Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Garden of Earthly Delights

This post is dedicated to our very intelligent and interesting friend Eli.

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Stan Brakhage.

"he chose to live on his mountain patch until the end of his days, capturing 'the eventuality of everyday living.' With a camera in hand, he set about transforming himself into 'a collector of light, 24 hours a day.'" -Karli Lukas

Mr. Brakhage is like a leaf, collecting light. When I first heard the name Mr. Brakhage, I immediatly associated him with a bract. Im glad I did. It all makes sense to me.

In botany, a bract is a modified or specialized leaf, from the axil of which a flower or flower- stalk arises. A bract may also be any leaf associated with an inflorescence. Usually bracts are green and resemble the other leaves. Some bracts, however, are brightly colored and serve the function of attracting pollinators, either in concert with or instead of the tepals. - wikipedia

Many bracts are infact commonly mistaken for petals. Here are some examples:




Friday, June 29, 2007

Urban Steali- I mean Foraging #1

I decided to do laundry today. And like any person with a boyfriend, I asked Ryan to help me carry stuff into the laundry room. That was my mistake #1. He noticed a little tree on the other side of the fence. It had peaches on it.

"Hey caroline, look!"
He ran away and later I spied him loitering around the wall. He had brought something to help him define the situation.

Moments later he disappeared and I was forced to burden the heavy laundry basket back to the apartment alone.

When I walked in the door, Ryan had already started making his contraption.

I would post up the directions on how to make an urban forager, but I don't think this particular contraption needs any kind of explaining. But I'll just tell you it's made out of a broom, a yard stick, a plastic bag and a paper grocery bag, and lots of masking tape. Oh, and plastic coat hangers.

Ryan finished quickly. He tried to move as quickly as he could when he saw I was equiped with a camera.

Look at him run.

I walked back to the laundry room and sure enough...

If you really want to know how Ryan built his contraption, here is a close up:

There will be more urban foraging in the future. Like this one, I will try to take good pictures. Ryan will be working on a google map with a lot of public edible plants so you can forage for yourself.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Our Battle with the Caterpillars is Finally Paying Off. Time to Celebrate Wth Food.

Organic Pesticides

Seems like we got things under control. We now know what to look for. The baby caterpillars like to hide in a shroud of silk oftimes in the small buds of young leaves. I have vigilently been scouring these buds with q-tips. I don't know how long it will take until I crack and start using pesticides.

There are some options, however. Ryan and I visited the local nursery which we strongly recommend to all local gardeners. If you are not from Riverside, I assure you, there will be at least one small mom-and-pop near you. Just search for them. Here is the address of our favorite gardening resource:

Parkview Nursery #1
3841 Jackson Street
Riverside, CA 92503
(951) 351-6900

Not only were the employees hip in their straw hats with the beaded neck strap, they were extremely helpful, knowledgeble, and friendly. They even told us to bring samples of our plighted plants so they could pin-point what the problems were.

Oh, but back to pesticides.

Parkview Nursey offers a pesticide solution for those who are wary of synthetic and harmful chemicals. Pharm Solutions Inc. provides an eco-friendly insect repeller using ingreedients such as peppermint oils, garlic oils, cinnamon, and other natural home-made remedies.

These bottles cost about $15 a pop- a little too much for us, but maybe not for you. The man at Parkview told us it works well and is true to its creed, however I tried to do a little digging myself. Unfortunately this product is still pretty new, and I have yet to find some reviews other than on the product's marketing site. Take a look for yourself. Pharm Soulutions Inc.

If you are like us, and would like to make your own remedy, these insect repellers work because of the waxy oils. Some people just mix soap and water into a solution to spray the plants. The waxy coat halts the mastication of little caterpillars and aphids. The cinamon, garlic, peppermint, etc oils leave a nasty taste in the critter's mouths. And there you have it. Simple solution. But remember: if you're in a warm climate like we are, put off the spraying until the strongest heat of the day is over. Avoid spraying in the morning. These oils will bake your leaves and your plants will perish with the bugs.


After weeks of grueling hand picking, It seems the caterpillars are letting up. Here is our first cherry tomato.

and here is our first eggplant flower. look how purple it is.
doesn't it look like a vampire squid?

eggplant flower

vampire squid

Recipe #1: Meditarrean 'Malgamation


Cucumbers Garbanzo Beans Green Onions
Romaine Hearts Pita Bread Veggie Soy Dogs
BowTie Pasta Extra Virgen Olive Oil Balsamic Vinegar

Also: Sugar, Cayenne Peper, Salt, Black Peper to taste.

Step 1-
Salad: Cut up tomatoes and cucumbers. Place in bowl and put a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Put a pinch of brown sugar in there and mix it good. By pinch, I mean a very- very small amount. Pour in your garbanzoes and spice up (salt, peper, cayenne) for taste. If you are using canned garbanzoes, these are usually a little salty, so taste it before you put more salt.
Step 2-
Pasta: Boil Pasta. Boil sliced Soy Dogs. Dice up the bell pepers and slice green onions. Once the pasta is done, drain and drizzle in olive oil. Dump the sliced dogs on top and pour on the bell peppers and green onions.
Step 3-
Put it together: Get two romain leaves, put them on a plate, and spoon some salad in one, and some pasta on the other. Get pita bread and enjoy!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Faces of Evil

These little catapillars are so fast. This is why the pictures are so blurry. Also because our digital camera is sucky.

These catapillars are moth larvae. They eat up to 100 times their body weight in a single day. These little critters have decimated our zucchini and mint. So far, we have found 2 cacooning pupae wrapped up in leaves and silk. If if weren't for their voracious appetite, I'd consider them cute.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Farewell Bells

So it looks as though our bell peppers are suffering an unbearable heartbreak, scorned by the Riverside sun, shriveling up and dying.

Ryan and I have been trying to save them. We have been talking about them at dinner time the way parents talk about their children who are on drugs or in rehab: What we did wrong, Should we have spend more time with them, Was it too early to have them leave our kitchen sill? Should we have paid more attention to them? And then we had it. Perhaps it was the environment they were raised in.

Seriously. Their environment. Remember the box we had built? Ryan had made a bad crib for our babies. And we'd like to share this mistake so you don't make the same ones.

We bought our wood from Home Depot. We used fencing wood that was pre-treated. Now mind you, the squash is doing fine, the eggplant a little shakey. Then i noticed something. The bell peppers are in the north-east corner of the box. The sun never touches that side. The chemicals in this box had not yet been cured by the sun and the dampness of the soil had seeped into the poor little roots of our precious green bells. And there you have it.

Look to the far left side of the box. Here is the bell peppers as a young happy child. This is when Ryan and I dreamed up all the happy possibilities- salad, sandwich, green curry, etc. Note the healthy leaves and great posture.

Look at the young happy fruit. Ryan and I were on the edges of our chairs, ready to break out the champagne and cigars. Saliva was pumping all thoughout our mouths.

but look. Now the fruit is shriveling and pouchy. The bell is soft and mushy. :(

You can also see the worm holes the catapillars have made on the leaves. This is going to be a hard summer.

Meanwhile on the other side of our garden...

We are planning a cucumber party soon. More details TBA.

<3 <3 <3

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Build A Box! Grow Patio Veggies!

So you want to grow veggies? Good idea! You don't have a yard? Who cares, we don't!(have a yard)

You can grow veggies outside on your patio. By building a raised bed, you can grow plants on your fire escape, on your air conditioner box, or even attatch brackets to hang from your bathroom window.

The Raised Bed

These boxes are referred to as "raised beds" because they are garden beds above the ground.

The good thing about growing in a raised bed is that it does have some degree of mobility in the event that you need to move.

So lets begin. This is what you will need:

Now you are ready to hammer it all together. Make sure you hammer enough nails to reinforce the sides. Don't forget, the contents of this box will be moist. This could lead to wood warping.

You will need two shorter panels and three longer panels.

And there you have it. This sort of raised bed is ideal for growing any number of vegetables, and even some fruits. Strawberries, cucumbers, or zuchini would all do well in a raised bed. Just make sure not to overcrowd your plants. We are budgeting space here, but at least give them enough room to flourish in moderation. You can plant multiple varieties of vegetables in a single bed if you like, but it would be a good idea to do some research as to which plants are complimentary and which aren't. If two plants in the same bed require the same kinds of nutrients from the soil, then neither will do well.

If you're feeling less industrious, there are plenty of other preconstructed containers in which you can grow vegetables, like football helmets or the bed of some dude's totally sweet lifted monster truck, but making your own is just more fun. If you do use some pre-existing container, make sure that it's not water tight. That means you'll have to drill a hole in your helmet, but the tomato plant to whom you've just given a new home will repay you in kind.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Where To Get Your Plants: Good Indoor Plants for Lazy Irresponsible Murderers.

There are many different places to get your plants. Often the most easily accesible are mega chain nuseries like you might find at Wal-Mart, but there are a bevy of local growers whose entire businesses are dedicated solely to the art of raising plants. These local growers will inevitably have superior product, be more knowledgable about their trade and are generally more friendly. Supporting your local businesses is good for your local economy, your community, and you. A budding budget guerilla gardener might do well to scout out public spaces where easily accessible plants can be tastefully uprooted and transplanted, or borrowed from to begin building their own garden.

Be weary of supermarkets and drugstores. Many of the plants they wish to sell you are quick flowering ephemera. These angiosperms (flowering plants) will only last you a springtime; summertime if you're lucky. These types include pansies and other "ColorSpot" plants. For a more long lasting joy, look for the green foliage such as ferns, tropical plants like those ivy that can grow long tentacles you can drape on your window sills.

This plant is commonly seen plainly labeled as tropical plant in grocery stores, hardware stores, and can be found in many college dwelling apartments. They can also be seen in dentist waiting rooms, small torta restaurants, and on the desks of many underpaid receptionists. Do not fear these mundane plants. They are fast growing, hard to kill, and can be propagated in the blink of an eye. Sure they don't produce bi-sexual conspicularities (flowers with showy petals)- but do not judge, for they are faithful and loyal housepets to the busiest, the laziest, and the most irresponsible of human beings.

Hedera Helix
This plant is also commonly labeled without care. It is Hedera (Ivy) and is commonly known as English Ivy. This specific specimen is a form of Hedera Helix which just means the leaves are smaller and are for "decorative purposes". This one is a slow grower and can be left alone in the dark, unwatered for a month. Although a little more attention needing then the above, it will suit the novice plant keeper just fine.

Aeonium can be found anywhere. Look to universities, specifically in the back of humanity libraries. All you have to do is cut a stem attached to a fine looking rosette. Take her home and place her in a vase of water. Once the roots emerge, plant her in a pot with well drain-able soil. If all you have is standard potting mix, try to mix 1 part sand with 3 parts potting soil. Be sure to put a blockage over the drain hole. A rock or a piece of scrap wood works well. Fat toy soldiers work better.
This succulent also comes in a nice dark purple shade. Look around and see what you can find. Look for its fleshy leaves and thick stem. Once this succulent is well established, Aeonium will branch off with new rosettes and will either self propagate or just grow new branches.

If you must buy from a supermarket chain try to buy from Trader Joes. There are many little decorative potted succulents displayed right outside the entrance. Just remember to check if these desert friends have good draining pots. If they don't, you can always re-pot them later.

Haworthia Fasciata is also known as Zebra Plant or Zebra Aloe. I got my plant at Trader Joes and re-potted it in a nice clay pot that drains well. When in full sun, this plant will be happy.

Edit: It has been brought to my attention that "conspicularities" is not a word. The person who pointed it out to me commented that it sounds like "peculiarities". Let me justify my word choice:

He is correct. It is a joining of two words- conspicuous and peculiarities. The fact that some plants flower (angiosperms) is quite a feat. Flowers are present after millions of years of painstaking evolution. The mere fact that plants have evolved reproductive organs (some female, some male, some both) is quite amazing, and justifies a birth of a new word.

Friday, June 1, 2007


This blog aims to record the trials and errors of trying to grow a vegetable garden with limited space and resources. In this blog, we hope to share our experiences with gardening. However, this is no gardening blog for the housewives with contracted laborers. This is for the poor and hungry, who wish to achieve a somewhat self-sustainable vegetable garden with little space and little money.

We are interested in low waste, high productivity, and a healthy environment using no pesticides.

Disclaimer: like our garden this blog is entirely organic and can mutate and evolve into whatever it becomes.