Friday, May 31, 2013

My Deck Container Garden

Our deck has never been an important place for us. Every year about this time I suggest we fix up our deck and make it a pleasant place to lounge. Every year we think it's a good idea and then we don't do it.

I don't think it is because we are lazy, but because we just don't exactly know what we want to do with it. We do want to do it but the vision is just not there. So we just leave it alone and my husband goes out there to grill and little else.

This year will change one thing. We are growing some plants, including vegetable plants and herbs on our deck and if that is successful, I am thinking we will see our deck as a more inviting place to be. In the photo above you can see that our little experiment is taking off and growing greener, and larger day by day.

Above are some tomatoes and behind that are cucumbers and Ronde squash from Renee's Garden.

Our basil plant is hidden in one pot by mixed lettuces and watercress.

In the pot above is a Poblano Ancho pepper and a very large chamomile plant along with a few other smaller plants. I can't wait until the chamomile starts flowering so I can dry the flowers for tea.

In the pot above are more peppers, lettuces, a basil and I think some lavender. There is even a dill peeking out on the left hand side. This one is really full and pretty.

A few more squash plants.

And another tomato with a bamboo tepee. I am loving the way they my container garden is growing. I might even set up my lounge chair so I can watch my plants  grow! Aren't they pretty? Later I will need to add some flowers for color.

I am not using any poisons so it could be I will have to set up my chair to swat away non-beneficial bugs. I could nap in between bug raids. Just a thought.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Propagating softwoods: I did it!

It feels so good to finally have success when you have been trying, and trying, and trying to do something.

The thing I have been trying to do is to propagate plants from cuttings. Some people just say rooting plants and I thing that is fine. I have been trying since I took a class on propagating at my local extension office to do this and I thought I was going to have great success, but by the end of my propagation experiment, I didn't have very many plants with roots on them!

I do have one hydrangea and three Rose of Sharon bushes that I am still working on and I am hoping to have some success. I don't have them at the stage where I think planting them in my landscape would be successful, but I am at the stage of re potting them and giving them sun and water to see if I can get ready to grow outside in the ground.

I am just pleased that I have been this successful. (Before, my success hovered at 0 percent!) At least I can visibly see roots at the bottom of the dirt when I took it out of the container. I think this is SO great.

I am starting some Saucer Magnolias from my tree out front. I think from the class I took that keeping  the plants in a mini-greenhouse environment until they show growth is a very good thing but I think I did something wrong after this point because at this point I had new shoots coming out everywhere but by week five, many of my plants started to wither like they had just gotten too much water.

I did read an article from Fine Gardening where their suggestion is 3 weeks in the greenhouse environment and then move them into a warm, semi-shaded area where they can be protected, yet will get the sunlight they need.

I hope that soon I will have the right formula down for me and I will become successful in this endeavor. I would love to cover my outdoor beds in flowers that had been propagated from root stock. This is the old-fashioned way I would like to get back to, if I can. I don't know if it is always best to get plants only from nurseries or the local box hardware store.

I sure feel good about my success except that I need to get my ratio of success from about 10 percent up to around 75 or 80 percent. I will keep trying until I do!

Here is my original post about this.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pinterest gardening ideas

I am so happy that I have something as simple as Pinterest to get ideas when I need them. I just do a search and I can find just about anything I could imagine. The photo above is a simple patio garden. I like it because all of the pots are the same giving it a modular look. Learn more about this garden at

I have always been fascinated that people use things as simple as old gutters to plant in spaces you didn't think possible. This photo looks like this mini-garden of lettuces is below a deck. I think this could make several nice large salads.

Making things from PVC and piping is a wonderful and inexpensive support idea. This one looks great and is very supportive. Details can be found at

I always love tepees and this one, made of bamboo is covered with beans. What a great idea. It provides shade and a dinner vegetable! It can be found at

Another deck garden. Why am I so interested in deck gardens? I am working on one myself. This looks very lush and is at

Another deck garden in pretty boxes. This one sits on a platform. See it at

Oh my goodness! Another use for pallets. I think it would make a nice strawberry garden but the lettuces and spinach look good, too. It is at the

I also love these metal buckets. Mine don't look shiny and new like these. I don't think this garden will be as bright and shiny next year, but it will still be nice and effective. It is a great way to have a backdoor herb garden like this one at

And last, I not often had cucumbers this pretty and straight but hanging them high to get better use of gravity would probably work. I love these cucumbers. Apparently, this one was grown by transatlanticplantsman.

Hope you enjoyed these. I can't wait to show you my deck garden.

Monday, May 27, 2013


Memorial Day is a day to remember how many brave men fought in many battles so that we can live in a free society.

It started as Decoration Day, a day to honor and decorate the graves of soldiers killed in the Civil War. This was a war that so many died and communities all over our nation honored their dead.

Later the holiday was changed to Memorial Day to honor all who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in freedom.

In church yesterday, we were asked to remember... and give thanks for those fine men. I want to remember three young and vibrant men I knew who gave their lives in an unpopular war, Vietnam. 

Eddie Couch, Warner Hughie and Bill Thomas. We could never thank you enough.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Teacher appreciation gift

Here's a slightly new twist on an idea to thank a teacher at the end of a school year. 

This time my daughter recycled the idea and she used last year but added a pencil to hold the thank you note in the flower pot. She chose an easy-to-grow green plant in a small hanging basket. This plant will grow with little encouragement--long tendrils of variegated green and yellow foliage. A perfect gift that should grow for someone, even if they don't possess a green thumb,

A nice and thoughtful gift for under $5.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Garden views

A group of bamboo poles tied together makes surprisingly pretty architectural garden accents. It grows prettier as the beans grow up the poles.

This tree above confuses me. I always think I know what it is but I am always wrong. I think it looks like a mix between a lilac (which it is not) and a type of hydrangea. It isn't a butterfly plant, though it looks kind of like one--not the leaves but the blooms.

It is striking in the landscape.

Wild flowers grow beside our lettuce. They are so pretty.

It is wild evening primrose and they are growing prettier every day.

Potatoes are blooming and the vines look wonderful.

This looks like a dandelion bloom on a potato vine and it is, of course, both--the dandelion bloom is growing up through the leaves of the potato vine and I did a double-take and thought, "What in the world is happening here?" I was kind of relieved to see they were two plants growing together.

Tomatoes don't have the prettiest blooms but when you see them you know tomatoes are not far behind. The thought is lovely.

These are just weeds and I would have never have given them a second look but the little flowers all over them makes them pretty. I guess when you see them through a camera lens, things look different.

I think they are good for the bees. We will appreciate every wild flower when we are eating our honey.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tending the bees

Last week our new hive of bees started to congregate a little more than normal outside the hive and they seemed to have slowed down on their feeding of sugar water. A quick call to Fran (from Buster's Bees) convinced us that it was time to add the super we had purchased a couple of weeks back.

The first thing we did was check out our Dad's old smoker, the only remaining relic from his beekeeping days when we were children. We felt we had to start with the smoker since we could remember holding it for Dad on summer days past when he was tending to his bees.

Happily, it still worked even if it does look to be fifty-plus years of age.

We started out with the smoker, sending puffs of smoke into the front opening and prying the lid open and soon the inside of the hive was revealed. We kept smoking the bees a little to calm them and we were absolutely amazed when we saw thousands of bees filling the hive. Some flew around us and was my sister, Wilma pried the frames loose to inspect the hive, the bees began to swarm all around us.

(This wasn't my best look, though I was glad for the tight elastic at the bottom of my bee jacket. I always was glad later that I tied ropes around the bottom of my pants.)

It was simply amazing to look inside and be totally protected from the swarm of stings we might have received had we not been wearing the hat, veil, gloves and pants. It was a very exciting experience for me. I was nervous but I must admit I felt like Rose going down the rapids in the African Queen. "I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating."

After examining the hive we smoked the bees a little more and I went over to get the super to place it on top of the hive body.

It was a little difficult to get the smoke to go where we wanted it to go. After this the fire went out in the smoker. (We need to work on this.) We tried to get the bees to move off the top so they wouldn't be crushed by the super and we got extra wax off the wood of the hive cover.

A little extra brushing and we added the cover.

At this point we really didn't worry so much that the bees were covering us because we felt safe in our gear.

And we were done. About this time, a bee that had crawled up to my sister's knee stinging her but this was the only negative thing that happened. (The next day we couldn't tell where she had been stung.)

We celebrated while gathering up our supplies.

It took a white for the bees to settle down but we felt very confident that we could handle this. It was so very exciting and amazing while all the bees were flying around, essentially trying to make us stop messing with their hive.

We did see that our hive was very strong and we have SO many bees. We also found that beekeeping is not dangerous and we felt very safe and protected. I can say I am not ready to take off my gloves, jacket or hat but I do feel great about having the bees and I think it was a very good decision. I am hoping they can fill up this little super and the next super we will soon add. We may just have some honey this fall. Our bees are obviously very hard workers.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The saga continues

The squash vine borer is my sworn enemy. I have accepted this. Every year I try something new in order to get rid of this nasty pest. I know my sworn enemy is not as bad as Lex Luther to Superman or Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes. After all, no one is injured except my plants (and my pride) and I can continue to grow them, possibly even inside. I could poison the villains or I could always buy organic squash at several local supermarkets.

I just think there must be a way to rid an organic garden of vine borers and have a decent crop of squash, not worth swearing over or resorting to using Sevin. I will continue to try new things in hopes that I will one day find an answer.

One year I cut the dastardly worms out of the vines. The vines died and were weakened so that squash bugs finished them off. That was a really bad year.

The next year I tried planting in stages. All the vines became infested and I hardly had any squash.

Last year I covered the vines until they began to bloom. Much better. I did get some squash at first before the vine destroyers attacked. I also tried growing some in straw bales at my house. I didn't have enough sun and the vine borers found them. It was all over but the crying!

This year I am spraying a sticky neem oil on the vines and then covering them with a diatomaceous earth. A substance that is like walking on glass to insects. I will have to do this after every rain but I have had success with this product, it is even edible and the bees are not effected by it. Since it has been unseasonably cool, I don't think the vine borer wasp has hatched out yet so I can't know if my plan is working.

I also have some syringes and if infested, I will try injecting some Bacillus thuringiensis into the hollow leaves, which is supposed to kill worms.

Yes, this is another episode in the story of Me vs. the deadly vine borer. I just hope to win one day.

All I can say is hurry up Extension offices around the country and Master Gardeners--the elite military forces for garden good. This gardener sure needs your help in putting this bad guy away. I'll let you know if my new tactic works!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sage flowers

I have been working in my garden a little every day and it is finally beginning to shape up.

Yesterday we added annual herbs that I started from seeds to the beds (dill and basil) and I was just amazed at how beautiful our sage was. There were tons of pretty lilac flowers all over it.

We have had sage growing year after year and it seemed to be dwindling rather that expanding as most herbs do. This plant, added last year has really taken off. I am quite thrilled by it.

Now, in addition to dressing that I usually only make at Christmas, I can make other dishes with sage. Most people tend to like this herb in moderation so I guess I need to get started on drying sage leaves and cooking sage dishes.

I may get started with a dish I cooked previously of chicken wrapped with bacon. The recipe calls for an herb leaf wrapped up in bacon for each piece of chicken-finger-sized piece of chicken cooked. A great way to use sage. Here is the recipe.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Our semi-beautiful garden

By this time every year my garden is usually blooming and beautiful. I will admit that it is looking much better but it is not quite what it usually is. I am hoping that the weather will continue to be good and I am hoping and praying for continued rain.

A few things are thriving like the potatoes, above center and carrots, above, at left.

We have so many skips and spots in what has come up that we have started planting tomato plants, pepper plants and herbs in the bare places in the cooler weather plants like peas, kale, lettuce and anywhere things didn't come up. This is a good thing that is saving room and allowing us to plant more things in our garden.

Eventually when the weather turns hot, our tomatoes and peppers will be there and could even give some shade to plants like lettuce, allowing us to extend the life of the cooler weather plants. We still haven't planted okra or sweet potatoes--things that really don't like it cool.

We did have to replant some of our pole beans and I need to buy more cucumber seeds, though we have large spaces where they came up quite well.

One thing that looks great, our large Renee's Garden Chianti Rose tomatoes. They are almost waist high and producing blooms.

It has been a weird year for planting but things are looking better and better.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Crockpot Scalloped Potatoes and Leeks

Yesterday we had a wonderful Mother's Day lunch at my Mom's house. Early that morning, I hurriedly started preparing for my meal and began peeling potatoes. I was just going to have mashed potatoes when my husband peeped in and said scalloped potatoes would be better. I used to make a backed scalloped potato dish years ago and I liked it because I didn't have to go to all the trouble of stirring up a sauce in which to bake the potatoes. I thought his suggestion was a good one, but the timing wasn't right for going to church and then having a meal ready at 12:30 pm. It took about an hour and a half to bake this potato dish and not the three hours I had until lunchtime.

Then I thought about my trusty old crock pot.

I don't usually cook potatoes in the crock pot because they have a tendency to get mushy but I thought that cooking them on high while in church would be a good idea. So ...

I dug out my old scalloped potato recipe that called for layering the potatoes with onions, salt and pepper, flour, butter and milk.

That was almost as easy to do as the mashed potatoes I was going to make. I sliced 7 potatoes and about half a leek, layered it like my recipe said, poured milk over the top and got ready for church while I cooked my potatoes on high for three hours. Perfect.

It was easy and looked like my usual recipe.

When I returned home I had a perfect low-fat scalloped potato recipe. (I used skim milk.)

It was easy and I really like making scalloped potatoes this way.

Here's how I did it.

Crock pot scalloped potatoes

Butter to grease bottom of crock pot
6 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (I used 7 because two of my potatoes were small.)
1/2 leek, washed and cut into pieces
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (to make this gluten-free use 2 tablespoons corn starch)
1/4 cup butter
2-1/2 cups milk (I used skim milk but it would be creamier if whole milk were used)

Grease bottom of crock pot with soft butter. (I usually soften it in the microwave.)
Make three layers the following order: Potatoes, leeks, salt, pepper, 1/3 of the flour (or cornstarch), 1/3 of the butter. Pour milk over the top and turn crock pot on high for three hours.

My crock pot cooks really hot. It may take longer if your crock pot is slower but using the warm setting to keep it hot is a good idea for a bake and take meal. Serves 6 to 8.