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!

 

Advertisements

Beginning of July tour

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.
P1020371

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.

P1020366

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.

P1020363

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!
P1020360

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.
P1020416

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.

P1020417

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.

P1020411

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!

P1020415

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.

P1020381

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 backyard area is starting to fill in.  We’ve been needing to finish the A-frame squash support, but the squashes don’t seem to notice that we are slow.
P1020384

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.

P1020392

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.

P1020393This 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.
P1020389

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.

P1020388

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.
P1020395

Our Kazakh melons are taking over.  There are three fruits right now, the largest is about the size of  a softball.

P1020396The 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.

P1020398

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.

P1020402

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.

P1020403

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.

P1020405We 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.

P1020406

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.

P1020407

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.

P1020408

Our zucchini that fell over during vacation is back up and fruiting!  We look forward to grilled zucchini and more zucchini pickles.

P1020409

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!

The tour, June edition

The harvesting has begun, and it’s time to show the progress!  This week we have to build a lot of support systems for our floppy plants.  We’ve also started to pickle, freeze and nibble food in the gardens.

Today I wanted to share with you all a look back at how much we’ve grown since building our gardens.

IMG_1769

This was day one.

[Insert entire garden pic from today] At the end of the blog I’ll show you what it looks like today, but there’ll be bits and pieces as I take you on a tour around the garden!

IMG_1787

The acorn squash/ eggplant/ bean bed. I couldn’t take a very good picture from this angle, because the two little squash plants on the front left of the picture are now taking over a tomato cage and going everywhere!

P1010848

The beans and summer squashes are starting to produce.  The eggplants are finally taking off.  I have one more Rosa Bianca in the nursery, which I’d like to plant this week.  Part of the hold up has been that Mardi, our tomcat, likes to sit (and occasionally leave us presents) in the open space in this bed.  We’ve been working on deterring him, but he’s strong willed.

IMG_1786

This was taken in April, after bringing home the half dead yellow yarrow.  We had yet to plant the okra behind the apricot.

P1010854

Isn’t the apricot tree looking great?  We have been watching it and letting it take it’s shape, so that when it comes time to prune it this year we can encourage more main stems.  It’s too bad it isn’t closer to the wall, because it seems to be flat and would have been perfect to espalier.

We planted a little chamomile  that we started from seed, towards the back of the apricot.  There will be verbena and hyssop going in also.  Right now those seedlings are in the nursery, and I’ll probably transplant them into larger pots and keep them in the nursery until fall.  I hear fall is a good time to plant perennials.

IMG_1766

Here’s the yarrow on planting day.

P1010856

And today!  We will have flowers soon, and I’m pretty sure they’ll be yellow.  But the plant wasn’t labeled so we could get something else!IMG_1788

Here’s the potted daisy after pruning.

P1010857

And we have flowers!  I am enjoying the shape of the plant, and loving that the pink flowers have come back.  Notice the red kuri squash is overtaking the pot?  David is hoping to pick up a cattle fence panel while he’s in Bakersfield this weekend.  Then these squash vine will be growing up and over this pot!

In the side yard, the shell beans and cucumbers are growing well.
IMG_1801

This is right after I transplanted the little leaf pickling cucumbers and the nasturtiums.  (sorry it’s not a great picture, but I wanted to show the size.)

P1010833

Today the cucumbers are climbing up the ladder, the dill is tall and attempting to flower and the shell beans are nearly ready to be picked.  We harvested our first cucumber from these plants today!

On the other side of the cucumber ladder is the tomato raised bed.

IMG_1810

Here it is after we planted, and when we were still finishing up our winter growing season.

P1010829

Today the tomatoes are coming along, the basil is ready for it’s second harvest and we have a pepper growing.  We have a few varieties of radishes and carrots growing, a small patch of lettuce, and one small leek that just won’t be done growing.

In the front yard we also have our mystery garden area.  IMG_1811

We let the compost sprout, and sprinkled a wildflower mix.  The first batch of sprouts that you see here was mowed down by hungry snails.

P1010825

The snails have long been killed and we’ve discovered that wildflower mix= alyssum.  The nasturtiums survived the snail onslaught, as well as the one cosmos.  We’ve been more diligent about watering this area and we’re starting to notice a tiny bit of variety appear.

P1010824

David has almost no allergies, but he’s allergic to alyssum.  It’s too bad because I think it’s beautiful, and the cats enjoy rolling around in it.

Our herb bed was cut way back when the bulbs were flowering.

IMG_1812

This was taken right after the sage and basil were planted, and during that small window when the cilantro was ready to pick.

P1010816

Currently the cilantro and oregano are flowering and ready to be cut down. We’ll be cutting back and pulling out most of the bulbs shortly.

P1010820

The cilantro/ coriander flowers attract flies.

P1010821

And ladybugs.

We plan to harvest some of the coriander seeds, and let the plant self seed.

And of course, here’s Rosie to point out the peppers.

IMG_1815

This is pretty soon after we planted the banana pepper, jalepeno and cayenne.

P1010814

The cayenne are green and growing well.  We haven’t had any turn red yet, but we know soon enough we’ll be drying them and searching for ways to use them.  Anyone have suggestions?

P1010812

The banana peppers have already been picked and been added to salsa.  There are a handful more ready to pick this week.

P1010811And of course, the jalepenos.  We’ve picked four so far, and have a few more waiting for us to use.  These plants are small but full of fruit.

We also have other pepper, tomatillo and tomato plants but they’re not doing much yet.

And here’s the backyard today!

entire back

The tomatoes on the left were just trellised, using the Florida weave.  The arch and squash trellis should be up this week. It’ll be great when we can freely walk around again, without worrying about squishing squash vines.

I’ll try to do another tour update soon, but it may be a couple of weeks.  Life is getting busy, summer vacation is about to start and we’re already preparing food.

hop-1