“I’m not really a career person. I’m a gardener, basically.”

Roses

Roses

And with that I’m back home, in the place I love the most.  My garden.  1 month (almost to the day) later… Our guitar shop http://www.cowtownguitars.com has successfully relocated to the Arts District, we’ve hired an employee and my days are free again to play in the dirt.  Our grand opening party was last First Friday (you can check out photos here, courtesy of http://www.onethirtyeight.org) and other than a few more indoor plants to re-pot and some raised beds to assemble in the back yard… my work there is done.  Mostly…

I’ll just leave you with some photos of my gardens over the last month and pick up where I left off last month, in the next few days.

Hollyhocks, Iceplant, Daisies and Gnomeo

The Gnomeo Garden

Bougainvillea and Lettuce

Bougainvillea and Lettuce

Herbs, Lettuce, Zucchini, Squash, Eggplants, Artichoke, Onion

Herbs, Lettuce, Zucchini, Squash, Eggplants, Artichoke, Onion

Lettuce, Tomatoes and Basil

Lettuce, Tomatoes and Basil

Zinnias, Iris, Iceplant and Tybalt

Zinnias, Iris, Iceplant and Tybalt

Front flower garden

Front flower garden

Another front flower garden

Another front flower garden


A surprise gift from a friend.

tomato seedlings

A Gift

This morning I stumbled to the door bleary eyed and still searching for my lost cup of coffee, to find a gift on my doorstep! My gardening guru and dear friend Stephanie Henderson had left for me, 6 tomato seedlings and a container of her tried and true secret weapon. Butter? No, that was merely the vessel by which the magic traveled.

You dear reader, chose the right day to read my blog. I’m about to share with you the secret for planting your tomatoes early and helping them develop a strong root system (even when the weather is still hovering dangerously close to freezing at night.) Tomatoes Alive! From the website http://www.gardensalive.com is the stuff. According to their web site: “For more than 20 years, gardeners across the country have raved about Tomatoes Alive! Our all-natural fertilizer is a backyard celebrity, famous for producing vigorous plants, big crops and luscious flavor. For Tomatoes Alive! Plus, we’ve added theimportant minerals calcium and magnesium. Tomatoes Alive! Plus is recommended not just for tomatoes but also for peppers and eggplants, which require similar nutrients. Its blend of fast- and slow-release ingredients provides the nourishment your plants need for steady, healthy growth and bountiful crops. With just two feedings a season, your plants will produce more blossoms and set more and larger fruit.”

Stephanie suggests sprinkling Tomatoes Alive in the bottom of the hole before you place the plant. I’ve always just used a little bone meal in the past, so I’m excited to see the difference. If my friend’s Tomatoes are any indication of the success this magic dust can bring to the garden then I’M A BELIEVER!!!!

GOOD LUCK, Gardeners!!


A year in the sh*t!

So its almost been a year since my brilliant kid helped me turn an old desk on its side and we announced to the family that we would begin collecting their trash for the garden.  All in all its been an easy adjustment and well worth the added effort.  It helps a lot that we were broke as a joke in the beginning and my gardening habit (see: need for good soil) was costing my husband a small fortune.  Its pretty easy to get someone on board with something, even if it goes against their inner most constitution when it saves them money.  My husband is not a hippy.  Not now, not ever.  To him, collecting ones trash and growing your own food in it later, quickly gets thrown in the “Hippy” category and left there for all of eternity.  But like I said, we were poor… and composted mulch I was buying at the store was about 3 bucks a bag. And I was buying ten at a time.  Our house sits on a large lot and having been a foreclosure when we bought it, well… there was a lot of soil to amend.

From the beginning every member of the family was on board.  It was Juniors great idea, Tony always delivered the scraps from the kitchen to the bin after dinner and Gadzuki eats his weight in apples each month… so the cores really did add up.  Here was the first post about our compost.

Soon after we got started, Gadzuki’s pre-school The Kids Co-op got a compost bin.  Again, Jesse… tolerating my “Hippy” tendencies and being the all around great Dad that he is, volunteered to take the morning off work and put it together.  Big Fun!  3.5 hours later the Co-op started its composting program and I’m happy to report that I just recently mulched the gardens with their 2nd round of complete compost! (I am the one lady Kids Co-op Gardening committee).

With Spring rearing its head a little early this year, our family has spent the last couple weekends gardening.  While it feels so good to get back into the swing of things mentally (my body would have to disagree), I was a little disappointed with my compost.  While the one I started mid summer #9 (and damn near forgot about) was completely magical and ready to go, the one that was started just going into fall (#10) was a little lackluster.  I’m resisting the urge to put chemicals in it to fire it back up, so here’s what we did:

HOW TO FIRE BACK UP YOUR COMPOST AFTER WINTER! 

Turning Compost

Turning the Compost

We started by completely cleaning out the finished (and might I add, beautiful) compost – bin number #9.  I added it all around the garden and any I had left we put in a planter I know will have veggies soon enough.

Compost Bin

Compost Bin

After that we split the contents of the left side of the bin (compost #10), I think my mistake was adding a large portion of the Christmas Tree to it back in December… Live and Learn, right?

I raked up some leaves (brown)…

Brown Matter

The Browns

And Junior mowed the lawn (greens)…

Green Matter

The Greens

We combined them with a little soil and made a delicious compost “Lasagna” as the experts call it.

Compost Lasagna

The Lasagna

Water was added and then it was covered.  From here on out we will only add to the Right side of the bin, thus turning it into compost #11!

Its hard to believe that in less than a year (only by a few days) we have successfully completed and used 10 rounds of compost in the garden.  This is really exciting stuff.  I’ve learned a few things along the way I thought I might share… #1.  Avocado seeds and skin are not worth the wait.  #2.  You really can keep the smell down considerably by omitting Dairy, Oil and Meat,  #3.  Kids love worms and #4.  Composting your own rubbish really will save you time, energy and money.

Have I told you before?  I LOVE Dirt!!!

THIS WEEK – The weather has dipped back down into the low 60’s and high 30’s at night around here… I’m not sure how much gardening I’ll be doing, but check back for some exciting posts on motherhood in the garden and some other personal anacdotes! 


Is that a bulb in your pocket or are you happy to see me?

With Spring having sprung a little early here (in Las Vegas) we still have quite a few pots of flowers around our house from forced bulbs (i.e bulbs tricked into thinking its spring so that they will flower in winter.) The following is a post that began back in January and is being finished now with a spectacular “AFTER” photo.  Enjoy!

January 5th, 2012 – Being the lazy animal that I was all of Fall, we’re only now getting our onion bulbs in the ground. I think they’ll be okay as we line the outside of the garden that we used last season for tomatoes. I had some green onions last year that grew well out of the direct sunlight, shield by our mountain of egg plants.

 HOW TO PLANT BULBS FOR SPRING!

Step one – Clear the bed.
This happened the other day when Gadzuki and I tore through a bush of dried and died tomato plants. You can see that we’ve left the basil behind because (as its not perennial) we let it go to flower last year so that it would drop seeds and come back in spring.

20111228-150846.jpg

Step two – Dig a hole.
The typical distance that the bulb should be planted is 6 inches. Im not much for “exacts” (which is why if you find me in the kitchen baking ANYTHING not out of a box, its usually against my will.) So we just use the distance of the spade on a typical hand held garden trowel.

Kids digging

STEP TWO

Step three – Place the bulb
Now this is important… especially when your helpers are of the “under 15 set”. Place the bulb POINTY side up, i know no better way to describe this. Its pointy… like a little gnome hat.

Planting Bulbs

STEP THREE

Step four – Cover
Fill the hole up with dirt. Only instead of using the same dirt we dug out, I like to replace it with some of our premium composted mulch!

Compost

STEP FOUR

Step five – Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Step six – Water the ground and kiss your kids (it also helps to take them somewhere fun.)
You’re going to want to keep the troops happy, so that they keep helping with the manual labor.

Kids Watering

STEP SIX

Now wait and wait and wait and wait. Oh and try to remember where you’ve planted the bulbs so that you don’t dig them up later when adding to the garden. Some people like to plant a small annual flower on top to mark its spot… but I’m just going to remember that they are lining our bed and plant the tomatoes dead center when the time comes.

UPDATE – February 25th 2012
Here are some bulbs growing up out of the soil.

Growing Bulbs

Growing from Bulbs

NEXT UP!  A Year in the Sh*T!  An updated blog about the trials and tribulations of my first year composting.  Look for that tomorrow February 27, 2012. 


Saturdays spent schlepping…

This morning I asked my husband to leave me his Jeep so that I could go to the store.  He knew I wasn’t after groceries and simply said “don’t spend $200 on flowers!” before leaving the house.  I smiled and knew I would find his keys waiting for me downstairs with what I interpreted as his blessing to spend as much as $199.99 on flowers.  Lucky for him I’m thrifty and didn’t take advantage of his good will.

Kids Nursery

Kids shopping

So I slammed a cup of coffee and called out cheerfully… “Come on guys!  We’re gonna do some gardening today”.  Knowing full well that what they actually heard was more like “Turn the video games off and do some yard work”.  But whatever, Tomato, Tomato!   The kids and I laced up our gardening shoes and got to work.  You see, on top of our dreadfully neglected winterized backyard we also have a 3 month old Yellow Lab puppy named Duane.  He’s a little on the destructive side, so before we could get to the good stuff, I.E clearing beds and planting flowers… we needed to undo some of the damage that only a bored, teething canine can do.

Duane

THE CANINE

Tony swept the patio, JR threw away any chewed up plastic plant six packs, frisbees & Gadzuki toys he could find, and I set out to “Dog Proof” my veggie garden.  The little varmint has been trampling the lettuce and eggplants that I put in last week so we installed a new fence.  Hopefully that does the trick.  When the chores were done I went up to the nursery.

The Veggie Garden

I didn’t plant anything spectacular today… Just some Daisies, Asparagus fern, Lavender and Jasmine.  As you probably guessed I’m trying to attract bee’s.  Here are some photos.

The Planter

 TOMMORROW We’ll talk Bulbs!  Mine are already starting to come up!


One time… a car drove through my flower garden and parked in my living room.


I’ll preface this by saying I’m trying to make this sound more like a story than an excuse… but its kind of hard.

The fact is, it is an excuse.  If I were a different kind of person I might have kept gardening after a car drove through my flower garden, and into the living room… but the fact is I gave up.  On June 4th, 2011 a couple of drunk teenagers with a BB guns, joy riding in their parents Chevy Malibu were chased by the cops into our neighborhood… it ended in our living room.  The driver was arrested, but we were left with a massive hole in the side of our home and I guess now that I’m actually taking time to write about it… our hearts too.

inside view

The car parked in my living room.

outside view

The car parked on my garden.

We were very lucky that no one was hurt.  The big boys were at their Grandma’s house and none of the neighborhood kids happened to be playing on the corner (a RARE day!)  Our incredible friends and  neighbors came over immediately and spent hours helping us clean.  We weren’t the only ones amazed when the house was livable at the end of the night.  Here is a clip from the news if you want to see it.
After the former wall was removed and our house was successfully boarded up I did spend a couple days transferring the plants from my demolished garden into the backyard.  Here’s a photo:

Gardenia

the Salvage Garden.

The new spot in the backyard is now called “the salvage garden”, it made it through the summer heat and is now thriving.  But after seeing my little flower garden, my first attempt at gardening in our new home, my baby really… completely demolished and subsequently stomped on day after day by “constructors” (as Gadzuki called them).  I really did lose my steam.  I quit.

construction

The Contractors.

I continued doing the bare minimum and managed to keep the gardens in the backyard alive through the long summer, but didn’t touch the front.  After 3 months of construction, buying a new business with my husband and the kids back in school I was finally able to look at that little space again without feeling sad.  I’m no psychologist but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just the superficial loss of my flower garden that was the problem.  Maybe it was what all of those dead flowers represented.  The truth is It could have been me, more easily could have been my husband (who was sitting in the living room when the car hit) and the worst thing of all…  The most horrible thing a mother could ever think of;  it could have been my baby.  Gadzuki.  Who was sleeping on the couch, under that window, just minutes before THOSE kids, drove THAT car across my lawn, through my garden and into my living room.

Gib

veggies

We had veggies all summer.

In the end I guess it helped me put things in perspective… I was spending 8 hours a day gardening and blogging before the accident.  Afterwards my priorities shifted and all I wanted to do was spend time with my family.  I needed to keep Jesse & Gadzuki where I could see them, and as luck would have it I was able to all summer!
2 weeks after construction started we bought a guitar shop, http://www.cowtownguitars.com for those interested.  In a funny twist of fate I was able to keep them by my side and in my line of sight all summer long as we worked together in our new shop.

Gib & Me

Gadzuki & I at Cowtown over the summer.

So as we get ready to welcome 2012, I’d just like to say that I’m back (and I’ve got the leaves and dirt in my hair to prove it). Today I turned composts #’s 7 & 8, tore out tomatoes/eggplants and added some brown matter to the old beds. The next couple weeks we’ll be busy getting three new raised beds installed before spring and before long we’ll be starting seeds in the garage!  Thanks for reading and I can’t wait to share with you all of my trails and tribulations of the next growing season here at the Hotel Amoroso!

Happy New Year!

House

The House: AFTER

Next time: we’ll revisit the old compost pile and hopefully teach (and document) a friend as she starts her own!!


UPDATE – Veggies

Ugh!  Its been a long couple days here at the Hotel Amoroso.  The Olive trees have been in overdrive, producing all of that sweet gold (pollen) that makes the circle of life continue and me want to end my own (life).  Okay maybe I’m not THAT dramatic, but when the choice is between gardening with my eyes swelled shut or living the life of a shut in… only seeing my plants from the window, it feels like I could be.

My Birthday on Sunday was awesome.  We partied, bbq’d, drank and enjoyed life in the backyard.

As promised… here is an update on all things veggie!

TOMATOES:  They’re growing fast and most plants have small tomatoes on them.  Even the Roma, which was broken in half by the hound dog the week it was planted.  As you can tell from the photo below, the cherry tomatoes are taller than the great Gadzuki (and he’s only 2 years old).

4/26/11

3/6/11

Peppers, Zucchini & Cucumbers:  A lot has changed in just 17 days since I planted.  The Zucchini are already really big, the Cucumbers are climbing up and out of the planter and the Yellow Bell even has a small bell pepper!!

4/26/11

4/9/11

Small Bell

Eggplant, Onion & Garlic:  Not a lot has changed… I’m almost wondering if the area might be too shady?

4/26/11

4/3/11

Carrots:  They’re getting bigger everyday, but still not large enough to even get a baby carrot.

4/26/11

4/3/11

Radishes:  The foliage is getting very large on these… unfortunately almost half our crop was wiped out by the birds.  I can’t wait to harvest these and plant another round before it gets too hot.  This time I think I’ll try a bird net over the top.

4/26/11

4/3/11

Next:  I’m excited to show you how good the compost looks after just a month and a half!  


Growing our own Uncle Tony repellant!

Here’s a garlic growing trick I learned from my friend Casey.


You start out with a regular piece of garlic.  Peel it and push some toothpicks through the top.  Fill a shot glass 3/4 full and set the garlic inside.  Like this:

3 or 4 days later this is what your garlic will look like.  Its a good idea to run fresh water over the garlic each morning if you think about it…

Next I selected a sometimes shady spot in the garden, dug individual holes for each section of garlic and planted them (roots down).

Now we wait…

I’m excited to see how long it takes until we have garlic.  I’ve read some opposing information on when it will reach maturity (based on zones).

This is what I found on Helpfulgardener.comYou will have garlic in a few months. If you do not pick all your garlic then leave them in the ground all winter they will be fine. The plants will turn to seed probably late August. The plants will flower and make sets you can pick the sets and save them to plant next year.

Sounds good to me!  We’ll have a vampire free yard YEAR ROUND at this rate!

Next: we’ll check out the flower seedlings in the garage…


Update on all things Vegetable…

Your faithful blogger!

Hi Readers,
Here’s an update on all of the veggies.  I’m also happy to report that with my last show (for a while) over and out of the way, I’ll be gardening and blogging a lot more.  With temperatures on the rise & sales at the nursery on the horizon I’m sure I’ll have a lot to talk about too!!

RADISHES

The Radishes: The good news is that they adjusted to the “thinning” just fine and even the rows I planted in the trenches recovered well and are growing just fine.  The bad news is the birds ran out of olives after we raked last weekend and took out the first row of seedlings.  I think we’re about 10 days away from our first harvest!!

CARROTS

The Carrots: As it turns out, the carrots seeds I thought I killed with my watering by osmosis experiment, came up!  Just as the package would have suggested too, If you know me its not a surprise… patience is not something I excel at.  We still have a while to go, I haven’t even thinned them yet…  But I was pleasantly surprised to see that this method of watering worked even with seeds.

EGGPLANT & ONION

NEW!!  Eggplant & Onions: Just this weekend my sweet nice husband surprised me with $60 to do what I wanted with in the garden!  I took (his) hard earned money to STAR Nursery this time, to see if the prices were any cheaper (they were).  I picked up a bunch of veggies… ‘Black Beauty’ Eggplant and some Green Onions are what I planted here.

TOMATOES, LETTUCE & CORN

Tomatoes, Lettuce & NEW!! Corn: Well you can see that planting the tomatoes the 2nd weekend in March didn’t do them any harm… even though we did get a little freeze after they were in the ground.  All varieties are thriving, the only one that seems to be struggling is the Roma (my hound dog got at it), but even it’s still doing well.

Also, I added some ‘Yellow Pear’ Tomatoes this weekend and ‘White’ Corn stalks against the wall… more for Gadzuki’s amusement than anything.

PEPPERS, CUCUMBERS & ZUCCHINI

NEW!!  Squash, Zucchini & Peppers: Last weekend we removed a HUGE planter from the patio and moved it over by the tomatoes.  This weekend I cleaned it out and planted. Thats why the majority of my budget at STAR Nursery went to mulch & soil.  But I did manage to pick up some ‘Yellow’ Squash, ‘Italian’ Zucchini, ‘Japanese’ Cucumbers, and ‘Armenian’ Cucumbers for the bottom level.  My idea is that they can climb over the edge and down to the ground.  And on top we have ‘Yellow’ Bells, ‘Anaheim’ Chiles, ‘Green’ Bells and Jalapenos.

Some exciting news!! One of my gardens is going to be photographed for a local magazine this week AND one of the students from Mrs Henderson’s Science class got so excited about my compost that she’s started her very own!!

Next:  We’ll check in on the seedlings I started in the garage and later in the week we’ll get an official temperature on the compost!


She who walks between the rows…

LEFT: Radishes - RIGHT: Carrots

So here’s the verdict on the watering by osmosis vs. watering overhead experiment.

Before Thinning

Watering by osmosis (i.e the carrot seeds) didn’t work for me.  The seeds never came up.  Its because either the seeds dried out, were planted too deep, or blew away (we did have some heavy winds).  In any case, we will have radishes and LOTS of them!
The radishes sprouted exactly as the package said, about 5 days after they were planted.  I put them in the ground, created shallow trenches on either side and watered them with a fine mist overhead everyday until they came up.
(see photo at LEFT).

 

TOOL

On the 9th day they were 1/2″ -1″ tall and it was definitely time to “thin” the rows… But I just couldn’t see the point in aborting all of those “would be” radishes so I got creative.  These were the tools I set out with:  One little Rake, My trusty gardening gloves and a pencil (see photo at RIGHT).

Originally I intended on maybe planting them where the carrot seeds had been (Right Side), but after getting down and dirty I decided to take advantage of the rows in between.  Since watering by osmosis clearly wasn’t something I was going to continue doing.

 

SPROUT

When I put the seeds in the ground I basically just drew a line in the soil and sprinkled the seeds along that line.  BOY was that the WRONG thing to do.  When the sprouts came up they were only about an 1/8 of an inch apart at best.  I needed to thin them to roughly 1″ apart.

To do this I had to be careful to pull up each sprout individually by one of the 4 little leaves.  Easier than is sounds, but still time consuming, all the while being careful not to touch the trunk.  Then with my pencil I created shallow holes all along the little trenches on either side of the row.  I then transplanted as many seedlings as I could.

AFTER

 

If things go well we should get 300 radishes all together from this modest 3’x3′ planting area.  Not bad!  Considering we’re about 10 days from when they went in the ground we should be feasting like rabbits in about 15 more days!

So we’ll see in a few days if the “trench seedlings” live through the water collecting in them.  But if it works, it’ll be a great way of taking advantage of a small space.

Next:  We’ll explore propagating some Ivy for my friend Hank’s yard!