Monday, December 1, 2014

Sowing Winter Crops

"Winter" is more of a state of mind than a weather shift around here. It was 70 yesterday, and we wore shorts for our garden work. (By the way, 70 is higher than the summertime average in our town. We get fog cover in the summertime.)  I finally pulled out two more cherry tomato plants, with some assistance, although the SuperSweet100 still has ripening fruit on it so I left it. When I tried those cherries, I realized their flavor profile is now more like a supermarket tomato (!), but still I guess it's better than nothing.
Clearing out his very productive SunGold

We turned over some dirt and got ready for our winter crops. My son got very excited about clearing his area and planting new seeds, so we did that even though rain is lurking in the forecast. Hopefully our seeds have enough protection from their straw mulch topping to not get washed away. We planted lettuce, cilantro, beets, and carrot seeds. Yeeeaahhh four season planting!
He wouldn't let anyone else touch his area!

My daughter got overly invested in harvesting some carrots - when I pull out one to gauge the crop's progress, she takes it as an invitation to pull as many as she can hold in one hand. Now the menu plan will need to incorporate carrots... lots of carrots. My cilantro is also looking healthy and happy so I need to cook some curries that will use it up. Admittedly some of my cilantro crop always goes to seed before I get to it, but I'm less bugged by that then when I used to buy a bunch of it at the store, use a quarter of it, and then the rest of it would rot in the crisper for a week.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fall Maintenance

The tomatoes are almost wrapped up, but there's still a few green (and ripe) ones on the Sun Gold, blueberry, and Sweet 100 plants, so I spared them for now. Almost everything else from the summer is out. I planted the pumpkin seed yesterday, but need more room for my next sowing of lettuce and cilantro. The weather is warm and sunny - predicted to hit 70 this coming weekend! My poor garden, how is it supposed to know what to do?

Friday, October 24, 2014

More Sowing, Less Reaping

Fall gardening turns out to be heavy on the lettuce sowing, light on the kids helping. They'd rather be making Halloween art than just about anything else. [Sidenote: I cannot believe Halloween is still a week away. I have Spooky Stuff Fatigue!] Today I finally pulled out the Stupid Green Zebra (official new name), and moved my thriving potted mint into its shady spot. The mint has been super-happy ever since I trimmed it back to nubs.
"Can I hold the hose? Can I? Can I? Can I?"

Elsewhere, I squeezed in a new round of seeds between the zucchini and the Sweet 100, both of which I'd intended to remove today but they talked me into a stay of execution for another week. The tomatoes may indeed keep producing; I picked a handful today and there's both orange and green fruit still on the plant. The zucchini has a couple teeny feeble starts, so I caved; I'm a softy.

From bottom: Carrots, cilantro, and assorted seedlings
I planted Salad Bowl lettuce, Detroit Dark Red beets, scallions, and organic cilantro from Burpee. The other recent sowings are coming along nicely, as shown in the photo. We've had a couple mornings of light rain and sunny, warm afternoons; I can only assume they are all loving it. I moved all my other pots into sunnier spots vacated by the green beans. Now that we're getting into what might actually merit the title of a "rainy season", they're going to need all the warmth they can get. My basil in fact still looks great.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chilly Halloween Fun

The day after planting a slew of new seeds, I invited a bunch of preschoolers over for a Halloween playdate, and of course we ended up in the backyard (NO WALLS CAN CONTAIN US!) and of course some of my seeds got trampled, or - let us say - worked deeper into the earth. We'll see what comes of them.

But it was worth it, because we were doing an awesome Halloween spooky ice activity - frozen hands with surprises inside. Tipped off by Anne from Left Brain Craft Brain to the post at Happy Hooligans, I prepped the latex gloves at noon, dumping a large portion of liquid red food coloring in each. I got them out of the freezer at 4 PM. They were mostly frozen and in fact if they had all been entirely solid it would have taken the kids a lot longer to harvest their toys. The project's mess was all contained in the yard, where the grass was in its death throes anyway. (The red does get all over fingers and clothes - could have used a couple of those gloves for myself!)

The three-year-old kids all loved digging in their icy hands for some period time, varying by attention span, but my big first grader may have enjoyed it the most. He didn't have any parental help (because I was scurrying around distributing supplies to everyone else), and he took the longest, extracting his toys and applying salt with almost surgical precision. He told me later that it was so much fun it made everything else about the day "boring". Um, sorry?

I was too rushed to follow the Happy Hooligans suggestion about removing the gloves carefully, so we did break some fingers and the moms amused ourselves by staging them in some unused dirt a la fresh corpses. Classy. Thanks to Anne for the photos!

I'm both glad and sad nobody got a photo of the "bloody" pile of surgical gloves left at the end. Revolting!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fall Planting

As much as I gripe about the weather around here, we do have the potential for four-season growing. Take that, New England and your beautiful fall leaves! Yesterday, we clipped our pumpkin fruits, leaving me free to pull out the pumpkin plants from the ground, along with my potted tomato that produced a grand total of maybe 6 tomatoes over the course of the year, and one of my two remaining potted basils. I planted from seed:
Bibb lettuce
Salad Bowl blend lettuce
Basil (ambitious, I know)
Beets, golden and red
Broccoli raab (last chance for this packet of seeds to impress me after lack of performance last go-round)

I still have four cherry tomatoes, two green beans, and a zucchini in the ground, all of which somehow managed to convince me they justified their dirt for at least another week. I also have a pretty row of leafy carrot greens and just enough cilantro for my own needs. It remains warm in the afternoons and cool overnight, hope my little seeds are cozy!

Normally I would not call myself an optimist, but you can't help it when sowing seeds... definitely part of why I keep at it.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Too Hot

Ridiculous heat wave in the EC this week, but I took the 3 year old outside early (like 8 AM early!) to do some harvesting and garden maintenance. This is four varieties of tomato - finally a couple green zebras deigned to ripen. Woo hoo; I'm over them. All the cherries' production are much decreased. Our carrot greens are looking leafy and pretty; it will be guesswork as to when's the right time to pick. I trimmed my dry as a bone mint back, along with not one but two pots of dead-or-dying basil; I'm okay if they decide to continue their slow march to the grave regardless.

I also stopped by the city to take advantage of Free Compost Week, but unfortunately didn't make it there until 11 AM so I boiled to death while shoveling up my allotment. Then it stunk up the car on the way home, with my poor daughter clutching her pink sparkly t-shirt over her mouth, through her car seat buckles, to breath through.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Too Many Tomatoes??

Daily harvest
Yes, that day has come, when I am finally tired of cherry tomatoes. We'll see if they last through November like they did last year. Still pending: a great deal of boring garden maintenance that goes along with the change in seasons. I hope to make it to the local compost giveaway this week - er, that is, I will be sending my husband, so I hope *he* makes it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

As the Harvest Turns

Harvest season is wrapping up with a whimper in my garden. The green beans - all 8 individual plants - have succumbed to a form of powdery mildew. (My husband suggested wearing a hazmat suit when I pull them out. I am picturing it like the scene in ET when they remove him...) The cherry tomatoes are dwindling. Our pumpkins never did get big, but they are bright orange, so we'll pick those this week. I have a few cilantro guys and some tiny feathery carrot greens coming up, and that's about it; I need to get out there and sow another round of those seeds. Our weather has alternated with hot (75F) days and a couple rainstorms over the last week - it's been more muggy than foggy this Indian Summer. (Daughter: Why is it called that? Because the Indians like summer the most?)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Weekend Away; Or, When Cherry Tomatoes Run Amuck

The garden has been quietly consistent for the past few weeks; everything that's been producing has kept producing, and nothing that hasn't been producing has surprised me. We went away for the weekend. I picked cherry tomatoes on Friday morning; I picked more upon our return on Sunday evening. Then I went out today and gave them a thorough harvest. This is about two pounds. My best hope for getting rid of them is to position the tub near the edge of the kitchen counter and then sternly forbid the kids to go near it. They adore "sneaking" treats. Hahahaha... I am the sneakiest.

I'm getting something that looks a lot like powdery mildew on some of my green beans, but not all, which would almost be a relief at this point. No relief for me!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Green Bean City

Solved a minor green bean mystery the other day. One of the plants on a pole had snuck up and over the neighbor's fence. When I noticed it and pulled it back over, I found some monsters on it - obviously inedible, obviously been growing for some time. When I plucked them off and redirected the plant, I hoped/feared it would spur more growth and in fact that seems to be happening. I'm getting a large handful a day now. The cherry tomatoes are all continuing their party too. My basil sadly just can't hack our crazy weather (cold and chilly until 1 or 2, when it might reach 70). None of my lettuce seeds have come up! Cilantro coming along, at least.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Zealous Zinnia

I am not a flower gardener, but the kids always pester me to put in some seeds, and I must admit, my son's zinnia is doing its darnedest to brighten up his dark little corner of the garden. It makes him happy, and that makes me happy.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


We are still going strong with four varieties of tomatoes (insert bad word here vis a vis Green Zebra). Kids won't eat the Indigo Blueberries, and unfortunately it does look funny mixed in other dishes, like my homemade salsa, so it's one for the grownups to gobble out of hand. I sent one kid to school today with a tub of cherry tomatoes as a side dish for lunch - wonder if the other kids will make fun of him!  The other kid will only eat cherry tomatoes outside, straight off the plant.

Sadly, I'm seeing only minimal shoots from my two discrete sowings of lettuce, cilantro, and carrots over the past few weeks. I'll have to sow again this week. I need my cilantro!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

It's Pumpkin Season!

My pumpkin is still doing fine, although growing slowly - see the adjacent cherry tomatoes for comparison. I thought it was going to be Cinderella's Coach; now I'm thinking it's the Sugar Pie ones that have taken off for both me and my son. No matter, they will be gorgeous on our porch next month regardless of size.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Indigo Blueberry Cherry Tomato - Short Version: Don't Do It!

I've yanked out onions and sugar snap peas in the last week, and need to do the same with two out of my three pots of basil. ("Mommy, why do we have three basil plants?" "Bad planning, honey.") I have to wait a bit for the tomatoes to wrap up before taking them out, but it doesn't seem like it's going to be a long wait. Last year I was harvesting until November; this year, thanks to the nonperformance of the Green Zebra - exactly ONE fruit to date - and the lackluster performance of the Indigo Blueberry, we are under-tomato'ed.

The Indigo Blueberry grew to a respectable height quickly after it was in the ground, then spent wasted lots of time spreading and blossoming. Now, not only is it taking up too much space outside its cage (crowding is a possible factor in the Zebra's problems) it's very hard to tell if it's ripe. The fruits have to be pink ON THE BOTTOM. Hence, you have to CROUCH DOWN and squint UNDERNEATH at each individual fruit. Just because one of any given cluster is pink doesn't mean they all are. You have to look at them ALL. What a pain. You can see how many fruits there are on the bush... Who has the time for this kind of minute examination? Nothing special about the flavor, either. I am mad at myself for succumbing to the lure of the well-named tomato.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fall Planting

"Can I do the carrots, Mommy?"
Today is the first sunny day this week - and ironically enough, it's time for fall planting. "Assisted" by my three year old, I cleared a spot that hasn't been planted in a couple seasons (due to the previous bamboo problems). I dug in some new soil additives. My kid enjoyed mixing the two kinds of dirt together. Then we sowed beet, carrot, lettuce, and cilantro seeds. I'd like to do favas, but I don't have the space right now.

I haven't found a good plant marker I like. Or should I say, one I can put in the ground that my kids won't move. So today I just scribbled in chalk on the fence what was in each row. My daughter added some art to my notes. That should get us over the forgetfulness hump until (if) the rainy season, by which time something identifiable had better be coming up there!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

More is More

... unless it's less, which is how many of these cherry tomatoes actually make it inside to be prepared in a meal. I sauteed a slew of green beans last night; yum.

Monday, August 18, 2014

First Day of School

First day of first grade today, which means I have 50% fewer helpers. Too bad for me I'm losing the helper with an attention span of more than 30 seconds!
I had to bite the bullet and pick a zucchini today. I get nervous when they start stacking up in the crisper with nothing on the menu plan to use 'em up. My husband claims he's going to try Cook's Illustrated latest z-bread recipe.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mid-August Menace

Wall of sound - no, berries.
Here's the scary berries, and the rest of the August growth. I got a shock yesterday when I noticed the indigo "blueberry" tomato plant had a couple with pink underbellies - first sign of that color on them all summer. I tried one. EDIBLE. First edible fruit off that plant! There's about a million more coming. I cannot believe how long it took. Stupid innovative tomato.

I took out the alliums of mystery, and (right after taking this photo) the sugar snap peas. I *think* green beans may be wrapping up, but that could just be wishful thinking. HOW MANY THAI CURRIES CAN ONE FAMILY EAT.
Everything else. Just looks like a lot of work at this point!

My son's zinna is really brightening up the joint, even through the Fog-ust.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

More of Everything

That's the thing about harvest, at least when you're not too adept at timing crops. IT JUST KEEPS COMING. More of everything today, including nectarines, tomatoes, green beans, lemon cucumbers ... I don't even turn my head to look at the berries when I go outside this week; it's too scary. I am being MENACED by ripe blackberries. We don't have time every day to do a fruit stand, but we certainly have the produce for it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"HEY! Do you want to get some fruit???"

That was the cry echoing up and down our block the other evening. While I love the idea of crop swaps, and there are many nice people who attend, most of them are at an awkward time for my family, right around dinnertime/bedtime. I am also ever so slightly tired of getting a small amount of a lot of produce - too little to cook with, too much to snack on.

But being the frugal person I am, I cannot stand the idea of wasting food from my yard, even - or especially (guilt) - the produce my family doesn't eat. This fruit stand idea has been percolating for a while as a way to offload some produce while working on math skills, and last week we finally were available at the right time to catch the evening commuters who walk past our house (located a block from the BART station).

The first two sales were to two discrete fellows who each bought 5 gooseberries. Huh. Then things started moving along and they sold almost everything we had available - basil, gooseberries, blackberries, and nectarines. The kids and I (lurking in the background) were outside for over an hour, and they were pretty attentive to the project for a good 45 minutes. They also made a good team, with the more outgoing little one flagging down pedestrians using her big Outside Voice, and the older one counting out the produce. They made about $4, and have been incessantly begging me to do it again ever since.

Note on the signage: My older child wrote "Fruit Stand", then absolutely refused to do the price list (summer learning loss, argh!). The younger child taped on the sequins. What a helper!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mt. Zucchini

- has been temporarily conquered. I am enjoying an estimated 24-hour respite from picking and using zucchini, thanks to intensive cooking lately. I made Thai tofu curry with zucchini and green beans, enchiladas with ditto, and a batch of zucchini bread. Phew! I used up all the zucchini on hand and made a fair dent in the green beans. No zucchini is ready yet today, so I get a break! Let's not talk about the green beans currently sagging off their vines... I need the me-time.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Nectarine retrieval with daddy assist
Bring the funk, bring the fog... it's August in the Bay Area. We've had cool temperatures this week and overnight rain sprinkles the past few days. Last week we were out of town at family camp near Yosemite where the high reached 100, so I don't mind the current coolness right now - stay tuned, I'll be griping about it next week.

I'm behind on all my garden chores due to vacation, but this afternoon is slated for catch-up time. I had a friend do harvest while we were gone so at least nothing got wasted. 

Less than 100 days until Halloween! The pumpkins start to become critical. One got some sort of disease or bug infestation ("mine", according to the kids' designation), but we still have three more total coming along. Everything else is bustling - more harvest will be job #1 this afternoon when the kids get home.

One pumpkin bit the dust...
... but some still flourish.

Small child weeding! Stop the presses!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Green Bean Scene

So it turns out that when you harvest a healthy-sized handful of green beans every day for two weeks, you get a boatload of green beans. Huh.
Daily quantities like these add up when nobody eats them
Also, just FYI, there is nothing you can do to these beans that will make them edible to a small child. The only question in their mind is why their crazy mommy is growing poison in the backyard.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

We Interrupt This Program to Bring You Some Whining

A small sampling of the events that have made my three-year-old cry today: I gave her a "boy sticker", I gave her a sticker with a mouse saying "You Are Special" on it, she left her shoes in the car, she applied her tattoo in the wrong spot, and she didn't want to do the new puzzle I got out. I won't go into the many minor boo-boos that cropped up, or the times she had what a semi-reasonable person might consider an actual grievance (using the terms very loosely - for example, couldn't find the book she wanted [on account of it was behind another book on the shelf] etc. etc.).

And yet she pulled it together for five minutes to help her brother gather up fallen (rotten) nectarines, and put them in a tub for counting up by fives - I am paying them a nickel a yucky nectarine on a daily basis. They want the money to buy ice cream at family camp, and I want the nectarines gone so we don't host raccoon sleepovers (any more than we already do). Win-win-uh...loss, if you're a raccoon.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Warning: Harvest in Progress

Jam-packed with flourishing plants

Things are growing together and intertwining, making it hard to harvest in certain corners - a spacing problem, especially in my son's area. Luckily my small people can squirm their way into any opening.

Today I harvested more green beans and two lemon cucumbers. I *thought* about picking lettuce, basil, and nectarines. Unfortunately due to some boring age-related tooth problems, I can't eat many berries nowadays, so that drastically cuts down on my interest in picking them. The squirrels are totally psyched to see so many on the ground - if we don't harvest daily, the ripe ones drop off.

Sometimes (in the thick of spring planting efforts), I grumpily think that harvest is the only thing that makes gardening worthwhile. And then in the thick of harvest season, I'm all, UGH I'm soooo tired of picking my homegrown organic produce. #firstworldprob... well, you know.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rain? In July?

Oh yes. We got a shower lasting an hour or more this morning, and as my son astutely pointed out, the clouds are still gray so there could well be more. This is not good for my tomatoes, but hopefully everything else can roll with it.

Monday, July 21, 2014


We inherited this dumb nectarine tree when we moved to our house in El Cerrito about four years ago. It sits in a weird spot, off-center in the backyard. It did nothing our first year; my husband pruned it the second year; we got a week's crop last year (which allowed us to finally identify what it even was); and now we are at the beginning of what will obviously be an extensive crop.

The fruits are edible, but small and not particularly good-looking. If you don't get out there are harvest daily they drop to the ground overnight and delight the raccoons, who barely need an excuse to party in our backyard anyway. WHY couldn't the previous owners have planted apple, pear, plum, or some sort of normal citrus tree instead? I guess it could be worse. Could be loquat. Zing!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mid-July Miscellany

It's mid-July, and while I've got a continuous harvest going, I do feel like it's not as much of everything as this time last year. (Except berries, which continue to deluge the household.)

The tomatoes, it must be confessed, are not producing anywhere like they should. See the Green Zebra at left - nada. What a waste of time, water, and dirt. My son's Sun Gold has one or two a day. My other cherry has one or two every couple days, and the Indigo remains disgusting - just tastes unripe, no matter how big it gets. Let's blame the drought, or possibly Flora Grubb Gardens for selling it to me.

I am getting - literally - a handful of green beans and sugar snap peas daily. That, at least, is perfect. Can't stop congratulating myself for not overplanting!

Between the two pumpkin plants that came up (out of I can't even tell you how many seeds), we've got two well-established baby pumpkins, with a couple more tiny possibilities. At least all my potted herbs are doing great, for once.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mid-July Harvest

Nectarines ripening up (note new backyard fence section - complete!)
Lettuce tragedies aside, the garden is producing about a pint of blackberries and a handful of green beans and snap peas per day. I'm getting a zucchini a week (perfect!), an occasional tomato, and a bit of lettuce. The Miracle Gro regimen of every two weeks seems to be helping the basil and mint, and boy did the mojito I made last weekend with our mint and our lime really help me.

I am looking forward to when the tomatoes really start producing. We've got a couple of days before the oddball nectarines are ripe. This was an inherited tree in a stupid place in the backyard. The grownups in the family aren't fans of the fruit it produces, but last year anyway my son enjoyed them for its week of abundance. The fruits are small, just about the right size for his hand, and that's as good a reason as any to eat a fruit.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Happier News

Our two pumpkin plants are both happy campers, the slugs have been so busy with lettuce lately that they overlooked a strawberry plant, and my son's colorful garden corner is brightening things up around here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Lows

With gardening as with childrearing, the highs are very high ("I love you, Mommy!") and the lows are VERY low ("I wish you weren't my mommy!"). Some nasty pest - probably a slug colony - nibbled off all my potted mesclun over the course of 48 hours. So discouraging, I didn't even have the heart to snap a photo of it before I angrily upended the pot and destroyed all the slugs clinging to its bottom. The kids enthusiastically pointed out ones I'd missed until we were sure we got all the ones that were visible.

After bedtime, my son called me in to tell me that he couldn't stop thinking about "things that I know probably aren't going to happen, or not for a very very long time" like meteors crashing into our house or volcanoes erupting. I told him that scientists now can detect those things before they happen and they give people warning, so our family and all our friends can go to a safe place far away. I couldn't help adding, "But I won't tell the slugs, so the meteor will crash into them." It's like war up in here.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Big Yard Project Continues Apace

Yesterday morning
My gardening has been curtailed lately by the major fence replacement and bamboo eradication project going on between our yard and our neighbors. Our backyard is a staging area for all the tools and the removed bamboo; even though my garden is not quite encroached upon, close enough that it makes it unpleasant to be out there. (I am a delicate flower, apparently, averse to clouds of dirt and loud noises.) However, the work is going fairly well and should be done in another couple weekends.

Yesterday afternoon

These photos also give a sense of our crazy weather: COLD and foggy in the mornings, warm when not breezy, and sunny in the afternoons. I feel for the plants - they just have to adapt to the local microclimate, and I can't really fault those who don't! Sometimes I feel like I have yet to adapt to the local microclimate!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

So Many Berries!

It's pretty awesome! I like them with just a shot of whipped cream (from a can, because I'm all-American like that). The kids generally just pick em and eat em with no intermediate step. For myself, I rinse them. Actually right after this photo was taken, a tiny green worm poked his head out of one of the berries. I downplayed it with my daughter but, my stomach turned over. That's life on the farm, folks.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


We're finally getting some tomatoes! My 5 year old is SUPER proud that his Sungold plant is the first to produce, but he is almost as excited to give me a daily report on how my plants are coming along. His is producing a couple a day; mine are almost ready.

In my first flush of enthusiasm and ignorance, I popped a purple cherry into my mouth before it was anywhere near ripe - YUCK - but I had to quickly mask it so the kids wouldn't get turned off them. O the sacrifices parents make. I'll be giving those guys a wide berth now. They can stay on the plant until they provide me with a written notice of readiness.

Our wacky weather has been cool and foggy in the mornings and late afternoons/evenings, but fairly warm and sunny midday. The zucchini is happy as a clam and producing well. I even have a lemon cuke almost ready to pick, and we're getting a right-sized handful of sugar snap peas and green beans daily. The blackberries continue to flourish. We picked about 10 cups worth in the past few days because my husband was seized with a desire to make jam. Using a newly acquired vintage food mill my aunt gave us, he was able to de-seed them nicely, and we tried the jam this morning. It was excellent. I love helping the kids make that mental connection between taking care of our plants and eating what they produce. Viva los berries!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July!

Every year I organize a neighborhood sidewalk parade for kids & pets. It gets cuter and cuter every year!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Berry Day

Today we picked berries. First I had two helpers holding tubs, then I had one helper, then I had no helpers and I got hot and tired! We'll eat these tonight over homemade frozen yogurt, or freeze them for jam later.

I also got a handful of "green" (purple) beans and sugar snap peas, not that anyone else is going to eat either of those crops. Good thing I scaled back on both. To do list for next week: take out old lettuce in pot and plant something new there (what??), pray over tomatoes, take out those stupidly mysterious alliums. They're thicker than my forearm at this point; I don't think they're edible.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

... And now my daughter claims she doesn't like sugar snap peas. She looks at me like I'm nuts if I try to hand her one. She generously offered to pick some for ME.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Shy Green Beans and More

This morning I harvested my second zucchini, the first round of G3 (third sowing this spring-summer season) lettuce, and was surprised by a handful of ripe green beans from my bean volunteer that I always forget to water. My stepmother-in-law once referred to "shy" green beans, and she is absolutely right; I almost overlooked them! So discreet amongst their foliage.

My lemon cucumber is looking beautiful, even if barren of fruit to date. I had one two years ago that produced sparsely and late; this one appears to be on the same track so maybe it's a climate problem. (A much better explanation than human error...) This year's model is potted, and previously I had it in the ground. The berries continue to do their thing. A bunch of sugar snaps are also ready to pick, but I'll leave them for daughter when she gets home from school today. They are the only green vegetable she will eat, and then only if she picks them herself and pops them in her mouth on the spot. The word picky really does not do her justice.

I discovered some weeds in my basil pot! That's a first for me. Finally, lots of green tomatoes on our plants, tantalizing us! We need a burst of really high temperatures to get them off the dime. Ripen, ripen, ripen...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gardening Backstory

I came to gardening in what I should probably just go ahead and refer to as midlife, after we bought our first house and moved in in 2010, when I had a two year old and was pregnant with #2. As a child, we didn't grow anything much (although I do have vivid memories of making mud pies in bare dirt, so that's something!). As an adult, I was living in apartments and working fulltime. My husband meanwhile had spent 10 years jazzing up the bare dirt of his rented house, and one of his first romantic gestures was dropping off a bag of his homegrown tomatoes for me. Yet even after I moved in, I was too busy and uninterested.

That changed when we moved in our "own" home and I had a child to teach. I wanted him to understand where food came from, to eat vegetables, to be outside, to learn about science and math from nature as well as from books. My husband was completely occupied with landscaping the front of the house (another bare dirt situation) so the backyard became the fiefdom of me and the kids. I stopped paid work when my younger child was born, so even if I didn't have "free time", I was home more and could step outside without it being a big production.

The backyard was rototilled when we moved in (2010) and basic fill dirt added. Since then, I haven't added any significant new dirt to my 10x20' (approx.) patch. My summer priority is tomatoes. My year-round crops (okay, some months this is still aspirational) are lettuce and cilantro because I am a major cilantrohead. Everything else is added by whim, by accident, or by best-laid plan, and we know what happens to those. I do my best to grow without pesticides; I try to use organic seeds and starts but not exclusively. I care a lot about my plant-babies but some laziness creeps in; as my husband says with a shrug, "It's only plants. You can plant them again!" But you can't grow kids again, so my focus is more on the process than the product.

My older child's excitement and younger child's enthusiasm for gardening are awesome. Some days of course are better than others - this is true of any parenting effort! They usually enjoy being outside with me in the garden, and that's what's most important.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

And So it Begins

It's getting to be that time when gardeners start complain-bragging about ALL the WORK involved in HARVESTING, sigh. Well, I picked a pound of blackberries today and in fact my arm IS tired, thanks for asking. I also harvested a bit of lettuce - just enough for my sandwich at lunchtime - and one very attractive zucchini. I'm leaving the second ripe one on for a few more days to see what happens (I know...). Almost all our edibles are in the backyard, but we do have one gooseberry plant in front. Unfortunately I never notice it in its little corner so when it's fruiting, we tend to accumulate a couple pounds on it before picking. That is currently the case. I need to wait for a kid helper before tackling it. They'll pick gooseberries, but not eat them - it's a crop-swapper for sure.

Taking advantage of some kid-free time, I also added some Miracle Gro to most of the vegetable plants. I didn't even know we had any, but my husband confessed it to me last night, with a nervous laugh. Hey, I like success as much as the next gardener. I hadn't fertilized anything, so undoubtedly they will enjoy this boost. I mixed it in a bucket that the kids usually use for their garden playtime, so this truly would not have been possible if they'd been at home. I also tied back most of the berry canes drooping into the walkway, and sowed a new round of cilantro and lettuce seeds in-ground adjacent to the Alliums of Mystery.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mysterious Alliums

I have onion issues. I planted green onions from seed; in the past I've planted both onion sets as well as leek from seeds, and never have I successfully gotten what I thought I was going to get.

The current crop of weirdness features overgrown green onions and a flowery bulb-type thing. My son suggests harvesting seeds from this thing to replant. I don't know, maybe? I love that he came up with the idea on his own, so we'll try it.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Heating Up

We got back from a five-day vacation (Legoland's strawberries are doing much better than mine - maybe the slugs are made of Legos), and it was the cutest thing to watch the kids rush through the house to get to the backyard upon our return. "Mommy! Come here! Your tomatoes are growing! The zucchini is big! There are LOTS of peas!" Homecoming was pretty sweet.

And in fact, things are looking great. My new pot of lettuce is sprouting merrily, my new little pot of cilantro is ready for harvesting (mental note: time to sow again), and 4 out of our 5 tomato plants have the teeniest little green fruits on them. All the green beans I sowed are coming up - wow, are we going to have a lot of green beans for the crop swap - and even my pathetic little yellow squash finally has a blossom on it. I love June in the garden! Hope is still alive, blackberries are ripe for the plucking, and all is well.