Archive for ‘Gardening’

June 25, 2012

Our Spring/Summer Garden

by Melissa {The Dominion Project}

Hi guys. Promise I haven’t completely forgotten about the blog. But things have been a little bit…um…crazy? Between the day job, all the projects we’ve been tackling around here and (most of all) Baby S on his way, I’ve just been exhausted and completely scatterbrained. I’ve probably worked on this post in spare moments at least a dozen times over the last month if that tells you anything!

But anyway…the only thing we’ve been semi-good about photographing for the past few months is our garden. I’m so excited that it’s actually producing veggies this year!! Last year we built the raised beds and attempted to fill them up, but we didn’t do any research. And we probably started too late for this Houston heat, so the results were pretty dismal. Vegetable gardening takes a little more effort than just throwing some seeds in the ground – who knew?

Ethan was determined to succeed this year, so he did the research and developed a plan – we’re pretty thrilled with the results! These photos are from the garden’s peak a month or so ago. Between this oppressive heat and my neglectful watering (oops), things aren’t quite as lush these days…but you get the idea.

Our #1 resource was this article on the Urban Harvest website – a Houston-based organization on a mission to educate home gardeners. The article explains how to rotate 4 plots in a small vegetable garden, taking advantage of crop pairings and the optimal time for planting in Houston’s climate. The plan is for a 200sf garden and since ours is only around 120sf, we modified the plan to fit our space. I’m a visual person – so of course I drew a diagram. :)

Ok, nothing exciting. But having a detailed action planned has really been key for us. I noted each month’s plantings on our family calendar (on the refrigerator) so we wouldn’t forget when to plant things, and six months in, we’re still going strong!

Another key for us was researching the seed varieties that would thrive in our hot, humid climate. This page on the Urban Harvest site was a great reference. For example, we chose an Asian cucumber variety (Suyo Long) because it is “very dependable in hot, humid climates.” Just what we needed.

We also have 8 or 9 plants tomato plants –  Celebrity, Cherokee Purple and Sweet 100’s.

Our crop has been a little out of control – so we’ve been making salsa!

Earlier in the year we planted Super Sugar Snap peas, which are long gone now in the summer heat. I was so amused by the way they “climbed” our chicken wire trellis. They made it all the way up our 6-7′ wall…and then some.

Right now, our Derby Bush Beans are taking over the spot where the Sugar Snaps used to live. They’re pretty much green beans – just a short bush variety that apparently likes the Houston climate (when you remember to water them…)

And onions too – we bought them on a whim when picking up some seeds at a local feed store. They’ve been pretty handy with all the salsa-making.

With 100 degree days upon us, I’m pretty sure all our plants are on their way out. Hopefully we’re as good in Sept/Oct when it’s time to tackle the fall plantings!

May 25, 2011

Squirrels

by Melissa {The Dominion Project}

Our very first strawberry was ripe for the pickin’ and the dang squirrels stole it!

{a quick iPhone pic before heading to work}

I should’ve snagged it when I had the chance, but I seriously thought it would get bigger. I guess those strawberries at our local HEB are eating their Wheaties! But not to worry, it looks like a couple more will soon be making their debut.

All in all, the garden hasn’t been looking so hot lately. Or maybe it’s just been looking extremely hot…possibly parched? I’ve been watering away, hoping it will make a difference, but so far…nothing too exciting to report. Our poor poblano pepper is hanging on for dear life.

{poblano pepper}

This weekend, my neighbor was over checking out our lack of harvest, and mentioned that we should fertilize. Her cherry tomato plant is yielding a serious crop. Ours is sending out fruit slowly but surely…but they’re still green as can be.

{sweet 100 tomatoes}

{more sweet 100’s}

My neighbor said our plants needed an extra kick of protein to push them over the edge. I don’t know if she’s right or wrong, but I sure was willing to try! Maybe it was a coincidence, but guess what popped up the next day!

{squash!}

Our okra’s not looking to shabby either!

{okra}

Now if only the big tomatoes would start ripening up. These are the Cherokee Purple ones, so they should be way ahead of the others (we bought this plant, rather than starting from seed).

{cherokee purple tomatoes}

Oh, and the squirrels. Does anybody have a tip for keeping them away? I heard one for deterring birds…but it looks like I’m decorating for Christmas.

The theory is this: birds go after tomatoes looking for water. If you hang a red ornament, they’ll stop there first, won’t find any water, and will stay away from the tomatoes. I’ll let you know how that one works out for us!

April 29, 2011

There’s Fungus Among Us

by Melissa {The Dominion Project}

Hey friends! I know you’ve been dying for a garden update, so here it is! Things are going growing well, but we have a little problem. No, not a serious problem. More like a mushrooms-are taking-over-the-garden kinda problem. Look at them all – it’s like someone planted mushroom seeds!!

Now I’m an amateur gardener, so somebody tell me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think they’re really hurting anything. Just an unsightly nuisance, right? I could water less, but with this heat and our record-breaking drought, surely the plants (the ones we actually want to grow) would turn into crispy critters. So I think I’ll continue my aggressive watering schedule and pluck out the mushrooms when I have nothing better to do (or want to avoid more strenuous projects).

In more exciting news, some of our fruits & veggies are blooming…

{squash}

{tomato}

{strawberry}

…something edible showed up a week or two ago…

{poblano pepper}

…and I have the cutest dog on the face of the planet (but you already knew that).

March 23, 2011

Hoping for a Harvest

by Melissa {The Dominion Project}

I’m so excited to be typing this from my brand new desk! It’s assembled and in the office, but this room is a complete disaster. So I’m going to hold you in suspense for just a little while longer. In the meantime, here’s a detailed look at what’s growing in the new garden!

Last weekend (after finishing the fence) we planted our seedlings in the raised beds.  Most of them are starting to take root and sprout new leaves, a few aren’t looking so hot, and a couple are actually missing (I blame the squirrels). But as I watch them grow, I’m beginning to hope for a bountiful harvest this summer!

Here’s what we planted…

  1. Mortgage Lifter (Heirloom) Tomatoes – Beefsteak varieties that grow to 1-2 pounds!
  2. Big Rainbow (Heirloom) Tomatoes – because they look cool
  3. Cherokee Purple (Heirloom) Tomatoes – because they look even cooler (this is definitely kid food)
  4. Supersweet 100 (Cherry) Tomatoes – Ethan swears by these…says they’re like candy
  5. Poblano Peppers
  6. Serrano Chile Peppers – we make a lot of Mexican food!
  7. Strawberries – The Chef Jeff variety claims to be “Everybearing.” I’ll be happy if we get a pint’s worth!
  8. Okra – gumbo anyone?
  9. Yellow Squash
  10. Basil – pesto, yum!
  11. Thyme
  12. Parsley
  13. Cilantro – more Mexican food
  14. Mint

And a tomato seedling….for good measure. There’s also a pathetic rosemary plant that’s somehow survived for the last couple of years, despite my neglect.

Let me just be honest. I’m a novice gardener. I’ve grown herbs in pots (thanks to an Easter gift from the in-laws a few years ago), but I’ve never grown vegetables before. Ethan’s family had a vegetable garden when he was growing up, but that’s been a while. So we have no idea what the yield is on each plant & will probably have tomatoes coming out of our ears!

Is anyone else gardening? It seems like tomatoes are the popular choice for Houston, especially since  you can grow them in containers. I’d love to know if anyone else has taken the plunge!

March 20, 2011

All Fenced In

by Melissa {The Dominion Project}

Finally, our garden is “Abby-proof!” I know she’s loved playing in the dirt all week (everyday we’ve found big holes filled with her toys), but that wasn’t going to bode well for our seedlings, so we built a nice little fence. I’m pretty happy with the results – it’s functional and charming!

Before we started, I assumed it would be another learn-as-you-go project, but apparently Ethan has some fence-building experience under his belt! So naturally, he took the lead and I happily played the role of his assistant.

We borrowed a post hole digger from my parents & Ethan did the hard, manual labor of digging through our clay-like soil. I’m amazed at how hard & thick the ground is here in Houston!

After digging four 24″ deep holes (one for each 4×4 fence post), we set them with quick-drying concrete. We used one 80 lb. bag for each fence post. That may sound like a lot, but the bags are pretty small – they just weigh a ton!

The best place to mix concrete was in our newly purchased wheelbarrow (we needed something to move all that dirt!) We found the quick-drying concrete to be super easy – just add water and mix. But you have to move fast – there’s good reason they call it “Quikrete.” We only mixed one bag at a time to avoid a wheelbarrow full of set (hard) concrete, and rinsed our tools after each mix. (They’re just as functional covered in a thin layer of concrete, but who really wants that?)

After mixing, Ethan shoveled concrete into the hole while I moved the post around to work it in. Every 6-9″ of depth, we checked that the post was level & repositioned it as needed. Once the hole was filled to the top, we knew there wouldn’t much wiggle room, so intermittent adjustments were key!

Once we had the two end posts set, Ethan tied a string between them to ensure the two middle posts would be in line. This seemed like a genius idea to me. The last thing I wanted was a crooked fence! How does he know these things?? (In case you’re wondering, I asked. His response? “This is how you build a fence.” Ok boss.)

So we cemented two more posts in the ground and let them set overnight. Piece of cake – bring on the fence panels!

We chose to use pre-fabricated fence panels for two reasons. One – I liked the look of the gothic pickets (apparently I’m on a gothic kick – remember my chairs?) Reason #2 – We figured pre-fab panels would make the fence-building proces faster & easier.

In theory, that should have been the case. However, we didn’t take into account that our standards of “level” and “square” would be considerably higher than those of the people who built the panels. What can I say? Ethan and I are both perfectionists when it comes to this sort of thing. But we got over it and got to work.

We cut both fence panels down to size (and held onto the extras for our gate), got them as level as possible, and screwed the panels into our very level posts. So far so good!

Now for building that gate. Since the pickets were attached to pieces of 2×3 pine, we constructed the frame of our gate from the same size wood. Ethan built the box with the help of some metal L-brackets and added a cross-member for support. Then we took the leftover pickets from our trimmed-down panels and evenly spaced them on the gate frame. They’re don’t match the panels perfectly, but it’s pretty darn close.

Finally, we hung the gate with a couple of fence hinges, slapped on the closure hardware, and voila – a fenced in garden!

The last thing we had to do was trim down those incredibly tall fence posts (you didn’t really think they were staying, did you?) Ethan & I discussed cutting them before they went in the ground, but decided cutting was the best way to make sure all 4 posts were the same height. We didn’t have the right saw to cut the two far posts, but we’ll take care of it real soon.

So here’s our completed garden – what do you think?

One last thing. I’m thinking the fence needs to be painted (white? black? charcoal grey?) or stained (if it will take evenly to the wood) to give the whole thing a finished look. That’s in addition to planting beds (in the distant future) to soften up the fence.

Any thoughts? Paint, stain, or leave it alone?

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