by Joe

Lemon Cucumber Update

July 18, 2013 in Gardening, Uncategorized by Joe

I knew that as soon as I posted about the lemon cucumber plant taking forever to fruit that it wouldn’t be long for it to start producing. If you like bite sized cucumbers, you’ll love this plant. Not only does it pack thousands of buds on such a small plant, the cute little lemon cukes are excellent!

lemon cucumberThe taste of the lemon cucumber isn’t really all that different, maybe a tiny big sweeter. However the one thing I don’t like about normal cucumbers is the big seeds inside. The good thing about the lemon cucumbers, these tiny little bites of heaven don’t have that problem.

Another thing I noticed about the lemon cucumbers is that their skin isn’t as tough and rubbery. They are 10 times as prickly but easier to eat, and the skin of cucumbers contains a good amount of nutrients. So don’t be so fast to peel it off. Even though I clearly did in the photo. You weren’t suppose to notice that.

If you’ve never planted this variety and have been thinking about it, go for it! You will like these adorable tasty treats.

With all my cucumber plants in full production mode now, its time to start experimenting in the kitchen and come up with a tasty cucumber salad recipe.

by Joe

Tomato Hornworm, Gasp!

July 17, 2013 in Gardening by Joe

I swear this has been a very strange year for bugs. I’m seeing so many insects that I’ve never seen before in the garden. At least this new one I’ve come across couldn’t fly and chase me around the yard.

As always I was out in the garden checking on my vegetables, hoping that I’d finally have some tomatoes to eat. I stalk my garden several times a day, like things are going to change in a couple of hours. If the neighbors could see me they’d probably be saying “he’s out there looking at the garden again!”.

Tomato HornwormSo while pruning my tomato plants that are starting to get too tall, I just happened to notice something weird out of the corner of my eye. Had I not looked I would have wrapped my hand around the grossest yet coolest looking thing ever. Naturally I couldn’t get my phone out fast enough to take some photos of this strange, very well camouflaged worm thing.

I think I stood there for a good minute thinking “WTF is that thing!”. I was both intrigued and grossed out as it squished up every time I would touch the tomato branch.

After some quick searching I found out it’s a tomato hornworm. I figured it wasn’t a good thing before my searching but now I knew I had to get rid of the pretty garden pest. Why couldn’t he be beneficial, he’s so neat looking. I couldn’t kill him because I can only imagine the popping sound it would probably make. ::shivers:: So I just took off the branch he was on and put it in the garbage. Enjoy your road trip!

Don’t miss out on the fun! Join TwoStudsandAHammer.com on facebook for DIY home inspiration,  ideas and photos.

by Joe

Seed Saving Containers

July 15, 2013 in Gardening by Joe

Here’s another “don’t throw that away” tip for you.

If you haven’t figured out by now, I don’t like throwing things away. If I have a feeling it can be used for something else rather than sitting in a landfill I’ll save it until I can figure out its new purpose.

A lot of us either take medicine or know someone who does. Me, I’m blessed with a mis-wired heart so I get to take pills for the rest of my life. Yay! /end sarcasm. I’ve stocked up a good number of pill bottles over the past couple of years and now I have a use for them.

seed saving container

A great use for old pill bottles.

If you’re a gardener and save your seeds, pill bottles make the perfect solution for storing your saved seeds in. They’re secure, pretty air tight, and translucent so you can see what’s inside.

Cut up strips of paper (I like to use heavy card-stock) to write the name of the plant seed on and put it inside to bottle to easily keep track of your stock. You could write on the outside but I like the fact that the bottles can be reused for a different seed if ever need be in the future. You also don’t have to worry about the marker wiping off either.

Remember to store the bottles in a cool dark area as to prevent any moisture build-up which would ruin all your hard work.

Today I spent pretty much the whole day collecting seeds from the flowers I want to plant more of next spring. So far I have collected Columbine, foxglove, tickseed, blanket flower, marigolds, and daisies. Obviously I have way more seeds than I’ll ever use myself so I think I’ll either grow plants to give away or possibly hold a seed exchange, that could be fun. Who wants to trade?

Spread the word and tweet this great tip: Pill bottle seed saving.

What are some other good uses for empty pill bottles that you think might be useful?

by Joe

Godzilla!! In My Garden

July 10, 2013 in Gardening by Joe

Today was the day for strange happenings it appears.While out tending to my now overflowing raised cinder block garden, I ran into two oddities.

grapevine-beetlePoking and prodding around in my cucumbers today I got a little surprise, wait I mean a big surprise. Underneath one of the leafs was this gigantic Godzilla sized lady bug. In my head I’m thinking to myself “WTF! is that thing” or maybe I said it out loud. I talk to myself a lot, just ask Barry, it annoys him to no end. This peculiar looking insect actually kinda of scared me it was so big, and unexpected. For a couple of seconds there I thought I had a lady bug that possibly got into some GMO’s somewhere and mutated into this evil-looking alien beetle that was preparing to take over the world. After a quick search I found that it wasn’t a mutant lady bug plotting my demise. Whew! We’re all safe. Apparently this monster is a grapevine beetle, why it’s in my garden I have no idea.

I wanted to get a much better photo of the beetle but the sheer size of it was kind of creeping me out. He/she was about 2″ long, 1″ across, fat and juicy. If it flew off the plant and landed on me while trying to get a better photo, I think I would have embarrassed myself by running around the backyard screaming like a crazy 12-year-old girl at a Justin Beiber concert. So I kept my distance and my dignity.

Another strange bug was this bee like insect that I’ve never seen before either. Its body was a bright reddish-orange and had big fuzzy back legs. It kept buzzing in and out of my garden quickly hitting flower after flower so I was unable to get a photo of it. I just imagined because it was so colorful looking I probably didn’t want to piss it off and get stung, if it was even a bee. Google was no help so I will never know what it was.

by Joe

Lemon Cucumbers

July 6, 2013 in Gardening by Joe

The vegetable garden is coming along quite nicely! I’ve already started to pull out some tasty vegetables such as radishes and cucumbers. The massive summer squash plant is starting to throw out its long yellow treats and I’m trying to be patient and not pick them. I’m hungry!

Lemon cucumber plant However the one thing I’ve been waiting on to start producing is the new lemon cucumber plant I tried out this year. The lemon cucumber has become quite prolific with its blooms from the soil all the way up to the end of the 6 foot sprawling plant. Still no sign of any fruits starting to grow yet though which I find strange since it has been blooming for several weeks or more. With the amount of flowers that are on this lemon cucumber plant, if they all start to fruit at the same time, I hope they are really good because I’m going to have a lot of them!

Now that I’m well into the growing season I’ve already decided that next year I will be changing the layout of the raised cinder block garden. Everything is growing fine and doing good but there are some things that are getting crowded out with the squash and cauliflower plants. I can see I’m already going to have a slightly hard time seeing when my tomato plants that are in the middle back start to ripen.

As it is right now it’s set up as a roughly 5′ x 5′ square. To save room in the yard and give everything else a better area to grow I’m going to change the cinder block garden layout to a very long rectangle that will be 1′x12′ or 2′x6′.

This is how things are looking as of today. Full and lush! To remedy my crowding issue I turned a tomato cage upside down so I could contain and “train” the squash plant to grow up instead of out. Can’t really see how much the squash is contained in the second photo but if the cage wasn’t being utilized the eggplant and cauliflower would be hidden from sight.

cinder block vegetable garden Yellow squash plantOnce the lemon cucumbers decide to give up the goods I’ll let you all know what they taste like and if it’s a winner or a loser.

by Joe

Planting The Square Foot Garden

June 10, 2013 in Gardening by Joe

I know some of you have been waiting to see the finished raised square foot garden, I finally had some free time to sit down and pound away on the keyboard.

The garden has been planted for almost a month already and is coming along rather nicely. I could just show you the finished present day look but I know you want to see me blather on about how it came together, right? If not I guess you could just ignore me and stare at the garden photos.

See I knew you wanted to read what I had to say!

new raised gardenAfter collecting all the soil from our friends koi pond install and eagerly filling up my fancy bomb shelter…I mean cinder block raised garden, I couldn’t wait to get the vegetable garden planted and growing. Just look at that fabulous dark soil!

Keeping an eye on the weather and chance of freezing temps on a daily basis kept things at bay for a bit. This certainly has been an interesting year for weather. One day it’ll be 90 and the next in the 40′s. It was like a cruel game of gotcha! Both my seedlings and I were not amused at mother nature’s fickle attitude. Come on! Decide if it’s summer or winter please, I have things to do!

If you remember I tried something a little different with starting my seedlings in toilet paper tubes this year. I have to say it worked out really good and will be using that method for all my seed starts from now on. I also can’t resist buying plants as well especially when it’s something I haven’t grown before, like black cherry tomatoes and brussel sprouts this time around. I don’t like brussel sprouts but Barry does so I figured why not.

Seed start pots

Happy Seedlings

To keep everything in order I laid out some string to mark out my square foots. They aren’t exact since the garden itself isn’t exactly square but are a bit bigger than a square foot. Bigger is always better than too small. At least that’s my motto.

With a garden full of soon to be tasty plants and sightings of sneaky raccoons among other wildlife, I of course knew I had to fence the garden in. I wanted the fence to be removable so I could easily maintain the grounds. I came up with an idea of burying pvc pipes in each corner that I could slip posts into that had fencing affixed to the posts. After I liberated some PVC from the garage and explained my vision, Barry got out the big boy tools and got to work. Presto, removable fencing and no sneaky furry creatures of the night stealing my vegetables.

Dirts in… check… fencing up… check.  Lets plant!

The best part of using the toilet paper tube method is the plants go direct from the water pans and into the ground. There is no pulling the plants out of their common plastic grow containers, tearing roots, breaking fragile plants, and killing or stunting growth. The less you disturb a plants root system the better a plant will grow and the faster it will become established.

As mentioned earlier this year I planted brussel sprouts and some black cherry tomatoes. Along with that is regular beef eater tomatoes, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, summer squash, eggplant,  sweet peppers, jalapeño pepper,  cauliflower, radishes, onions, and bush beans. Yes all that is in the little plot. I ran out of room and also have a tomatillo plant in a pot that is growing like crazy! The other pots in front are my brussel sprout plants.

If that wasn’t enough. I decided to not let the cinder block holes go to waste and fill those with my herbs and marigolds. For herbs I have boxwood basil, regular basil, spicy greek oregano, regular oregano, lemon grass, lavender, chives, and cilantro.

I probably should have not planted the summer squash in the square foot garden because I know how big the plants can get. I put it in front of my tomato plants so I’m hoping it’ll work out fine. However it’s starting to get a bit close to my eggplant so I’ll have to keep an eye on things to make sure everything is getting the proper sun exposure.

As you can see for the present day photo above, after just 3 or 4 weeks things are growing like crazy. My mouth waters in anticipation of what tasty food will soon be coming out of my tiny little square foot garden.

Did you put a vegetable garden in this year? Tell me what you planted in your comments. I may have forgotten to plant something ;)

by Joe

Square Foot Gardening

April 21, 2013 in Gardening by Joe

Every year I plan out this massive elaborate garden that is filled with enough veggies to feed a small city. It usually consists of 15+ tomato plants, tomatillos, jalapeno, sweet peppers, lots of cucumbers ( I love cukes!), two varieties of eggplant, beans, and lots of other goodies. There is nothing better than fresh picked veggies overflowing on the counter.

Since we moved into our new house though with a tiny backyard my normal planting frenzy had to be reined in. Sadly I don’t have even close to the amount of room I normally have for growing my embarrassingly large vegetable garden. I’m positive my normal garden would take up our whole backyard.

I’ve been reading all about this new yet old trend of square foot gardening for a couple of years but haven’t until now ever needed to try to apply it. If you don’t know what square foot gardening is, it’s basically shrinking the size of your garden into small raised bed square foot plots that yield the same amounts or more compared to row gardens. I think the square foot gardening method has really taken off in the last couple years since more and more people are getting back into backyard farming and not all of us have the room for the old row planting method.

You can read all about this way of growing at Squarefootgardening.org

cinder blocks

Cinder blocks for raised garden

So now that I’m restricted to garden size I thought now would be a good time to put to good use all the reading I’ve done on square foot gardening. I stopped by Menards the other day and they had cinder blocks on sale for .89 cents a piece. Talk about perfect timing. I chose to go with cinder blocks over wood because landscape timbers are more costly and they have to be replaced more often from rotting and such. Using cinder blocks also means no tools needed, just place and your done. You can mortar them together or use construction adhesive to keep the blocks from being pushed out when the ground freezes in the winter if that tickles your fancy.

Today the sun was out and the weather was beautiful so I decided to get things going. It’s only one more week before I can start planting my square foot garden. Let’s just hope we don’t have any more flooding! I broke out the gloves and 30 minutes later my cinder block raised garden was all set up. That was easy.

I have nicknamed this my “bomb shelter garden”, I mean really it looks like I’m preparing for nuclear war in the backyard here.

I really only needed to go one level since I won’t be growing any deep root crops but I liked the idea of barely having to bend over to do anything. The downside is it will double the cost of filling it with dirt. Anyone have some clean soil to get rid of :) ?

by Joe

Spring Is In The Air

April 16, 2013 in Gardening by Joe

The snow is finally gone and spring is showing itself in full form! We did get some flurries the other day oddly enough, but otherwise the bone chilling temps are a distant memory.

We’ve been having some unseasonably warm days near the end of winter so the flower bulbs got a head-start this year. The spring flowers are already filling in quickly and the daffodils are already blooming.

daffodil

This means it’s almost time to bring up my canna lily bulbs that have been hibernating in the basement all winter and get ready for some spring planting. Will probably wait another week or so just in case we get some freak snowstorm. It wouldn’t be the first time that happened.

If you grow canna lilies you know the rhizomes triple and quadruple every season. So I’m going to have to figure out some new planting areas, or pass them around the neighborhood. I’m sure the hummingbirds would love that.

Last season I had planted them around the front porch and it was the perfect spot. The neighbors appreciated the lovely view as well. The large green foliage and bright red flowers look great against the dark bricks of our house.

canna lilies

Have you got that spring excitement flowing through you yet?

by Joe

Seed Starting Pots

April 10, 2013 in Gardening by Joe

Whenever I can accomplish something for free, or close to free I’m all for it. Like most people I’m a serious pinterest addict! I usually lose about an hour of my day browsing through the garden section for inspiration.

I came across a pin that showed seeds being started in toilet paper tubes. Duh! It was one of those “why didn’t I think of that” moments. Normally I would use those little peat pots which aren’t overly expensive, but they aren’t free either. When you’re pinching pennies, recycling items into useful solutions for other projects is always a bonus.

seed potsEveryone uses toilet paper (at least I hope) so this is something anyone can throw together. I cut them in half and fill with soil, and place them inside a tray. The tray serves two purposes. The tubes are obviously bottomless so we have to keep the dirt contained. Placing the tubes in a tray also allows you to water from the bottom, which is the best way to start seeds and to water growing seedlings.

One thing I did find out, make sure the tubes are sort of tight together. Once wet the cardboard tubes can start to come apart. I had to spin a couple of them around to keep the tube from completely falling apart.

Another bonus to using toilet paper tubes for seed starting, besides being able to stick them right into the ground come planting time,  is you can write directly on the seed pot what you planted in it. No messing around with plant makers and such.

seed pots

Seedlings starting to sprout

Do you have a favorite section on pinterest?

 

by Joe

When To Start Seeds Indoors?

April 3, 2013 in Gardening by Joe

Even though I pretty much grow the same vegetables every year, I always seem to forget the optimal time for starting my seeds indoors. Or what seeds shouldn’t be started indoors. The six month winter hiatus pretty much wipes my memory clear every year it seems.

seedlings under light

Grow my babies!

To remedy this problem I started a log book of the things I grew the past year and when they should be planted. As things often go though, when you really really need something it always has a way of disappearing into some unknown abyss. Of course it turns up weeks or months later when your looking for something totally unrelated that went missing as well. At the time you actually do find the item you don’t even need it.

I found this website last time it came to starting seeds indoors but forgot about it until just now. Again I was searching for seed starting info because yes I couldn’t find my log book. Sproutrobot.com is a neat little website where all you do is enter your zip code and it’ll tell you what you should be doing this week. You can also look ahead to see what you might want to plan for. Totally awesome! No more taking seed notes, or scouring the internet for hours regathering the info you need.

What are you growing this year? No, weeds don’t count.