By Jove, Bananas!

Once upon a time, I ordered a dwarf Cavendish banana plant from Park Seed on clearance for $4.95. It was cute. It had 6 little leaves poking out of a quart container. I put it in a bigger pot and moved it out to my apartment balcony with a southeast exposure.

My lil’ Nana got bigger, but not too much bigger.

Dwarf Banana (MUSA DWARF CAVENDISH) received from Park Seed on 7/14/2005.  This tree arrived with about 6 big leaves...and has b

Then I moved in my my boyfriend (now DH), and we bought a house together. I decided that my baby banana tree needed more room to grow. I transplanted it into the ground by the garage.

It liked the Florida weather and sandy dirt a LOT. It is now over 10 feet tall and has sent up enough pups to make it around 5-6’ in diameter. The main tree is the one with the tallest leaves on the left.

Oh, and it has finally shot out a giant dingle dangle loaded with green bananas. (Again, from the tallest trunk on the left.)

DH wants to chop it all down. I convinced him to hold off until we at least get some ripe bananas off of it. It’s got until mid-February or so, then DH will be going at it with a chainsaw. Let’s hope the bananas are ripe by then and not blackened by an unexpected frost, because there is enough to make a whole year’s worth of green smoothies.

Garden Geekery

Down here in central Florida, it is already time to start our warm weather vegetable and flower seeds and to direct sow our cold weather vegetables. My indoor seedling nursery has not been set up yet, but I HAVE cleaned up the square foot garden, raked in more compost, and replanted with lots of leafy greens, stir fry peas, edamame, and my favorite, Bright Lights Swiss chard.

I love watching the little green seedlings pop up out of the (temporarily) weed-free raised bed! It’s just as much fun as seeing the first indoor seedlings appear in their little peat pots. This spring I would like to try to successfully get a small container herb garden going as well as plant my usual variety of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants again. Some heat-tolerant leafy greens like mustard and malabar spinach are also on the list…and I MIGHT risk some zucchini, even though I don’t have a ton of room for it.

And while the Vardaman sweet potatoes are now firmly established and self-propagating (check out my mid-winter harvest below–and those are just from the volunteer vines I had to tear out of my raised bed, not the main patch!), I want to order an assortment of end-of-season white sweet potato varieties from Sandhill Preservation Center to plant in June.

(I’m getting my spring seeds going this weekend after consulting my handy seed starting spreadsheet and’s Outdoor Planting Guide.)

Are you gardening yet in your part of the country, or just scanning the seed catalogs for this year’s must-have crops? What do you plan to grow this year?

Origami Seed Packets

For the crafty gardeners out there, I’ve scanned and posted two pages from my old Origami-A-Day calendar that feature instructions on how to fold your own origami seed packets. Way cooler than your typical cut and glue versions, and a nice way to while away a LOT of time if you want to make these for wedding favor seed packets.



(Click the thumbnails to load up the full-size pics.)

Origami seed packet #1Origami seed packet #2

April Happenings

I’m not ready to go into another challenge just yet, so I’ll just be chilling this month and working on getting into a maintenance groove. After the TT challenge (still need to take pics, but my digicam decided to die on me last week) and office competition (which my team won, by the way!), I am in need of a breather. The last month has been more stressful than it should have been because I was having some minor freakouts about the two challenges, and I am flat out tired of feeling that kind of self-inflicted pressure. I was becoming neurotic AND rebellious at the same time towards the end, which is not fun.

I don’t want to do anything more OCD related to fitness and nutrition than lifting 3x/week, doing cardio/intervals 3x/week, and eating tasty, healthier meals that don’t all have to be 100% clean.

As far as workouts go, I’m moving away from Turbulence Training for the rest of the year and using The New Rules of Lifting for Women and workouts from Jason Ferruggia through December. The weather is starting to change for the worse for inline skating (too hot, too muggy, too much rain that makes the roads slick in the mornings when I normally work out), so I’ll also have to find another form of cardio that I enjoy to supplement my usual treadmill running. DH and I don’t start swimming until June.

Nutrition-wise…I’m going to give the plan from NROLFW a try and also attempt to rediscover my love of cooking yummy stuff by trying out one new recipe a week from my collection of various healthy eats cookbooks.

In other news, I finished my raised bed square foot veggie garden this weekend by filling it with 14 cu. ft. of quality organic top soil and another cubic foot of composted cow doings. Hurray for dirt! So far I’ve planted 40 squares total of veggies, including tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, pak choy, sugar snap peas, chives, and Swiss chard plus the sweet potato patch behind the main vegetable garden. I also plugged in 18 marigold transplants around the veggie bed and in other parts of the garden for some color and moved about 2 dozen seedlings I had started on 2/28 outside to bigger flats.

Then I went inside and used Xara Xtreme (a vector drawing package similar to Illustrator) to make totally obsessive compulsive Spring, Summer, and Fall/Winter layouts for my veggie patch showing what would be planted at what time, complete with color coding. I also drafted up a layout of the south garden/sweet potato area with a long black Bezier curve to show where I’d buried the soaker hose. Talk about the best of two worlds–I got to make some brilliantly nitpicky diagrams AND teach myself how to use a new software package–whee! I capped off my weekend gardening binge by printing out the above and about 30 pages of Florida gardening publications from the local extension office.

The de-cluttering effort is continuing as well. So far the living room, dining room, pantry, hall closet, handbag/purse collection, and bedroom have been done. Clearing out all of the old papers, receipts, expired coupons, hair pins, Lactaid wrappers, and other random odds and ends that have accumulated in the 4-5 bags between I regularly rotate took forever. I felt wonderfully organized and light afterwards, though. Next I will tackle the kitchen cabinets (eek) and the home office/craft room (eeeeeeeeeeeek!).

And finally, Friday night Chris and I met up with some friends at Rising Star, the live band karaoke club at Universal Citywalk that I mentioned a few weeks ago. It was the final night of their Top 10 Karaoke Challenge where the 10 best performers who filled out entry forms over the 4 nights of competition would win 2-park annual passes to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and get to perform at the official VIP grand opening party for the club on April 11. I figured that I might as well enter since I was there (and the entry form was mercifully short) and belted out Bryan Adams’s Summer of 69 and Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot. (Yes, again–not my fault. One of the judges asked me to do it after the Bryan Adams song.)

This afternoon I got a call from a Universal rep telling me that I’d made it into the top 10 (Free annual pass! Yay!) and would get to sing at the media/VIP party this Friday. W00t!

The best part of the whole thing was getting verbal kudos from the band members themselves after I sang. They have to play these songs 5 nights a week for 45 singers each night, so when the guitarist, bass player, and backup singers tell you that you totally rocked a song, it’s pretty darn awesome.

I tell you, it’s a good thing that I didn’t discover my inner rock star when I was younger or I would have flunked out of high school and shamed my parents for eternity.

Spring 2008 Garden Plans

So…I didn’t work out this weekend. Instead, DH and I dedicated Saturday and Sunday to Improving the Garden and Beautifying Our Outdoor Areas. Since this involved quite a lot of heavy lifting, digging of rock-embedded soil, laying down around 600 8″ brick pavers, weeding, and other fun activities in the Florida sun, I am counting this toward functional resistance exercise. My calves and quads are DOMSing already from digging, squatting and deadlifting, and the tops of my poor ears are stinging from sunburn because I stupidly chose to wear a baseball cap (which left my ears out to broil) instead of my usual floppy straw gardening hat.

Here’s the inventory of the weekend’s work:
– Planted an 18′ border of salvias
– Planted 7′ row of gladiolus bulbs
– Dug 75′ serpentine trench in side yard to conceal a 75′ soaker hose
– Dug up and transplanted ailing emperor lychee tree to a container with fresh potting soil
– Manually loosened and prepped ~60 sq. feet of soil for sweet potato planting
– Dug up existing sweet potato vines from veggie patch, harvested the tubers, and transplanted the vines to side yard for a new crop
– Dug 6″ deep trenches around the 8’x4′ veggie patch and inserted 12″x12″ pavers on their ends to create a 6″ raised bed. Next week we will dig up the non-tomato plants in the bed, buy a truckload of fresh organic soil to fill in the box, and re-plant the veggies in their new home.
– Cleared around 120 sq. ft. worth of old pavers and rocks from our walled courtyard.
– Removed ratty old weed stop fabric.
– Leveled the soil and re-covered with new weed fabric.
– Poured down sand and re-leveled.
– Re-paved entire courtyard with 8″x4″ Holland brick pavers
– Lugged new bags of rocks into courtyard and poured them into the borders next to the wall.
– Celebrated near completion of 2008’s spring gardening projects with a trip to the China First Buffet.
– Slept REALLY, REALLY well last night.

Below are some rather blurry and dark camera phone pics of the garden so far. It’s definitely a work in progress for us since we pretty much let it go last year. Chris has wanted to replace the old 12″ coral pink pavers in the courtyard off the master bedroom since we moved in, but didn’t get motivated until last weekend when he finally got around to taking measurements and calculating the costs at Lowes. Okay, so I calculated the costs while he browsed through the different paver stone options. We wound up spending around $350 for the sand, rocks, pavers, and delivery, but we figure it would have cost us over $1000 to have someone else do it for us, and now DH gets to brag that he did it himself. The funny thing is that he was delaying the project because he didn’t know exactly how to do everything involved, but all this time we had a huge DIY home repair book on our shelf that his big brother had given him when he bought the house in 2005. I pointed this out Friday night, and sure enough, there was a section on how to install cement pavers for an outdoor patio. It even had pictures.


Newly re-paved courtyard

As for the garden–which is mostly MY baby–I neglected it horribly last year. With the wedding in July, I just found all of my spare time and energy sucked away, and I missed the best growing seasons for my area (winter/early spring and fall). I more or less limited my gardening to dumping many, many bags of mulch down to keep the weeds under control and allowed the sweetpotato slips I had originally planted in late 2006 to take over the square foot garden veggie patch with only a square of chives and a square of pimiento hot peppers growing. The rest of the garden was pared down to more established fruit trees, shrubs, and daylilies that didn’t need any special care. I didn’t even water anything!

So this year I am back at it and planning to grow another crop of sweet potatoes (super easy care in Florida’s long season of hot days), hot peppers, sweet bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, basil, cilantro, green onions, Swiss chard, ginger root, loose-leaf lettuce and fancy mixed greens, mustard, and MAYBE some zucchini and yellow squash. I don’t have a lot of space, so I’d have to hook up a vertical frame for the tomatoes and zucchini. I technically only have room in the raised bed for 32 full-size plants, so there will probably be at least a dozen container plants (primarily herbs and leafy greens that need to be protected from the full blast of the central Florida sun) in addition to the in-ground garden.

Basically, I’d like to grow the pricey specialty veggies that I can’t get from the local supermarket. The fact that my homegrown stuff will be organic is just another perk.

Raised bed made from pavers for this year’s square foot vegetable garden; the pavers are sort of dingy from years of use in the courtyard floor, but I plan to plant a border of marigolds and Bright Lights Swiss chard around the entire box to hide them.

Baby pineapple grown from pineapple top started in 2006

Dusty Miller and Salvia flower border

Transplanted Vardaman sweetpotato vines

Harvested mutant sweetpotatos!

Extra sweetpotato vines

So how about it? Anyone else planning to get at least some of their fresh veggies from their own gardens this year? What do you plan to grow? Have you started yet?

Related Posts:
Lazy Gardener’s Automated Seed Starting Chart for Microsoft Excel
DIY Seed Saving Envelopes

2/27/08 Log: 6-Day Slim Down Day 2

I went to bed too late last night and overslept this morning again, though I did get in my lower body weights first at home and, more importantly, stick to my meal plan, so I count it as a successful Tuesday. I’ll have to get in my workouts at lunch and after my last colored pencil drawing class tonight, though.

We are expecting a cold front (30s-40s…brrr) tonight, too, which means that I had to bring in the baby plants that I have yet to put in the ground. They are currently nestled in a recycling bin in the enclosed patio. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the cats won’t tear them up while I’m at the office. I don’t know why I bother trying to plant tomatoes before March anyway. Each year I am tricked by the unseasonably warm Florida weather into putting my plants out in mid-February, and every year, a freak 2-night cold front always freezes my veggie babies unto death within 6 days of planting.

Down another 0.6 lbs to 141.0 today! I am definitely hitting 139.x by Monday. My whole team has committed to going turbo with me for the next 5.5 weeks just so we can soundly trounce the three north side teams. I am thinking about switching back to a 3 day lifting program next week, though, as my energy levels will start to tank from the decrease in calories and the start of a carb-cycling nutrition plan. I also tend to lean out better with more interval and cardio time once I get into the 130’s, so it may be time for me to give up on the TT mass programs for now and just go back to a fat loss focus.

On to Day 2 of the 6-day slim down!

– Forza or inline skating during lunch (30 min)
– 3/4 mile walk (12 min)
– HHA Total Body Burn + Fat Burning Cardio (60 min)

M1: 3 egg whites/1 whole egg omelette with 1/2 c. spinach and 1 oz. part skim mozzarella cheese
M2: 1 scoop protein powder, 1/2 T. cocoa, 1/2 c. light soy milk
M3: 4 oz. chicken, 3 c. Romaine/spinach salad, 10 walnuts, 2 T. low fat Asian sesame ginger dressing
M4: 10 walnuts, 3/4 c. FF yogurt, spritz of lime juice, 1 packet Splenda
M5: 4 oz. chicken breast, 1 c. brussels sprouts

Make Your Own Recycled Self-Watering Gardening Pots

Laura asked how I made the self-watering pop bottle pots in this photo:

5/18/06 - Key lime (right) and tangerine (behind the key lime container on the left) seedlings in homemade self watering pots

The instructions can be found here: Topper’s Place – Pop Bottle Pots

It’s a quick project, and a great way to re-use all of those 2-liter diet soda bottles and milk cartons you might otherwise just toss out. I like to keep herbs in mine since stuff like basil and cilantro isn’t too happy about missing a watering and mornings can get a bit busy for me!

Tonight I’ll see if I can come up with a tutorial on how I make my origami seed starting pots that won’t confuse the heck out of everyone. I’d say that it’s around a medium difficulty level for someone who is familiar with the basic origami folds. They are a bit time consuming at 5-7 minutes apiece, even when you know what you are doing, but hey, might as well stay busy while watching re-runs of CSI, right? I made about 36 of these out of old newspapers earlier this summer to start up my fall pepper and eggplant seedlings.

5/12/06 - I figured out a way to make throwaway seedling starting pots sans stupid looking flaps with a square of paper cut from

TTW20D1: Cheapass Gardening

I donated blood yesterday after waking up late, so there was not much in the way of exercise after that! I did do a little bit of gardening over the weekend however, and kept the eats pretty clean.

140.0 lbs this morning due to the cheat meal lunch I had at a local diner with friends. I’ll see if I can deflate back down to 138 territory tomorrow.

This morning’s workout was TT Phase 4 Workout B followed by a 20 minute outdoor interval sprint session. I haven’t performed that workout in over a week and was low on iron due to TOM and blood donation, but I found that I didn’t need to drop any of my weights, so all was good. I am just glad that all of that is out of the way already. I skipped the outdoor walk since it was $#$!@ hot outside and I had already gotten in my outdoor activity when the sun wasn’t blazing so enthusiastically overhead.

With my nutrition and exercise back on autopilot, I have been able to focus on some of my other hobbies. Last week was spent organizing my personal finances again, and this week is devoted to finding ways to have a decent flower and vegetable garden with a budget of, oh, $50 for the entire 2007 year.

I’ve been a very tardy gardener so far this year, barely doing anything besides a bit of weeding, removing exhausted plants from last season, and transplanting three or four purchased pepper plants into the dirt in my square foot garden plot. Heck, the only reason I even have a tomato plant and Thai giant peppers right now is because some unharvested fruits fell off of some plants last year, and the seeds came up all by themselves in my paved courtyard off the master bedroom. I currently have one or two monster tomatoes in there and five small hot pepper plants.

And weeds. Lots and lots of weeds.

The seed starting that should have been done around December/January finally got completed this Saturday with about 27 little homemade origami newspaper seedling pots (2007 cost: $0) being populated with a variety of eggplant, pepper, cherry tomato, malabar spinach, corkscrew vine and geranium seeds (2007 cost: $0 – Seeds were all acquired last year or before). I probably should have gone for something more heat tolerant than geraniums, but I figure that I can just get a flat of cheapo marigolds from Wal-Mart this weekend for under $4 and save myself the germination time. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that winter will be mild again this year, because my little seeds aren’t going to have a lot of time to get going. As it stands, we’ll soon be in full-blown 98 degree/99% humidity Florida summer nastiness down here, and only the heat-loving veggies I listed above and a few other selections (okra, sweet potatoes, cucuzzi) will survive and produce anything under those conditions.

At least the fruit trees I planted in 2006 are doing well–a dwarf banana (that is rapidly approaching 6′ in height), two lychees, two mangos, and four types of figs. Florida may blow chunks when it comes to many types of veggies, but we are aces for fancy tropical fruit!

The strawberries I planted last year (and chose not to pull out) are starting to produce lots of small, sad berries now. I have to forage amongst the dense leaves every morning to catch the stunted little fruits before the local squirrels and bugs get them.

As far as other stragglers from 2006 go, I still have about half a dozen sweet potato vines I should probably dig up and somehow figure out how to propagate so I won’t have to purchase more slips. There is also a little Fairy Tale hybrid eggplant that is making a valiant comeback in the SF garden, a giant Brazilian orange eggplant that looks more like a decorative flowering shrub than a vegetable, a square of green onions, another square of chives, a pineapple, and two bell peppers that I really need to yank out. The non-veggie 2006 plantings are doing a lot better. We have three brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpets) that are taking off like crazy in the heat and over a dozen daylilies that are blooming their heads off already.

If I didn’t love fresh garden veggies so much, I could happily plant nothing but fruit trees and easy-care perennials.

Anyhow, with $32 of my $50 gardening budget already gone, I’ll be doing my best to start my own perennial flowers from my embarrassingly large collection of seeds instead of paying outrageously high prices from catalogs and local nurseries. It’s going to take a LONG time–the sago palm seedlings I started last year are still only 6″ tall for instance–but I think it will be worth it in the end.

Besides, I have to justify the cost of the seedling heating mat I bought last year somehow.



– TTfW Phase 4 Workout B (35 min)
Warm-up (8 min)

A1) DB Step-up (3×8 @ 40 lbs)
A2) DB Incline Press (3×6 @ 40 lbs)
B1) 1-Leg Hip Ext. plus 1-leg Stability Ball Curl (3×12 for each)
B2) Bodyweight Rows (subbed in for Wide-grip Seated Row) (3×8)

– Outdoor Interval Run (20 min)

1) 3 egg whites, 30 g raisins, 30 g oats
2) 1 small banana, 1 small apple
3) 4 oz. tilapia, 1 c. asparagus veggie mix, 1 medium pear
4) 1 T. ANPB, 2 unsalted rice cakes
5) 4 oz. coconut chicken breast, 3 c. spinach/lettuce salad, 2 T. light dressing
6) 1/2 oz. walnuts, 2 T. raisins, 4 oz. tilapia, 1 c. asparagus veggie mix

Supps: 1 multivitamin, 1 calcium 600+D, 3 fish oil caps, 1 serving l-glutamine