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. 


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!!


This is where I go in my dreams…

the offensive tree

The trees are making us sick.  I’ve been told by a friend that it should pass in a couple weeks.  I hope so.  The culprits are the Oleander & Olive trees and they are all over our property.  Next year we’ll get the injections that stop the Olives from producing… until then, we suffer.

So from the luxury of my air conditioned bedroom, While Gib & I watch cartoons… here is a site we like to go to.  He likes pointing out all that he sees (like a web version of an I spy book) and something about the “Wee Gardens” takes me back to when I was little and played with my Maple Town figures in the wild & crazy backyard we had in Paradise, California.

Here’s the link: http://www.weegarden.com

Hopefully we’ll be back in the garden tomorrow for the holiday, but then again… everyday is Earth Day around here.


Part #3 – My very own Copa Cabana

This is Vegas… Right?

I feel like I’m entitled… and don’t worry, I’ve heard the whole “you’ve got an overwhelming sense of entitlement” thing before.  Usually it was from my Dad when I’d ask for something “crazy” like summer camp.  More recently when I ask my husband for something “crazy”… like a cabana in the backyard.

This time though… Jesse decided to endorse my craziness and gave me a green light on the project.  He helped with the grass (as you saw in Part #2) and gave me the money to buy the succulents for the little garden behind the diving board (as you saw in Part #1).  But the gazebo… that was all me!  I made enough money at the Gears show I threw at Boomers a couple weeks ago, combined with some money I had to buy it cash.  Just had to talk the guy with one on craigslist.com down to $175 from $250.

48 hours after negotiations began (I think I mentioned before that its one of my skills) he said I could pick it up.  After an exhausting trip to North Town with Gadzuki, complete with bad GPS directions and a potty training “close call”… The sweet Albertsons brand gazebo was MINE!!

The hard part was waiting for Jesse squared to install it (Jess & Jesse Junior).  But it was well worth the wait.  Oh, did I forget to mention that?  Its been a very long wait…

Almost 5 years ago when we got married, we wanted to honeymoon in Acapulco (and visit the real Copa!)  Kids and money got in the way… and stayed in the way.  We never did take our honeymoon… but a long summer in my own Copa Cabana, with the love of my life, in our dream house makes Acapulco sound as important as summer camp does to me now… 20 years later.

Total Cost:
Gazebo – $175.00
Succulents – $29.28
Sod –  $38.00
GRAND TOTAL = $242.28

Next we’ll take a walk back through the garden… Update on all things veggie & compost!

A couple more photos:

Click to make it bigger

Click to make it bigger.

 


Part #2 – Natures Flooring!

In the beginning

My yard is large.  I’m not sure what the square footage is, but after looking at many a suburban home in our quest for the perfect house, I know its not average.  On top of its size, its dead.  Or it was, rather.

One year into the search, we found the house of our dreams.  The good news?  It was it was in our price range.  The bad news?   The only reason:  It was a foreclosure and over a year of vacancy had turned a once beautiful landscape into a pitiful Vegas wasteland.

Even though we’ve been steady fixing, cleaning and planting since we moved in last August, this was the first area we decided to focus on entirely.  The “Cabana” I call it!  I wanted it for my birthday (April 24th), and my husband being the tolerant man he is, agreed to get involved.

First things first, the empty planter (yesterdays post “Part #1 – Geophytes for fun!) and the miserable little chuck of dead lawn had to be dealt with.  So here’s how we finally got grass, man…

BEFORE:

 Part #2 – Natures Flooring!


Star Nursery has the Sod for $0.45/sq ft.  One time when Jess and I were young and dumb we snagged roughly the same amount from a place by our rehearsal space… we brought it home and laid it in the backyard in the middle of the night.  We really felt like we scored, surely it was worth a lot of money.  Only rich people SOD their yards… the rest of us struggle with seed and and manure and birds and disappointment.

Well we were 9 years later we learned we were WRONG.  After a grand total investment of $38 the jeep was filled with green lush grass… even if it was only enough for a 9 x 9 area.  Oh and consequently, that sod we planted in the dead of night died.  Kharmas a bitch.

And this is how you can plant sod too:

Step #1:  Make your kids help.  Give them shovels, rakes, hoes (ha! we’re a little close to the strip for that!) and turn them loose.  They broke up and removed all of the dead grass.  Being careful of the sprinkler (its worth its weight in gold in this remote section of the yard) and added some of it to my new compost pile.

Step #2:  Fertilize the soil

Step #3:   Lay it down like your laying out quilting squares… or at least thats what it looked like to me.

Step #4: Gently cut the sections of grass to fit in your area with a steak knife.  Yep, I saw it with my own eyes.  That was the fanciest tool they used in the whole process.

Step #5:  Water, drench, drown, submerge, soak, shower, douse, bathe, ect… basically any word that describes keeping it as wet as possible for as long as possible.  Or at least two weeks.

Oh, and lastly… TRY to keep your two year old from riding his “motorcycle” on it.

Tomorrow: we take a look at what finally became my own little piece of paradise in our backyard.

Also check out the updated photo on Part #1