Garden Rows

Tuesday, December 27

Charlie Brown Avocado Tree

I hope you are enjoying the holiday season.  I have been as involved as I can find the time for.  I have grand ideas of someday being able to do all kinds of fun holiday activities, but for now I am happy to bake as much as possible and pull out my small Christmas decor collection sometime after Thanksgiving.

I have never dragged a cut tree through the front door. Nor have I set up a live tree in the corner.  I live in a small house so it would be rather difficult to work out where to put a Christmas tree with the plants, furniture, book cases.  This year I decided that the Avocado tree would be a dandy tree to decorate!

It is inside already, and it has really branched out.  I decided to stick with silver balls.  They are simple, discrete, and not too heavy for some of the younger branches.  It is kind of comical and kind of sweet in an almost elegant way.

I would like to have a Norfolk Pine in the future to use as a Christmas tree.  They make such nice looking house plants, and would create a nice simple focal point when decorated for the holidays.  They like low lighting, which would be perfect since I seem to have very little direct, or even bright light in my house.

The little red tinsel tree from college still made it's way into the scene.

It has kept the Nutcracker Matryoshka and Santa company for quite a few years now.  Plus, IU had a really great win against UK about the time I put these items out, so maybe there was a little school spirit egging me on :~)

Here is my little holiday corner.  There are even pine cones in a basket by the tree.

I will enjoy it for another week or so before packing it all back up, transforming the Charlie Brown tree back into a regular house plant.

What are some of your alternative, or non-traditional holiday traditions?

Tuesday, November 29

The First Snow

Surprise, winter is here!  I was minding my own business, working on photos for a post about my Thanksgiving cactus when there was a knock on the door.  It was the FedEx guy, but this was the surprise when I opened the door:

It had just started snowing!  At least this year it waited until after Thanksgiving and after the city removed the leaves from the curb.  Then I remembered I still had plants outside that can't handle this kind of weather, uh-oh.  Remember the elephant ear?  It was still sitting out by the front door.  It has been raining for days.  I was waiting for it to stop so it could drip dry for a day or so before I brought it in.  Well, there goes that idea.

What I have read about wintering elephant ears over is that they should be dug up (when the low temperatures hang around 40 degrees) and stored in saw dust or sphagnum moss and placed in a paper bag in a cool dark place until the spring comes around.

I brought it in and put it in a plastic lined cardboard box.  Time for unexpected surgery!

I cut off the leaves leaving about 6 inches or so.  I think you are supposed to cut them closer, but for a short term quick fix this is what I did.

I wonder if I can leave it in the pot allowing it's dormant period this way rather than removing the bulbs and storing them in a paper bag.  I think I will try.

The other plant went into the bath tub temporarily while it drains a bit.

I can never remember what this one is called.  My mom reminds me from time to time, but I can never remember.  The tag was lost many moons ago, probably one of the many times the cat leaped into the pot knocking plant and soil all over the floor.  Between the cat eating the leaves, and knocking it over, this plant has had a hard life.  Despite the rough treatment from the feline it flourishes in the summer shade on the porch.

For now it is Winter and time for these plants to rest.  I will be back soon with the post about the Thanksgiving cactus I was working on when I discovered the snow and need for unexpected surgery of the elephant ear.

Monday, November 14

Crazy Wind Storms

Leave it to central Indiana to provide us with an endless supply of crazy weather.  In the last few weeks we have had
  • grey cloudy skies
  • cold rain
  • warm sunny days
  • a batch of snow (luckily no accumulation due to warm ground) 
  • and we can't forget about the wind
We have had some crazy wind storms.  I don't know if NOAA has a "Crazy Wind Storm" classification, but I am going to stick with it.  35-45 mile an hour gusts seem like they deserve it.  

Remember the big tree in my front yard?  Well, between the rain and the Crazy Wind Storms it went from this:

to this:

in a few days.  The second picture also gives you a nice view of the gloomy clouds blown in after a day of sunshine.

I wish I could take a video so you could see this wind, but we all know you can't SEE wind!  My pup loves to catch sneaky leaves that catch a ride on a breeze.  She is so proud of herself when she gets one that she prances with the leaf in her mouth and her head in the air.  These Crazy Wind Storms have provided quite the ride for the leaves lately!  Somehow the leaves are in tidy piles now.  Here is the one in my driveway.

It may be hard to see in the picture, but the leaves in front are actually all lined up neatly.  It is amazing to me that the leaves are not only in a pile now, but a tidy one at that!  I just might put them in a bag and put it on the curb this year since they are gathered up for me already.

Would you believe it is 66 degrees and pouring rain?  Yep.  November in Indiana.  Not so predictable.  Just the other day, maybe the same day it snowed for an hour, the elephant ear out front got a bite from some frost.  It's not looking to happy today.

Can I be done with winter yet? 

Tuesday, November 8


What flower could say fall better than orange Mums?

Actually, when I was a kid I thought they were summer flowers.  Though I knew the little rule: pinch them back till the 4th of July.  I think it could go back to my young childhood when we brought Mums to my moms sister for Mother's Day.  I remember the pink/purple flowers (it was one of my favorite colors at the time) and it was May, so I associated them with summer for many years.

The other day my mom brought me two orange Mums in glowing full bloom.  They are like balls if smoldering coals.  I removed the tomato plants from the back porch and promptly planted the Mums.

They create a nice visual break in the side of the porch and a bridge between the porch and the steps.  (I was an art major, very helpful in the plant arrangement aspect of gardening and knowledgeable gibberish) I guess these exploding plants came with a few potato beetles.  I forgot what they look like until I saw one.  They are little yellowish beetles with little black polka-dots randomly sprinkled on their shell.  My mom also brought over her Diatomaceous Earth.  The simple explanation for what the stuff is: a powder that is so fine (consisting of fossilized diatoms, hard shelled alge) that it gets in the joints of bugs (beetles, ants, bedbugs, and other hard shelled critters of the sort, but does nothing to earth worms) and hinders their movement.  Check out Wikipedia for more info on DE.  

Back to Mums.

I did not realize how delicate these plants are.  They look like nice sturdy plants just covered in blossoms.  The reality is that they are fragile.  I accidentally lost almost a third of one of the plants before realizing this.  

On the up side, I decided to be brave and turn it just enough to where the gaping hole is now against the porch and almost unnoticeable.  The other fortunate aspect is that I have lots of bud vases that the flowers fit just perfectly.  

In the living room:

And in the Kitchen:

I was surprised how spicy this plant smells!  As I was trimming little flowers from the broken stalk there was a  strong spice smell.  It was vaguely familiar, but I could not quite place it.  

I have never been crazy about Mums.  I never saw myself going out and buying Mums.  Oddly, now having spent time with them today, I have decided I rather like Mums.  When they are planted nicely they add a nice dimension to the fall colors.  

Monday, October 31

Happy Halloween

Have a spook-tacular day!

Green is the Color

Usually green is associated with Spring, but in this case it is my garden's theme for Autumn.  When I saw that the night time temperatures were in the 30's and that there was a frost advisory the other night, I decided it was time to gather my last harvest.  

Not a bad harvest considering my tomato crop really did not come on strong until late August.  The tomato plants spent the hot summer just trying to survive.  They struggled with minimal light and I realized that that I did not plant them deep enough.  As a result, they were not able to reach deep enough to find water when I (on occasion) did not have time to water.  At least there was coco chip mulch to hold the water when it did get watered.

This tomato plant got so big.  It really took off as the hot dry summer faded.  I could not find my twine to tie it up, so I just let it sprawl and take over.  It pretty much engulfed the poor little sweet red pepper.  I decided to let it go for two reasons.  Air filtration (because that's what plants do), and fried green tomatoes.  Since tomatoes just seemed to keep appearing I thought I would let them grow as long as the weather permitted.  So they grew bigger and bigger.

They are just beautiful.

 Too funny, I just realized there are 13 tomatoes!  Lucky 13?

 They will make a lovely fried green tomato dinner.  Maybe 2 dinners!  My husband and I have been looking forward to this for a while.

The pepper plants did not thrive as heartily as the tomatoes as the weather turned, but they did produce just a little something extra.

There are two small green peppers.  They have been the same size for about a month.  I guess the ground and night time temperatures have been too cool to encourage growth, but not cool enough to kill the peppers.

There were also two more baby banana peppers.  Unlike the sweet red peppers, these guys actually have made some growing progress in the last few weeks.  The two banana peppers I picked a few weeks ago (can be seen in this post) went into burritos.  yum.  These guys are half the size of the others though, so they might be a garnish if sorts, not sure just yet.

Last night my husband asked me if the little garden paid for itself, if it was worth the $$ investment.  I thought for a moment and told him probably not.  Though, the more I thought about it today, the more I think it might have come close to breaking even.  There was no really spectacular harvest, but the herbs alone more than paid for themselves.  Every time you buy a bundle of cilantro you could pay about the same for a plant that will produce more than what you just put in the produce bag at the grocery store.  It is true, jalapenos are very cheap, but if you can provide a plant with enough light, you will have reasonable success.  One of the things that made it valuable for me was that I could go out side and just grab a hand full of cilantro, a jalapeno, a bundle of fresh oregano, or mint and add it to what ever I was making.  It was the freshest produce I could hope for, and I did not even have to get in my car!  It was right there.

I would like to plant a fall crop in the future.  One with plants that actually like the cooler temperatures.  Do you have favorites to grow in the fall?

Happy Gardening

Tuesday, October 25

My Mega Maple

October is coming to a close and the enormous maple tree in my front yard has dropped half a dump truck of leaves in about a 1 house radius.  Funny thing is, it's still green!

I have a beautiful, huge, old maple tree in my front yard.  It is a fair chunk of what sold me on renting this house.  It provides shade for the house in the summer.  It can be a bit scary in the spring though when the winds are blowing strong.  Branches hang right over the whole front half of the house!

I am not the only one who enjoys this tree.  There is a whole club.  I caught this, uh, chubby guy scratching an itch.  There are lots of birds, squirrels and chipmunks that keep this tree active year round.

I anticipate the tree turning a bright golden yellow and all the leaves falling off within the next 3 weeks.  I would LOVE to mulch the leaves, but I am not set up to do that.  Maybe someday when I own my own house.  Mulching leaves is a great way to "dispose" of the leaves responsibly, especially if you live in town.  Compost piles make wonderful garden medium in the spring!  Yes, I am dreaming big :~)  I also can't wait until I can turn vegetable scraps into fertilizer!  Ah yes, the worms will be so excited.

Monday, October 17

letting go

October 8th
Sometimes we have to let go.  Sometimes in anticipation of something greater.  All the flowers have fallen off my surviving orchids.  I left the flower spikes alone for a few weeks on the off chance that the little buds at the ends might keep blooming.  I knew better.  I have read up enough by this point that I understand the basics of these plants.  After some waiting around on my part and no action on the orchids part I decided it was time.  I decided to do the Trim and Hope thing.  I did this with one of the orchids that died earlier in the summer, but that poor plant had some moisture issues and was doomed when I bought it . . . I just did not know it at the time.

Here is the trimmed flower spike of one of the orchids.  The cut is sealed with cinnamon as a fungicide.  Cinnamon has many great uses beyond oatmeal and apple pie! check it out.

If you trim an orchid flower spike once it is done blooming there is a chance that it will do one of a few things.  It might bloom again, it might grow a keiki (baby orchid plant), or it might just decide it is done with the spike and is going to put energy into the leaves.

This is where a keiki would grow if it decided to grow one.

However, it looks like this this plant would rather grow a new leaf.  Time will tell.

October 17th
Just over a week later the little leaf sprouts have really grown.  I am not sure if there will be one leaf or two.

The thing that concerns me is the threat of fungus on this plant.  The black spots at the base of the top leaf make me think that it may be too late.  I am going to look into something at one of the local green houses in hopes of fixing the situation.

Sometimes we have to let go in hopes of something great.  We just don't always know what that great thing is going to be.  Follow your heart and trust.  In my case, it may be a lesson to fork over the cash and get an orchid that is not on sale yet!

Sunday, October 9

Philosophical Vegetables

90% of this dinner came from a garden, just not my garden.  I could have easily grown the main ingredients here in the Midwest.  Pumpkin, onion, garlic, potatoes, bell peppers.

What you see here is Pumpkin soup with rye bread from the Bread Basket, and bacon ranch potato salad.  (see the bottom of this post for the recipes, or check the recipe tab at the top of the screen for other yummy edibles)

This was a good dinner, but it just was not as satisfying as the dinners I have made this summer with ingredients from my own little garden.  There is something to be said for the fruits of our labors.  I think that so often we get wrapped up in what has to be done, and how little time there is to do it that we forget to look at our accomplishments and appreciate all the amazing things that we manage.  These things do not have to be big.  They can be little.  Lots of little things add up!

Thankless, never-ending tasks like laundry and dishes. Who wants to do any of that?!  But don't you feel better once you have made a dent?  What about washing the car?  It's one of those things that falls by the way-side in my drive way, but once it is done, (I mean really done including dusting inside!) it feels so much nicer.  I am a little proud of my clean car.  When I actually clean it, I tend to keep it nicer longer, you know, like clean the trash and junk out every time I get home :~)

This may seem to stray far from the gardening topic, but really I am just going out of my way to prove a point.  When we invest ourselves in what we do we pay closer attention to the details.  Our accomplishments are a bit sweeter when we can take a look at the bigger picture of what the tiny details create.  A cozy home, a loving family . . . a beautiful garden!

Making dinner tonight got me to thinking about these things.  I knew dinner was going to be pretty good, but wouldn't it have been better if the ingredients came from my own garden?

That is just what I am going to do.  We have to dream.  So I am dreaming up a little place where I will have a little house with a big garden.  A place where my husband and I can be proud of our dinner, because we grew it ourselves!  I have been called naive, a romantic, these types of things.  As long as we remember to keep a little reality in sight than a little whimsy helps keep the practical more interesting.

Pumpkin Soup

2TBS oil
1 medium onion, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped mushrooms
2 bay leaves
2 cups cooked (about 3/4c dry)
      1 can navy beans
2 cups or 1 can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sliced ripe olives
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground coriander
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
*In a large soup pot, heat oil until hot.  Add onion and garlic; saute until golden.  Cover with 4 cups water (use bean cooking liquid if cooking beans from scratch)
*Add mushrooms and bay leaves; bring to a simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, until mushrooms are tender.
*Add remaining ingredients.  Adjust consistency with water as needed.

Bacon Ranch Potato Salad

1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup ranch dressing
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp garlic powder
3lb small red potatoes cooked and quartered
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/2 cup red pepper sliced thin
4 green onions, sliced
*Mix dressings and seasonings in a large bowl.  Add remaining ingredients; mix lightly.  Refrigerate any leftovers.


I was in a bit of a hurry making these recipes and did not follow all directions to a T.  Make to your taste!  A recipe is only another person's idea really, unless we are talking baking where there is actually science involved!  We will leave science for another day and leave today with dewy philosophical ideas.

Monday, October 3

Chill in the Air

Ahhhautumn.  I love this season.  (I think I mentioned that already)  It is now October and the trees are blushing realizing they will be naked in another month.

The other thing that the height of autumn is known for in central Indiana is a drop in temperature.  Much of September was chillier than normal as a result of the hurricanes that moved through the south.  I brought the potted plants in on October 1st when I saw that the low that night was 37 degrees.  The nightly lows have been in the 40's and 50's the last week or two.  The plants did not seem to appreciate the nightly chill.

While some plants seem to like the move indoors:

Getting color back, the Thanksgiving cactus is even setting a flower bud!

Though not everybody seems to appreciate it!

I have read that most Gerbera Daisies rarely last the winter.  We will see how this one does.  Can you see the cat damage?  This is one of the most dangerous aspects for the plants indoors.  You can see the omnivorous feline in the lower left corner eyeing her new buffet.

The thing that is difficult to see from this picture is that this entire corner of the room is taken over by plants.  There are 4 tables with pots on them.  The avocado tree had to go in the living room.

It is larger than last winter.  It was hard to get the whole thing in the frame.  The ivy in the pot got huge over the summer, too.  It was cascading out of the pot in every direction.  I tossed the cascades up into the pot to make it easier to move, and less inviting to the kitty.  I think I better trim it back.  This particular ivy roots very easily.  Want a cutting?!

While the plants generally appreciate the warmer indoor temperatures, one of them seems a little confused.  The Hibiscus bloomed in the night!  I watched it set a bud, and I thought it would bloom the next morning, but I guess it could not wait!

During the time this plant was outside flowering, the buds would burst open first thing in the morning and then close up as the sun went down.  This flower is much smaller and going on 2 days with out closing!  I do not leave lights on at night, maybe it is the stable indoor temperature.

Yesterday was a beautiful Sunday.  A friend and I decided to take advantage of the amazing afternoon and walk on the B-line trail . . . as did every third person in town!  The bridge is finally done.  It's pretty high up there!

The sun was hot and the breeze was skipping about, an amazing October afternoon.

It may be the end of warm summer afternoons, but there are still a few things blooming, soaking of the last of the hot sun.

Tuesday, September 27

Scale-y Aloe

The scale is back.  Every so often I do battle with this pesky little bug.

Pretty good looking aloe huh?  Lets take a closer look, shall we.

Scale has armor that is too tough for just a spray attack.  I have to go in fingernail deep and get dirty.  Squishing these pesky things is the most effective way to actually kill them.

These little suckers attach them self to a spot on a plant and do not move (they are immobile) and stay there just drinking the life out of the leaves, one by one.

The tell-tail signs that scale have visited a leaf are shown above.  It looks like small holes have been burned into the leaf and it shrivels and turns yellow before finally dying and falling off.

Scale really like my aloe.  I have actually lost an entire pot of aloe to these tiny vampires.  Don't think I didn't fight!  I used a mild soap and water solution once or twice a week thinking they might suffocate (maybe I should have tried holy water).  I even re-potted with fresh soil and cleaned each individual leaf of each plant with neem oil. Eventually I was able to save one of the pots of aloe.

I found a few baby aloe plants today as I went pinching and poking my way through the armored bugs.  Some of the plants that had been fairly damaged were sending out roots towards the top healthy parts of the plants in hopes of survival.

I decided it would be in their best interest to not return them to the pot seeing as they are so young and juicy, they would make a delicious meal for a battalion of hungry scale soldiers.

If you notice you have a plant that has been invaded, get ready for battle.  Separate it from any other plants.  There are thousands of species of scale, and they vary greatly in what they can do and how they function.  Though the basic bit is that they suck the sap from the plant's vascular system.  While the actual scale bug is immobile (I think the female stays this way through her life) there are some (I think the male) that can move.  Infestations can spread quickly.  Be persistent, the moment you back down they will regain all the ground that took you so long to attain.  Web sites say to toss the plant if the infestation is too bad.  Hmm, how determined are YOU?

I got some info from wikipedia, and gardening know how