Pests, Pests and More Pests

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It seems almost overnight my garden has been taken over by an army of bad bugs! Now I am doing my best to organically garden, so don’t worry I will dump chemicals over these bugs and plants, but I am not going to just around as the circle of life takes place on my poor defenseless plant babies. The first to arrive were the armies of aphids. They’re gross looking little buggers that are all over my Brussels Sprouts’ leaves! IMG_1312

The have whole camps set up on quite a few plants. I looked up what the best organic way to deal with them was, and of course ladybugs are the best. Technically I could order some of these beneficial bugs online and unleash them on my garden and its unsuspecting invaders, but I read a lot of mixed reviews on this. A lot of people who got them said they all just flew away and they never saw a single ladybug in their garden since! Of course there are people who have lists of ways to get them to stay but I really didn’t want to pay for them when I don’t know if they’ll stick.

The second way was to just fill a spray bottle with soapy water and garlic and spray the buggers. The soap is what kills them, and the garlic supposedly repels them. Of course I couldn’t find an empty spray bottle for the life of me, and I was feeling much to lazy to run to the store just for a spray bottle so I emptied one half full air freshener bottle into another half full bottle of the same stuff. Then I mixed my ingredients in and had a weapon of supposed mass destruction. IMG_1337 (I put the label on so no one would accidentally spay garlic smell everywhere) While out looking at my plants I saw two more pests! IMG_1319

This first one I have no clue about! They look kind of like flies but they don’t fly away if you shoo at them. I had seen them before but didn’t think anything of them, but then I saw them absolutely covering one of my plants that seemed to be one of the most damaged. In fact this picture was supposed to be a “look, look I have beans growing!” picture, became a “Eww what are these” picture! IMG_1320

You can see two of them on here, although not super well. I have no clue what they are, or how to take care of them so I sprayed them with the aphid mix and am planning some intense research later.

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This is a pretty obvious pest, a caterpillar or larva of some kind. You can see it sitting next to its own work. Not sure what bugs these guys would grow into, hopefully not a pollinator, but whatever they are there were tons! Of course wherever they were, there was swiss cheese leaves! I mostly just killed these guys by hand, they were pretty tiny, but I’m hoping the spray will fight them off a little too.

My very last pest I have no way to fight, it’s a little too cute for me to deal with:

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Look at her, just crushing a plant with her cute little tush! She likes to lay in the dirt for some reason and that usually means also on some part of a plant! But I think I’ll keep her around, she’s good company in the garden!

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Adventures in Compost

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So when I began having issues with my compost, I decided to try another type of compost I had seen around a lot. This was Vermicomposting, or composting using worms. Here is my original bin:
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It is just a trash can with a bunch holes drilled into it that I have been using to put compost items in. I explained more of what I did in a previous post. I was having issues with this bin getting too wet and smelling pretty bad, I left it open for a day for some of the water to evaporate and didn’t add anything further to it for about a week. It was during this time I decided to look into getting a worm compost bin. It was also during this time that my bin must have righted the problems it was having! The more I get into this more I see how amazing nature truly is. It doesn’t smell anymore, and as I mixed it up I saw there was a lot more dirt and decomposed material than before! There was also definitely heat coming out of it too! So while I do now also have a worm bin, I have a big batch of compost that will be ready hopefully decently soon!

I ordered the worms off amazon, and bought the materials for a diy bin for them at target. I used this tutorial to make the bin:
http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/easywormbin.htm

Here is what mine looks like from the outside and inside. IMG_1304
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You can even see two of the little worms climbing on the side of the bin! (the little paper they came with said this was normal) For now since I got a smaller amount of worms, only 250, I am not adding too much organic matter. They can eat about half they’re body weight in food each day, which is awesome, but not that helpful if you don’t have very many of them! This bin is smaller than my compost trash can, so if you’re thinking about getting a compost bin a worm bin may be better if you just have a small space.

All in all my composting is going very well! I definitely recommend starting a bin of your own! I know it would have been so nice to have a finished batch to mix into my soil before I started doing all of this. Even if you aren’t going to start gardening, help the planet a little bit and divert your food waste away from the landfills! My community isn’t one of them, but I know a lot of communities have community composts or compost workshops at their city hall.

Life in the Garden

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Everything seems to be growing well! My flowers are hopefully getting ready pop up at any moment as I keep finding more places to put them. All my veggies seem to be growing well, so far no tomatoes have sprouted, but I am holding hope for them. My cucumber remain to be the ones doing the best though, although I think the squash and watermelon are trying to catch up! I got iceberg lettuce and rainbow swiss chard just for the hell of it the other day so hopefully those grow as well. Displaying IMG_1299.JPGDisplaying IMG_1295.JPGDisplaying IMG_1297.JPGDisplaying IMG_1298.JPG

We already had a dwarf lemon tree planted, but we just got a dwarf kumquat and its already covered in yummy little fruits! The lemon tree has a lot of little buds on it, but its not yet got any fruit.

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For now a lot of what I have to do in my garden is wait. I mean I see how my radishes are a tiny bit bigger, and that my spaghetti squash is about to poke out its first leaves and get giddy with excitement, but cataloging every centimeter does not make for great blog posts!

My compost has gotten a little stinky, I think the product of a couple of things. One, I think its too wet, we’ve gotten a far amount of rain here (which is a big yay, seeing as California needs all it can get as far as rain) and plus its fairly moist here anyway. When I first started the compost it was really dry so I added water, and I think this act has come back to haunt me. The Second reason, I think is the fact I have a lot of greens, but not tons of browns. I just recently (when I first noticed it starting smell) added a lot of paper and leaves to the pile hoping that would help. I am now leaving the top open to air it out and I added some dry soil to the mixture to cover it and to hopefully absorb some liquid.

My compost bin is also getting very full! We are a veggie and fruit family so we have a lot to add to it. We have a corner of yard that can’t grow anything (the soil is basically clay impossible to dig into, and we have a HUGE rubber tree that shades it full time and also drops tons and tons and tons of leaves on it) that I am thinking about putting some scraps. I spent a good amount time digging to make barely a dent, but its a dent big enough it could be my overflow. I probably won’t really use any soil that comes out of there, but I just hate throwing away food scraps!

I can’t wait until more is happening my garden that I can share!

Garden Update 1/27

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Everything has been going great so far! I planted all my seeds over a week ago and they are all doing well. The ones doing the best are definitely the cucumbers and peas, here’s a picture of one of each of them.

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The lettuce and radishes are doing really well also. They still don’t look like much so I didn’t take picture. I’m working on a new project, of course, and I’m really excited about it! It still doesn’t look like much so I’ll wait to tell you all what it is when I have a picture.

My flowers came! They even sent me an extra pack of morning glories I didn’t even order! I already know where I want to put them which is in our front yard. I have started all of the seeds in a tray out in my yard but they all have long germination times so I won’t have sprouts for a little while.

I so many places I want to put the flowers and I can’t wait til they’re ready to plant! I’ll update again soon!

Gardening Makes You Happy

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The more time I spend outside the more time I want to be out there! Especially because its been amazingly beautiful outside. I was just sitting out there enjoying life for a long time the past couple of days. It’s not going to stay this warm but  am determined to enjoy it while it lasts.

The sky was crystal clear blue and our large rosemary plant was buzzing with activity from a whole bunch of bees. I love seeing them so happy at that plant! It’s pretty huge so there’s almost always three or more of them filling up there.

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My plants seem to all be doing really well too!My first seeds I planted have sprouted! They are just radish seeds, which I have been told are one of the easiest things to grow, but I don’t care, it warms my heart to see them! It’s been a while since I took these picture and there are already more of them and they are getting bigger too! I also planted a lot of other things as well. I know I’m totally jumping the gun in terms of planting season but it won’t frost here so I’m not too worried. I’ll get more pictures when I have time. Unfortunately with school starting I haven’t had as much time as I would like and I am totally scatter-brained when it comes to my phone. I am probably one of the few people in my generation who don’t always need it with them but that means I never have it with me to take pictures with!

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I bought a while ago some raspberry and blackberry “plants.” I added quotes because they were both literally just sticks. No roots or anything! When I planted them I was so close to returning them but my dad said they would be fine. I doubted him very heavily especially because they had pretty much remained sticks until very recently, but now the raspberry has growth!

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It’s a little hard to see, but one little leaf sticking out the side of a stick! Plants are kind of miracles. I’ve always appreciated the way things work and plants are one of those really cool things. I mean I plant a little seed that looks more like a spec of dirt that anything else and now I have all sorts of buds growing out of the ground! It’s one of the things that I think makes gardening so healing and satisfying is you can see how you are helping to create all this awesome life.

If you are thinking about gardening, even if it’s just something little, I would say do it!  I honestly feel like a new person, a healthier, happier person because of it!

Finishing My Garden Space

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So I’ve finally finished my garden space! Well finished is a relative term because I think I am always going to be improving and adding to things, but its finished enough I can use it! I even cleaned up the pathway back to it, so it’s not so much a dark alley and its much more inviting.

If you saw my earlier picture I had used some old walkway tiles to prop up the dirt and make my little planters, but I stopped at Home Depot (I have been there way too much) and got a whole bunch of 42 cent bricks to do my last plating area and reinforce the ones I already made. Hopefully everything holds up well and hopefully the planters are deep enough, which is really my only worry right now. Here’s what they looked like right after I finished them.

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After I did this, I wanted to measure out my garden and figure out where I was going to plant everything. I have been looking into square foot gardening a little and the first thing to do when doing that, is to measure out and lay out a grid of square feet. I tried to do all of the of the spaces, but the top ones were just too weirdly shaped for me to make the actual grid. The bottom one it seemed to work well.

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You can see all the stakes I used as a make-shift way to make the grid. They just didn’t work for the upper tiers and I ended up taking them all out but I left all the ones in the bottom. When reading about square foot gardening it said you need really nutrient rich soil. I’m hoping my mix of manure, potting soil, and regular soil with be enough for this. One of the common ways to add nutrients is using compost. I am really hoping my compost will start to be ready somewhat soon. I know it will be at least two months, but that would be fine timing, as it would be mid growing season for me and an awesome time to add it as mulch.

Along with fixing the planting area, I fixed up the pathway along the house to the area. If I’m going to be walking this path a lot I want to want to walk it! Here are the before and after pictures: (they are different angles, but obviously same space)

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The stones are old and were just buried under dirt and leaves from the tree. It took me using the shovel to be able to uncover them and move them around but I did it!

After cleaning up this space its awesome to go back there! It’s so much nicer, and there is no more ducking under the tree to get to the back. I’m planing on adding more stones as a path next to the planters, but since that’s purely cosmetic I’m not going to worry about it. The next thing to do is to plant!

Space for a Garden

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If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ve heard of my lack of space and the side alley I have wanted to reclaim from the elements. I finally did! It took all the might of my dad and me, but we were able to clear all of the plants, or should I say weeds! Some of them were stacked two feet thick of just dead weeds on top of dead weeds. There were seriously so many weeds I could immediately tell I wouldn’t be able to use the soil that was there without having to go weed every two minutes. And these weren’t the nice slow attacking clover weeds either, these were large vine weeds.

The soil that was there really was not great looking anyway so I spent all day pushing it down to the lowest tier and tree base that would not be used for planting. After I had a good amount of depth I laid down newspaper and built up makeshift wall with the old pathway stones we had there. I want to add more dirt, but I went and got my last batch of dirt with my dad this time, and he didn’t believe me when I told him how much I would need, which is fine, Home Depot is on my way home from school.Displaying IMG_1262.JPG

The one in the back is big enough to hold three larger plants, especially since I plan to stagger them a little bit. I couldn’t go all the way back because there is concrete when you get close to the fence and that huge mound of dirt was basically a huge pile of broken concrete pieces I didn’t feel like dealing with. On the second tier there was a huge pipe in the way so I tried to make two levels to maximize the space. It’s all pretty janky, I  know, but it will hold plants and that’s all I need! There is another level I plan to utilize, hopefully making less a pathway and using more space, since it won’t have pipe in the way and is flatter to start out with.

I actually didn’t use all the soil I purchased here and used a couple bags in a planter I want to put sweet potatoes in but here is how much we bought.Displaying IMG_1260.JPG

I plan on getting more bricks for my makeshift garden to help reinforce and so I can make it deeper if I want to. I want enough room for my plants roots to get nice and big! I need to do some research on how deep plants roots are and on some companion planting tips before I figure out what I am planting where. I also, of course, have to finish the last space where I will be planting. I also want to look up and learn more about square foot gardening, I’ve seen a little bit about it, but not tons.

My flower seeds still haven’t come, which is pretty sad, I keep excitedly getting the mail only to be disappointed. But it’s okay because school has started and I have less time on my hands. I also need to plan things out, seeing as my main problem is continually space and yet I keep finding more stuff I want!

A small update on my compost: Compost is a somewhat slow process. I mean I knew this, but I still would like to see some progress. But I do know I am being impatient, especially because its just a trash can with holes in it, not some fancy thing. I’m still a little unsure about my ratios, and if I should add some soil to it or not. I added a little bit of the manure mixture I bought, but I want some just regular soil to put on top to keep down the flies, who are really enjoying the compost right now.

Current Plants and New Flowers

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Hello everyone, it’s time to talk about some of the plants I have already planted. As I said in my first post, I started by planting some vegetables from Home Depot. They were Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Brussels Sprouts. They are cool weather plants which is why they are being sold this time of year. Although I do worry the fact that it has been fairly warm may not be great for them. Since planted, they have grown some, but none have really been doing well.

As I said before I planted these before I really decided that gardening was something I really wanted to do. That means it was before I knew how important soil was. The soil they’re planted in is pretty much the only soil in our yard and has definitely had no nutrients put in it, even though its been planted in many times before and had lots of nutrients taken out. Now that I know more about soil I know why nothing we planted here ever did well, including these veggies I just planted.

When we got the soil for the containers, I took the compost/manure mix and put some around the base of each and they seem to have perked right up!

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This space, as you can see is not the greatest of all places to plant, but it works, even though I desperately need to fertilize these plants (more)! There is also all those annoying tubes that were part of a drip system my dad made a long time ago. I would like to eventually utilize this but right now I don’t really want to mess with it too much.

Other than these veggies, I am also trying my hand at some fruits. Strawberries are just about one of my favorite things and figured they shouldn’t be too hard to not screw up. I also wanted to try making this very cool planter I found on Pinterest.

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http://www.homestoriesatoz.com/outdoor/diy-garden-planter-birds-bath.html

     Here’s the link because her’s looks just about a million times better and is also a bird bath! I forgot to get the big pot at the bottom that is supposed to anchor the whole thing! Silly me! But all in all I love this because it uses the vertical space, saving a lot of the space I wouldn’t have otherwise. It was also cheap, the terracotta pots are pretty darn cheap and a four foot stick of rebar is also cheap.

     So now onto the flowers! I as I have said, probably too many times, I get a lot of my info and ideas off of Pinterest, but this one, not so much. As you have probably heard, bees are disappearing. People think a lot of it is because of certain types of pesticides that are now being used, but also because they have lost a lot a land that they used to live on, and used to be full of wild flowers that they got pollen from. Bees are an integral part to our lives, even though a lot of people think of them quite negatively.

     Even though you might have been stung by a bee in your life, its time to forgive and forget and help them out! A lot of the food you eat is able to be grown and picked because of bees and other pollinators making it possible. In fact, on a lot of the sites I have been looking at they advocate enticing bees to your garden to help increase yields and ability for the plants to produce fruits.

     This is why I ordered a bunch of of flower seeds that are all flowers bees love! And you should too, even if you just plant a few, you will be helping out!

     Here’s a link with an awesome blog that has tons of info on what you should do in your garden.

http://www.eyecandypopper.com/2014/05/30/how-to-create-a-bee-friendly-garden/

Also, I have throw this in here:Displaying IMG_1244.JPG

This is my little gardening partner Maggie. She’s a little dog we rescued about a month ago who is just a little sun bathing goddess! Remember, always adopt and not buy! And if you can, adopt a less desirable breed like a chihuahua or pit bull.

Soil In a Soil-less World

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So I have containers, I even got a pack of seeds to start! I figured since I’m in zone 10, I could get started early on my planting. The whole “zone” thing has to do with my location in the United States. The different zones have different low temperatures, meaning plants can or cannot be planted at different times during the year. I swear in my eight years living here it has never gotten below 45 degrees. In fact, now in mid-January its been steadily in the 70s or upper 60s.

But this post is mostly on soil, since I’m not going crazy with planting yet, my little planting alley next to my house is not ready yet, and I am starting school soon. I want to see how much time I will really have before getting into everything. I did go get soil not tons, just enough to plant the dwarf lemon tree my mom wanted and some to fill up the containers. I had always gotten potting mix with my father but its not the cheapest thing, especially if you’re buying it in the bags like us. So we decided to get top soil, which was only $2 a bag and steer manure and compost mix which was only$1.15 a bag.

When looking at what people said to do when when fixing up their soil, a lot said the just took the soil they had on site and added compost and manure. Well we didn’t have any starting soil, which is why we bought the top soil to mix in the compost and manure.  We did buy some potting mix because we figured mixing some of that in would only help things.

We planted the dwarf lemon in this gorgeous planter we’ve had one of those braided ficus in. We noticed after in rained a while ago that the water had never drained out, even though there was a hole in the bottom of the bottom of the pot. My mom and me managed to tip it on its side to drain it (not easy, the thing was definitely water logged) and when we did, there was a huge root sticking out the hole! When I say huge, I mean huge too, it was at least three inches in diameter, and fairly long already.

We were so happy we did this seeing as it was already trying to go down and break through the concrete in the middle, although the smell from the water that had been there for a long time was not pleasant. My brother had to help us get it out of pot, and it was kinda an ordeal. The lemon tree certainly looks dwarf right now, seeing as its a huge pot, but hopefully it grow bigger relatively soon. Below is the tree we took out. We are going to try and sell it seeing as we saw similar trees for sale at Home Depot for over $45.

Displaying IMG_1248.JPG      So now the lemon tree looks great, (pictured below) and I filled up a couple of the containers with my soil mix. I did about one and half bags of top soil and three quarters a bag of manure/compost. A lot people recommend not filling up the whole container with soil, because it makes the container heavy and hard to move. I don’t plan on moving the containers from where they are and even now that they’re full, they really aren’t too bad. I put a full layer of potting soil on top of the two containers I filled up, about four inches thick. Again, not clue if this will actually help, but its can’t hurt.Displaying IMG_1247.JPG

Here is one of them filled up, and even with a plant in it! It’s just a basil plant we had just sitting around that was looking super sad and wilted.Displaying IMG_1249.JPG

So once I get my side yard all cleared out and ready to plant, I will go get more soil, this time with my dad to help carry all the bags, and get ready to plant! I’ve read many times, and even had it recommended to me as a comment on my first post to start small. Unfortunately I’m young and naive so I want to start with just about as much as I can!  I won’t though, I’m really going to try and not get too crazy. Everything I will be growing is considered “easy” vegetables so hopefully even though I may be starting with more than I should, I’ll still get somewhat decent results!

Next time I’m going to talk a little bit more about the few plants I already have in the ground and also the flower seeds I ordered!

My First Garden! (part 2)

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So when I last left off it was with the realization, I needed to learn a lot more! So that’s what I’ve been doing pretty much since the day I planted. Pinterest is a huge source of my knowledge, it has just about everything about gardening, plus tons of cool and cute ways do everything in your garden!

The very first thing I saw and latched onto was the idea of a compost bin. I have always been big on environmental friendliness, so this idea seemed huge to me! So I went and got a trash can, drilled some holes in the side (yes I am very handy with a drill, girls can be handy too) and started to fill it up.

Every site you read, which just type in composting in any search engine (especially Pinterest’s)  and you will have an abundant amount of information. You may find, of course as I did, not all the information really agrees. Some of it is on little stuff, like whether or not wood ash can go in a compost bin, which to me, really doesn’t matter seeing as I have very little wood ash to deal with in my life. But others, like how long it will take to compost, if you should add soil or not, if you should drills holes in the trash can you purchased, they all have a different opinion.

So I picked through it all and have made some choices as too what is in my bin:

  • Yes I drilled the holes, everyone said you need air, and holes mean air to me
  • There was a lot about green and brown items, you have to balance it, 50/50 according to almost all websites, so I did my best.
  • A lot of sites said you should put some branches and sticks in the bottom of your compost, we had just trimmed back some huge and unsightly lantana, so I added the sticks. Of course now I read maybe that may not have been the best idea since they take a very long time to decompose.
  • When it comes to green waste (sticks are brown) I didn’t have a ton readily available. I hadn’t been planning this out and saving is up so I just had a few strawberry tops, eggshell, and coffee grounds.

I think my ratios are my biggest problem, I still have a lot of dry stuff. I added in leaves and trimmings that were definitely more juicy than the sticks (which I did cut up to be small) but other than that, not the wettest thing. Of course moister is very important, and hopefully as I collect and add more green waste from my house, I will get more. Also my bin isn’t super full, which I think could be a slight problem, again that is just solved with time.

Now that my compost is set up (and hopefully composting), it was time to move onto actual plants! And to have you plants you need space, and as I said before, space is not something I have much of.

When running errands with my mom, we found some great cheap plastic planters at Costco (pictured below). They are two feet in diameter which seems like it would plenty big, especially because we got four, but its not as big as you think. When looking on the back of most seeds they want you to plant them at least 24 inches apart! That’s the size of one planter, which means just four large plants!

Displaying IMG_1230.JPGSo in my quest for space I went to our dark corner dungeon. Okay its not a dungeon, it actually gets a lot of sun, which is great for plants! There are just two problems: One, to get to it you have to crawl past a huge tree, and two, its completely over run with some kind of ground cover plant. Just look at all that space! This is a view from my front yard over the fence, there was huge spiderweb preventing me from actually getting back here past the tree.Displaying IMG_1231.JPG

I plan on using my dad here again to trim the tree and help me clear out the monstrous amount of plants in this space.

So that’s the end to of the beginning of my story! Now that I know where I’m going to plant everything, I just have to do the actual planting! Hopefully you’ll keep reading and follow along with me on this journey!