Saturday, April 30, 2011

Seattle: A First Harvest

My first harvest!! My mint is just taking over and I know the best way to keep it growing is to use it! It just continues to come back stronger and stronger. We had a gorgeous, sunny day in Seattle and I just felt the need for some iced tea after all of our cold, rainy days. So I made a batch of Blueberry Bliss Strawberry Lemonade iced tea (a rooibos Teavana blend, I'm obsessed). I added a few tablespoons of sugar and shoved in some mint. The mint sitting in the tea (once cooled) adds an amazing flavor. It's pretty delicious. And so fancy, right?!

I know it's in an absinthe glass, but it's just so fancy!

My plants are doing super well, by the way. Below are my hydrangeas. I hope I see some blossoms this year. I'm trying to be patient. I think I cut them back too far for the winter.

My hydrangea leaves are huge!

The carrots are looking so great but oh man are they overwhelming the pot. I need to thin them out, but they look so delicate. I'll wait a little bit, maybe later in the week. The pot looks so beautiful though, like tall grasses in the wind. I love them.

Carrots are booming! Maybe I should thin soon?

As for the lettuce you can see it is doing super well. I'm so excited for the first harvest of these guys! So delicious. That's kind of weird, right? Thinking about eating something you are so excited to see grow and thrive? Oh well, they are delicious. I decided they were doing too well, so some thinning was needed.

Before thinning...

After thinning. Not enough, huh?

I know, they need to be thinned more but I'm torn between pulling out the big guys or the little guys. How do I know the little ones will do as well as the big ones? And how do I get to the little ones without disrupting the delicate roots of the big guys? So I just did some group pulling to get some breathing room. I'll thin again soon, once they're stronger.

And look at this!! A mystery bloom!! I really have no idea what it is. And the fun part is, it's bloomed in two pots! Which I would assume means cilantro, right? But it looks like rosemary. Wait a second, wait a second, I didn't even plant rosemary!! So I guess we'll just have to see how it matures. I hate waiting. That leaves four pots un-sprouted (catnip being one of them and if you remember anything about last year this one took forever to sprout, so I'm not rushing it).

It's a mystery bloom!! I have no idea what it is.

And of course, probably my proudest accomplishment: blueberries! If you'll remember last year's blueberries were a disaster. I am completely babying this year's plant and you can see it is paying off! It's so happy! I come home and see stretched leaves and now these beautiful blossoms have formed. I think this is going to be one of those plants that comes back every year and when we move is going to be a pain to take with us. Haha, but we will!!

Dainty blueberry blossoms.

All in all things are going well. This is quite a run-of-the-mill post, just to update you on progress. In a couple weeks I can plant my zucchini and chives which will be great and there are still pots to see bloom! I'll keep an eye on the mystery bloom, he's certain to reveal what he is soon!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chicago: Gardening Emergency- read at your own risk!

What do hydrogen peroxide, chamomile tea, a knife, and a dryer all have in common? I will tell you. But I won't tell you right now. First you must read my story.

It was a dark, dank, and lonely night...except it wasn't lonely because Joe was here, but just for added drama pretend it was all three. Joe and I had just settled in for our nightly bit of "I'm too tired to do anything but lay on the couch and watch TV when a shriek rang out. "EEEEEEEEH" It was me shrieking because THERE WAS A FUNGUS ON MY BABY PLANTS!!!

Noooooooo! Were my babies doomed to be smothered by a nasty white fungus or could I save their sorry souls? Acting quickly I called Dina...maybe that wasn't the best action to save the plants but I needed consoling before I could really think. Being the resourceful gardeners that we are, we immediately googled "nasty white fungus on my plants."

The solutions before me were: 1. sorry your screwed why did you water your seedlings so much, geez! 2. put a fan near your seedlings to give them some air 3. spray with diluted hydrogen peroxide 4. water with some chamomile tea, it acts as a natural fungicide. Realizing that I didn't have enough time to check to make sure these sources were legitimate I decided to try ALL the solutions. Would this solution result in dead plants? I had no way of knowing.

And so I steeped some chamomile tea (see, being a tea snob comes in handy), mixed up some diluted hydrogen peroxide, took that knife and scraped off all that nasty fungus. There was only one problem: I don't own a fan. Solution: run the dryer and keep the seedlings in the laundry room. The idea was just crazy enough that it might work!

Thanks to some thorough researching, a little resourcefulness (mostly on Joe's part, I was freaking out of course) the seedlings were saved!!! And now you know what hydrogen peroxide, chamomile tea, a knife, and a dryer all have in common. They were the tools necessary to save my plants. Lesson learned: don't keep your seedlings so wet, they won't be the only thing that grows. Other lesson learned: don't kill.........plants.

Chicago Photo of the Week

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chicago- Internet fatigue and sprouts outside

Sorry if this post isn't very entertaining/exciting but my externship downtown involves me being on the computer all day so I am currently experiencing Internet fatigue (that's a real thing, look it up). There has also been pretty crappy weather which is even less motivating. Look at what was served up to my little veggies this week...
Yikes! Snow and frost! Good thing my lettuce and spinach love the cool weather and the tons of rain we are getting.

Lettuce is growing!

A carrot! I didn't have to look at old photos from last year to know that. haha.

Straight little rows of spinach.

The zucchini was getting so large that I had to transplant it into a big pot. He is sad because its too cold for him to go outside. Sorry for the short and sweet post but my brain is computer-mush. Until next time.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Seattle: Sprouts!

First off, I am not the only one enjoying the garden. With our recent sunny weather both Neti and I have been out checking the plants. Results?

So, all I did was put a bunch of seeds in to some dirt and whallah! I mean... this is super hard. :) Since most of this stuff is just in a sitting/hibernating point this is mostly just an update on what's sprouted and if I can identify it. If you remember from that earlier post about my awesomeness in working too fast and mixing up pots without labeling them? Yeah. This has become a sprout-and-identify mission. Let the identifying begin! First, my carrots!! I only know this because of Devon's pictures from last year. Ha! But exciting that they are sprouting!

Carrot sprout. So tiny!

And of course the champions I knew would start off. My lettuce and my spinach. I can't wait to start eating these again!!!

Spinach sprouts, all aligned.

This year's blueberry bush is rocking! Can you tell I did a much better job picking out the plant? It's even been cold here in Seattle and it still looks great. I'm so excited, though I really don't think it's going to fruit. One this small? Maybe this is just a nuturing year for it. Matt will be disappointed but I'm excited to see its flowers. See the buds?

Blueberry plant thriving!

Lettuce mix sprouts. Looks like some thinning will be needed. Ya think?

And of course, the most beautiful, most delicious, most thriving plant. My mint. Plus, that AquaGlobe makes it look so pretty. They are great for decoration only which is pretty much how they're used. I suck at filling them up, except in the hydrangea which is also green and growing!

Mint plant. Lemonade anyone? It needs to get just a pinch warmer.

So there's my update. I have been watching every morning, staring at the dirt looking for tiney-tiny sprouts. That's how I found the carrots. I am most excited to see the basil and cilantro sprout. Spring is in the air!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chicago: Photo of the Week

I thought I would share a photo of something Chicago-related with you. It won't always have to do with the garden but too bad! I love photos. Enjoy.
This is a photo of Joe next to this ginormous truck we saw at the autoshow at McCormick Place back in February. This truck is so huge! Joe is 6'2" and he looks so small next to it. Can you imagine driving this boat in a parking garage in Chicago?! haha. Love it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chicago: New growth, found art, & a strawberry plant

The mini garden is thriving this week. I love coming home every day from the hospital and checking to see how the seedlings are growing. Thanks to my tlc these babies are shooting up. I have sprouts for every type of plant except the poblanos. I just put the germinated poblano seeds into their little containers so I should have seedlings soon. My germination method with the wet cloth and plastic bag worked great. I already have red pepper and serrano pepper seedlings growing even though it isn't even near 80 degrees here.

All the seedlings are growing great!

The serrano peppers are just emerging from the soil.

Look how much the zucchini has grown in 1 week! I hope it won't outgrow its little container too soon because it is still a bit chilly here! It is leagues ahead of the other seedlings even though it just sprouted. So neat! I find that I am enjoying starting my seeds indoors this year because you get to see progress so quickly. I'm also hoping that they will be stronger than transplants I would pick up from the garden center. We'll see how they do when they get outside- still a few weeks away from hardening off.
Just 1 week of growth for the zucchini.

I realized I didn't put up a picture of my found art planter last week. Look how pretty it is! Imagine how wonderful it will look with lettuce spilling over the edges. No sprouts of lettuce, spinach, or carrots yet but hopefully they will be popping up soon.

Gift basket container turned gourmet lettuce planter.

I have cheated a little bit because I did purchase a strawberry plant that was already started. Dina suggested I try strawberries this year because I get so much direct sun on the back patio. I'm still afraid it is too cold to put outside right now so I am keeping it in the window with my other seedlings to give it some sun but keep it toasty warm.

The strawberry plant in its neat strawberry pot.

Stay tuned for more updates from the Chicago garden!

Roma tomato seedlings are going strong!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Seattle- The seeds have been planted. (Literally, not in some existensial way)

It's been two weeks now, since Devon (and brother JP and quasi-brother Joe) have left. One of the last days we were all together Devon and I made a pot of tea and sat down to business; planning what should go in the gardens. I realized after checking the Farmer's Almanac that I am in prime-time planting mode for seeds right now!
So, the weekend after they left for Illinois I began hunting for starters.

First off, since all of my pots were still in great condition (thank you, mild-Seattle-winters!) I could use them all again. I also retained the majority of my soil which you can re-use (so I've read) as long as you suppliment new soil as well. Plus, I still have fertilizers and all that jazz. I also went to the Home Depot and instantly got scared of all of the transplants. It's still early in the season. What if it's too cold? Will they wilt? Are these really the healthiest? Maybe I'm jumping the gun? So to save money and to prove to myself (and fiance) that I am awesome I decided to go 95% seeds this year. That saved me a boatload of money!

And now for the list of deliciousness...
Matt had 2 requests: Blueberries for opporunity snacking (after last year?! I retorted. I killed them!) and Cilantro. Lots of cilantro.
Neti the Cat had 1 request: Catnip. Lots of catnip.

I feel I must oblidge them both but wanted to do something new and exciting this year as well as all the old favorites from last year.

I finally settled on The List

Repeats from last year: Blueberries, cilantro, oregano, lettuce, spinach, catnip, mint, basil
New this year: Zucchini, thyme, chives, carrots
In-edibles: Hydrangeas (make them blue!), Geraniums (make them pink!)

So I went to work digging my hands in to the soil. Everything is planted so far except the zucchini and chives as they need another month prior to planting (from seed). I also purchased a healthy, budded blueberry plant (I did my research, apparently I did not do well choosing last year) and a geranium as my only transplants this year. Well, yet. I may have to supplement more cilantro later in the season. I'm excited about doing (almost) everything from seeds this year. There's less instant gratification which makes me feel like it's harder so I'm feeling more accomplished. But of course, I never quite think things thru. In my excitement in getting the seeds in the dirt I rushed and in rushing kept moving the pots around to create some more room. You see where this is going, don't you? I now have all of my pots planted and don't remember what any of them are. I guess I'll just have to wait until they sprout. Go figure.

My mint is doing beautifully and the hydrangeas just keep on trekking!

I won't bore you with pictures of dirt in pots but know that the seeds are there. Waiting. Now I just have to get back in the habit of watering. Yikes, this is where it gets hard.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chicago: Spring has officially begun!

Welcome back to the garden! I have to admit that although this is the first post of the season (for me), I have actually been a busy bee in preparing for my garden this year. Planning the garden started a couple weeks ago when I was in Seattle visiting the sister. When we get together we always have to get excited about some project or other and as spring was beginning to arrive in her neck of the woods we began to get excited about our gardens. Unfortunately excitement only takes you so far because landing in Chicago to a brisk 30 degrees put a damper on things on my end. But as I am very clever and was a little bit jealous that Dina got to start and I didn't, I figured that this year I would start my garden early...indoors!

I can't completely take credit for the jump start on the season though because it was my dear friend, Kim who gave me a little Italian garden kit as a gift for defending my thesis. It included 3 herb pots and 2 transplant pots for basil, oregano, parsley, Roma tomatoes, and red bell peppers. How delightful! Seeing these wonderful transplant pots that allow you to plant your seeds indoors and then transplant them directly into your containers when the weather turns warm was ingenious and inspired me to start all my seeds indoors this year. It is really a win-win situation because I get a jump start on the season and I end up spending less money because buying the transplants at the store is much more expensive than buying seeds.

I used a Burpee germination kit to start out my seeds. The list is extensive this year: eggplant, large slicer tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, basil, oregano, parsley, zucchini, red bell peppers, serrano peppers, and poblano peppers. It is so exciting to have the little sprouts start popping up. I also have plans for cilantro and string beans but those can be started directly in the containers outside when the time is right. I was a little worried about starting my pepper seeds because peppers won't germinate unless it is 70-80 degrees. In order to get them started, I went old school and pulled out a trick I learned in kindergarten- starting seeds in Ziploc bags. I just got a damp rag, placed it in a Ziploc bag, put a few seeds inside, and presto! the perfect environment for starting pepper seeds. To help them out even more, I stuck them in the laundry room so they could be warmed when the dryer runs.

Luckily the weather is finally turning! This weekend was beautiful, sunny, and warm. I finally got to get out some of the containers and plant my lettuce (a special heat wave mix that lasts longer in the hot weather), baby spinach, and carrots. I even did some recycling by turning a metal container into a planter! I got this funny metal container in one of those food gift baskets from one of Joe's aunts. I kept the base because I felt like I could re-purpose it somehow. Joe pulled it out of the closet and I realized that it would be perfect for a lettuce planter. I also got this amazing ?tree?-plant for indoor decor. It is so cool with the chunky trunk and spiraling leaves. I love it.

Unrelated to gardening- I did a little craft project today. Joe has been wanting some storage for our tv remotes. He first got the idea from my parents who own this great fabric remote holder that hangs over the arm of a chair or sofa and tucks under the cushion to hold it in place. We were looking around Ikea for something similar when I realized that I could make it! We just went over to Joann Fabrics, found a pretty, coordinating fabric and an afternoon of work later- a great way to store the remotes close at hand!

Well, spring is finally in the air! Stay tuned for updates on how my sprout get going. I can't wait to see what Dina's garden is looking like...