Attack of the Killer Butterflies


The other day I was out in my garden and a butterfly landed on my shoe. It was one of those little white butterflies that you see in the summer that always seem to be playing around the garden. I quickly put my finger out and it just stayed there on my finger for the longest time. Oh how I love butterflies.



Ever since I was a little boy I loved butterflies and was certain I could talk to them. I used to follow them around the yard endlessly and it was always magical to me when I could get one to sit on my finger. It still is magical.



I was seeing lots of these little these white butterflies right around the time I noticed all the holes in some of my plants. I thought that maybe the birds were nibbling on my garden, but as my garden became holier (not in the biblical sense) I figured it was time to do some research.  


You see, I studied everything about starting a garden and absolutely noting about what do to once it started to grow. I went online to see what it was destroying my first vegetable garden. I was shocked and saddened by what I found. The culprit was my precious white butterfly.

These butterflies are known as Cabbage Butterflies. The females deposit a single egg on the underside of the leaves in mostly cabbage, broccoli, kale and the like. (For some reason, not my lettuce, though.) When the egg hatches you get a single green caterpillar that starts to feast on your garden. Well, mine really were going to town because I totally encouraged these butterflies.  Sadly I had to do something about it. 

I looked all over online because I really didn't want to use chemicals on my garden.  Even more so since I discovered a bumble bee colony in my yard.  I wanted those guys to be safe. So, what was I to do? Most Organic sites recommended picking the caterpillars off by hand.  Umm, look at my garden! That was not possible. Besides, I can't see the darn things even with my glasses. 


I finally found something called bacillus thuringiensis, which is a natural bacteria that is safe for humans, animals and bees.  I read all over the web about this and everything I read said basically the same thing so I bought Safer Brand Caterpillar Killer and a pump sprayer.  



They said that cloudy days are the best to spray this stuff and it couldn't be any foggier than today so I am heading out to the garden to spray my plants.  They say it won't hurt the butterflies, just the caterpillars.  It still makes me a little sad, but I've made sure to apologize to the butterflies.



One Giant Zucchini


My garden has been going to town.  It really hasn't produced anything besides lettuce and radishes yet, but it's working on it.  I haven't really trimmed anything.  I've just been letting things take their course.  I water twice a day and that's that.


As you can see my squash and zucchini plants have gotten really big.  Until yesterday the only thing I've noticed about them is the blossoms. 

I am a bit of a creature of habit and always water my gardens from the back, but yesterday I mixed things up and watered from the front.  (I know, I'm a wild one.)


As I was watering I noticed something in the think of the zucchini plant. I decided to investigate.


Is that what I think it is?


Oh my goodness it is!  A giant zucchini!


This thing is huge!

You know I have no idea how I could have just not noticed this. It couldn't have grown overnight!  So, what was I to do?  I picked it!


Once I had done that, I know exactly what I was going to do with it. Joey couldn't wait.  It'd been a long time since we've had a zucchini this big. So I gave him what he wanted.


Yep, I made four loaves of zucchini bread with this thing. We both are satisfied.  It's very exciting to pick things from the garden and make something, especially something this delicious.  This is, for sure, the best zucchini bread recipe ever and I also got to use my homemade apple sauce.

I love this gardening business.  When can I retire and do this full time?












Our First Harvest


Not a whole lot has been going on with our garden lately. It's growing, but I was pretty sure we had awhile before we could eat anything from it. I call it the "Water and Wait" stage. All I really have been doing is watering and waiting for things to grow. Yesterday when I was doing my usual watering I noticed something peeking out from the dirt.  A radish!


Yep! My radishes were finally ready for harvest.  Well, at least some of them were.  


I picked the five biggest ones with their long leafy green parts and thought about what I should make. Now I love radishes, but I have never really cooked with them before. I usually just slice them up and have them in a salad or eat them raw. A couple weeks ago my friend, Rebecca, asked me if the greens of the radishes were eatable and my friend, Chef Gerardo, answered yes, so I figured I would find a recipe for them. I found one on SFGate.com - Radish Leaf PestoCrostini.  


This recipe was a great way for me to use all of the radish plants that I grew. Now before you run out and make this, there is a key phrase in my last sentence - "that I grew."  I was not wildly crazy about this recipe, but since the radishes were from my very own garden, of course I found it delicious. We both did. I wouldn't, however, make this recipe if I had bought the radishes at the store.  It does look amazing, though, doesn't it?

So what about the radishes?  They were very tasty and very mild. These were from the Burpee seeds I had purchased. I like them, but will most likely be try something different next year. I do have quite a few seeds left, so once I pick all these radishes I will plant some more to have later in the season.

There is something really wonderful about picking something from your own garden and having it for dinner. It's very rewarding. Of all the hobbies that I have tried, and there are many, gardening is really something I love. It's really become more than a hobby. Now, it's a part of life.

How Does My Garden Grow?



Right now I would say slowly. Thanks goodness, but even at the slow pace it's going, I am still a busy bee!

We have been having some great weather here in Daly City, especially up near San Bruno Mountain, where Joey and I live. It's been sunny, warm, and not too hot.  About two weeks ago I uncovered our vegetable gardens to see what would happy and so, so good!


I was very worried that once I took off the protective cover the plants would get too cold, but not at all.  If anything, they dry out a lot more quickly than when I had the cover on.  Now I need to give a full water twice a day, when it was just s quick spray before.


My main reason for uncovering the garden was that the beans were clamoring to get out!  I made them trellises with bamboo and twine and they went right up them!



The garden on the left is going to town, with the radishes and daikon taking the lead.  I will be able to harvest my radishes next week, but I just hate to pick them.  They are like my little babies.




The garden on the right is probably doing a bit better than the left, but not much.  The lettuce and carrots are really vibrant and already look delicious.

I think right now, it's just sit, water and wait.  My garden isn't really ready for harvest, yet.  Well, except those radishes. That's fine with me. I have plenty to do with the rest of the yard, which I will talk about later this week.

My First Radish



As the weather gets warmer I have been watering my vegetable garden in the morning and in the evening. I water less each time than when I did it once a day, but it seems to keep things from getting dry. This soil (Mel's Mix) that I am using dries out quickly, but at the same time it prevents you from over watering. Or so they say.

My garden is just about too big for the cover. Well, some of it. My beans especially want to get out of there and start climbing. I am holding off as along as I can because some of my little vegetables are just not ready, yet. They are going to have to be this weekend because the cover comes off.

Since I am watering more and looking at my vegetables more I was greeted with a little treat. My first vegetable! I little red radish. I really want to take it out, but I am going to wait for the weekend and put share it with Joey. It looks like it's neighbor might be coming out, too!  Who knows, we might have enough for a salad!

A Sneak Peek



This time last year our yard was an overgrown mess. I didn't even want to go out there let alone garden. Besides we were way too busy with the inside of the house to really think about venturing outside. It wasn't until the summer that I actually started working in the yard and we know how that turned out. I am hooked.

This is my very first spring in our garden and what a treat it is.  All of our trees and bushes are just starting to bloom. It's so exciting to see it all happening at once. In a week or so we are going to have a very beautiful garden, and I can finally show those before and after shots. For now I am going to give you what my plants are giving me - a sneak peak.


This calla lily was the first thing to pop it's head up this year. It's huge. I didn't plant this, it just appeared. It's one of the magical plants that appear in my garden that Aurora probably planted years ago. When they arrive I welcome them with open arms.


I got this hydrangea at the supermarket as an Easter present for Joey. The flowers had been died blue and I am sure it wasn't intended to last much longer than a few weeks. I hate to throw plants away so I found a little spot for it in the garden. At first I was certain it was going to die, but all of the sudden it took off. It's really quite beautiful and as you can see it's gone back to it's natural color.


This is my Petite Butterflies Sweet Pea shrub and the only thing that's petite about it is the flowers. I got four of these and they were cute little plants. Now they are huge, but they are really hardy and quite beautiful.


Sweet Breath of Heaven. Isn't that a wonderful name? The picture does not do this little bush justice. The green is very vibrant and the tiny flowers a perfect pink.


Jasmine. Pure magic. I have always wanted one of these and now I have two. One is in full bloom and it smells heavenly. I intend to let it take up an entire part of my yard and just sit out there and take in the fragrance.


Now it wouldn't be our garden without Aurora's rose bushes. When I first moved in one of the first things I thought was that the roses have to go. They can be ugly bushes and, let me tell you, they are a pain in the ass to tend to. However, after a year I have grown to love them. They are still a pain in the ass, but apart from the beautiful flowers there is a lot of sentiment that goes along with them. They are just starting to bloom and these are the first ones.


Not to be shown up by the bushes, our trees are also showing off. Our lemon tree is particularly interesting because it has tons of fruit but is also just starting to bloom. What a wonderful fragrance. 


I can't even begin to tell you how much I love our apple tree. It's been so bare and suddenly it's coming back to life. Soon it will provide us with the sweetest little green apples.


Finally, this is our little dogwood tree, but more importantly is our pigeon, Ellen, in the background. Ellen has been gardening with me almost since the beginning. She's always there and each time there is something new she comes to inspect it. So far she approves of our garden.

Lady Bug, Lady Bug


Last weekend as I was tending to my roses I noticed the dreaded aphid. There's a reason they are called "plant lice" and they deserve the ugly name. It's amazing to me that such a little bug can cause so much damage. They suck out the plants sap and thus the life out of your plants, leaving the weak and sickly. Seeing them on my roses was particularly disheartening as I have been pampering and reviving these bushes for over a year and they are thriving. There was no way I was going to let a nasty little bug take control. But what was I to do? Get rid of them, that's what.


There are many pesticides available for getting rid of aphids, but that is not an option for me. These particular roses are quite tall and growing through the top of our arbor. They are a favorite playground and hiding place for all the little sparrows that watch me like muchkins in the morning while I am feeding Ellen and watering the vegetables. There is no way I am going to put poison there. There are however a lot of organic solutions, the most prevalent being neem oil. I tried neem oil for powdery mildew last year and it really was not as effective as the milk bath I have been giving my roses weekly and I don't want to stop that. After searching across the web I found many articles suggesting ladybugs for the job.  There is even a site dedicated to ladybugs!

It seemed a little weird to order ladybugs online so I looked around to see if I could buy them locally. No luck. Believe it or not, everyone was sold out! Well, if that's the case then they must work. I went online and found Hirt's Garden sold them on Amazon. When I am ordering from a new vendor I prefer to go through Amazon so I know they are reputable. While I still felt weird about having bugs delivered to me via UPS, I decided to go for it. It also really seemed like my only alternative.

You can order ladybugs in different amounts starting at a small pack of 1,500 which is recommended for a small garden. They were only $12.99 plus $5.50 for shipping. I figured it was worth a try. What did I have to lose?

I place my order on a Saturday and by the following Wednesday I had a little box of ladybugs at my door. They were gently packaged in kind of hard mesh, sealed pouch.


There sure were a lot! While it looks kind of gross in the picture, they are ladybugs and still cute even in a mob of 1,500.  The ladybugs came packaged with care and release instructions and well as something called "Natures Nectar" which provides the hungry ladybugs some food after their long journey.

There are a few things you need to do before releasing your ladybugs. First is to provide them with water. I gently sprayed my rose bushes so they would have something to drink but not be drenched. The next step is to spray the plants in the area you are releasing them with Natures Nectar so they have some food and be more inclined to stick around. Last but not least, it's important that you release them at dusk so they don't fly away. Ladybugs don't like to fly around at night.


At dusk, I went out to my prepared rose bushes and went about releasing my new friends. I wanted to release them quite high on my bushes so they would be right at the root of the aphid problem and have some tasty morsels for breakfast.


I gently released them into my bush.  I thought they would come streaming out, but they really didn't. They were really docile.


The next morning I was very curious to see if my little friends had made themselves at home. I was a bit fearful they might have left for greener pastures.


I saw my first little guy on the post before I even got on the ladder to investigate. They are cute, aren't they?


As I got to the top of the ladder I saw more exploring the top of our arbor. At least some of them had stuck around. Then I looked up at my rose bush.


Wow, they were all over.  I was so pleased to see so many of them and they looks quite busy. I sprayed a little bit of nature's nectar on the rose bush and happily started my day.


I hope they stick around at least for awhile. I really like having them around. It all depends on the food source, though. My aphid problem was not out of control or even really bad so they might eat them all up and go on their merry way. I guess that's okay. I kind of feel like I have given them their freedom. If the aphids come back, and they most likely will, I can order some more and do it again. I might let the aphid population grow a bit so I can keep the lady bugs around longer and maybe, just maybe the home they fly away to will be mine.

Renewal



Shortly after Joey and I got our fences and deck done I dove right into setting up my raised gardens. Honestly, the stain hadn't dried on the redwood before I started planting seeds. For the last few weeks that really took up a lot of my time and I have not had time to weed or clean up the rest of my garden. It frankly is a big mess.  I've been dying to post before and after pictures, but in no way is it ready.

I have a huge task list of things to do and now that my vegetable garden is up and growing it's time to get to them. One of the first things on my list was painting our arbor. I used to think the weathered wood with the green tint was charming. Last year I grew morning glories and nasturtiums over it and it was beautiful.  However, now that the fences are done, it just looked shoddy. It was a huge eyesore right in the middle of our yard. Something had to be done.

I wasn't sure anything could be done about it, but figured I couldn't hurt it with a new paint job. This was going to be a challenge, though, since the rose bushes I have been lovingly tending for over a year grow right through the top. I would need to carefully clean and paint around them.

The first thing I did was clean the wood. Most folks power wash it, but like I said that was not an option for me. Instead I washed it by hand with a brush. This was no easy task and took me about six hours. Yep, I wrote that right - 6 hours! This includes the time spent hosing it off after washing. I have to say that the Behr All-In-One Wood cleaner I used really did the trick. I was so tired when I was done that I completely forget to take pictures!

The next day it was time for us to get the stain. We had three choices: Transparent, Semi-Tranparent, or Solid. We went with the Semi because while we wanted to cover the wood, we also wanted some of the natural grain to show through. This turned out to be a good choice.


The first coat took me about five hours to complete. There are lots of little slats, nooks and crannies in this arbor; and remember, I had to paint around those rose bushes. 

The next day I really had no interest in doing a second coat, but once I started I was really glad I did. It really made a difference. There were lots of spots I missed and in some cases entire sections! Also, having done it already the day before I had a better strategy in place. I actually enjoyed the second coat.  So how does it look? Well, see for yourself.

Here is a picture before:


Here's the after shot (ignore the messy yard, please!):


One more before:


And after:



I am really happy with it. The color really compliments the fence and the pigeon loft. the arbor honestly looks brand new.


So, now that this is done it's time for some major clean up. I have bushes to move and jasmine to plant and goodness knows what all. This certainly is a work in progress, but honestly, I am enjoying every minute.

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About Sean & Joey

Joey and I are just a couple of guys living in San Francisco. I love cooking and we both like trying new things. Planning our meals is one of our "together" things. I hope you enjoy our blog! - Sean

Dedication

This blog is dedicated to the two most important people in my life - my mom, Ernee Jean O'Brien, and my partner Joey Concepcion. They both have showered me with unconditional support and love and have always encouraged me to be myself. I will always miss my mom and I don't know what I would do without Joey.

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