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.
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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.

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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.

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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!
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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?

Flowers on everything!

Each day I notice more and more flowers in our yard! You see, I’ve always had a thing for flowers.  When David and I moved into our house and began maintaining (and adding to) the gardens, we consciously decided to remove many ornamentals, like the Canna lilies who engulfed our sprinklers and hid snails armies.  I joke with David about how he wouldn’t let me plant flowers; he felt stronger about it than I did.  I understand and agree with the reasoning that we have such little space and want to grow as much food as possible.  When we began discussing what we’d do with the property, with no debate, the rose garden stayed.  We put a few annuals in our herb bed and after building our raised tomato bed, we dug a bed dedicated to flowers and perrenials.

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The dedicated flower bed doesn’t hold much and I’ve been thinking about what to do with it.  We planted bulbs too late, and most of them haven’t bloomed.  Three of the five sagos look great and I just decided it’s time to take the other two out.  The asparagus fern was given to me by my sister, and it was half dead when we got it.  It’s now probably our healthiest looking plant in the bed.  There are other plants, not pictured, which were all experiments and the plan is to move the perennials in here around a bit later this year.

For now, I transplanted a few cosmos in here and they seem to like their new spot.

In our yard, the succulents do really well!  Most of them are cuttings from friends or neighbors, and a few of them are from David’s aunt.

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This is the succulent on our porch that we’ve been waiting for.  Many of them have been flowering recently and it’s been so interesting to see all the shapes and colors.

I’ve been more enthralled with watching our vegetables blossom, bringing with them the promise of food.

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These flowers bring David the promise of food, and are ones that I avoid like the plague.  It’s cilantro, or will be coriander.  The flowers seem to always be covered in flies and just rubbing on the plant makes the slightest breeze reek of cilantro.

Off to the backyard gardens, where flowers are everywhere!

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The potted flower that I cut back this spring is getting buds!  I can’t wait to see it covered in pink flowers again, and am so glad that the chance I took on it has paid off so far.

In the backyard we have many types of squashes and melons, and many of them are flowering!  In the squash bed, the only one flowering right now is the Kazakh melon, but the others are getting close!

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I love looking into these flowers.  I haven’t noticed a female one yet, and I’m wondering how different the female melons are.  I’m keeping watch!

This week the sugar baby and buttercup have been taking off. The first female pattypan flowered today.  We currently have three baby yellow crookneck squash on the way!

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There are about five zucchinis growing!  I had originally planning on growing Sunburst yellow zucchini alongside of the Safari, but they were backordered.  I have the seeds now, and David and I were just talking about planting some if/when we do a second planting of zucchini this summer.

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I’m already in love with the Safari zucchini.  I can’t wait to see them pickled and in jars.  Or grilled with fresh basil and tomato.  Or in zucchini bread.

We haven’t had space to grow squash before. I haven’t grown it myself in about 15 years and I’m excited about the harvest from our one plant. I’m hoping we have the perfect amount to keep up with.  In fact, that’s how we’ve planned our plants- enough to can and eat but not be over inundated at once.

Our acorn squash plants already have about five or six fruits coming.
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We have it crawling up and over a tomato cage.  I love how it’s strong tendrils are gripping the wire.  David and I were talking this evening about pruning back the plants a little, so they don’t take over the garden. I think I made him nervous by suggesting that I did not water the plant to grow as large as possible and wanted to… gasp.. cut it.

Our cucumbers are starting to take off.  There are lots of male and female flowers and they are crawling through their beds.  We haven’t set up climbing structures for them.  We just talked about it and will hopefully find time in the next couple of weeks to do that.  The end of the school year is always tough to find time, but I think we have a rather speedy solution.

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We’ve been planning our pickles and we’re keeping a close watch.

The beans have started to grow but are still tiny.  I planted the ones in our school garden a bit sooner, and I’ve been munching on fresh green beans throughout the day. P1010622

The Dragon’s Tounge beans are flowering and growing.  We’ll be eating some within the next couple of weeks!

I really thought that the variety we had was pole beans, but here’s how they look:

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The dill was just planted here, and has already begun to flower.  We pinched it back and are hoping it will bush out a little.  We need the dill for our cucumbers.  The two cukes here are both a little leaf pickling variety. These are the ones that should get another pole and a trellis to climb soon.

Both David and I will be busy this weekend, but hope to find some time to get plant supports in, and transplant the Malali watermelon.  This should be our last weekend in a while before we have a larger harvest.  Right now we have radishes and lettuce ready to harvest.  We just pickled more nasturtium capers tonight. And tried them for the first time- they are like capers with a kick!

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