Like Neil Young himself, I too was searching for a heart of gold. Well… I knew where to find one, it was the financier I was looking for. Found it!
I was rewarded for all of my hard work at the shop with a nice little budget to start re-planting the shade gardens on the NW side of our house. You might remember last year as I tried all kinds of things that ultimately failed (radishes, carrots, spinach) all from seed, all failures. Turned out all we needed was some reliable irrigation and that came in the form of my new gardener Hermino. He’s terrific. Like the little baby jesus delivered me an Angel of Horticulture… but more on Hermino later.
Today, Gadzuki & I went to Plant World to get some things that would be suitable for a partially shady area, wouldn’t mind the encroaching oleanders and could stair step down in 3 tiers. Oh yeah, and it would have to be considerate of the last thing my husband said to me before he left for work… “Don’t cover up the lights.”
Two toddler sized shoes in the turtle pond later, we had what we had come for. The same kid that helped us out to the car with our vegetables yesterday loaded us up and as I was fastening my kid in the carseat I heard him say “Have a great day, Beautiful”. WHAT? I’m almost positive I looked around for another person in the parking lot that he might have been talking to. Now normally I would just take this as a compliment, say if it came from the 60 year old man that had just run my debit card… but for some reason, out of the mouth of a twenty something kid, I’m inclined to roll my eyes and laugh. I know I should just be gracious and go on my merry way… but for what ever reason I can’t. Twenty year old boys are silly, and the idea that this one thought he could flirt with me is some how offensive… I mean, doesn’t he know who my husband is? Ha! (I JOKE!!) Really, they should be used to dealing with celebrities… Nick Cage was there yesterday when we arrived. (Still Joking!! Not about the Nick Cage thing, he was really there… I’m joking about my poor husbands celebrity status.)
Here’s what we got:
1. A Hearts of Gold Redbud tree. (I’ve been pining over this tree for over a year)
2. 2 Blushing Susie Black-Eyed Susan Vines (because they remind me of my mothers garden)
3. 6 Vinca Major (periwinkle)
4. 1 flat of “baby tears” (ground cover)
And here are some before and afters:
As you can see… this section of the yard needs a lot of work still, but its nice to know one small chunk is done.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
Next time: we’ll revisit the old compost pile and hopefully teach (and document) a friend as she starts her own!!
One of my flower gardens from the front yard is featured in this weeks SEVEN Magazine.
Click here to read the article and see a larger version of the photo.
On another note, I finally found a way to go outside without my allergies going crazy. Jesse and I went to Lowes and bought some of those painting masks. They look weird, but work! The guys and I (& Gadzuki) spent a couple hours cleaning up the yard from the party last weekend and planting.
I put two Australian Ferns in some borrowed pots (thanks Dickie!) that the family got me for my birthday. I’ve never seen them before and as much as I LOVE fern, I’m hoping its the solution for growing fern in our desert climate. Putting them in pots is all part of my “find the perfect location” strategy. My yard has a few different climates, full sun, part sun, part shade, total shade, humid/full sun…ect. So I figure we’ll drag them around until we see what they like best. I put them in part sun to start.
Also, I got a Plant World gift card for my birthday and its its BURNING a hole in my pocket. Maybe I’ll take Gadzooks tomorrow after play school and post some photos of our favorite spots at the BEST nursery in Vegas.
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).
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!!
Eggplant, Onion & Garlic: Not a lot has changed… I’m almost wondering if the area might be too shady?
Carrots: They’re getting bigger everyday, but still not large enough to even get a baby carrot.
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.
Next: I’m excited to show you how good the compost looks after just a month and a half!
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…
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
Like I mentioned before, I’ve grown plants in some very odd circumstances. Windowless warehouses, eastside caliche, rehearsal studios… but by far the strangest was the time I adopted a giant pothos in Death Valley, California.
I arrived in Hell (as I affectionately remember it) the day after my 18 birthday. Having checked out the resort during El Nino (1998 being one of the wettest winters on record for Death Valley) there were flowers blooming and lovely 70-somthing degree weather. I dare say there was even a little bit of spring humidity in the air.
When I returned 2 days before May 1998 it was already 110+ and I thought I was going to die. Surely this was karma for every bad thing I had ever done and believe me, even at 18 years old… that list was long.
But being an optimist, I settled in to my job at the Borax museum and even started learning some interesting facts about Death Valley. I figured it would make my one sided conversations with the European tourists (the only ones Ambitious/Crazy enough to visit in the summer) a little more fun. Yes, there was a language barrier. But somehow it helped keep my days short, so my nights could stay long.
I spent most evenings drinking beers stolen by the wait staff of various on property restaurants with the rest of the lifers at Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort and causing all sorts of harmless trouble. Most people that worked in Death Valley ended up staying a while… and it wasn’t for the great wages or wonderful working conditions.
But every once in awhile some kid from Southern California or Pharump would get a taste of those big city lights calling from Las Vegas and move on. That was when things got fun… Most residents had no tranpartation (part of the limitations that would keep a poor soul working in such a hopeless enviroment) so when they got the urge to move, most of their belongings would go to the highest bidder.
Not lacking money or negotiation skills I quickly moved up from employee housing to a ramshackle 5th wheel trailer (virtually unheard of for anyone outside of management and under forty.) Upper Echelon all the way! I was hob nobbin with the Snow Birds that moved resort to resort enjoying their retirement and the occasional glass from their stash of boxed wine.
One day tromping back through employee housing on my way to the museum I came across a boy I barely knew who was giving away the last of his worldly belongings. “Got a job lined up in Vegas” he said. Which translated to: I found an exoctic dancer willing to support me while I begin my life of crime – All the same to me, “How much do you want for that Plant?” I asked him, pointing. “$20 Bucks! Its 12 years old. Its the only thing my mother gave me when I moved out of her trailer in Pharump” he said. Sure thing. I had $14 dollars in ones and change in my pocket. “I’ll give you $5 bucks, you can buy a quart of beer for the drive. And I promise I wont kill it.” Deal!
I lugged the plant back to my sweet sweet trailer… literally. The plant itself was in an 18″ pot, but the 15 – 20 vines drug behind me a good 4 ft as I walked on the scortching hot asphalt. This thing was in bad shape. Some of the vines only had 1 or 2 leaves left. It felt lighter than it should have been because it was so dried out and the roots had gotten so big they cracked one side of the plastic pot. The leaves were all a sad shade of yellowish green.
It slowly came back from the edge of death.
I promptly left Death Valley. Turns out those big city lights called to me too. When I got to town and moved into my first apartment I immedialty repotted the poor thing. After it recovered a little I started propagating it with little cuttings all over that apartment and every house, building and business I’ve lived in for the last 12 years. Most of my friends and relatives ended up with a version of that plant.
When I was preganant I gave the original plant a good pruning, halving the orginal size and put it in the nursery. I am pleased to report that the plant grew as fast as my precious little Gadzuki! And as we speak I have a glass of its cuttings in my kitchen window.
Here’s how to grow & propagate one for yourself:
Step #1: Pick a strong Bright/Dark Green plant. I like them best with few long vines and lots of thick stems and short distances between leaves. Or even better! Find a friend with one and cut a few stems for yourself (more on that later…)
Step #2: If you buy it at a nursery or grocery store it will almost always need to be repotted. Choose a pot a few inches larger, with good drainage or if there is no drainage fill the bottom few inches with rocks.
Step #3: I roll mine on the ground a few times in the original pot to loosen the soil before I transfer it to its new home. Fill with dirt and water.
Step #4: Pothos aren’t very needy. They almost like abuse. They need very little light to live (but will do much better in a bright spot out of direct sunlight , I’ve heard North West light is the best direction). So find a spot and keep a spray bottle near by. Your plant will thrive if you give it the gift of a little humidity every few days.
Step #5: Find a vase or glass and fill it with water.
Step #6: Cut off a few 6-8 inch sections of stems. Remove the lower leaves so they don’t muck up the water and submerge them as quickly as possible.
Step #7: Put the vase anywhere really. I have mine in windowsills, bathrooms… you name it. And when the roots on your new cuttings reach 3-4 inches long replant them in moist soil and start all over again : )
Next: We get up to our elbows in some FANTASTIC compost!!
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.
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!!
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!!
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.
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 & 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.
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!
Today I got schooled… and loved every minute of it.
We hit the ground running, picking up Lopez and heading out to Broad Acres swap meet. Where I scored a sweet pitch fork ($4.00)… and heard a fantastic story about an urban youth holding another fellow up by the neck with the afore mentioned implement of death. Plus, a lovely gift for Gilby. Lopez picked up a Muno shirt, SCORE!
I was pleased when we were heading back to the Hotel Amoroso with enough time to spare for me to finally catch one of the weekly workshops that Plant World offers on gardening. Todays theme: Leslie Doyle – The Tomato Lady. The hour I spent listening was awfully educational and embarrassingly humbling. The experience was free and I’ll go over all of the notes I took in tomorrows blog. Until then, you can visit her website the Sweet Tomato Test Garden.
After a quick trip to the dollar store where I picked up some fertilizer, flower seeds & peat cups for seedlings cheap ($4.00)! Oh, and Tamales I bought out of a ladies trunk in the parking lot for tonight’s dinner, we reconvened a the house.
With the usual suspects just happening by, we had an impromptu Mexican Fiesta and everybody stuck around until I announced I was finally putting on the documentary DIRT!
I’ve been talking so much about. Please watch this movie. Even if you’re not a gardener, even if you’re not an environmentalist and most of all it you’ve lived your whole life in a city.
Its a simple reminder that if we’re all doing the best we can, we can accomplish a lot.
Thats it for tonight. Its the weekend, and I love my family too much to stare at this screen much longer. Hope you’ve planted well this weekend. I ironically do LESS gardening on the weekend than I do during the normal week.
Tomorrow: we’ll go over some of the tricks that Leslie Doyle has up her sleeve when it comes to planting in Las Vegas.