The Propagation of Succulents Part 2

The cuttings that I took from my succulent garden have been scabbed over for a couple days, but due to the daily rain (I didn’t know that I lived in Florida…) I didn’t want to add them to the garden just yet for fear that they’d take on too much water. This morning after yet another forecast that included rain, I decided to bring the succulent garden into the ‘not-so-sunny sunroom’ to add the scabbed over cuttings and give the whole batch of plants a break from the rain. I’ll hopefully get them back outside this weekend to enjoy the sun, and possibly a little rain. The goal is to cultivate a thriving succulent garden so that once the deck is finished (or started for that matter…) I can hang the garden vertically in that space.

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An Evening In the Yard

Wednesday morning I was out cutting some arugula for my friend Steve when I noticed some flower buds starting to form. Those buds + the impending string of hot days in the forecast meant one thing: my arugula was about to bolt. Cue a joke from Mike about not knowing that arugula had legs… Bolting actually means that the plant is going to flower, and the leaves will shortly thereafter dry up. The first year that I grew arugula, back in the Wilson house, I thought you could just leave it in the ground until you were ready to consume it – and it was there that I learned about bolting when I went out into the yard one day to a dried up patch of arugula.

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I believe that little piece of white fluff is where the flower is going to form

Learning from the past, I decided to harvest the rest of the arugula when I got home from work last night. I brought three bags to work for some arugula-loving co-workers and dropped a bag off at my parent’s house. So. Much. Arugula.

Thanks to all of the rain that we’ve been having and some new water-management equipment that I purchased prior to planting this year’s garden everything in the raised bed seems to be thriving (the tomatoes and blueberries are located in pots near the backdoor, and the vote is out on how well they’re doing since I have no experience with them – time will tell).

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In order bottom to top: miniature pumpkins, arugula, kale, mirco greens

About half of my pumpkin seeds sprouted – next step is to get them to flower. After that, we’ll have to see – that’s about as far as my pumpkins made it last summer before dying.

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Pumpkin plants

The arugula is a small forest, and as usual, is doing the best.

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Forest of arugula

I think the kale is almost large enough to start cutting. I’m excited to see how it tastes in comparison to the stuff in our refrigerator.

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Kale

And lastly, the not-so-micro, micro greens. With the week+ of daily rain these took off before I could cut them while they were 2 inches tall. I might plant another batch to actually cut in time, but I’m curious what would happen if I let this batch continue to grow. Micro greens are a mix of other types of vegetables that are intended to be cut in their earliest stages and added to salads and such for concentrated flavor.

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Micro greens

Having a water timer has been one part my lifeline in adequate watering. This way I can just set it (I usually set it for 30-60 minutes) and walk away to go something else and know that my plants are getting plenty of water. The one that I bought (pictured below) is pretty basic – but there are others on the market with more bells and whistles. As of right now, I have no gripes with mine – it’s done what I needed it to do, and for that I’ve got no complaints.

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Water timer – bought on Amazon.com, click to visit the product page

The other part of my watering system is the ‘weeping hose’ otherwise known as a soaker hose. The beauty in how these hoses work is that they just connect to your regular hose, you weave them throughout your garden, and they ‘weep’ water out of loose seams that drips right onto the roots of your plants – making it harder to lose water to evaporation and keeping the leaves from rotting. The soaker hose that I got works great, the only thing I wish I’d thought to do would be to have purchased a longer soaker hose. I bought a 25 foot soaker hose and think that with a 50 foot soaker hose more of my plants could get water from it (the plants along the soaker hose are thriving).

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The soaker hose in action. You can see it delivers the water where you need it and no where else. Click on the photo to get to the product link.

While I was busy in the garden, Mike was at the grill making dinner. I assumed he was grilling the usual brats and hamburgers, and was surprised when he lifted the grill lid to show me a beautifully golden Beer Can Chicken. It was fantastic and between the 2.33 of us, we consumed all of the meat off of the bird.

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For those of you not familiar with beer can chicken, you get a beer can chicken stand (usually about $10, you can find them on Amazon and probably in cooking stores). In the most basic sense, you put a half full can of beer in the stand and stick the chicken on top. Then it sits on the grill and you end up with a juicy, flavorful chicken. I’d recommend looking at instructions or a recipe for best results, Mike referenced a Beer Can Chicken cookbook for cooking temperatures and such, but overall found the process remarkably simple and straightforward.

All in all it was a wonderful evening spent on our back porch: great food, flowing conversation, beautiful weather and each other’s company 🙂

Side note: Steve has challenged Mike and I to plus-up the next Beer Can Chicken with the following modifications:

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Illustration courtesy of Steve Wilson

Rain, Rain, You Can Stay

As much as I don’t like commuting in the rain, these sporadic down pours of the past few days have been very helpful to my vegetable garden. I’ve been running around before work getting stationery-related things done and hot/sweaty after my commutes home, so I’ve been uncharacteristically absent from my usual twice-daily garden check-ups. My absence combined with the extreme heat-wave plaguing much of the Midwest left me wondering if I’d be disappointed when I finally got out there to inspect this morning.

Disappointed couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure there were three weeds that needed to be pulled (possibly 4 if you count the plant that I’m letting grow out of hopes that it turns out to be a tangerine pepper bush), but all in all, nothing was dried out (with the exception of the lone strawberry plant that always looks like it could use a drink).

One of my pumpkins has flowered, I assume the other three will be on their way shortly as they’re usually a week or so behind the already-flowered plant. Quick question in case any of my readers have planted pumpkins before: I know there’s male flowers and female flowers – but I cannot tell which are which (I was planning to help my pumpkins along by using the male flowers to pollenate the female flowers myself). Are the orange flowers the female and the white ones the males? Or vice versa? Or do I have it completely wrong?

I can see little pods forming on the bean bushes (currently about a half inch long). That’s way further than last year’s bean plants ever made it! Really. And the semi-dry lone strawberry plant has the beginnings of a strawberry on it. I’m thinking perhaps next summer I might try a new type of berry. No one else in my garden is unhappy with the soil moisture level – perhaps strawberries are just too high maintenance for my current level of gardening.

The bell peppers haven’t changed… at all… since I transplanted them weeks ago. But they aren’t dead either. So I’ll just sit tight and keep my fingers crossed. The weed/possible tangerine pepper plant that was a singular late bloomer has shot up above everything else in the garden and has a fairly thick stalk. I’ll photograph it soon to see if anyone can ID whether it’s friend or foe.

I’ve got three beets left, the rest all shriveled where the stem and the soil meet (I read about a plant disease that that sounds like). And the green onions have given up (they never really grew above 2 inches and always looked suspiciously like grass). But the arugula, oh the arugula! It’s abundant! Not only did I enjoy an arugula salad last weekend (blog post about that coming soon!), but I was able to fulfill goal #2 of my garden and give some of my harvest away 🙂 One of the arugula plants has bolted and flowered, which is fine since that means it’ll reseed itself. Hopefully  I can cut the rest before it bolts, to either give away or eat.

Plant Portrait 2 Weeks Later

It never ceases to amaze me how fasts plants grow. Seemingly overnight second sets of leaves can appear. I check the vegetable garden twice a day, before I leave for work and then again as soon as I get home. Weeds grow equally fast, so this helps to stay on top of them, making my weekend work on the vegetable garden, roughly the same as my weekday work on it.

I’ve re-photographed my once-seedlings that have now grown into plants, that I can only hope are on their way to producing vegetables.

An overhead view of the largest pumpkin plant

A line-up of 3 of the 4 pumpkin plants. There was a 5th, but I pulled it out so as to keep the others from becoming over-crowded.

One of the four beets left. I suspect two more are on their way out. They seem to be turning dark and shriveling up where the plant hits the soil – resulting in a flopped over beet plant. Only one seems to be really thriving.

One of the several clusters of arugula. Technically I can start to eat the leaves at any point – I just need to get to them before they flower and dry up.

The deep purple stem of one of the bean bushes.

A small forest of bean plants – pretty much the only thing thriving on that side of the garden.

While there are only two strawberry plants left, this is the only one that seems to be making something of itself.

This might be lettuce, or a weed growing in the lettuce section. I can’t tell since it’s the only thing that has sprouted in that area. I’m going to let it continue to do it’s thing and keep an eye on it. It’s definitely a slow grower.

I’d long since given up on the tangerine peppers when this sprout arrived. Just like the lettuce, I’m letting it do it’s thing, though I’m slightly more suspicious of this newcomer since I saw something similar to it hanging out in the beets section (that I promptly pulled up since it didn’t belong there).

My bell pepper plants have resurrected themselves and are doing a much better job at holding themselves up and not wilting over.

After dead-heading my marigolds, they’ve come back as stunners, big and beautiful. They seem to be doing a good job at keeping unwanted visitors away with their strong scent, as knock on wood, my plants have been relatively left alone.

So to re-cap from where I started on Mother’s Day:

  • Pumpkins are growing amazingly well – I’m feeling incredibly optimistic about their future success.
  • Beets are holding on for dear life – I don’t anticipate having anything big enough to eat coming from them. This might be their last year in my vegetable garden for a few years (you may recall, I tried beets last year with no success as well).
  • Green onions still just look like grass. They smell like onions, so I’m letting them do their thing, and I think they have a long growth period, so it’s too soon to call.
  • Arugula is doing as well as I expected it to do since I was able to grow it successfully last year. Perhaps next year I’ll devote even more of my garden space to it.
  • Lettuce bombed. There might be one lettuce plant growing, but that’s a big maybe.
  • Basil never even came to the party.
  • The beans are rocking out – I’m feeling good about their progress thus far and think that they might yield the largest harvest of anyone else in the garden this year.
  • Of the nine dormant strawberry plants that I planted, I’ve got two left, and only one that I have any sort of hope for. I might try raspberries next year instead.
  • The tangerine peppers never really showed up, sans the one possible plant that has sprouted in that section. Not holding my breath.
  • The green peppers that arrived as plants a few weeks ago, and didn’t look promising at that time, are holding their own. I feel like it’s too soon to make a call on their impending success or failure.

Survival of the Fittest

Since the weather has been quite toasty, and I’m not a serious enough gardener yet to be doing soaker hoses (maybe next year…) the 12 hours of heat happening while I’m not home to be tending to the garden is making for a survival of the fittest situation.

It’s definitely been Sydney vs. the weeds, but it’s predominately just one type of weed that keeps appearing (4-5 a day), and disappearing as I pull them out every morning and evening. Sydney 1 Nature 0.

The pumpkins are taking off, 5 seedlings have emerged, and 2 of them are well past the point of being called seedlings! I need to thin it down to just those 2, but I’m considering placing the 3 to be thinned somewhere else in the garden since there are others not doing so well. Sydney 2 Nature 0.

The beets are still growing, though they’re a little floppy. Even though they’re only just over an inch tall, I may thin them out now and build up the ground around each beet to support the upper portion while it continues to grow. So for now it’s Sydney 3 Nature 0.

The green onions are still growing, though some seem to have fallen over. I’m going to say they’re a draw at this point.

The arugula is still coming up nicely. No real news to report there. Sydney 4 Nature 0.

The lettuce, well, it might be there. Or that might be a garden intruder. There’s only one or two. Sydney 4 Nature 1.

The strawberries are drying out faster than I can keep them hydrated. I’ve got one that’s left looking healthy. Sydney 4 Nature 2.

The beans are thriving. Most of them have large leaves and are about 5 inches tall at this point! The bean plants that were ‘thinned’ and then transplanted over to where the basil was supposed to be have all, with the exception of one, dried out (weird). Either way, I still have 10+ bean plants growing. Sydney 5 Nature 2.

The basil never emerged. Sydney 5 Nature 3.

The tangerine peppers never emerged. Sydney 5 Nature 4.

The bell peppers got delivered, and thus planted, during the heat wave, and are still wilty looking. Not dead yet. But I’m not holding my breath. Sydney 5 Nature 5.

So from the looks of it (knock on wood), the beans, pumpkins and arugula might be our survivors this season – and if that’s the case, then full attention will be turned to making those three crops as happy as possible.

Whose Berries Are Those?

While doing my daily morning check of the vegetable garden yesterday I noticed what appeared to be a pale raspberry, in the beet section. Not planted, no stem, just a pale raspberry. I plucked it up, and noticed a second, and third. As I went around the garden I kept finding more – some more red than others. I ended up with about a handful. I threw them to the side of the garden, I figured they might be tempting to birds – and the last thing that I need is birds eating mystery raspberries from my garden, finishing those and then looking around at the ‘menu’ of plants growing for their second course.

I pondered where these ‘raspberries’ came from (I’m using quotes because I’m not really sure what they are). I came up with two different hypothesis: 1. perhaps a bird or animal, on their way through my garden dropped them there. 2. my neighbor’s little son (who was throwing rocks at my sister one day through the fence) may have thrown them there.

Last night, I was up in my office doing some design work when I looked out the window and noted how the sun was hitting the tree branches around that side of the house. I looked closer, still 5 feet from the closest branch, I could make out that something that looked like the pale raspberries were clustered arounds the leaves. But none of them were red. Until I looked to my right at another nearby tree and noticed that it was covered in the red berries!

Well that almost solves that mystery. It hasn’t been particularly windy, so I’m not quite sure how the berries traveled from my south side yard to my backyard. And, I’d like to figure out what type of trees these are – mostly to know if the berries are eatable or not.

Seedling Portraits

3 of the 4 pumpkin seedlings

Close up of one of the pumpkin plants

Beets have the prettiest deep red stems. Another inch or so and it’ll be time to thin them out.

The grassy stems of the green onions

The Rocket Arugula was the first to make its way into the garden – and is still going strong.

The lone lettuce plant to sprout… or a weed, I’m not sure.

I think based on the deep hue of this bean bush’s stem, that this particular bush will yield purple beans.

A few of the newly spaced-out bean plants. Due to the complete failure on the part of the basil and tangerine peppers, instead of thinning out my bean plants, I just relocated some to the vacant plots.

One of the newly surfaced beans

Most of my strawberry plants look different from each other right now, this one in particular has a bright red stem.

Another strawberry plant

The green peppers have arrived! They’re looking a little droopy though – so I might need to stake them.

The whole garden – the dried stuff everywhere is from when Mike mows the lawn. As the plants get taller I’m going to let him mow closer to the raised bed so that I can use the grass clippings as mulch.