Tag Archives: compost

New Homes for Little Plants!

8 May

Plants have been moving into their new homes over the past week or so.

I finally moved the parsley and basil into the pot with some other herbs. They seem to be loving it!  I saw that the cotton flannel I put in the bottom of the pots to prevent dirt from falling through was starting to disintegrate, and some roots were able to pop through. Very happy there. Also helped keep everything together.

Photo May 03, 3 36 16 PM   Photo May 03, 3 30 57 PM

Here they are, all together.

Photo May 05, 5 24 51 PM

Baby cucumbers moved into their tank, too. Only four of the six survived, so I’m starting two more inside. I hope they’ll be able to move out in about two weeks. That will also help me stagger the harvest a bit.

Photo May 04, 4 25 25 PM   Photo May 04, 7 49 52 PM

All six tomatoes are doing very well! Three red cherry plants, three yellow pear. They are now living outside all the time, except when it’s really windy. The peat pots are very light. Also I am watering them twice a day because they dry out super fast. I still need to drill drainage holes in the white 5 gallon buckets that I now use for water so I can put the tomatoes into them. I think being in the smaller containers will also help them retain a bit more water. We’ll see. I bought potting soil and garden soil. I’ll do a mix of that for them.

Photo May 06, 6 44 11 PM   Photo May 04, 4 14 08 PM

Dumped one bucket of compost onto the tanks last week before I put the cucumbers in, so I was able to start a new batch of compost. It’s already looking REALLY good, lots of creatures flying around and eating all the whatever. Very active.

Photo May 02, 7 33 19 PM

Finally, visitors. Apparently we have wasps up there, but Farmer Russell assures me they’re beneficial. I promise to stay out of their way. So far I’ve just seen one at a time and they don’t seem to be interested in me at all. I’ve checked the whole roof for nests, so we’re clear there. Plus, they’re gone by the evening.

Photo May 07, 11 08 06 AM   Photo May 03, 3 25 13 PM

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I pick a peck of pickled peppers

24 Jul

IMG_8658Well, they’re not pickled just yet. This is last week’s pepper harvest. Banana peppers from ShmErin’s plant, bells from ShmAli’s, red jalapenos from my plant. The plant currently has about a dozen banana peppers ready to pick. I’ll do that tomorrow. The bell peppers are also doing well, but they’re not getting to, like, actual pepper size. The green peppers here are supposed to be red and the red ones are supposed to be green. Some picked too early (they were starting to get soft spots) and some too late. I have actually transplanted three of the plants…more on that in a day or two.

Here are the three plants that these peppers came from. The bell pepper has been getting really thirsty since this heat wave started. I’ve been bringing it water about 2x a day. It generally responds within about 15 minutes by waving “thanks” to me.

So about three weeks ago I asked my neighbor if she saw anyone taking my chocolate cherries. Although I’ve offered her tomatoes and herbs as she liked, she has repeatedly refused, saying I should enjoy the fruits of my labor. So, I couldn’t figure out who was stealing my cherries. Then, I noticed one of the other tomatoes on the other plant was half eaten. Then another. Could this be the elusive soft-bellied tomato pecker that Alton Brown and neighbor McGregor talked about in Good Eats episode 6, season 6, “Tomato Envy”?

Cucumbers were moving along really nicely for several weeks. I decided to pick off the little baby cucumbers once I saw one or two nice sized ones growing on each plant. It really seemed to help them along. Rather than having the plant focus on a dozen babies, I encouraged them to just pay attention to a few. Seemed to work well. I actually picked enough to not know what to do with them at one point. We sliced them up and nommed on them while biking one day. Great snack! I wound up making a cold cucumber soup. Easy and totally delish. Used cuces and onions from the garden.

But, all good things must end. After picking a whole bunch of beans one day, I noticed that most of the leaves were starting to yellow and the beans themselves weren’t looking great. The cucumbers in the tanks were also not so hot anymore, probably because it has been so hot. I’ve been bringing each tank a full 5 gallons every day, plus more for the smaller pots, but with almost a week of temps near 100, it just wasn’t working. Sadly, this tank is nearing its end.

My compost had been growing weird things…I was advised against nibbling on these mushrooms, as they are toadstools and will kill me. I’ll skip them. I also saw a number of larvae squirming around here and there. So, I got another bucket and divided the compost in half, adding several days of rabbit litter to each one. Today, both bins are doing well, no mushrooms, and no wiggly things.

Finally, some lovely garden photos…

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The Best Nation is Pollination

16 Jun

*NOTE: I am writing this post during Mad Men commercial breaks. Trying to multitask.

Last week I noticed that my lovely baby cucumbers were beginning to shrivel. Some research revealed that they might not be properly pollinated, and I learned about male flowers and female flowers on cucumbers. However, their close proximity to the very successful string beans would indicate that I have enough pollinators flying around. More on that later.

One thing Farmer Russell insisted I do to help the cucumber plants is thin them even more than I had earlier. I found three of the IMG_8126smaller plants and pulled them out. I had had them several inches apart, but more space would be better. Two of them had a few roots left, so I threw them into an empty pot I had. At first they shriveled, but then the raaaaains came. Lo and behold, they’ve rooted and I now have two more plants. Didn’t really expect that, very happy about it.

Next to the new cucumber plants is Ali’s former pepper plant. She had it inside for several weeks after she bought it and realized that it really wasn’t going to grow in her apartment. I adopted it and brought it upstairs. Yesterday I noticed that it had sprouted several new sets of leaves and is starting to bulk up. My two pepper plants (bell pepper and jalepeño) are also starting to grow new leaves and get….stocky…., but they’re both still a bit short. They area also both making peppers right now so I gave them some plant food, as I had read it’d be good to do once they start producing.

Speaking of rain, we got several days of heavy rains last week, thanks to the end of that hurricane and some storms that came to us from the midwest. I had collected five big buckets of water and several smallerIMG_8058 containers that were just sitting there, full, waiting to be used, but I wound up dumping them out because I didn’t need them and they were starting to get funky. I’ve only needed to water the terra cotta pots, not the square buckets or larger tanks. They’ve all been very nicely saturated for the last two weeks or so. I figured I’ll collect water later this week when we get more rain, which looks like it’ll be Monday through Wednesday, just in case. Here is the rosemary in the new large pot I got last week, and you can see the deck is wet. After three years, it was totally root bound in the smaller pot. I gave the plant a good trim and made rosemary simple syrup. It now has several new soft green leaves, just a few days later.

So about those pollinators….

The cucumbers have been looking much better in the last three days or so. I hope that bee has been telling his friends to come over.

Finally, how could I not talk about my marvelous compost? The threat of high winds made me bungee cord all of the roof chairs to the fence and fold the tables down to protect them. I knew there was little I could do about the plants, though. Thankfully, the storm here wound up being a whole lot of nothing (but about 40 miles away at the distillery we had horizontal rains for a few minutes.) Anyway, after untying the chairs, I switched the compost bucket top with holes to the one without, bungeed it on, and rolled it around the roof for a bit to mix it better than I had been doing with just my prongy cultivator tool. Perfectly mixed! Looks like I’ll just need a few more weeks before I will be able to start to use it.

Welcome to the Rooftop Nursery

7 Jun

Babies!

I have babies!
Cucumber babies, tomato babies, carrot babies, jalepeno and bell pepper babies….even BEANIE BABIES! (Sorry.)
The cuces are sending out their little curly tendrils, often grabbing the leaves of the bean plants. I threw in some bamboo stakes to encourage them to grow up in that direction and eventually on to the fence. Didn’t happen on its own, so I’ve been gently moving them right over to the fence.
I’ve always been told to pick off the suckers that grow on tomato plants. At some point, they get really big and become another branch of the plant. I generally pick the smaller ones off and if I happen to miss any until they’re really big, I will let them stay. They form in the little armpit area between the branches and pop up as leaves.
My compost is marvelous. Everything is breaking down in there, it is letting off a good amount of heat, indicating that it’s working, and as my neighbor says, it smells like walking through the forest after a rain. SCORE! The heat will kill these mushroom spores I found in there a few days ago.
Speaking of mushrooms, I found a mushroom in the tomato tank. Of course, it popped up overnight. Farmer Russell says it’s an indication of warm, rich soil. Considering it was next to a sleeping gnome, I think it was a magic mushroom.
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Uninvited Visitors & Unstinky Compost

23 May

Last Friday afternoon was pretty busy. Had to deal with some guests and some stench.

So, these guys showed up at the same time and pretty much set me off for the day.

What kind of bee is that? Yellowjacket? Or just some scary jerk? I can hear the chewing into the white oak whisky barrel table. Not pleased about that.

The spider was furry…and had orange and blue spots? I have named him Oliver. He may not be with us any longer, as he walked through the white powder. More on that later.

Those aphids were all over the radishes. I did not see them in the morning when I had picked a few, but by the afternoon of this IMG_7679photo…ALL of the radish leaves were covered in them. Not the beans or cucumbers in the same bin, though. Interesting. Must be tastier. Anywhooo…I pulled up all of the radishes at that point. They were ready to be picked, and I had been eating them for a few weeks. Separated the radish from the leaves and tossed the leaves into the horrible smelling watery compost. Would really be disgustingly impossible for anything to survive in there, so as an immediate pesticide solution, I think I did a good job. Then I pickled the radishes.

Farmer Russell recommended I use diatomaceous earth for the aphids, which would essentially dry them out by slicing up their bodies. It’s crushed silica. ShMerin had used it in the past for uninvited guests in her home and seconded the recommendation. No additional pesticides added. She suggested I wear gloves and a dust mask (already had a bunch at home) and use a soft brush to paint the powder on the underside of the leaves. I think I looked pretty snazzy.

NOW, LET’S UNSTINK!

I’d finally given up on the anaerobic composting in the bucket. Why? Smelled like a broken sewage treatment plant, that’s why. Had to convert to “normal” traditional aerobic composting.

There are tons of instructionals here on the interwebs. Basically, I picked up an 18 gallon Sterilite bin from Target (on sale last week, too) for about $6. Drilled holes all over it. Top, bottom, all sides.

Next I had to clean up the compost mixture. I needed a lot more “brown” material, stuff like, oh, hay and rabbit litter. How convenient! I just happen to have a nearly endless supply. Threw in a layer of several full litter boxes of hay and recycled paper litter before dumping in the stinky bucket of wet yuck. Most of the water drained out through the holes so I was able to collect it in one of the larger white buckets. Then I put the whole thing on bricks so it would get some air flow on the bottom, too. Tossed it around a bit, and all done. (I had an extra bucket top on the bottom of the bin to collect extra tea that might seep out so I could add it back to the plants, but after a few days it was collecting too much and was smelling on its own. I’ve removed the “bottom” top and today it’s sitting right on the bricks.)

Some compost pics from the past week. This stays covered all the time. I just toss my food scraps in there. ONLY plant material, no fats or oils at all.

Verdict? Stink is greatly reduced, and as soon as all of the old water is absorbed back into the mix I imagine it will be even better. I already see it starting to break down after about a week in there.

Then I went downstairs and took a shower. I smelled like…well, I needed to take a shower.

Early May Update

14 May

Some updates from the garden….these photos were all taken May 3-12.

Another view….

Radishes are all ready. They are ready to pick at 28 days, so these are all ready to go. I’ve been picking a few every day. Use the leaves in salad and on sandwiches, also. Check out the huge one!

photo 2Also, this kind of smells as if a few dozen large farm animals decided to use the roof as a toilet….all at the same time. It’s quite amazing, really. This is about 4 weeks old now, and everything I’ve read says the smell should go away after about 6-8 weeks. I hope, anyway. Otherwise I probably won’t have any friends over this summer….

Everyone’s awake!

3 May

Happy plants are growing nicely. We had several days of blah weather, constant light rain, which they clearly loved. I’m hoping the tanks are full of water, but I don’t know how to check on that.

My two tomato plants are doing very well. I planted them pretty deep in the soil, as both Farmer Russell and Dave the tomato man said. They both said I could go up to the highest sets of leaves. I planted them just to the halfway point and then piled up more potting mix on top of them because I figured the soil around the hole I dug would settle. Now, a week later, they both look fabulous.

photo 2 (1)

photo 3 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see some wee tiny carrots coming up behind both of them. Now, the carrots went in about two and a half weeks ago. They are supposed to come up at 7-10 days. Even with a few extra days for the cold and to break out of the seed tape I made, I think some of them are not going to happen. I’ll give them another few days, and then I will declare them goners. I’ll reseed next week. Problem is, I don’t know which carrot is which!

Also, one bean didn’t come up. I decided to start one inside in my kitchen. photo 4 (1) This is two days of being wrapped up in wet paper towels. I plan to plant this guy tomorrow morning in the missing bean spot.

Now, let’s talk about compost.

I’m attempting to make compost tea, which is easy to feed to plants in a regular watering. Right now what I have is a big bucket of fart smell, or anaerobic composting. Methane gas emanating from my roof!  You can read all about it here. Basically I’m tossing my fruit and vegetable scraps, along with some plant material and a litter box of rabbit litter w/hay, into one of the 5 gallon buckets and letting it decompose in water. I’m going to start to take off some of the water and mix it in the watering can for the plants. Compost tea! The plants will love it. It’ll only stink for a bit longer.

photo 1 (1)Here are some scraps that I added earlier this week. Banana peels, some spinach that I forgot about in the back of the fridge so it started to stink, a few fuzzy strawberries. Then I gave it a good stir. Also in there are some of the dead plants from earlier years. They will take longer to decompose, but they are kind of acting as a mesh to separate the food from the water a bit. I don’t know if that’s doing any good or not, but at this point I can’t really change it without getting stink all over. They will eventually break down also.

photo 5 (1)

This morning I added a box of litter…paper partially saturated with ammonia-rich rabbit urine, rabbit pellets (which are mostly hay), and rejected timothy hay. Clearly not as tasty. This will make up more of the  “brown” material that’s needed in the composting process. Gave it a stir, then drained the water off and dumped it back on top of the mix. Just thought I’d give it a bit of a toss to help it along. Have I mentioned that it smells to high heaven?

 

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