Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Purple Border

Purple Aeonium

This lovely border was near an office complex in Irvine, California. The combination of purples/spiky/soft plants make a nice presentation.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Roasting Autumn Squash and Vegetables: Easy and Delicious

Sweet Potato

Butternut Squash: remove seeds then cut into pieces

Oven Roasting Make Vegetable Preparation Easy and Delicious

Roasted Harvest Vegetables

1 pound carrot, peeled
1 large sweet potato peeled
1 small butternut squash peeled and seeded
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Maple Syrup to drizzle over sweet potatoes

Oven 425 degrees.

Cut the carrots, sweet potato, and butternut squash in 1- to 1-1/2 inch cubes.
Place all the cut vegetables in a single layer on sheet pans. Drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Bake for 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, turning with metal spatula
Season to taste. Drizzle sweet potatoes with maple syrup, if desired.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


This scarecrow has a funny photo face.

Something about scarecrows remind me of autumn.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Walls of Succulents

If you have been following garden trends in the glossy garden periodicals, you will have noticed over the past few years a growing trend of the vertical garden.  We have Patrick Blanc, the creator of the vertical garden, to thank.  These gardens of green which defy the conventional horizontal garden, can be found both indoors and out.  They seem to be a natural for urban environments as the wall adds soothing and appealing green to the concrete jungle as well as providing a cooling cover for buildings baking in the sun. 

A few years ago, articles on architects including these walls in their buildings started to appear.  Now you can find these walls appearing on everyday buildings.  The boutique and event venue, The Humble Abode on Avenida del Mar in San Clemente, has a wonderful vertical garden at their entrance.  

The wall is usually built out from the integral wall of the building with wood or metal frames covered with chicken wire and some sort of growing medium.  An article in the New York Times describes how Flora Grubb, a California landscape designer, used epiphytic air plants (tillandsias), which do not need a growing medium, clipped onto metal rods.

Garden Find: Worm Castings from Rubi's Reds

Farmers Market in San Clemente on Sunday was a garden find for me.  As I walked down Avenida Del Mar selecting organic apples for homemade apple sauce and plums, I saw a stand with bags stacked and filled with something brown and earthy.  As I got closer, I discovered the brown, earthy matter was worm castings!

As the owner of a horse stable in Menifee, California, Ruby makes magic by combining the byproduct of horses (manure) with a lot of red wigglers (worms).   This "green" solution results in worm castings.  Worm castings are like gold in the garden.  They are both a soil conditioner and a source of valuable nutrients.

Ruby can be found under the clock tower on Sundays at San Clemente's Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Avenida Del Mar.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Herbs: Oregano and Parsley

Fresh herbs from the garden are a bonus to the home gardener.  As a California gardener, most herbs can be grown fresh year round.  After a shaky start, both the parsley and oregano have taken hold in the garden.  The next round of tomatoes I prepare for freezing will include these fresh herbs.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Garden Gadget of the Week: Hose Storage

I have three hose bib locations around my house where I like to keep garden hoses for hand-watering. One of these locations is a patio area which is outside a bedroom door. I have been looking for a hose storage solution which is aesthetic and functional. While shopping at my local hardware shop I found the Suncast All-weather Wicker Hose Pot.

I had looked at a few ceramic and metal hose pots. I did not like the fact that there were only three small drainage holes at the bottom in these types of pots. This wicker basket is virtually open at the bottom allowing any water which enters the basket immediate drainage. I could also imagine the ceramic pots becoming chipped or cracked. The location of this pot is under an overhang so it won't be exposed to sun and rain directly.

* 80' of 5/8" hose capacity
* Comes fully assembled
* Stylish wicker design enhances any patio
* Weather resistant - no maintenance

The hose feeds through a large hole at the bottom of the pot to reach the hose bib. After use, I circle the hose around the inside of the pot. It really doesn't take much longer than storage containers with a winding mechanism.

Now I just need to dress up my hose in some "Hose Clothes" from Dirt Couture to finish the look!

Friday, November 05, 2010

A Whorl of Lettuce Leaves

My lettuce continues to grow.  I've planted several varieties.  This particular lettuce is not appealing to the bunnies, apparently, because it grows without protection and has not been nibbled to the roots.

Because of the unusual heat, several of my early plantings of lettuce have bolted.  I picked up a six-pack at Plant Depot earlier this week.  With the extremely high temps, I decided to hide it in the shade and plant once daily temps become more reasonable.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Beets--Harvest and Roast

One of the great perks of the home garden is the harvest and cook advantage.  While gardening around noon on Wednesday, I saw several of my beets were large enough to harvest.  I plucked them from the ground, tore off the leaves and tossed into the composter*.  Next I washed them at the kitchen sink, cut off the roots, and placed on a piece of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and into the toaster oven for 25 -30 minutes until they were tender when pierced with a fork.   Notice I didn't peel the beet.  The peeling is done post-roast.  With paper towel in hand, a slight rub and the skin falls into the paper towel.  Slice, salt, pepper...Lunch!

*someday I will try cooking the leaves.

Peas Please

Cool season plants are managing in this very odd year of weather.  Summer came and went under a sky of marine layers which did not dissipate until noon and returned by spring.  Now, we are experiencing 90+ degree days in November. 

I planted several sugar snap pea plants over six weeks ago and now I am enjoying the harvest of their produce.  This planting is small so the peas usually become snack food as I garden. 

I planted a larger group of peas several weeks later and they are growing into strong tall flowers yet.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery

Honeybee article from NYT

The Mystery Volunteer

The squash seed which volunteered in my garden has been very busy growing green leaves, runners and huge yellow blossoms.  While gardening yesterday, I noticed that one of the flowers was pollinated and something is growing.  Do you recognize it yet?  It is still early.  The possibilities include acorn squash, cantaloupe, pumpkin.  We'll see....

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Protecting Lettuce from a HOT Day

Earlier I placed my lettuces under this hanging plant basket to protect them from hungry bunnies.  Today we have an unusually hot November day.  I placed the lid of my composter on top of the basket to provide my newly planted lettuces a little shade.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tree Trimming Complete

I really like the work the tree company did on my trees.  Everything is so trim and tidy.  I had to post a few more photos of the final project.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tree Trimming

The sun is shining making it a perfect day for trimming trees.  On the list are liquid ambers, California pepper trees, eucalyptus, carrotwood, pine and willows.  I've counted nine men who I can see in the yard working on this project.  They are estimating three hours to complete the job.

It's a good idea to trim the trees before Santa Ana winds start.  The strong winds have broken branches on trees in the past.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Green" Lettuce from the Garden

Sunny day in California and so I made my way to the garden early this morning.  I picked a small bowl of lettuces.  I always do a triple wash for my lettuces.  I have a large salad spinner in which I place the lettuce.  I fill the container up with water and gently aggitate the water to remove any dirt or particles from the lettuce.  I do this two times.  The third is a hand wash inspection of each leaf.  It takes a bit of time, but I would not be happy finding a slug on my lettuce during my meal.

The "green" part of this process is that I take each container of dirty water to the garden to water something.  Usually, I like to water the two gardenia bushes which sit beside my entry door.  Because they are under cover, they have not benefited from the rains we had last week.  During the rains, I turn off my sprinklers so they were ready for a little water.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Careful When Selecting...

I quickly selected a bell pepper plant on a hurried trip to the nursery one day in August.  My selection has turned out to be quite a surprise.  I thought I was selecting a bell pepper plant which would turn "chocolate" or brownish in color when ripe.  My surprise is that it actually is a plant which produces miniature peppers.  I have already picked a few of the ripened peppers.  I thought the plant was finished for the season.  Then, my volunteer plant completely engulfed it.  This week while tidying up the garden, I discovered the plant is loaded with blossoms.  Again, if we get some sunny days (doubtful based on this year's sunny days to date), they might just produce a few more peppers.  The miniatures are darling and the color is lovely, by the way.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rainy Day Tomatoes

The tomatoes are continuing to ripen despite the rainy weather we have had for the past week.  Interestingly, a few weeks earlier my tomatoes actually were burned by the hot weather.  I have never had this happen before but we had extremely hot, sunny weather.  The tops of any tomatoes not protected under foliage were discolored and eventually blackened.  Eventually, the slugs discovered this and started devouring the black, rotted area.

Mystery Volunteer--Cantaloupe Perhaps?

About four weeks ago, I added compost to the garden soil.  When I do this, I discover that not all seeds have been destroyed my organisms or heat.  This is a squash type plant which volunteered and has grown beautifully,  I am not sure if at this late date the plant will be pollinated and have time to mature into whatever it will be.  My guess is cantaloupe because of the shape of the female flower/fruit.  Here's hoping I get to harvest something from this plant.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Time for California's Shake Out: Statewide Earthquake Drill

At 10:21 a.m. on 10/21 (that's today!), California will have a state wide earthquake drill called The Great California Shake Out.

Many of the "facts" we had about earthquakes and the best places to go during an earthquake have changed.  The current wisdom says "Drop, Cover and Hold On."  Drop so you are not thrown to the ground during an earthquake, cover under a sturdy table or desk, and hold on until the earthquake stops.

The old notion of standing in a doorway has been replaced.  Many of today's structures are engineered and the doorway is not stronger than other areas and you will not be protected from falling debris.

According to web site Drop, Cover and Hold on, if you are by the shore, estimate if the shaking lasts for more than 20 seconds.  If so, you should head quickly away from the shore because a tsunami might be created by the earthquake.  Best to stay on foot and head two miles from the shore or 100 feet above sea level.

Divided We Stand

My irises hadn't been divided for a few years.  Recently I took a few hours to divide my purple bearded irises.  The space I allocated to the replanting quickly filled up with the rhizomes.  After several weeks in the ground, I can see new green growth is starting.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Urban Gardening Rap

I discovered this great rap on a blog called Urban Gardens

It's great!

Onions and Beets

I planted some green and red onions for my fall planting. I decided there was too much wasted space between the rows. My solution was to plant some beets. Everything seems to be doing quite well.

Tricking the Rascally Rabbits

I've never had a big problem with rabbits before this year. Now the critters are eating my produce and I prefer not to share. Looking for an easy way to keep them out of my lettuce, I found these hanging wire baskets at my local garden center. By turning them upside down, I keep the rabbits out but allow water and sun to enter. And harvesting the lettuce is as easy as picking up the cage. Finally, I will be able to enjoy a nice garden salad this fall.

(Two notes: We had big rains yesterday, so my lettuce is quite dirty. Also, the rabbits are not so interested in my nutty, peppery arugula so it can stay outside the cage!)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Yikes! Tarantula

Tarantula spotted on a friend's property. Not what you want to see when you are wearing open-toed shoes.

Farmers' Market

Recent trip to a Farmers' Market.

I loved the box of garlic cloves. Vampires beware!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Pumpkin Patch--now at your local garden shop

Knowing a good thing when they see it, the local garden shops are gearing up for one of our favorite holidays--Halloween. Plant Depot has set up a special area replete with pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks, container trees turning autumn colors. Very picturesque.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New Basil Plant for the Garden

I've picked up a new basil from the garden shops. It is a dense, compact domed-shaped plant. It can be used in the vegetable garden or as an interesting border plant in a border garden. The scent is wonderful.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hand Pollination--Helping out the Bees

I have shocked my friends recently. They are amazed that I go to my garden each morning and "help" out the bees by providing mechanical or hand pollination to my zucchini crop. One friend indicated that she knew I was a type A personality and a bit of a control freak, but perhaps this activity had crossed over to a whole new level.

I disagree. Home gardeners have been hand pollinating for years. And after go to the trouble of planting a garden, watering it, weeding it, dealing with over zealous bunnies and an onslaught of powdery mildew which occurs so easily near the coast, I am sure going to try to get the most produce I can from my little green garden.

My zucchini flowers are open early morning for several hours. I take this time to identify which female flowers are blooming and selecting a few male flowers to provide the pollen. My technique involves removing the open bloom (corolla) from the male flower and brushing the anther of the stamen on the pistils of the female flower. Even then I do not reach 100% success but I have been reaping a very bountiful harvest.

My nongardening friends want to know how I know the male from female flower. I've included a few photos showing what to look for.
Female flower with view of stigma

Exterior view of female. Small unpollinated zucchini visible. If this flower is not pollinated, it will stay this small size, yellow, and whither on the plant.

Male flower (no zucchini--just stem below the flower)


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