Friday, September 28, 2012

Second Season and A Pepper Pest

While those of you who live in cooler climes are making preparations to put your gardens to sleep for the long winter, here we're just starting to get ready for Second Season, that time of year when temps begin to drop out of the 100's and the nights cool into the 60's.  We begin to visit the local garden centers, eagerly awaiting the arrival of new bedding plants, flowers, veggies and even roses and fruit trees.  It's also time for those of us who like to start things from seed to get them in the ground, so today at lunch I planted Petch Siam and Purple Ball Eggplant, Alaska and Snow Peas, Asparagus (Chinese Long) Beans and Aunt Ruby's German Green and Roma Tomatoes.  Tomorrow I'll get up early and mow the front and back yards, clean things up and build another raised bed or two (or three) for the pepper seeds I just received from the NMSU Chile Pepper Institute.  I'm also going to try to turn a pallet into a vertical strawberry planter and get the Dahlias planted, of which I have 8 varieties.  I'll post pics tomorrow of the work I get done, as well as Larry's new look.

The volunteer pepper is getting really heavy with fruit and they're looking really good, but today I found a Tomato Hornworm caterpillar, Manduca quinquemaculata, eating away on the plant.  It was hidden within the leaves and I wouldn't have known he was even there except for the droppings on the brick path beneath the plant.  This is the second one I've found in the last 2 weeks and I hope there aren't any more, as I'll be out of town for two weeks and I know my wife won't be checking for them and she certainly wouldn't touch one if she saw it.  Thank goodness all the plants that matter are on timed drip systems, as I can't count on her to water, either.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Slinging" Fruit and A New Bloom

I've had a volunteer cucurbit growing in one of the back beds for a few weeks and I decided to train it up a tomato cage to save room; well now it's set a fruit that is about the size of a red potato and I was afraid it would put too much strain on the vine and snap off.  I remembered seeing something on the Internet about creating a sling out of an old nylon, but not having any lying around and not wanting to risk my life by using one of my wife's good pairs, I decided the prudent thing would be to use some burlap I had left over from another project. I think it came out okay, but it may need to be refined later, depending on what kind of fruit this is.  I'm thinking it's either a cantaloupe, watermelon or pumpkin.

I've planted a Hollyhock that I got at the Spring Plant Swap in one of the front beds when I brought it home and even though it was fairly late in the season for them here, it continued to grow.  About a week ago I noticed it was putting up a bloom stalk, even though it's no where near the usual height, being only about 3' tall, but today the first buds opened and now I'm hopeful I'll be able to get seed for next year.

Lastly, the Lovebirds were back again this morning and this time they invited another couple to join them for breakfast, so it looks like they may become regulars at the feeders.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Getting Organized and The Return of The Lovebirds

I joined a Facebook page, The Seed Exchange, and in preparation for listing seeds I have available to exchange, I decided I needed to get my seeds organized.  The plastic shoe box I was using wasn't working out all that well, as I had to sort through all the seed packets every time I needed something, so I decided a parts storage bin would be a great solution, but the ones at the department stores were too expensive.  I was at Harbor Freight buying some tools when I found a bin with 40 small compartments and one large one for just $15, so I bought one.  I was able to use Excel to make labels for each drawer that are much easier to read than my handwriting would be, plus now that I have the template, I can make new labels as needed.  There's only one problem with my plan; I need another bin to hold the rest of the seeds!.
The seeds are alphabetized, making it even easier to find what I'm looking for.
Here's a sample of what the labels look like.

Last Thursday I wrote about being visited by a pair of Peach-faced Lovebirds and posted a picture of them with their backs turned.  This evening I was at the computer when I heard a squawking that I knew wasn't the usual visitors to the feeders and when I looked out the window, there they were and they stayed around long enough for me to get a better picture of one of them.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Announcing Mr. B's Garden Products

I'm proud to announce the availability of  The Official Larry The Scarecrow 2013 Calendar and Mr. B's Garden T-shirts, available for $12 each, plus actual shipping costs.  The calendar features 13 photos of Larry, one on the cover and one for each month, featuring poses from the past year.  The t-shirts are available in men's and women's styles in sizes S, M, L, XL and XXL.  To pre-order your calendar or T-shirt today, e-mail me at with your name, mailing address (I will ship internationally), items you wish to purchase, including quantity and for T-shirts, style (men's or women's) and size.  I'll reply with total cost, including shipping, and payment instructions.  Expect orders to take 4-6 weeks to arrive, although it could be less; a shipping confirmation e-mail with shipment tracking number will be sent when your order ships.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Peach-faced Lovebirds

I don't usually post twice in one day, but this was such a cool sighting I had to let you know about it.  I glanced out the window at the feeders this morning and couldn't believe it; there was a Peach-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis) at one of the feeders.  I grabbed my camera and before I could get a picture, it flew from the feeder to the overhead electrical wires and that was when I noticed a second one.  I managed to get a shot just before they flew off.  I'm hoping they'll be back, now that they know there's a food source available.  In researching the birds, I came across this article on the thriving colonies of Peach-faced Lovebirds in the Phoenix area that I thought you might find interesting.

New Plant Acquisitions and a Rare Visitor

I've been making the rounds at local nurseries and garden centers and made a few acquisitions this week, including 2 very large strawberry plants, an unnamed Plumeira, my first, and finally, a replacement for the nectarine.  After my friend and fellow Mesan made a recommendation that those of us on the Dave's Garden website who reside in the Phoenix area visit the Home Depot on Broadway and Val Vista to check out the wide array of plants not usually found at other HD stores, I just had to go, and I wasn't disappointed.    While the 2 HD's near my home have nothing but citrus in the fruit tree department at this time, this one also had apples, peaches, apricots, gauva, mango, almonds and avocado.  I've been thinking about avocados for some time, but wasn't keen on the thought of a massive 20'-30' tree dominating the front yard, so I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that they had a variety called Reed that only gets 8'-10', so I snapped up the best looking one of the bunch.  Knowing I wasn't planning on planting it for a few months, I decided to set up a temporary drip line for all the new plants.
Unnamed Plumeria

Avocado 'Reed'
Avovado, thornless boysenberries, bay laurel, plumeria and strawberries on temp drip line.
As you can see from the photos, I need to spend some time cleaning up the yard, and with the remodel almost completed on the kid's new place, I should be able to get out there on Sunday and tackle the yard.

This morning I had a rare visitor to the feeders, a melanistic White-Winged Dove, but unfortunately it flew off  out of camera range before I could get a picture.  Melanism is when an animal has excessively dark pigmentation, with the extreme form being totally black, but this one was almost a chocolate brown compared to the usually greyish tan of the normal individual of this species.  And speaking of the feeders, I added a new feeder filled with thistle seed for the song birds in the hopes of attracting additional species to add to my list.  While it hasn't brought any new species yet, it has brought back the house finches and house sparrows that were being bullied out by the doves.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - September 2012

I've decided to join the movement known as Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, during which garden bloggers use the first Saturday of each month to showcase what's blooming in their gardens; so this is the first of an on-going monthly series.  I'll start in the front yard and work my way to the back, starting with the red canna I grew from seed.  A friend in Las Vegas has promised to send me some canna seeds from her garden, so by this time next year I should have more cannas to show you.

In the same bed as the cannas, are red salvia; I don't know the name of this one, as I didn't save the nursery label, but these are second generation, having been grown from seed from the original plants I bought.

Also in this bed is Salvia nemorosa which I planted back in July.  It took a while to get acclimated, but now is thriving and I've been able to save some seed from it as well.

Next up is moss rose, which has been going almost non-stop for a year now, although I'm down to one plant and will be adding more next month once it cools down a bit.

Here are two petunias in a hanging pot, a solid purple and a picotee that's purple with white edging.

On the front porch I have a few kalanchoes in different colors and you can see a Stapelia gigantea flower bud that will open in the next day or two.

Moving to the side yard, the pickling cucumbers are beginning to produce again now that daytime highs are staying slightly below or just at 100.

On to the back yard where the second season for roses is starting up, with Climbing America, Blue Moon and the mini roses all putting on a show.

Lastly, I've been letting the sweet basil go to seed, as it attracts bees that are needed for so many other flowers in the garden.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Path Lights and Some Plant Updates

I went to Target on my lunch yesterday, hoping they had lowered their clearance prices beyond 50%, as I have my eye on a few things, but my budget is limited.  This week's markdowns hadn't happened yet, giving me an excuse to go back on Friday, but I did pick up 6 new solar pathway lights, as the old ones, purchased on clearance at Target almost 2 years ago had seen better days.  The new ones, just $2.50 each, have a more streamlined look, and are made mostly of metal and glass, which will prevent the yellowing of the clear plastic on the old ones.  When I made a mental inventory at the store, I was 2 short and will have to go get them today, as the store was running out of them.

The old ones, showing the yellowing of the plastic globes.

The new ones, which should hold up to the elements better.

One of the cannas I started from seed has begun to bloom and now I know it's a red, but I don't know its' name.

The Stapelia gigantea is blooming for the third time this year, which has never happened before; here's a picture that clearly illustrates the attraction it holds for flies.
There were more flies, but my approach scared them off.
The unknown "volunteer" pepper that has been growing in one of the raised beds has finally set fruit and from their shape, it appears that they're habaneros, which makes me very happy.  I found several fruits and once they get a little larger, I should be able to make a more definitive identification.  

On Sunday I posted about the seeds I was planting where the red corn had been and today I noticed the first seedlings coming up through the mulch where the Mesclun Mix was sown, as well as a single radish.  Looks like fresh greens are only a few weeks away.

I also have a single volunteer cucurbite growing in one of the back beds and it's either a melon or a pumpkin, based on the round shape of the couple of fruits on the vine.  I'll post a picture if the fruits set and begin to grow.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Another Milestone, A Failure and New Beginnings

Well, I hit another milestone today; 4000 pageviews, with visitors from 53 countries. When I started this blog last August, I had no idea if it would amount to nothing more than an on-line garden journal that no one but myself would look at and certainly never imagined it would garner such a large worldwide audience.  Thank you to all who've visited my little blog.

The red corn experiment has turned out to be a huge failure, as most of the ears were infected with a fungus and I've pulled the entire crop up.  Next year I'll try again, but with seeds from Native Seeds/SEARCH, , a non-profit that works to preserve native seeds from the American Southwest and Northern Mexico.  This way I can be assured of using seeds from plants that are well suited to the climate here and should have a much better chance of success.

Now that the corn has been removed, it's time to start planting some Fall crops and I'll be planting Chantenay and Danvers Half Long carrots, Crimson Giant radishes and Mesclun Mix Gourmet Greens Mixture, which includes Arugula; Green Curled Endive; Red Russian Kale; Red Romaine, Parris Island, Salad Bowl and Lolla Rossa lettuces.  

Two of my grand kids have joined the Garden Club at Redbird Elementary and I've put together a variety of seeds for them to grow, including: Sweet Basil; 3 different sunflowers; Takanotsume Peppers, aka Hawk's-Claw; Brown and Black Tepary Beans; Chantenay carrots; Crimson Giant radish; Table Queen acorn squash, Grand Rapids leaf lettuce; Flat-leaf parsley and Purple tomatillo.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Even More Gnomes (and yet another dust storm)

I was out running some errands, looking for fabric to cover the bench I'm making from a pair of Eastlake side chairs I bought a couple of years ago for $10 each with every intention of re-caning the seats (but that's a story for a future post) when I decided to stop at Harbor Freight to pick up a couple of tape measures.  Of course, I had to browse through the store and I found a trio of gnomes on clearance for just $5.97, plus a drip watering kit with the in-line drippers I prefer, also on clearance at just $5.99.  Here's a picture of the gnomes in their new home.

As luck would have it, while I was in the store I got a weather alert on my phone warning of an impending dust storm, which hit just as I was getting back into my car.  Visibility was down to 1/4" mile and yet there were still idiots driving without their headlights on; no wonder insurance is so expensive around here.  Here's hoping we at least get some rain out of this; a quick check of the radar shows it's very possible.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Larry's New Hobby and Other Happenings

Larry's taken up yet another new hobby, butterfly collecting, but despite his best efforts, he's been unable to actually catch any, though his outfit appears to be good at attracting them.

R.I.P. pumpkin patch:  Despite my best efforts, I was unable to thwart the bug invasion and the entire pumpkin patch succumbed to the evil creatures.  It's too late to replant and have pumpkins for Halloween, but I do have some seeds for pie pumpkins and will be planting them as soon as I can put together another raised bed, since I don't want to put them anywhere near where the previous ones were.

Thanks to a link that was posted on Facebook, , I found a video on training climbing roses and found out I've been doing it all wrong by training them straight up.  It seems that by training the canes between horizontal and 45 degrees the canes will send up side stems, thereby producing more blooms.  I'll be retraining my roses soon to take advantage of this.  Here's a picture of Climbing America showing how the blooms are all on the top of the cane; once I get them retrained, I'll post a picture of the results.

Canna update: The cannas I transplanted into the front flower bed have really taken off and have tripled in height, so it looks like it was a good thing to do.  Maybe they'll even bloom this year so I will know what color(s) I've got.

Spent the Labor Day weekend travelling across the valley antiquing and thrifting and found a couple of items for the garden.  I got a cute green frog planter for only $4 and filled it with Kalanchoes for another $2. I also found a vintage pitchfork for just $15; don't know where it'll end up yet, but I'm leaning towards somewhere on the back porch.