The Cheapskate on Tour...St. Croix

Not too much gardening at home this week because we're away in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Here is some of the island flora...

Above, is the island's chestnut tree.

This is a flower from the trumpet vine that looks like a wisteria with huge flowers.

A red flower from the succulent planter outside of our room. I can't remember the name, anybody know?

The fruit on the calabash tree. They make maracas out of this fruit.

This is a dried up flower from the calabash tree.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sweatin' to the Posies

Along with the joy of gardening...being outdoors with nature, letting the stresses of everyday life melt away to pruning and watering, seeing the literal fruits of your labors...there are also some tangible, physical benefits.

Not only does it help with providing cheap, delicious food for the table and a beautiful living environment, gardening helps get us in shape and stay healthy.

I'm talking exercise.  Gardening is a great way to get your required dose of it.  Let's just look at some of the numbers...

Mowing the lawn, not my favorite chore, needs to be done on a regular basis. That means every two weeks for me.  On average, it burns about 250 calories per hour.

Tilling the garden is something I do over several weekends at the beginning of the gardening season to prepare the soil. Digging consumes about 350 calories per hour and is also a great way to strengthen arm, leg, and back muscles.

Pruning and harvesting burn about 150 calories per hour and can go up to 350 per hour for trees and large branches.

After we finish gardening, sweeping is in order for a cleanup. This last chore will burn around 275 calories per hour.

If you're wondering, a typical one-hour aerobics class burns around 565 calories in comparison.

Go ahead and get out to the garden this week and have a good workout.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Images are public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Dendrobiums are Dandy

One of the all-time easy to grow orchids are dendrobiums. They're also very beautiful, giving you more bang for the buck than any orchid I can think of.

Since they're epiphytic, they grow exceeding well in soil that is composed solely of bark chips. 

You can grow them in a pot, like our fragrant dendrobium kingiana above...

or in a hanging basket, like this white dendbrobium.

Ours easily handle several night of 28 degree temperature each year with no ill effects at all and they grow like weeds. I divide or repot them every three years and the cuttings easily grow into new blooming plants themselves.

I said they were among the easiest to grow, here is the easiest orchid to grow, our bletilla orchid now in bloom too. 2 months of gorgeous blooms every year and I do absolutely take care of them. They just pop up at the end of winter, bloom through spring, and go dormant in fall.

You can see my post on bletilla culture here.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Deadheads In The Garden

Roses are great and, other than an annual pruning, take little work. Look at our front yard rose garden above. Lookin' good, right? Well, can you see the little work that needs to be done?

Unfortunately, roses don't look good forever. After a week or so, the flowers are done.  Either pollinated or just played out.

Here, you can see a haggard looking Julie Newmar that has seen better days.  It's time to deadhead.

I said roses took little work...this is the little work that they take. Deadheading is just the cutting off of spent blooms.

Most advice tells you to go down until you see the first set of 5 leaflets and cut just above that. That's sound advice. If the plant would look better going down a couple of more sets of 5 leaflets, go ahead and do it.

Remember that this is not pruning, just maintaining. If all the flowers pollinate, leaving them on the plant will severely hamper bloom production so we want to get rid of them when we're done...just cut them off, no need to do deep pruning during the season.

I like to deadhead just before I mow my lawn. I just throw the cuttings on the grass and mow them into the lawn as a mulch.

All done, here's my front rose garden after it's first haircut of the season.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

The Orchids Are Coming!

Just a little preview of what's to come. This orchid, about the size of a dime, is dendrobium kingianum. Native to Australia, I got a five dollar cutting at the Santa Barbara Orchid Show. It's very easy to grow and, apart from the tiny flowers, very spectacular.

More of the easiest orchids to grow...will be blooming soom.

Also this week, I planted some cherry tomatoes in this basket.

Hanging outside our laundry room, I put an emitter on it an hope to have a crucial salad ingredient in a couple of months. I will have a more complete report on this project later, note how I left some of the "straw" sticking out so the birds can have a little nesting material and we have a bird viewing platform.

On the rose front, Mr. Lincoln...the king of classic red now in bloom.

Look at the size of this bloom, it completely covers my hand.

And, finally, here's an In-n-Out rose...a double Double Delight.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

This Plant Cleans Up Real Good

My bougainvilleas seem to be real popular among visitors to this blog. I don't blame you, they're very beautiful and, if contained, can be pretty easy to maintain.

This week, it's a quick and simple chore for the bougainvilleas...just a quick haircut.

These tropical plants get shocked each winter even by our mild Southern California winters and end up with a lot of rangy, dead-looking wood. When the plants come back from their shock, it's a good time to trim up the worst of it for nothing more that asthetics (the dead-looking wood is actually alive but will still be rangy when it comes back).

Once I know that the plant is growing vigorously again and won't get shocked by cutting, I just snip back to the first growth I see on the stem. 

Once I'm finished, I have a pretty and neat looking patio plant.

You can also see this plant in background of last week's Cocktail Hour video at my other blog, The World on Wheels travel blog.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserve.

The Rose Parade Comes to the Cheapskate's Garden

Our first major bloom of roses hit this week in the Cheapskate's garden. Above is 'Perfect  Moment,' just about my favorite, sitting in the front yard garden.

It has spectacular orange and red flowers that seem to glow, like that perfect moment of sunset filmakers like to call the "Golden Hour."

Check out the size of this pink bloom compared to my hand. Sometimes we get flowers at big as plates during the first bloom, can't wait to see how big 'Mr. Lincoln' is next week.

This yellow beauty is named after the best Catwoman. It's 'Julie Newmar.'

In the backyard, the first to bloom is always 'Double Delight.'

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Adventures of the Vinedresser

It was just two short weeks ago that our grape vine was completely barren at the depths of its dormant season. It was the perfect time to install wildlife netting on it before any leaves grew out.  Now look at it, full of life, already showing little grape clusters.

A chore I need to perfect is pruning for good production. Prune too much and you're likely to lose your entire crop. Not enough, and you get tiny fruit.

I'm still looking for the right balance. This year, I'm going to experiment with a new method. Grabbing the branches, I look for three clusters growing close together.

I'm nipping off the smallest clusters so the plant can put all its strength into the bigger, more robust clusters.  I continue across the vine, cutting of maybe half a dozen small clusters.

Also, I want to keep the bottom half of the vine bare, like a tree trunk, so any little growths like the one above are also pinched off.

I like to keep the vine trained to the narrow space of my trellis so any ranging branches that I can bend without breaking, I weave into the center part of the structure to keep the plant under control.

Lastly, the ruby red grapes are very susceptible to botrytis, a fungus, that causes immature fruit to split open and go bad before ripening. To combat this, I am sprinkling sulphur dust liberally across the soil, trunk, leaves, and branches to kill any spores that might think about growing. I'll hit the bottom half of the plant again when the fruit is ripening.

Now, other than watering and feeding, I'll just let the grapes grow as undisturbed as possible for the season.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

DINNER TIME! Dutch Oven Beef Stew

It can still get a little chilly at night here in Northern California. A hearty stew is just the thing to take the chill off. This reci...