Monday, June 29, 2009

Happy Monday! Weekend recap and some eye candy.

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Click to enlarge



Projects completed this weekend:

  1. Tore out peas. Moved flower pots to fill the gap.
  2. Transplanted (switched locations of) peppers and carrots. (Peppers went to the hanging box. Carrots went to the wood planter.) So the peppers get more sun now.
  3. Harvested bunching onions for Potato & Onion soup.
  4. Harvested basil – it flowered again! >:| and made pesto. Ate it with pasta – Yum!
  5. Harvested pineapple sage, orange mint, spearmint, and lemon verbena for tea. Turned out a bit too lemony. Hubby said it reminded him of Pine-Sol. So, I won't use quite as much lemon verbena next time. That stuff is wicked strong.



The mints are growing like crazy!


Other stuff that's going on:
  1. The strawberries are finishing up.
  2. The lavender is starting to form blooms.
  3. Several more blossoms have opened on the eggplant.
  4. The beans are starting to bloom.
  5. The green garlic exploded – it grew 4-5 inches tall in just a few days.
  6. All the cilantro died. I'll try again next year.
  7. A little pile of stevia is sitting out to dry.
  8. Buds are starting to form on the squash vines.





Looking good from the street.





Damn, I love my view :)


Friday, June 26, 2009

What's blooming today: a tour

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The peas are done.



This hot weather did them in earlier than I'd hoped. My weekend plans include removing the vines to the compost bin. I'll decide in the next few weeks if I want to try for a fall crop or if I'll bend to my hubby's wishes and scrap those planters in favor of more open floor space.

So now it's time to move on to the warm weather crops!



Eggplant – Fairy Tale

OMG – so pretty!! If I follow Burpee's note to expect fruit after 50 days, I figure I still have 2 weeks to go. Will it really take that long? Or did the intense heat lately cause it to bloom early?




Sweet Pepper – Great Stuff

I figure it'll be a month and a half until harvest, if I even get one. None of the peppers look too good. They aren't getting the best light: the planters on the railing shade them. I wonder how they'd handle being transplanted. I'm afraid I screwed this up. :(




Green Bean

These looked a little wilted when I got home last night, but after a very thorough watering they were back to being quite perky this morning. Something has been damaging the leaves; I'm still trying to work that one out.




Sweet Basil – the Troublemaker
I'm labeling it "troublemaker" because every time I turn my back it sprouts a new flower spike. Doesn't it know flowers will make the leaves bitter?! Stupid plant.




Nasturtium - peaches + cream

Very pretty and tasty – I threw a few in a salad the other day. They're decent as a cut flower, lasting 4-5 days.




Trailing Lantana

It's been blooming on and off. It just started again after a 2-week break. I've had a bit of trouble with the basket it's in blowing around and breaking the hardwood stems, but it's still grown a lot. It was an impulse buy from Lowe's.




Strawflower

I once read that it's classified as an herb, but I haven't learned of a use for it. If I can bear to, I'll pinch off a few stems to dry. It keeps wonderfully well for dried flower arrangements.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Adding outdoor lighting when you don't have an outlet

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As the temperatures get warmer I seem to only find myself on the balcony in the early morning before work, or late at night. My early excursions aren't so much to just enjoy the space as they are to water, pick off dead flowers, and harvest a few strawberries.

At night I've found myself wanting to go out to read or relax with the hubby. We have a porch light that illuminates the space rather well. It's very…functional, but not so inviting. And it attracts bugs. Not nice.

So I want to add some nice ambient lighting. But I don't have an outdoor outlet.

First I thought of solar-powered lighting. I saw some at Target, but they look chintzy and haven't had very good reviews. They don't seem to keep a charge after a few months, or the don't let out a lot of light.







Other online retailers seem to have good products, but I'm not really fond of online shopping – I like to see a product and take it home with me there and then.








Then I saw this post on using candles in jars on AT. Very pretty.











And even more recently they had an article on hanging jars with candles as lighting.


I have a dozen glass jars under my sink that I saved from the trash. They're really handy for saving leftovers, pre-sprouting seeds, and mixing up (shaking up) stuff for recipes. And I have tons of little tea lights.

So, I tried it out last night. Set up was a breeze. I just dropped a tea light in each jar and arranged them in a little area where I thought they'd be visible enough to not get knocked over.

 

 

It's not bright enough to read by, but it gives off enough ambient light to make it worthwhile. I think I'll need add a couple citronella candles – I noticed a couple mosquito bites on my legs this morning. :(

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday recap + rearranging the balcony

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Here's a pretty for your Monday.

 

And another (the nasturtiums I grew from seed are blooming!)

I've been up to a lot lately. I was out-of-town Thursday and Friday; when I got back I spent a couple hours cleaning up (i.e. deadheading (will somebody slap me if I buy this many petunias and violas next year?) )

I also picked a bowl full of strawberries...and ate them. Piggles got the green tops.


 

Tantalizing, aren't they?


  

And had enough peas to qualify as a side dish with dinner. Hubby got the shelled peas.  

Mmmmm. Steamed peas.....



The orange mint mentha was getting a bit out of hand, so I hacked off a couple stems and made tea.

 

 I poured hot water over 2 tea bags and the crushed mentha leaves, let it sit for 5 minutes, drained, sweetened with 1/4 cup of sugar, and iced. It made a whole pitcher! Very delicious.





Later I decided the pineapple sage was similarly overrunning the pot and took out a couple stems of it. Made tea the same way (but with 1 tea bag instead of 2 – 2 bags was getting kind of strong) and added 1/2 a can of concentrated lemonade to the pitcher. It was so yummy! Even my husband liked it. I'll definitely have to do it again, I have half a can of lemonade left anyway.


The basil tried to flower – again. So I made pasta sauce :) It turned out very yummy. Used a ton of basil, and did the first harvest of oregano.


And then, since I didn't have enough going on, I rearranged the deck.

I couldn't do anything drastic since pots are heavy and things are growing onto each other and the railing, but I moved the chairs so they weren't facing the grill (not the best view) and scooted the pots around so the peppers in the big planter box could get better light. I scrapped what was left of the lettuce (Piggles got it) and stowed those dishpans-turned-planters in the garage (along with the bottoms off the hanging boxes – they kept dropping off onto the lawn.) I pulled up a bunch (most) of the pansies and violas from the hanging boxes. It all looked good when it was first planted, but then stuff – of course – grew. So I plopped them in a few new terracotta pots and stuck them under the chairs. They fill that visual void nicely.

 

Before
click for larger image

(I used Photoshop to merge individual shots into this image - it's not perfect – take a close look at the chair on the right. lol)




After
click for larger image

(Again, photomerged. This one is better - I used about 20 individual photos, and it took about 15 minutes to do the action, but I think it was worth the wait to be able to get the whole thing in one image. It's still not perfect – the chairs and the grill have funny-looking bits.)


 

Before (from inside)





After (from inside)

The peppers haven't been doing well – I think it's the wet and cloudy weather. It's supposed to be sunny and 95ยบ today. That'll help them, but I don't think I'll be going out there until late. It's HOT!

Pot Envy

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I came across this wonderful balcony on Apartment Therapy. After a little internet sleuthing I found the Angel's Garden website– a container-scaping business in SanFran – and am sincerely head-over-heels in love. Everything is so colorful, even the empty pots don't look drab. I wish I had the budget to invest in pretty ceramics.



I'm not so much envious of the window box as the amazing succulents. Again, this is from AT.



marthastewart.com is asking people to submit photos of their veggie gardens. This one by patio_garden seems to be coming along really well. Looks like they have really nicely built planter boxes and I'm loving the deep blue pots against the warm wood and bright green veggies (and blue flowers). I spy tomatoes, basil, salad greens, lavender and mint? Very nice!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Carrot thinnings.

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This morning went something like:



Pony - Gingey gets yo butt over here. We has treats!
Ginger - Leaffies?!



Pony - I dunno waht it is.




Ginger - Smells like carrotz. Don't looks like a carrotz tho.

 

Ginger - OMG it tastes like carrotz!

NOM NOM NOM


And then they ate them so fast I didn't get any more pictures.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Herbs

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I'm inspired by Avis who recently shared how she laid out and planted a couple planters. She organized hers by size so her planters would be symmetrical. I'd like to share the details of how I organized my herbs.



I have two 20" long window boxes for my 'dry' herbs - those appreciate a few dry spells in between watering. In these I have:
  • Thyme
  • Lemon Thyme
  • Sweet Marjoram
  • Variegated Oregano
  • Sage
  • Spicy Basil
  • Cinnamon Basil
  • Red Basil
  • Lavender
  • Violets (edible flowers) - to fill in the empty spaces.
  • Nasturtiums (edible leaves + flowers) - to hang over the edge of the balcony.
  • Chives - a few seeds strayed and popped up...I think I'll leave them be. 


The herbs that like to stay a little more moist are in a big tub:

Orange Menthe --- Cilantro --- Anise

Pineapple Sage --- Borage --- Oregano



In private pots
  • Sweet Basil (in really big tub because there wasn't room for it anywhere else)
  • Lemon Verbena (so I can bring it in during the winter, and it likes to be dry between watering.)
 
  • Stevia (so I can bring it in during the winter, and it needs to stay moist)
  • Rosemary (in a terra cotta pot because it likes to dry out and I can bring it in during the winter)
  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint (the mints need to stay separate so they don't overrun everything else.)


  • Chives (2 kinds - regular and garlic - each gets 1/2 the pot) The regulars haven't sprouted much...
I really packed them in, but I don't really have the luxury of spacing them out and letting them grow in...I just don't have the space! I really like the impact of how lush everything seems, anyway.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Adventures with Stevia

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My packet of stevia seeds failed, or I failed them....I tried germinating them in egg cartons just like the nasturtiums. One bitty seedling did pop up, and then died the next day. :(



So I bought 3 big plants at Lowe's. They're enjoying a private pot just outside the door where they'll get all the sun they could want. They grew about a foot in the past month.

I ate a leaf and was really surprised. It's sweet. Really, REALLY sweet...BUT it tastes like grass! Allegedly after you prepare it that goes away....I've seen a couple methods for extracting the steviocide - one you crush the fresh leaves and put them in a jar with vodka, leave them for a day and drain through a coffee filter. The second - dry the leaves, crush and store in airtight container. It seemed as though the fresh method is preferred, so I tried that route.



Chopped up and soaking in vodka.


Draining


After I let it set I added as much water as there was vodka and slowly heated it in a pan on the stove until I thought it had reduced enough. And it left me with this:



It looks really nasty. It is super sweet, but it tastes like boiled broccoli.

I guess I'll try drying the leaves...