Tuesday, September 30, 2008


A while back I posted about a determined grasshopper that had made a home of our tree in the front yard (see Grasshopper). As suggested by our friend Andrea, Marianne has named the grasshopper Heidi. I've noticed recently that Heidi has a new, very green, friend. Unfortunately, I've spotted this new arrival in the back yard a couple of times, alarmingly close to the vegetable plants. I suppose there has to be a troublemaker in every crowd. I'll be keeping an eye on this one.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Vegetable Update

Just a late Summer/early Fall update today on our various container-grown vegetables. The strongest producer at present in the okra. The four original plants are going strong and still putting out a decent number of pods. Over the last week, the two plants that I started later in the Summer have also started bearing. The daily high temperatures are still a bit hot for the tomatoes, but I have one Black Prince on the vine and just picked two off of the Sunmaster plant. We're getting lots of blooms but most are still drying out and dropping. Some of the plants are also looking a bit stressed and wilted on their lower parts. I'm hoping that when the highs fall into the mid to lower 90s (33 to 34 c) the tomatoes will pick up. The hanging basket cucumber plant is doing well. It now has a second cucumber growing. As for peppers, it seems that we are going to have several red bell peppers and the Habanero and Tabasco have put on lots and lots of blooms this past week.

Cucumber #2

First Black Prince tomato of the Fall

Lots of blooms but no tomatoes on this Hawaiian Tropic plant

Friday, September 26, 2008

Red Bell Peppers

The red bell pepper seedling that I bought and planted a couple of weeks ago is really coming on strong. It has put on several peppers and is growing at a very rapid pace. Unless something unforeseen happens, I think we will finally get a few to ripen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pepper Buds

We have lots of buds appearing on our Tabasco and Habanero plants. Hopefully the weather has cooled off enough that the blooms won't drop this time. It would certainly be nice to get a few more peppers. So far our total for the year stands at an awe-inspiring two.



Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Plant Shelf

As Fall approaches the weather is finally cooling down just enough for our plants to put on a few more vegetables. But at the same time, the Sun is traveling an ever lower trajectory across the southern sky. This means longer shadows than a few months ago when the Sun was more nearly overhead. These shadows create quite a problem, as part of our growing area is spatially limited and surrounded by a six foot privacy wall.
Over the last month, the wall's shadow steadily advanced until it had completely engulfed the containers and large portions of the tomato and okra plants located along the southern side of our house. Since we didn't have any other space available for the plants, I decided that I would raise them out of the shade. To accomplish this I built a plant shelf from a few decorative concrete blocks and a two by twelve board. For the time being, the shelf has the plants basking in the Sunlight once again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

First Cucumber

We harvested our first cucumber from the hanging basket plant today. It's not huge, but looks very cool as far as cucumbers go. In all probability, it would have grown larger but I was afraid that, if I let it go much longer, it would either get bitter or the rest of the plant would quit producing. Truthfully I was a bit impatient as well. So, I picked it early this morning. I'll let you all know how it tastes.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sickly Tomato Plant

This Black Krim tomato plant isn't doing well at all. It was growing fine until about a week ago. Then, one morning, I noticed that the top few leaves had wilted. Since then, it hasn't grown any taller, the remainder of the leaves have deteriorated, and the stem has developed a brown spiderweb pattern that began at the bottom and spread upward. I guess it's some sort of blight.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Slow Growing Bell Pepper Plant

It's fairly obvious by now that out Purple Beauty Bell Pepper plant isn't going to make any peppers this year. Truth is, it's not even getting large enough to transplant outdoors. About two months have passed since I planted it. During that time, the plant has grown to a lofty height of two inches. Save a miraculous growth spurt, I just don't foresee any purple peppers.

So, not counting on a miracle, I made a trip to the local nursery yesterday. While there I picked up a healthy looking red bell pepper seedling. This plant is pretty far along, already sporting several blooms. I'll be interested to see if they make or fall off after it's transplanted. If this one fails too, it will be my third and final strike on bell peppers this year.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Compost Update

Our small, homemade composting bin (see Making Some Dirt ) has been one of those rare things that worked exactly as planned. Over the past few months we've been placing left-over vegetables, plant clippings, leaves, egg shells, some paper, and other various refuse into the bin. Every few days I go out and stir it and add a little water. Vegetables, if cut into small pieces, break down very rapidly. Some become completely unrecognizable in just a little over a week. Other materials, such as paper and plant stems, take quite a bit longer. Also, my worries about the smell it might produce were unfounded. It doesn't put off any offensive odor as long as decomposing vegetables are covered by already composted material. It would be nice to have a larger bin, but it is working fine and fits our limited space.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Veggie Output

Vegetable production is picking up a bit. If the daily highs will just cool off a few more degrees then things should really get going. I'm hoping that there are many more pictures like these to come over the course of the Fall.

This Sunmaster tomato should be ready soon.

The okra has really picked up its pace.

This is going to be my first cucumber.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Think I Killed a Tomato Plant

I decided a few days ago that something had to be done about the Sunmaster tomato plant that I had planted back in June. The plant had just refused to thrive in its five gallon container. About half of its leaves were always brown and its main stem never grew beyond the thickness of a pencil. It had put on three tomatoes at one point, but they remained small and ultimately rotted rather than ripened. So I removed the plant from its pot, dug a nice hole in my very small in-ground plot (see World's Smallest Vegetable Bed) and replanted it. As you can see by the results, it wasn't one of my better ideas.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Tree and Property Rights

Today I'm going to go out and mutilate the tree in our front yard. I'm not doing this because it's sick or ugly. It's really a beautiful tree. And I'm not carving off large sections of it because we don't like the way it looks. We're really very fond of it, often commenting and receiving compliments on its appearance. It is, after all, the largest, healthiest looking tree of its kind in the entire neighborhood. But then it should be, as we've cared for it, watered it, even worried over it when its leaves turned a little brown or shed at unexpected times of the year. The truth is that I'm not taking saw in hand out of my own free will at all. I'm doing this because we have the misfortune to live in a community ruled over by a Homeowners Association (HOA), and have been ordered to destroy our own property.

the offending tree

It seems that the HOA's board of directors has taken issue with the fact that our tree has grown larger than the others of its kind in the neighborhood. This is a grievous affront to these enforcers of conformity. To them variation is unacceptable. As one of the board members informed me months ago "everything should look alike." To this narrow mindset, the concepts of private property rights and individualism are dangerous, alien, and, quite frankly, too complex to comprehend.
So, despite the fact that the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United State states explicitly that no person shall "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law," I must go out and deface our property at the whim of another. If we refuse to do so we will be fined and harassed. If we refuse to pay the fines we face the very real danger of having the house foreclosed upon by the HOA.
And to those who say property rights are voluntarily signed away when one purchases a home in such a community, I disagree. The powers of the HOA are hidden in hundreds of pages of legalistic jargon. As a result, people often do not fully understand the rights they are giving up. Beyond this, there is no "choice" in many locations if one wishes to purchase a new home. Municipalities are increasingly requiring developers to put associations in place to govern new communities. This, although subjecting the resident to a level of unregulated government and fees (taxes in any other situation), is simply an economic decision. The existence of the HOA as another level of government saves the municipal government both the time and expense formerly associated with overseeing the neighborhoods within its boundaries--individual rights be damned. This is neither what America was intended to be, nor what it should be.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Basil Harvest

I cut back a couple of our basil plants yesterday evening. They were starting to bloom and providing a bit too much shade for the young tomato plants that share their containers. And, I was in the mood for pasta.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tomato Plant Mystery

Two days ago I walked outside to find one of the two tomato plants that I've planted in the ground dead. Something had decapitated the Hawaiian Tropic plant by boring a hole completely through its stem. I couldn't find any bug, worm, or otherwise guilty-looking party anywhere around the plant.

Then, yesterday morning I walked out and found the same thing had happened to the other in-ground plant. This time the perpetrator chewed multiple holes through the plants stem, basically leaving it in pieces on the ground. I still haven't seen any bugs or worms that might be responsible. I hope whatever it is doesn't find its way to my container plants. Any ideas?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Dogs and Cats

I don't know how many of you have pets. But if you do, it's funny the things you learn about them. For instance, we all know that some people are morning people and others are not. But what I didn't know is that the same can be said of dogs and cats. With Tessa the Mastiff and George the cat around, I have no need for an alarm clock. Every morning, without fail, they are up and raring to go by 6 am. And, being the helpful little ones they are, they make sure that I am as well....even on weekends and holidays! Now Buster the dog, he's a completely different story. He tends to view all this morning activity as, well, a load of crap. Oh he might stumble out to take care of business while Tessa and I water the plants, but he makes no pretense of being happy about it. Just as soon as he can be, he's back inside on his bed and sleeping soundly until at least 9 or 10. It's funny how their personalities differ.

George and Tessa celebrating after another victorious campaign to get me out of bed

A sleepy Buster showing his disgust at their early morning revelry

Friday, September 5, 2008

Growing Peppers

This certainly isn't shaping up to be the year of the pepper in our container garden. So far, our plants have produced only six small Jalapenos (four of which were on the plant when I bought it), two very small Tabascos, and one Bell that rotted before it ripened. The Tabasco and Habanero plants look great, but just aren't putting on any blooms or peppers. But at least they are still alive, which is more than I can say for the Jalapeno and Bell (granted, our Mastiff Tessa sat on the bell). Finally, the Purple Beauty Bell Pepper is the slowest growing seedling I've ever encountered. At its current rate it might be ready to set out by next March. Do any of you seem to have more trouble growing peppers than other vegetables?

Habanero on left, Tabasco on right

Very slow growing Purple Bell Pepper plant

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lantana Update

A while back I posted about a half-dead Lantana plant that we picked up for $1 at a local home improvement store (see Rescue Plants ). It seems to have been a dollar well spent, as the plant has really made a come back. Now I just need to find a place to plant it.

We were pleasantly surprised by the color of its blooms

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Two Plants, Two Soils

You'd never guess by looking at them, but the okra plant on the left, in the picture below, is several weeks older than the plant on the right. The only difference between the two (other than age) is that righty is planted in Miracle Grow potting mix while lefty is in a different brand.

Monday, September 1, 2008

First Fall Tomatoes

Ok, I know we're still facing about a month of 100 degree (38 c) weather here and I'm sort of jumping the gun on the Fall thing. But it has cooled off just a bit, and our oldest Sunmaster plant has started to put on tomatoes. As these are our first tomatoes in quite a while, I am going to consider them the beginning of our Fall crop. Hope there's lots more to come!