Thursday, March 31, 2011


In addition to gardening, I love cooking. Well I guess the truth is J loves cooking and I love baking. It doesn't surprise me that gardeners and chefs tend to be either the same people or run in the same crowds. Our biggest reason for joining a CSA last year and for starting our own container gardens this year was that we love to eat delicious food and the most delicious food comes from homegrown, super-ripe food.

We're pretty addicted to America's Test Kitchen and all of their related tv shows, websites, magazines and cookbooks. J got ambitious and decided to try an episode for Peruvian chicken that required us to buy equipment. But it was delicious! And doesn't it look impressive?

I'm planning to try posting more about our cooking adventures, especially once we have our own produce to cook with!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Worm Update

The worm composting had been going really well. They were eating my food scraps regularly, they didn't smell, and I was looking forward to having wonderfully rich compost for my plants in a month or two.

And then things went horribly wrong. First it was some small little white things in the bin. See them in the bottom corner there? Still not sure what they were/are.

Then the worms weren't eating quite as much as they used to.

Then it started to smell. Bad. Really bad. I babysit a lot and I've changed more than my fair share of nasty diapers. This was worse. Gagging was an involuntary response if you opened the bin even a tiny little bit.
I got on and got some advice. Apparently I was overfeeding and not putting in enough bedding for the worms to get away from the rotting food.

Someone recommended that I take out half of the rotting food and put it in my outdoor compost bin - since my landlord lets us have one. Then go out and purchase some peat moss - since I have lots of extra money. Then he said I should collect some dry, dead leaves, crumble them and layer it in - since dry leaves are so abundant in March and in my giant yard.

I shredded some more newspaper at work and overloaded the worm bin with it. The photo below is actually before I added the paper. Imagine the bin with about 150% more paper shreds in it.

A few days later they seem to be happier. The smell isn't 100% gone, but it's back in the house and doesn't smell if the lid is on. And the paper is slowly being moistened from the bottom and the worms are escaping into it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Boston Area Events

TGIF!!! :)

I wanted to let anyone in the Boston area know about two great gardening events happening this weekend.

Gardeners' Gathering - Put on by the Boston Natural Area Network it's an afternoon of workshops. Schedule of workshops was put on their website this morning. And to top it off Mumbles will be there! Free

Spring into Gardening - Put on by Bountiful Brookline. This one is pretty expensive (by my standards anyway) so I'm not sure I'll be attending, but it looks great!

And to go with all this Springtime activity it's finally stopped snowing! That had better be the end of it. You hear me Mother Nature? You can take your 80+ inches of snow for the year and STOP now.

Have a great weekend everyone!

More tomatoes!

The AeroGarden is going nuts!! We even had to get creative and do some rubberband support system.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Living Room

Click on the photo to make it bigger and read what plants are currently taking over my living room. Some are only inside right now because currently, during the first week of Spring, it's snowing outside and is too cold even on the sunporch.

weekend Update - Part 2

So after Saturday's adventures in plant-ittude, it only seemed fitting to attend the annual Boston Flower and Garden Show. I showed you some of the scenes on Monday and I think I'd mentioned before that the theme was container gardening.

The "theme" wasn't obviously apparent by the displays, but they were beautiful nonetheless. I was excited about two of Sunday's lectures. One was about growing cacti and succulents. I was hoping to find out more about how to grow them from seed since my first try died a quick and painful death. The death may have involved me rushing and knocking the entire pot off the table... Anywho, the presenter was very knowledgeable and gave some great tips on making your own potting soil for succulents (1/3 regular potting mix, 1/3 sand, 1/3 vermiculite - don't use pre-made succulent mix as they don't usually have sand) and an interesting tip about rooting pieces of the plant that fall off (just stick them in a shallow container of wet sand), but the majority of the demonstration was about creating a nice display of grown cacti and succulents in a pot. By the way, how do you all pronounce "cacti"? I've always said it like "cack-tie" but the presenter said it "cack-tea". Is that a weird New England accent or am I wrong?

The other lecture was titled "Growing your Groceries." Which sounds perfect! Unfortunately I've been way too overzealous about reading books and online and forums and your blogs. It was a great lecture for those that haven't ever grown anything before, or for those that haven't tried growing vegetables. I actually snuck out the back early because I didn't think I wasn't learning anything new.

Then we walked around some of the vendors to see what they had to offer. Ok, so we really went hunting for free food samples. And we weren't disappointed. In fact, we ended up buying some delicious treats!

And I found some earrings. I recently got my ears pierced after they'd closed up, and I've been trying to only go for gold backed earrings and there was a gold/silversmith there who told me about his technique.
There was even a group of artists that specialize in plants. As someone who isn't artistic in the least, I'm always so impressed.

We spent another hour or so walking around admiring the displays! I thought it was a great way to spend a weekend!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Weekend Update - Part 1

This past weekend was plantarific in my world. It all started on Friday with an email from Mahoney's, a local garden center. I signed up for their free member points program thingy a while ago, but we don't go that often because it's awkward to get to without a car, and even more awkward to get home carrying bags of soil and plants and anything else that looked good.

The email was advertising orchids on sale. Normally $19.95 this weekend they were only $16.95. And if you were part of the members club they were only $13.95. Ok, sold. Not only am I a HUGE sucker for orchids, I'm also a HUGE sucker for a sale. So combine the two and you've got me hooked. But the deal didn't end there! (Yes, I am aware I sound like someone on tv at 4am selling you crap you don't need, but let's face it, we all need more plants.) In addition to the orchid sale, every purchase got you a free african violet! My great grandmother Mimi was quite the green thumb (and ironically my new adopted grandpa - J's grandpa - is also quite a green thumb) and she had lots of african violets. And my mom has one on the kitchen windowsill in a pretty blue china pot, so I've wanted an african violet for a while.

Saturday, while we were in Mahoney's J saw something that caught his eye. Coming from the man who loves complaining about all of my plants, I thought this was a step in the right direction and should be encouraged. And that's how we became proud owners of Lisbon lemon tree. My sister was appalled at the idea of a tree in our living room (don't let her know what's in the mail on its way to me!), but see - it's not so big.

Then we went to Home Depot to get things for a project I had planned (post forthcoming). And while we were there I made a discovery. Home Depot doesn't exactly ring bells to me as a great place to get plants. In fact, if you'd asked me last week I probably would have recommended you avoid it at all costs, but I've been converted. The selection looked pretty good! Lots of variety, healthy looking plants and a hidden gem. The only one of its kind, tucked away in the back corner was a gardenia. Known for their fragrant white flowers, I've been researching gardenias for about a year. There was even a study done that showed a lessening in the symptoms of depression in those that had a blooming gardenia in the home or office. That's how powerful these flowers are!! It was in ok condition, but needed some TLC, so it came home with us too. Oh, and some strawberry plants since they were on sale and my seedlings aren't doing so well.

That's right. In the process of a two hour car rental I obtained 1 orchid, 1 african violet, 1 lemon tree, 1 gardenia, and 10 strawberry plants. Hi, my name is Dana, and I'm an addict.

Did I mention the Boston Flower and Garden show was on Sunday...?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Death of a Pineapple

Do you remember when I decided to start a pineapple from a fruit I bought at the store?

I followed the directions and started planning what recipe I'd use my delicious pineapple for.

Unfortunately I went to check on it the other day and made a sad discovery.
I'm fairly certain that white mold is never a good sign for a pineapple - or any plant really.

I'll make the sacrifice and buy another pineapple and this time I'll try planting it in the soil instead of the water.

Has anyone else tried planting a pineapple this way?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mushrooms... maybe

A while ago I saw this neat product on another blog and I wanted to check it out. I really love seeing what other people are doing - there's so many great garden blogs out there to gain inspiration from!

It uses recycled cardboard to make the box and then the growing medium is recycled coffee grounds.

Supposedly you just open it, cut the X and then spray lightly with water and in 10 days you'll have mushrooms.

I'm on day 7 and have nothing...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Seedlings, seedlings everywhere!

There has been a lot of seed sowing action chez moi lately. Almost every weekend I find myself sitting on my dining room floor with the seedling tray on a towel and dirt and seeds and water everywhere. Looking at it, you'd think a toddler had gotten into the gardening supplies. I guess I'm just not a particularly neat gardener.

I know I'm starting my seedlings very early, but Boston is a little warmer than the rest of the state and everything I've read says that the last frost date should be between April 15 and April 25. And the fact that I'm container gardening and have an unheated sunroom at the front of the house facing South also helps. Boston weather means that between Monday and today we've had snow, wind gusts, and 65 degree sunshine-y days. It's a balancing act between running the plants already in their big pots (peas and kale and blueberries) out to the porch to get lots of good sun and bringing them back in quickly before the next freak of weather hits.

First it was the lettuce that I planted. It did really well, except for the few in the center that seemed to wither and die no matter what I did. After about 2 weeks in the seedling try the lettuce got transplanted into some window boxes. I had planned on putting these outside on the porch, but then the snow hit so I thought the indoor windowsill might make a better home for them right now.

After the lettuce came the swiss chard and some herbs. The chard was so neat when it came up! I don't know why, but I wasn't expecting my "Ruby Chard" to be so red so early!

After the chard sprouted came the chamomile. Again, I'm not sure what I was expecting, but those leaves were definitely not it. It's German chamomile, which is supposed to be the best for making tea, so I'm looking forward to that.

There's tons of other things in the seedling tray right now, but I'm way behind on taking photos. Hopefully this weekend I'll have some time to catch up. Right now I have strawberries, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, baby bell peppers, lavender, and basil all sprouting in the seedling tray. And one surprise seed that isn't showing yet, but I'm giving it another week or so.

And what else is coming up this weekend? The Boston Flower and Garden Show!!!! (Yes, I know it's nerdy that I'm excited about this, but I'm really really looking forward to it.) This year's theme is "A Burst of Color: Celebrating the Container Garden" and while they are focusing a lot on flowers, there's TONS of workshops and lectures about vegetable container gardening too. More on that soon!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reading Material

I've always loved to read. I spent a good portion of my childhood at the library and my mom is an elementary school librarian, so books were never hard to come by in our house.

Working full time and taking graduate level classes doesn't leave much time to read what I want to. I like the topics I read for class, but there's something less satisfying about reading when you have to do it.

Spring break was last week so I took the opportunity to procrastinate on all the coursework I had promised myself I'd complete and finally got to the pile of books I've had lying around from the library.

Actually, some of those I own, mainly the top four, but they're all good. I'll give you some mini reviews in case you're looking for some great new books to read over your "Spring Break".

The Bountiful Container - My new favorite book about container gardening. I actually got it from the library and loved it so much in the first skimming that I immediately bought it. Great advice, written in an easy to read way and some great art as well.

The second one down is actually a magazine called "Urban Farm." While a lot of their projects and ideas involve more space than I have, it's great for inspiration and I plan on keeping all the issues to pull out when I have a real yard one day.

The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible - The other reviews online make it sound like a classic. I'm not sure it's that great, but it does give lots of good information about self-watering containers, something I think I'll try next year.

Four Seasons of Orchids - Gave me reassurance that I haven't killed my orchid and also informed me that I have a winter flowering orchid that needs more light (the guy who sold it to me in the student union somehow forgot to mention what type it was).

Canning and Preserving with Ashley English - I realize this is a bit premature since right now I just have seedlings, but I was curious to see if canning was something I could do myself and Ashley's book makes it seem absolutely within reach.

Teaming with Microbes - I'll be honest, I haven't really gotten into this one much yet. Lots of people have recommended it, but it seems to be really heavy on the science terminology and I'm having a hard time getting motivated. And now that Spring Break is past me I'm not sure reading this one will happen.

37 Houseplants Even YOU Can't Kill - Interesting enough. For the really simple basics of houseplant non-killing.

The Vegetable Gardener's Book of of Building Projects - My dad is incredibly talented when it comes to woodworking, and he helped me with a woodworking 4-H project years ago so this book reminded me of him. Great range of projects from really simple things I can do in an apartment (Coming Soon!) to bench swings and arches and bird boxes.

I got through those books so quickly that I headed back to the library and got more!

These I've mostly just skimmed to far.

Incredible Edibles -
It's pretty basic and I definitely think there are better books about urban gardening.

The Girl's Guide to Growing Your Own - Still not really sure why this one's gender specific. I'm fairly certain men/boys could also use these tips - but to each their own.

Growing Tasty Tropical Plants -
I AM IN LOVE. And J is terrified that our apartment is going to be taken over and turned into a very high rent greenhouse. That fear may not be totally unjustified... stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

And the seed opens...

...with some help. After weeks of watching the amaryllis seed bulb get bigger and bigger and not show any sign of opening I got impatient. So I Googled a bit - because everything on the internet is obviously reliable - and discovered that the bulb should open within about 3 weeks of forming. Mine had been sitting there for two months.So I took matters into my own hands and ripped it open. I was pleasantly surprised to actually find seeds! While rather large, they were paper thin and totally black.I sorted through them; the only ones that are viable are those with a slight bump in the center, indicating a fertilized seed. There's so many seeds within the pod that not all are going to sprout.After sorting through I planted several of them. I don't have high hopes for them, but it would be neat if some grew into baby bulbs.