Saturday, April 23, 2011

I have a new best friend: Slurry

Mr. Sea is done. I've covered his wounds and given him a fresh and final coat of mortar. The next step is to let him sit and cure while I wait for the tile to come in.

Today was the first time I'd ever made a slurry, and I think I'm in love. For those not keen on concrete sculpture, a slurry is cement and water mixed to the consistency of thick paint. And that's exactly how it goes on. Using a paint brush, I slathered Mr. Sea with this slurry and I love the effect. Mortar is sandy. Three parts sand to 1 part concrete. And when it dries, I can keep brushing and brushing the sand off my sculpture. But coating him with a slurry, it's like sealing him in and giving him a smooth base coat.

I had to add some mortar over some spots to fix cracks and add more strength, so tomorrow, I may make a second slurry and go over him one more time. But other than that, the next step will be to add his surface treatment. Can't wait!!

All broccoli is not alike

This spring I planted both Gypsy and Arcadia broccoli, and up until now, I've remained convinced these two plants are exactly alike.  Okay, so maybe they aren't.

Here's a photo of the Gypsy:

Here's a photo of the Arcadia.  Note that the Gypsy has formed a single head while the Arcadia is forming a cluster of smaller heads.  I tend to prefer the cluster of smaller heads, probably because it's closer to what I'm used to from the grocery store. 

Both heads are almost exactly the same size.  It's just the structure that's slightly different.  I look forward to harvest when I can see if there's any difference in taste.  I suppose side shoots will also be a contender between the two. 

In short, it's fun trying several varieties of the same plant.  Keeps the veggie garden interesting!

It's starting to look like something

After a long winter of empty beds and soggy rocks, the garden is finally starting to show it's first signs of life.

I love peas and beans. Not only are they among my favorite things to eat from the garden, they are, hands down, the most beautiful plants.

And in addition to spring veggies, my over-wintered flowers are beginning to come to life.  I've got buds on my bearded iris, and this climbing hydrangea is taking off.  Quite the difference after a winter of spindly chutes.

I love the tidy row of cabbage.  I was hoping veggies would grow in this spot along the fence.  It doesn't get as much sun as the rest of it, but this cabbage doesn't seem to mind.  It's beginning to form heads.

It's a never ending battle

Okay, so I do like the Solo cups for my tomato transplants.  However, tomatoes quickly become top-heavy and prone to tip over.  Because my tomatoes have outgrown my lights, I'm bringing them out in the morning and taking them in at night.  I plan to do this for at least another week or two.  Unfortunately, I've already lost 1 tomato to wind.

Afraid of what I find every time I come home from work, I finally fashioned something that will hopefully keep the tomatoes in place:

These are spare pieces of the foam insulation board I bought for the seedling incubator.  I cut it to size, then cut out holes for the tomatoes to slip into.  Nice bonus is the reflective side to add a little more light.

I'm crossing my fingers this keeps the cups in place until the weather gets warm enough to plant these in the garden. 

I'm hoping that anyone who thinks gardening is a simple matter of sticking some plants in the ground and watering will read this blog.  Hence, the title of this post.  Successful gardening is a never-ending battle between the pests and elements!

Color Samples

This is why I love mosaic.  It's like playing with jewels.  I love the colors, I love the texture, I love the solidity of the finished piece.  If done right, it is forever.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The coffee slug experiment

I really think this worked.  Down here I explained my attempt to use spent coffee grounds to repel slugs.  Two weeks later, I'm actually impressed with the results.

The two cabbage plants I surrounded with spent coffee grounds have shown no new significant slug damage:

There's a couple tiny holes on one plant, mostly I think because the leaf touches the ground outside the ring of coffee grounds.  But even so, I can deal with the occasional tiny hole.

My big surprise was the sage I'd planted.  I'd bought it at Lowes in a 4" pot, so it was a pretty decent sized plant.  Within two days, it had been eaten back to the wick.  Every last leaf was gone and it stayed that way for weeks on end, mostly because I'd just never gotten around to pulling the plant.  On a whim, I decided to use it as one of my test plants in the coffee ground experiment.  Two weeks later, it's unbelievably coming back:

There's been quite a bit of debate on coffee to repel slugs.  Some people claim it doesn't work, others do.  I think I have to be on the side who claim it does.  Keep in mind, though, that I put a LOT of spent grounds around my plants.  I had a 3 lb can filled with spent grounds, and used them all on only 4 plants.  I put a very thick and wide layer of grounds around the plants.  So I think if you plan on just sprinkling some grounds around, you won't get results.  You need to really create a solid moat.

I had also noticed slug trails across the coffee, but they seemed to go in a ways, then turn around and go back.   So if your ring isn't thick enough, they'll withstand the coffee to get to the plant.

So in summary, at least until I can do further research, the coffee grounds are keepers.  I've already nearly filled my second can and will have to think about which plants get the extra protection.   The secondary bonus is that once I pull the plants, I can work in the grounds as an extra source of nitrogen, so there's really nothing to lose here except a couple slugs!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Because I can't leave well enough alone.....

Well, if there was going to be a day for me to screw up my sea serpent project, today was it.

I decided he really needed to be sitting on a base. The good news is that this gave me an opportunity to try a technique I've been wanting to try for a while. It involves using plywood and flashing to create a custom mold:



That part went really well. But then I needed to attach some sort of rebar type thing to the bottom of my sea serpent so he'd be strongly cast into the base. I decided to attach strips of hardware cloth to the bottom of him that would sink into the concrete base and secure him there good and tight. This step would have gone beautifully if I hadn't covered him with mortar yesterday. Unfortunately, in the process, he started cracking and pieces started falling off.




It was this very bend in the tail I was concerned about. Of course, if I'd given the concrete time to cure, it probably would have been just fine. But my obsessive-compulsive nature when it comes to projects just wouldn't let me leave well enough alone. Grrr...

But he's sitting on his new custom-formed block. I sprayed him down good with water and covered him with plastic. Luckily, I have to work M-F so I will be forced to leave the poor guy alone! heh


From a structure and design standpoint, I am glad I put him on a base. And I'm also glad that I finally tried making a custom mold. That part was actually kinda fun. I just wish I'd done the base first then coated him with mortar after. Live and learn.

Also, I wish for my first project, I'd started with a design that was easier!! It was supposed to be a little butterfly on a stick. How did I end up with a giant sea serpent again?? LOL