Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

If you’ve been following for the length of this summer, you’ve heard me lament about our mountain landscaping and with the daily rains of this year’s monsoon season, the MAJOR overgrowth of greenery, especially on our steps.  We tried making our own DIY all-natural pesticide using a salt-water recipe with no results, then a salt-vinegar recipe – also with no results.

However, on a recent trip to the hardware store, we decided to see if there were any eco-friendly options.  Some said eco-friendly, but then had all the caution/poison control warnings all over.  No bueno.

But then, we came across one that didn’t have all the warnings, was made with organic plant oils and is safe for pets and children.  We decided to give it a try and it worked!

Now this picture is a bit deceiving (and not so pretty) because it was applied about a week ago after a round of weed-wacking and it still has rained everyday meaning new growth, argh…but at the very least it worked!

I’m not necessarily endorsing them, but letting you know what finally worked for us and if you’re also looking for an eco-friendly pesticide, here’s an option to add to your arsenal!

*p.s. in case you’re wondering what it smells like, I think it smells like part clove oil, part bitter plant oil; not anything like your traditional pesticide

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Here are some photos I took at a fabulous Farmer’s Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico a couple years ago.  It was eye candy and one of the best FM’s I’ve ever been to.  Looking forward to fresh, local food!

May your day be full of sunshine!

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Well, maybe I should say “Season 2010″ – since I wrote a post under the same title last summer.

This year I didn’t try to make a go of any food gardening – didn’t feel motivated after last year’s results (although I’m a wee bit inspired to see pics of this year’s bounty of many local residents who utilize small greenhouses – perhaps something for us to consider in the future).

However, I did weed the heck out of my intended rock garden that runs along our driveway to make room for more lavender plants and to not scare away friends that came over for a 4th of July get-together (nothing like a deadline to motivate you!).  Our plan was to order a delivery of rocks to lay down around the plants I put in as well as the native plants left behind, but procrastination got the best of us, it’s been raining everyday and now we have a fresh carpet of grass and weeds.  Sigh. I don’t know how you folks in humid climates deal with that but I’m wondering if a rental property would be a better option for us in the future.  We’re just not motivated to “keep up” with a yard.

It's popping up green in the rock garden, along the edges and down the middle of our driveway; on the upsdie, our well is holding up with all this rain!

Currently I have 17 lavender plants and hoping to grow it to 24 by next summer so that I can yield some sort of harvest in the future.  Yet, my budget can only afford the smaller guys that will need years to grow to any sizable amount especially with our short growing season.  Not to mention that the larger guys I splurged on last year are clinging on for life this year.

Here’s a beauty that I do have, yielding more buds than any other lavender plants I’ve had before:

But here are what many others look like (they say not to pull until the plant looks “dead” two years in a row!):

Actually, this is more in line with how the majority of my plants look like – small and without buds:

Here are some of the native plants we have growing, many of them ornamental grasses that I love so we’ve kept in place; any ideas on what’s what?

And in our infinite wisdom, we planted aspen trees *really* close to our house never expecting them to take so well that now we’re worried about what the roots might do to the foundation *smacks forehead* – well, at least they sure are pretty to look at!

What can I say; we’re first time home buyers and learning as we go.  And there are lots of lessons to learn. :)

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Have flowers, make wreath

lavender wreath

Okay, so my plants didn't yield many *live* flowering buds today, so I decided to make a wreath with what little I had instead. Thanks mom for teaching me wreath-making skills as a teenager! Wait 'til the holidays, I'm gonna have sap-infused fingertips sticking to everything! (:

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Okay, so while I’m in a self-deprecating mood regarding my garden, here goes some more which should surely bring you some comic relief for the day:

While everyone is complaining of a bumper crop of zukes, I'm grateful to have 3 growing, albeit only the size of mylittle fingers *sigh*

 While everyone is complaining of a bumper crop of zukes, I’m grateful to have 3 growing, albeit only the size of my little fingers *sigh*

dead tomato

And here I thought tomatoes were easy to grow? This poor guy is burnt to a crisp and has 2 little zebra tomaotes hanging on for dear life; guess I’m making fried green tomatoes as an appetizer tonight! (p.s. there are many more dead/crispy plants, but I’ll spare you the carnage)

This brings a whole new meaning to the term "baby carrots"

 This brings a whole new meaning to the term “baby carrots”

And go figure, the one thing that actually grew in magnificent proportions (in comparison to the rest of my pee-wee garden) is chard and I don't even like it that much!

 And go figure, the one thing that actually grew in magnificent proportions (in comparison to the rest of my pee-wee garden) is chard and I don’t even like it that much!

Now David made me this beautiful gardening box last year since we live in bear/dear country and it’s very difficult, even ill-advised to put a garden into the earth.  But it was just my luck when one day David points to something below the deck and says, “honey, what’s that growing over there?”  To my surprise, one of my lettuce seeds had apparently blown over the side and grew to about 12″ tall, obscured by the mountain brush that landscape our lot and far out-growing anything I tried in our box:
Mountain Lettuce

Mountain Lettuce

Laugh all you want family!  I may be defeated this year, but not discouraged…maybe next year I’ll have more time to devote to gardening and can attempt a critter farm in the ground.  I’ll just be sure to keep bear spray nearby!

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My not-so-abundant lavender harvest!

Only took me about 20 minutes to harvest...sheesh!

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Adventures in Weeding

weeding before

With weeds...

So yesterday, on the 4th of July, I decided to take advantage of my 3-day weekend and decided to finally address the Serengeti-esque growth overtaking our driveway/front yard.  First, you need to understand that we live in the dry, arid mountains of Colorado.  Sure, we get our share of snow (though the past two years have been paltry and worrisome of major droughts and pending forest fires), but we rarely get rain in the summer with exception of the random thunderstorms that drop a mean dose of  hail in a 5 minute window of time and leaves as abruptly as it started.  This year, however, we have enjoyed overcast days, lots of rain and subsequent growth of EVERYTHING.  This makes weeding a bitch!  Hence, I decided that this day would be as good as any to weed the strip of land to the side of our driveway and to plant some more lavender. 

Now, let me take a moment to tell you about my love of lavender.  I’ve known people to either love or hate lavender…clearly I’m on the side of love.  I love the dreamy smell, colors, taste and medicinal qualities.  Last year I read “The Unlikely Lavender Queen: A Memoir of Unexpected Blossoming” by Jeannie Ralston http://www.jeannieralston.com/ and fell in love…with the story, with the dream and the idea of lavender farming.  I know, this sounds a bit ridiculous, but I was enraptured.  I would rehash the book in my daydreams, have dreams about it at night and would spend hours researching lavender farms, lavender recipes, growth and care of lavender plants, etc.  I learned that the highest elevation lavender farm anywhere in the world was at 6,500 feet and I thought that if I could pull this off, I could easily claim the highest elevation distinction at the 8,300 feet where I live.  I even came up with a simple but aptly named business venture: Rocky Mountain Lavender.  But first, before I continued on this crazy dream, I had to determine if lavender would even grow in this rocky, sloped, dry mountain terrain with an extreme amount of sun that often sunburns other plants.  A green thumb I do not naturally have, so I knew it would be a stretch.  I went to my favorite, local nursery, purchased 5 small lavender plants that were of the Munstead variety which I had researched and learned that they are the best suited to survive high altitude conditions, planted them on the side of my very steep and sun-drenched driveway and crossed my fingers.  Lucky for me, lavender thrives in the exact conditions where I live and thankfully do not like to be fussed over (which is important for me as I tend to get all excited in a project, spend time on it, then, like a shiny object to a squirrel, chase another idea often never finishing or maintaining my first project).  In two months time, I finally harvested my first few bunches of lovely, aromatic lavender bunches, made lavender lemonade and fell in love all over again with my dream of farming it one day.

However, the true test would be whether those small plants would survive our harsh winters.  This spring (which up here really doesn’t begin until June), as the rain lended to tall weeds and  blades of ornamental, albeit unorganized, blades of grass, I remembered a rule of growing lavender – it does not like to be crowded out and great care must be given to ensure that it has plenty of space and is not fighting for resources.  Sure enough, the weeds had pervaded the ground to the extent that I couldn’t even find my poor lavender plants.  Alas, after much forraging I found my plants and was elated to discover that 4 out of the 5 had little bits of green growth!  I cleared the pesky weeds around my plants allowing for plenty of sun to reach them and knew that the daily rains, albeit brief, would be enough to keep them hydrated though not soggy.

A couple weeks ago when I approached my supportive, though realistic, husband David about planting some more, he made me make him a deal in his attempt to avoid my past grievances in gardening.  You see, I often get so excited when I’m in a nursery that I pick up WAY more plants that I can reasonably plant that day or within a week and all too often, my lovely plants have met their fate in the very same plastic bucket in which they were sold to me and it pains both of us to see a $20 plant sitting dead in that bucket – a waste of money and a perfectly good plant.  And all too often the business of life hijacks my dreamed up plans (can you see the patterns of the ADD I mentioned in my first blog!).  As such, David said I could buy as many lavender plants as I could dig holes for (in advance) so that all I would have to do is pop the plant into the ground, fill in with soil and voila, no wasted plants.  Deal!  And I did just that, dug my holes and waited for the right time to pick up my plants.  And so back to the 4th of July.  We got up early, headed over to my nursery and was overcome with disappointment when the manager of the place warned us that their would be a limit of 4 lavender plants, per customer, per SEASON because of the high demand!  What the ?!!!  So, I purchased two small ones, and two large ones in full bloom already and begrudgingly made my way over to Home Depot to find more.  When I arrived, my disappointment grew with fervor when I learned that they had sold out due to demand.  “Well, if this isn’t my sign that I need to be lavender farming if the demand is so high around here and no one has any…” I said to David to which he gave a hearty head shake.  “If only I had the capital to start it up!” I murmured.

On the ride back, David countered my grandiose, though crazy idea, to purchase land nearby where customers could pick their own lavender, picnic in full range of the mountains and shop all my lavender homemade goods with the idea of growing lavender on our 1 acre plot of land.  I shot him a “have you seen the slope of our backyard?” look as we began to talk about the logistics.  It would be tough and would not lend itself to visits by the public, but perhaps a good start.  Of course, this would all have to happen after I leave my corporate job – I am on the road, afterall, 75-100% of the time and for the rest of the summer, I’ll be gone Mon-Fri, only home on the weekends. *sigh*  A girl can still dream.

Nonetheless, we began our weedscaping adventure and spent a good 4 hours getting down to earth, planting our new lavender plants and building a rock wall.  And in true spirit of the mountain folk that have lived here for generations, them yahoos shot off their shotguns and pistols in lieu of fireworks.  “Pop…pop, pop” we’d hear in the distance as we shook our heads and rolled our eyes.  Damn country folk we muttered aloud.  Lest we admit that we were about to be full-time country folk in the future.

Unfortunately we didn’t finish the whole strip of land, a major undertaking, but made great progress.  We’re hoping to xeriscape the area with natural, drought-resistant plants and rocks in lieu of mulch.  Pictures below show before and after pics!

weeding after

Sans weeds...still to be xeriscaped, but ya get the idea...Oy - my back is killing me!

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