Monday, October 25, 2010

A Small Break from the Rain

It has been raining and raining and raining for the last two weeks!! My goodness. And it's raining again today. BUT, at least it didn't rain over the weekend, which gave me a moment to actually enjoy the outdoors and run a 5K for charity.

Rain sucks, especially when you're a spoiled San Diegan like me that basks in near perfect weather most of the year. But here's what doesn't suck about rain:
- There's a drought in SoCal, so we can definitely use the water
- You can turn the sprinklers off and save on your water bill
- Your plants get a nice deep watering for the year (including all those blasted weeds)
- Your grass gets nice and tall!

Especially that last one...the grass being tall. Because it's been raining so much this month, the boy next door has not been over to mow the lawn, and it is as long as it's been since we moved into this house. Plus, all the brown patches have really greened up!! Look at it!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Vegetable Bounty

I've finally came to terms with the fact that I need to pick my vegetables. They've been sitting on the plants for a while now, and I've been hoping that they'd ripen even more, but I think that they have reached their peak. If I wait any longer, I won't be able to enjoy them. So today, I picked most of my bell peppers (including one mutant pepper), a few tomatoes, a cucumber, and a couple of okra. I'll probably bring some of these peppers to my mom tonight so she can make some of her awesome stuffed peppers.

Here's my tiny okra:

And a Mutant Pepper!! It's like a little one trying to emerge from the big one! Just like the mutant tomato in my last blog entry!

I'm so sad that summer is coming to an end. My garden will take a little rest soon, and it'll be time for focus on winter vegetables! Stay tuned!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Look at what I found in my garden today.

To the casual onlooker, this looks like an ordinary, lovely garden tomato.

By a closer look reveals-- EEK!


This reminds me of those stories of a baby absorbing its twin in the womb, except in this case, it looks like the twin is trying to emerge from it.

I have no idea how this happened, but I'm looking forward to eating it! :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Good Bugs vs Bad Bugs

Summer has suddenly decided to appear in San Diego (a little late, in my opinion) and bugs are rampant! Just this morning I went water my plants and found that my basil had been ALL eaten up overnight!!!

And the nerve of whatever it was that ate my plants to leave droppings all over the floor:

And then I found this hungry little guy in my flower bed...

Rookie Tip: A highly diluted soap solution will help get rid of aphids. My friend Rebecca also says that a cayenne pepper solution will work with garden pests.

However much to my delight, I also spotted my first praying mantis in my garden! YAY! I had bought a praying mantis egg sac months ago and wasn't sure if it ever hatched, but I guess it did! This one is about 1 inch long, so it's still a baby! I hope it helps with some of the pests in my garden...

Rookie Tip: Praying mantises will eat all sorts of bugs in your garden, but also know that they can eat the beneficial bugs as well. Regardless, they're fascinating to have in your garden!

Right now for me, I have some many non-beneficial insects in my garden like beetles, flies, aphids, and caterpillars, that I think this little one will have plenty to feed on. I just hope I don't accidentally throw him away when I'm pruning my garden!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Garden - 5 months later

Thought I'd give everyone a look at how my side garden looks 5 months after my baseline entry. To remind you all, here's how the Rookie Garden looked in March 2010:

With a lot of sweat, blood, and tears--- well, mostly sweat... and achy hands, it has since been cultivated to look as it does today. A few weeks ago, I covered the bare spots with wood chips, and it really finished the area up.

*ROOKIE TIP: Wood chips are great for your garden not only because they look nice, but they also help to retain moisture, prevent weeds from growing out of control and some types will deter deer (I think cedar wood chips help with that).

I'm so proud of how my garden looks today!!

From the other end:

Sorry the pics are fuzzy... took them with my phone camera. You can click on the picture to see a higher resolution version. I'll have to take some detailed before and after pictures to compare how everything looks now in relation to my very first blog entry.

I've really learned a lot in the last 6 months and continue to learn... Here are some pictures from other areas in my garden:

And look! Siamese cucumber twins!!! Can't wait to eat that one! =)

Thanks for visiting!!!

Friday, July 2, 2010


I got home today after a week of business travel. My hubby's been gracious enough to water my plants everyday while I've been gone, and I was so happy to see that my plants were doing really well when I got home. I went to check out my Italian squash plants and, HOLY MOLY! Here's what I found!!

These were more like Italian Stallion Squash!

I don't know what the hubby did, but WOW!!

Needless to say, we'll be eating lots of squash this weekend. :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Morning Hawk

I woke up this morning to a shrill cry in my garden. I went outside and found this wonderful creature in my palm tree!!

It's too bad it wasn't a sunnier day so I could get better pictures. I hope they little fella will catch some of the rats in our yard.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My $5 Compost Bin

I don't have nearly enough organic material from my garden and kitchen to create a giant compost heap, but I want to do my part in trying to reduce my carbon footprint (isn't that the cool thing to do nowadays?). I've always wanted a compost bin, but those fancy shmancy bins are too big for my yard, and frankly, too expensive. I started late last year with my first attempt at composting with a small plastic box (about 8 gallons). It served its purpose, and I could see the effects of cold composting, but I soon outgrew it.

Then I ran into this article online: which shows how to make a compost bin with a plastic bin! And to my delight, Big Lots was selling these plastic bins for $5 a piece! Here is the bin that I bought.

I more or less followed the instructions and drilled holes in the top, sides, and bottom of the bin.

Then I threw the compost from the little box that I had going already, and discovered that I now have tons of room for more organic material!

I added some cuttings from my garden this morning.

Cold composting takes a lot longer, but Mother Nature still finds her way to take care of things, regardless of how small the pile is!!

So, lesson of the day is: Composting can be nice and cheap, as it should be!! Go do your part today!

And with that, I leave you with a picture of my lazy dog. :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tonight, we shall have peas!

Sugar snap peas, that is! Freshly picked from my garden!

I think I'm going to give these guys a quick stir-fry and have them with some rice! YUM!!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The fruits-- or shall we say-- Vegetables of Summer

Well, well... how quickly Summer approaches us! And with Summer are the vegetable that are FINALLY starting to show up in my garden!!


ZUCCHINIS (Or are they called Italian Squash?)

Snap Beans!

And here's the beginning of a young cucumber!

I've been traveling a lot for work lately, and have found that my garden seems to make more progress while I'm gone for a few days. Maybe it's because I'm not going outside every 4 hours to see if anything's changed!! Hahaah!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Attack of the Ladybugs!

My last post was about aphids. I tried soapy water, and it seemed to mitigate them, but it also turned the leaves of my plants brown. Next plan up my sleeve: LADYBUGS!!!

I bought these ladybugs at the Armstrong Gardening Center in Carlsbad, CA. $8.99 for 1500 ladybugs! I walked around the entire store looking for them, only to find that they were placed in containers in the soda fridge! They come in this little pint-carton. If you weren't paying attention, you'd think this was ice cream, and you'd be in for a nice surprise! :)

The ladybugs are stored temporarily in the fridge because it slows down their movements, and I'm guessing makes them expend less energy, and hence won't die as quickly. When I got them home, I put them in my fridge as well, since it's recommended not to release them until early evening so they won't fly away immediately. Here the are in my fridge:

Once the sun went down, I went outside to release them. Here is my homemade video capturing all the fun!!

The next morning (yesterday) I went to check on them, and they were everywhere!! On the fence, on my plants, on the patio, in my shoes... overall a good thing since most of them were still there, but there was a bit of a "ladybug orgy" going on. Here's some "ladybug porn" for you sick-o's out there :P! (Sorry about the poor quality of the video)...

Hope they actually laid some eggs in my garden! A few more pictures.

Today, most of them seem to have flown off to other places. Guess that means I don't have that many bugs in my garden. I still see a few lingering around my pots and vegetables. I don't know if I would do this again unless I had a huge aphid infestation. But the nine bucks I spent was certainly worth a try, and was overall a fun experience.

Next: praying mantis egg sacks!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Eww! Gross!! Aphids in the Rookie Garden!

Plant them and they will come. Typically, I am hoping that "they" are the fruits, vegetables, and flowers that sprout from my garden that I so adore. But today, "they" are the bugs in my garden that are eating all my plants, and frankly just give me the willies!

I've been noticing that my tomatoes and bell pepper plants in my side yard have been exhibiting signs of damage. The tomato leaves are getting spotted, and there seems to be something eating up my bell pepper plants. Well, yesterday, a closer look revealed, YIKES! APHIDS and other strange tiny bugs!! I found these suckers on my tomato leaves:

Any ideas about what the heck this is:

On top of that, I've noticed these little blue bugs on my mint plant... in clusters.

In examining them closer, I realize that they're not little blue bugs, but dark green YIKES! APHIDS!!!

How many do you see? I counted 6 above, and 7 below...

Ugh... I'm getting goosebumps just looking at these pictures and thinking about them. I'm also getting itchy all over... they're so disgusting.

So I went online to see what I could do to control these things without pesticides I found this great article from the Golden Harvest Organics website:

Ants "farm" aphids often keeping them in their nest during winter, then bringing them out in spring and placing them on the host plant. The ants eat the honeydew the aphids produce and move them from plant to plant spreading any diseases that are present. The honeydew favors formation of a black fungus known as "sooty mold." Control of the ants may often solve the aphid problem. Aphids abound in warm moist environments and will attack almost anything, favoring succulent new growth.

Predators: Green lacewings, ladybugs and their respective larvae have a voracious appetite for aphids. Larvae from the syrphid fly also consume aphids. Hover flies and praying mantis feed on aphids.

Repellent plants: Anise, chives, coriander (cilantro), garlic, onions, petunias and radish. Nasturtiums act as a trap crop. Aphids definitely prefer yellow flowers.

  • Squashing a few aphids around the infested plants releases a chemical signal that makes the other aphids drop from the plants and leave.
  • To foil aphids: flatten a square of aluminum foil around the base of plants to bounce light on the undersides of leaves. This also helps the plants in giving them more light.
  • Try a barrier of powdered charcoal, calcium dust or bonemeal to keep them away from your plants.
  • Stinging Nettle Spray: Aphids & Thrips - Cover 1 quart nettles with water, cover and ferment for 3 weeks. Mix 1 part nettle tea with 7 parts water. Spray.
  • Spread out a barrier of tansy around the base of the plant to stop those ants.
  • Use a spray made from a tea of tomato or potato leaves and water.
  • Chop 12 or so tomato leaves and 1 chopped onion in 1/2 cup of of 70% isopropyl alcohol for a few minutes. Apply the mixture directly on aphids with a cue tip or paintbrush.
  • A forceful spray of water is often enough to knock the aphids off the plant and may discourage the ants, well sometimes.
  • Put a bright yellow plastic pan in a strategic spot in the garden. Fill it a third of the way full with water. Aphids are drawn to the yellow color, land on the water, sink and drown.
  • A soap spray can be used to strip them of their protective wax coating, dehydrating them. Mix 1 tablespoon of Castile soap to 1 gallon of water, spray.
  • Garlic oil spray can kill aphids and other soft bodied pests.
  • A dusting of diatomaceous earth is lethal to aphids. Wear a mask when using DE.
  • Teas made from elderberry or rhubarb leaves can act as a deterrent. Oxalic acid is the compound present in these plants that makes a spray effective. It is poisonous.
  • Place banana peels at the base of infested plant. The peels give them a shot of potassium too!
  • Also See: Treatments: Horseradish, elderberry and yarrow tea.
  • For wooly aphids on apple trees: grow the trailing type nasturtiums training them to wrap up and around the tree trunk to ward off these pests. Very attractive too! Note: nasturtiums will specifically attract the black aphid while repelling others.
Yesterday, I tried the soapy water and it seemed to help. I saw the aphids falling to the ground. I think I'll also try the banana peels and the yellow pan. I've always thought ladybugs are cool... maybe I'll get some of those...

Interesting about the ants farming aphids. I've noticed ants in my flowerbed, and I imagine they have something to do with this!!

I'll keep you all posted on how the Battle of the Aphids at Rookie Garden comes along...