A gardening experiment

We’re experimenting with our basil this year. We eat a lot of pesto, and it usually costs something like $6 for a four ounce jar, so we’ve been growing our own. Homemade pesto is very inexpensive and any excess can be frozen too.

Basil tends to grow like a weed here, but I noticed that our plants have not been doing well so far this year. We have them in old kitty litter bins, to keep the dog from trampling them. It’s possible that the potting soil-dirt mix may just be played out, it’s been in the same bins for a few years now. So we’ve added some supplements to the bins to see which one helps the plants the most.

In this bin we have added some compost from our own compost bin. Decomposed fruit and vegetable peels and cores, grass clippings, leaves.

A commercial plant food. It’s a powder that is mixed with water.

Worm castings. We have a worm bin. C likes to say that he takes care of a thousand pets in addition to the dog. Possibly another post to come on that. The worms eat the same type of fruit and vegetable scraps that we have in the compost, they also eat paper, newspaper, and cardboard. We then gather up the finished castings.

And as a control, a bin with nothing added.

Each bin had about a quart of each supplement added to try to make sure each one is equal. Each one also receives about the same amount when we water them.

We’ll see what happens.

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Vegetable Garden ‘18

Last year we had a plot in our town’s community garden area. We have a small yard and what do have planted will be trampled by our dog anyway so the community garden is a good option. We had been on the waiting list for about two years, and I had not planned anything ahead of time when they assigned us our plot in late May. So we had to rush to get seedlings in the ground and we just were not able to get much done in time, so by the end of the season we ended up with just some carrots and a few stalks of basil.

Once you’re in the garden you are automatically renewed unless you cancel so this year we were determined to plan ahead! Here’s what the garden looks like at the beginning of the season.

We have a 20 x 40 plot, located where the pile of garden tools are in the photo. In the distance are a group of guys playing cricket!

Here’s what it looks like now.

Several plots are in the photo, ours is the three rows in the center. The enormous cabbage in the foreground is C’s contribution, part of a school project. Whoever grows the biggest cabbage in his grade wins! I forget what the winner gets, but he’s determined to win.

Here’s our Brussels sprouts and swiss chard.

Here’s our zucchini.

Results are already much better than last year. We’re going to have more zucchini than we can eat. We’re already using it for zucchini bread.

Caterpillar Update

It’s been a little over a week, and Mr. C’s Monarch caterpillars have more than doubled in size.  Here’s a photo from This past Thursday. 

As of this morning, they’re all in the process of creating cocoons, attaching themselves to either sticks that we added to rhe habitat, or directly to the bottom of the cardboard cover that we put on the habitat.  And by ‘habitat’ I mean a wire mesh tradh can with a piece of cardboard on top!  Next, they will then be transformed into Monarch butterflies. 

Here’s a photo of some of them on the cardboard, kind of creepy looking.  

I had to be careful not to disturb them so I could just lift the lid up a few inches to take the photo.  

When I first moved here, fifteen years ago, there would at least be a few Monarch’s around our stand of milk weed in the Fall, but I haven’t seen very many at all lately.  This year I haven’t seen any, except for the ones Mr C has.  Hopefully in the next few weeks, we’ll have some to let out to make their way down to Mexico.

First Pet

We have a lot of milkweed in the backyard. It can spread and take over areas quickly, so I used to pull it all out. Ms J told me that milkweed is the only thing that Monarch butterflies eat, so I stopped pulling it all out, letting most of it grow to maturity.

Here’s some milkweed mixed in with the flowers next to my neighbor’s garage. It’s the tall leafy plant in back of the purple flowers.


Mr C loves learning about plants, bugs, and animals, so for his birthday he received a milkweed plant in a box.  The plant was covered by a mesh netting in the box.


The netting was over the plant to protect the twenty or so Monarch caterpillars on the plant. The company that sends them out wants to raise awareness of the dwindling number of Monarchs, mostly due to loss of habitat caused by development and people pulling out milkweed. 

The only thing we could think of to put the plant in for a temporary habitat is this wire mesh trashcan!  We’re gathering branches from the milkweed in the backyard for them to eat.


Eventually the caterpillars will turn into Monarch butterflies, we’ll release them and hopefully they will mysteriously fly off to the one spot in Mexico where all Monarch butterflies migrate to.

We plan on getting Mr C a dog at some point, but for the next two or three weeks his first pet will be Monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Take a picture Dada!  he says.

Here is what one looks like on Day Two, already much bigger. 

Compost

This past Spring we bought a compost bin.  It’s about four feet tall, three feet wide.  Fill it up with any kind of plant material that you’d usually just throw away, such as apple cores, banana peels, grass clippings and leaves.   


And then, about six months later, you have some rich organic soil for the garden.   

Mystery Solved

Back in June, I wrote a post (here’s the link to it) about how our back yard has been regularly visited by some mystery animal that has been digging fairly large holes in the lawn.

One day last week, I was having trouble sleeping, so I went downstairs to make a sandwich.  It was about 2:00 am, and while making the sandwich I noticed some movement in the backyard. Taking a look out the window, I saw a slinky white and gray animal, which seemed to be about two feet long, very close to the ground, digging in the lawn.  In the darkness, it had an eerie ghostly look to it as it dug in the lawn.  It took me a few minutes to figure it out, but from the color and the distinctive long tail, I’m fairly certain that it was an opossum.   After about five minutes or so, it wandered away, under a bush and then probably under the fence.

Opossums dig in the dirt to look for grubs and any other bugs to eat.  They may hiss and bare their teeth, but they’re harmless overall.  I’ve never seen one in the wild, and I didn’t know that New Hampshire was anywhere near their range so I was surprised to see it.

A few years ago, a photo of a “Found Cat – Not Very Friendly” poster circulated on the internet.  The poster included a photo of an opossum in a cage, which the person who found had thought was a not very friendly cat.

It was too dark to get a photo, especially since I only had my smart phone with me which doesn’t take very good photos with low light anyway.  So if anyone doesn’t know what an Opossum looks like, here’s  a stand in from Mr. C’s hand puppet collection.

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Planet of the Heleniums

Planet of the Heleniums

In past years I would write a few posts about the garden, but not this year, I just haven’t been able to spend much time gardening this year.  Unfortunately, what has happened due to this lack of gardening time is that the clump of helenium that I planted about 15 years ago has taken over the garden.  Helenium is a perennial flower with medium sized daisy-like flowers.  They bloom for months and spread, spread, spread everywhere.

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There’s 30 or so other perennials in the garden, but you can’t see them, they’ve been crowded out by the heleniums.  I usually have a few more of these red lilies , but not this year.   The common name is sneezeweed.   Hmmm… this probably explains Mr. C’s frequent sneezing since they’ve started blooming.

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Doesn’t matter if it’s not a sunny area either, they can insert themselves everywhere.  They’re native to the area, so at least they’re not an invasive species.

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There’s three rose bushes in the picture below… somewhere.

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They’ve moved to the neighbor’s yard too.

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And down the street, about a block away, on the sidewalk.

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At least, I’ve seen a lot more birds in the yard this year, like orioles and finches,  which are not uncommon here but there has been a noticeable increase of these and other birds.  Also,  they look good in a bouquet.

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