Sunday, July 29, 2012

Weekend Update

Went to Yuma to visit the in-laws for the weekend and between Saturday and tonight, we got another 0.26" of rain, with the bulk of it yesterday night; tonight's top winds were 18 mph and we just missed a major dust storm that hit about an hour after we passed through Maricopa.  Speaking of Maricopa, I stopped along the highway just west of town where there was a row of wild sunflowers about 40' long beside a ditch and collected some seed heads; my wife thought I was crazy to stop, but I'd seen them on our way to Yuma and was determined to stop on the return trip.  I got 4-5 dozen seeds for my efforts and will plant some in the morning to see if they'll sprout.

I harvested the first sunflower seed head from the front yard on Friday morning and it was 7.5" across; not bad for a 6' plant, but the one on the 8' Mammoth looks like it'll be at least 10" across when I harvest it in a couple of weeks.  I put the seed head in the feeder for the doves and in the morning I'll check to see if they've eaten all the seeds yet.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tipsy Planter Re-do

Back in February I made my first tipsy planter and it did well until the heat came and the difficulty with watering it caused the plants to expire.  After some months of having it sitting dismantled on the back porch, I finally came up with a solution for the watering issue; build it with a drip system integrated within it.  The new and improved version of the tipsy planter came together today with the following modifications:

I traced out two cardboard circles the size of the pot base with holes in the center just big enough for the rebar and a drip line to go through; this will hopefully prevent grass from growing up into the planter.

I inserted 1/4" hose through the bottom of each pot, with a hose connector on the bottom end, "T's" at the soil level in each pot with 1/4" soaker hose (plugged at the other end) to water the plants, allowing each plant to get its' fair share of the water.  Now I no longer have to worry about whether the soil is getting good and wet or if the water is just running off to the next level below.

I planted the following flowers, from top to bottom: zinna; lisianthus; nierembergia; dahlberg daisy; globe amaranth.
It may not look like it, but each pot is the same size.

I also added about 50 lbs of sand to the brick path I laid yesterday and now it looks like it has been there for a long time, since that's part of the beauty of using reclaimed brick.  Now to find some more of that free used brick to build the path throughout the side yard.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wheelbarrow Succulent Garden Update

Well, not everything in the wheelbarrow succulent garden survived the various watering (lack thereof) mishaps, so I've had to replace the lost plants, but decided not to use the same ones.  I added a couple of Cel's Agave Agave celsii and an aloe 'Walmsley Blue'.  Here's a picture of it as it is now and as you can see most of the ones that survived have done rather well.

The other mystery seed, the one I planted in the window box, bloomed today and now I know that it's snapdragons.  Next time I plant seeds, I better make a written note of it until I can write it in this blog, as the memory just isn't as sharp as it used to be.

Got some used bricks from one of my neighbors a while ago and decided it was about time I did something with them, so I laid down a double layer of weed blocker cloth between 2 of the raised beds and laid the bricks on top in a basket weave pattern.  The bricks don't fit perfectly, but play sand should fill in all the gaps and holes in the bricks and make a perfectly serviceable path that will keep my feet dry and mud free when working in the beds.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Monsoon Dust Storm and A Man Down

We had another doozy of a dust storm this afternoon, with gusts up to 31 mph and average winds speed of 10 mph, this one came on us pretty quickly.  Managed to take a short video of it approaching before I decided the prudent thing to do was go inside. Only got .05" of rain even though radar showed heavy rain headed my way.  Watching a time lapse of the storm, it parted and went around us almost like there was some sort of force field surrounding the neighborhood.

After the storm passed I went outside to check for damage and found we had a man down.  Larry had to be taken to Scarecrow General for repair work, as the storm took him apart at the pelvis, but a quick surgery and he was back on the job.

Other than a lot of pine needles from the neighbor's tree scattered around the yard, there wasn't any other damage, so tomorrow I'll be raking up the mess and adding it to the composter.

Since the yard has been invaded by so many gnomes, I decided to go ahead and put out the welcome mat, so to speak, with this sign I found on clearance at Hobby Lobby.  Not sure if this is where it'll stay, but I wanted to get it placed before the storm hit.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Busy Bee and More Gnomes

Went out to check on the gardens this morning and got this shot of a very busy bee loading up with even more pollen; there must be a lot of hungry mouths to feed in the hive.

I've been taking pictures of the gnomes in my yard, sort of like the police taking pictures of known gang members, just in case they cause any mischief in the neighborhood and somehow had forgotten to take pictures of these two.

Went thrift shopping with my wife and Kaleb and found these 3 characters for just $9, so of course they're joining the growing community in Gnomeville.  The gardeners are normal sized and the other one is a wee little guy who'll be living with his own kind among the potted plants on the porch.

These little folk are really invasive and once you let one stay in your yard, others will surely follow in rapid order.  Six months ago I allowed the first one to live in the garden and now there are 9 of the regular sized guys and 6 of the wee folks. So far they all seem to get along just fine, but I wonder if things will change if a female shows up?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Today's Blooms and Another Freeloader

When we were in Prescott a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a blue salvia being used in a lot of the commercial landscaping and as much as I love the red salvia I already have, I knew I had to have this one as well.  As luck would have it, when I went to Home Depot today to get some flowers for the tipsy pot planter, as I'm redoing it with a drip system for watering, I found the blue salvia, Salvia nemorosa, I was looking for and at only $2.50 for an 8" pot, so I bought 2 (and will probably go back for more) and planted them in among the red salvia in the front flower bed.  I think I'm going to love the mix or colors; now if only I could find a white salvia.

Looks like I need to add some more mulch to this bed.

I've got two more sunflowers blooming, one's about 6' and the other is about 8'.  As soon as the seed heads are ready, I'll be pulling these up, enlarging the planter area and planting a bunch more seeds, as there should be plenty of time for another crop this year.
This is the 6' one
This is the 8' one, it almost touches the bottom of the bird house.

I found another gnome freeloading, or as they put it, homesteading, under the nectarine tree today.  He's napping after the long trek from the JoAnn's Fabric store about a mile from here.  I'm not sure what they're going to do once the pumpkin vines start getting bigger and start crowding them out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer Soup

It's summer and it's hot, like 100+ hot, so who in their right mind would be thinking about soup?  We are, because this is the time of year to make gazpacho, that wonderful cold vegetable soup from Spain that uses the great vegetables that are in season right now.  I make mine using 12-14 fresh Roma tomatoes, diced; 1 large cucumber, diced; 1 green bell pepper, diced; 1-2 jalapenos (depending on how hot you like it), seeded and minced; 1 1/2 tps. garlic, minced; 2 stalks of celery; diced; 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped; 1 onion, diced; salt, pepper, dried cumin, dried coriander, lemon and lime juice, all to taste; and a can of tomato juice.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and serve cold topped with slices of avocado and/or a dollop of sour cream.

Another great delicacy this time of year is fresh figs, courtesy of my neighbor's tree that grows over my back wall.  You have to get them as soon as they ripen or the beetles will beat you to them.  I'm still debating on whether to plant one in my yard this Fall.

Only one of the blue pumpkin seeds I planted came up, so I tried again and now there are 5.  As soon as each one has a couple of pumpkins that are at least 2" - 3" in diameter, I'll pinch the vine back to just above the last pumpkin so that the vines will put all their energy into the pumpkins and not the vine.  Hopefully this will insure that I have plenty of pumpkins to carve for Halloween.
I wonder if he realizes that vine is creeping up behind him?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Saturday's Storm and Recent Finds

Well, we finally got some real rain on Saturday, with a total of .82" in just under an hour, the storm also packed winds gusting to 21 mph.  I went out Sunday to survey the damage, if any, and luckily only found one casualty, pictured below.  This used to hold the grapevine basket I made and planted with Amaryllis, but I should still be able to use the base for the same purpose. 

The past 2 weekends were spent browsing in antique shops and in the clearance aisles at Target and I found a few items for the garden.
A Bauer pot found in Prescott; it'll be added to the front porch with the other vintage pots
A Sascha Brastoff bowl from the erly 60's found in the house my son bought.
A Coca Cola 24 bottle tray I bought in Dewey-Humboldt that will be used to hold seed pots.
One of a pair of urns I got @ Target for just $5 each on clearance.  These'll be going in the front yard.

Here are some interesting facts about the sunflower (Helianthus annuus); it didn't get its' name because the flower reminded someone of the sun, but because of their habit of turning their flower to follow the sun. The "flower" of the sunflower isn't a single flower but actually is hundreds of individual flowers in a single head; when the seeds begin to mature, the seed head turns downward to protect the seeds from rain and marauding birds.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mystery Half Solved

Well, the seeds I planted in the front bulb bed finally bloomed and I was able to identify them as red salvia from seed I saved last year.  If they're half as happy as the ones in the rose bed, they'll be 2' - 3' tall in no time.  As you can see, the flea beetles have been munching on the leaves, but it hasn't harmed the  plants, and since I garden organically, I'll let the beetles have some lunch.

The cannas I started from seeds last year haven't grown very much and after analyzing possible reasons, I decided their roots were getting too hot, as they were in a clay pot and the side porch gets a lot of afternoon sun. I decided to transplant them to the bulb bed despite concerns that they'll spread and take over the bed, as I can always divide and transplant or share them with my neighbors and gardening buddies.  As you may recall, they were started from seed I "liberated" from several garden centers and have no idea what color the 3 that sprouted are, so until they bloom I won't know if they're all the same color or each a different color.

We had some wind last night and the side yard is like a wind tunnel as it's squeezed between the house and a 6' block wall.  As a result, the wind blew over the red corn and I've had to stake each plant to keep them upright.  This is actually a good thing though, as it will make it easier for the green beans I'm planting today to climb up the stalks.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Rain, Blooms and Luau Larry

Well we finally got some rain on the Fourth, .09' according to my new weather station and it's gone back to being bone dry and hot again; it was nice while it lasted.

Despite the heat, and thanks to daily watering, there are still things blooming in the gardens.

Dwarf white ruellia
Geraniums in one of the window boxes

Mini roses just keep on blooming

Moss rose that I almost gave up on has come back

Red salvia was cut back and has started blooming again

One of the vincas I bought in Spring of 2011 still doing well

It's that time of year again, time for Larry to put a suckling pig or two into a pit and throw a luau; wonder what he's got in that coconut sippy cup?

Go antiquing up north in Prescott for the weekend hoping to find some new garden decor and did all my watering today so I don't have to rely on anyone to do it while I'm gone.  When I get back, I'm redoing the tipsy planter and putting a drip system in it so the plants will get watered better and should survive this infernal heat.  

Next week I'll be spending most of my free time helping the kids with their remodel, now that we've got the air conditioning working properly after I replaced the breaker and we had the capacitor replaced.  Got the new toilet installed, and as usual, it was a bigger job than it should've been, as the flange had to be reglued to the pipe and I had to disassemble the toilet since my son-in-law and his friend forgot to install the gasket between the base and the tank.  As soon as I flushed it, water came gushing out of the tank, all over the floor; guess they should've noticed the extra part.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Gnomes and blooms

Got up to mow the yard today and it was actually overcast and rather pleasant outside, but by the time I got done a few minutes ago, the clouds were gone and the sun was starting to assert itself.  The yard is looking good and the temp isn't all that bad, just 93 after being over 100 by 10:00 AM the past several days.

Was out shopping yesterday, visiting a few of my favorite shops and I found a grab bag of gnomes for just $3.99, so of course they had to come home with me.  They found a comfortable home on the bench of potted plants on the front porch and have settled in nicely.

In the middle photo, you may have noticed Stapelia gigantea blooming, so here's a better picture.  This is the earliest it's ever bloomed for me; last year it didn't bloom until the end of August.  I've also never had so many blooms at one time before.

Lastly, Here's a sunflower that is blooming.