The past week has been spent more in the kitchen than outside. Finally the heat wave broke and it’s back to the 70s outside! David and I took advantage of the cool weather and spent a couple hours outside tidying up and working on projects. I figured it was time to show what’s been happening in the garden.
The roses are in full bloom again. I’ve been searching for ways to preserve the blooms and am thinking about everything from rose water to rose petal preserves. I found a decadent recipe for coconut rose petal semifreddo, which may be an option also. I’d love suggestions if you’ve done anything with your roses before.
Notice the tomatos in the raised bed are getting larger. David and I staked them up the other day and we can finally see the fruits. I also spotted two finches taking advantage of the perch.
This is Rosie’s obedient look. She just is wandering around the yard, hasn’t found her ball yet and may be getting a little impatient with my photographs. I asked her to stop by our Abe Lincoln and Purple Prudence tomatoes. They are both (finally) just starting to flower. Notice the stunted peppers on the right. I believe they are serrano or poblano and hope that they get the message to grow soon.
Behind Rosie is the mystery garden area. There are now two mystery tomato plants as well as prolific nasturtiums. These nasturtiums are the current source of seed pods for our pickled nasturtium pods.
We decided that it was time to fertilize the potted plants and cucumber vines. I recently watched a video about fertilizing cucumbers and noticed that mine were starting to get a little yellow around the edges, as he described. So, I grabbed a box of Epsom salt from under the fish tank (I bought it for the fish water years ago, and never used it) and the organic fertilizer from the garage. I mixed the two together, applied the side dressing and then watered. Hopefully the little guys will enjoy it!
The front herb bed finally got cleaned up. There’s still more to do, but I started with cutting back the bulbs. The chasmanthe had become too large for the space, so in addition to cutting them back, I dug out a couple dozen corms to bring to school this fall.
I felt like I was pulling potatoes while digging them out. Some were large, others were tiny. Often there was a large one with little ones clinging to it. We will probably pull out a few more to make space in the front of the house. I didn’t want to take out too many, because it was so wonderful watching the hummingbirds flit by this winter.
I finally pulled out our giant coriander/ cilantro plant. We had planned to harvest the coriander, possibly in it’s green stage, but ran out of time. At this point it is full of powdery mildew, and I’m not sure that we should harvest the coriander. I brought the plant back to our compost bin, because it was full of lady bugs. Some of them were even spotted making new ladybugs.
Our garden in the back, near the compost bin, is full of aphids.
The borage has had ants and aphids living on it for a month now. David and I decided to sprinkle cornmeal around the plant, hearing that it could help get rid of the ants. It seems to have worked well so far; we have noticed significantly less ants, more ladybugs and other insects. There are still ants, as you can see by the is two poking the ladybug in this picture. The ladybugs seem much more brazen these days. David told me that he spotted a ladybug being chased by ants while carrying an aphid in it’s mouth!
The tomato next to the borage has it’s own ant situation. When we returned home from vacation, we noticed that our tomato plants in the back have ants frozen in place along the stems. They are dead and it’s an odd and gruesome scene. We have no idea how it happened and would love to know any theories that you have.
While I played with the bulbs in the front yard, David raked up avocado leaves and added them to the side yard. This is the last stretch of dirt with nothing in it. We recently mulched it and then added grass clippings. David put down avocado leaves. Next we’ll spread a few bags of composted manure, then mulch it again. This area has to be hand watered, and the hose is not convenient. Our succulent pots have been hanging out here recently. This fall we plan to plant sages, lavenders and possibly native grasses.
The cucumbers and delicata are attempting to climb the bamboo tripod (front left). I snagged an unplanted little leaf cucumber from the school greenhouse the other day, and planted it to fill in the front of the support. Two baby delicata squash were flowering when I took this picture. Behind the cucumbers are the overzealous tomatillos. We’ve been checking their paper husks, and we’re hoping to start making salsa verde in a couple of weeks.
The buttercup and red kuri squash climbing up the cattle panel trellis are doing great! We’ve started to guide the squash back down the same side that it came up. The supported squashes are maturing and the small arbor provides shade for us to rest on a hot day.
This is taken from underneath the trellis where a new red kuri squash is growing. It seems to be supported by the fence and we’re debating giving it a little hammock. While watching our squashes grow, I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell when they’re ready to pick. A lot of what I read is not helpful for Southern California gardening. For example, I learned that I should harvest winter squash before the first frost, but it’s ok to leave it on the vine if it’s not a heavy frost. We don’t get frost. Ever. (Year-round gardening is wonderful, and our bugs are huge to prove it.)
So from what I gather, I look for mature fruit color and size, as well as the stem starts to turn brown and my fingernail can not pierce the skin. I’d love confirmation on this from the people who know.
Our sweet dumpling squashes are just starting to grow. I put straw underneath them, and now I notice they are covered in tiny black bugs. Looking at the pictures, I notice that the straw is as well. This is new to me. I wonder if it’s from the straw and hope that the squash are healthy.
We’re watching our Pinnacle spaghetti squash and I wonder why I thought smaller squash was better to order than larger squash. The compact vines have three fruits right now, and we’re hoping for more. The plants are getting a bit hidden by their prolific neighbor, a buttercup vine, and we’re working on fixing that problem. The A-frame trellis got a bit held up, and we’re rethinking the support system. I’ll write more on that as we resolve the issue.
Our Kazakh melons are taking over. There are three fruits right now, the largest is about the size of a softball.
The vine, however, has taken up four feet of the 8×8 bed. You can see the thai basil poking through by the bamboo pole. This melon has many branches, and I’m trying to get them to grow up the fence, or up the start of the trellis, but they are resistant to being tamed and keep making more vines. This variety is supposed to be a good climber, so perhaps if I give it more attention, it will climb. We’ll see how the melons taste before deciding if we’ll grow this again next year. Our space is small, and we both really want squash but this year is more of a test year for the vines. Most likely we will still save seeds from this rare heirloom, even if we don’t plan to grow it ourselves.
We have a chocolate sunflower! Besides sounding delicious, we picked these because of their size. We are enjoying it in the garden while it’s flowering.
Our yarrow has opened and the color is so bright, it’s almost florescent. We made our first three cuts of apricot branches to allow this plant to grow up straight. The yarrow had been reaching into the garden aisle because there was a tree branch over it’s head. We haven’t wanted to cut our baby apricot tree, but it was time to take a few snips and help it branch out.
While we were in Florida, we picked up a friend to keep the tree and yarrow company. This is our new giant fly, and it will hopefully protect our garden from bad bugs and welcome in the good.
We planted our sweet peas too late. All spring we watched them climb up the fence. Currently they are covered in powdery mildew and will be torn out this week. So now they start to flower. And they are beautiful. Each of the two blooming flowers is beautiful.
Further down the fence, our yard long beans are starting to grow beans. They are filling in the fence, flowering and climbing away. David loves long beans. I haven’t quite acquired a taste for them. I’m excited to see what he does with them.
We’re also starting to get scarlet runner beans. This is our first year with these plants and I’m in love with their luscious red flowers. I’ve found a few recipes for them, and think we’re going to let the seed pods dry on the vine. I must chat with people who grow these regularly to find out what they do with the beans and how they enjoy eating them.
Our zucchini that fell over during vacation is back up and fruiting! We look forward to grilled zucchini and more zucchini pickles.
And finally, we have our first eggplant flower. This is an oriental eggplant (unknown variety). We are also growing rosa bianca, hansel, gretel and fairy tale. We had grand plans for perfecting our baba ganoush this summer. We were hoping to have so much eggplant that it was coming out of our ears.
We are thankful to have a flower.
David and I also decided that we haven’t been watering our garden enough. We read an article that suggested when you water, dig in the soil a couple of inches down to see how deep the water percolates through the top layer. It flat out said that soil lies. The next time we watered, with a sprinkler for 15 minutes, I barely scratched the surface and saw that it was bone dry underneath. Having a new garden, our soil is still breaking down and we are learning what it needs. As we don’t get rain in the summer, we must learn how to properly water our garden.
Today it is cool and overcast. Often the marine layer burns off and it warms up. I plan to get the tomatoes in the dehydrator started soon, and start some seeds in our nursery. It’s time to replant green beans and plant another crop of lettuce, carrots and radishes. Hope you’re enjoying your long weekend!