot with Right Bite tomato (little cherry type tomatoes), Sweet Basil, and more marigolds.

This is another hanging pot with more marigolds, Lemon/Lime variety Basil (the seed packet had an equal mix, so we'll see what I get), and in the front of the picture you can see that a little Nasturtium seedling is trying to get going.  Nasturtium is also supposed to be a good companion.

This has dwarf Zinnia and Clemson Spineless Okra.  Okra can get HUGE.  But I am a good Southern girl (yes, even in Northern Virginia) and I'm going to attempt some okra.  This is a variety that is supposedly rated for container gardening.  We'll see.

Sweet Basil in a little pot all by its lonesome.  Maybe I'll put some flowers in there too once it gets a little more established.  I like for flowers and veggies to cohabitate.  It makes it a bit prettier (and perhaps my HOA will think so too), but I also get a little bit of fruit for my labor.

Here I have Sweet Pepper.  I got the Carnival Capsicum mix from Burpee, meaning that my peppers might be White, Red, Yellow, Orange, or Purple.  There's a 20% chance of each.  (I'm hoping for purple.)  These should only get to be about 12 inches tall, so they should be perfect for containers.  They are also surrounded by dwarf Zinnia.  Zinnia are also supposed to be good companion plants and they'll protect the peppers from sunburn.

I love this little sign.  I got it at Glory Be in Occoquan.  I love that little place (and Occoquan, which is a little historic town right down the street).  They have all these really cute little countrified accents and I couldn't resist 3 of these little guys.  

Here's more Lemon/Lime Basil.  Let me explain the prolific amount of basil.  Remember those damn slugs?  They kept eating this down to the quick.  Like, I would have cute little basil sprouts one day and they would be completely gone the next.  Dead.  Nonexistent.  Additionally, I was having some problems with germination.  So, in the course of the Slug War of Summer 2012, I may have gotten a little overzealous with the seed application.  I figure that a few will probably dominate the rest and kill them off.  If that doesn't happen, I'll thin them out.  Anyone in need of Lemon/Lime Basil?

Excuse my shadow- the resident photographer was bottling beer from the most recent homebrewing party.  I now have a closet full of Red Ale and Summer Ale.  I'm not complaining.  (See how exciting DIY is?)  

Black Beauty Zucchini.  I grew this last year (this is actually from last year's seed packet- they recommend new each year for ease of germination, but I had 0 problems with this pack) and they did really well.  Zucchini needs a large pot; I think this one is at least 18 inches.  Last year I did two plants in a 16 inch pot, which worked out really well.  Well, at least until I under-fertilized and Mr. Gardener overwatered.  But otherwise, they did quite well.  This is just one large plant, but I did plant a second one in there last week who appears to be thriving.

Cilantro.  Cilantro is heat sensitive and will bolt easily.  As such, I'm going to try successive planting every two weeks.  I just put in new seed today.  We'll see how it goes.

More Sweet Pepper and Zinnia.  You can also see some Nasturtium starting up (to the right).

Petunia.  Doing great in the pot (I have two).  Not so great in the ground. 

Dahlia given to me by my dad.  I have four pots.  This is the first to sprout.  (And the sign says BLOOM, not LOOM.)

I don't know how to flip this in Blogger.  Eventually, I'll learn.  For all the "new and improved" features that new Blogger boasts, I've really found it completely confusing.

  There's more dwarf zinnia (in the front).  I really like zinnia, can't you tell?  Plus there were a ton of seeds in the packet and they seemed like they might work as one of the best companion plants for me.  I also have two Kitchen King Garden Bean plants.  I initially was only going to plant one, but when the stupid slugs ate ALL of the leaves off of it, I was betting that it was going to die.  So, I planted a second who is doing quite well.  Then, in just the last couple of days, the sickly bean decided to sprout new leaf growth.  So I guess I'll have two bean plants.

There's also Bambino Eggplant.  It should only grow to about 12 inches.  I got kind of a late start - I ordered the seeds last minute - so I'm still waiting for it to sprout.  I planted a second seed last week, though, since it had been over two weeks.  Hopefully I'll get something.  I wasn't quite as zealous with the planting as with the basil, however.  I'm only but so stupid the second time around.  :)

More zucchini.  It's normal for it to wilt in the afternoon on hot days.  Same setup as the other pot. Plus there's some nasturtium growing in there.  I think it'll look pretty spilling over the pot if I can accomplish it.

Two Bush Champion Cucumbers, Morning Glory (it can grow up on the railing like a trellis), and another Bambino eggplant.  I do have a sprout on this one, so hopefully it'll keep growing.

That's my garden!  Hopefully it'll keep growing and I'll get some nice veggies.  Even though it's a little container crazy, I think it looks cute.  And I've gotten some compliments from neighbors and passers-by.  I'm quite nerdily excited about it.  Hence why it's on the blog when many might not care. :)  

Thanks for reading!  If you made it through all those pictures and description, give yourself a pat on the back!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Introduction to Great Garden Experiment of 2012

Hello's been a bit, I suppose.  I get really good at this blogging thing...until I don't any more.

I am going to attempt to track a few of my crafting projects, as well as my Grandiose Garden Experiment of 2012.  About which I am fairly excited.

So here's the deal.  We bought a little townhouse last year with a postage stamp sized yard in the front and our entire backyard is pretty much deck.  And a cherry tree, which the birds love.  The deck would be awesome, except that we're fairly certain that it was constructed out of "reclaimed" (i.e. one man's trash is another man's treasure) scrap wood.  So, it needs some work.  But that's not at the top end of our continuously growing homeowner's list.

But the reason I am telling you this is not to whine about my house.  I realize it sounds that way.  I actually really, really love my house.  It's perfect for our little, two-person family and will continue to be perfect if and when our family hopefully grows someday.  The reason I'm telling you this is to explain what I'm doing in this gardening experiment.

So we don't really have much backyard to work with, which is not a problem because our house is south-facing, which means that our front yard is way better for gardening than the backyard.  So, I want a vegetable garden, but I also want it to look decent.  So a container garden it is.

Last year, I planted a zucchini, which did pretty well.  Well until Mr. Gardener tried to help and started watering the zucchini twice a day, which caused the fruit to start rotting...  but he was genuinely trying to help.  :)  It did eventually recover.  And I learned some lessons last year, which I'll attempt to apply this year.

I started planting this weekend and I'll track my progress here.

I am getting tired because I am an old lady, so I'm going to wrap up.  Except to say this:

This evening, I came home from the church core team meeting (it's kind of like an advisory council, which I sit on) and I was admiring my peppers (because they were one of the few survivors of a couple of my important lessons that I've already learned this year).  And there were slugs everywhere!

First of all, slugs completely disgust me.  Yuck.  Nasty, spineless ickiness.  So I salted the earth.  Well, actually, I ran inside, yelling at my husband, "I need the salt shaker.  Those damn bitches are in my plants!"

Then I salted the earth.

Then I googled ways to stop slugs and have two ways that I am going to implement.  One is drunk slugs.  I put the lids to little glass jars in the pepper plants and filled them with beer.  The slugs will crawl in to drink the beer and then get drunk and drown.

They also hate coffee grounds.  And plants like them.  So tomorrow morning, guess where my grounds are going?

Dear Slugs,

Give up now.  I will win.

Ask my husband.

Love, Ashleigh