Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Today's Picking

The pea vines are already beginning to brown at the bottom and I'm just getting the first picking. =o Next year I definitely need to plant at least twice as much. Other things are just beginning to be ready for picking too so it's a bit of this and a bit of that for dinner tonight. Today's Picking 5/31/05

I'll cut that Eight Ball squash and the carrots into generous chunks and steam and then shock them. By that time I should have the peas shelled. So then I'll give the entire melange a quick sautée with some Vidalia onions I got at Costco a few days ago and serve them with tequila marinated chicken.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Just for Debbie

I haven't been able to catch my kitties in the garden yet but here they are chez eux just for Debbie to enjoy.

Here is Templeton at leisure.

His little buddy Sylvester is practicing his bedroom eyes. Ain't he sexy though!

Maggie is Sylvester's littermate. She did not want her picture taken but she did consent to play with the dangling camera strap while I made an ass of myself chasing her all over the place trying to get her to look at the camera. Maggie is short for Magellan. We gave her that name because she was distinctly the most curious and adventurous of the three from the very start. Lately, I'm thinking of re-naming her Miss Adventure or even Misadventure because the more she enjoys being outside the less we see of her.
Maggie's Face

Sylvester also went through several names until we found the right one for him. A cable installation guy thought he should have been called Sylvester and he was absolutely right! Apart from the perfect coloration, if you picked him up you'd instantly see that he's slim and trim enough under all that fur except for his belly which is enormous and round. That's not criticism -- it's a profile I've come to adopt myself...

Here Sylvester is telling Maggie a secret. What do you think? Is Templeton merely curious? Or more than a little miffed at the rudeness of being left out?

De la Vigne a la Table dans Cinq Minutes

I dunno but mabbee I'm actually becoming a blogger (of however dubious quality) because tonight when I went to pick beans for dinner (impulsive little beast that I am) I stopped and thought "Wait! I must take some photos first!"! So, here they are:

Purple beans are soooo easy to pick. Royal Burgundy Ready to Pick Thank god 'cause I'll soon be picking them every 3 or 4 days. However clearly the stark contrast announces their presence, they have their own mystery: why do bean vines put out their leaves in three's and their beans in two's...

Here they are in all their pre-dinner splendor. Royal Burgundy in the Basket

And, now, they must have heard that their moments are numbered because they've gone all green with trepidation. ...and strategically applied steam. Royal Burgundy's for Dinner

I wish I could show you how we enjoyed them but forks were flying and it didn't seem wise to put a camera in anyone's face!

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Sadly, my Stupice continues to have more and more foliage involved in whatever blight it has. I can't say how painful it is to pinch off the affected leaves, further defoliating my plant. This is the only plant I have that's anywhere near producing a tomato. And this particular plant is just loaded with immature fruit. Merde! I sprayed it again this morning and then put in a thick mulch of chopped straw. I hope this isn't too much a case of closing the door after the horse is out of the barn...

The good news is the Kellogg's Breakfast stem that I broke off a few days ago continues to look like it will take root. It won't be a good candidate for that pot (should Stupice need to be replaced at some point), but I just potted up another volunteer I took out of the area where the yellow pepper is planted. That could probably go in there but I must remember to replace all of that infected soil.
Volunteer IV

I also pinched some diseased bottom foliage off Volunteer I and mulched it heavily. The progression of the blight is much slower on this plant. And, thank god, the tomatoes in the enclosure continue to look vibrant without a sign of disease.

First 8Ball Squash The very good news is I pollinated the female blossom of an Eight Ball squash this morning. A crookneck has a female blossom that will probably open tomorrow. Buzz buzz, and all that! Now if only I could make honey... And I guess I'm close to the point where I'll need to be checking daily to do my pollination duties.

I thinned the second foot of beets I planted a couple weeks ago. I also planted another foot. And while I was at it, I officially gave up on the carrots that have disappeared from the same hill. I planted some Chinese cabbage seeds I got for free when I ordered asparagus seeds in their place. The variety is Michihili. This area dries out quickly. I've had to water it midday and also again at night.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Summer Arrives!

Summer came upon us as suddenly and definitively as ever in SoCal. It's a little late this unusual rainy year, but now it's here. We had a long stretch of pleasant days and cool nights and now we have the pleasant mornings and evenings but midday is approaching killer. Because that's the way it's been for several days, I finally watered my tomatoes and the other plants in the enclosure. They've been drooping midday but they pep up as the evening gets cool. Still, I didn't want to wait until the ground gets entirely dry — it will be too hard to rewet it at that point. So I watered as soon as I got up this morning.

I'm soooo impressed with what a good job of cooling the soil and retaining the moisture the straw mulch is doing! But even so, the beets that were well watered about 8am were looking like fried eggs on a hot griddle at 1:30pm. I had to water them again and I hope it will be enough to rescue them. I probably am being foolish to try to grow them this late in the year but I had hoped the shade of the fruit trees would cool them enough. I'll just have to see how that goes.

All in all, this is the time of year when the shade gardens become a special delight. If I wander in one of them I can feel 10˚ cooler! And the one at the south end of the back fence has a lovely view of the veggies that grow along the fence and also a nice one of the house and the pool. Too bad there isn't room for a seat there...

This weekend is also the time when the Sepulveda Community Garden holds their garden fair. I knew it was about time and so I drove by and there it was! I got several new iris rhizomes. A couple yellows and a purple and an orange. I've got so many muted colors I thought it was time for something that really stood out. It's the SoCal Iris Society that sells them so these are really very nice and I look forward to seeing them fill out and bloom in the front yard.

While I was there I wandered through other people's garden plots. It was nice to see what folks are growing and how they manage those tiny spots. Some people had mature cukes and tomatoes just about ready to ripen! I'm so jealous! Several people also had raspberries and blackberries. Yum! I am definitely putting a couple canes in as soon as find out what the best time of year to do it is. I'll put them on the split rail fence behind the garage.

That's it for today. Wishing everyone a lovely spot to enjoy the birds' songs and growing things!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

More May Progress

The story continues.

The beets are planted in the tomato enclosure beneath the peach and the fruit salad trees. I hoped the bit of shade would help them compensate for the high temperatures at this time of year. So far I have put in about 2' in two different plantings. The first ones have their first true leaves and the second planting has it's cotyledons. I haven't thinned the second planting yet. I think it's probably time to do a third planting. The variety is Detroit Dark Red.

I've planted three varieties in the tomato enclosure. They are Yellow Crookneck, Eight Ball (a round green summer squash), and Costata Romanesco (a ribbed Italian heirloom zucchini). They're in a tight space and I'm hoping I can get them to grow vertically up metal corkscrew stakes. So far they're doing very nicely. I've had lots of male blossoms on the zukes and some on the crooknecks. Only the zukes are showing signs of the first female blossoms. And, just in case anyone thinks this is a joke, here is a pic of the male blossom on its long thin stem and (look hard) the first tiny green female blossom which hasn't colored up yet but still shows the tiny ovary that will become the zuke once fertilized. Male & Female Blossoms on Zucchini Look in the center forground at the thing that seems to be pointing at 5 o'clock.

I've never had any luck with eggplant before. They grow well enough for a while but then they start looking delicious to something that turns them first into lace and then into a memory. :sigh: But I'm trying again. I put in two Black Beauties. So far they seem to be doing fine. No great spurt of growth or signs of blossoms but no lace either. They're also growing in the enclosure.

This is a repeat of one of the three plants I put in last year. Two were promptly eaten down to the ground. This one limped through the rest of last year without giving up an artichoke but came back with a vengence this Spring. I think it was a Green Globe. Here it is in the garden with three lovely artichokes on it. Artichokes And here is the one I had for lunch last week. An Artichoke for Lunch

I am growing three cantaloupe plants in a pot from which I removed the bottom and which I have sunk in the ground as a kind of 18" square raised bed. The variety is Ambrosia. So far they're sorta limping along. I had watched three potential sites for the one that was sunniest but I'm not sure how well I chose. Today I removed branches from a pyracantha to see if I could get them some more late morning sun. It pained me to do it because they were particularly graceful branches and they were loaded with berries that I'll miss in the Fall and Winter when there isn't so much other color out there. Oh well... I think the melons will benefit from a few more hours of sunlight. They'd better give us a few melons for the sacrifice I made!

I planted about 3' of Sugar Snap Peas from seeds along the enclosure fence. I got about 2'. Next year I should plant all the way to the wooden fence. Here's a pic of some of the peas on the vine. Sugar Snap Peas
They're just delicious. My only regret is that I can only pick a few pods a day. I enjoy them but I'll look forward to next year when I hope there will be enough to serve them to my whole family for dinner.

So much for the tomato enclosure area. Moving on to the wooden fence in front of the concrete pad:

Originally I planted two varieties at the first of February — Sequoias and Chandlers (both June bearers). And then the heavens opened up and we had more rain than I've ever seen in Los Angeles. Fortunately, a blogging friend (Bee/Diary_Queen from Chocolate & Zucchini) talked me through good preparation of a new strawberry bed and I only lost a handful of plants. I filled in with Quinalt (everbearing). Here they are looking purty for their closeup. The Sequoias. Sequoia Strawberries And below, the Chandlers.
Chandler Strawberries They seem to be doing fine except that lately the berries on the Quinalts are going soft and dull looking before they ripen. And the bugs are loving whatever they can sink their teeth into! The Sequoias are just beginning to fruit and it looks like they hold their fruit up on tall stems. Perhaps they'll be able to evade the sowbugs and slugs. The few Quinalt berries I was able to beat the bugs to were very nice. Not as full-flavored as I had hoped but, still, very fresh tasting and yummy.

The loose leaf lettuce that I planted in pots has all bolted. I'm presently letting it go to seed so I can collect it and sow it again in the Fall. I also planted seedlings as the front border of the strawberry mounds. Those plants are doing nicely and they're ready to start picking. I put in six-packs of three different varieties so I should be able to pick a salad every evening for a month or so before they bolt.

And the next area is the back fence:

This area is a bit problematical. It backs onto my neighbor's yard. Sid is elderly and no longer takes care of his yard. It's full of hip-high wild grasses and shoulder-high sowthistles. After years of trying to get my own weeds under control, I now live in dread of when his start popping up in my yard. I'm on daily patrols to get out the first signs of sprouts. All that said, here's a pic of how it's developing. Bean Teepees

I planted two varieties of cukes — a pickling vine and a Japanese vine. Both were from six-packs. Only one of the Japanese remains and only four of the pickling. I'm not sure what got them but whatever it was lopped off the whole plants relatively quickly. I planted them along the very back fence were it's relatively shady. I thought they could benefit from having the fence to climb and that the shade would keep the ground more consistently moist. The remaining plants are still only about 6" high. I guess they'll grow slowly without as much sunlight. Perhaps as they get taller they'll be able to make the most of what sun passes by there in the course of the day.

I put in three variety of pole beans. They're growing on two different teepees. One has Kentucky Wonders. The other has Royal Burgundy growing on one side and Yellow Wax "growing" on the other. The KWs and RBs came up and are doing great. The KWs were from purchased seeds and the RB were saved seeds. The Yellow Wax were also from saved seeds. I've sowed them twice already and what comes up comes up slowly and gets eated down to nubs within a couple days. I just sowed a third time. I only have a few seeds left so let's hope something can get long eough to twine up the poles! I've sampled a couple of Royal Burgundies already.
Blossoms & Bean on Royal Burgundy
You can see the sweet blossom with a mature bean to the right and an immature green one just above and behind it. I should be able to pick enough for dinner in a week or so.

I usually have more volunteers of onions than I know what to do with. This year some sort of flea got to the green onions and decimated them. It also seems to have really slowed down and whacked the shallots but they soldier on the best they can. I also put in red and white granex-type onions from seedlings. Some of them seem to be doing very well, others are just kinds lying on their sides. We'll see how they do.

I planted carrots in two different spots. The ones in the tomato enclosure next to the beets came up and promptly disappeared. Meanwhile, the ones I planted in front of the bean teepees are doing much better in spite of the relatively heavy soil they were planted in. I pulled up some decent 4" long carrots. When I replanted, I removed 12" of soil and, rather than continue to try to "improve" it, I simply replaced it with potting soil. We'll see how these do. I am obstinately insisting on raising carrots in spite of the awful adobe-quality clay of my native soil and the gardeners' insistence on whacking them down with weed whackers. :sigh:

The far area has the least sun and borders the shadiest corner of the back fence. Birdhouse Area

There are red and yellow varieties of bell peppers. So far they're carrying on. No great bursts of growth but no signs of disease either. For insurance, I planted them in gopher cages because this is the area where the gopher is most active.

I planted potatoes in this area several years ago. At first they were decimated by a foliar disease but as I amended and amended the soil with compost the volunteers that came back each year were healthier and healthier. Last year I was very aggressive about digging them all up. Consequently, I only have 5 volunteer plants this year. I think they may be Yukon Golds. At least I hope they'll be Yukon Golds. I have also planted sections of a red French Fingerling potato that I bought for dinner at Whole Foods. I put them in really late for potatoes so I don't know if they will have time to grow and I don't know if they were treated to prevent sprouting. So far, there are no signs of them behind the peppers and the tomatoes where I marked their planting holes. But it's encouraging that they were in the ground at roughly the time that the volunteers appeared above ground. I think volunteers are a great way to measure how in tune with nature your choices and timing are!

So far that's it for this year. I have a couple more plans and I'll post about that tomorrow in the hope that it will spark me on to move them from the planning stage to execution.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Progress Report for May

I have decided to post progress reports for the mid point and end of each month. I'm hoping this will help me keep track of what's working and what's not.

Stupice (55-60 days) - Stupice is growing in a pot on my patio. It's the first time I've tried to grow a full-size tomato in the pot. In previous years, cherry tomatoes have done well and kept going through the summer. The Stupice has a good number of nice-size babies. Unfortunately, it also is showing evidence of a foliar disease despite a "preventive" spray of Daconil and the fact that potato leaf tomatoes are supposed to be the most disease resistant. Foliar Disease on Stupice I OK. I didn't finally decide that I would spray this year (I've stubbornly refused to since I started my garden here) until I saw the first disappointing signs of spots and yellowing. I've sprayed twice and I remove the damaged leaves when I see them. I wonder how long the plant can go on losing several leaves every week. In the photo, the yellow and brown is the disease. The white is the Daconil.

Sungold (57 days) - Sungold is a "gotta grow". I'm not sure why. Everybody else loves it so I grow it. It is a very nice cherry — which, I suppose, is a good enough reason. No excitement but usually abundant fruit all summer long. Sungold has blosoms. It's growing in the tomato enclosure and here is a pic of all the tomatoes growing there. Tomato Enclosure

Black Cherry (65 days) - Black Cherry has the first buds. I've never grown this tomato before and I was excited to find it at Goto Nursery shortly after I discovered its existance. It's growing in the tomato enclosure where all the plants have been sprayed twice, are well mulched with straw and, so far, show no signs of disease.

Dona (65 days) - Dona is a well-loved favorite. I always have great results with it and it's one I always begin my garden with. Dona is growing in the enclosure. It presently has blossoms.

Black from Tula - YUM! My favorite tomato even if it (like other beefsteaks) usually has lower yield. I had hoped to grow 2 but one snapped off when I watered it with too high a spray. I tried to root the broken stem but without success. It's growing in the enclosure, has lots of healthy foliage and buds.

Carmello (70 days) - Another backbone choice like Dona. Carmello is growing well in the enclosure. It has blossoms.

Noire Charboneuse (80 days) - This is another tomato that's new to me. It's black. It's French (like Dona & Carmello). What more could I hope for? So far it's growing nicely in the enclosure and it has blossoms at this point.

Kellogg's Breakfast (80-85 days) - This is a delicious, meaty yellow. Yellows have a light, citrusy flavor and make a fun tomato sauce. So far Kellogg's Breakfast is doing very nicely (though I broke off a stem tying it up a couple days ago). It's in the enclosure and has blossoms. The broken stem has perked up and might supply me with a second plant if I can find a spot for it.

Marvel Stripe (90-110 days) - Marvel Stripe is planted in the enclosure. It's got a tremendous amount of really luxuriant foliage and it's already sporting blossoms. I've never grown MS before but it will be fun to have a bi-color. MS is reported to be a marbled affair of red and yellow-orange with a balance of sweet tart flavor. Sounds good, no?

Volunteer I - This one is growing midway across the back fence. It's hip-high at this point and has blossoms and a few babies. It isn't clear if it will turn out to be a cherry (as most of my volunteers are) or a full-size tomato. It's looking good but has some evidence of a foliar disease. Minor Foliar Disease on Volunteer I It isn't mulched like the tomatoes in the enclosure but it has been sprayed twice. It may be time to put down some straw to see if isolating the foliage from the soil will help inhibit the progression of the disease.

Volunteer II & III - I rescued these two from the shade garden close to the house and the hard clay floor of the compost area (about 50 yards away). They appear to be the same mystery variety but they have clearly different foliage than Volunteer I which came up months earlier. Here is a pic of The Twins. Volunteer II & III They look tiny here but I started them in the very bottom of those pots so they've already grown 8" or 9" at this point. Since the photo, they've outgrown their gallon pots and I put them in the ground. I planted them deep so they've still only got a few top tiers of leaves on them. They're at the south end of the back fence. This area only gets limited sunlight but I wanted to save all the sunny areas for the plants I chose. These guys are survivors. I'm sure they'll do what they're going to do where they're planted.

That is more entry than I expected to write -- but I'm sure all this info will be useful to me when I assess the results of this year's garden and plan next years.

I'll report on the other types of plants tomorrow.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Well Begun Is Half the Fun!

I have been noodling about with a garden since we moved into this house 7 or 8 years ago. Some years I've had very nice yields. Others I've barely gotten anything. But I've learned all the way along. One of the things I've learned is that I might as well take the time and effort to set it up well instead of just plunking things in the ground and salivating until I can pick.

This year I really, finally, took the time to do it right. ... I hope. I have tried to give things enough space and I have tried to give them the proper exposure. I have also begun with a layer of landscaping cloth between the plantings and covered that with a thick mulch of straw. It's been more than a week since I did that and I haven't had to water my tomatoes in that time.

Here, Templeton is demonstrating how comfy it really is!

Anyway, it's all looking so attractive and promising that I took quite a few pictures yesterday. I'll post more of them here so I can at long last have a garden journal I can continue to learn from and draw on.