A long vacation and a rich harvest.

I didn’t plan on missing blogging as much as I did. It’s been almost two weeks since my last post because we went out of town on vacation.  We asked our neighbors to water the backyard every two or three days and crossed our fingers for the best results.

By now our plants are well established and the lasagna garden has broken down quite a bit.  We knew the weather would be hot and sunny, and that it never rains in Los Angeles in the summer.  We also know that our neighbors don’t garden and get home late at night from work (sometimes after dark) and we hoped they water.

David and I arrived home from the airport at 11pm last night, and grabbed a flashlight to inspect the plants.  Except for the zucchini that fell over because the fruit was too large, things looked really good!  The plants need tidying up, but overall it was a great time to leave the garden and the supports that exist are still holding up.  The tomato cages will soon need staking (like tomorrow), the cucumbers and melons need more ties and we’re starting more zucchini and beans in the nursery.  We were happy to see that the plants definitely had water while we were gone (one indicator was that the squash leaves have powdery mildew beginning). By flashlight we picked the giant zucchinis and righted the plant.  We resisted a midnight harvest, and I did it most of it before David even got out of bed this morning.

P1020315

Our harvest after the vacation.  I’ll go through each item, and how we plan to use it.  The only reason I snagged the bunch of mint, was that it was crowding the cucumber plants.  We don’t plan to use it right away.  We have fresh mint year round and have plenty of dried mint on hand already.

P1020308

The largest Safari zucchini weighed four pounds and the smaller fruit was two pounds.  These are both destined to be double chocolate zucchini bread.  We’re taking the bread with us to the LA food swap on Sunday.  The food swap is our first one and we’re planning on bringing a variety of items made from this harvest with us.

P1020292

Our mixed green beans.  This is enough for a small jar of dilly beans.  I didn’t take pictures of our dill but we have three plants which will provide all the dill we need for the canning session.

P1020297

The Indigo Rose (front) and Jaune Flamme (back) are beautiful and ripe for roasting.  These are our first fruits from the plants and there are many more coming soon.  The plan is to roast the tomatoes and pack three jars of them with olive oil.  

P1020296

The Jaune Flamme are a rich golden orange when ripe.  They have a great flavor (I snuck one more that I found on the vine) and will be fun to roast and can this summer.

P1020299

The Indigo Rose are ripe when there’s red on the bottom of them.  We’ve been anxious to pick them, and I think we’re having trouble determining if they’re ripe.  Roasting these should help intensify their flavor.

P1020302

Our Isis Candy cherry tomatoes are ready!  Last year we grew these in a pot, and they were our favorite cherry.  This year we gave them prime real estate in the raised bed, and the plant is our largest so far.  These will be enjoyed in our salads, and next week we should begin to have a small supply daily.

P1020293

San Marzanos!  Two years ago, David discovered how wonderful these sauce tomatoes are and we’ve been growing two plants ever since.  This is the first of our harvest.  Many had caterpillar holes in them, which doesn’t really matter when it comes to roasting the good parts.

P1020294

These are our Tounge of Fire shell beans harvested from plants that we pulled.  David and I enjoy the color and having a shell bean around, but these hybrids were taking up valuable space.  We decided to harvest what was there and we’ll use the space for something else.
shellbeans

These will be served with dinner. These shell beans have a fun pattern.  I’d like to get heirloom shell beans when it’s time to order more summer seeds.  Any suggestions of your favorite varieties?

P1020295

These easter egg radishes grew in the new lasagna garden and have twisted up tips to show for it.  We didn’t have enough to do much with, and David’s happy to have them in his salads.

P1020305

Our little bell pepper plant was sagging under the weight of four bell peppers.  I picked the two biggest and figured we leave the others on the plant to turn red, or until we need them, whichever is first.  These will be fun to use in salads or cooked.

P1020304

The hot peppers are doing well.  That’s not entirely true… the cayenne, jalepeno and banana pepper are doing well.  The rest of our hot peppers have been stunted and we’re hoping a shot of fertilizer will help them snap out of their growing funk. The cayenne will get tossed in the pickles, and I’m not sure about the jalepenos yet.  We have about 6 more that are the same size, and I’m thinking about making a jalepeno jelly.

P1020303

The nasturtiums had more seed pods on them, so I figured it’s time to pickle up another jar.  These were mostly from the two new plants that are now taking over the mystery garden.  These are currently soaking in a brine on the kitchen window, and will be pickled tomorrow.

P1020314

Another “soon project” will be picking the green coriander seeds.  I’ve been reading about the treat of green coriander and dreaming of ways to use them.  I’d probably be more excited if I actually liked coriander, but David loves it so I’m channeling his enthusiasm.  I read about pickling the green pods, and would love suggestions if anyone has them.

P1020311

Pickling cucumbers is the way to go!  Most of these are from the little leaf cucumber vines, and one of them is a Straight 8.  They will all become either dill pickle spears or bread and butter chips.  There are a few more on the vines that should be ready when it’s time to prep them.

P1020310

We picked our first winter squash!  The delicata is one of my favorite.  This one looked a little small, and I am hoping it’s ready.  The skin is hard so I guessed it was time to harvest. A lot of what I read said to harvest winter squash before the first frost… which just didn’t help.  As with most of this harvest, I decided to pick it and then pay attention and learn as we cut into our veggies.

P1020309

Our first buttercup squash.  What a beauty! This one is from the plant that we thought was an acorn squash and was one of our first squashes to begin growing.  It may be a little soon, but not much.  There’s four more that are close behind this one.
P1020306

This little pattypan squash is our first one. The poor plant has been hiding under Red Kuri and zucchini leaves for the past couple of weeks.  I figured it was time to pick the lone fruit, and see if the plant can start growing more.

David and I are keeping busy, and I hope to update the blog soon on what the plants look like and how the preserving goes.  Isn’t summertime grand?

Advertisement

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

Checking on the baby plants

It’s hot in the garden. Okay, well it feels hot.

Spring in Los Angeles ranges from highs of 60 to 80 and lows of 50 to 65.  Today, it’s sunny, 75 and feels hot.

When I went outside to inspect the flowers, with Rosie, I found a tail under the fire pit.

IMG_1910

The tail moved a little as Rosie’s ball ran into it, and I saw Mardi roll over on his back.  I decided to go in for further inspection.

IMG_1912

Clearly he approves of the firepit.  We know he enjoys the garden, as we’ve spotted him looking for a spot to call his litterbox.

As I continued to walk around, I was happy to see that the nasturtium seeds I planted ages ago have popped up.

IMG_1917

These little ones are so beautiful, with the red edges along the leaves.  I believe these are the ones with creamy yellowish flowers, and they’re more clumps rather than trailers.  We’ve been trying to plant flowers amongst the food, to help attract pollinators and good bugs.

I love looking at close ups of our dirt!  (Just like the background picture of the blog.)

IMG_1919

One row of squash and melons is finally planted!  David will build the trellis within the next month, as these babies have a while to grow. I gave them a dose of fish emulsion this morning, to help them get going. From front to back these are: Pinnacle spaghetti squash(2), buttercup (3), sweet dumpling (2), and sugar baby watermelon (1).  I think they’re fairly close together, but I’ve never trellised squash before.  We had so many varieties of seeds, and haven’t had space to grown winter squash and melons before. I’m so excited for these!
IMG_1918

We finally planted our first eggplants in the eggplant section. At the top of the picture are two Japanese eggplant.  The Rosa Bianca should be ready to go in this week!  This picture also has borage (left), marigold (center), fenugreek (3 on right), and acorn squash. Everything is planted pretty close together, which we’re hoping will allow us to maximize our food production space.

IMG_1920

In the front yard, our pot of calendula seeds are coming along nicely!  We have more plants to put in pots, but right now all of our pots of full of mulch that still needs to be spread.  I spread some in the backyard yesterday, and then decided that making beer and hanging out with my friend was more fun!

IMG_1922

In the raised bed garden, when I showed the picture of the white radishes that were ready to harvest, I didn’t point out all of the cosmos that have popped up behind it and are ready to transplant.  I have a few place where they may be able to go, and should do it before they get too big. Perhaps this evening, we can walk around the yard and pick a place.

IMG_1923

I noticed today that our dragonfruit cactus has a new shoot.  This guy really needs support and a new place, so it can grow big and droopy.  We got the cutting from a friend a couple years ago and it’s fun to watch grow, but I don’t know if we’ll ever get fruit off of it.

A few years ago, David got some corms (like bulbs) of a plant that attracts hummingbirds to the front yard.  We believe they are Chasmanthe. It flowered in February and during full bloom we had a hummingbird come by about every five minutes!  The plants have multiplied in our herb bed, and we plan to dig them out and move them as soon as they die back.

IMG_1924

Currently the little red seeds are dropping all over the place.  Between the fan palm seeds from above, and these guys, we have lots going on below. This is why it’s almost time to mulch!

IMG_1921

And lastly, I recently reorganized the plants on the front porch, and found a new place for Jethro Troll. The succulents are looking great this time of year!

Project update

This evening, while bringing out an egg carton to add to the compost, I heard the alarm call of a bushtit.  It reminded me of the noise the squirrels make when they’re trying to get avocados and Rosie is protecting the tree.  I’m not sure if the bird was annoyed by Rosie, Shadow or me but the cats have figured out that the nest is there. David and I are thinking that when it’s fledgling season, we’ll have to try to keep the cats inside.

P1010520

I’m not sure Mardi knows there’s a nest yet, but  I caught him staring up at the angry bird. Notice the nest on the right side of the picture; he’s pretty close!

I’ve been meaning to post pictures of the garden growing up.  We have so many little projects happening right now, I wanted to update on those first!  We’ve had two days of rain, which is a special treat in Los Angeles.  Our front yard is watered with the sprinkler irrigation system, and the back yard with a hose or watering cans.  It was nice to not have to worry about watering the back yard for a few days, although it’s back to needing it.  Just today, while I weeded our freshly sprouted Scarlet Runner Beans, I flushed out a whole mess of ants.

Because of the rain (and the sprinklers), our seedbombs in the front yard are starting to break down!

IMG_1876

It’s great to see the clay breaking down and the seeds being revealed! This bomb is right next to our wildflower mix/ sprouted compost mystery garden.

The mystery garden was devoured by snails, and then re-sprinkled with seeds about two weeks ago.  Here’s what it looks like now:

IMG_1878

Notice the seedbombs and sprinkler in this picture.  The two nasturtiums were not eaten by the snails when everything else was, so that’s why they’re a little bigger. I also recognize cosmos and calendula.  Hoping to recognize some more flower friends soon!

David spent a day prepping the sink that was full of sauerkraut.  He recently purchased a 5-gallon crock and the cabbage is now fermenting in it.  Five gallons?  Yes! He wants this to be the only crock he ever needs!
IMG_1872

David also purchased weights and lids but they were backordered until next week, so he’s getting creative with the bag of water and saran wrap.  It’s been working out pretty well so far.  We were worried the cats would climb on the top of the crock, as they like sitting on things, so we covered the top with a towel.  I don’t think they’ve been sitting on it, but we did find the towel soaked in cat urine…. ew.  (We have three cats and cat pee is sadly part of our life.)

Sauerkraut should be ready for eating and storing in two weeks! We’ve been storing away as much food as we can, and we (David) just finished making two jars of nasturtium “capers”.

Last weekend, while I was deadheading the roses, I noticed that we had a nasturtium plant that was dense with flowers.  When I looked underneath the plant, I was able to easily pull off handfuls of fresh, young seeds. David helped me pick and clean them, and then we looked up the recipe I had read earlier this year for nasturtium pod capers.

P1010548

The recipe itself was simple. Picking the seed pods was a bit time consuming. Between David and myself picking over this one plant, we were able to triple the recipe! It was great timing on our part, and if we like them we will have plenty for the next batch when these finish flowering.

P1010545

We cleaned the pods, separated each of them, and soaked them in salt for 3 days.  Tonight Dave heated up the vinegar and sugar and we put them in a jar. Can’t wait to try them! I hope they’re not too strong for me.

We’ve also been spending the week eating chard. I pulled out one plant to eat, and there’s another one that has to come out. We’re making room for one more tomato plant. We have three more tomatoes to plant: Prudens Purple, Black Krim and Abe Lincoln.  I’m not sure which will go in the raised bed or where we’ll even put the other two, but they still have a little ways to grow.

P1010563If you look at the chard compared to the coffee maker, you can get an idea of how immense the leaves and stem were. We ate it that night with pasta and last year’s tomato sauce from the freezer. The stem and more chard went in our quiche cups, which is my daily breakfast.  The stem has such a nice crunch!

The yard is starting to bloom more and more. The succulents, herbs and tomatoes are all flowering.

P1010551

The daffodils by the front door are blooming, one at a time. This was our first year planting the bulbs, and it’s a fun treat to see them blooming.

P1010542Mardi can’t resist a camera!

We’re excited to get more projects underway and to see how these all pan out.  Our new mason bee house just arrived in the mail, and we’re brewing beer this weekend. As if we didn’t have enough to keep us busy…