Monday, August 29, 2011

You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Last August, in a fit of furry over a plant stripped by a hungry caterpillar, I smashed the lovely critter. Later, I found out that I had, in fact, killed a swallowtail. Trust me, I felt like a terrible person.

A few days ago, I spotted this beautiful fellow, also very hungry, on a cherry tomato plant that I had grown from seed. Needless to say, I'm rather attached to the plant. By the time I noticed, he (or she) had stripped most of the leaves and nibbled every tomato. Thankfully, I held back. "Oh what the hell," I thought. "Just go for it.

I'm loving that one small seed I planted many months ago helped such a creature fly away. I'm on the lookout for the swallowtail. I've been seeing several around the okra.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sweet Gum Tree Takes Charge: Part Two

Everyone keeps telling me how lucky we are that the Sweet Gum feel on the courtyard roof instead of our bedroom. And yes, of course, this is true. But here's the dark side of the tale: The first photo is my vegetable

garden before the crane showed up. The second photo is the vegetable garden after the crane showed up. The only route to the Sweet Gum was through the vegetable bed.

This was heartbreaking for me, as I grew this garden from seed and was particularly enamored with my heirloom lemon cucumbers and pole beans which I've nurtured along since April. I tried to transplant them, but of course, since most vegetables are like weeds, they refused. Pull them up, and they are headed for the compost.

And by the way, the Sweet Gum was 10 stories high (as in 100 feet) not five stories high. Clearly, I have no idea how huge my trees are, even though I've been looking at them for 16 years.

Happily, the okra plants and pepper plants did transplant remarkably well. And, on the plus side, I'm thinking how nice it will be to plant a fall garden on time. I can taste the kale and turnip greens.

Meanwhile, the skyline canopy of our backyard trees is quite different with more evening sun and a nicer view of our magnolia tree. This means more sun in the courtyard, which is too hot in the summer but beautiful in the fall. And so it goes.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sweet Gum Tree Takes Charge

There is a Sweet Gum tree that stands about three feet away from my bedroom wall: majestic, probably five stores tall, a lovely complement to the red oak next door, and a royal pain in the ass, because it drops hundreds and hundreds of prickly balls that are anything but sweet. I bitch about those balls constantly and worry that the tree will one day fall into my house. Today, the tree came down.

I was in my bedroom when I heard about 10 seconds of that sounded at first like gun shots and then, I thought, "Is that a firecracker?" At that moment, I was terrified and ran down the hall, herding Grif with me. By the time I got to the middle of the house, Tony was aghast, looking into the backyard and saying, "Oh my God, a tree just fell on the house.

Yes, indeed.

Half of the tree fell on the roof of our courtyard, but as my neighbor Lil pointed out, "It hit the best possible place." The tree missed the main part of the house, and the fabulous steel posts that hold up the courtyard roof kept the tree from smashing into our beautiful serpentine brick wall. Still, it's a mess.

The tree removal crew arrives at 7 a.m. tomorrow, but Jarred from Woodland Trees had this bit of info: He blamed the ivy that had wrapped it's way up the tree. "The ivy adds a tremendous amount of weight to the tree," he said. "I see this at least three times a week."

So there you have it. Ivy is bad. Don't let it grow on anything.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Watermelon Update

After I posted the first picture of my new watermelon, Susan said she couldn't see the fruit. Well, Susan: Check out this photo! The melon seems to grow two inches a day. Griff and I admire it every morning before coffee, and it's smiles all around.

The cherry tomatoes are also coming on strong, and the lemon cucumbers which I grew from seed have finally sprouted a little one. I've had tons of blossoms all summer, but until this week, no cukes.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In praise of patience.

I've been checking my monster watermelon vine for weeks now, hunting among the leaves for the first sign of fruit. (The vine is ready to take over the street!) This week has been the hottest of the summer, and the rest of my vegetable has given up. But not the watermelon vine.

I'm happy to report that I found the first melon, bursting out of it's bright yellow flower. I cushioned the tiny fruit with pine needles and watered the plant in the morning and the afternoon. I'm thinking watermelons might be the only plants in Memphis that is happy to be hot.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Finally! Picking tomatoes

Now come on! Aren't these little tomatoes just beautiful? They are my first tomato picks of the summer, and I'm particularly proud of these beauties

because I grew the plants from seed. They called "Sugar Cherry" from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, a variety appreciated for its intense flavor and sweetness. I ate mine whole with a sprinkle of kosher salt: delicious!

This next photo is our first okra blossom, my favorite vegetable to grow because the flowers are so beautiful and the okra pods appear overnight and are ready to pick in a day or two. The bees also love okra. Look closely and you can see a bee nestled inside the bloom.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Project No. 1: Birdbath Resurrected

The heat in Memphis has been particularly brutal this summer, settling in a month early and staying in the triple digits for days on end. Even for me (I actually like to sweat), the heat has stymied the hard yard work as keeping the beds watered is an ongoing and endless task.

To compensate, I'm focusing on small garden projects that don't involve weeding. On Saturday, I scrubbed out empty clay pots and seed trays from the spring that I'd stacked on a piece of lawn furniture. Now the pots and the trays are stored neatly in my shed.

On Sunday, I resurrected my cooper birdbath, cleaning it and filling it with fresh water. I'd stopped filling the birdbath a few years ago when the West Nile virus made me paranoid about mosquitoes. Now I'm more worried about the birds dropping dead from the heat. Plus, I love the way it looks next to my Japanese maple.