Posts Tagged ‘backyard garden’

Favorite backyard garden pictures of 2010

Happy 2011!  It’s getting cold outside, and the garden is pretty much hibernating. We’re growing some cool weather greens and herbs, but our efforts will soon shift to getting seeds ready for spring.  Santa was good to us this year with new toys for the garden. I gave Blair a rainwater collection barrel and watering wand, and his parents gave us a pop-up greenhouse, rain gauge, and outdoor thermometer. We are ready for the new year!

To say good-bye to 2010, we’ll leave you with some of our favorite garden pictures (with special appearances from Maya and Butters). Some are repeats; others were never posted. If you want more 2010 garden pics, they’re all posted on our Picasa site.

compost

A pot of "black gold"

Hard to believe that everything was manageable at one point this spring

Onion flower

Broccoli

Beets

Beautiful to look at; tough to stomach

Potatoes, basil, and funky carrots

Costoluto Genovese tomato

The biggest tomato plant we've ever grown - Costoluto Genovese

Farmville cat does not actually like to farm

Anacacho orchid tree

Bees feed off the anacacho orchid tree

Butterball sleeping on duty

Cat nip

Cat nip randomly started growing in our garden; the cats found it

Double digging

Double digging the beds for late summer/fall

Summer squash

Summer squash and its beautiful yellow flowers

Eggplant burgers

Eating the fruits of our labor

Minorcan datil peppers

Minorcan datil peppers, a.k.a. hot

My favorite picture of Butterball in 2010

An unflattering picture of Maya in 2010

Purple hyacinth bean vine

One of my favorite plants to stare at - purple hyacinth bean vine

Green beans

A spider built a huge web outside our bedroom window

Corn

My lovely grandparents

We were thankful for our garden, cats, family, and friends this year and are excited to start 2011. Thanks for reading our blog in its first year and leaving your advice/questions. We love it!

Advertisements

A family’s influence

Last weekend, my mom and grandparents came to Austin to visit. The occasion was celebrating my mom’s 39th birthday. We’ve been celebrating her 39th birthday for X years. (Don’t worry, Mom, X is locked in a vault.) Being such a beautiful weekend, we got to spend some quality time outside, carving pumpkins and picking veggies. I snagged a few shots of the family together.

My mom and grandparents examining peppers, squash, and cucs.

A cute picture of my grandma, Esther

This got me thinking, the reason Blair and I even started gardening was because of the influence our family had on us growing up. That and we try to be sustainable. Growing up, my grandpa always had a garden. It wasn’t big, but it had the essentials – tomatoes and peppers. I remember riding on my grandpa’s back around the yard as he crawled around on all fours pulling weeds. His lawn was his prized possession. My grandma’s dad, I hear, was the one with the immaculate garden. My grandpa tells me stories of his father-in-law mixing dog poop with water and pouring it around the tomatoes as fertilizer. My grandma sighs at him with a disgusted look, denying all the stories. Who’ll ever know if that was her dad’s secret to the perfect tomatoes. I know our cats pee all over the place out here.

My grandpa is a little quirky, but I love it.

With the likeness of Popeye, as he's always said

Blair grew up with a green-thumb mom. She has one of the most beautiful gardens (both floral and vegetable). Kathy tells me that she’s amazed how much her boys recall the oddest names of flowers – celosia, corn flower (aka Bachelor’s Button), and Blair’s favorite cigar plant. She says they must have been listening all those times she thought they weren’t. Kathy is the one we call when our plants aren’t doing well and need advice, when we need to ask if a critter should live or die, and when we get our first tomato. She is a true master gardener!

A photo from Kathy's garden. We'll hopefully get her to guest blog one day!

My dad even put on his gardening hat this year with some peppers, tomatoes, and onions. He also has the most mint I’ve ever seen in one backyard. Here’s a picture he e-mailed me with his good luck charm, a KU garden gnome that I got him for his birthday. Yes, my dad is a diehard KU basketball fan, born and raised in Kansas. My second allegiance (after UT) goes to the Rock Clalk, Jayhawks. Before I told my dad that what I’d sent was a “garden” gnome, he had it sitting above his TV. 

Garden gnome with banana peppers

Guess all these gardening genes just run in the family. 

Me and the grandparents

Sleeping on garden duty

We love our cats like we love our gardening. And we like our cats big, just as we like our veggies. Of our two cats, Butterball (or Butters for short) is a much better “garden cat” than Maya. A good garden cat is one that hangs by your side while you’re working in the yard, doesn’t get scared off by the slightest sound, and keeps other creatures away that may want to eat your veggies before you do. Typically, Butterball is good garden cat. Here is one exception.

Butterball sleeping on duty

  Actually, I lied. Here’s another exception. This may be turning into a habit. Can you blame him though?

Sleeping or sunbathing? Or both?

Whatever he’s doing, it’s not stopping whatever is trampling our potato plants and eating our cabbage.

Despite our small barrier around the bed, something managed to get in.

I propped the stems back up as best I could and pulled one stalk out to see how things were going. The red potatoes are looking good — one was still a bit small. I didn’t check the gold potatoes. Thought I’d better leave them alone.

Harvesting some red potatoes out of curiosity

Bottom line is, cats have a great life. And whether or not they’re sleeping or sunbathing, I’d love their company in the garden any time.

Sighting of the first tomato

I couldn’t believe my eyes! There it was. Sitting on one of the lowest limbs of the plant, close to the ground. Our very first tomato of the year. For any gardener, this is quite a joyous occassion. Now I will carefully protect this little tomato from squirrels, birds, bugs, and horn worms as best I can (until I eat it myself of course).

Yesterday was definitely a good day. Of course I grabbed my camera…

First sighting of the Black Krim

First sighting of the Black Krim tomato

One of our other tomato plants (Costoluto Genovese) is more than 4 ft. tall. Lots of yellow blossoms but no tomatoes yet. Hopefully it’s not far behind. Blair stuck a second tomato cage next to it this morning because lately, it’s motto is “lean back, lean back.” (Yes, I’m making a bad reference to the hip hop song.)

Costoluto Genovese

The Costoluto Genovese plant and its growing pains

Perhaps these plants are doing well because we learned a new tomato planting technique this year while volunteering for Green Corn Project. (The nice spring weather and rain can’t hurt either.) Basically, you plant the tomato on its side, covering a good portion of the stem, to establish a better root structure. Before doing this, pluck off some of the small leaves toward the base of the stem. Those nodes you just plucked off will become a part of the root structure (nodes under ground = roots; nodes above groud with sunlight = leaves/stems).

Planting a tomato on its side

Blair demonstrates planting a tomato on its side

Planting a tomato on its side

The finished product (still a plant that points upright)

Next up on the blog: What happens when cats sleep on garden duty?

Sorry, neighbors

All this work in the backyard is making an unsightly mess. Chicken wire, rocks, shovels, pots, you name it — it’s all over the place. So, to our neighbors, we are very sorry that you have to look into our backyard at this mess. We’ll get it under control soon, promise.

The backyard mess

The sun sets on our backyard mess

Good news is that today’s sun brought some warmth and some courage to get outside for most of the day. Blair finished double-digging half of the east bed. With a few more evenings in the yard this week after work, it’ll be ready for planting. While Blair dug…and dug…and dug, I planted…and planted…and planted. The west bed is completely full now; it was just missing the broccoli and cabbage that had been hanging out in a seed flat.

West bed labeled

The west bed finished and labeled for your viewing pleasure (click on image to enlarge)

I also prepped a raised area that we’ve been planting in for a few years by tilling the soil and adding compost; egg shells; and turkey manure, which I managed to get all over my pants. This area is what I’d like to call the “control group.” The biointensive/double-digging method is the experiment, but if it doesn’t work, we’ve at least got a few plants in an area that we know works. Which plants? Brandywine and Costoluto Genovese heirloom tomatoes, rosemary, cilantro, onions, garlic, and lots of random flowers from soap containers and pieces of paper that claim to be infused with seeds (been saving these up for a while now). Other than being the control group, some of these plants just honestly didn’t fit into our ground-level plots. 😉

The "control group" of plants along the west side of the house

And tonight, we’re dipping down to 31 degrees (perhaps the last spring frost?). Have no fear, the plants are covered (literally).

Our spring crop

Blair here…

Like I said several weeks ago, we’re attempting to grow biointensively this year using How to Grow Vegetables as our guide. The book covers all kind of topics, from the best ways to compost to companion planting. But one of the coolest things in my opinion is the in-depth “mini-garden” plans that provide blueprints for what to plant, how to plant it, and when to plant it. There are several plans, but we chose the one-person, six-month, 100 sq. ft. plan. You can actually check out the list of plants and when to plant them here, thanks to Google Books. The suggested layout is on the following page (p. 128), which isn’t available on Google Books’ preview.

We actually ended up modfying the plan a little — from 100 sq. ft. to 64 sq. ft. (two 8 x 4 beds) — and we chose a few different veggies. We decided that 100 sq. ft. was a little too much for our first try with this; we didn’t want to get discouraged and give up on it. Plus, we’re still planning to plant a few other random things in other parts of the yard, so we’ll have plenty to keep us busy. Check out our fancy layouts below. Not quite the work of an architect, but close. (You can click on the pictures to enlarge.)

West garden bed East garden bed
Bed No. 1 (west bed) Bed No. 2 (east bed)

 

We got the west bed prepped and mostly planted a few weeks ago. We still need to get in the broccoli and cabbage, which are still growing in their second seed flat.

Seed flats

Seed flats staying warm in the mini greenhouse

Double-digging in our crappy soil is tough! In fact, I’m planning to devote a whole post to my experience with double-digging in the rocky Edwards Plateau soil. We’re hoping to get the east bed prepped soon so we can stay on schedule with the rest of the plants. Unfortunately, the first day of spring isn’t bringing us much nice weather to work with today. Maybe tomorrow…

Biointensive gardening

Mixing in more compost after double-digging first plot

Biointensive gardening

Last summer, after our plants finally gave in to the Austin heat, I was perusing the garden blogs (probably homegrownevolution.com) looking for inspirations to improve our garden. I happened upon a post about a book called How to Grow More Vegetables: And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine by John Jeavons, and decided that the title alone was enough for me to bite. So, I went to the library and checked it out, and sure enough, I was quite intrigued. How to Grow More Vegetables is the primer on biointensive gardening, a method of gardening that focuses on maximizing your food production and improving your soil. The book claimed that I could grow tons of vegetables (and fruits, nuts, berries…) using only 100 sq. ft. of land, and to top it off, it wouldn’t be that hard or take that much time. Actually, I guess the most important thing about biointensive gardening is that the long-term goal is to create a sustainable garden, one that doesn’t require any external ingredients like soil, fertilizer, or even seeds. Quite lofty, but it made me want to give it a go.

Turns out that Andria and I were fairly busy last fall, so I had to set the biointensive gardening ideas aside for a few months. But now we’re ready. We’ve got some seeds planted, a crappy mini-greenhouse built, and a new pile of brown and green material starting to compost. Here’s to hoping that we can keep this blog useful, current, and interesting, and that we can keep our cats out of the seed flats!

Iz in ur flats squishin ur seedz