According to the hummingbird migration maps, the Ruby-throated hummingbirds have been making their presence known throughout Michigan, thanks to all of the gorgeous flowers attracting them with their showy blooms.

Calling all bird enthusiasts, avid gardeners and outdoor photography buffs. If you haven’t already done so, its time to find a feeder, fill it with some homemade nectar and start watching!

You can help matters by placing your feeder near nectar bearing plants or trees. Some good choices include delphinium, columbine, hollyhock, honeysuckle, salvia, daylillies and canna lillies, but if you do a little research, you can find a favorite that works for you.

This fellow has taken it to a whole other level.  Something to aspire to, for sure:

If you’ve seen any of these amazing little creatures this season, please share!

The Infamous Bubble Dress

In a very interesting and brilliant move, Polaroid announced a new multi-year strategic partnership with Lady Gaga, singer/performance artist/ fashionista/ soon to be comic book star, and inspiration for Barbie doll clothing.

While serving as Polaroid’s new creative director for a specialty line of imaging products that will merge Polaroid’s instant film and digital-imaging capabilities, to be released in late 2010. Gaga will also be featured in their marketing campaign. In exchange, Polaroid will maintain a strong presence on the Fame Monster Tour.

Gaga said, “I am definitely a Polaroid camera girl.  I really believe in the lifestyle and injecting the things that I love into [this]. … For me, what I’m really excited about is bringing back the artistry and the nature of Polaroid…Lifestyle, music, art, fashion: I am so excited to extend myself behind the scenes as a designer, and to as my father puts it — finally, have a real job.” Gaga also shared that Polaroid won’t be selling cameras with her face on them. “I’m working on bringing the instant film camera back as part of the future,” she said.

Lady Gaga is the first artist to have the first five singles from her debut album shoot to Billboard’s top spot.  Kudos to the Gaga… and to Polaroid – if the innovation she provides Polaroid is anywhere near as intriguing, cool and lucrative as what she provides her fans through her songs, videos and avant-garde fashion choices, I am sure this partnership is bound to go platinum.

I wanted to report on how the garden is progressing thus far, specifically, on our tomato plant incident.  I’ll go over where things went wrong and why, and share what I have learned from it all, in the hopes that you can also learn from my experience.

Tomatoes

Let’s talk about our beloved little tomato plants.   After trying, unsuccessfully, to grow tomato plants from seed (I didn’t start early enough) I purchased and planted five small tomato plants in large  containers.  In those containers I used a mixture of topsoil, manure, perlite and peat moss, plus some Osmocote for good measure.    I also tried some new tips to prevent issues with water consistency and calcium depletion.

I found the below gardening video that instructs you on how to create a container garden, and it instructs you to place a baby diaper in the bottom of the container instead of the product Soil Moist. The diaper contains polymers that release the water over several days, keeping the moisture levels constant.  So, I took the advice, adding a diaper to the bottom of each container.

I also had a problem with blossom end rot in the container tomato plants last year – what happens in the container tomato plants is when you water them, and the water drains out, it takes the much needed calcium along with it, making the plants more susceptible to this  fungal disease.

Tomoatoes with blossom end rot

Tomoatoes with blossom end rot

A friend of mine told me that I could add a few Tums into the soil mixture.  She had done this in the past and it helped matters, so I did that as well., figuring it couldn’t really hurt, so why not? Since the containers are so large, I didn’t want to fill them entirely with the soil mixture, as that would have been quite costly, so another trick I used was to add a few water bottles to the bottom of the containers and I poured the soil mixture on top of them, filling the pots the rest of the way (you can also do this to heavy large ceramic pots, to make them less heavy in your container gardens).

Unfortunately, we had a late frost hit around late May, and the frost nearly demolished the tomatoes. They shriveled up, lost their leaves, turned yellow – it was a mess. But I nurtured them and babied them and they slowly but surely came back, sending tiny green shoots and leaves up to replace the frost damaged ones. Whew, crisis averted. Then, about a month or so later, we had torrential downpours for a good week. I was thinking, “Oh this is fantastic, they are getting their much needed water.”  Then, one evening my husband says, ” Something crazy is happening to your tomato plants.”  I turn to look and find what looks like Mount Vesuvius erupting out of each pot – or as the nice lady in the video said, “a floating garden”.  Apparently, thanks to all the rain, the stupid diapers expanded so much that they forced the soil, and plants along with it, up and nearly out of the pots. The only way I could rectify this was to lean the pots over to pour out the excess water surrounding the soil.  While attempting this, things went from bad to worse,  each one of the water bottles I had placed at the bottom of the containers started popping out of the pots like evil jack-in-the boxes.  An utter and complete mess! As it turns out, that the drainage holes on the bottom of the containers weren’t nearly large enough to allow  the excess rain water to drain, so it had no place to go but up and out.

After all was said and done, I had tomato plants in containers that looked like they were only half filled with soil, so I had to purchase potting mix to backfill the mix and volume that we lost with the water and bottles. These poor plants had been through the wringer, with the late Michigan frost and what I lovingly refer to as the “diaper incident”.

Alas,  my plants are stunted, and just didn’t produce many of the cherished yellow flowers that eventually turn into tomatoes.  At present, there are a few small green tomatoes on each plant. I believe they are a bit behind schedule for Zone 5.

Lessons learned?

  • Make sure you have adequate drainage holes when using containers, if you are going to use diapers in place of Soil Moist – maybe use only half a diaper
  • Partially fill the containers with something that doesn’t float!
  • Use the Tums. Happily, that tip seems to have worked quite well, as there are no signs of of blossom end rot.

We’ll shall  see how many more tomatoes actually grow, after what these poor plants have been through.  Do you have any tomatow growing tips or ideas you’d like to share?

I am so glad it has stopped raining, as now I can get to work in my raised bed garden. We’ve certainly got a stretch of great weather right now, breezy, sunny and bright.  Now’s the time to pull weeds, cut back ornamental grasses and turn the soil and plant cold-tolerant seeds and plants.  I see lots of earthworms, so that’s a great sign!

Raised bed gardenI use the square foot gardening approach in our 8′ x 4′ raised bed, since I enjoy growing several different things in our small area.  It works out really well, since there are certain things we always like to grow (carrots, green beans, eggplant, beets, radishes, lettuce, spinach, broccoli and herbs). Tomatoes are definitely a staple,  but I plan to grow them in large containers this year, since they shade the other items when they grow in the raised bed.

I am going to plant some seeds (lettuce, spinach and broccoli are cold tolerant candidates).  Unfortunately, I discovered that I overbought some seeds this year – forgetting I had lots  left over from last summer.  Every year, when the seed packets and plant bulbs are on display I go a little crazy – especially when they’re on sale.

It’s really fun to try a few new things every year, just to learn whether it has certain tolerances and is easy to grow inthis climate.  It allows me to learn from the experience, and add new favorites to the lineup. This year, I am thinking about bulb fennel – simply because it can be kind of expensive around here and it can be used in hot and cold dishes.  I also purchased some Delicata squash seeds to try out, but those will get planted outside of the raised bed, since squash will take over the entire bed if given the opportunity.  I’ve got Edamame (soybean) seeds I may try, as well.  It should yield interesting results. vegetable harvest

I am relatively new at vegetable gardening, and am just getting used to the timing of everything, so I haven’t yet ventured into starting seeds indoors.   I never seem to think of doing so until it is too late in the season.  I may try starting some seeds in containers that I can cover with plastic sheeting to create a greenhouse effect. I will likely try this for Jalapeno and Poblano peppers, Black Beauty eggplant, and Roma tomatoes.   It would certainly save lots of cash, since buying the plants can really add up.  We had an overload of Cayenne one year and Jalapenos last year, so I  threaded the Cayenne and hung them to dry out.  I let the Jalapenos ripen until they turned red, put them in the smoker, let them dry out, as well.  I then blasted both batches of dried out peppers in the processor, one year we had a nice sized jar of home grown Cayenne, and this year we have a jar of ground chipotle on hand.

Let me know about any cool new things you may have tried to grow and how they turned out.

Well, I’m off to dig in the dirt, happy gardening!

Improv Everywhere has been around a long time, but I stumbled across this video of their spontaneous food court musical today and wanted to share the fun:

You can check out other exhibits of their comedy genius at ImprovEverywhere.com

Be sure to peruse their video collection, as well.

It’s really about time for someone to create a weekly television series for them…

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