Monday, April 29, 2013

Digger's Diary #7: Troubleshooting Seedlings, Square Foot Gardening, Me VS the BIRDS

Everything's looking relatively good. The tomato plants I got from my neighbor are budding with flowers and two even have little tomatoes, the strawberries look fab (except for where some a-hole bird pecked at a couple of them...more on this later), and I think I've figured out what was wrong with my watermelon, cucumber, muskmelon, and squash seedlings. See, about a week before I FINALLY got them into the ground, they were so yellow. They weren't droopy or diseased looking, but their color sucked. I thought it was just because they were becoming root bound and had sucked up all the available nutrition in their little newspaper pots, but transplanting them didn't help. I tried watering with very weak fish emulsion-nothing. My friend suggested fish meal, but when I went in search my purveyor had none. I got some worm castings instead and side-dressed the transplants with it, working it gently into the soil immediately around them. For those of you who don't know about worm castings-it is the poo. Literally. It's worm poo. But it's odorless and not gross at all and so rich in nutrients you can't actually plant anything directly in them. After the side dressing I watered generously, and in the next few days I noticed improvement in their color. Still not much growth, although the squash appear to have a few promising (albeit premature given the size of the plant) buds. The tomatoes and peppers I grew from seed are progressing nicely, and the basil is beginning to show true leaves.

Square Foot Gardening: this is a concept I've read about in several places. The basic idea, as I understand it, is you take a perfect square or rectangle space and divide it into however many 1'x1' spots as you can. Using this chart, you determine how many of each of your plants will fit into each square. I.e. something like 4 carrots but only 1 squash will fit in a 1'x1' area. It seems hard to believe to me, but since I don't have a lot of space I'm giving it a go. I rearranged my cinder blocks to give me a 9'x4' internal space, and then marked the squares off with twine. Next I put the plants in based on the chart. I don't currently have enough space to fill the garden, so I gave them more space than true square foot gardening apparently needs, but we'll see just the same.

Last week I spent over an hour digging holes, burying posts, and cutting and stapling bird netting around my garden. This is to keep out the birds and the cat. Dang birds keep getting at my strawberries. Dang cat just walks straight through it like there aren't OBVIOUSLY things going on in there that don't need the input of his rotten kitty paws. He'll never know how that bird netting saved his life.

So that's the latest!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Aidan's Monster High Doll Cake

A good friend of mine has a (now) ten-year-old daughter who loves some show called Monster High. Maybe those of you with ten-year-old daughters have heard of it? Or those of you who are ten-year-olds at heart? Because I am a geezer, I had not heard of it until said good friend asked that I make a birthday cake for her kiddo with a Monster High theme. Soooo I got to researching, even going so far as to watch an (1) episode of the show.

I am not a fan.

Buuuuut I can see how a ten-year-old would be. Anyway. I've always seen these barbie doll cakes that people make with a doll shoved down into like 10 layers of cake flared to look like a huge ball gown and I said to myself, "Self, now that's whatcha need to do." Doll + Insane Amounts of Cake and Frosting + Mad Neon Colors of Monster High = Yessssss.

The result? Let's just say that a) I have never, never, never made such a huge mess of my kitchen. Every single utensil was dirty, furniture was moved, there was neon pink frosting on the get the idea. B) that was the heaviest freaking cake EVER. And forget trying to put it in a box. HA. A box. And c) guess what revisits you at your oh-so-private constitutional the morning after you eat black velvet cake with multiple colors of neon frosting? Yeah. Just...yeah.

But it was also really fun to make and a huge hit at the party. So with no further digression:

Black Velvet Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Shaped like Monster High Ball Gown

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I Am Mississippi

Great post by a fellow Mississippian:

I Am Mississippi

Digger's Diary #6: Inevitabilities of Becoming a "Gardener"

The first thing you must accept, when beginning to pursue the status of "gardener," is that you WILL be laughed at. And made fun of. I don't know why this is, but just about everyone, from hillbillies to radio personalities, has made it their business to let me know I am an idiot. No matter what I ask, be it a legitimate question or one which, in retrospect, I too realize was ridiculous, almost everyone responds with impatience, incredulity, or condescension. And half the time they don't even answer me!

Me: "what exactly does it mean to 'harden off' a plant?"
Gardener: "well--it means hardening off!!"
Me: O_O

Now, before I go painting all these people in a poor light, don't get me wrong. They are nice people and they want to help. And they will answer any question you have, insomuch as they can. But darned if they haven't all either been raised on a farm or completely robbed of their memories of having to learn this stuff themselves.

So, you will be laughed at. Get used to it, and don't let it stop you from asking questions. No matter how stupid.

The second thing: you will become a hoarder. You will. And here's why: gardening can actually become a terribly expensive occupation if you buy everything you need, and if what you buy is always whatever is actually intended for your project. Case in point: you want your tomato plant in a container. Non-hoarder: go to Lowe's, spend $40 on a good-sized planter, done. Hoarder: scour the alleys around your house like a filthy bum until you find a discarded bucket, suitcase, broken garbage can, or what have you that a) is the right size, b) can be drilled, and c) will hold dirt. And sometimes, as in the case of my 11 gorgeous discarded (not even broken!) old windows, you will find a find that you don't even have an intended project for. But god is it a FIND. Ditto the old rusty nail-filled carpet boards I scored off the side of the road. These have become the front of my compost bin. For freezy. Fills my heart with joy.

Accept these things, my friends. They, along with heartbreak over dead plants, fury at the neighbor's cat who WILL dig up your garlic and use your planter as a litter box (a**hole), and a host of other emotional extremes are the inevitable gardening experiences that I've finally come to accept. Le resigned sigh.