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Sunday, October 2, 2011

End of Summer/Southern Gardening

My "second" crops - zucchini, tomatoes, etc. - all died in the extreme heat we experienced in August and I don't have the heart to start another even though the weather is lovely now.  We are spending so much time in Ohio, at least a week a month, it's not really worth it to start something new.

So, on to Ohio gardening.  I guess we'll have to change the name to SOP, for Oberlin (although the "S" never actually contributed anything...Cathy).  I feel as though I understand the timing and climate up there better than I do here, although in fact I never really did much gardening.  I did have a kind of cool circular vegetable garden once with pie wedge-shaped sections for the different vegetables.  It did ok, as I recall.

There won't be much doing up there over the winter but I plan to be gardening in full force come spring.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bye Bye Bees

Happily, the yellow jackets seem to have decided that our stairway is not a hospitable enough place and they have left.  No burning required.  The hole they left behind is very interesting, with rough steep walls, only about 4" deep, and extremely hard. 

Makes me wonder if simply disturbing the nest - from a distance! - is sufficient to get them to move on?  Maybe no need to hire exterminators or burn gasoline (that can't be environmentally-friendly!)?  If there's a next time, I'll give it a try.  But I hope there's not a next time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yellow Jackets!

All I can say is, it's a good thing I'm not allergic to bees!

I inadvertently stepped on a yellow jacket nest on Sunday on my way down to the garden - must have been stung at least 15 times, most on my legs but also on my back and arms.  I jumped into the pool to get away from them!  It was unbelievably painful, and hurt for several hours.  By Monday the pain was mostly but not entirely gone, and it's been itching like mad since then.  Even today, Wednesday, my legs still itch, although it's finally subsiding.

Eastern yellow jacket
Dominique wants to burn them out.  I'm not in favor of this; after all, I stepped on their nest, it's not as if it was an unprovoked attack.  On the other hand, it's right on our stairs and what if someone looking at the house steps on it?  Or Sunny?  Still, burning them seems unnecessarily cruel.  Are there other options?

Monday, July 18, 2011

What's eating my Swiss chard?

I thought I was going to get a second crop of Swiss chard but something has been nibbling on it while I've been away.  I think it's rabbits.

And what's going on with the beans and zukes?  It looks like the deer are making their beds in them - seriously!  We had a nice meal of beans last night, though.  I hope more grow; 2 meals for 2 people is not a very good ROI.

The tomatoes and collards still haven't done anything, but the new beans and zukes are growing nicely.  Happily, it rained a fair amount last week so no need to water at the moment.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I love my garden but it only likes me

Zukes & beans
No collards
Some things are going well, others, not so much.  Got back from a week in Ohio and ran down to see how all my new seeds were doing.  Mixed results.  The beans and zucchini are going at it just like the first batch did.  Tomatoes - zip.  Not even one lousy seedling.  But the biggest disappointment is the collard greens - nothing!! 

Sunny & the new zucchini
Bean harvest
The first planting is yielding some nice fruit, however.  Some nice zucchini - and some monsters, of course.  How do they go from perfect to gigantic overnight?  And I had my first meal of beans; they were yummy.  Going to cut my volunteer rhubarb, too; maybe make a pie.

New bean plants with deer protection

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Second Planting

Having harvested all the garlic and shallots and many of the leeks (a good soup for dinner tonight!), I did a second a planting today.  Fool that I am, I planted the rest of the tomato seeds in the desperate hope that they will grow this time.  Fat chance. 
Tomatoes tucked in with the arugula  
Got another planting of zucchini and beans - hope I'm not overdoing it with the zucchini.  So easy to do. 

Beans with Dom's leeks

Zucchini with my leeks
And finally, the collard greens!  Was planning to do that awhile back but decided it was too early.  Just planted 3 rows so I can do successive plantings.  If you've never tried collards greens, you must - they are so amazingly delicious.  And incredibly good for you, antioxidants up the wazoo. 

Brought the chickens down with me, first time they've been in the lower garden.  It took them awhile to find the compost heap, but once there it was a banquet.  Chipmunk is better at finding worms, but Mimique is better at stealing and eating them.  I didn't know chickens could eat so many worms.  They had a blast and no hawks came by to spoil the fun.

Friday, June 24, 2011


A few weeks ago I signed up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) with Riverview Farms, who delivers boxes of vegetables once a week to a church just a few miles away.  It's something I've been meaning to do for awhile, but I didn't pick the best time to do it.  Naturally, the CSA is delivering the same kinds of vegetables that I'm already growing.  No idea what to do with all the lettuce I've got.  Although they did throw in a bunch of stuff that I don't have, like beets and cabbage, plus a mystery vegetable which turned out to be kohlrabi.

Not sure I'll sign up for another round (this one ends next week).  For one thing, I'm sure they're going to be delivering a ton of zucchini and I've got 6 big prolific plants in my garden.  For another, it's just too many vegetables for 2 people.  For a family it would be great, but even though we eat a lot of vegetables, we can't get through them all in a week.  I might sign up for the fall season since I probably won't have anything growing by then.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Garlic braiding

Okay, so Janet asked about garlic braiding. I do not have the perfect approach because I have not figured out how to do it so that the actual braid does not show. That being said let me show what I do. First, we are talking about soft neck garlics. After harvesting let them dry for a few days. At least that's what I do. Then I strip and clean the stalks to make them ready to braid. This process is a judgment call. Essentially, I strip off the dirty outer layers of skin to get the stalk down to a size that would work to braid. It just takes practice and experience to decide what works. The actual braiding is like french braiding for those who have done it.

Start with three bulbs and tie them together with string. Then add (remember french braiding) a bulb and blend its stalk with either the left or right one and overlap them both to the middle. Then add another and blend its stalk with the one from the opposite side as it's worked to the middle in typical braiding action.

The images show the view from the front where the bulbs are added and then the reverse side where you see the braid.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Garlic Simul Harvest!

Yeah! We're finally doing something at the same time. I harvested my backyard garlics, Inchelium Red, last week. I'm thrilled. I do have to note that the size of the bulb is directly related to how much water the plants received. This weekend I'll harvest the front yard garlics, Lorz Italian. That geographic separation was my most realistic design for keeping the types separate and known. Now, the challenge will be to keep them documented in storage!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Garlic and shallot harvest

 I finally got around to harvesting my shallots and garlic today.  The garlic is in our little shed, where it needs to "cure" for 1-2 months.  I planted 4 kinds but forgot to note which is which, so now they're all mixed up.  They all look the same, anyway.  I'm going to cut the bulblets and try planting them in the fall, although supposedly that only works for ophio garlic (whatever that is).  Can't hurt.

The shallots are still in the field, per my instructions, where they'll stay for several days and then to into the room next to the greenhouse, because they need to cure, also.  I've attempted to cover the bulbs somewhat with the tops to protect them from sunburn.  I'll take care of that when I get back from Seattle next Monday.
Shallots drying in the field

Sunny in the leeks

Kim, tutorial on doing garlic braids, please!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Heat Wave!

No one in Georgia could possibly remain skeptical about global warming after the weather we've had and are scheduled to keep having, no relief in sight.  Well, maybe my neighbor John, but that's another story.  High 90s for days on end, and humid?  Uh huh.  Of course all my cold weather plants have bolted - which doesn't keep me from eating them - and I'm watering my warm weather plants pretty much every day.  Had to fill the rain barrel with the hose because it ran dry.

The beans and zucchini are doing fine, for now.  But what is it with me and tomatoes?  I planted 3 full rows of tomatoes and I got 2 - 2! - seedlings.  (Maybe they know I don't really like them.)  I'm keeping a close eye on those 2 and still watering the rest of the bed in case there are some late bloomers.

2 tomato seedlings - sad

bean plants - looking good

zucchini plants - will have too many, as usual

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

State of the Garden Address

I wasn't sure I'd do a garden this year after my nearly complete and utter failure last year.  However, cold weather vegetables are easy to grow, even for me, so I planted lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and arugula.  Success!  With the pictures to prove it.  Plus the garlic, shallots, and leeks that I planted last fall are doing great as well.

Thus encouraged, I planted some warm weather plants including my perennial failure, tomatoes.  The beans and zucchini have already pushed up seedlings; the tomatoes, nothing so far.  I don't know why I try so hard with them, I don't even really like tomatoes very much.

I'm making an effort to walk down to the garden every single day to water and/or weed and/or harvest.  The daily contact makes a difference:  my garden is literally weed-free, we've had some wonderful salads and last night a pasta dish with arugula, and everything's weathered the current "drought" very well, especially considering that I only use shower warm-up water.

You know you've been in the south too long when you like...collard greens!  I LOVE collard greens.  They're going in in July, assuming we haven't sold the house by then (as if).

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Frost in April in Pasadena!

In the 29 years I've lived in Pasadena, we've had 1 or no frosts each winter. If we had a frost it would be in early January. This year we had two hard frosts in February destroying eggplant seedlings that I had put out. It is unprecedented. Now I learn today that we have another possible frost alert. The temperature high in Pasadena was in the sixties today and the snow level is supposed to drop to 3000 feet.

Now in New England I now the drill of frosts in the Fall but a new routine of dealing with killing frosts in the Spring is a whole new concept. Afterall in Pasadena, many plants survive through the winter with nary a scar: beets, chard, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, leeks, garlic, rutabaga and all herbs.

Having lost plants this February, I'm not taking any chances so I've covered the eggplant and also the tomatoes. See picture of Mark's old shirts clothes pinned to the towers to protect the tomatoes. It's colorful at least and good use of both the shirts and the towers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Camphor Leaves as Mulch - Experiment

In a sustainable ecology all waste must be used productively in another way. Here in Pasadena many streets have the camphor as the assigned tree for planting by the city in the meridian. Camphor trees are tall, broad-leaf and, surprisingly, evergreen and therefore always provide shade. Nice! This is achieved every spring as the new leaves sprout and push out last years leaves. In the bottom right picture you might be able to make out the slightly tan leaves in the canopies of the trees. Those are the leaves that have yet to fall. The light green leaves are the new ones. The gutter of the street shown to the right is evidence of the leaves that have fallen so far that week. Everyone rakes these leaves up and fills their huge green waste bins each week for 3 to 4 weeks every spring. The city then hauls them off as yard waste. I do believe they dump them in an area for composting though.

Now camphor is aromatic and the leaves contain this oil. If one mulches with these freshly fallen leaves growth underneath is inhibited. So this is good mulch to reduce weed growth on paths around the garden. However, given the volume of material produced just on my short block, I had to find a way to use them. Our Calif. Dept. of Agriculture Extension Agent says that we should use 4" of mulch throughout the vegetable garden to only have to water once every 3 weeks. Since this is an urban environment, it's no easy task to come up with a regular source of so much mulch volume without a truck or a business arrangement. Therefore I am motivated to explore constructive use of this mass of organic material that literally falls in my lap like clockwork every spring.

So, my plan is to rotate leaf harvests for 3 years before deploying in the garden. Our house lot is small and one side of the house has only a narrow space between our house and the neighbor's driveway. We grow eugenia hedges on that side leaving about 2.5' between the house and the hedge. The hedges have grown here for a few decades so the roots are deep and would be unaffected by surface deployment of camphor leaves. However, suppressing grass and other weeds in this space is a benefit. It's not easily mowed or maintained. And grass seeds are definitely not wanted in the veggie garden.

The top picture, though not very good, is where I've put the fresh harvest of leaves this year. The fourth picture is where I've spread out last year's leaves up to the trunk of the crape myrtle. The third year is to the north of the tree up to the black cat... He's not always there though. Then in the fourth year it should be safe to use the leaves as mulch. I may be overdoing it. But I can assure you there are so many leaves it's worth figuring something out to use them and it's good exercise to rake and move the material around.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Atlanta garden 2011

This year I'm cutting out the middle man, i.e., the greenhouse, and planting directly into the garden beds.  I've got one row each of butterhead lettuce, spinach, arugula, and Swiss chard.  My plan is to do successive plantings until I run out of seeds.

Also, I put several inches of compost directly on top of the bed without trying to mix it into the topsoil that's already there and planted directly into it.  That might be a mistake, but anyway that's what I did, from laziness, mostly, although I have a vague idea that the compost is very rich.  Well, I'm sure it is; my vague idea is actually that it might be too rich.

It was quite challenging, to say the least, to plant with Sunny.  She loves digging in the soft dirt, drinking from the watering can while I'm watering, and chasing the hoe and rake.  Challenging to the point where I finally had to put her inside to finish up, as it was getting quite dark.

I was pushing to do it today because it's supposed to rain tomorrow.  I hope not too hard - I'd hate for the seeds to get washed away.  Hmm, just thought of that...

The garlic and shallots look great!  And even my leeks seem to have survived the winter although they're awfully spindly.  Dominique's, whose leeks spent the winter in the greenhouse, are thriving much more.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Eggs at last

Mimique gifted us with her first egg the very day we returned from Brazil, on Jan. 25.  She's been pretty prolific since then, and even laid one with a double yolk.  I took a picture of it with my phone but since I haven't figured out how to transfer it, that'll have to wait for another time.

Recently Chipmunk has started laying as well, and to my surprise, she lays pale blue eggs!  Aren't they pretty?  Dominique has an egg for breakfast several times a week, and I made myself a small omelet once.  I still don't like eggs too much, but I'm trying to learn.

Free range chicken eggs were going for $6 a dozen this summer at the farmer's market, so we're finally starting to get some return on all that chicken feed.  Now if we can just keep them alive awhile...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bees, Blue Orchard

Today I put out my blue orchard bee house and some of the natal tubes from last year. I'm going to experiment with cycling this year. Every two weeks I'll put out some more hibernating bees with the intention that their pollinating season will extend into perhaps June or even later. I bought another house, so this year we'll have two houses by the end of the season.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Uh oh, garlic is coming up!

We had some hot (for winter) weather a few days ago and now my garlic is coming up.  Is this a problem if it freezes again?  Or is it normal?

Only time will tell.  At least something is growing, for a change.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Onions & Garlic

I finally got around to planting my shallots a couple of days ago.   It wasn't clear to me from the instructions if I was supposed to separate the bulbs into separate pieces or not, but I did.  If I understand correctly, it's just like planting tulips or any other bulb, i.e., they'll sit in the ground doing nothing until spring comes, then a miracle happens and up they grow.  However, the directions make it sound much more iffy than that.  Well, we'll see.

I planted the garlic a few weeks ago so I hope the occasional warm days we've had haven't fooled it into thinking that spring had come.  The weather has been crazy, fluctuating between 23 and 55 degrees F during the day and mostly freezing at night.  A couple of snow storms, too, rare enough in Atlanta to cause major road problems.  What's a farmer to do?