About Me

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Montgomery, Alabama, United States
I'm a Zone 8. I'm doing a little gardening to satisfy a curiosity to see whether or not I can do it. People make it look so easy-- what's stopping me from making it work? Contrary to my name ("Hana" means flower in Japanese) I have a history of killing plants. Well, most of them. Let's see how this one goes!

Friday, May 16, 2008

In Brief(s)

(s) because I am in sleep mode and therefore wearing undies as pajama bottoms.

--Tomato plants all have flowers. The next step is for the flowers to become fruits
--Pole beans are growing strong, but the Insuk's Wang Kongs are growing stronger
--The small squash plants keep getting affected by some sort of mold after it rains
--Adapazarı balkabağı plants are obscenely huge. Now I know why people plant pumpkins on hills five feet in diameter
--Something evil nibbled on my prettiest marigold, ruffling the edges of the petals
--I need to dig another plot for a new set of tomatoes (woo-hoo?)
--Rain rain rain rain rain.

Please, God, keep the temperatures at a decent level for at least another month or two. That would be oh so wonderful.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


So like, I just watched season four of Project Runway these past two days and I have to say that I am going to get FIERCE on this garden tomorrow (awww gawd can you tell who my favorite designer was?). I have to move a lot of debris from the area and I am going to sprinkle some flower seeds to sort of fill up the empty space that makes the plot seem sad. I just want it to look not-so-messy yet accomplish it without having to either buy materials or scour Craigslist for people throwing out cement blocks or wood scraps of dubious origin and life history. I also have to fight back some opportunistic pioneers who are starting to encroach upon my space. Bermuda grass is quite persistent!

Ah, another reason to ramp up the volume early on is because I have a date with my oldest sister for dinner, circa 6pm~ish at Chez Nous. I would like the garden to be aesthetically pleasing enough for her that I'm not too embarrassed to show her around it.

Oh! I caught a big fat squash vine borer flying around the other day. Beautiful, beautiful pest, which is a shame that it had to go. They're ever so lovely, and oh-so fashionable as they have these wonderful red velvet pants and furry black boots. I'd love to keep it as a pet, if such a thing were possible.

Anyhow the hour is LAAATE and I need to rest a bit. Lovely pictures to come this weekend!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

Oy, so I discovered the other day that Red Robin will give you a free burger on your birthday completely gratis, so the boyfriend and I went in to gorge ourselves. As a result I am feeling quite ponderous. I probably eat two or three burgers a year, so just half of one hit me quite hard.

But I took pictures today and feel that the blog must go on! I'll start with something horrifying, then progress to the happy from there.

As mentioned a couple days ago, Choccy got attacked by caterpillars. He has new growth now, but you pretty much get the point:


I am not entirely sure what this thing is, but he was sunning himself on one of my Insuk's. I decided to let him be.

Just when I thought that picking off one aphid or leaf hopper at a time was bad, I discovered this guy:

Talk about a trap crop. This is one of three weeds about five feet away from the garden. I'm almost afraid to remove these guys because then the aphids might move along to the garden proper. It's a pretty chilling sight, though. *shudder*

But now for the happy! My pole beans are really climbing along.

A hand of ginger was starting to sprout in my kitchen, so into a pot he went! I hope something nice comes of it.

Two of the tomato plants that I pruned thoroughly:

And two that I did not. It's a race to see which one does better!

Unexpectedly, the first tomato to flower was one that was ravaged by insect damage. It seems to have bounced back, and while it seems a bit too small to be producing I'm going to let it try to set fruit.

Borage! I put two seeds in the ground maybe two months ago and one is finally starting to pop out of the ground.

Marigolds! I'm not entirely sure what kind, but they're bright and happy for sure. The second one is so yellow that my camera had trouble taking a good picture of it.

It's supposed to rain again tomorrow, which is great, but holy cow the temperature is supposed to skyrocket to the mid-90s by Thursday. This does not excite me as that means the mosquitoes will be out in force. Long sleeves for me in the heat, woohoo.

Ah, but something very sweet from fellow blogger, Vanilla Lotus (Priscilla) in sunny San Antonio:

She likes my blog :3 I now feel that, for both you, my dear readers, and for my own benefit, I'll update more often and with better content. In the meantime, be sure to visit her wonderful gardening blog, New Sprout. Cheer her on as she totally rocks her final exams!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Of Thunderstorming and Pruning

Late last night we had a lively downpour enhanced by some spectacular thunder and lightning. The forecast for the next three days predicts more storms, and I couldn't be more excited. I forwent watering the garden from Thursday onward for this very reason, and in any case God can probably do the job better and more thoroughly than I ever can. I hope my plants are happy.

The one thing that concerns me is the health of my tomato plants. I had decided to prune them this weekend, based on the sage advice and clear instructions of gardeners more experienced than I am. I noticed that my cherries and Burpees of uncertain variety have threatened to bloom (I see those little developing buds hanging out there, quivering in anticipation) and according to the illustrations, all branches below the first flowering stem must go. I'm both a skeptic and a chicken, so I only took the plunge with two plants, and at that only removed the lowest stems. On the plant that I attacked the most, I only trimmed him up to the two branches just below the flowering stem. Just in case.

Anyhow, the reason that I am worried is not so much that I may have hacked them to death in a fit of stabby-clippy glee, but rather that all pruning sites sternly warn the reader never to prune or tie a plant when it is wet because, like people, open wounds invite infection and diseases. I only hope that I gave the plants enough time to seal their wounds before the rains came and potentially infected them with something nasty that inhibits their growth and fecundity. I desperately want garden-fresh tomatoes.

Since it will be dreary and moist for the next few days I can only hope that I did not make a horrible error in judgment.

Friday, May 2, 2008

My Monthly Update?

Man, I am no good at documenting progress. Apparently I was nominated for a weird little blog award for having a blog that could elicit mirth both from my knee-slappingly witty writing and from my fruitless foibles. This is a catastrophe, after all, and not everything goes as planned.

I indeed have dirt mounds in the backyard, but next to them (where the dirt used to be but now is replaced by compost, organic matter, and, er, other stuff) are my two little beds, connected in an L-shape (let's not think of too many negative things that start with L quite yet!) with veggie plants in them.

I wasn't totally lying when I said that "Today is planting day!" I should have actually said "Today starts planting week" as the weather kind of hampered progress a bit. I did manage to put in tomatoes with cute little marigolds and basils around them and construct two bean teepees with trellis netting strung between them. Of course, because it was planting week and not planting day I allowed for such catastrophes as the entire teepee/trellis complex getting flattened by strong winds--which they did that very night-- and luckily waited to test the structural integrity of the thing before planting anything around it. I didn't push the poles into the ground far enough the first time, but with the aid of the boyfriend (who is almost a foot taller than I am and therefore taller than the poles) we got them into a nice, steady position and they have survived high winds and thunderstorms with ease so far. I'm strangely happy about the teepees because I went online to search for the proper way to lash together tripods and was able to follow the instructions without a problem. Of course there were straight-forward instructions and illustrations, but I was happy nonetheless at my cleverness.

Oh, you want photographic proof! I didn't take any when I first sunk the things into the ground. After all, it was sort of depressing-looking, what with 5"-tall tomato seedlings, sad-looking squash transplants, and most of the seeds for the trellis and the teepees underground. In all honesty I felt a bit embarrassed because I look at other people's ideas of "seedlings" and they have foot and a half-tall monsters growing fruit already. So in a way, I kind of avoided the blog because it was sort of like illustrating my defeat.

BUUUT. A couple weeks ago I realized that things were starting to look up. A couple rain storms had kept me out of the garden since the only reason I found myself outdoors at the time was to water the thing. Miraculously, after a week or so of neglect, I noticed that my tomatoes were orders of magnitude larger (I have found this was a trend-- as soon as I started ignoring my seedlings in cups they did better. What the heck!). Without my "help" (other than picking off aphids) they were flourishing, and it made me ever so happy.

But, I will emphasize again, this is a catastrophe, and my first real nemeses appeared last week, just when I was reveling in the progress of the garden.

1. Those little green caterpillar-on-a-string things
You all remember my lovely, lush, fragrant chocolate mint plant that I loved so much? Two days, two different caterpillars, and the entire thing is completely stripped of leaves. Completely. Stripped. Of leaves. I really ought to take a picture because it is so amazing, but the carnage is more than even I can handle. I have found them on almost every species of plant I have, including tomatoes, beans, and curcubits. I really hate them, but I'm just thankful that they are easily extracted without stinging me.

2. Aphids
Okay, these guys aren't so bad because they've only appeared in numbers that I can easily pick off by hand, but they have been slowly eroding away the leaves on everything. They're quite satisfying to squish, though.

3. Leaf-hopper nymphs
OKAY it's a little difficult for me to express how incredibly upsetting these little things are without going on a curse-laden tirade. I even have pictures if you do not know what I'm talking about:

A little family of these guys came through and literally devastated my tomato plants. How they work their evil little voodoo is by sticking their hideous little mouthparts into the stem of the plant and kill by sucking out its vital juices. One alone will make a nice hickey-looking bruise that weakens the stem at that point (usually at ground-level). But I found up to 6 of them at a time surrounding the stems of my tomatoes one morning, and they had so weakened the stems that a couple of my plants nearly died and had to be re-buried in order for more roots to form.

This is one such victim. You will notice the drinking straw collar that is now around its base. I had originally put them on when they first went into the ground to protect the skinny, tender stems from cutworm damage. After a couple weeks I removed them because I didn't want the stems to rot, just in case the collars were holding in too much moisture. After the hopper nymph attack, I had to put them right back on. The logic is this: the collar will protect them against cutworm as well as these leaf-hoppers, which prefer to feed next to the ground where they are camouflaged, and if the hoppers do end up feeding, then they will be higher up the stem and easier to spot.

This plant got pretty damaged in the attack and is also in recovery. I should have taken pictures, but there was a gash that went through almost clean to the other side by the time I got to it.

Hardcore collaring. This guy has a pretty beefy stem, so I had to employ a regular straw AND a boba tea straw.

But not everything has been catastrophic. The rest of my tomatoes have taken off, and I think I see some buds beginning to form. I may get some fruit yet! (You can really tell which tomato plants got hacked up, though. Really sad):

A different, more flattering angle:

The squashes I transplanted in don't look too hot, but I have read innumerable times that squash doesn't care to be transplanted. I ignored all warnings, but at least I have a couple making blossoms:

And the whole trellis complex doesn't look terribly bad:

I bought a little pepper plant from HEB called "Paul Grande" (whatever that means) and while nobody has been able to tell me what I should be expecting, I was able to get a neat picture of its blossom:

Of course I had to plant beans around the teepees, and I already have ones that found the poles are are starting to wind around. I find pole beans to be incredibly cute:

I planted some cucumbers and squashes on the opposite end of the net from the transplants. They will probably be crowded at first, but I intend to thin them out as they get bigger:

I recently began corresponding with a kindly older gentleman from the Seattle area who grows an heirloom Chinese runner bean that gardening friends of his have called Insuk's Wang Kong runner bean, in honor of his Korean wife, Insuk. He actually sent these to me after I requested some squash seeds that he had been keen to share on the site, but I'll get to those later. The beans are quite enormous and lovely, but the plant is so fast-growing that I'm amazed. I planted some in the garden, but the ones I am looking forward to seeing are the ones I planted next to trees in the back yard:

Jim (the kindly older gentleman) also sent me some seeds from a squash that originates in Adapazari, Turkey. It's apparently quite large and sweet like a pumpkin, and I couldn't resist the offer to try out some of the seeds. The thing popped out of the ground amazingly fast, and the leaves are astonishingly large. I am not sure what took over my camera when I snapped this picture, but it came out such a wonderfully alien green color and looks quite artsy (compared to everything else I photograph):

So overall, things are going fairly well. Things that got damaged are making a recovery, and things that are new in the ground are coming up strong and fast. I enjoy the serenity that comes with a peaceful day of gardening, and I also enjoy the feeling of triumph when I'm able to bring a seemingly dead plant back to life.

I hope that this blog doesn't turn into something depressing. Right now my garden is a happy place, as it should be.