Thursday, April 28, 2011

IRIS: Form and Color

Due to the small rhizome it has grown from, the stalk is small but the flower is livin' large!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Vertical Garden--Hot Garden Trend

The vertical garden is a definite darling in the garden scene.  This vertical garden is a backdrop wall at True Foods at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, California.  The juxtaposition of the colors and textures make this vertical wall a visual delight.

Lettuce: Just a Cool Weather Crop

This is my last planned planting of lettuce for the spring season.  I have a scheme in mind to see if I can have a prolonged growing season for my lettuce.  I've planted these plants in an area between two tomato cages.  I can place shading supported by the cages to lower the amount of light the plants get.  Additionally, I will hand water these plants to make sure they are getting consistent moisture. 

I'm looking forward to seeing how long these lettuces will last into the warm season.

Have you had any success in elongating your lettuce growing season?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Artichokes: More Than You'll Ever Need

Artichokes--the curious plant.  In this photo you can see the places I have harvested artichoke buds by the brownish color left behind.  Here are two new buds growing very close to where I cut one out on Sunday.  It is like the Disney film, Sorcerer's Apprentice.  Everytime you harvest one, two grow in its place.  Soon I will be overrun with artichokes.  Not that I am complaining.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Snowballs in the Garden

 The onion have flowered and with several of them blooming right now, it looks like a snowball fight.

Brussels Sprouts Update

Here is a photo update of the Brussels Sprout plant growing in the garden.  You can see the tiny sprouts growing at the junction of leaf to stalk. 

While I am happy to be trying this new vegetable, fair warning they are an aphid magnet.  I already culled two plants which were to infested to keep.  Currently of the four remaining plants, two have had a small infestation and I am removing the leaves and hoping for the best.

Iris--Garden Surprise

Last fall, I divided my iris plants.  From a few:  many.  As I divided the plants, I had new rhizomes of many sizes.  You can see the sword-like leaves of the irises have developed beautifully.  I did not expect to see any flowers this year.  This morning during garden inspection (!), I looked down at the iris garden to discover one of the smallest plants had produced a flower.  Once it opens, I will share the photo with you.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

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Happy Easter!
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Happy Easter!
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Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Oh Happy Days

Here's a picture of my sweet dog when she was much younger.
I found this photo in the archives and just love it. 

With that tongue action, I'm thinking a doggie treat must have been involved.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tomato Plant--Leverage your Garden Dollars

I purchased a 1-gallon tomato plant yesterday to fill in the area where my snap peas were. 

When planting tomato plants, you can go deep in the hole to give the plant extra roots as tomato plants will send roots out of the stalk if covered in soil.  When you do this, you want to remove any leaves from the area which will be in the dirt and even the ones in the near vicinity of the top of the soil.
There are often strong, viable leafs which are excellent candidate for creating another tomato plant.  I brought one of these leaves in the house and placed it in a vase filled with water.  Once the roots grow, I will plant it in the gallon container with good potting soil and water until it gets established.  Then its into the garden and I have a great plant at no additional cost.   :)

FAQs about Veggies and Herbs

I discovered a handy gardening web site recently.  It is sponsored by a plant company called Bonnie Plants.  The site has a list of sixty vegetables and herb.  Each one has specific questions about the plant with answers.

Here is the FAQs for Tomatoes.  For example, it answers questions on staking tomatoes, why tomatoes get black bottoms, how deep to plant.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Earth Day--Billion Acts of Green

Friday, April 22, is Earth Day.  If you are reading this your probably care just a bit more than the average person on the street about the impact we have on our environment.  The theme this year is Billion Acts of Green encouraging us all to do our part to green up the world we live in.

Here are things I am doing to be greener this year.

  1. Meatless Monday--My eldest son became a vegetarian about a year ago.  I'm not ready to make that commitment but I do try to include beans as my protein at one or more meals a week.  I love baked beans atop a slice of toasted whole wheat toast or cuddled in the top of a piping hot baked potato. 
  2. Gray water.  This winter I grew lots of lettuce.  I washed my lettuce and had three pans always handy to catch the rinse water.  This went out to the veggie garden or out to the gardenias which are under an overhang and don't get the pleasure of the rains falling on them.
  3. Composting!  Easy as can be.  Either out to the small composter or into the green waste receptacle provided by the city sanitation department.  
  4. LED lights in the kitchen.  They are a bit whiter light than incandescent but the energy savings...oh, la, la.
  5. Plastic bags.  I don't always remember to bring my reusable bags when I shop.  I do, however, have no problem with carrying an item to the car sans bag.  So, no bag at book stores, the shoes are already in a box, and if it can tuck in my purse, off I go.
What are you doing as an act of green?

Adieu Sweet Peas, Adieu

After a wonderful season of snap and snow peas, the pea factory is slowly gearing down for the switch to summer plants.  The first planted "tower of peas" as I have called them this year because they have grown straight up in these tomato cages and literally tower over me, has no more blossoms or peas to be harvested.  Here is the second tower and half the vines are turning yellow.  This morning's harvest resulted in about twelve pods, a shadow of the former production seen on other days within the past week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Following Up on Celery in My California Garden

I posted earlier about planting celery for the first time.  At first it languished from my inexperience and lack of H2O.  Watering deeply has created a pseudo-bog condition for this one little plant*.  Now it is flourishing (I guess on a relative basis).

Plant has grown taller and greener with additional water.

Stalks revealed.
As I have done a bit of reading since planting the celery, I find many descriptions including this is a plant which requires additional attention.  If I wanted to preserve a less green stalk, I would bury the plant in soil much like one does when creating white asparagus.  Too much work for my taste.  I'll just enjoy it with its robust coloring and flavor.

Here is the part I am excited about.  Much like leaf lettuce which can be used as needed leaving the plant to produce more, the same goes for the celery plant.  So once the stalks get a bit larger, I can harvest a few at each meal as needed.  That's awesome.

*Water is from gray water created when I wash the lettuce from my garden.

Exquisite Stone Path

This sun dappled stone path beckons for an afternoon of Orange County daydreams and reverie.  I drove past this walkway and it took my breath away it was so amazing.

This stone walkway is softened by a plant which is known as Dymondia margaretae.  It's common name is silver carpet because of the silvery under leaf color of this very tight, tough groundcover.  This plant can take light foot traffic.  Drought tolerant in coastal zones, it is an excellent choice for waterwise gardens.


Breaking News from My California Garden--Tomato Sighting

April 19 at 7 p.m. PDT, in the California garden in zone 23, there has been a sighting of two (!) developing tomatoes.  These heirloom tomatoes are called San Francisco Fog.  They like cool nights and warm days like those found in coastal areas.  The weather has been ideal for them this spring and their ability to set fruit in this climate hasn't disappointed.  The round, red fruit doesn't get too large (two to three inches) but grows in clusters. ( Looks like I have a cluster of one in each location!)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mole Has to Go

My garden has a stinky mole digging around.  He up heaves a lot of dirt as he tunnels deep below.  

Silver lining:  I guess I won't have to do as much turning of soil when I plant for summer.  :) 

Seriously, he has to go.  

And he has the audacity to eat raw onions and leave nothing but the green tops behind.  I bet he is a favorite among his friends.

Monday, April 18, 2011

When Honeysuckle Meets Vinca

A tangle of vines is taking place on the slope between by neighbors' house and mine.  They are providing the honeysuckle.  I am providing the variegated vinca.  Little did we know that their meeting would create such a perfect union.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Renee's Garden Web Site

Renee's Garden has been one of my favorite sources of seeds for years.  The company offers a wide variety of seeds with special interest.

Recently, I received one of their emailed newsletters which took me to their site.  While perusing, I discovered a page for Renee's Kitchen Garden designs.  There are two garden plans offered:  one for a short summer/cold winter and one for a long summer/short winter.  They guide you through the various seasons with seed suggestions and plot planting.  Very helpful.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Roger's Gardens Bird Houses

Roger's Gardens has the most wonderful bird houses.  Here is the link to their facebook page.  The photos are darling.  The male bird keeps bringing sticks to the nest; female insists on softness.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Don't Taunt Me, Hummingbirds

One lovely thing (among many) about living in California is the abundance of hummingbirds.  But these small, fast moving creatures have been taunting me this spring.  Every time I have been out in the garden this spring without my camera, they swoop in on me and sip nectar from the various flowers in my garden.

Over the weekend, I was picking some radishes.  Apparently, the little hummingbird did not see me because he came within six inches of where I was.   Literally, six inches--no exaggeration.  If I had been in the movie, "The Matrix," I definitely would have been able to reach out and touch him.

There he was, that close, but alas, no camera.  Mental photo only.

Thankfully, the h-birds are not mean spirited like the birds were in Alfred Hitchcock's movie, "The Birds."   It is a little disconcerting the first time you encounter them in the garden.  Their wings flap so quickly, they sound just like a humongous buzzing mosquito on steroids. However, they basically are interested in nectar not in pecking the gardener.

Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk and saw one of the hummingbirds outside the window.  I grabbed my camera, and through the window, captured this photo.  Not a bad capture from inside the house--digital zoom engaged.

My goal this summer is to get an amazing hummingbird photo.  You know the one I mean:  hummingbird, sipping nectar, wings stopped in motion as if he is defying gravity, iridescent colors of his feathers shining in the sunlight.  

Grilled Artichokes--Really I Broiled Them

A few days ago, I harvested several beautiful artichokes.  Today I felt inspired to prepare them.  I love the wonderful grilled artichokes served as starters in restaurants.  The have a great flavor and of course there is the decadent dipping sauce. 

I did a quick google search and found this great web page:  Grilled Artichokes.  Instead of grilling, I put them under the broiler for five to ten minutes.  After they came out of the oven, I squeezed lemon juice over the top and rubbed the exposed surface with a garlic clove cut in half.  Then with a nice twist of the salt mill my 'chokes were heavenly!

Gardening Gone Wild Offers a Photography Contest to Garden Bloggers

A fellow garden blogger, Gardening Gone Wild, is offering a photography contest this April, Picture This Contest.  

I know some readers of this blog have marvelous photos.  You may want to click over to GGW and check out the rules.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Experimental Plant Lab in Zone 23: Celery

2011 is the year of experimentation for my garden.  I am trying my hand at growing vegetables which I  have no experience in growing.

I saw a celery seeding at the nursery one day a few weeks ago.  Why not?  I grabbed the small plastic pot and put if on the upper shelf of the push cart along with basil, lemon verbena (the lemon fragrance is intoxicating), and some lettuce (red romaine and red oakleaf) cell packs.

Did I mention I didn't bother reading the growing instructions?  Come on...this gardening stuff isn't rocket science.  Stick it in the dirt...winter rains...mother nature's robustness and things should grow. 

After several weeks the celery is going nowhere--fast. Perhaps I should I read the handy little information insert.  See, I keep them right next to the plant for easy referral.  Oh, now I understand...celery likes a moist, bog-like location (California rains do not a bog create).  And fertilizer.  Who knew?

Since then, I have upped the watering cycle and with the increasing daylight, things are greening up and growing.  Over the weekend, I worked a little worm casting and organic compost into the soil around the plant.

Stay tuned to see how things in the Experimental Plant Lab turn out.

Spring Gardening Workshop

Spring Gardening Workshop in Orange County

Spring Gardening Workshop 

Herbs:  From Garden to Table

Saturday, April 16, 10:00 am – 12:00 Noon

Orange County Great Park, Sand Canyon Ave and Marine Way, Irvine

 Free Parking & Admission

Love My California Garden Artichoke

Artichokes can grow up to five feet tall and six feet wide
Terminal bud of the Artichoke Plant
This artichoke plant's center terminal bud us ready for picking.  Waiting too long can result in an inedible artichoke.

If you look closely under the photo of the full artichoke plant, you will see I have planted some lettuces.  My hope is that in the filtered shade of this plant, I will continue to harvest lettuces without the sun causing them to bolt.
A bouquet of artichoke buds

A visual delight

What's in the White House Vegetable Garden?

My good friend, Kathi, was recentlly in Washington, D.C. and emailed this photo of Michelle's White House garden.

The garden includes spinach, peas, lettuce, broccoli, blueberries, raspberries and other vegetables and herbs--sorrel, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, marjoram, chamomile, chives, garlic, hyssop, dill, cilantro, parsley.

Monday, April 11, 2011

She's Got the Beet

I usually don't feature myself in blog photos...but dear hubby took a photo of me with one of my beets and well, here it is.

Compost Sunday!

When I first moved to California, I had two composters.  One was my closed composter, which was designated for kitchen greens, light green yard waste, garden yard waste, and of course random leaves added to balance green and brown.

The second composter was an 2.5' x 2.5' x 3.5' plastic container.  The plastic was molded to look like slats to provide air to the composter.  At the bottom was a door which slid up and down where one could theoretically removed wonderful brown, crumbly, earthy compost.  I designated this composter for yard waste only.  Nothing food-like in this composter to attrack scavengers looking for food; grass, leaves, and a few small, woody branches only.

One day I lifted off the lid to add to the compost and like a lightening strike, a huge (don't be offended, we live at the top of a canyon) RAT shot out of the composter like nothing I had ever seen.  He was spring loaded.  Let me say if I could do a standing jump as far as this rat did, I would be the uncontested Olympic jumper for the next century.  Both of us were a little unhappy that day.  In hindsight, I realized that what I had created was the most inviting of rat condominiums.  Twigs, dry leaves, warm decomposing grass, what would a rat not love about this abode?  While I try to live in harmony with the critters of my environment, I try not to purposely create habitats for the unseemly.  The composter had to come out.

So now, I just have my completely enclosed composter which I sit with the bottom edge a few inches below dirt level to discourage anything trying to enter from the bottom.  Its design makes turning next to impossible, so a few times a year, I dump the whole thing out, remove any compost ready to the garden and return the rest back to the composter.

Result:  I didn't find any compost ready to add back to the garden. However, I did find hundreds of wonderful, wriggling worms which were ready to add to the garden.  As I shoveled the compost back in, I would come upon a colony of worms--more like a worm-pile--and placed them on the garden soil.  By the time I had finished my compost turning, the worms had worked their way into the garden soil.

With the warmer months of summer approaching, the composter should be hotter and by the end of summer, I should have compost ready to add to the garden. 

Note to composter novices:  Don't let this rat story discourage you from composting.  I have composted all over the U.S. and only in California have I had problems like this.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Top Five Herbs for the Garden

The summer garden is perfect for growing fresh herbs.    You can start your herbs from seeds, but I like the ease of planting herbs already growing in small  pots from the nursery.  Unless you are very busy in the kitchen a pot or two of each herb will be enough for your cooking needs.


Flat Leaf Parsely
My favorite five herbs to grow in the garden are basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and flat leaf (Italian) parsley.  They like full sun (at least six hours) and medium amounts of water.  Using these herbs will encourage growth.  When the basil gets large, I often pinch a stem, place in water to root and soon have another plant to grow in the garden.


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