Making space for more

David and I took a break from inside work to head outside and tidy up.  While I was helping my sister with her patio garden last week, I purchased a flat of marigolds.  Those marigolds have been staring at me every day, waiting to get in the ground. Marigolds are great companion plants. We tried growing them from seed, but they’ve been taking forever.

While I planted, David got to work at hacking back our herb garden.  Rosie was glad when we finished, because we created her a great little shady spot to hang out.

I also took some of the herb cuttings to make herb vinegars.  We made chive blossom vinegar earlier this year, and it’s been fun to use in salad dressings (and it’s bright pink).  Today we made three different vinegars: tarragon, rosemary and chive blossom vinegar.  These will hopefully go to the next food swap, although we may just keep them for salad dressings.

We’ll need lots of dressing soon, as the cucumbers are starting to take off.  20140615-144956-53396854.jpgThe mint was trimmed the other day.  A few pieces are flowering.  Our mint seems to always attract more flies than bees. 20140615-144958-53398190.jpgFinally some of our tomatoes are coloring up.  The cherry tomatoes are also coming. 20140615-144952-53392522.jpgThe blackberries are red. I wonder how long until they get darker. Notice the strawberry in the background? We’ve been eating a few a week.20140615-144951-53391716.jpgThe onions are actually starting to look more onion shaped! I’ve been pulling some to use as we need. We think we’re going to pull a bunch to bring to the produce exchange this weekend.  We have way more than we need, especially since it seems like these won’t be good storage onions.20140615-144955-53395033.jpgIn the front yard, the Thai Red Roselle is getting bigger. This is our first year growing this crop. We just learned that if we want to make hibiscus/ Red Zinger tea, we’ll need to wait until they flower and then grab the calyx from each flower. I planted marigolds and salvia under them to help keep the area looking a little more colorful.20140615-144949-53389857.jpgOur peppers are starting to flower, finally.  They were stunted for so long. Here’s a flower!20140615-144950-53390874.jpgThe peppers in the raised bed still have a ways to go.  Today I sprinkled herb seeds, such as Thai basil, parsley, dill and cilantro, in this area.  Hopefully they’ll take. Oh, this is also where we planted okra, which hasn’t done well for us the past two years. We have seeds, so it’s worth another try.20140615-144953-53393361.jpgThere’s one section of the sideyard, which never gets watered. We planted drought tolerant plants there earlier this year. I suppose the little water we’ve given them recently have encouraged them to flower, as they all look great right now!20140615-145000-53400922.jpgThis verbena we grew from seed last year, and then transplanted earlier this year.  Remember it was taking over under the apricot tree last summer?20140615-144959-53399374.jpgOur roses are flowering again as well. I love having a hedge of roses. 20140615-144954-53394188.jpg

Waiting is the hardest part

These days when I look around the garden, I see so much potential.

I see heirloom tomatoes for sandwiches, bruchetta and tomato sauce.20140607-140813-50893575.jpgI see red zinger tea from our Thai Red Roselle.20140607-140816-50896893.jpg

I see roasted Black Cherry tomatoes in our freezer. 20140607-140812-50892677.jpgI daydream about fresh cucumber salads, pickles and relishes.20140607-140811-50891854.jpgI question what this mystery squash is, and hope that it’s a melon!20140607-140818-50898663.jpgRosie waits with me, hoping that I’ll throw the ball for here in the meantime.20140607-140810-50890981.jpg

Most of the strawberries have past (with holes in the them), but now that there’s straw protecting them from bugs, we wait for strawberries to mature.  Of course, there are blackberries that we’re waiting for as well.20140607-140815-50895985.jpgThe various hot peppers got a late start, so we wait for them. How much fish emulsion does it take to speed them up?20140607-140814-50894684.jpg

And we wait for eggplants, to be turned into Indian and Mediterranean dishes for our al fresco summer meals. 20140607-140819-50899478.jpgLuckily, the ladybug is waiting for aphids on the eggplant. I guess waiting can be useful.20140607-140820-50900295.jpgWaiting to see what our mystery compost squash will create.  The bed is starting to climb up, but there are no female flowers (that I can find) yet.20140607-140822-50902449.jpg

And we wait for zucchini and basil. We waited too long to plant ours, and they became a little stunted.  With watering and fish fertilizer, they’ve started to grow bigger, so soon we may get flowers. 20140607-140821-50901245.jpg

What a great harvest we will have!

I can’t wait!

 

Memorial Day Garden Tour

This garden season began with sifting the compost.  We applied it generously to the beds, hoping it would replenish the nutrients in the soil.

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Look at all the worms in our compost!  It’s great to have a giant worm bin.  See the worm egg in the picture below? However the downside is that the seeds that are in our composted food are still viable; we’re constantly picking baby squash and tomato plants out of the garden.

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We decided to just go with it, in the bed below, and see what sprouted.  I also transplanted a couple Sweet Dumpling squash, and direct seeded soybeans, bush beans and a couple of other squash that I don’t remember.  We’re interested to see what the squash look like, and may do some thinning after we get our first female flowers.

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Today, to make space for pepper plants, I pulled out two giant Laciento kale plants.  We still have three in the ground, so we won’t be deprived of this popular superfood.  The harvested kale will become a salad that we’re bringing on our friend’s boat.  Some will also probably be frozen, made into kale chips and go into our soup.

I also pulled out beets, pearl onions and a lonely garlic.

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We planted strawberries earlier this winter. We bought two different varieties, and then found three that randomly sprouted in our gardens. David and I have eaten a few berries this year, although the slugs and other critters have eaten more than us. I’m sure putting down straw would help.  It’s not high on the priority list and keeps slipping my mind when I’m outside.

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We also planted a thornless blackberry, which is growing its first berries!

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We sprinkled wildflower seeds last year.  The California poppies have been blooming for a month now.  Aren’t they a little bit of sunshine?

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The tomatoes are all planted (well, except for the two that I’m not sure where to plant).  This yellow pear has some nice little clusters of flowers.  You can also see that it’s dropping a few flowers; fish emulsion is happening soon. I also spent some time this weekend clearing out dead leaves and stray branches, which will hopefully prevent disease and powdery mildew.

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This winter’s red mustard has gone to seed.  I pulled out two of the three plants today.  They’re now drying in the garage, where we will hopefully catch all of the mustard seed to make our own mustard!  I was hoping to leave the mustard in the ground a bit longer, while it matured, but it had to come out for two reasons.  1. I needed the space to plant peppers, lettuce, radishes and carrots.  2. There have been finches perched on it recently, although they have been eluding the camera.

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We left the mustard in the back that is still flowering.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get this pulled out without disturbing everything that was just planted around it.

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We’ve started to pull out and eat our onions.  This is our first time planting onions (other than pearl and green onions) and we’ll do it from seed next time, not sets.  I was tempted by the cute little bag of onion sets.  Many of them have started to flower and they don’t seem to be forming very big onions- they are more like giant green onions, with a slightly swollen red bottom (I know there’s a spanking joke there).

The kale here is still quite healthy.  (All of the other kales have been getting aphids, and keeping our ladybugs busy.) Below the kale is a random catnip plant that Shadow hasn’t yet discovered, and a handful of leeks.
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I spent some time today getting our pots ready for plants.  One now has tomatoes and basil for my sister’s balcony, and another has Button Box Zinnias.  I’ve been growing the zinnias at school, and they are the perfect size for pots!  I can’t wait!

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Today I also worked on cleaning up the tomatoes and tomatillo plants in the back yard.  Our Florida Weave was holding up nicely, until this week when it seems to have flopped over.  While the plants were on their sides, I decided to thin them out a little and inspect for baby tomatoes.  I found lots!  And I also picked about 10 tomatillos, so we’ll be making our first small batch of salsa verde of the season (with poblanos from school and jalapenos from the front yard).

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We direct seeded some Rat’s Tail Radishes at the end of the drip line.  It seems that only one sprouted.  And it may even be a weed.  We’ll find out soon.  I love close ups of our soil because you really can see all of the egg shells and avocado leaves that we put into it.

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Under the apricot tree I planted a chocolate habanero plant, which I grew from seeds we saved last year.  Unfortunately, something keeps eating it.  Any idea what it could be?

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We have picked most of the apricots already.  Here’s one of the few left on the tree.  Most of them were cracked this year, which I hear is from uneven watering.  And sadly, this will be our only year that we get to harvest apricots, as we’ll be moving soon… more on that to come!

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Here’s the back area, where we have baby long beans starting to climb the fence.  There are also 3 eggplants (all different kinds, I hope) and 4 (stunted) zucchinis.  Today I also added Cream of the Crop acorn squash, delicata squash and little leaf cucumbers. I planted a couple of basil plants after taking the photo.  Notice how the apricot tree is spreading into this area… I’ll have to post a picture of the whole area and how impressive our tree has become!

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One of my favorite plants, borage, has self seeded under the apricot tree.  It’s about to flower.

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I caught this no-spot lady bug keeping the long beans clean.  There were loads of aphids on them earlier this week.  I said, “thank you” as I snapped her photo.


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The eggplants have begun flowering.  I saw a flower earlier this week and it looks like it’s already growing into a fruit.  We’re growing the Japanese eggplant and Rosa Bianca that we grew last year, as well as a couple of other varieties that we haven’t put in the ground yet.  I did plant a mystery eggplant that I found laying around the greenhouse at school, and I’m waiting on 3 more to grow bigger.

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It’s so interesting how the different variety of tomatoes all look extremely different as they grow!  I harvested the beets from in between these tomatoes and planted more golden and Bull’s Blood beets, as well as transplanted some lettuce heads. There are a few Asian greens and radishes on the left.

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Here’s our peppers that went in where the mustard used to be.  As I was getting ready to plant, my neighbor’s friend helped plant a few of the seeds- it’s always great to meet people who want to get their hands dirty!  We now have 4 Shishito peppers and 4 Pepperoncini plants, with carrots, radish and lettuce seeds scattered around them.

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The red pepper that was there had this larvae on it.  This will be a ladybug, right?

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We’ve tried okra a couple places in the yard before.  The first year it was in the front, and the pods got giant.  We never ate them. Last year we planned on having pickled and dried okra, so we planted a handful of plants in the backyard.  They did miserably.  I think we ate two pieces of okra. This year I planted three plants in the raised bed, which seems to always get enough sunlight and water for plants to thrive.  We have our fingers crossed that we’ll be cooking with okra this summer!

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We are starting to get cucumbers.  We had a great crop of Little Leaf Cucumbers on our wood ladder, so this year we planted there again.  I used a different variety, as it was what I had handy.  I think it’s Delikatesse, which I’ve heard great things about. The plants are just reaching the ladder now, and starting to flower prolifically.

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I planted a couple of Thai Red Roselle plants in the front flower bed.  They looked a bit shocked at first, but recently they’ve really taken off. Once I get this area weeded and mulched, I think it should help them out also.

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I just scrolled down to see if there were more pictures.  You see, the outside is only half of the story. This weekend I also did a little cooking.  I brought home apples from school and made 9 jars of apple sauce and 10 little jars of vanilla rum apple butter.  We also made a huge pot of chicken stock, some of which ended up all over the freezer as I tried to freeze it in silicon muffin cups. It’s now safely being frozen in ziplocs.  One day we’ll pressure can…

 

 

We’re getting ready for summer season!

I’ve had trouble finding time to garden and blog.  Ok, I’ve been having trouble finding time to garden even.  We have been slowly getting plants in, getting things cleaned up and even finding a few minutes to cook.

I want to show you what we’ve been up to.  Lots of pics below!

Our apricot that we planted last year is getting HUGE!  We’re still waiting to harvest our first ones.  We also will probably prune a few branches soon.

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This weekend we pulled out four Laciento kale plants.  This giant pile of kale went with us to the food swap this weekend.

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We also harvested a handful of purple carrots.  Here they are shredded, waiting to be cooked.

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And here they are turned into purple carrot cake jam.  Yummy!

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We really liked the way the Florida Weave worked out for our tomatoes last year, so we decided to plant two rows.  We included five different heirlooms in the back, two San Marzanos and three tomatillos in the front. They’re looking great so far, although they’re all just starting to flower.

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Here’s the whole backyard garden right now.  I was just pulling out a chard that popped up before taking this.  We still have to figure out what to do with the bamboo trellis, as the front right section will be soybeans and bush beans this year. (With a few other things, like bush Delicata and Sweet Dumpling thrown in.)

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I transplanted this kale a couple of weeks ago.  It’s supposed to go to my sister’s house.  Hopefully it will perk up before we give it to her.

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The long beans are starting to take off.  I have to replant a few this week, now that the bed has fresh layers of straw, leaves, manure and mulch.

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There are two eggplants that have been in the ground for a short period of time.  They were looking really sad for a while.  Just this week they started to experience new growth and perk up!

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The ladder on the side yard will have cucumbers again.  These were a little small to transplant, but I did it anyways because we were heading out of town last week.  I have a few more that are starting inside right now, but my guess is these will be ok soon.

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The onions are growing large and flowering.  I’ve heard that if they flower that means they won’t really make onion bulbs underground.  We’re using the green onion tops as we need green onions, but that hasn’t been often recently.

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We let this pepper overwinter in the garden, and I never cut off the old growth.  There are new peppers and flowers already!  I think this is the serrano plant.

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Our red mustard is finishing up with quite a show!  We’re enjoying the flowers, and David is hoping to catch a few red mustard seeds so that we can replant them later.

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Here’s proof that our tomatoes are flowering! I love tomato flowers!!

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We have a small patch of beets.  We thought our purple carrots weren’t going to be purple enough, so we picked a beet to shred and add to the carrots, ensuring that they were bright purple.  Funny thing though, we forgot that the beets were Chioggia beets, meaning they were candy striped and more white than the carrots!  As it happened, the purple carrots were super purple and the jam was just the color that I envisioned.  And the best part about the beets, they didn’t stain the kitchen, or our hands, purple!

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In addition to the red onions that are flowering, we planted spring onions/ scallions, and they’re also flowering!

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We’ve moved away from loose leaf lettuce, and have been trying to keep up with our salad needs by planting heads of lettuce.  Isn’t this head of butter lettuce beautiful?

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This winter David and I were tempted by the bare root berries.  Our blackberry is flowering!

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And our strawberries are too! We planted four berries, but have found three more that popped up around the yard, so our patch has been expanding.

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Lastly, I thought our cabbages would look great in the front flower bed, so I threw a few in there earlier this winter.  They finally started growing recently.  This green one looks ready to pick.  The aphids are starting to take over, but I’d like the cabbage to get a little bigger before we pick it.

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Hope your spring is going well!

 

Treats

We have garlic scapes! The garlic that we planted was two varieties- one given to us at a food swap and the other purchased at the farmers market. Turns out, it was mostly soft neck and fast growing!

We already have soft neck garlic drying on the laundry line, and 5 hard neck garlic still growing. Today I picked these beautiful scapes.

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I have no idea what to do with them! We want to make something other than pesto- something that lets us enjoy our small treat.

This morning, while taking my stroll around the yard with the dog, I noticed a lot of activity in an avocado tree. Turns out the bushtits have built a nest! Perhaps it’s from the same family as last year?

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Last year, the little babies didn’t make it.  The branch that they built the nest on has since been removed.  I was excited to spot the nest up much higher!  Mom and Dad were flitting in and out of the nest.  Hopefully there will be more news to come!

 

Spring time is time

First, please excuse the quality of the pictures.  I’ve been busy in the garden, and have been snapping pics along the way, but these days they’ve been going to Facebook instead of here.  So, in an effort to get back to blogging, I’m posting my phone pictures here.  Hopefully I’ll squeeze in time to continue to garden, and share it!

What’s great about spring in California, is things are taking off and starting to grow.  The past week has been quite windy and a bit cool at night (50s), so some of the new plants are a little stressed.

Our roses have been loving the weather though!  They’re just about in full bloom!

20140403-170119.jpgThe mint below our roses is perfect right now! Usually the roses go through an aphid phase, when they first start leafing out.  That didn’t happen this year!  I blame climate change. Heh.

20140403-170344.jpgThe onions are still growing.  A few look like they’re going to flower soon.  I’ve never grown onions, and would love any advice you all have.  Should I snap off the flowers?  Can I cook with the flowers?  Are my onions ok?  So many questions– I’ll probably look up some of them later, but I’d much prefer to spend time playing with the dog, cooking dinner or grading papers.

20140403-170357.jpgA couple of weeks ago, I pinched off all of the chive blossoms to make chive blossom vinegar. Today, I noticed that this one flower is showing off.  Perhaps it should go into a salad?  20140403-170410.jpgWe’ve planted almost all of our tomatoes already.  They’re small, but they’re growing and looking great!

20140403-170453.jpgMost of them went into the backyard lasagna beds.  David is going to put in T-stakes for the Florida Weave.  The closer to the wall row has slicing tomatoes, and the front row has tomatillos intermixed with San Marzanos.

20140403-170526.jpgWe’ve been picking broccoli every few days.  This is probably the biggest head we’ve grown.  Any great broccoli recipes to share?  I keep wanting to freeze it for later in the year, but David really likes to eat it fresh while we can!20140403-170541.jpgHeads of lettuce hasn’t been my thing.  I’ve always grown leaf lettuce.  Since living in this house, I haven’t been able to keep up with our salads.  So, I decided it’s time to plant heads, and plant them in intervals.  Here’s the first few (as well as a chard that seeded itself). 20140403-170555.jpgOur strawberries and blackberries are new this year.  We’ve been watching our first berry grow.  Today I looked, and it was too late.  It was shriveled on top, and full of tiny millipedes who were eating it!  To my dismay, when I look a bit closer at the other ones that are growing, I noticed most of them are deformed.  I’m no longer optimistic about the strawberries.  The raspberries are just starting to form buds, so I’m now hoping they’ll produce at least one fruit for us. 20140403-170615.jpgWe have a volunteer tomato by our hose faucet in the front yard.  David and I have harvested 5 small tomatoes so far.  Unfortunately, they taste like winter store bought tomatoes (which I don’t ever buy because they’re so gross).  However, the tomatoes did taste good in the guacamole that we’ve been making and it IS nice to be able to pick some.  I wonder if these will become piccalilli, or green tomato salsa…

20140403-170645.jpgOur apricots.  We’ve been watching these, with great anticipation.  I’ve never grown apricots before.  Each time I look, I notice that some have fallen from the tree.  I hear that it’s normal for the tree to do that, but it still is hard to watch!  Here’s what they look like today. 20140403-170634.jpgSo many more things are going on outside.  Most of the direct seeding still needs to be done.  The broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are finishing up.  We have a few eggplants ready to go in the ground when the brassicas come out.  Our squash is just about big enough to go in.  We didn’t have very good germination on the squash and cucumbers, so this week I reseeded them as well as seeded herbs, hot peppers under the grow lights.

I can’t believe it’s already April.  It’ll be summer before we know it!

 

Hummingbird nest

Hummingbird nest

It’s spring! Our tomato seedlings are hardening off, we’re waiting on our peppers to grow second leaves and our squash seeds were planted this weekend. Dave and I just spread fresh mulch on the garden. I’m drawing up plans and trying to figure out how to fit everything in.

Meanwhile, at school, I’ve begun a hummingbird study where I’m setting up motion sensitive cameras. The cameras have been a bit difficult (and the one I really need right now is back ordered) but luckily there are dedicated students to help.

Here’s a picture that one of my after school gardening students took of a hummingbird nest yesterday! The babies are being closely watched by our students. I’m working on my camera today and hope to get one up soon.

Aren’t they just the cutest?

(Thanks Natalie for the photo!)

Summer is ending

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Our tomatoes don’t have much more to offer, neither fruit nor flower. Today I heavily pruned while I picked from 5 different plants (2 of which had only 1 tomato). The fall plants are in the nursery and only our celery and long beans are thriving right now. I hope I have time to plant Cipollini onions, shallots, peas and garlic this weekend. I’d also like to get more carrots, lettuce, spinach and radishes planted, as I last planted some 2 weeks ago and I’m trying to get better about my intervals.

And now back to making pesto. Our basil should yield one more crop after this one! (And the new crop doesn’t look great.)

Beans

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Today I cleaned up the long beans and scarlet runners that are growing along the back fence. Nights are dropping into the 50’s with days in the 80’s- fall is here in Los Angeles! I found dried scarlet runners and long beans to set aside for next year, a few new yellow beans (the plants are getting a little powdery mildew) and a heap of long beans. Quick pickles are happening! This week the plan is also to make pesto and chimmichurri for the freezer and pull out our waning Isis Candy. Our baby cabbages and broccoli should be ready to plant soon!