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!!


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.


Like Mother, Like Daughter…

Future Seeds!

Its a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I’m going to spend it collecting seeds to dry and save from my flowers. Some of my earliest memories involve collecting marigold seeds from my Grandmothers house with my Mom.

Every spring my Mom sends me seeds that she has collected from her garden the previous summer.  My parents live in Idaho and have a BEAUTIFUL home and garden. (hopefully she sends me some photos that I can share here.  hint, hint!) Obviously a lot of what she sends me doesn’t grow as well in our climate, but I always give it a whirl.

Saving seeds is as easy as collecting the dead heads from the flowers you like.  I dry them in the garage and put them in plastic bags.  This year I scored some cute little containers from Savers for their hibernation, photos coming soon!

There are two types of Seeds – Hybrid & Heirloom
The good news is BOTH work for re-seeding.  I know this is a hot topic in the gardening world, and frankly I’m not trying to start any heated debates, so here’s some basic information:

Hybrid – These seeds are produced by companies through careful pollination of two specific varieties. Normally, this highly selective plant breeding is done to bring together two traits in each of the chosen varieties so that the resulting seed has both of the traits.  Plants grown from hybrid seeds typically do not produce seeds that can be used to grow the same type of plants.  From what I understand these seeds will revert back to the basic characteristics of one of its parent plants.

Heirloom – These non hybrid seeds come from plants that are naturally pollinated. Some of these varieties have been around for centuries and will produce plants whose seeds will produce more plants that look the same as the parent plant.

If anyone has any additional info on Heirloom vs. Hybrid seeds I look forward to hearing your thoughts.  I think in the future I’ll try to buy heirloom when possible… but also look forward to seeing the results I get from the hybrid seeds as they revert back to their “parent” state.  It could be fun!

NEXT: I PROMISE the house plants are coming soon…


The trailer park planter – remodel.

In the beginning...

This monstrosity used to live on my patio. We’ve lived here almost a year and just managed to move it a few weeks ago.  I planted peppers, cucumbers & zucchini last weekend and it was truly starting to grow on me.  But for our relationship to continue to mature, I had to do SOMETHING/ANYTHING about that hidious trailer park patio lattice.

So here’s how we spruced it up and what we used.

TOOLS: Drill, Screw driver, left over brown enamel paint, paint brush and two cans of spray paint for plastic.

Step #1: After originally trying to use the enamel paint to change the color of the lattice (and finding out the hard way that it washes right off with water).  We went to Lowes and picked up some spray paint.

Step #2: I unscrewed the lattice and set it aside, then I painted a quick coat of the brown enamel paint I had found in the garage on the unpainted plywood underneath since I now had access to it.

Step #3: My always helpful husband came out and spray painted the lattice for me.  He’s a pro with a rattle can… I’ve always suspected he’s got some graffiti boy skills he just wont cop to.

Step #4: We decided to let the paint dry over night… so we took the kids to see HOP (great movie!)

Step #5: This afternoon we drilled the lattice back into place (leaving off the side panels because they were bowed out) and here is the final product:

I dont’ know… I kind of think it looked better back at Step #4.  What do you think faithful readers?  Should I leave it off?  I can probably find another spot in the garden for the lattice.  And I feel pretty good about fixing the planter up and re-using it vs. recycling or trashing it all together.  Tell me your thoughts…

Next time: we move inside the house and tackle pothos!


How does your garden grow?

Always growing something...

Here’s WHY my garden grows…

I like to be dirty (truly dirty, real dirt on my hands, knees and feet.)  I’ve always been this way, any member of my family will tell you.  And my husband can even attest to the fact that when I couldn’t get my hands filthy with soil, I’d settle for the next best thing… cigarette ash and the filth that only comes from living in a van or warehouse with 5 of the grodiest dudes around.

In every apartment, punk house, warehouse (and there’s been a few) or quaint suburban home I’ve ever lived in, I’ve attempted a garden.  Sometimes they’ve produced… sometimes they didn’t.  But I’ve always had the same overwhelming sense of delight when I see the first Tomato on the vine or sprout poking through the caliche that I’m hoping will pass for soil one day.

When I was 18 I had a house on Eastwood Drive in Vegas… Not a nice place to call home.  But I was hell bent on growing something… anything.  So when I wasn’t riding my scooter back and forth to the rehearsal studio, I spent my days tearing out a Cypress tree and planting herbs under the front window.  My lesson:  When ALL ELSE FAILS – Arugula will survive.

At 19 I lived in a huge warehouse off of Presido & Highland.  Another rehearsal space.  After making friends with a guy down the street with a burgeoning Hydroponic shop and crossing paths daily with my would be husband (YES!  Jesse).  I gave a grow room a whirl.  Woah.  Fears of helicopters with infrared capabilities finding me out ended that potential career pretty quick.  But not before I spent months with my nose in a book learning all that I could about propagation and light/dark phases.

The punk house off Eastern I rented at 20, had little more than a pathetic little cherry tomato plant in a plastic pot to garden… with a fake ID and a house full of gear, my attention was elsewhere.  That poor plant lived on little more than sheer will and bi-monthly waterings… but at the end of it all.  The day I moved out… I noticed one bright shiny cherry tomato!

Later that year I rented a room from my friend Rick… and after I put a pothos or spider plant in every room and windowsill available, I ventured outside.  Straight to the front yard of course!  As not to disturb Perry the burrowing hound in the backyard.  One trip to Lowes and a full blazer later my lover arrived home from work to find me sporting a homemade bikini, on a lounge chair, in the dirt lot we called the lawn.  Surrounded by plants not even out of the six packs and plastic yet… all carefully placed around a blue kiddie pool.  I’m sure this was the moment he fell in Love.

Our first little Love Nest together as a couple was across from UMC in what we referred to as the “Servants Quarters” of the Scotch Eighties.  We moved everything we had formerly in 1500 sq ft into 900.  There were house plants everywhere and little glasses with cuttings on every available surface.  On my 22nd birthday that year we told everyone we left town, went to Home Depot with $100 and planted our first garden together.  Ugly and rudimentary, yes… but produce it DID!  We had tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and more.  Each piece of produce had tiny little wiener dog bites taken out of them.

From there I found myself at “The Club House” for the next three years… and while you might think being the only semi-responsible member of a band full of maniacs would keep me pretty busy… I did find time to care for my plants.  An especially funny story was when the guy next door came over to tell us the place was haunted, we left and returned a couple hours later to find one of my pothos in a terra-cotta pot burnt to a crisp and smoldering where it stood!  No smoke, No company, No lighters, matches or candles around.  Freaky right?  Well Jesse let me think it was “the Ghost” for about a year and a half before he finally cop’d to sticking a freshly lit Nag Champa in the soil right before we left the building.  Mystery Solved!  And not a minute too soon.

When I was 25 we moved into a suburban neighborhood with a yard, started planning our wedding and all of a sudden found ourselves full time parenting a couple of kids.  THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY DEGREES.  Well working the soil has a way of helping ease frustrations… by spring I had removed rocks, brush and turned an 11’x 5′ area by hand.  I did the same thing each spring for the next 3 years… including the year I did it 6 months pregnant.  Refusing help and an offer to rent a rototiller.  The fruits of my labor never tasted so good.

And in 2010 we bought our first home.  After 10 years together with all these rag tag plants and gardens we find ourselves in the house of our dreams starting fresh.

And that’s why I do it… because I’m still trying to get it right.