Monthly Archives: June 2008

The Left Side

Winter Squash
It’s been a good long while since I’ve done a complete overall look at the garden, so let’s do it! Like before, I’ll start with the left side. This poor left side is in a bad state of transition. It’s going from it’s beautiful spring bounty to a sad state of waiting for the winter squash and peppers to grow in. But grow in they will and soon it will look just as lush as the rest of the yard. The broccoli, romanesco broccoli, peas, cilantro, and radiccio are all gone and have been replaced by peppers.
Left Side
and more peppers.
Peppers
We’re going to have a serious pepper profusion soon, because these are only a fraction of a our pepper crop this year. Watch out!
We’ve also put in some winter squash and as you can tell, I’m slightly in love with photographing this Potimarron squash plant. It’s just so lovely growing against our ‘weedy’ amaranth.
Winter Squash
And it’s such a beautiful and tasty squash. I love to have winter squash all around the house in autumn and bake them up into our dinners.
Winter Squash
We’re also trying a new winter squash called Buttercup. I’ll keep you informed as to how the come along.
Butternut
As with every year in our tomato growing, Scott always says, “we’re only growing four this year” and each year we end up with….oh, how many do we have this year? Right around 11 or 12. We’ve tried to grow all sorts of things in this spot and they’ve all died, but so far these tomatoes seem happy.
Tomatoes
That’s about it for the left side. We’ll move on over to the center plot next!

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Confession

Squash blossoms
The thing about gardening is that once you figure out a few things and start to think that maybe you’ve got a handle on this whole ‘growing food’ thing, you get humbled. Then you start a blog and make your random musings public and then you find out you’re wrong and you really feel like you have mud on your face. So it’s confessional time.
Pollenated
Let’s start out with the zucchini’s. I was totally wrong. Those little lady flowers do need to be pollenated by bees that have also visited the male flowers. I found this out soon after my posting when I on my ‘useless male’ high horse went out and clipped off all the male flowers for quesadillas. The next day I found a poor shriveled four inch dying zucchini. The thing with these squash are that they grow really fast, so those woman flowers don’t get a chance to open up until the zucchini are already five or so inches long. If it doesn’t get pollenated it shrivels and dies, if it does get pollenated, it keeps getting bigger.

Want to hear about our garlic failure too? Remember all that lovely hardneck garlic we picked? Yep, well, we picked it too early and half of it rotted. That was a very grim discovery. There’s so much moisture in those garlic heads that you really do need to wait until the plant dries up and browns before you pick it, or, it rots.
Fenugreek
Next up. Fenugreek. I don’t know what we did wrong with it. It looked great when it first sprouted, lovely green with pink edged leaves. Then it got kind of spindly, then kind of brown. Were we giving it too much water? Too little? Did we plant them too close together? Are they supposed to look spindly? Anyway, somehow it’s unhappy, but there are a handful of big seed pods forming so at least we’ll have a little bit for making Indian food.

So there you go. Just a few garden failures of many I suppose. Scott attended a weed class this past weekend (more on that soon) and the woman teaching was announced as having 22 years of experience. It sounds like a lot, but the teacher said, “Really, it’s not that much experience, it means I’ve only grown tomatoes 22 times.” When you put it that way, it really doesn’t sound like that much. I guess we’re all just learning as we go, really.

Any gardening confessionals you need to make?

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When life gives you cherry plums…

…make cherry plum jam!
cherry plums
We have these cherry plum trees all over town. They grow almost like weeds around here and I don’t think anyone really pays attention to the fruit. The plums just fall on the ground and make a great big, icky, sticky mess. And I’ll admit, I was completely one of those people. Then my ‘crazy’ husband went outside a few years ago, collected a few and made jam out them. I thought he had gone bananas. But then I tasted the jam. It was so good! Tart and sweet and the brightest shade of magenta you’ve ever seen. It’s now my favorite jam of all.
jam
So far we’ve made 8 jars this season and as I type we have another big pot of jam boiling on the stove. Our exact as science recipe? A pot full of plums and a few handfuls of sugar. Simmer and smash them. Strain them and simmer some more. Then put up into jars. Enjoy on toast. Give away to friends.
jam

Kale for Sale has a great post on wasted fruit, check it out. Also GreenBean has a good comment on that post…if you belong to a group in your town, such as a mom’s group, or maybe your local freecycle, send out an e-mail asking if anyone has any fruit they won’t use. You might end up with bags of free fruit that you can use for freezing, making tarts, jam or fruit rollups.

For a more exact tutorial on how we make Cherry Plum Jam, read here.

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Weeds and Why They Grow

Yellow Flowers

Here’s an unusual read for Green Bean’s Bookworm Challenge.

I bet you never thought that weeds are really an indication of the nutrients in your soil. I never did. I just thought certain weeds grew where they grew because they just kept sprouting from the year before. But by changing the nutrient content of your soil can actually allow new weeds to grow and stop the growth of weeds you currently have. Interesting, isn’t it? I never would have thought. We learned this all in a book that Scott ordered called, “Weeds and why they grow” by Jay McCamen from Moses (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, Inc.)

The root systems of some weeds, especially perennials, can penetrate deep into the subsoil to loosen it. Some weed roots can go down into the soil as much as twenty feet, breaking up the soil and improving drainage and aeration. They also bring up minerals and make it possible for the root systems of other plants, such as vegetables, to use those minerals and natural aeration.

As I mentioned, you can identify problems in your soil by what weeds are growing in it. There is a detailed chart that lists almost every weed out there and the soil nutients that allow that weed to proser. Through reading this book and looking in our yard, we found that the prolific srouting of purslane, amaranth, dandelions and some others that we have a calcium deficiency. That would also explain our yearly battle with blossom end rot on our San Marzanos. So off to the nursery we went, and back we came with liquid calcium which the man working there said is the best way to apply calcium at this stage in the growing cycle.

So once we get our calcium problem fixed, will the purslane, amaranth and dandelions leave? Quite possibly. And in its place maybe red clover will arrive. How will it get there? Well weed seeds can lie dormant and viable in the soil for as long as 30, 50, even 70 years! They are just waiting for a spec of light and for their proper soil conditions to sprout. (I’m serious about that spec of light, a fraction of a second of sunlight will do to get it growing, which is why he recommends tilling at night.)

Another thing I learned is that a garden that is free from weeds is actually a very unhealthy garden. When very little weeds grow it means the soil is actually extremely unhealthy. So it’s a good thing if you have weeds. Healthy weeds mean a healthy soil.

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Filed under books, fertilizing, seeds, soil, weeds, what we've learned

It’s not plain old cauliflower at all!

Come look! Remember a while back I posted a picture of my dreamy cauliflower? Well, look how its coming along.
Look, it's not cauliflower!
Its Romanesco Broccoli! Pretty isn’t it? We were expecting just regular old cauliflower, so this was a nice surprise.

We did a little research as to if you can eat the leaves of cauliflower and broccoli and you can. You can eat the stems (the stems are our favorite parts actually) and leaves, but as the plant matures you will want to peel the stems of their heavy outer coating. And may want to think twice about eating the leaves. When they are young the leaves are tender and good for eating, but as the plant matures they can get rather bitter, tough and not so tasty. Good to know!

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If you come to Sonoma…

Purple Haze Carrots
….be sure to wear Purple Haze carrots in your hair..
Purple Haze Carrots
You got the song reference, right? Yes, my sense of humor does border on cheesy, or rather is firmly planted in cheese.

Anyway, we’ve taken the Growing Challenge from seed to harvest! They taste good too (the carrots that is). Sweet, but not too sweet.

In Our Fridge
Since we’re in the kitchen, I opened the fridge door a few minutes ago and saw that Scott had harvested our first zucchinis and blossoms. Also our first pesto of the year augmented with spinach which we enjoyed on our leftover gnocchi. A tupperware full of last years defrosted nectarines. And three dozen eggs. Anyone have any good egg recipes?

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Dandelion Goodness

dandelion
So by now, my regular readers are rolling their eyes saying, “Another weed post, Kendra? Give it up already, let’s talk about real vegetables.” Well, I can’t seem to give my weed obsession up. And I found another place to cater to it. You may have noticed it on my sidebar, but I have a link now to Learning Herbs. It’s a pretty neat place where they teach you all about how to make herbal goodies out of things you have growing in your own yard, medicines, teas, food recipes, etc.

The owners, John and Kimberly, has compiled an ebook which you can get for free if you sign up for their newsletter and its pretty interesting. It’s all about how to make home remedies. They even have good uses for lavender which is my all time favorite fragrance and flower, and it just happens to be blooming right now.
lavendar in bloom

Their first newsletter has a recipe for how to make dandelion lemonade with dandelion flowers. Our flowers are all gone by now, but I’m going to save this for next year. They say, “dandelion blossoms steeped as tea can help relieve headaches, menstrual cramps, backaches, stomach aches and even depression.” Cool stuff isn’t it?

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Filed under weeds, what we've learned, what's blooming