Blog posts from December 2009

More photos from the Amazon, Peru

Dec 29, 2009

So sorry I've been delinquent in my postings! Hard to come back from two weeks in the jungle and get hit with American Christmas! I have a ton of photos to sort through, but I promise I'll get at it this weekend. Here are just a few more I have handy...


My friend Kevin took this shot...nice how I color coordinate eh?


More amazing, beautiful fungi...they look like little ocean creatures...

So many stunning majestic trees...


And super fantastic bugs! This is some sort of beautiful centipede I've yet to ID...


You didn't think I'd leave ya hangin' on chickens did you?? LOL..I actually took quite a few chicken pictures...more to come. So many breeds I've never seen before!

Check out this awesome Rhino beetle!!! Quite the friendly little bugger...

Look at this amazing flower! So much to little time...sigh

I'm still adjusting back to "regular" life after my time in the Amazon. Such a wonderful life changing experience...

Back from the Amazon, Peru…

Dec 22, 2009

Wow, what an amazing journey. Not only did I see some amazing natural sights in the Peruvian Amazon, but also made some great new friends. I have so many photos to go through that it's going to take me a bit, especially amidst the holidays. I'll try and post a few as I go.

Me on a sweaty jungle trek!

Dendrobates_reticulatus My ultimate score!!! Poison Dart Frog, Dendrobates reticulatus. Very hard to find and photograph! I believe this species is only native to the small area around the part of NE Peru where I was staying. So exciting.

Tree1 Just one of the many beautiful and huge trees. Home to so many epiphytes such as bromeliads, philodendrons, orchids and ferns. Lovely!

Helliconia Striking Helliconia. They were everywhere.


I'm officially obsessed with the fungi of the Peruvian rain forest. There is so much diversity. Every time I looked I found a new one! So beautiful.


Me and my new boyfriend Jose...LOL

Too much lettuce?

Dec 15, 2009

IMG_4287 IMG_4286 

 Ok, folks! Here it is! I've been preoccupied this week and it's been icky, so I haven't wanted to even attempt to go look at my tiny 8 foot space. But, it's been pretty the last few days so I thought I'd take a gander at the garden.

What did find? Possibly too much lettuce. You are probably thinking "how can a person have too much lettuce?" Well, you can't, except I think I planted too many seeds in a 2x4 foot space. I essentially just took a few packets of some greens mixes (the red leaves being my favorite) and threw them out! No muss, no fuss! They are growing beautifully except I haven't really been eating lettuce lately so now they form a thick blanket of greens. I've probably stunted their growth. So I may not get the beautiful heads of butter lettuce i got last year. Unless I start harvesting soon, I also may not get the large stalks of romaine I enjoyed last year. My goal of the week is to eat at least 3 or 4 salads and harvest some for my neighbors. Maybe then the spinach won't be so scared to come up. I have a feeling the lettuce and spinach are fighting and it's not the spinach that's winning.

I've also included a picture of my whole raised bed. This is the raised bed we sell here at North Haven Gardens. I put it together all by myself except for one nail I needed help with from my husband. It then took about 30 bags of various soils and composts. Leslie has the soil recipe I used posted on here somewhere.

Anywho, I planted 6 broccoli, 2 brussels sprouts, 6 onions (red, white, yellow), 12 heads garlic, a TON of lettuce (ha!), spinach, 2 fava bean bushes (I should pull one), 1 cilantro and 1 parsley. I also had a few pansies left over from some pots so I stuck those in as well. I like to test the maximums on these things.

Man, I bet you are wishing for Leslie right about now! smile

I’m off to Peru folks…

Dec 4, 2009

Map_of_peru I'm off to Peru early tomorrow morning and will be out of contact for a couple of weeks. My journey to the Amazon jungle will consist of flying to LA to meet up with my best friend Kimberly. From there we fly together to Lima, Peru. Then from Lima to Iquitos...the last city before...the jungle. We'll spend a night in Iquitos and then head out to our camp the next morning. I'm sure we're going to have an amazing experience. That area of the Amazon is one of the most bio diverse on the planet. We're both looking for a few things out of this trip...a break from modern life, a chance to reconnect with nature in a unique way, a spiritual lightening of the load so to speak...and for me, some poison dart frogs and snakes!! LOL. I'm so excited I can barely stand it.

As I will not have access to phone, computers, or electricity for that matter, there won't be any posts from me while I'm away. But Nikki, one of my guest authors, has promised to post some of the goings on in her garden while I'm away. I'm sure she'll also have some entertaining musings about what I'm up to as well. 

So for now, Adios...see ya on the flip side...

Question #2: What is the best raised bed soil mix?

Dec 4, 2009

Here ya go Ann!

I get lots of questions on what to use to make the best soil mix for raised beds. Now, I'm sure there are a million good recipes out there, but I'll give you a some quick suggestions of what I use that works well for me.

Remember that brand "new" soil mixes are often not that fertile at the get go. They take a little time to start to break down and for the population of beneficial microbes to grow. Initially, plants in new soil may often look yellow or stunted. Feed the soil by adding things like dry molasses, dry seaweed or liquid bio-stimulants. You must make sure to mix in fertilizer with the soil and planting and provide supplemental fertilizer.

(Ann, specifically on the Letco bedding mix, I would not use that mix for veggie beds. They have a better bulk mix called Specialty Planting Mix (and now a Vegetable planting mix 2012). I've used that mix in about 5 of my veggie beds and it's working pretty well. It's still less than a year old, and so initial fertility was not high, but it's getting better.)

If you're buying bagged soil and making your own mix, here is what I often recommend. I'll use a 4' x 4' bed that is 12" high for the example. First you want to get your volume. Remember that 1 cubic yard equals 27 cubic feet. And to get your bed volume multiply the width, length and height in feet.

4 x4 x 1 = 16 cubic feet. That's how many cubic feet of soil your bed will need. If you're buying 2 cubic foot bags then the bed will take 8 bags, if you're buying 1 cubic foot bags, it will take about 16.

For this bed you could use (each of these are 1 cu. ft. bags)

  • 6 bags of a high quality topsoil such as Soil Menders Enriched Topsoil(NOT builders trash topsoil)
  • 6 bags high quality compost (I like Vital Earth)
  • 3 bags of Humus, such as Soil Menders Plant and Soil Food
  • 1 bag of Composted cow manure

Then you're going to need to amend that mixture with your granular vegetable fertilizer and you can also add things like dry molasses, dry seaweed, greensand and lava sand. Expanded shale can be added to mixes for beds that need improved drainage. If you plan on growing root crops such as carrots in the bed, skip the expanded shale or any other chunky product. 

If you're buying a bulk soil, look for one that has a good mix of compost, topsoil (quality), some finely shredded landscapers mix (not chunky), humus and amendments like greensand.

This is super quick...and I'm headed out of town, but I hope this helps!

Question #1 of the day: My veggies aren’t ripening on time!

Dec 4, 2009

Here is another question I received:

"Everything I plant seems to take way longer to grow than any harvest times I read about. seed packets or garden articles.  I planted Brussels sprouts and cabbages about the beginning of September and although the plants are healthy they are just now starting to make heads on the cabbages and no sign of anything with the sprouts. Same thing with my broccoli and carrots, peppers and peas.  Summer and fall plantings alike.  Even my radishes take up to 60 days to get to a decent size. (I won't discuss tomatoes.  My tomato harvest sucked.) I even have this issue with flowers.  I planted marigold seeds in the spring and while they germinate and get a couple of inches tall they actually started growing gangbusters in September!  They are blooming now.

I plant according to the NHG planting dates.  You posted about an abundance of zucchinis and mine were just starting to bloom. My mom is putting up turnip greens and mine are about 4 inches tall. Things seem to eventually get there, but what's making things grow so slow?

Some of the things I planted last fall grew to be about 4 inches or so and then just stalled out for the rest of the winter.  I left them alone and in the spring they started growing again to give me an early spring harvest.  But that can throw off my spring planting plans.  That was ok because last spring I was putting in new beds and I just shifted around.  This year it won't work.  If I'm still waiting for my fall garden to harvest in the spring, I won't have space to plant my summer plan.  Or will have to plant later. 

I am new to gardening.  I moved to Dallas in the fall of 2007 from Houston. I attended one of your new gardeners seminars at NHG. I have raised beds in full sun with a mix of garden soil, composts, manures and lava sand.  I fertilize with seaweed/fish emulsion in a foliar spray.  Any suggestions?"

Answers: There are a number of factors at play here. First is obviously timing. There are different times for starting seeds of crops and transplants outdoors. Make sure you're starting seed indoors in January/February for Spring crops that need to be transplanted in March...same goes for fall crops. It sounds like you're trying to follow properl seeding and planting dates, but I'd ask you to perhaps give some specifics about say, when exactly you seeded your zucchini, or your turnips. My turnip greens are also ready now as well. I seeded them outdoors in September.

Next, the most important factors are going to be temperature, rainfall/watering and your soil quality. Temperature drives development (fruit), Light drives green growth. So if temperatures are say unseasonably cool, or warm, that will effect development of your plants and change the length of time to ripening. Your marigolds for example probably needed to be started indoors in Jan/Feb to be ready for Spring planting. They like our cooler spring and fall weather here, but get a bit stunted once the summer heat kicks in. That's why they're doing great now. I recommend planting transplants of marigolds in March/April and then again in August and early September.

Your plants sound stunted and that is usually due to water management and soil fertility. Realize that "new" soil, even if it's a mix of really good composts, etc. can take a little while to become bioactive. Soil microbes that assist in the breakdown of nutrients take time to multiply. New soil is always less fertile that a mix that's been in the garden a year or so. So when you plant veggies into a bed with new soil, you'll often see stunted or yellowing plants. Amend the soil with things that are food for microbes (molasses, fish emulsion) and make sure you're fertilizing the plants. The liquid seaweed is a good instant feed, but there is no lasting effect. You'll need to put down a granular veggie food in the beds as well as supplementing with a liquid feed. Once your soil is really good, you won't have to fertilize as much. It can take a new soil mix a year or more to get really active in my experience.

We had a very hot dry summer, followed by a very wet October. That really got a lot of people's plants off schedule. It's key, during August and September, to really water those fall crops enough to get them off to a good start. They are cool season plants, but we put them out in the garden at a time here when it is still really hot and dry. This can stunt growth and development causing either a failed crop or delayed production. 

Does this help?

Question of the day: Is my lettuce safe in this winter weather?

Dec 2, 2009

Here is a question I received today from Carrie:

Lettuce1 "I am growing Swiss Chard, Spinach, and Bibb lettuce this fall.  I know it's probably too late to be asking you this question, but what, if anything, do I need to do this fall/winter to protect them?  I have it in my mind that the chard & spinach are pretty hardy and can take a frost(?) but I doubt the same can be said for the bibb.  Everything looks fine so far, even after the "snow" we got this morning."

I almost never cover my chard, spinach or lettuce. They can all take temperatures in the low 20's without protection. About 22 F degrees or so. In fact, you can even germinate spinach seeds down in the low 20's. If we drop into the teens you can cover them with a sheet of frost cloth and that should be enough. Just make sure plants are watered before a freeze and you're good to go. In our area we will normally get say two or three freezes in the teens, so just have some frost cloth on hand. Snow and ice can actually act as an insulator when it covers the plant. It's the dry hard freezes that actually do more damage. That help Carrie?

Back to top

Tips in your inbox


Sign up for the E-Newsletter for industry info, gardening trends & tips.