taming the jungle

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We’ve had a ton of rain this week, which was great because I didn’t have to water the plants. ¬†But when I when out to rescue them from this weekend’s beautiful sunshine, I found a ridiculous, and very tangled, jungle. So I pulled them all apart and surveyed what exactly was going on where.2014-07-06 10.17.04When I pulled them apart, it turned out that some of them were being held up by the others, so that giants like this Sweet 100 cherry tomato dramatically threw themselves all over the parking lot. But an hour of tying vines with plant tie tape and dragging massive containers around to new positions resulted in a much happier and better-looking parking lot jungle.2014-07-06 10.48.27

As I was pulling them apart I also found quite a few surprise veggies hiding inside. Most are still small and green:2014-07-06 10.30.52

but there was one really pretty Indigo Kumquat cherry tomato:2014-07-06 10.40.32

and THREE huge zucchini!
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and a couple of eat-while-you-garden strawberries ūüôā2014-06-29 20.09.24

The Romaine lettuce is perfect, but probably in danger of bolting any day now, so I moved it to a shadier spot until I can use up some more of it.2014-07-06 09.27.20

I also harvested all of the bok choy last week, which really should have been done quite a while ago. It actually started to bolt immediately after I planted it. I don’t think it was too hot – it was mid-May, and we had a cold-ish start to summer – but it might have been too cold? I’ve read that cold temperatures can stress it into bolting. I just let it keep going though, in the hopes it would get to a reasonable size, but at this point it was getting a bit ridiculous.2014-06-29 16.34.55

It was delicious in a stir fry though, and I might even say the flower stalks were the best part!

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And, cutest for last, the watermelons have started to appear. I’ve grown these in a container once before, and they’re really not meant for such a small space, but I thought I’d try it again this year just for fun.2014-07-06 10.47.59

Almost any garden, if you see it at the right moment, can be confused with paradise.
~Henry Mitchell, The Essential Earthman 

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the fall garden

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Sometimes I think the garden is the coolest in the fall, despite that (or probably because) it becomes desperate and unseemly in its last ditch efforts to survive and reproduce. ¬†The tomato plants have lost most of their leaves, and those that are left are lacy, yellow, and barely hanging on. But there are still a ton of tomatoes, and I think if anything there are more this time of year, although fewer of them end up being edible. Huge clusters of tomatoes at the end of completely dead branches are a tomato mom’s ultimately self-sacrifice for the sake of her children.

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This crazy strawberry plant is still giving me a few strawberries here and there –¬†in November!¬†They weren’t kidding about everbearing. ¬†But looking closer, I noticed it was also starting to produce some great-looking cherry tomatoes. Now that’s a fancy strawberry plant! ¬†(Some seeds from dropped tomatoes must have fallen into the strawberry pot, and it’s grown quite a robust tomato plant of its own.)

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The purple peppers are also still producing more peppers than I can eat…actually, I’ve pretty much given up on eating these, since they’re not very tasty. ¬†The squirrels can have them.

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Speaking of squirrels, I’m just starting to have issues with them. The zucchini harvest was abysmal this year, but I found one last fall zucchini. Unfortunately a squirrel also found it and took a little squirrel bite. ¬†Guess he didn’t like it though…¬†2013-10-12 01.45.24 2013-10-12 01.44.59a

Autumn wins you best by this its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay.
~Robert Browning

harvests of late summer

Though you wouldn’t know if from how much I’ve posted about the garden in the last 2 months, it’s done pretty well since the move. I have managed to take some pics as I’ve been harvesting this summer & fall, so here is an assortment to capture a bit of the bounty of the last few months. 2013-08-04 02.05.44

I only got a handful of zucchinis this year, which I finally determined was because there was an infestation of (wait for it)¬†millipedes in my pots! ¬†But all the heirloom tomatoes just keep coming and coming. ¬†I’ve given away a few handfuls here and there, but mostly I’ve just eaten pounds and pounds of tomatoes this summer! You might notice a couple of strawberries in the harvest below – my everbearing strawberry suddenly started producing again. I love this variety – I think I’ll replace all the other ones with this type next year.

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I planted these beets super early, and waited until August to harvest them, but they were still really tiny. ¬†I’ll have to try again next year – I might try some golden beets because while I was waiting for these I kept buying beets at the farmer’s market, and the golden ones are just as awesome but don’t stain everything in sight when you cook them.¬†2013-08-04 03.40.09

The cheater (grafted) purple peppers also continue to produce, despite fairly serious neglect and a small pot, but I have to say although they’re really pretty, I don’t love the taste. ¬†They’re not very sweet, and still pretty thin flesh. I think I’ll permanently cross peppers off the container gardening list.2013-08-10 14.55.31

Tomatoes, tomatoes, and more tomatoes. Hard to estimate, but looking at my harvest count (at right), I think there’s a good chance I’ve eaten 100 pounds of tomatoes this summer!2013-08-04 02.02.23¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†2013-08-03 18.58.35

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I got a few of the regular cucumbers, and none of the lemon cukes. Next year I’ll see what I can do with a bigger container and more sun.

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spring harvests

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The sugar snap peas are starting to bloom – I didn’t realize how pretty they would be. ¬†This is quickly becoming one of my favorite things in the garden :).

I’m so interested to see how this pepper plant progresses. ¬†It’s kind of a ‘cheater’ plant – it’s a purple bell pepper grafted onto ‘supernatural’ root stock, which gives it the vigor of the rootstock with the flavor and quality of the scion (the upper plant). ¬†It has¬†tons of flowers, and a few peppers starting already, which are so dark purple they almost look black.

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A worm’s-eye view of the Jaune Flamm√© tomato.¬†¬†

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¬†More tomato flowers and possibly the tiniest tomato I’ve ever caught on camera.2013-06-04 18.05.11¬†

I don’t often see the chives from this angle…guess I really should do something about those blooms!

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Ditto for the broccoli – blooms are no good! ¬†This being my first time growing broccoli, I’ve only recently learned that the part of the broccoli plant that we eat is actually the flower. ¬†(This gives a whole new meaning to ‘cauliflower’.) ¬†Each little green thingee is a bud, that turns into a yellow flower if you wait too long to harvest your broccoli. ¬†So I harvested this one today, and will have to eat the rest very soon, though they are not as close to flowering. ¬†I steamed the broccoli and some of the leaves, but left the rest of the plant which should grow additional side shoots and make me some more broccolis!

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And for dessert, a harvest of strawberries so sweet it makes my mouth water just to remember them, and a bit of mint for tea.

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If you keep my secret, this strawberry is yours.
~Tsugumi Ohba, Death Note Box Set

things are growing

It’s not even June and some of the garden is getting ahead of me already. Here’s a quick post to show the monstrous greens and all the cute little baby fruits.

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I have (at least) two types of strawberries growing this year: a plain old “garden strawberry” (fragaria ananassa, left) and¬†Frisan strawberries (right) which, last year at least, had hot pink flowers. The regular ones have already started producing lots of big berries, and I’ve even eaten a few already. The Frisan are slower and just have teeny tiny berries starting to form.

2013-05-21 22.23.53This is the first year I’ve grown broccoli, and I’ve been impatiently anticipating the formation of the crowns — and here they finally are! Broccoli is usually ready to harvest in about 50-60 days, and it’s been 50 since I set the seedlings out, so it seems like they’re growing fairly slowly. ¬†But they don’t quite get the full sun that they should, so they may just take a while longer.

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The romaine lettuce has been ready to harvest for a few weeks really, and in the next couple of days I’ll pick a bunch to give it some room and let some new heads start to grow. ¬†The spinach is also very crowded and needs thinning – sounds like it’s time for spinach & strawberry salad! ¬†And the basil is starting to get a bit leggy, so I’m going to trim it back to encourage some bushiness.

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The sugar snap peas have grown a ton, and were a giant mess of tangled vines sprawling awkwardly our of the container. ¬†I should have trellised them long ago, but Sunday morning I finally got around to making a string trellis and tying them loosely on until they start hanging on for themselves. ¬†It took a *very* long time to de-tangle them and sort out which vine should be where, and I did break a few in the process. ¬†Note to ¬†self for next year…do it earlier!

 

 

A couple of the gorgeous flowers I couldn’t resist: (left: Sapiglossis, right, Gazania)
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And here’s what it all looks like, up top:2013-05-25 23.03.26

and down below.2013-05-25 23.06.08

Taste every fruit of every tree in the garden at least once. It is an insult to creation not to experience it fully. Temperance is wickedness.
~Stephen Fry

 

early greens

I’m so glad I got such an early start on greens! I have mounds of romaine lettuce just in time for my new obsession with raw tacos, which I recently tried at G-Zen, one of the top vegan restaurants in the country.

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The broccoli has been having a growth spurt too, though no heads have formed yet.

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And sowing my spinach directly from seed gave me the chance to learn a new word: cotyledon. ¬†These are the first ’embryonic’ leaves that emerge from a seed, and they don’t resemble the true leaves much at all. ¬†(Phew, my spinach doesn’t have a long-skinny-looks-like-grass disease after all!)

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Sugar snap peas are growing fast, and soon I’ll have to figure out a trellising plan. ¬†And the beet seeds are starting to sprout, though I think maybe they haven’t been getting enough sun, so I moved them out to the deck extension with the spinach.

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The dill and mint are doing really well in their dollar store bowls, although I think I jumped the gun on the basil – I think it froze while I was away in Seattle. I’m curious to see if I can salvage it though, so stay tuned!

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A few strawberries are starting to appear already, and I think it’s possible I may not have killed my favorite red anemone after all!

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How ’bout we start
with a salad, a fresh bed of lettuce with croutons?
Later we can play a game of chess on the futon.

~dead prez, “Mind Sex”

spring is springing

As longtime readers know, my garden and I were uprooted in the middle of the growing season last year. So this is my first spring with the new deck, and even though it’s barely April, I’m itching to get back outside. ¬†There’s still a risk of frost here for a couple more weeks, but I’ve started planting a few hardy veggies and flowers, and cleaning up the wretched mess left over from the winter and hurricane.

One of the few veggies that can withstand these cold temps is broccoli. ¬†I’ve never been quite sure if it would be worthwhile, but it won me over this year by letting my get started playing in the dirt early. I planted four little sprigs of broccoli, which I think should produce one head each, plus some side shoots. ¬†For the time being, I added a few pansies to fill in the larger container, though if they start to crowd the broccoli, I’ll have to move them around. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from gardening, it’s that “pansy” should really refer to someone who’s super tough and can withstand pretty much anything!

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I also cleaned up the chives and repotted them — it really amazes me how they just live and live and keep on living, no matter what I do to them.DSC_0001

I forced myself to wait another week to plant anything more, and so today I added some romaine lettuce, which happily can take the shadier spots.DSC_0008

I also planted some sugar snap pea seeds, which represents my first time growing these and I’m really excited because they’re one of my favorite snacks. ¬†I’m planning to put them on the lower level once they start to get longer, and train them up the side of the deck. ¬†This is also my first time growing anything from seed (well aside from the failed carrot experiment) so fingers crossed!¬†DSC_0010

I also added some herbs, which I may have to bring inside this week, and a strawberry pot full of strawberries.  For some instant color there are a few more pansies, and a new favorite Рanemones! The red and purple poppy-like flowers got compliments before I even left the nursery!DSC_0018

If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.
~William Shakespeare

planting time!

As of today, summer is (un)officially here! ¬†I finally got out and spent a few hours cleaning up the garden and planting some veggies. I thought I’d be able to get an earlier start this year since it’s been so mild, but life thought otherwise, and somehow we’re at Memorial Day already!

Earlier in the spring, the garden got a real beauty boost courtesy of the new decking the landlords installed to replace the old rotted out boards. It’s a South American hardwood, and feels amazing on the feet.

I planted annuals and vegetables last year and, especially since they were in pots, I didn’t expect any of them to overwinter so I did absolutely nothing to protect them. ¬†But our winter was so non-existent that a few plants actually did survive. ¬†As soon as the sun warmed up, I started seeing chives, mint, strawberries, and pansies popping up. ¬†The chives and strawberries were pretty well contained, but the pansies seem to have found a way to jump from container to container, and made a great stand in while I procrastinated on getting the real plantings done.

I did manage to start a couple of things early — I planted some romaine lettuce and direct sowed some multi-colored heirloom carrots. ¬†I’ve never grown carrots before, and I’ve heard that they aren’t really worth it, but it seemed fun to try these ones. ¬†I seeded liberally and planned to thin out once they’d grown a few inches. ¬†Unfortunately, many of them didn’t even get to an inch before one of my little furry friends decided they’d make a great breakfast. ¬†There are still a bunch left though, so we’ll see how many of them make it. ¬†I may have to sprinkle some of that squirrel repellent on them, although it really didn’t do much good last year.

Some extra lettuce got planted with a very pretty batch of pansies, though this seems to stunt its growth quite a bit.

Playing a starring role this year are 5 varieties of tomatoes: Cherokee Purple, German Johnson, Black Krim, a Sun Gold yellow cherry, and a red grape cherry (not pictured).

The strawberries I got a from a farm sale last year didn’t actually produce any strawberries, so to give them an extra boost this year I added some ‘Frisan’ strawberries, which have hot pink flowers and fruit throughout the summer. It’s got some good looking berries starting to ripen already!

The chives were pretty ragged after surviving the winter, so I pulled them out and gave them a haircut, and then repotted them with some basil. ¬†I never have enough basil, so this year I planted 7 basil plants…but I’m still thinking of getting more.

And of course, no summer would be complete without copious amounts of zucchini. ¬†This year I only planted 4 green zucchini — last year I had 6, as well as 6 yellow squash. ¬†I started to resent the yellows by the end of the summer, so I thought I would stick to green this year. ¬†But will I regret planting only 4?

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.
~F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

end-of-summer round-up

as the fall winds down, i’m already dreaming about next summer. ¬†here’s a list of what i want more of, and what i want less of.

more heirloom tomatoes! so many to choose from, and i’m sure this is what heaven tastes like.

heirloom carrots – can stagger sowing them to get harvest throughout the season.

don’t bother with peppers – they don’t grow well and have very thin flesh.

green zucchini, not yellow. one plant per pot!

try watermelon again, and don’t put anything else in the pot, especially not stevia!

sugar snap peas, yum

more basil!! cut it down early to keep it bushy.

romaine, but not any other lettuce.

edamame was awesome, but only one serving on the whole plant.

basil with lemon is delicious, but lemon basil is disgusting.

eggplant…hmmm…not sure. but if i do, one plant per pot!

more spinach and more strawberries.

try green machine musk melon?  sweeter than most melons, compact plant.

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.
~Confucius