Saturday, November 03, 2012

Another Perfect Day in Paradise

 Enjoying a stroll around town and the cactus which grows so abundantly in the area.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Orange, Red and Pink(?): The Colors of Autumn in Southern California

A Stand of Liquid Amber Showing Red in the Autumn
Liquid Amber Seed Pods
Bring the Rake!  (Compost envy!)

Mother Nature cannot commit.  Bloom amidst the falling leaves

Not quite the range of colors of Autumn in the east, California tries hard to show its color in the fall. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

This Sponge is Not from the Sea

After removing the peel and seeds, the ripe dried loofah is used in the bath as a scrubbing sponge.
Loofah grows much like a cucumber.  Once it reaches maturity, dry the plant and the outer skin peels away.
Recently, I mentioned the loofah sponge to two people.  Both insisted the loofah sponge was from the sea.  Not so.

This sponge is actually a gourd you grow in the garden. Once matured, the fruit can be dried and everything (skin/seeds) removed but the xylem tissues.  The sponge makes an excellent natural scrubber for the bath or kitchen.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Buffalo on Catalina!

Trip over to Catalina Island this weekend.  We were so lucky to have a very special tour and spotted these wonderful buffalo.  The buffalo were brought to Catalina in the 1920s during the filming of a movie and left behind after the shoot was finished.  The buffalo have thrived and reproduced in the subsequent years.

Basil for the Birds

My basil plants flowered and then went to seed. I left them because I noticed the bees were crazy the basil flowers. This evening, I discovered another garden friend enjoying the basil. This tiny bird was so small at first I thought it was a hummingbird. Using my camera's digital zoom, I was able to see it was not a hummingbird.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Preparation Now, Enjoy Fresh Tomato Flavor in the Winter

Wash your tomatoes.
Boil a pan of water.
Placing tomatoes in boiling water helps to loosen skin.
Score the tomato skins and then slip the skins off the tomatoes. 
Dice the tomatoes.

Place in a large pan to cook and reduce.
About 30 minutes will reduce the tomatoes for use in recipes or for freezing.
While your garden or farmers' market is flush with red tomatoes, you may want to prepare tomatoes for freezing. The process is easy.  Follow through the cooking step, cool and then place in freezer bags to store for future use.

I've included a favorite tomato sauce recipe I like to use on spaghetti.  Sometimes I add sausage or ground meat for a different twist.

My Favorite Tomato Sauce
1 cup onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, whole
3 tablespoons fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
28 ounces diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Saute onion in olive oil until translucent (do not brown).  Add basil and red pepper flakes and saute one to two minutes.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper and sugar.  Bring to boil and then lower heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir occassionally.

Serve over pasta.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tomato Harvest Time

Worth the wait.  With colander in hand, I met the sunrise in the garden.  Selecting the red-ripe tomatoes, I placed them carefully in the bowl, stacking layer upon layer.  As I wiggled my hand into the depths of the branches to find the tomatoes growing on their stems, the release the distinctive odor of the tomato leaf is released and fills the warm, morning air.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Totally Tomatoes

Dear Self in the Spring of 2013:

Do not repeat your actions of 2012 and put off getting your warm weather garden planted on time.  Remember how disappointed you were when you were getting your first round of ripe tomatoes in the last week of August.

With kindest regards,
California Gardener in Zone 23, 2012

There, that should take care of the chance I make that mistake again. 

Finally, I have a harvest of tomatoes perched on the edge of ripeness.  Two days ago, the tomatoes were the color of an orange red Crayola.  After a weekend spent on the vine, hopes are high for perfectly red ripe tomatoes. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cool Season Vegetables: Chard

After posting about mums yesterday and enjoying a chilly night listening to bluegrass music at The Great Park, I woke up today inspired to start planning my cool season garden.  I've never planted chard before but have always been in awe of the beautiful colors.  This article by Marianne Lipanovich is just the inspiration I need:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Patience for the Mums

 All gardeners know patience is the one of the key elements of success.

Last fall, I purchased a six-pack of chrysanthemums for my garden.  My shovel loosened the dirt in the bed and compost amended the soil.  Eagerly, I checked on the plants each week wanting them to take hold.  The plants showed indifference to my wishes and languished throughout the fall.  With the onset of winter, the plants forlornly sat in the dirt. 

With the spring, the decision had to be made--leave the plants in the ground to see if there was a chance they would grow or pluck them from the ground to make way for another plant.  Something told me to choose the former.  How glad I am that I did.  I stopped pinching back the small budlets which formed all summer long about two weeks ago.

Today, I am enjoying the first plants of fall, albeit a bit early.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Making a Vermicomposter at The Ecology Center

Evan Marks shows us a finished worm composter.

First add coir, then newspaper strips, slightly damp.

Some torn lettuce to start the composter and help the worms get a start on reproducing.

In go the red wigglers.

Top with more damp newspaper strips. 

Sit in a tray to capture moisture from holes drilled in the bottom.
Last Saturday, The Ecology Center hosted a workshop to teach us about vermicomposting and to make our own to use at our homes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tomato Hornworm--Devouring Tomato Plants

Tomato Hornworm Chewing Mouth Parts

Signs of the Hornworm's Presence
A nightly trim of many of the leaves on the tomato plant and droppings below probably indicates you have a tomato hornworm.  Don't neglect removing this critter because he can quickly remove most of the leaves and stems from your tomato plants.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Race to the Sky

Tall Stakes and Twine Provide a Growing Area from Pole Beans

First Bean Plant Reaches the Top

At lower levels, beans are growing.
I like plants which grow vertically because the allow me to fit more vegetables in my small garden.  I was very industrious this year and made three panels of poles and twine for my pole bean plants.  First I drive the stakes into the earth.  Then I created twine lattice for the beans to grow up.  Looking forward to harvesting a "mess" of beans in the next week.


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