November 11, 2010

In Remembrance

How quickly you can go from just a couple of bugs to OH MY GOD APHIDS HAVE TAKEN OVER OUR BATHROOM. And just like that, the pepper winter shower garden experiment has come to an end. It's a shame, as I was finally getting some of the long awaited Jamaican Hot Chocolate peppers.

Not only were the bugs just plain annoying, but they were killing the plants. The leaves were dropping off and/or being eaten. There are so many that I don't even think it's worth resuscitation efforts. If only a couple aphids make it back inside, we're doomed. Not to mention my mom is coming to visit in a month, and I wasn't quite sure how she would shower around the peppers.

This was less about having peppers growing through the winter (and in huge quantities next summer); I don't even like peppers very much (except you, beloved Jalapeno). It was more about being able to deliver peppers to friends and proudly say, "I picked this while I was on the toilet yesterday." Because who doesn't love a nice toilet pepper (not to be confused with toilet paper, because that could end very, very badly).

October 2, 2010


A select few have been chosen and moved indoors for the winter. Some of these plants just started producing peppers. They may continue producing for a few more weeks but will probably go dormant soon.

If all goes according to plan, I'll be able to put them back outside in April and grow some gigantic pepper plants next year. More likely scenario is we will grow tired of having pepper plants filling our bathrooms for the next 6 months -- and/or forget about them -- and they will end up in the trash can.

Not sure what we're going to do when it's time to start next season's seeds. Perhaps it's time for the growhouse to expand?

September 10, 2010

Growhouse resurrected earlier than planned?

Somewhere between the weather forecast and the sports talk I heard a random "expert" on our local radio station this morning talk gardening tips. It was strange, as this station usually just repeats exactly the same thing every 10 minutes. Traffic is on the 8's (12:08, 12:18, etc) which is the only reason I listen; there's about 8 minutes of commercials and maybe some sports talk to round out the rest of the 10 minutes. Usually I have to listen a good 30 minutes before I remember to pay attention to the traffic report rather than thinking about things like how much I love nachos or how badly I need a nap. But it's all cool, because in half an hour you go about 2 miles in DC traffic, so no big deal.


He claims I should bring in all my pepper plants now. I don't have a nice sunny window as he recommends but I do have a decent sized grow house just waiting to get back to work.

His theories were -
  • If you bring pepper plants inside they will last through the winter and be even bigger and better when next season rolls around. He claims his have lasted 8 years.
  • If you wait too long to do it, you will be half asleep when you hear the frost warning and be too lazy to do it at all.
I do have quite a few in transportable pots that I can just toss in the bathtub/grow house. Many of the peppers are in the garden, but their understudies remain on the deck, in tiny pots. It's tempting. Not sure what I'll do with them once it's time to start the seed growing again. Buy more grow lights?  Dear Santa....

September 9, 2010

Random fist shaking

The tomato production of the remaining plants has slowed considerably, yet I still have to water as often as before. Seems unfair.

I have pulled more of the tomatoes I hate; still trying to transplant the understudies into garden space in hopes I can extend the growing season.

Went to the local hippie farmer's market today -- everything is grown within 100 miles and I swear people wear fake Amish hats to sell more food. (OK, OK, maybe they were Mennonites, but I still think they were milking it; those hats didn't even fit.) Before me was the most delicious spread of onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc. for $2/lb or less.  All that work I do, and I could drive 3 miles to get a wider variety of produce at 1/50000th the cost.

This weekend I spent over an hour chopping/squeezing/washing to make salsa for a relative's birthday. Barely ended up with one full jar.

To review: Gardens are a lot of time/work/energy and not necessarily cost effective. Also when fall comes and everything starts to die, you will get so depressed you will want to snuggle your shriveled up Arkansas Traveler vines. Oh winter, I hate you already and you're still months away. Still though, it gives me a reason to live for Spring and start all over again.

Speaking of the farmer's market

Here's what we had for dinner. All of it was produced locally unless otherwise indicated.

  • Free range chicken coated in goat cheese with dill. Marielle's chicken was transformed into nuggets, while I just ate the cheese alone in my salad. Both items came from the fake Amish people. (It's OK to talk about them, because if they are truly Amish the shiny knowledge box doesn't infiltrate their homes and they will never know.)
  • Green, yellow and purple beans. 
  • Salad of tomatoes from my back yard plus grocery store lettuce & tomatoes left over from a previous meal. Marielle didn't eat the salad, but did eat cucumber sticks.
  • Nectarines & plums. 
It was absolutely delicious and probably the most vegetables my daughter has ever eaten in one setting. I really do think it helped that she explored the market with me and I faked excitement over every single thing we saw.

Of course two hours later I was starving, but it's a good start.

September 5, 2010

You might be a garden nerd if...

You pay Virginia Tech $10 to analyze your soil.

August 24, 2010

Will to live

I uprooted a cherry tomato plant I found particularly repulsive and replaced it with one of my smaller understudy tomato plants that had just been waiting for a nice, spacious home. I went out today to check on everyone and noticed a weed growing like crazy in the pot.

Curious to see what would grow so fast and so concentrated, I pulled it out. Verdict:

The tomato plant that wouldn't give up!

August 22, 2010

Prize pupil

Due to several clumsy mishaps, I had no idea what varieties I planted where on our farm. I was hoping I could figure it out after they bloomed, but I'm probably only 50/50. Some are very obvious - due to freak sizes or color - but others I'm stumped.

I have one variety of tomato that has been producing consistently and rapidly. It is great for sauce and salsa. Almost perfectly round, it tastes like nothing I can buy in the store. I envision planting at least 50% of next year's farm with nothing but this variety. Thank goodness for google and the record of seeds I bought. I now know without a doubt my star student is the Arkansas Traveler. Finally, an heirloom tomato that doesn't suck!!

Speaking of tomatoes that suck, I actually pulled some plants out of the ground this weekend. They were taking up too much space. The losers had end rot, too much cracking, or I just didn't like the taste. Good bye, orange banana and friends. Hope the squirrels like you more than I did.

August 21, 2010

It's baaaaack!

Just in time for the peak of salsa season, my beloved cilantro returns! It bolted and I let it go to seed, then re-seeded the pot by hand and voilà -- deliciousness.

August 20, 2010


What do you do when Farmer Margarita hands you so many over ripe tomatoes that you don't think you'll be able to use them before they all go bad?

Tomato and mozzarella salad bay-bee! Then eat it all yourself before anyone notices how yummy it is.

Progress report - 3 1/2 months in

The last progress report was just about 2 months ago, and the first one was June 4 (those were the days). Sorry, I disappeared for July (which resulted in the loss of all garlic and onions.) Here's your August photo montage -

These are the two smaller boxes:

Due to planting the tomatillos next to a weed like currant tomato plant, they have kind of melded into one giant mess of plants. I've attempted selective reduction several times, but those pesky tomatillos just keep coming back. They are growing through, over and around all the peppers. Annoying, but shades them which they seem to like.

This is the large bed. When I go to harvest, I just dive in and hope I can find my way out:

Many tomatoes have rotted in the center because I didn't see them in time. I think I have 8-10 plants in here, but who can know; they're all growing on top of each other at this point. Some of the vines are probably 10 feet long and could stretch to my deck if I got off my ass and constructed a fancy trellis.

(You will note however my ass is quite lazy. That is why our deck is 2 colors - we got tired halfway through staining it 8+ years ago and never finished. You got a problem with it, you're welcome to pay for a new one.)

Pest control

Many of my fellow farmers are having trouble growing tomatoes this summer, suffering mysterious disappearances most likely caused by critters.

I haven't had this problem -- in fact have had more tomatoes than I can pick -- and will now share my secrets:

1. Plant 28 tomato plants for a family of 3. You'll hardly notice if even half your tomatoes go missing.

2. Leave offerings of your less than perfect fruit, preferably on an easily accessible surface like the ground, or a deck railing.

You're welcome.

August 10, 2010

If only they came in blue

I guess it's about time to figure out what exactly you do with peppers.

August 9, 2010

Screw you, delicious peppers.

These are red Thai chili peppers. I hate them.
I hate them because they remind me that Farmer Nacho is halfway around the world in Thailand, and not here cooking for me and doing all my canning.

Parasitic twin

August 7, 2010


What is happening to my peppers? Farmer Margarita, I may need your input.

August 2, 2010

July 31, 2010

Which way to the 4H fair?

Actually I was joking when I wrote the title of this post, but I just found out that adults can enter into the veggie competition at the annual fair.  I'll check out the competition next weekend so I can be sure to be crowned the 2011 champion!!!!!!!

July 25, 2010


White and purple bell peppers, purple jalapeños, a million kinds of peppers, world's tiniest tomatoes, kelloggs breakfast tomatoes (orange), green zebra tomatoes, and more!!!

July 19, 2010

July 1, 2010


I'm leaving town tomorrow for 3 weeks and of course now everything is blooming/ripening full force. Luckily Farmer Nacho informs me I can actually freeze these peppers and save them for salsa making!

Not sure what I'll do with the eggplants. Road trip snack?

Hope my husband likes tomatoes, because he's going to be eating a lot in my absence.

June 24, 2010

We Have Color

I just realized Farmer Nacho and Farmer Margarita never gave me a farmer name and I'm kind of pissed about it. So I'm giving myself a farmer name: I would like to be known henceforward as Farmer Emperador Señor Dios del Universo, thankyouverymuch.

Farmer Emperador Señor Dios del Universo is pleased to report that over here on the North Forty, we have red tomato.

One. Red. Tomato.

I'm already planning the salsa I shall make out of him.

The pepper plants look much more bushy and plentiful than our tomatoes, but in the bloom and fruit department, they are lagging seriously behind. The angry infestation of aphids appear to be stunting their growth, but I think I see way down in there, the beginnings of a fruit to come to be. Or maybe just a pregnant aphid.

A hot mess

Remember the update from June 4?

A lot can happen in 20 days.

June 24:

Sowing my seeds

I grew about 200 seedlings too many and I had plenty to go around. I dumped them with anyone and everyone. My chiropractor provides me a weekly report on hers and asks hilarious questions like, "What's that purple thing I'm growing?" (Eggplant.)

Other updates have surfaced online - here and here. A little later in the growing season I will have to visit and see who ended up with what. There was a slight labeling mishap leaving everyone with a grab bag special.

The leaves of my plants seem to suggest I did manage to end up with a nice variety of tomatoes and peppers, I just don't know what. Fingers crossed for some Jamaican Hot Chocolate!

June 23, 2010

Random report

It was 99 degrees today. 99!!!! My tomatoes may soon cook themselves. I don't know what this heat does to tomatoes, but it can't be good.

Due to the heat all my gardening is done by the light of the moon, and I still come in drenched in sweat laced with potting soil. This update would be much improved with pictures, but no go at 10 pm.

I had to abort some peppers and tomatoes tonight. They were just growing terribly. Really this blog could be a what-not-to-do if nothing else. Let's just sum it up and say -
1. Drainage is important. Your plants can be too wet. Even when it's 99 degrees.
2. Miracle gro moisture control mix is totally worth it. I used some organic bullshit that smells like crap and holds onto water way too long.

My raised beds are so overgrown right now. I should've planted half that number of tomatoes in that space, but I just couldn't choose! I can't imagine what it's going to look like by August. I may lose a child in there. Or a dog. Which wouldn't be all bad.

My deck is also overflowing with pots of all shapes and sizes. I even moved a lot of things to the platform around my HVAC system. So little of our yard gets sun and I'm desperate for space! I know my neighbors just love the scenic view of our yard-o-buckets. But it's all cool, because I busted our HOA President for violating our neighborhood rules (which prohibit growing veggies in your front or side yard). If he comes for me, I'll just mention his squash situation.

I have one tomato that's orange. I am so eating it tomorrow, whether it's ready or not. I'm jealous of my farmer friends to the south who've had ripe veggies for weeks.

This concludes your stream of consciousness farm update.

June 4, 2010

Progress report, 1 month post transplant

I squeezed onions, garlic, 7 tomato plants and an eggplant into this tiny box.

Lots of pruning, staking and caging will be required. I'm guessing by the end of the summer the tomatoes will be 20 feet tall, or I will have given up and it will just be one giant mess of tomato plants.

The peppers are putting up a valiant fight against the aphids. It's been raining almost every day here and I swear they doubled in size in under 48 hours.

I still wish the 18,000 ladybugs I ordered 3 weeks ago would hurry up and get here!

(There's one other raised bed not shown, home to 9 more tomato plants.)

June 2, 2010


June 1:

The potted plants are growing fastest - probably because they are in fresh 100% miracle grow potting soil. Mmmm, chemicals!

May 31, 2010

Pesto - it's not just for basil anymore

We had a bumper crop of cilantro this week. Most of it's in the flower bed in the front yard - my best guess is I reused some potting soil that grew last year's cilantro? The cilantro I was actually trying to grow isn't doing nearly as well. Further proof that more effort does not equal better results.

First I made pico de gallo, using store bought tomatoes (gasp) as mine are still blossoming. I did harvest an onion to add to my bushels of cilantro. Served it with bean and cheese taquitos.

I was still left with a TON of cilantro so I made a pesto of cilantro, walnuts, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and salt. I stuffed a chicken breast with provolone, then coated it with the pesto. Pretty impressive concoction for a vegetarian, don't you think?

May 23, 2010

How does a 3 year old's garden grow?

My three year old decided to fertilize some of my seedlings. With toothpaste. As you can imagine, that didn't end well.

May 16, 2010

ETA: sooner than I thought

As of yesterday we have blossoms on one of the tomato plants!!! It's about 3 feet tall, growing in a pot on the deck. I'm leaving town for 3 weeks in July, but maybe there's hope I'll get a tomato or two before leaving town.

The raised bed filled with peppers is being devoured by bugs. I'm debating between horrific chemicals and ordering thousands of ladybugs. As a back up, I'm still growing peppers indoors (in the bathtub, of course). Once they get nice and big I may replace some of the ones in the garden.

May 2, 2010

Learn from my mistakes

Mistakes I made when putting my plants in the ground-

For the first four tomatoes, i didn't keep track of which varieties I put in! I should have just thrown them out and started over, but instead I'll just be surprised. And maybe have a lot of one type and none of several others.

I put them in the day before it poured rain for 24 hours straight. Some didn't survive the beating. Good thing I have 50 more understudies ready to fill in.

One week after planting, it got so cold at night that the next county over had a frost advisory! I always plant too early, which can stunt their growth. The seedling were just sooo huge though, and I was so anxious.

A lot of the plants are quite close together. I had a lot more varieties of peppers and tomatoes than I had space. I'm hoping with staking and/or cages, I can make the magic happen. I'm also planning to selectively reduce tomato plants if needed.

Stay tuned for more page turning (mouse scrolling?) stories of life on the farm.

Staff turnover

Farmer Nacho is leaving me. He's going to be summering in Southeast Asia, leaving me with a big sombero to fill.

My master plan definitely included having him around conme August to supervise our salsa production. Instead, he has only a few weeks to teach me how to properly hold a knife as well as can salsa.

I picture many lessons via Skpye in my future, as well as a severed finger or two and a nice case of Botulism.

April 20, 2010


I'm resisting the urge to plant everything in the ground immediately. It's a predictable cycle -I always plant too early, plant growth gets stunted, husband says "I told you it was too early!" for the next 3 years.

Instead I have larger and larger specimins taking over my house. I've given away quite a few seedlings, yet it seems like I still have hundreds left (probably because I do).

So we wait. And wait. And wait.

Maybe I could just plant a couple and see what happens? Not like I don't have understudies waiting in the wings.

April 5, 2010

April 4, 2010

My big box

I was loving this, until I figured out it will hold 5 tomato plants, max.

The green edging is supposed to be a beagle deterrent. We shall see. I wanted to buy some wire fencing, but after realizing I spent $100 on lumber plus another $120 on 40 bags of topsoil, manure and humus, I figured I had spent enough money for the day.

Now please pause for a moment to contemplate me hauling FORTY bags weighing 40 lbs each, to my backyard. Damn.

April 3, 2010

Admire my box

Before, 11 am:

After, 5 pm:

I have a car full of topsoil, humus and cow manure to add tomorrow.

Not pictured - giant new garden space I just put in around the corner.

Many thanks to NG and KoH for their assistance. Plus, KoH showed me how to use a circular saw and I am hooked! Guess what somebody's getting for Father's Day!

March 30, 2010

Grow house

My little seedlings are quickly outgrowing their bathtub incubator. It's a good thing it's going to be in the 70s - 80s the rest of the week. Time for some sun for all of us!

Until then, every 12 hours I rotate the plants. They spend half the day under growlights and the other half spread throught the house, wherever I can find a flat space. The lights run 24-7. So far no housefires.

I'm counting on a gorgeous weekend. I want to finally plow and build the raised beds. Otherwise I may just stiffle any common sense I have left and shell out mucho dinero on this slice of heaven I saw at Costco:

Must resist!

March 21, 2010

Suicide mission

Seems my peppers made a suicide pact. My beautiful little sprouts were sunning themselves when they threw themselves over the side of the deck. Some survived the fall, but many were decapitated. Their remains were thrown all about and now I don't know which are the Thai chili peppers and which are the bell peppers. I suppose I will just have to be surprised.

It's been in the high 70s here the last few days so I had everyone out in the sun during the day. I guess I'll just stick with the grow lights until they are all bigger and stronger.

I received the giant seed shipment last week and finally finished planting today. Some of the seeds I planted earlier are already ready for transplant, but I can't find peat pots anywhere. With all this warm weather the garden centers are wiped out.

My vision continues to take shape in my head. Unfortunately my dreams come together faster than my reality. (e.g. the tiller is still in the box it came in.) Good thing I started early.

March 12, 2010

A star is born

The first cherry tomato seed has sprouted! Four days. Hopefully his friends will feel some peer pressure and put an end to their laziness.

March 11, 2010

Honest, officer, it's for the tomatoes.

Why is my shower glowing?

Today we MacGyvered some grow lights with random parts from Home Depot and some pink twine I found in the garage.

Admit it, you're jealous.

I now have two showers that have been unused for years that are finally serving a purpose.

We also bought a tiller kind of like this one. I have a feeling once we fire that up, nothing is safe. We shall conquer the land!

March 10, 2010

Click happy

At least four times over the past few days I have fired up the Tomato Growers website and oogled the different seed varieties. Each time I fill my basket with goodies, then realize they don't take Amex. (It's the only credit card number I have memorized.) Getting up off the couch clearly wasn't an option, so I would just wait. Problem was, it never saved my cart. So each time something new caught my eye, and the grand total grew a little higher. Today I finally placed an order....$88!

Here's how I selected my seeds:

For tomatoes, I selected mostly stuff we can make into salsa. But then I would be mesmerized by the strange varieties and throw some of those in too. Their fancy marketing language would sucker me in to others. Other times the names were just funny. I think those will jump right out at you.

I always like to plant crazy stuff you won't find even at most farmers' markets. White eggplants. Purple jalapenos. Ivory cherry tomatoes. One year I was so excited to grow purple green beans. Imagine my disappointment when I cooked them and they all turned green. BLAST!

We do have some space limitations, so I generally pass on growing things you can buy cheap in the grocery store - e.g. carrots - or things that take up too much space like pumpkins. I like to focus on the weird stuff and the expensive stuff like tomatoes. And this year we're aiming to make a LOT of salsa, so that was taken into consideration as well.

If you're curious, here's what I ordered today:

#7492 - White Lightening Hybrid - 30 seeds.
#9716 - Santa Fe Grande - 30 seeds.
#9437 - Purple Jalapeno - 30 seeds.
#9543 - Mucho Nacho Hybrid - 30 seeds.
#9007 - Jamaican Hot Chocolate - 30 seeds.
#9022 - Bulgarian Carrot - 30 seeds.
#9030 - Ancho San Martin Hybrid - 30 seeds.
#9206 - Lilac Hybrid - 20 seeds.
#9352 - Bianca Hybrid - 20 seeds.
#4927 - Tumbling Tom Hybrid - 30 seeds.
#5362 - Sweet Pea Currant - 30 seeds.
#6334 - Patio F Hybrid - 30 seeds.
#6970 - Florida Basket - 30 seeds.
#3524 - Baxter's Early Bush Cherry - 30 seeds.
#6044 - Health Kick VFFA Hybrid - 30 seeds.
#3566 - Arkansas Traveler - 30 seeds.
#2912 - Crimson Fancy VFFA Hybrid - 30 seeds.
#2768 - Bush Champion VFFA Hybrid - 30 seeds.
#6701 - Cisineros Tomatillo - 30 seeds.
#6273 - Purple Tomatillo - 30 seeds.
#5678 - Powers Heirloom - 30 seeds.
#6822 - Snow White - 30 seeds.
#4701 - Orange Banana - 30 seeds.
#5833 - Kellogg's Breakfast - 30 seeds.
#5213 - Big Zebra - 30 seeds.
#4518 - Glacier - 30 seeds.
#5268 - Viva Italia VFFNA Hybrid - 30 seeds.
#5070 - Rocky - 30 seeds.
#5542 - Mama Leone - 30 seeds.
#6099 - Grandma Mary's Paste - 30 seeds.

I think I'm going to need to get some more seed starting kits!

March 9, 2010


I was cuddling my seeds earlier today when I realized that SOME OF THEM ARE SPROUTING! After 48 hours.

Imagine my disappointment when I saw it was just the sunflowers. But those seeds did expire 4 years ago, so that's kinda cool.

Maybe the sunflower sprouts can inspire the other lazy seeds to get their act together. Nobody likes salsa made out of sunflowers.

March 7, 2010

Busy day in the fields

I've started a spreadsheet of everything I've planted so far, and their ETA. They better not disappoint me!

Many of these say to sow indoors 6-8 weeks prior, so maybe I'm not really that far ahead of the game after all. I would be much happier if I had some grow lights or warming mats, but I'm trying to make sure the total cost of my garden doesn't exceed $100 per tomato grown. I'm still stalking craigslist though, should a marijuana farmer decide to retire and purge his supplies.

I turned over all the dirt in our existing plot this afternoon. I even got fancy and removed the stray dog droppings that found there way to that end of our yard. Years of horse manure and care have made this section of our yard prime farm land. I saw worms all over the place, including one as big and thick as my ring finger that I initially thought was an old piece of rope. Strangely, it instantly reminded me of something I saw at my bachelorette party, the thought of which grossed me out even more than the worm itself.

Premature Germination

The sun came out today for the first time in about 8 years. Against my better judgment, I started a few seeds. And by a few, I mean around 200. Some of them I bought at Home Depot, others from Merrifield, and some I found on top of my fridge - where they had been since 2006. It will be interesting to see what happens to those.

Last time I grew from seed I started even earlier (mid-February) and had to transplant everything twice. After that mess, I decided it would be easier to just buy the plants every year. You would think I would have learned, but you would be wrong.

This year I'm especially motivated to grow some crazy stuff, so back to seeds we go. Plus, Badger asked me several weeks ago if I had ordered my seed catalogs yet, so it's been on my mind ever since. (Apparently Badger has morphed into a 80 year old farmer who is not aware of the series of tubes we call the internet.)

Today I planted-
1) Cherry tomatoes
2) Roma tomatoes
3) Thai red chili peppers
4) Assorted bell peppers
5) Cilantro
6) Parsley
7) Dill
8) Japanese eggplant
9) Sunflowers
10) Teddy bear sunflowers

That's only the beginning. I also ordered about $40 worth of seeds from Tomato Growers. If all goes according to plan, I'll have a huge pile of plants I can give to friends.