Tag 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!

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!

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!

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

 

Our garden today

Our garden today

I’m happy to report that our garden is growing—and that includes the vegetables and the weeds! Is the weeding never-ending? Can’t I have a garden that just grows what’s supposed to grow? Could it ever be that easy?

Apparently not for us. But at least we’re finally seeing some of the fruits . . . and veggies . . . of our labours (yes, I’m using the British version, because it makes us sound more serious). Let’s take a walk around the garden to see our bounty so far:

Early Girl tomatoes

Early Girl tomatoes

It’s no surprise that the most-prolific tomato plant is the Early Girl one—it has seven plump tomatoes, while the rest only have one apiece. 

The lonely Roma tomato

The lonely Roma tomato

A lonesome Better Boy

A lonesome Better Boy

As you can see, the garden is a great venue for practicing macro (close-up) photography (as usual, I used the Nikon 105mm macro lens on my Nikon D300). Open up that aperture (put it on the smallest number), focus, and snap away! Lots of great bokeh (blurred background) opportunities!

Tiny green peppers

Tiny green peppers

Banana peppers

Banana peppers

What will they finally be?

What will they finally be?

Hmmm . . . what veggie will these lovely flowers finally yield? Actually, you need to look to the left of the flower. What’s growing here? A hint . . . we grew a bazillion of them last year. Yep, it’s the mighty cucumber! I can’t wait to see how many we harvest this year. I just hope we have just as many tomatoes for a change. We need to keep all those weeds and pesky birds out of our garden! If anyone has any suggestions, please leave them in the comments. We can use all the help we can get so we don’t get too contrary!

Gardening Surprises

What is the #2 son up to?

What is the #2 son up to?

Thanks to the torrential rain we had Friday night and most of Saturday (could’ve sworn I saw animals lining up two by two), our vegetable garden was filled with tall plants and an overgrowth of weeds. The Mister had yet to cage the tomato plants; he made that mistake last year, resulting in our harvesting only a couple pitiful tomatoes. But this time we were somewhat smarter, buying the cages at the same time we purchased the plants. Us ahead of the game? Rarely happens, unfortunately. We really have no track record to refer to.

the cagey Mister

the cagey Mister

So Sunday morning we headed out to the garden to weed and cage. Well, for the Mister to cage, the boys to weed, and me to snap a few pix before helping with the weeding.

The #1 son is NOT a happy camper!

The #1 son is NOT a happy camper!

#1 son: “Why do we have to do all this work when we don’t eat the veggies?”

Mean Mom: “Because you live under our roof, that’s why. And it’s your choice to not eat the great food we may be growing (which might only be cucumbers, if we get the same results this year as last). Now keep pulling!”

budding tomatoes

budding tomatoes

It was a lot of work, but soon we had most of the weeds pulled, and all the tomato plants caged. It was heartening to see some buds even forming. Could we actually be successful gardeners this year? Meanwhile, in the midst of all the working and the griping (does that ever end while they’re still in the house?), something strange happened. Remember Friday’s post about how the #2 son has turned from my sweet, willing photo model into a crazed celebrity type, shooing away the momarazzo? Suddenly in the middle of the veggie garden, he was transformed—he actually smiled for the camera! Of course, it could have just been an “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” moment, as a plant-based pod took over his body. Either way, it was heartwarming and welcome! Will this be a trend or just an aberration? Stay tuned, photo fans!

7308-2-smiles

Stuff ’n Nonsense Wednesday

Lisa R's vegetable garden

Lisa R's vegetable garden

When my friend Lisa R. talked about her vegetable garden on her Facebook page, I knew I had to see it (plus I needed to pick up a box of Lemonades Girl Scout cookies that she was kind enough to buy for me; #1 son loves those cookies!). Today being a meandering morning kind of day, I moseyed on over, interrupted a GS meeting she was having, and walked into her backyard.

OMG! The girl and her husband sure can garden! Her Mister built her a very-impressive, multidimensional, raised veggie garden, and she already has cages around her tomato plants. She’s also growing cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, squash, banana peppers, and various herbs (she probably is a good cook and knows how to use them).

Lisa R's train garden

Lisa R's train garden

See the photo above? That’s Lisa’s train garden (so named because a train track runs around it). She had several areas of pretty flowers in her blooming backyard, which is the way I always imagine my backyard should look . . . only it doesn’t. Not anything like it at all. Then again, Lisa doesn’t have a couple disc golf baskets and hordes of discs to cope with. Just a train.

I’m going to make several field trips to Lisa’s garden during the spring and summer to compare notes and see who has the better green thumb. Anyone taking bets on who it will be? I know who my money’s on . . . and it ain’t me!

Buc-cee’s

Buc-ee’s

Love that Buc-ee’s!

Most of the Buc-ee’s gas stations and so-much-more stores that I’ve seen in Texas are along highways. As I’ve mentioned previously, Buc-ee’s is known for its sensational bathrooms (yes, really, in this case you can use the word “sensational” with “bathroom”), sugary Beaver Nuggets, and so much more. Surprisingly, a smaller Buc-ee’s recently opened up close by, but not on a highway. Since it was a meandering morning, I left Lisa’s and moseyed on over to the Buc-ee’s to pump some gas ($1.79 a gallon) and check out the store.

56-life-is-shortIt was all shiny and new and full of possibilities (such as trail mix, fudge, drinks, etc.). The only purchase I made (besides the gas) was a couple packs of Dubble Bubble assorted fruit gum balls (gum being one of my weaknesses), and I was rewarded with a free car wash ticket. Which I was hesitant to take.

Me: Do I have to use this today?

Cashier: You have until March 31st to use it.

Me: Audible sigh of relief!

Why didn’t I want to wash my Honda Pilot, which desperately is in need of a thorough cleaning? Because of the weather forecast, of course! Today is #2 son’s penultimate track meet, and the meteorologists claim there’s a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms. I knew that washing my car would surely seal the deal, pushing those rain odds to 100 percent. Better to have a dirty car than a rained-out track meet! I might take my chances tomorrow or Friday.

Jimmy John's back door

Jimmy John's back door

“ull” or “ush”

Jimmy John’s sandwich shop, the one that almost had “Gourmet Sanwiches” on its awning, is at it again! Today when I passed its back door on my way to eat lunch at my favorite restaurant on earth, Chipotle, I saw “ULL.” I resisted the temptation to open the door to see if the letters spelled out “USH” on the other side.

Kinder gardening

 

5895-planted-garden

When it comes to gardening, the Mister and I truly are of the “kinder” variety. Not “kinder,” as in nice (although we are, of course), but “kinder” as in the German word for children. Yep, when it comes to having a green thumb, we’re total babes in the woods (or in the backyard, in this case).

Last spring the Mister actually built me a raised vegetable bed at the side of the house. He thought he put it in the best location: Plenty of sun and smack dab in the middle of in-ground sprinklers. Of course, once it was built, one of our engineer friends, Robert, came over, took one look at the Mister’s proud handiwork, and declared that the area would never drain. And, of course, he was right. We did manage to grow a gazillion cucumbers but only one cherry tomato and one half-hearted regular tomato (the birds seemed to enjoy the rest). Nothing to write home about, that’s for sure, and very disappointing for someone like me who lives to eat vegetables.

The Mister waters what he's planted.

The Mister waters what he's planted.

Now that we’re in the last days to get tomato plants in the ground, the Mister and I are throwing caution to the wind once again—Friday we went to the local feed store and bought plants and then Sunday we put them in the garden (“we,” of course, meaning the Mister, while I took photos). Unlike last year, this time the Mister bought cages for the tomato plants, so they don’t fall over as they get taller (like they did last year when he—no surprise for us—procrastinated and never did buy cages). I’ve gathered red ornaments from his office Christmas tree to put on the cages in what probably will be a foolhardy attempt to trick the birds.

Here’s what we’ve optimistically planted: Several different varieties of tomatoes (cherry, Old German, Best Boy, Roma, and Early Girl), bell peppers, sweet banana peppers (especially for the Mister), and, of course, cucumbers, because, God knows, we can grow cukes!

Don’t the plants look so full of promise? I’m cautiously hopeful that this time we will succeed and get to enjoy the fruit of our bounty! Or at least a tomato or two.

Better Boy tomato plant

Better Boy tomato plant

Cherry tomato plant

Cherry tomato plant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taxing no more

Did anyone go through a sleepless night, wondering if I had finished yesterday’s tax prep get ’er done? The wait is over, and the answer is: Yes! I actually got it done! The Mister has taken our information and will meet with our tax accountant to give it to him. I’m sure I’ll get a call or two from Romeo before all is signed, sealed, and delivered, but at least it’s off my plate for now. Of course, I still need to file receipts that we should keep; I think I’ll make that today’s get ’er done!