garden · Uncategorized

My Backyard Wildlife Camera

Our nighttime visitor, the rat

For my birthday last July, I got a wildlife trail camera. I wanted to see what critters were eating my pumpkins at night, and maybe try to get some cute bird pictures by putting it into a bird feeder or something. Even though I’ve had it awhile, I’ve only recently started playing with it.

The first visitor I caught on camera was maybe a little disappointing, but probably shouldn’t be surprising considering I live in an urban area (our tiny patio backs up to a shopping center, not wilderness after all). It’s a rat. I had thought maybe it would be an opossum, since we spotted one once out there, but no. I don’t know if this is what was eating my pumpkins last year, or my tomato recently, but it’s a suspect for sure.

I don’t think we will have a serious rat problem, because the next night, I tried out the video setting and it caught a different nocturnal visitor: (Note, WordPress won’t let me upload the video without paying them more money, so this is just a still from the video.)

a kitty visitor

I think it’s probably safe to say this is the most likely suspect regarding the destruction of my catnip plant last year. But I’ll always forgive the cute floof. (And I was able to save the plant, so there’s that.)

I was disappointed in the lack of bird visitors, or at least those the camera was catching. Then yesterday I got this photo:

Guess that bird! (Maybe pigeon?)

Not a great view, but at least verifies what we already knew – that birds do visit the yard. Maybe a pigeon? Hard to figure out size from this view. The beak looks not quite right for a pigeon. So I think my next experiment will be to put some seed out on the table and try to attract some birdy visitors.

For anyone interested, this a Wosports Trail Camera. Not too expensive and so far, easy to use. The settings are to take 1 photo when motion is detected, take a burst of 3 photos, or take a video and you can set the length of time.

garden

I have grown Eggplants!

I have grown Eggplants!

It might be difficult to see them all in the photo, but there are 4 baby eggplants growing here. I was so excited when I saw them (I only saw 3 at first), I told my husband, “I have 3 baby eggplants growing on my eggplant plant!”

He said I made his brain throw an error code.

So naturally, when I found there were really 4, I had to tell him, “I was wrong about the 3 eggplants on my eggplant plant, there are really 4 baby eggplants on my eggplant plant.”

Since I’m still growing a good amount of nice tomatoes, I’m thinking of making Ratatouille when these are ready. I tried eggplant parmesan once and it didn’t turn out, so I’m nervous to try that again.

garden

The Frist Successful Avocado Sprout

Successful Avocado Sprout (please ignore the dead plant in the window behind it)

For probably more than 6 months I had an avocado seed that had sort-of-kind-of sprouted sitting in this window. The stem part of the sprout had withered and even gone a little white, like maybe with mold? But the root just kept growing and getting more branches, so I thought it might still make a comeback. I finally gave up on it though, and cleaned everything out to try again with a new avocado pit.

One thing I think I did wrong with all the previous pits was let them sit around awhile first. I don’t know where I got the idea I needed to do that? Maybe I read they should be washed and dried, so I let them sit out. I thin I also read that you need to peel that dark brown skin off, and that was way easier to do if it was dried out a little so the skin popped away from the meat inside somewhat.

But that was all hooey, I think now. I looked up the process again, and this new article said that freshness is very important to success. So my next pit, I gave a brief rinse to, didn’t even gat all the avocado off of it, and put it in my little floaty avocado sprouting boat (I like it better than the toothpick method because I would always break the toothpicks and nothing ever grew for me. That seed sprouted within days. It had a good stem of a few inches ling and two tiny leaves when we left for a 4 day road trip. When we came home, it looked like this. I was floored. I have it propped up against the vase in the photo because it was too tall and heavy and kept falling over.

I had to look up what to do next because I never made it this far before. I found several recipes that agreed with each other about the right types of soil to combine to move it into a pot. I took the lazy route and just bought a packed soil that said it was for avocados and the ingredients matched the recipes I’d found. My proud sprout is now in soil outside just below this kitchen window where it can get a little more sun but still be fairly sheltered. And I have a new seed in the boat.

Here’s hoping everything keeps on growing!

P.S. I read a bunch of avocado growing articles and didn’t save them all, but this is a good intro one, and has many other helpful links: https://californiaavocado.com/how-to/how-to-grow-your-own-avocado-tree/

garden

As the Garden Continues to Grow

Baby Cantaloupe

While the garden started out rough, and many seeds never came up, and many small seedlings didn’t thrive, now that what’s left is well established, things seem to be goin well. I am very excited about these cantaloupe. I’ve tried watermelons in the past, but have never had much luck. Maybe they don’t do well in containers; maybe I just don’t have the skill to grow them. Either way I usually ended up with one or two comically tiny golf ball sized melons and that was that. I thought cantaloupe are smaller, maybe they would do better, and so far so good. These are a little bigger than my hand and have continued to grow since I took the photo a few days ago.

I also cut down the larges of the mammoth sunflowers. I thought birds were eating the seeds, which I was fine with, but then I figured out they were just falling out, and I didn’t want them going to waste. My research instructed me to lay the head out a couple days to let the seeds dry. Tomorrow we will attempt to roast them. I suspect at least a couple of the other flowers will need to come down soon as well.

First harvested Mammoth Sunflower. Many outer seeds have fallen out.
garden

Mammoth Sunflowers are pretty big actually

I’m excited to see the flowers these beauties produce, but instead they just keep getting taller and taller. For reference, that fence is about 5′ 9 or 10″ tall. So I put the biggest sunflower at about 8′ right now. I just decided to look up how big they get (maybe should have done that before planting, but let’s be honest, I would have planted them anyway). They average 9 to 10′.

Considering how chewed up they got when they were but wee little sprouts, I think they have come a long, impressive way. You can see in the photo how bad those early, lower leaves are almost completely eaten. When I inspected the leaves, however, I never could see any pests. Several times I’ve startled away some small grey and yellow birds from the sunflowers, and since they showed up the leaves have been getting less and less holes. I assume the birds are eating whatever had been eating the leaves. I haven’t been able to identify the type of bird because they take off so fast, but if they also eat seeds, they are welcome to share the sunflower seeds for all their help.

One of the fun things the kids and I have been watching with these is the way they ‘turn’ to follow the sun, even though they don’t have flowers yet. The top of the plants still tilt toward the sun as it moves throughout the day.

garden

The Unexpected Pumpkins

Tomato plant with unexpected pumpkin sprouts

So, this (in above picture) happened a few days ago. My first thought was that maybe it was zucchini from the compost. Then my husband pointed out it was probably pumpkin, and I realized he was right.

What happened:

We didn’t make jack-o-lanterns last year because of Covid. One of the two years before that we bought pumpkins, but never got around to actually carving them. The kids might have painted them, I don’t really remember. Either way, we set them next to the house in a small strip of rocks and dirt about a foot and a half wide that runs between the house and the sidewalk up to the front door. That area had at one time been covered with decorative rocks but over time they had thinned out and it was part rocks, part dirt.

Then we just left pumpkins sitting there. then they started decaying and we thought, “We should throw those out.” But didn’t do it right then. As you can imagine, it didn’t get better over time. A week later we were deliberately leaving it alone because it was a gooey mess no one wanted to touch, and over more time it was basically dirt and seeds. And it stayed that way. For years. Until I decided to use some of the ground to plant things in, cleaning up the rocks and putting down new potting soil. I didn’t bother to pick up all of the many many dozens of seeds because they had been sitting out in the sun and rain and dirt for years. Surely, if they were going to grow they would have already done so, yes? Apparently no.

A week or two after planting a little tomato seedling there, the above picture happened. Yesterday I dug the sprouts up and moved them into little pots. There were even more sprouts under the soil that had small yellow leaves and hadn’t made it to the surface (I’d added many inches of soil on top of them), so I repotted them too. I moved one a little further down past the tomato plant to an open area, and a couple over to the space where I had hoped to grow grapes. The dormant grape stick has been there over two months now with no sign of life so we are pretty well given up on it now. Any of the seedlings in the post that survives my transplanting process I will find good homes for.

In other gardening news, the sunflowers are growing amazingly well, and I can’t wait to see flowers:

Mammoth sunflowers growing! (and a dormant grape vine that isn’t).
garden

I now know – It’s Cauliflower

Cauliflower from my garden

So at least one of the mystery plants in my garden has declared itself in a way I understand. It have three cauliflower plants, which means, have no broccoli. Kinda bummed because i like broccoli better, but I’m also super excited to see this happening. I’ve looked up a bunch of explanations of how to know when to harvest, so I hope I’m ready to make the right call on that when the time comes.

I checked my garden journal, and I planted these seeds on October 29th, so that’s how long it took from seed to now (not quite harvest time, but soon).

More growth has also make me more confident that the mystery herb is in fact lemon balm. I need some more of my other tea herbs to get bigger so I can make myself a tea blend. That will be fun.

And while I was briefly afraid my blueberry plant was dying this past winter, I think it’s actually okay. Not much new leaf growth, (a very little, but not much) but it is making flowers like a powerhouse right now.

Blueberry flowers in my garden

Humm. . . . blueberries could be part of my tea too. . . .

garden

Lessons from My Container Garden

What I think is either broccoli or cauliflower

The number one lesson I have learned the past couple of months in my garden is to label my seed trays. I figured I was only planting a few different things, and I’d be able to tell what they were when they sprouted, so it was fine.

Narrator: It was not

I now have several nice little seedlings that I can’t identify. And I have bigger plants from earlier, like those pictured above, that I STILL can’t identify. I planted both broccoli and cauliflower. When I google what the plants should look like, they look pretty much the same. So I guess until these start to flower, I won’t know which I have. Maybe I have both? that would be cool, but I doubt it. The plants all look identical and I’d expect at least a little variation if they were different.

For a month or so I thought I had several mint plants coming along nicely from seed. Now that they’re a little bigger, I think I have no mint plants, and in fact I have several sage seedlings. They smell much more like sage than mint to me anyway. That’s great. I’ve never been able to keep my sage alive when I bought a plant from the home improvement store, so that’s why I thought these were mint. I read that mint is super easy to grow. Perhaps sage just likes it better outside than in my kitchen window? Either way, I now need to try again to get some mint started.

What I am 90% sure is a sage seedling

I did luck out that both my spinach and kale came up and they look nothing alike, so I know which is which. So maybe I can get away with no labels as long as it’s a plant I know I can identify and I have grown it before. Everything else – I must learn to label.

Spinach and kale

For Christmas, my daughter got me a set of herbal tea seeds, and – you guessed it – I planted a bunch without labeling them. Most are still super tiny and I’m (perhaps mistakenly) optimistic I will eventually be able to identify them when they get some more leaves in. However, the one below is nice and big now and I don’t know what it is. It doesn’t look like the photo on any of my seed packets. It is closest to the lemon balm, so I’m going with that for now, but the leaves look rounder on my plant than the seed pack picture. If anyone is good at identifying plants, I wouldn’t mind your guesses in the comment section.

Maybe lemon balm, but who really knows? Mint? Marjoram? Ack.

Perhaps I am very carefully tending a weed for all I know.

crafty things · garden

Harvesting Cotton

My cotton is starting to pop open and be ready for harvesting. I’m such a proud little container gardener! I was looking something up about cotton, and learned that these five-sectioned boils are less common than the four section ones. So I had to check my plant, I found one boil with four, but it looks like most of mine will be five. Maybe some varieties have five more often? I wonder if there is a reason. Something more to research I guess!

I spent a chunk of time picking the seeds out of this boil, and that was more work than I expected. I already have more seeds now from one boil than I bought to start with. I have a nice handful of fluffy cotton now as well. I want to try and spin it, but my understanding is it is harder to spin than wool due to it’s shorter fibers, and my wheel needs some love before it will be operational, so I ordered a spindle called a tahkli cotton spinning spindle to try out as well.

I’m nervous about messing up and ruining my pretty cotton, but I’ll need to get over that because the only way to learn is to try, and mistakes are likely. I can always grow more, and in fact, I have at least a dozen more boils out there on my cotton plant that haven’t opened yet. Still, if any experienced cotton spinners are out there, I’m open to advice!

garden

Garden: before and after

The garden: before

I’m not sure how much you can really appreciate from the pictures, but since I mentioned how much work I’d done in my back garden area in my last post, I thought I’d try to share this. Looking through my camera roll for something else, I found that I had actually taken a picture early on in my cleaning up out back. This wasn’t the very worst of it, but almost. Mostly, I hope it shows how much those vines had taken over and were even smothering the big rose bushes to some degree.

The garden: after

Now it is a nice place to spend time, and I’m starting to get the occasional ripe tomato or bell pepper. I just moved some edamame and zucchini seedlings out there yesterday. Here’s hoping the continue to do well – edamame is another thing I’ve tried a few times to grow and failed, but these look great so far. Maybe I had my time of year wrong before.