Sunday, August 30, 2015

Come On Fall!

Today, the morning air was refreshingly cool.  Excellent. October is on the way.  The tomatoes have been removed along with the morning glories.  The raised beds have been tilled (with my new Earthwise electric tiller) and are being prepared to be planted with seeds for the winter garden.  Some of the seeds used are leftover from 2014.  So what.  If weed seeds have no expiration date, these seeds better perform too.

The beet bed is now ready for Farmer MacGregor to roll out the drip lines.  Here's what was planted today.



More beet seeds will be sown in the coming weeks to insure beet harvest throughout the winter.  Delicious.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Garden Progress During a Drought.

What the heck?!  Blogging sure has dwindled down to a small trickle just like the flow of the good ol' Kern River.  Even though the drought is taking its toll, production in the garden continues.  Here's what's going on:

Dwarf sunflowers track with the sun and are enjoyed by pollinators.  I doubt that I'll harvest and roast the seeds.  These flowers are used to attract pollinators, provide some short shade, and brighten the garden.  Only about half of the seeds planted germinated.  I'll blame it on the source.  Maybe I'll save a head of these seeds to plant later.

Santa Rosa plums were not abundant this summer; but there were more than last summer and so very delicious.  There weren't enough to meet the demands of munching in the garden and jelly.  Munching wins everytime.

Thornless boysenberries  were productive enough to freeze some to enjoy later and fulfill the garden munchies.  Ice cream?  Cobbler?  Delicious.

Blenheim apricots produced just like the berries.  Some in the freezer and some in my belly.  These are my favorite and are evidence that there is a God.  Dang it, they taste just like summer.

Here's a variety of cantaloupes I've never tried before.  The seed package describes the taste as similar to pineapple.  We'll see.  Moon and Stars watermelons are also planted in the garden.  They aren't expected to be harvested until late summer.

 String beans are vigorous where a failed thornless boysenberry once dwelled.  I'm not a fan of green beans; but Farmer MacGregor enjoys them.  Surplus beans will be housed in the freezer for MacGregor and a garden gnome to enjoy during the winter.

Lavender is drawing the the honey bees too.  I've never used it to cook (except for Herbs de Provance); so I might give it a try.  Ice cream?  Creme Brulee?

Granny Smith apples look to be having a banner year.  This little tree that I thought was going to die from scald has made a great comeback.  Since I eat an apple each night, I don't think these will be used for anything other than munching.

Red Flame grapes are coming along; but there are some problems with some bunches and leaves that the local farmers' cooperative extension need to be consulted about.  At least, it's providing great shade and shelter for the scrub jay family nesting on the arbor.

As for the drought, I have very strong opinions that I'll save for another time.


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Afterthought:  I forgot to list the biggest resident in the garden this summer - tomatoes!  Here's the variety, the amount, and where they came from:

Better Boy (6 plants from Floyd's) -  These are planted in a bed that has been solarized to kill root knot nematodes.  4 out of 6 plants are thriving.  As the temperatures have increased, the plants are looking healthier.

Big Beef (1 plant from the Tomato Lady at the Haggin Oaks Farmers Market) - The Tomato Lady needed to reduce her inventory; so a dollar bill won a healthy plant to try out.

Champion (6 plants from Floyd's) - These are living up to their name.  All the plants are growing vigorously with many blossoms and tomatoes (non ripe yet).
 
Gold Currant (1 plant from a bird pooping at the front step) - Several years ago, a co-worker gave me an heirloom plant she started from seed.  The thing would never die; so Farmer MacGregor had to yank it out during the winter.  Each year, it sprouts somewhere in the garden.  The current Gold Currant sprouted last year at the front step and thrived through our mild winter.  It grows a top hedges (see header photo) for about 8 feet and has been producing grape tomatoes the entire time.  It's a keeper.

Super Sweet 100 (1plant from Walmart) - What the heck.  These were out on a rack at the entrance to the dreaded Walmart; so I made the trip a little bit more enjoyable by picking up a tomato plant.  We'll see.





Saturday, March 14, 2015

Whew!


Soaking the garden dirt off the fresh carrots and beets that were harvested this morning.  Everything was hosed off; but there's some left behind.  The water will be dumped on an azalea.

Carrots will be blanched and frozen with some reserved for Farmer MacGregor's corned beef.  The beets will be pickled and set up in jars. There's still more out in the garden yet to be harvested.

Two beds are ready for tomatoes. I'll need to hit the sidewalk sale at Floyd's and get started tomorrow.  Summer is here.

UPDATE:  Looky here what I found in my haul of carrots.  Hope this puts a smile on your face. If it doesn't, go out and pull some weeds.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Wisteria. Wowzer!





Wow! Wisteria is loaded up on the pergola with soft purple petals falling like sweet scented confetti. That perfume blended with all the citrus (grapefruit, orange, lemon, & manderin) and sweet alyssum is fabulous. It makes the transition from nice, cool weather into steamy armpit weather just a bit more tolerable - for now anyway.

Last weekend all the trees and berries were fertilized and the broccoli and cauliflower were pulled.

This weekend's tasks: 
Harvest more beets (pickled) and carrots (frozen) to store for later.
Prepare some beds for summer crops.
Plant tomatoes IF I can make it that far.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Meditative Roots

Out in the garden this morning before it gets too hot.  Gardening is my meditation - similar to swimming laps. My mind has no specific focus but my body is on auto pilot to get the task done (kinda). I'm unplugged (kinda), with the exception of my iPad, speaker (70s radio from Rhapsody this morning).  


While the weather is somewhat tolerable (70s - like my taste in music this morning) I need to get the beds ready for summer. That means pulling the spent broccoli/cauliflower bed.  Most of the plants have bolted producing yellow blossoms the bees are loving. The bees will have plenty of other pollen in the garden - citrus, stone fruits, apples, wisteria, and danged old dandelions.


Pulling that bed revealed strong, healthy roots with no signs of damage from nematodes.  Good. This bed was solarized last summer. So far, that process looks successful OR the buggers just don't like broccoli like George H. W.

Speaking of roots, my current time soaker is genealogy.  It's most interesting, but there should be intervention for this jig saw puzzle like quest. One of my garden gnomes and I recently travelled to a genealogical conference in Salt Lake City.  Wow. There is a huge community of geneaddicts (I just made up that word. Don't bother to look it up. Yet.). 

My break has lasted long enough. Time to meditate some more.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Freezing Broccoli


Bagrada bugs threatened the survival of broccoli a few months ago when the weather continued to be warm.  Diatomaceous earth was applied; but I know it was the onset of cooler weather that really brought them down.  Today, about a dozen heads were harvested with only one looking sickly (translation: compost bin). More is left to be harvested another day. This cold, foggy day is reserved for freezing the broccoli. 

Before freezing, the broccoli needs to be blanched.  Blanching helps green vegetables stay green and not turn brown.  Gross.

 1.  Start a pot of water to boil. (I used a pasta pot to easily remove the hot broccoli.)
 2.  Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
 3.  Rinse broccoli to remove any debris.
 4.  Cut flowerettes from stalks.
 5.  Add a pinch of baking soda to the pot of boiling water.  This punches up the green color.
      Chemistry.
 6.  Place flowerettes in the boiling water for 2 minutes.
 7.  Remove flowerettes from boiling water and place in ice water for 2 minutes.
 8.  Remove flowerettes from ice water and place on a towel.
 9.  Place cooled flowerettes on wax paper lined cookie sheet.
10.  Place cookie sheet in freezer 30-60 minutes.
11. Put broccoli in labeled freezer bags.

When fresh, cooked broccoli is needed, remove from bag and use. Only a brief heating time is required.  Use steamed, stir fry, or casseroles.  Blanched broccoli just won't work for Super Bowl dips. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Calabrese Broccoli
The recent rains followed by fog are doing a world of good for this gardener, the garden, and the State of California as a whole.  I haven't had to irrigate for some time now.  I was worried that the Bagrada bug that decimated two beds of mustard would ruin my bed of broccoli and cauliflower before cold weather arrived.  They have done damage to seedlings that got a late start; but the mature plants are thriving.  It could have been the applications of diatomaceous earth or the recent cooler weather that has slowed them.  Probably a combination and the fact that there are very few seedlings that remain.

The Calabrese Green Sprouting Broccoli is an Italian heirloom brought to America in the 1880s.  It should produce many side shoots and produce heads 5" - 8". *
Waltham 29 Broccoli
I thought I also spotted a head of cauliflower. After checking some planting notes, this looks to be broccoli.  Waltham 29 is a standard type that produces 4" - 8" green heads that are nicely flavored.  Compact plants also produce some side shoots.  Introduced in 1954.*  It certainly is much different than the Italian variety.  There are two varieties of broccoli and two varieties of cauliflower planted in the far east bed. Cool, foggy/rainy weather is expected to continue this week providing ideal conditions in the winter garden.
Red-Cored Chantenay Carrots
At the head of this bed, is a variety of carrot that is suited for heavy soil.  It's a stubby variety that helps to break up the soil.  This bed was solarized over the past summer to drive out nematodes.  Don't know if it worked; but the carrots show no signs of the wee beasties.  One of the sweetest, this variety was introduced in 1929 and is a large stump-rooted carrot with a deep red-orange center, great for juicing or fresh eating. A good market variety that is smooth and refined in shape.*
The western most bed was also solarized this summer and then planted with a cover crop of mustard.  Unfortunately, the Bragrada bug destroyed the mustard.  I've used this opportunity to plant garlic.  Once the rains started, the garlic sprouted.  Hope this is a good sign.
Sunshine Blue Blueberry
Previously, I had mislabeled this potted blueberry bush as Pink Lemonade.  It's a product of Dave Wilson Nursery out of Reedley, California.  They describe this variety:  "Southern Highbush cultivar.  Great flavored firm berries.  Ripens May 10 through June 15 at Gainesville, Florida (?).  A semi dwarf evergreen bush with great fall color.  Showy hot pink flowers fade to white in spring.  Self-fruitful.  Estimated chilling hours needed 150 hours, but very cold hardy as well."

There is lots going on in the garden during the most wonderful time of the year.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

With Citrus, Christmas Can't Be Far Away


Grapefruit - Rio Red
Bounteous amounts of citrus means the calendar is closing in on Christmas time.  Here in Bakersfield and probably most of the San Joaquin Valley, residents with citrus trees are looking for neighbors to unload the bounty.  Citrus is winter's zucchini - but in a very good way.  Citrus is my favorite. The scent is in everything from the bloom to the peel to the fruit.  It's even in the limbs when they are pruned.  Wonderful.  The fruit can remain on the tree for quite a long time so it can be harvested as needed.  Local nurseries sponsor citrus tasting events throughout the winter where gardeners can learn about the different varieties, sample the fruit/juice, and purchase health stock.

Grapefruit is my favorite citrus.  Rio Red is delicious.  My dwarf tree is weighted down with the most fruit ever.  That little tree should give enough fruit to last through the winter months.  No scurvy here.

Navel Oranges - Robertson
The fruit is now starting to gain color that is really accentuated by the rain washed leaves.  Yes, it rained yesterday and just a bit today.  Wonderful.  Some of the oranges have split.  That is probably due to uneven irrigation.  Any split fruit is removed as soon as it is detected and disposed.  2014 looks to be a bumper year for the oranges as well.

Lemon - Pink Variegated
Two of the fruit trees are potted - lemon and mandarin.  Neither have fruit.  The Satsuma mandarin is very young and having no fruit is expected while it develops.  The lemon, however, usually has some fruit.  Currently, it's blooming.  In the photo above, some Leaf Miner damage can be seen in the leaf on the left.  That's only cosmetic.

Leaf Miner Larva
Leaf Miner larva mine just below the surface of the young leaves and the skin of the fruit.  These moth babies are annoying but not scary like the Asian Citrus Psyllid that can carry the Huanglongbing (HLB or citrus greening) disease.  Many areas of California are quarantined because of this pest.   That pest is the reason I have not added a lime tree to my citrus collection. 

Asian Citrus Psyllid
In the meantime, it's a joy to work in the soft soil in the garden after some wonderful rain. (Let's not talk about the amount of dirt the wind blew in before the rain.  Yuck.)  All the winter vegetables are experiencing a growth boost with the cooler weather and the rain.

Lettuce - Cimmaron

Friday, October 24, 2014

Markers

 Relying on my memory to recall what seeds were planted where is not a good plan.  When the seeds are sown, I try to mark the information on the seed packet.  Date, location, etc.  Germination dates are jotted down if I think of it; but that's typically not recorded. 

The information noted on the seed packet is then transferred to a wooden stake and pounded into the ground in the general area of the crop.  This system works pretty well.  The ink gets weathered down and can be erased with a light sanding making the stake available as another marker.

Carrots - Chantenay Red Core
 Even if the crop is easily identifiable, the variety may not.  This group of carrots are Chantenay Red Core.  They are supposed to grow well in heavy soil.  The raised beds aren't heavy.  These were planted because of other factors:  One of the sweetest, this variety was introduced in 1929 and is a large, stump-rooted carrot with a deep red-orange center; great for juicing or fresh eating.  A good market variety that is smooth and refined in shape.
Lettuce - Cimmaron
The salad bed has several varieties of lettuce that were planted at different times.  The south 1/2 of the bed was planted about a month before the north 1/2 to allow for the impending shade when the Earth tilts away from the sun creating more shadows over the garden.  The markers for the lettuce have that information recorded.

If more time could be dedicated in the garden, it would really be a Jeffersonian organization.  But I live in the real world and simply do the best I can.  Martha Stewart I am not.

Garden Update:
Apples - Granny Smith
The harvest is complete from the Granny Smith apple tree.  At one time, I wasn't sure that tree was going to recover from scorch.  It really performed well this year.  Now I will be busy in the kitchen making sticky apple muffins and apple/cranberry pies...all freezer friendly.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

October Skies


Flying Saucer Morning Glory
Earth has tilted so the sun's rays are a more tolerable angle.  Not quite so harsh at noon.  Have the shorter but still blazing hot days encouraged the morning glories planted in June to finally grow vigorously and bloom?  Is the increase in irrigation because of the pea seedling sprouts planted in the same area the reason the vines are popping with flowers bringing all kinds of pollinators into the garden?  The seed package said this variety does not like a lot of water.  Lies.  It's probably a combination of everything.  Maybe even the blood moon had something to do with a trellis of blue and white blooms.

Dorothy (Soil Sister of the San Joaquin), up in Visalia, was bragging about her beautiful morning glories back in early September. I was always under the impression that morning glories were like weeds in the garden and my measly vines weren't growing much at all.  Kind of an ego crusher.  But Dorothy seems to be able to grow pretty much any kind of flower.  Then the calendar page turned to October and my measly vines are coming right along.


This variety reminds me of soft, old blue jeans that have been splattered with bleach.  Or white painter's pants splashed with indigo paint. Blue and white are the colors of my high school - Bakersfield High School.  It's the name of the school paper - The Blue & White.  The Drillers are great.


Most all the flowers are blue and white.  Of course, nature throws in a peculiar nonconformist once in a while.  Almost perfect except for the blotch of something at one o'clock.  I'm glad I tried to grow these weeds called morning glories.  So far, no regrets.  I may change my mind once the seeds start to explode.

Enjoy your October skies wherever you are.