Tuesday, December 14, 2010

If You Only Had One Choice...

I've been giving serious thought to trees lately. Just a little pondering on which tree I'd choose if I had to recommend only one.

Which tree must YOU have and simply could not do without?

What's the most essential tree someone would have to have if they could only have one tree?  Also wondered just what I'd do if I could only take one of the thirty-some-odd trees that's currently in my yard with me to some far off land ~ just which one would I take?

Instantly, my thought was to choose one of the  lemon trees.  Of course a lemon tree!  I'm always reaching for a lemon for one reason or another.  Either to soothe my throat during cold spells, in the summer for a  refreshing dose of lemonade and every day for a little zest in the salad dressing or to make some other memorable dish.

Then I thought about my childhood and recalled how lemons were completely non-essential. I immediately got a sense of betrayal as  I wouldn't be who I am today without the fresh taste of  a sweet and juicy Washington Navel orange or an intensely flavorful and incredibly petite Satsuma tangerine.  How could I ever think of recommending a lemon over a tangerine or that incredibly giving tree that sat practically at my parents back door giving me fruit anytime and every time I desired?

That tree was planted at my birth and seemed to enjoy watching me grow up: providing shade during the summer, a hideaway from friends as we played hide-and-go-seek, giving the most bold flavor of orange juice that would run down my tiny little hands as I'd smash my face into half a circle, savoring every ounce juice. It provided leaves for my art projects and I recall being so enthralled how deep green and shiny the leaves were and the subsequent miracle of fruit it produced.  I'd hug the tree and marvel at how I couldn't get my arms around the circumference of it.  There was a gentleness about that green giant.  The bark seemed cool in the summer and always provided warmth in the winter.  My dog would chase me back and forth around that tree and it always seemed to enjoy those youthful trivialities.  That was the giving tree.

Our giving orange tree was partners with a Satsuma tangerine that produced the most deliciously perfect petite fruit imaginable. Peeling the fruit was always so much fun as it would produce this effervescence which would instantly roll up my nose and contained an intense fragrance of tangerine - which in case you've never had one - is totally different from that of an orange.

The tangerine tree was actually not part of my parents garden but originated in the garden of a neighbor on a completely different block, in the rear of the yard and was so large it cascaded over a massive fence and a privately enclosed gazebo type of structure which was on my parents property.  This tree would produce so many fruit they would fall on the top of the gazebo and then roll off the roof and onto the ground in a lattice enclosed patio.  And being the impatient little grub I was, once they started falling, I'd get my father's ladder, prop it against the gazebo, climb the structure and make my way to the end of the roof and have a picking party.  I'd pick as many as I could without breaking my neck and without ever figuring out how I was going to get those tangerines off the roof and back to that old ladder.  Lord only knows why I never broke a leg as that was not the sturdiest ladder in the world and its rickety structure only barely reached the top of the roof.

I'm making myself dizzy just reliving this.

I would be so overcome with the hunt for obtaining the fruit that I would forget how much I really wasn't much of a climber but the fruit was absolutely worth every bit of risk.  Year after year after year.  I'd abscond with tangerines and bring them from one part of the yard to the other part and sit and eat those tangerines under the big green giant where it provided comfort and a nice cool bit of shade out of the hot sun.

Yep, I'd have to recommend an orange tree.  That was my real life giving tree.  What a lucky little girl I was.

I'd really like to know what tree you couldn't do without.  Any fond memories or amazing tastes that are absolutely essential when you consider the type of fruit you would consider a must?

Anyone with children?  Have you shared the book The Giving Tree?  As simple as it is, it's a wonderful, delightful and almost spiritual little book that I not only recommend but purchase for everyone I know who has a child and does not have that book!  It's one of those must reads for any child.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wonderful Sound of Water Features

I love water features in the garden.  Want to shut me up?  Just put me in front of a water feature like this fountain.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Black Kabouli Garbanzo Beans

This year was to be a bit of an adventure in the garden so I added to the seed collection by purchasing a series of unique items.  One such item was the Black Kabouli Garbanzo bean.  Now, I'm a relatively adventurous eater and really love international cuisine but the truth is I had no idea what on earth I was going to do with these beans once harvested.  They're still growing in the garden so thankfully, I do have a bit of time before I have to make a decision but at this point, I may be limited to some black hummus...and I'm not sure how that's going to come across at the dinner table.

Black Kabouli garbanzo seedlings before transplanting

These beans are said to have been cultivated near the fertile crescent over 6,000 years ago around.  This heirloom is brought to us from Afghanistan (by way of Seeds of Change for me).  They're noted as very drought tolerant plants and thus far have proven to be quite vigorous growers.  As with other garbanzos, these beans are high in protein.

The black seeds look almost like withered rocks.  Garbanzo beans, chickpeas and Egyptian peas are all the same.  They're said to range in a variety of colors from black, green, red and brown.  When doing a bit of research I was struck by the amount of nutrition packed inside of these little interesting legumes - rich with manganese, folate, fiber, tryptopha, protein, calcium, phosphorous and iron.

Are they one of the oldest cultivated beans?  Possibly as they were originally cultivated in the middle east but are now readily available in India and Ethiopia.

Plant Profile:  Black Kabouli Bean
Type:  Bush
Days to Maturity:  105
Preference:  Dry
Level of Difficulty:  Very Easy
Characteristics:  Clearly these plants are not fussy but probably would prefer dry soil.
Taste:  ?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Deck the Halls

You simply must watch this video.  A friend share it with me and it made me laugh so hard I absolutely had to share it further.

So many thanks to KLAATU42 in Nova Scotia, Canada for the great work.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Freezing Temps & Seed Swap

To say that I'm bamboozled by the weather is truly an understatement.  For years it's been taken for granted and I've been able to enjoy gardening before going to work and after coming home from work without much, if any, thought.  I've been known to rearrange my schedule to leave work a bit early, choosing to not take lunch during the day but instead at the end of the day just so I'd have a teeny bit of time in the garden before the sun goes down.  All of this is until the earth shifted (or whatever it calls itself doing).

Let me set the scene for you - I garden in what was formerly known as 'sunny' Southern California where 'seasons' and changes in the climate are so not our reality we often pay to be part of a changing climate  by exporting ourselves to some other part of the country when the leaves are about to turn a different color.  That's because it's generally always pretty darn sunny here.

My gardens are only steps from the beach (not literally but it's not that far).  Okay, let's just say I'm minutes from the beach so while a bit of fog may roll in on occasion, it's really not a big deal because it typically burns off by the time you have a really hot cup of tea in hand; and, we still have been able to garden throughout the entire year with that little bit of inconvenience.

Now, I'm not boastful (at least not now) but I have felt incredibly privileged as a result.  Actually, let me be quite frank, it's one of the only reasons I live here.  There - I said it. And it's the truth.  The ridiculously high taxes and inept political environment is not at all favorable but it's tolerated because of the weather.  Seriously.

So, imagine my surprise when three days ago I awoke to temperatures so low there was frost on the ground, ice on the ground and crunchy ice tinged grass.  Frost I thought?  Oh boy...no more Garlic soup before bed for me again.  I figured I was dreaming but the bone chilling cold, upon opening the door, was not mistakable.  Something happened.  Gazing out the French door I looked up to see the roof of my neighbor's garage  and thought, "Holy cow poop - it is frost!!! My seedlings!!!!  My FISH!".  Luckily, all was well as neither the fish nor the seedlings seemed too fazed by the remarkable cold although the fish did seem to have a great deal to say as the majority were near the surface moving their mouths as if in protest when I ran out to check on them.  So I plugged in their heater and proceeded to place each tray of seedlings on a heat mat. This was done while scratching my head while I tried to understand if I was still really just sleep walking...a couple of weeks ago it was record breaking temps for heat and now I'm heating up the pond?  Heavens.

This has gone on for 3 days now with today finally hitting 70 degrees again.  But, it's still too cold!

I know, I know...shut up you're probably thinking.  I know...but it really is cold - at least to me.  And now, because I missing out on that little bit of gardening time, I'm beginning to feel a little trapped so I've got to do something relative to gardening.  So on my way home I thought about a post I read where someone else conducted a swap a 6-seed swap.  So, I'm going to do the same thing.  But, I think I'll modify it just slightly and make it 6 and 12 - 6 for large seeds like melons, pumpkins, beans and corn and 12 seeds for smaller seeds like tomato, fennel, cabbage, etc.  Interested in swapping?  If so, send me a message now!  If I have another day of little to no gardening time, I'm going to be forced to do the unthinkable like watch television or something old fashioned like that.

I'll post more information with an update on the details on each variety and how well they did in the garden this year in a separate post.  But if you're interested, don't hesitate to contact me and let me know which variety you're interested in and what you're offering for trade.  

  1. Basil - Thai
  2. Basil - Genovese
  3. Basil - Fino Verde
  4. Bean - Blue Coco
  5. Bean - Royal Burgundy
  6. Carrot - Parisian Market
  7. Cat Grass - Oat Grass
  8. Celery - California Giant
  9. Coreopsis - Lance-Leaved
  10. Cucumber - Straight Eight
  11. Fennel - Bronze Fennel
  12. Gaillardia - Sundance Bicolor
  13. Lettuce - Continuity 
  14. Lettuce - Outredgeous
  15. Lettuce - Limestone
  16. Onion - Mystery Bunching
  17. Onion - Evergreen Bunching
  18. Parsnip - Hamburg
  19. Pepper - California Bell 
  20. Pepper - Big Jim 
  21. Pepper - Red Habanero
  22. Stock - Double White & Appleblossom Mix
  23. Sweet Pea - Lavender Mix
  24. Sweet Pea - Burgundy with White Splotch
  25. Tomato - Brandywine

More details forthcoming but until then, please feel free to drop me a quick email with your interests.  By the way, this swap is open to international gardening friends as well!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mystery Onions...Will Be Eaten

In 2010 it didn't seem I could find a decent onion anywhere for purchase.  And of course, the ones I grew in the garden were never ready for the next fab meal.  It seems every supermarket onion was old, weak tasting or sprouting once you cut into it.

I managed to save seed from several of the onions that were left in the ground but I left the seed with the marker outside far too long because by the time I got ready to place them in a packet, I couldn't read the variety name.  Well, that was not going to stop me from planting them.

The seeds were placed in my stand-by soilless mix of perlite and peat moss and left on top of cafe table on the deck. Full sun and moisture exposure seemed to work well as they are extremely sturdy little seedlings considering they've only been sitting out for a few weeks.

Don't think I've ever been so excited to see onions!  These popped up almost over night and I was absolutely tickled.  Of course I wish I had a small clue what type and kind they are but what the heck...they will definitely get put to good use.

Oh and in the meantime, think I've started about 15 more varieties but this time I wrote the varietal name with a black Sharpie AND a pencil.  Don't think we'll be without an onion for a few years at this point.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Do You See What I See? Part 2

Okay, here's the second part to the I'm-walking-down-the-street-minding-my-own-business...and I notice in a neighbor's yard there's what appears to be a palm tree that has fallen onto the grass.  Palm trees are a dime a dozen in California so it really wasn't that big a deal...that is until I did a double take.

Do you see what I see?

Looks like some kind of palm...

It's actually a banana tree!  Fantastic idea.  

Wow, it was actually a banana tree (with a nice bunch of bananas too!).  I certainly hope they were able to harvest the bananas before those pesky squirrels found them!

Thought the inclusion of bananas into the landscape was brilliant.

Monday, November 22, 2010

French Fingerling Potato

Earlier I'd raved about how thrilled I was to obtain such a fine selection of potatoes which I planned to eat and plant.  Well, the Buttercream potatoes were simply outstanding.  Petite, round, creamy, buttery and sweet.  By far one of the best potatoes I'd ever had the pleasure to eat and that's saying a lot because potatoes and I are the best of friends.

For dinner the other night we had some of the French Fingerling potatoes and what a shock.  They were absolutely vile.  The more cream and butter added to the pot the stiffer and bitter they became.  More Parmesan maybe?  Not even the Parmesan worked.  Now, it could have been my cooking but there are few potatoes I can't eat, no matter how bad I muss up a recipe.  So off to do some research and what I found is that this particular potato is considered a 'dry' potato.  Dry?  It was like mortar.  Should be considered extremely dry by my standards.  Now to give them a bit of credit, they'd probably make outstanding chips.  Short of that, I can't imagine trying them for anything else.

I refuse to eat anymore of them so I'm going to dump them in the garden and plant them (especially since they're beginning to sprout anyway).  I'll get a bundle of them in several months and will try them as chips unless you know of something else they're good for?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Blue Coco Pole Beans

Blue Coco is by far my absolute favorite bean to grow in the garden.  This French heirloom dates back to around 1775 and is one of the most productive and cold tolerant bean plants I've ever seen.  Years ago when I first grew it I actually got tired of harvesting the beans and I allowed it to stay in the garden while I literally planted around it.  Well, those plants stayed in the garden from that June until the following spring when I finally just pulled them up.  Winters here are not severe but to last that long made it one of the hardiest and most rewarding beans I've ever grown.  And during that time, I didn't even water them much and they still outlasted any bean plant ever grown in the garden.

I've planted out additional plants this month (November) so I can have an ample supply of beans for our holiday festivities.  They're quite delicious and  tend to be eaten up rather quickly.

Flowers are produced from tall dark green leaves which have a tinge of purple with purple veins  and purple stalks and produce long purple, flattish pods.  They are very flavorful and don't become woody and pithy unless you pick them just before the pods start producing beans.  The color of the beans are coco or chocolate making them ever more distinctive.  Highly recommend this bean.

Plant Profile:  Blue Coco Bean
Type:  Pole
Days to Maturity:  59
Preference:  None observed
Level of Difficulty:  Easy
Characteristics:  Purple pods, green leaves with purple stalks and speckled purple throughout the leaves, chocolate colored beans, very ornamental 
Taste:  Delicious

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Do You See What I See?

I'm walking down the street, minding my own business and I see movement near my left foot.  Then suddenly something crossed my path and some furry brown blur circled the tree to my right and the scurried up the tree to a rather large, tall branch (as if I was going to follow it up).

Do you see what I see?

Do you see it?

There's just nothing quite like a know-it-all squirrel.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Schweitzer's Mescher Bibb Lettuce

Lettuce is one of those plants I absolutely love for its simplicity to grow and its vast production.  One of the many new additions to this year's garden and seed collection is Schweitzer's Mescher Bibb Lettuce.  It's an Austrian heirloom that is said to have made its way to the US sometime in the early 1900's but is dated as far back as the 1700s.

It's supposed to grow well in cold weather so I've started a small batch to plant out in November. Growing in the form of a small round ball, one of its unique characteristics is that it has a red edges on the leaves.  Looking closely at the leaves of my seedlings, you can catch a slight glimpse of a red tinge forming.

Unfortunately, there's little information available beyond these small details.  Anyone with additional information is welcomed to provide additional details.

Plant Profile:  Schweitzer's Mescher Bibb Lettuce
Type:  Bibb
Days to Maturity:  50
Preference:  Cold climate
Level of Difficulty:  Easy
Characteristics:  Lime green leaves with red tinge
Taste:  ?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rare Site - Clear View of the Mountains

Rarely is the day so clear you can see the mountains while driving.  This was such an amazing moment I had to quickly snap the photo while sitting at a red light.

mountains above Beverly Hills

Nothing quite like a good strong wind to take away the smog.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Walk around the Neighborhood

Unique garden gate

Part of neighbor's front orchard

From neighbor's front orchard

Love the way creeping fig creeps.

Up close this bush is stunning.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Halloween in the Garden

Several of the neighbors spooked out their gardens:

These guys were hanging from a tree waiting for their next victim.

Clever - a pumpkin princess (or maybe she's the queen?)!

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Much to my dismay, I missed out on being able order a nice variety of potatoes, onions and garlic this year.  By the time I actually got around to even thinking about it, all I could find were OUT OF STOCK references.

Certainly wasn't as if I needed to order any more of these items but what gardener can resist adding to the garden when an opportunity presents itself?

Well, amazingly, I went into my local green grocer and found a boat-load of fine potatoes to eat AND plant!  Yeah, I know I really shouldn't plant the ones from the supermarket but it's an organic grocer and I'm going to try it!

For all of $5 per variety (some were actually only $2.99 for a 3 pound bag) I purchased several pounds of

Russian Banana Fingerling
French Fingerling
Ruby Crescent Fingerling

That was nearly 20 pounds of potatoes!  Shipping costs alone for a quarter of what I purchased would have cost me nearly double of what I paid for one meal of each variety.

Looking forward to eating, planting and harvesting these gems.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Hate Goodbyes

So, I've not written on the blog for quite some time...went away because so much changed in such a little amount of time.  Well, one significant change happened and as a result I was unable to bring myself back.

This blog was always written with my sidekick by my side.  We'd go outside, reflect on the garden, smell a flower or two, pull a stalk, sniff, munch and reflect...gaze at each other fondly and make our way around the yard in amazement at all the incredible changes...that is until my sidekick was taken from me a few months ago.

He was my 14 year old baby boy - a rare combination of a rather large breed and a short breed of canine which resulted in the happiest golden haired, golden eyed "love puppy" imaginable - all 123 pounds of him.


Maybe I'll write more some other time but it hurts far too much to think about it as the garden and the blog are simply not the same without him physically being here.

It was the ritual to venture into the garden together, especially since we both loved it so very much and then at the end of the day take note of what heirloom caught my attention.  When it came time to type, there he sat, gazing up at me with love and enthusiasm as if he knew exactly what I was writing.  Sometimes if I wrote during the day, he'd sit beside me in my office and position himself in the middle of the threshold of the door watching the birds and eventually galloping toward the squirrels in an effort to rid their presence from his kingdom.

He loved his yard and really seemed to love and take immense glory in each day and I'm very lucky to have had the opportunity to share this planet with my big 'love puppy'.  To say he's greatly missed is an understatement as I've walked through the house so often and cried hysterically begging  for just one more day.  I'd requested that for a couple of years and was granted that wish until just a few months ago...I, we, were lucky and I was absolutely ever-so-grateful.  But, if given an opportunity...I'd really like just one more day.

Sure as hell ain't easy disconnecting from the ritual but I'm better for having him all those wonderful years.  Never a dull moment and always a smile in his eyes.  If it's absolutely necessary I'll say goodbye but I'd really just like one more day...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Heirloom Beans in Markets

Is it my imagination or is it difficult to find heirloom beans in the market? I've been trying to find Adzuki bean for the past two weeks in order to make a particular recipe.  I figured my typical organic natural foods market would carry it since that's where we'd generally pick them up. They weren't there.  I then went to a national natural food market and they didn't have any.  So off to a couple of gourmet markets.  They didn't have any.  What a surprise!  I guess once I finally find them I'll need to buy a few extra to plant so I can save my own seed.

We've started several beans in the garden but with the scarcity of quality heirloom beans I'm thinking of starting more to save.  

Do you know of a source to purchase heirloom beans for bulk purchase for recipes?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fennel & Caterpillars

Bronze fennel grows like an invasive weed in my garden.  If it wasn't such an incredibly beautiful plant, I might consider radical removal.  Luckily, it has other uses and benefits beyond the culinary endeavor. I'm told it's quite delicious although I can never bring myself to consuming it since the taste of anise is expressly forbidden in my stomach.  But, it does make a perfect filler for flower arrangements.  Here's a rather surprising discovery, butterflies seem to love this plant.  While yanking out bulb after bulb I began noticing some of the most colorful caterpillars co-habitating on the leaves.  They were a florescent yellow, green and black. Some were red, black and white.  Others were a bright green, white and black.  It was a delightful discovery.

While I had a trashcan full of fennel, I gently placed those leaves with caterpillars aside in the garden so they could continue their transformation.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Always Reliable - Re-Seeders!

No matter how radical my gardening from one year to the next, these reliable gems always reseed themselves someplace in the garden.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Oregon Snow Pea Harvest

Saturday was a splendid day to be in the garden after a couple of days of really intense rainfall. It felt like Christmas. The sun was out a tad before 6am and as I peaked through the shutters to see if there were clouds, I sprang out of bed as if I'd surely find a puppy under a Christmas tree.  After the customary morning duties, I practically ran outside so I could get started on my garden chores - and of course - place some plants in the ground in addition to starting more seeds.

The part of the country I live in is extremely fortunate because we're at least lucky enough to be able to go out and garden, unlike many how are blanketed with snow and don't have any electricity as a result. Realizing this gift was synonymous with puppies under a tree, I worked vigorously for hours:

1.  Completely weeded a portion of the vegetable garden.
2.  Planted several varieties of broccoli, lettuce, onion, leek, fennel, beet, pea, shallots and dill.
3.  Mulched pathways to vegetable garden with Cypress needles (making that portion of the garden smell like a spa).
4.  Harvested a nice bundle of snow peas, lettuce, celery and fennel.
5.  Cleared an area for the squash and the potatoes.
6.  Harvested worm juice for fruit trees.
7.  Composted vegetation from today's clean out.
8.  Found a sleeping lizard under a couple of pots - returned the pots so he could continue his rest.

It's scheduled to rain again over the next couple of days so the seedlings should enjoy the magical elixir. The Oregon Snow Peas thoroughly enjoyed the past rain and provided us with bounty of 50 pods in one harvest today.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wild Dagga [Leonitus Leonurus]: Mary Jane Substitute?

There's no secret that an important part of our gardens include a plethora of flowers. Well, the first of my seed orders arrived and as I reviewed the order with utter glee, I got to the 10th packet and proceeded to scratch my head.  What on earth was 'Wild Dagga',  I thought, and how did it get on my list?

I Googled it.

Figuring I typed it incorrectly, I Googled it again.

The same results resumed.  What in the...marijuana substitute?  I bought a marijuana substitute?  Me?  I can't have my chamomile tea too dark - what on earth would I do with a marijuana substitute?  And why in the heck would I ever consider purchasing such an item?

Hmmm....let's see a photo...ohhh, THAT'S a marijuana substitute?  I just thought the flower was unique and quite interesting...holy hell it's a dope plant.

The first time I ever saw this plant was in the garden of an older neighbor.  Her garden was pretty much a mishmash of various things all which were very distinctive and unique.  This plant stood out with its really interesting vibrant orange petals and odd structure. Now, this initial sighting had to be a good 10 years ago.  When I asked about the plant, she didn't seem to have much information about it and pretty much dismissed it rather casually. So, when I saw it listed in a catalog, I thought I'd try my hand at growing it.  Never did I imagine it had such an interesting reputation as being more than just an intriguing flower although I guess I really should have given the matter a bit more thought when ordering. Here's what was written in the catalog:

"Leonotis leonurus No cowardly lion here. Also known as Lion’s Ear, spectacular and exuberant with a series of orange tubular flowers clustered in collars along the stem. Showy vining shrub can
grow 6' in a summer if started indoors in February. Surface sow; slow germinator needs light. Damaged by frost in the mid-20s and needs full sun to flower. Native to S. Africa where it is used for epilepsy, headache, hypertension, and stomach and bronchial problems. The resinous 5" leaves, rough on top and velvety underneath, are said to have a euphoriant affect. In East African legend Dagga imparts the qualities of a lion." - Fedco of Maine

Silly me...I was just buying it for it's floral qualities and chamomile tea is strong enough for me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Stop Eating My Sweet Peas!

The sweet peas that reseed in the garden ALWAYS grow like weeds and the ones I take extra care to plant in transplant pots get mowed down by the snails and slugs almost instantly.  It's really rather annoying...

Guess I'll try again in a couple of weeks and will plan to host a beer party for the slimy pests.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Seed Purchase Plans

So, I'm still planning out my seed purchases.  I've placed a couple of orders but I'm no where near being done and after looking at my spreadsheet I thought to myself, "Are you nuts? How much is too much?".  I'll spare you the number of packets I have designated on my list to purchase but I am curious if anyone else has the same dilemma? Do you order too many seeds each year?

My only caveat is that I will plant them (sometime throughout the year) with a great deal of gusto, enthusiasm and zeal.  Not sure when that will be exactly but it will eventually get done.

The trees arrived today, the berries came in at the beginning of the week, the shallots came in last week and a few seed packets dwindled in over the past couple of days.  I did manage to plant out one bundle of shallots but there are three more still awaiting planting and a few dozen potatoes and dahlias...

I'll get to it (or so I keep telling myself).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Compact Zucchini Plants

Admittedly, I am fascinated by the number of queries I receive asking about compact zucchini plants. While I love the concept, I've personally yet to find such a beast.  Every 'compact' zucchini (or so identified on the package) I've ever grown completely took over my garden whenever I turned my back.  It probably has a great deal to do with the growing conditions and most importantly the weather when determining how 'compact' a plant will become.  So, since my findings make me a little suspect of the idea, I'm going to throw the concept out to others.

Do you know of a compact zucchini plant and if so which?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Seed Trades

One of my garden friends from abroad invited me to engage in a nice seed trade which I thought was a splendid idea.  We should do the same, actually.  Since the majority of my country is currently under snow, let's welcome Spring by trading garden seeds.  I'm open to trading both flowers and vegetables with an obvious preference for heirlooms but open pollinated varieties are great too.  No hybrids, please, as I'd like to save the seeds and offer them to the club.  Really looking to add to the lettuce collection but am open to everything - especially the unusual with an interesting history. And this is an international trade so anyone else from abroad is welcomed (as long as your country accepts the importation of seeds).

Please send me the list of items you'd like and what you have to trade.  I'm thinking it would probably be easiest if I post what's currently available for you to choose?

Thanks and looking forward to it!  You're welcomed to send an email with your list of gems to me directly.  Here's the e-address

Monday, February 8, 2010

Giant California Celery: The Ever Present Plants

My Oban Bay sweet peas were desperately in need of transplanting.  The area of interest was filled with celery plants which made their way there after a great escape from a 5 foot plant that went to seed about 10 feet away (down a path and around a corner!).  The celery made an enchanting green backdrop to the impatiens and primrose but they had to go. Since I'm not big on wasting plants, I knew this transplanting process would take some time.  I needed to transplant the celery so I could get the sweet peas in this tight area of about 5 inches wide and 1 1/2 feet long.  The task was not nearly as daunting as it was mind boggling.  How on earth so many celery plants could grow so large in such a small, tight area was a mystery.  By the time I finished, more than 60 plants were extricated from that one area and transplanted into cells.

Several weeks ago I stumbled into a garden neighbor who asked if my celery was like wood after me asking him if he'd like some celery plants for the garden.  Wood?  Now how on earth could his plants get woody when my plants (which received no attention whatsoever) were always green, tender, highly flavorful (almost too flavorful) and juicy? And my plants have been known to grow as tall as me - at just over 5 feet. Although it wasn't clear what variety he was growing, many people seem to have a rather difficult time sowing them from seed.  They're actually really easy to grow if you just plant them and forget about them.

Botanical Name: Apium graveolens
Plant Type:  Annual
Growing Zones:  Zones 3 - 8 (relative as I'm in zone 9 and they grow like weeds)
Hardiness:  Some frost; bolts in heat
Soil Preference:  Rich
PH Preference:  6 to 7
Fertilizer:  10-10-10
Water: Even moisture
Sun Requirements:  Full sun (although some recommend shade - mine have grown in both shade and sun)
Spacing:  8-12 inches apart

Once the seedlings emerge, they're generally extremely hardy and easy to transplant. In our gardens, they've been planted among other vegetables as well as flowers without any serious pest problems. Snails and slugs, when really hungry, will consume celery by taking slithering bites out of the plants.  But, they seem to enjoy the stalks more for hiding-and-resting more than anything else. Depending on how large the plants are allowed to grow, snails and slugs can often be found on the interior of the plants, at the base of the first few stalks.  This has even been an issue with earwigs. If harvested regularly while small, this is not an issue.  

The Giant California celery is very strong and one stalk can easily overpower a good pot of soup where the soup may normally call for 3 stalks chopped finely.  Plants have been known to last for months and months and months and act as a cut-and-come-again plant. While we're generally more than satisfied with just one plant, it becomes difficult to control if allowed to go to seed.  We've had plants materialize in the smallest of cracks in the ground (as a matter of fact, our 5 footer was grown in a crack where no soil existed outside that crack as it was surrounded by concrete along the parameter of the garden).  So, do be careful if you don't want them springing up all over your yard - especially if you're in a tropical climate.

Some recommend blanching the leaves of celery.  You will end up with celery that looks more like the kind you'll sometimes find in grocery stores.  While we never blanch ours, doing so is as easy as hilling up dirt around the stalks for a couple of weeks in Spring. I've even seen people cover plants with terracotta pots  or cardboard to blanch them.  Seems like much too much work to me.

Some heirloom varieties are:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Seed Bank

I've not had much time to actively promote the seed bank concept but I'm planning on changing that since there always seems to be more and more seed available.  One of our club members kindly donated several packets of seeds which will go into the seed bank.  All seed bank seeds will be made available for SASE to other club members.  The seed bank will be located in the new exchange forum (yep, I'm changing that too).

The Heirloom Club Exchange/Trade forum portion of the site drives me nuts so I'm changing to a different format.  The current format makes it much too difficult for me to follow and if it's difficult for me (the one who is currently posting more than anyone else) it must be just as annoying to everyone else.  Everyone who had registered on the site will automatically get registered to use the new site.  My hope is the new forum will encourage more interaction and discussion among heirloom interested gardeners.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Seed Starting Revelations

I've had a bit of an epiphany relative to starting seeds. At this point, seed starting is such a natural process and part of the normal garden routine that it's rarely given much thought until something unusual happens. And a couple of days ago, I started some Goose lettuce seeds from a very old packet. While I expect the germination on an old packet of seeds to be low, what I don't expect is for those that do germinate to emerge within a week or two. I've had them take as long as a month and in this case I was in no rush. Much to my utter shock, these seeds popped up within a couple of days of planting- which simply made no sense to me.  As a matter of fact, I started some packets of new seeds that were just purchased that hadn't sprung up yet. So what was the difference, I thought?

Here's what I realized - which was an amazing revelation:

1.  Heat &  Sun:  The Goose lettuce seed were positioned on a shelf to the west of my normal seed starting area. This provided them with more intense sunlight and more heat.

2.  Rain Water:  Having stored rain water in a couple of buckets from the January rain (a rarity worth capturing), I've used that water to fill up my water bottles that I water the seeds with.  I'm convinced rain water is an absolute elixir.  I've been able to resurrect feeble, dying and weak plants with repeated doses of rain water. It's simply fantastic!

3.  The Mix:  Over the past year or so, I've been experimenting with different types of matter to mix with perlite, rather than peat, to start my seeds.  This is my effort to be conscientious over the sustainability of using peat. 

My seed starting results have been mixed, however, and not nearly as satisfying as my stand-by mixture of 50% peat and 50% perlite.  When I started the lettuce seeds, I had a leftover bucket of peat from years prior and that's what I used to start the seedlings and as usual, the seeds seemed to respond extremely well.  Even other seeds that were placed on the east facing shelf emerged at a 'normal' pace. However, there are some brand new packets that were started a couple of weeks ago, in a compost/peat mixture that are struggling.  They're emerging inconsistently and not at all at a pace consistent with a new packet of seeds.  In this case, I think the soil is just a tad too heavy - even with the perlite (and this was at a rate of what would probably be 40% compost/60% perlite).

Being in a tropical climate definitely helps my seed starting efforts as I'm able to start seeds throughout the entire year - literally.  I usually reserve a small area of my westerly facing shelf for transplants rather than seed starting simply because I have more space for the large pots.  But, I'm rethinking this strategy...

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pansies in the Garden

Love to walk by and see the pansies in the garden.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Carrots in the Garden

I spied carrots in the garden and had to snap a quick picture. Don't know why they always make me smile...

Surprisingly, the question comes up a great deal on where one can buy yellow carrots.  For those interested in trying a small sampling, I have some Yellowstone carrot seeds available which is not presently on my list of available seeds but will be on the updated 2010 list (still compiling it and yes I'm a wee bit behind in that task).  But, please feel free to drop me a quick email if you want me to send you a packet.

However, if you need a large supply, you can get some from:

Seeds of Change
Kitchen Garden Seeds
Thompson and Morgan

Here are a few of my other musings on the subject:
Yellowstone Carrot & Tonda di Parigi Carrot
In the Garden: Yellow Carrot More than Edible