Monday, December 8, 2008

Butterflies and Spiders

All season I've been watching a green spider that's been hanging out in the basil. I've learned to appreciate spiders, so I didn't bother her. A few weeks back I noticed a nest and hundreds of baby spiders that had hatched. Here's some cool pics I took. You can even see momma watching over her babies.

I also saw this great butterfly in the zinnias last weekend. Unfortunately, I won't be seeing any more anytime soon, since the cold weather killed off the last of the zinnias.

Monday, December 1, 2008

First Summer Veggies - What I Learned

This was my first year with a spring/summer/fall garden. I was able to harvest tomatoes, peppers, onions, herbs, cantaloupe, and watermelon, but not quite the bounty that I was hoping for. I did learn quite a few lessons along the way.


1. The seaweed spray and "buds and blooms" really seem to work well. I need to be much more diligent about using them.

2. The raised beds worked well and at 10-12" seemed to be deep enough.

3. Sugar ants are a sign of aphids. I found about 100 sugar ants on one of my pepper plants. At first I ignored it, but observed that it was odd. A few days later I looked closer and found the plant covered in aphids. A quick trip to The Natural Gardener for some all natural insecticide quickly took care of the problem.

4. Plants being cut at the base, looking as if they were cut with scissors is a sign of a cutworm. This looks like a friendly little caterpillar, but only comes out at night to destroy your lovely plants. In my case, it was the chives. I finally found this guy at dusk, when he was just making his way above ground. If you want to find them during the day, you just have to dig down an inch or two around the base of the plant.

5. Plant more of everything!


1. Due to the not too brutally hot weather, the season lasted from March through December. Due to this fact, the typical small cages will not cut it. The cage would have been fine had it been spring only, but by the time the second round came, the tomato plants had outgrown their cages, and were falling over. I wasn't able to get a late summer harvest and had to end up pulling them.

2. The tomato plants grow much larger than you can imagine. I originally planted two plants per cage, and they quickly ran out of room. Next year, one large cage per plant.

3. Marigolds do work. I had no problem with tomato horn worms all spring, and this may have been due to the abundance of marigolds I planted all around them. During the heat of the summer, the marigolds died off. When the late summer tomatoes grew in, with no marigolds to accompany them, I found four huge horn worms.

4. I don't care for the two types I planted. One was the Black Big Tex. The other was the Beefeater. I also grew romas, which did really well and tasted incredible. I found that I really like the Brandywines that I got from the farmers' market, that I definitely want to try next year.

5. I did get some cracks in the tomatoes during the warmer months. The research I found suggested that this was due to the tomatoes getting too dry and then getting a ton of water. I need to regulate this better next year. I may look into some sort of drip system.


1. Plant more! I planted  9 plants, which was nowhere near enough. I need at least twice as many next year.

2. The spanish spice did the best of any variety and have a great flavor.

3. The purple beauty variety is too small for my liking. The peppers were about 2 inches tall. The red beauty and jupiter bells were perfect. 


1. Pumpkins are squash, yes it seems obvious now :) and therefore affected by the squash vine borer. If I want to try these, or any squash, next year I will need to take better precautions.


1. It seems marjoram prefers the cooler weather. I didn't get much production out of this herb all summer, but it has really taken off in November. 

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Not sure the name, but loves the passion flower vines

Giant Swallowtail

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Trip to Santa Fe

We took a road trip to Roswell, Santa Fe, and Taos, NM this summer. I thought I'd share a few photos. I threw in a few not nature related photos as well that I thought were pretty cool.

Very cool lamp post in downtown Roswell.

Outside of the UFO Museum in Roswell, NM.

Bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge. We walked across this bridge during high winds. There was a very narrow walking path. I only made it a third of the way, but my mom and DH made it all the way to the middle. 

Rio Grande Gorge outside of Taos, NM

A view down into the gorge. The gorge is 800 ft. down.


This was my first view of hollyhocks. They are a beautiful flower. I plan on looking into how they do here.

Front view of San Francisco de Asis Mission in Ranchos de Taos, NM. 

Rear view of San Francisco de Asis. We went to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum the day before and were able to see not only her painting of this awesome mission, but the original photo from Ansel Adams as well. 

The family.

Aspen w/ my parents
Scenic stop on the drive from Santa Fe to Taos.

Cool plant on the drive between Santa Fe and Taos. Looks like some sort of Yucca.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Zilker Botanical Garden

My mother-in-law came in town and we took our first trip to Zilker Botanical Garden. It had rained a bit in the morning, so when we arrived we had the entire garden to ourselves. It was a little humid, but beautiful. I've posted a few pictures here, see my album page to view the rest.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fire Ants - Trip to The Natural Gardener

I was looking at my cute little tomatoes today and discovered that those pesky fire have set up camp right under my tomato plants. I did some research online and found two good solutions. One is diatomaceous eath (DE) which is a powder. The other is a liquid made of compost tea, orange oil and molasses. My plan is to go to the natural gardener this weekend and get their opinion. While I’m there I am also going to talk to them about some more bugs that are destroying my roses and how to keep bugs away from the figs. I know it’s a bit premature, seeing how small fig stick is presently, but my friend Joe wanted me to find out for him as well.  

As always the natural gardener was a wealth of knowledge. I brought my list of questions and a very nice guy, wish I had gotten his name, had an answer for everything.

Fire Ants - Nemotodes. He said these will not only take care of the fire ants, but other destructive pests as well. He said the nemotodes will be a great addition to the vegetable garden.

 Roses - I forgot my bug that I had collected to bring with me, but it didn’t seem to matter much. He gave me Safer brand yard and garden insect killer. It is completely organic and they said it will take care of thrips and whatever other bugs I may be seeing. Since I forgot to being the bug with me I looked it up on It appears that these bugs are katydids. 

Figs - First of all he said that figs are native to the area, so they have lots of natural defenses. If this isn’t enough, the best solution is garlic spray. He said take an entire bulb of garlic, break up the cloves to get them reacting and put them in water overnight. He said about a bulb per spray bottle is good. The next day spray all over the tree. I asked if this would create a garlic taste in the figs and he said as long as I wash them off before eating there won’t be a problem.

Peppers / Liquid Seaweed - I asked him if it was normal for me to see tomatoes but no peppers since I planted them at the same time. He is explained how the root systems are different and it does take peppers longer. We also went into a discussion on watering since I have been juggling between yellow leaves, due to overwatering, and losing flowers due to underwating. He gave me liquid seaweed which keeps the plants from dropping flowers. I purchased an ortho dial & spray which will work for the liquid seaweed and the nemotodes.

While I was there I also bagged 3 bags of mulch to supplement the mulch in my veggie garden as well as my daughter’s garden in the back yard. I’m always happy when leaving the natural gardener, even if my wallet is a bit lighter.