Category Archives: notes for next year

Daffodils as Gopher Prevention

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This past weekend we stayed home. I even wrote it very large on the calender, “busy on the homestead” across both Saturday and Sunday. Starting with September our calender and going through to December now our calender is full, full, full! It’s a great thing, but our poor garden is getting neglected. This weekend we set our sights on harvesting the last of the walnuts (6 grocery bags full!), tearing out old plants, turning the enormous compost pile and getting this above bed ready for next years bounty. Just a few months ago it looked like this below:
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This past weekend we tore it all out. We had had a problem with gophers in this bed after trying an experiment of laying down black plastic for weed control. The black plastic seemed to attract the gophers even more. Having read that narcissus bulbs are toxic to gophers and seeing that our narcissus needed dividing I set it upon myself to outline each of our beds with bulbs. We have an area at the top of our property that has about four or five 15 foot long rows of various daffodils and narcissus. They are just gorgeous when in bloom but I noticed this last year their performance had dwindled. They badly needed dividing. In fact just 10 shovels worth yielded me a bucketful of bulbs.
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It’s such a huge bed, I didn’t think I’d actually make it around the entire thing in one day, but I did! I have the sore muscles and calluses to prove it too. In addition to being toxic to gophers, narcissus bulbs make a good weed barrier (like the naked ladies). They come up in late winter and form a wall of sorts which make it hard for that early round of weeds to break through. In the spot where this garden bed is, we need all the help we can get in that area!
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Ever since reading Gaia’s Garden, I’ve opened up even more to the idea of where and how I plant our plants. For instance I’ve lined my flower bed with amaryllis bulbs to prevent weeds from encroaching. Then in front of the bulbs I planted thick growing yarrow as extra protection against the wild field behind them moving in. Favas are growing in the middle of the beds to prepare the soil for next years flowers. And now our largest veggie bed is lined with a wall to prevent gophers and will also soon be filled in with cover crop.

Though we don’t have a robust winter garden planted this year, we are doing extra homework in getting the garden ready for next year. It’s making me already look forward to next spring.

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Filed under Flowers, notes for next year, what we've learned

Winter Squash for the Holidays

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With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I thought it might be a good time to show you some of the new winter squashes we grew this past year. This bowl full is sitting on our coffee table, it’s the perfect seasonal decoration and it reminds me of the good fortune we have to grow such beautiful, nourishing food.

The squash on top is new to us this year. It’s called a Shishigatani or Toonas Makino from Baker Creek. It wasn’t the most productive plant, we only got two small squash, but isn’t it interesting looking? It’s a rare variety from Japan, that supposedly when eaten in the hottest part of summer, prevents paralysis. And really, who doesn’t want to prevent paralysis? We haven’t tried eating it yet so I’ll get back to you on how it tastes.

The long neck squash just below that, I wrote about before, however I had showed a picture of it while it was still green and on the vine. This also is a new one to us from Baker Creek, an Italian variety called Zucchino Rampicante. I highly recommend growing this one next year! The great part about this is that it can be eaten green as a summer squash or you can let it mature into a winter squash, plus the vine is fairly productive and easy to grow.

Below that are a few acorn squashes which we try and grow every year. Who can resist a stuffed, roasted acorn squash? Not I, I say.

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Above is a photo of dinner starting to be made with our first ever grown parsnip. This fellow decided to grow two legs. I have to say, I was not a big fan of how it turned out roasted, but I’m willing to give it another chance, we still have some growing outside.

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We also tried our luck with Blue Hubbards too. I can’t boast that it was a very prolific crop, we only got one per vine and they didn’t get as big as advertised, but they are worth a try next year too. Remember our growing season this year was a little wonky. Nothing grew exactly as it should have. We did however, buy an enormous one at the Tolay Fall Festival in October that is sitting on our mantle. Early Thursday morning we’ll cut it up and roast it for our Thanksgiving meal.

The Tolay Fall Festival by the way is a must visit for anyone who lives even remotely close to Sonoma County, this was our first year going and we spent hours upon hours there, it is most certainly worth the drive. Mark it on your calendars to visit next October.

Are you serving winter squash with your Thanksgiving meal?

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Filed under just picked, notes for next year

Peach Leaf Curl

Peach Leaf Curl
Note to selves: Spray the fruit trees properly next year!

Shame on us for not spraying the fruit trees properly this year. Here I am typing out blog post after blog post trying to sound like we are somewhat competent gardeners and this year, well, we are a great big gardening mess. First the damping off and now the peach leaf curl. What next?
Peach Leaf Curl
Peach Leaf Curl is another lovely fungal disease that when controlled with proper spraying stays at bay. But when you let it overwinter without spraying it will come and get you once spring hits and the leaf buds sprout. Once that happens, there is nothing you can do until the next dormant season. Since the disease places stress on the tree you can coddle your poor sickly tree by giving it extra fertilizer and proper water. Peach Leaf Curl affects namely peaches, nectarines and in the case of our yard, our Weeping Santa Rosa Plum tree. The leaves become discolored, curl up and much of the fruit also becomes damaged. I fear we won’t have half the nectarine crop or peach crop that we did last year.
Peach Leaf Curl
To keep peach leaf curl away, you should spray with a copper spray three times during the winter. I’ve been reading that most people can get rid of it with only one spraying, but we’ve been advised to spray three times. First when all of the leaves have fallen off, which often in Sonoma is around Thanksgiving. Then spray again a month later around Christmas and then give it one final spray at the end of January before the leave buds break.

This year we only sprayed in January and then it rained a day afterwards, so I’m sure that most of the copper was washed off anyway. We are paying for it now as all of our peach, nectarine and plum trees are deeply infected with it.

If you’d like to read more about peach leaf curl click over to UC Davis’s website. We get a lot of our in depth gardening info from them.

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Filed under Fruit Trees, notes for next year

Ali Baba is the Best!

We’ve had a troublesome history with watermelons. It’s like us and watermelons never really jived. We started to think that maybe we just weren’t watermelon-growing kind of people. But this year things have been different. Maybe it’s because we planted two different kinds together. Or maybe the stars are just aligned like one big watermelon this year, but it’s been a good year for us and watermelons.
Sugar Baby
Sugar baby

We grew Sugar Babies and Ali Babas. The Sugar Babies, they were pretty good. Smallish and roundish with dark skin and a nice red center. But they were only mostly sweet and they were full of countless little black seeds. Which made for a lot of spitting. So much spitting that we barely got to taste the flesh.
Ali Baba
Ali Baba

But the Ali Babas…. Now those are our kinds of melons. So sweet that you don’t even know what to do with yourself. So full of flavor. And the seeds are big and not so plentiful, so when you take a bite, it’s an easy ‘patooie’ to spit them out. And did I mention the flavor? Oh, we’re in watermelon heaven. It’s a good thing that it’s so incredible because so far we’ve harvested two and this one here is 14 pounds. The previous one wasn’t far from that weight. We’ve got a lot of melon eating to do.
Inside the Ali Baba
The story behind these Ali Baba’s is pretty cool too. The seeds were given to Rare Seeds from a man who collected them from Iraq before the war started. Now its virtually impossible to get seeds from that country. “A rare genetic treasure” reads the description.
Ali Baba
And look, it’s beautiful growing in the yard. You must all put this melon at the top of your list for growing next year. You won’t be disappointed.

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Filed under Growing Challenge, just picked, notes for next year

Another Tomato & Squash update

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It’s amazing what a few days will do. Our little San Marzano is getting so big and look, he has brothers!
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The cucumbers (both lemon and japanese) and getting there and the beans are happy and growing. (oh and that’s Bo, our cat, in the background looking for bugs to catch).

 

beans and cucumbers

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Oh, and remember how I wrote that although these portofino zucchini’s were planted at different times, they had all caught up in size? Well, the one we grew earlier from seed is blossoming earlier, so there you are, it IS worth it to start earlier after all. Below is it’s neighbor who’s seed was planted about four weeks later:
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Filed under 1, Growing Challenge, notes for next year, State of the Garden, Tomato

harvesting cherries & garlic

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For all the locals, isn’t this cooler weather nice? That heat wave was too much! Even though it did scorch some plants, it made our tomatoes and peppers very happy. But this weekends cooler weather allowed us to do some spring harvesting. We pulled up lettuce plant after lettuce plant….anyone want to come over for a salad? Dinner’s at 6:30 tonight!

We also harvested the rest of the hardneck garlic (the same garlic that I used a few weeks ago for Orangette’s green garlic & spinach soup). Scott pulled it out of the ground and just let it lay in the sun for a day or two, then yesterday cut off the leaves and put it in a box outside to dry. The hardneck made this garlic too difficult to braid, so we are going for box storage for these guys. We planted the single cloves back in January and we are now blessed with 47 large bulbs. Let’s see how long it takes us to use them up.
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I also spent some time up in a ladder this weekend harvesting cherries. Looks like the birds were generous enough to leave us plenty for eating and some for freezing. We didn’t freeze any last year, only canned the jam, but since we have plenty of jam left, I thought I’d go for freezing this year. Being high up in that fifty year old tree, with limbs covered in lichen, the evening sun pouring through the leaves, I felt like a kid reaching for those shiny red jems. One for the basket, two for me. I could harvest cherries all day.
Cherries

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Filed under Fruit Trees, just picked, notes for next year, Our Weekends