August 9, 2011

Exactly Right-On Article About Gardening

I just read this great article at Daily Kos Blog about gardening. I think another thing that gardening gives a person is a connection to all other gardeners. As I read the lines it was as if I was writing it too.

Gardening pushes me out of slumps, soothes me from too much stimulation and makes me feel needed and alive - and that is just a few things I have found!

Enjoy the article at,-it-Fed-my-Soul-Instead?via=siderec

February 24, 2011

More On Poo

Below is a link to a good article a friend sent to me on various animal droppings and what makes the best garden fertilizer - and why. It also gives other creative tips on procuring poop.

Recently I found a good source of horse poop at some stables next to a park nearby and am very excited at the possibility of a lusher more productive garden this year. I had already bought some chicken manure in bags from Home Depot and spread it around not only on some veggie beds but also ornamental areas. The lettuce patch already looks better.

The horse poo was happily mixed in with some straw, making a more well rounded compost. I added some to my two compost bins as neither of them are ready to use yet. And I also dug a bunch into an empty bed that is waiting for summer crops. The poo mix was too 'hot' to use on plants immediately. It was pretty easy to gather too. I just shoveled it into garbage bags - helped by a friend who held the bags open - which was very useful.

Only a gardener would be this happy about getting poo! we are a weird lot.

July 16, 2010

Tomatos Hit the Scene

At last the tomatoes are coming in!

The Bay Area has been experiencing some pretty cool temperatures for the time of year. Every gardener I have talked to has also been waiting for the usual glut of tomatoes to appear only to be thwarted by the unseasonable low night time temperatures that have been slowing everything down. Suddenly that has all changed and now the heat is most definitely on.

Below is one variety of tomato that I haven't tried before. This is a cherry tomato called Sunsugar Red. Below you can see them ripening on the vine.


I waited quite a long time for these little cherries to turn red - as in "Sunsugar Red". After a few weeks of waiting I impatiently tried one anyway and discovered delightful juicy sweetness. After all that waiting, they were already ripe, but just not turning red, as the label suggested they might!


The picture above shows just how orange - or in this case NOT RED - these little cherries really are. Compare the label color to the real thing.

So if you are waiting for this variety to ripen - don't wait any longer! Dive in and eat! They are delicious albeit not red.

July 7, 2010

Water Saving - 900 gals or more a year

Want to save on water usage? Here is one thing I do.

I keep a bucket in the bathroom. Not the most visually pleasing thing to look at but they do come in different colors. Each time I take a shower, the hot water takes for ever to get warm, the hot water heater where I rent being a long way away from the bathroom. So I collect the water in the aforementioned bucket which holds around 2.5 gals. I made sure I could lift the bucket (this is a good tip).

I then water plants/container plants/dry grass spots with this water.

If each bucket holds 2.5 gals.
Each week I use 17.5 gals this way
Each month I use 75 gals
Each year I use 912.5 gals

I got my husband to do this too, so multiply each number by the amount of people in your household you can persuade to do this.

Often I use this water in the front yard where I am in full view of the neighbors who probably think I'm some weird old person doing something weird that old people do (that is people over 50!)

A friend of mine uses all the water that would be wasted at her kitchen sink - this is also a good idea, to have a jug close buy to tip wasted liquid into it and then go water the plants.

I still think the bucket idea is better though because you get a workout too!

July 5, 2010

Red Runner Beans

I can never forget the taste of the large flat green beans that are so common in England but so rare in the US. We called them runner beans - I guess because they run up the strings or poles that support them. Unlike pole beans that are shaped like small cylinders, the hearty runner bean (or red runner in the US) is long and flat. They have to be prepared with a paring knife by stripping the two sides of the rather stringy tough exterior, and then slice them before boiling or steaming. They taste remarkable and are really worth the trouble.

I learned a lot about growing these beans last year - it being the first time I had tried to grow them outside the UK. I waited all Summer and alas was disappointed with a distinct lack or beans. There were not many flowers either - and hence no beans. I read up on reasons why this may have happened and figured out that I planted them in an area that was a/ too hot and b/ at times they dried out. This is enough to stop all flower production and where there are no flowers - no beans. It was too late to save the situation with extra watering. I also learned that this plant has a tropical history and will keep on vining away until there is a frost! Interesting huh?

This year I have planted them again in hopes of those delicious beans! and this time I situated them where they may even get a little shade in the afternoon and no relflected heat from the side of the house and of course I have been very careful to keep them moist. Right now they are a riot of red flowers - absolutely gorgeous to look at and if you look at the photo below - small beans are forming! Already there are more beans forming than I got to eat the whole of last season! I can't wait!


Little red runner beans forming amidst a riot of red flowers


They make such pretty vines and flowers.

September 22, 2009

September in the Garden - or The Promise of Things to Come

By the middle of September (here in California) anyone hoping to harvest vegetables for the winter table should have an array of little starts that are ready to plant.

I always look on these little guys as the 'promise of things to come', and get attached to them I imagine, like 4Hers must get attached to their animals. Although as a vegetarian, I would not be able to turn my friends over to the slaughter house. However I am very capable of harvesting veggies when the time comes.

I want to share some of the excitement of the new growth in my garden.

Below are teeny leek starts popping up out of the soil. It took a while before I could recognize them as something I had planted and not weeds. They take a long time to come to harvest - 120 days.


The peas I planted did not germinate well - or so I thought, so I planted some more to fill in the gaps, when I discovered the problem. I was happily planting seed peas, and squirrels were happily digging holes to bury their winter supply of nuts and seeds. They dug up more than a few of the peas that I had planted. I found a pea lying on the top of the soil and little holes dug everywhere, which gave me the clue.


I am thankful for the cool weather of the fall because there is nothing like fresh spinach straight from the garden! The baby spinach plants have a strange look when they first emerge.


Waiting to be planted are; cauliflower, broccoli, kale, nasturtiums and calendula. I have been chasing a cabbabge white butterfly around the yard trying to shoo it away from my brassicas!


Tip of the season: if you are thinning out your starts or transplanys, don't throw them in the compost but add them to your salad. They are full of taste and healthy vitamins.

August 27, 2009

Planting for Fall in California

It's the dog days of August and we are all feeling lazy. It's warm out, there is a lounge chair in the shady part of the yard with your name on it. There is ice cream to eat and beaches to go to. Why would we want to think about broccoli or cauliflower, leeks or kale in this warm lazy weather? Well gird your loins (so to speak) it is time to jack yourself up into a hive of activity.

I always think that planting for fall is the most difficult of all the planting times of the year. But if you blink - you miss it. Suddenly the days are cooler, September is almost over and there is nothing growing in the garden except some ragged looking tomato plants and the end of a few mildew covered squash.

Sometimes it is hard to find room. We went crazy filling every available spot in the garden plot, with our mouths watering, thinking about delicious beans and squash, and now we have nowhere for the carrots, peas, chard, beets, leeks etc. For more info on what to plant go to the Sunset online Fall veggies article.

This week I went through the garden like the goddess Kali. Did I really want all these cucumber plants? If I really looked hard at the trellis covered in cukes it was mostly dying leaves and a few hanging fruits, so I pulled it apart, dug the bed and added lots of rotted compost and planted a whole bed of peas. I like to plant different varieties. This year I have planted Little Marvel for the actual peas, and Oregons for the pods.

What else can I destroy? I notice a row of corn that did not grow properly because the original plants were root bound, so out they go and in goes a nice row of leeks.

By Late July, early August we had eaten our way through most of the corn, so I had already pulled out the corn stalks and thrown them into compost, and after adding soil amendments and planting seeds, I now have chard, beet and salad mix seedlings. Next to come is a new bed that I will dedicate to salad mix.

Below is a photo of the weird little corn plants that grew out of plants left too long in small pots, becoming root bound. To the right are the normal sized corn stalks.


This week I also planted seeds of broccoli, kale, cauliflower, calendula and nasturtiums in small pots. When planting cool weather crop seeds in Northern California at this time of year, always be sure that they are in a cool, shady area to germinate and on no account let them dry out. Once the little seedlings emerge, allow them some light but be very careful not to bake them. The sun can be very strong this time time of year.

Happy planting!

July 26, 2009

Sunday Backyard Harvest Blogging

Atrios posted Sunday Rooftop Harvest Blogging so I figured I would post a Sunday Backyard Harvest Blogging post.

This is what we picked this morning:


And this is what we picked Friday:


July 15, 2009

Tomatoes: Heritage vs Hybrid

I used to be a purist. Everything in my garden was organic, grown from seed and was only a heritage variety. I guess I grew up to the fact that although this was the noble thing - it may not be the most practical. I am still a purist in terms of organic, but I'm afraid I have moved away from lofty ideals when it comes to which variety of vegetable to choose.

This year I had to start completely from scratch due to moving house. My old garden was just reaching that point where it was old enough to thrive on hearty piles of self generated compost. Enter new patch of ground covered in weeds and no compost. I had no time to start anything from seed. It was either buy plants or miss the season altogether - so I bought plants. Among the plants I bought were a couple of hybrid Early Girl tomatoes.

Right now, mid-July, these two plants are already giving us ripe tomatoes. A newer plant has fruits ripening up almost as fast as an older plant we moved from the previous garden. See below the older Early Girl already with red fruits.


And the one month newer Early Girl also about to produce a juicy delicious ripe tomato.


While I was spending all my energy making raised beds and adding soil amendments and not taking fun trips out of town, a good friend came back from a trip to an organic nursery and gave me a couple of heritage tomato plants. These I planted within a week of the newest Early Girl. The pictures speak for themselves.

Here is the Kentucky Beafsteak. A nice healthy plant, many flowers, good foliage - one green tomato.


And here is the one green tomato in case you missed it.

And last but not least the Church tomato. One tiny little green tomato near the top of the plant. Can't see it? Took me a while!


Maybe these heritage tomatoes are not suited to this particular Californian mini climate? Maybe they will suddenly come in to their own in September? The jury is still out, but right now I must admit that I am glad I lowered my standards, because I am enjoying lovely ripe home grown tomatoes. Yum!

I will let you know later in the season what I have decided about Heritage vs Hybrid.

March 19, 2009

There Will Be A White House Vegetable Garden

In January I wrote about different groups suggesting there be a White House vegetable garden.  Well now there is some great news: Obamas Prepare to Plant White House Vegetable Garden,

On Friday, Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II.

. . . While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at time when obesity has become a national concern. In an interview in her office, Mrs. Obama said, “My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

. . .Almost the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said laughing. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, would probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.”

This is wonderful news!

January 12, 2009

Gardening and Health

Gardening gives elders a harvest of health,

Gardening helps older men and women reap more than flowers, fruits, and vegetables -- it benefits them physically as well, researchers report. In a small study, 14 gardeners between 63 and 86 years old reported an average of 33 hours of gardening during a typical week in May, and 15 hours each week during June and July.

January 9, 2009

Urban Homesteader

Dave wrote a post at Smelling the Coffee that quoted an article titled How You Can Start a Farm in Heart of the City. I read that article and it inspired me to write, and gave the inspiration for this new blog.

The article talked about exactly what I am -- an urban homesteader. This paragraph is me:

Before you start thinking that you have to move somewhere else to grow your own food, take another look around. With a couple of notable exceptions, American cities sprawl. They are full of wasted space. As a homesteader, you will begin to see any open space as a place to grow food. This includes front yards as well as backyards, vacant lots, parkways, alleyways, patios, balconies, window boxes, fire escapes and rooftops. Once you break out of the mental box that makes you imagine a vegetable garden as a fenced-off parcel of land with a scarecrow in it, you'll start to see the possibilities. Think jungle, not prairie. The truth is that you can grow a hell of a lot of food on a small amount of real estate. You can grow food whether you're in an apartment or a house, whether you rent or own.

Do you have 4' ? 8' feet of open ground? If you don't have a yard, do you have room on a patio or balcony for two or three plastic storage tubs? If you don't have that, then you could get a space in a community garden, a relative or neighbor's house, or become a pirate gardener, or an expert forager -- some of the tastiest greens and berries are wild and free for the taking.

I do exactly what this says. I look around at every available space and wonder why there is nothing growing on it. The concrete triangle of wasted space at the beginning of the street I live on upsets me because there is nothing on it – just concrete. If we owned the house? The grass would be gone bye bye IMMEDIATELY and fruit and veggies would be there. That is why I keep saying I could not live in an apartment and when we move it has to be somewhere with a garden or space for one.

-- Sudeep