Monthly Archives: May 2013

State of the Garden

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Despite the bugs and the drought, the garden is coming along indeed. The evening primrose is starting the bloom (the yellow petal or two you see), along with the mexican evening primrose (the pink). The cabbage and collards and carrots are keeping our bellies full. And this seems like it will be the year for peaches! Last year, after a hard prune, we only had enough peaches for eating and two jars of jam. This year we hope to add many more jars of jam to the pantry.
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The raspberries seem to be coming alive quite nicely amongst the mexican evening primrose and statice.
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Last year was a down year for blackberries for us as well, but this year is looking good so far! Blackberry Bars, here we come!
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The hydrangea I needlessly purchased last July is about to bloom mixed with ladybells.
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And look at this cute little petunia. Always wanting to be outside, always wanting to wear pink and always telling you that one day she’s ‘going to do ballet’.

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Filed under State of the Garden

the good, the bad & the ugly

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(the good :: ladybugs & soldier beetles)
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(the bad :: cucumber beetle)
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(the ugly :: drowned earwigs)

Gardening in the country ain’t easy folks. Not at all. These bugs, they come in droves with the primary purpose of destroying every seedling in sight. While we have had a great army of lady bugs and soldier beetles by our sides, we’ve also had our fair share of cucumber beetles, earwigs and pill bugs to wreck havoc on our tender new plantings. Most of my flower seedlings (pepperbox poppies, zinnas, and echinacea) have been eaten right down to their base. At this stage in my gardening career, if a seedling doesn’t survive, I shrug my shoulders and move onto another variety of flower. I’m a tough love flower gardener and if something doesn’t work out, I know there are plenty of other hearty varieties to fill their spots.

However, with vegetables it’s different. Most everything that we depend upon as tasty summer eats, the bugs also find as tasty spring eats. The earwigs are leaving the tomatoes alone, but we can’t subsist on tomatoes soley this summer. We also want beans, melons and cucumbers, all of which are a real hit with the bug crowd. To combat this, we’ve cut off the bottom of all our gallon planters and are using them as collars around our seedlings when we plant them out. We are also going back to a key piece of wisdom that a friend shared with us years back (and recently reminded us of), which is cans of canola oil spiked with something savory, in this case bacon grease.

In combating these creeping crawling things, it took us a while to figure out what exact bug it was doing the damage. I think this is making us better gardeners in the end. It’s one thing to read and look at pictures of bugs and bug damage in a book, but when you see it on your plant, it’s all together different. Now after watching a cucumber beetle munch on a window ledge zinna seedling, I know exactly what kind of damage she does. And now that we’ve caught many ear wigs right around our seedlings, we know exactly what kind of damage they do.

Next year we’ll be armed and ready. Just you watch out bugs! (that said, if you know of any cucumber beetles fighting advice, my roses, zinna’s and I’d love to hear it!)

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Filed under Bad Bugs, Good Bugs

beans and wheat

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shelling favas
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I so appreciated all your comments on your experiences cutting things out of your diet. I think it’s so interesting how experimenting with cutting just one thing out of your diet can make such an effect on the way you feel. If you haven’t yet tried eliminating anything from your eating habits, you might consider giving it a try. Just for a week at least, just to see if you detect any changes. Even if you don’t think you have any problems to fix. Maybe (hopefully if it’s a food you like) you won’t feel any different, but maybe, as some people have written, it will eliminate some headaches or joint pain or asthma. You never know until you try, right?

After at least 20 days off of wheat, I think I can say that giving up wheat for me personally, doesn’t make a huge difference. Well, it certainly has eliminated my spring allergy sore throat, but I think I’ve actually gained weight this month! I was hoping to get rid of a pound or two as we’ve been thrown full swing into swim suit season, but instead my shorts and tank tops are fitting a wee bit tighter! Maybe it’s from substituting corn chips & nuts instead of crackers and bread.

My son’s asthma is still active, but still seems less active than normal. My daughter’s eczema, which is the entire reason we’ve started this experiment hasn’t been eased at all. Poor thing.

Maybe we haven’t been eating wheat but we have been eating from the garden! After parenting three toddler’s we can say that shelling beans (these are favas) can hold a two-year-old’s attention a surprisingly long time!

Thanks for your diet comments, keep them coming!

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Filed under just picked

flowers & going wheat free

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It has been brought to my attention that there are other things that need addressing besides dreamily walking around the yard with your felco’s cutting flowers. I have been told there is laundry to do and bathrooms to clean and meals to prep and a wage to be earned. But who wants any part of that at this time of year?

In other news our whole family has given up wheat for the month of May. This is the third time I’ve done this. I did give up wheat for week in ’08 and then Scott and I gave it up last summer for a few weeks. We found some interesting discoveries last summer when we gave it up, like how Scott’s allergies completely went away and how we both felt lighter. This time we gave it up to see if it could clear up our daughters eternal eczema and help my son’s asthma. We are 14 days into it and while it hasn’t helped her eczema yet, it does seem to have helped with the asthma. And my usual spring time allergy induced sore throat has disappeared. It’s hard though, for us bread eaters to be off of wheat. I haven’t felt as much sacrifice as our kids, especially our 8-year-old (the one with asthma), who thinks this whole giving up wheat is a bunch of hooey. He wants pizza and pasta and bakery pastries and that’s all there is to it.

We’ll give it another couple of weeks and if this doesn’t clear up the eczema we’ll try a dairy free month (oh that somehow sounds even more tortuous than a wheat free month! Especially during hot ice cream season!). Knowing now that wheat really tends to ease our allergies and asthma during the heavy season is a great bit of knowledge going forward. Maybe every spring will become a wheat free time for our family.

Have you ever given up something? Did you see noticeable changes in your body because of it?

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Filed under Flowers, what we've learned

* l o v e *

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* l o v e *

happy mother’s day to all you mothers this sunday & every day!

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Filed under Flowers

naked ladies make a mighty fortress :: a story of weed control

Late winter & early spring in our lives is a time of eternal weed pulling. This weed pulling became compounded when we moved out to the country. Without tidy city fence lines and paved street & sidewalk borders, in the country where the garden ends and a field of grass begins is really just a matter of where you’re willing to stop pulling weeds. These weeds seem to keep encroaching on us making our garden smaller and the field larger, but armed with our hands and our weed whacker we’re always determined to fight back.
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(weed free side + a soccer ball…always a soccer ball in my flower beds!)
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(just to the right, were the weeds are starting to take over)
This year I found something interesting though. In the flower bed that surrounds our back lawn weeds were only moving in to certain parts of the flower bed. Beyond this flower bed is a field and those grasses were making a concerted effort to take over, but only in one spot. After a bit of head scratching and investigation I realized that the areas that were weed free had a thick border of naked lady (amaryllis) bulbs behind them. It seemed as though the invasive grasses had a much harder time getting over the ‘fence’ of thick bulbs and greenery. Upon further research I found that using a thick rooted & foliaged plant as a weed barrier is indeed a sound way of weed control. These types of plants are called fortress plants (as coined by Toby Hemenway of Gaia’s Garden). Other fortress plants are comfrey, lemongrass, red hot poker and I’m betting that the skyscraper asters I have in other parts of my garden would do the job too.
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(the back side of the weed free section – naked lady greens are the wide, long leafed plants in the middle)
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(divided and soon to be planted naked ladies)
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(skyscraper aster blooming in October)
Just as soon as I learned this, I divided up those naked ladies and created a wall of them to surround my entire flower bed. So next spring, instead of weeding you’ll find me leisurely sipping a piña colada in the shade while my fortress plants do the work. Well….a girl can dream.

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Filed under Weeds

gardening in a dry year

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It’s been a dry year here in California. One of the driest winters on record. To us, even though we had a very wet fall, it seemed like after the holidays the faucet was shut off. There was really almost no rain whatsoever after the holidays. Such a strange winter. And this spring we are certainly seeing the signs. Sure, if you squint your eyes and turn your head a little to the left, things look pretty good. Flowers are blooming, trees are leafing out. But if you look closely you’ll notice that the lawn is almost dead already, spring flowers are getting torched by this early heat (supposed to be in the 90’s tomorrow!), and we are relying heavily on irrigation…already. This is going to be a long summer.

A few years ago I wrote a post on drought friendly vegetable gardening, (wow, I used to write such different posts back then!) which is worth a read if you are struggling with water issues too. In regards to that post, we outfitted two more beds with in-line drip irrigation. We ordered 15 yards of mulch to heavily cover the irrigation and our tender crops. We are also focusing heavily on three beds this growing year instead of last years four beds. And I’m heavily mulching the flower gardens to help retain every last ounce of water in the soil. We need, however to get these beds on a timer, so that they can be watered in the evening or early morning hours. That is an easy step, we just need to put it higher on our priority list.

Luckily we have the option of putting our laundry on grey water. We’ve had this since we moved in, but it only drains out to one spot. Though I shouldn’t complain, the snowball hydrangea looks quite happy about the situation. However, my hope for the near future is that I can hook it up to a pipe that has multiple perforations in it, so that it can water a larger area along our foundation plantings.

How is the rain/water situation where you garden? Do you have any drought gardening tricks?

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Filed under Mulch, Soil, State of the Garden, Water, what we've learned