Category Archives: gardening

An Odd Kind of Gardening

The zinnias look shot.

The zinnias look shot.

It’s pretty well-established that my thumb ain’t exactly green. Any plants and bushes that look good in our front yard are the result of luck and someone else’s hard work. Not ours.

But recently I realized that my gardening strengths aren’t at ground level. I needed to set my sights higher. As in much higher.

Yes, it’s the neighborhood eyesore.

Yes, it’s the neighborhood eyesore.

Like the gutter.

This weed suddenly sprouted up a few weeks ago and just kept getting taller and taller. Soon it was blocking the downspout, which meant that when it rained, the water would cascade over the gutter and wash away the mulch below.

Not a great situation at all.

Goodbye, weedy!

Goodbye, weedy!

So I finally got my younger son to grab a stepladder and climb up to pull out the intruder. Think that will be the end of our metal garden?

Not again!

This is in a different gutter in front of our house.

Oh oh!

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Susan, Susan, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Weed Garden Grow?

Ah, our simpler gardening times in March of 2009

Was it just a scant year ago that I was blogging on and on and on about our vegetable garden? You would’ve thought no one in the civilized world had ever planted a tomato or cucumber plant before! It was our second year to try to grow veggies in the large box garden that the Mister had built. By the end of the summer we had harvested a quadrillion cucumbers and a bushel or two of tomatoes. The jolly Green Giant wasn’t exactly quaking in his size 63 elf shoes.

Anyone wondering how our veggie garden looks today? Here it is almost the end of April. Have I blogged word one about “the fruits of our labors” and how our cukes eventually will be taking over the world?

Nope, not one consonant or vowel until today. And here’s why:

Back to just plain grass

Our vegetable garden is no more. Now it’s just pallets of grass that we hope are taking root where the box used to be. Why did we remove it?

Does the dictionary need a photo to go with the definition of “overgrown?”

Because, sadly, this is what it looked like. Quite honestly, it frightened me. Saddened me. And made me realize that we just don’t have the work ethic necessary to be successful gardeners.

Weeds and wildflowers populated the former vegetable garden.

Of course, before we trashed the garden, I had to use my Nikon 105 macro lens to take close-ups of the weeds and wildflowers.

Small yellow wildflowers

Too bad some bluebonnet seeds hadn’t blown in to add to our colorful display.

Pretty blue wildflowers intermingle with white, puffy weeds.

It was kind of neat having our own small wildflower reserve!

Even weeds can photograph well.

But all overgrown weed gardens eventually must meet their maker.

Farewell to our weeds

It didn’t take Frank’s Nursery’s crew long to make the side of our house something nice to look at once again.

Instead of cringe at! Grow, grass, grow!

Lemon Tree Very Pretty

A bumper crop of lemons

A bumper crop of lemons

Forgive me! I know that right now a certain percentage of you are singing the “Lemon Tree” song in your head. Hey, me, too! I start out with the Peter, Paul, & Mary version and end up sounding like Trini Lopez! Got to be a golden oldie like me to even remember Trini.

Lemons and a little bit more

Lemons and a little bit more

When I blogged about our new front yard landscaping, I neglected to mention a new addition to our already established backyard: a lemon tree. Frank of Frank’s Nursery thought it would be the perfect thing to fit in a hole where other bushes had passed on (no doubt due to the black thumbs of the household, e.g., the Mister and myself).

Everything I need to know about our Meyer lemon tree . . . still on the tree.

Everything I need to know about our Meyer lemon tree . . . still on the tree.

I knew the Mister would love a lemon tree, because he loves lemons! He especially likes them in his iced tea. And the #1 son drinks lots of lemonade. If we have lemons, we can make lemonade. Hey, sounds like a great saying for a poster!

Sidebar: As I was snapping photos of the lemon tree, I couldn’t help but notice that the information tag had been left on the tree. Just like it’s still on the roses in the front. Why didn’t Frank’s crew take the tags off and give them to us? Why just leave them on the flora where people like us might never remove them? The world may never know.

The lemon is green now . . . but eventually the skin will be orange-yellow!

The lemon is green now . . . but eventually the skin will be orange-yellow!

According to that tag, the Meyer lemon is originally from China and was introduced to the U.S. in 1908. It’s thought to be a cross between a true lemon and a Mandarin orange, and it will eventually have an orange-yellow skin.

I can’t wait to take photos of that! It will make the lemon tree extremely pretty. Is Trini Lopez ready to re-record the song?!?

Yard of the Month, Here We Come!

Truly nothing to see here!

Truly nothing to see here!

In our master-planned community, most residents pride themselves on how their houses look from the outside. Some of my neighbors in particular have expertly crafted their front yard landscaping into Yard of the Month Hall of Fame candidates. And, unfortunately for us, that includes our neighbors on both sides of our house.

Oh, we used to have nice landscaping a couple years ago. We had hired a company to redo our front yard, and it looked great. Until a catastrophic (for anything green and living!) sprinkler system failure wiped out most of the population. All that was left were some scraggly plants, weeds, and a couple of extremely tall crape myrtles hovering over our roof. No chance of a Yard of the Month sign ever gracing our yard, I’m afraid. Maybe the Ugly Yard of the Month pick.

Sidebar: In our community, our association office is quick to shoot us a “fix it or else!” letter if something looks bad around our house. Like if our garbage is out front too soon. Or if we have grass growing between the cracks in our driveway or sidewalk. But in the couple years that we’ve had basically dead, disgusting front landscaping, we’ve heard nary a peep from the association enforcers. Maybe they were just too stunned to react!

Our front yard looking even worse!

Our front yard looking even worse!

After we recently had the crape myrtles cut down by our tree service, seeing the shoots springing back to life around the stumps was like a cold splash of water on my face. I needed to leap into action! I liked the landscaping that my neighbor Sylvia had done; she recommended the service, Frank’s Nursery, which is in the little town next to ours.

The pathetic bench was the Mister's idea. It just added to the dismal effect, though.

The pathetic bench was the Mister's idea. It just added to the dismal effect, though.

Within a week, I had talked to Frank (a great guy!), and this past Wednesday his crew came out and was ready to change our repugnant front yard into something we could look at with pride. Instead of chagrin. And loathing.

And the result after a day and a half of work?

Wow!

Wow!

And that’s just the right side of the house! How about the left?

Yep, it even features a walkway.

Yep, it even features a walkway.

I especially love the walkway from the sidewalk to the driveway! Because of the way our tree on that side is situated, the grass doesn’t grow near what passed as a flower bed. We had put some flagstones there, but they weren’t enough to disguise the problem. Frank and his crew designed the walkway to eliminate the obstacle . . . and it looks great, too!

Orange ixoras

Orange ixoras

We don’t have a lot of plants in the front beds, but what we have looks pretty . . . for now, of course. I had never heard of ixoras, but I like the way they look. One side of the front has orange ones.

Yellow ixoras

Yellow ixoras

While the other side features yellow.

Roses!

Roses!

And then there are our many rose bushes. Yes, we have roses, of all things!

Pink rose

Pink rose

Sylvia cocked a skeptical eyebrow when she saw them . . . skeptical because she knows how lame we are with anything flora. I could see she was wondering what the roses’ life spans would be stuck in our care. “Poor, pitiful roses,” was the thought bubble emanating from her head.

I couldn’t blame her for thinking that. Quite honestly, I was glad that Frank decided to put several rocks in the beds, because—let’s face it–even we can’t kill rocks!

Red rose

Reddish-pinkish rose

Frank did tell us to fertilize the roses in a month and then twice more in a year. So we’re going to do our best to make sure they don’t die prematurely. Updates to follow!

Plenty of space for a Yard of the Month sign!

Plenty of space for a Yard of the Month sign!

Now that we’re keeping up with our neighbors with great-looking landscaping, we’re ready to be selected as the Yard of the Month in our neighborhood.

Except there’s just one little problem—our community did away with its Yard of the Month program a couple years ago . . . about the same time our front landscaping died. We’ll just have to make due with being satisfied that once again we fit in and aren’t known for being the ugly house on the block . . . for as long as possible!

Our Tomatoes: The Early AND Late Girls!

A ripe and still-to-ripen sweet cherry tomatoes

Ripe and still-to-ripen sweet cherry tomatoes

Despite it being hotter than Haiti here in the Houston area, our garden still is spewing forth tomatoes and cucumbers. The fruits of our labor taste great in a salad!

Another ripe cherry tomato

Another ripe cherry tomato

It doesn’t surprise me that the cherry toms are continuing to ripen. However, just when I thought the Early Girls, of which we had picked our share, had stopped growing and were going to just stay green for the rest of the summer, like magic, the final half-dozen of them ripened practically together! They tasted just as good late in the season as early.

Cukelicious!

Cukelicious!

Of course, to no one’s surprise, the cucumbers just keep on coming. As I type, there are at least three more cukes ready to be picked.

The birds and the bugs have snatched their share of our tomatoes, but we’ve still harvested way more than last year (which was only a pitiful duo). Gardening is so much more fun when you have something to show for it . . . early and late!

The Cukelicious Three Muscuketeers!

 

My two cukeys

My two baby cukeys

This is a photo story about two baby cucumbers that appeared in my garden a couple weeks ago and grew to be big and strong. When I saw the fuzzy, new growth side by side in our garden on May 22nd, I dubbed them “Cukey 1” and “Cukey 2.” Clever, I know. It’s a curse.

Already getting bigger after two days

Already getting bigger after two days

Regular reader(s) know that last year we grew a katrillion cucumbers in our garden . . . and pert near nothin’ else. But even though we had cukes growing out our ears, there was one oddity: I never saw one start on the vine. Like they dropped from an oblong alien mothership, full-grown cucumbers would all of a sudden be there in the garden. Pretty weird stuff.

Baby cucumber appears on the vine

Baby cucumber appears on the vine

So this year I vowed to keep a lookout for the start of those cukes. Once I finally figured out what part of the vine they looked like, it was so much easier! And then I documented their growth. It was fast! Within 12 days those baby cukes in the top photo were ready to be picked.

Four days later

Four days later

Eight days later

Eight days later

Solo cuke

Solo cuke

There even was a solo cucumber several feet away growing at the same pace.

The three muscuketeers!

Picked and ready to eat

On the twelfth day, I picked the three muscuketeers. And last night, cukey 1 was part of my dinner.

Cukey 1 is ready to eat.

Cukey 1 is ready to eat.

I sliced it up along with an Early Girl and a Roma tomato from the garden. I dipped them into the best baba gannouj ever: Fountain of Health’s brand.

Baba Gannouj

Baba Gannouj

It was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten! Totally cukelicious and almost totally homegrown. Thanks, cukey 1! Cukey 2 comes up to the plate (along with a couple more of our tomatoes) tonight. Soon the original three muscuketeers only will be a crunchy memory, but I know there will be many more cukes suddenly appearing in our garden before the growing season ends.

Better stock up on baba gannouj!

Photo Friday: A Blushing Model

 

A beauty peeks out from among the green.

A beauty peeks out from among the green.

Better late than never! Our Early Girl tomatoes, which I dubbed the Late Babes a week ago, finally are adding some much-needed color to our vegetable garden. And that color definitely is RED!

I took the above photo on Sunday after seeing a distinct shade of orange peeking out from among the many green Girls. Could we finally have a tomato to eat?

Eureka!

Eureka!

Yes, sir, that’s our ’mater! Ain’t she a beaut? I pulled it off the vine Wednesday and then last night I cut it open and ate it all by its lonesome . . . no lettuce or dressing to diminish its flavor.

Looks tasty!

Looks tasty!

The verdict? Delicious and nutritious! Ain’t nothing like a homegrown tomato. I can’t wait until we have more, so I can eat my fill. Judging by how the Early Girls looked this morning, it won’t be long!

More-ripening Early Girls

The more, the merrier!

 

Happiest birthday wishes

birthday cake

Today is my neighbor JJ the organizational whiz’s father’s birthday. Mr. J is a temporary Texan now, as he battles cancer at M.D. Anderson. A blog shout-out to Mr. J on what I hope is a wonderful birthday. Have a great day, Mr. J!