Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Solstice

Northern Flicker
Gods rest ye merry garden folk,
Let nothing you dismay.
Remember that the Sun returns
Upon this Solstice day!

The growing dark is ended now,
And Spring is on it's way.
O, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy!
O, tidings of comfort and joy.

The Winter's worst still lies ahead,
Fierce tempest, snow and rain!
Beneath the blanket on the ground,
The spark of life remains.

The Sun's warm rays caress the seeds,
To raise life's songs again!
O, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy!
O, tidings of comfort and joy.

(Looking forward to sunnier days, aren't we all?)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Poinsettia Care

Winter Rose Pink: Breeder - Ecke

I still have a few pictures from the Cabrillo College Holiday Plant Sale and Open House, so I'm going to post them with a reprint of the poinsettia care sheet that they handed out with the plants. Enjoy.

Cinnamon Candy: Breeder - Selecta

The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), one of the most popular winter holiday plants, is a native to the area around Taxco, Mexico. Joel R. Poinsett, the first United States ambassador to Mexico, introduced it into the United States. In Mexico, poinsettias grow to be large woody shrubs, often reaching heights above 10 feet.

Poinsettia is a member of the spurge family and is characterized by small, inconspicuous flowers called cyathia and large, brightly colored, leaf-like bracts. Poinsettia bracts may be red, pink, white, yellow, speckled or marbled; the most popular color is red.

Poinsettias are often thought of as poisonous, but research indicates that poinsettias contain no chemicals commonly considered toxic; however, eating the plants is not recommended. (The SPCA still lists Poinsettias as poisonous to pets and pet owners should keep the plants away from their animals.) While most people are not sensitive to the milky sap, it can cause a mild skin irritation.

Christmas Time Crazy Marble: Breeder - Fischer

  • Place the plant where it will receive a maximum amount of indoor sunlight.
  • Premature leaf drop is one of the main problems in poinsettia care. The plant needs to be kept out of drafts, as rapid temperature fluctuations will cause premature leaf drop. Even to be touching a cold windowpane can cause injury to the bracts. Night temperatures should be no cooler than 60 to 65 degrees F. Day temperatures should not exceed 80 degrees F.
  • Another cause of leaf drop is wilting. The soil must be kept slightly moist but not soggy. Water thoroughly and make sure the pot has good drainage. Empty out any water that may be left in the pot saucer after watering.
  • Fertilization is typically not needed for the first month because the potting mix includes a slow release fertilizer. After the first month, fertilize once every two weeks until the plant loses its brightly colored bracts.
  • Many of the new poinsettia cultivars will keep their leaves and remain attractive even in summer. If the plant retains its leaves, treat it like any houseplant. Place it in a sunny location and apply a complete fertilizer containing trace elements once every two weeks. As soon as night temperatures reach a minimum of 60 degrees F, the plant can be set outside.

It is possible to reflower your poinsettia but we would like your continued support, plant it outside and buy new ones next year! (But of course!!)

Sonora White Glitter: Breeder - Fischer

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Annual Christmas Sacrifice

Top Left to Right: Cinnamon Star, Sonora Marble
Bottom Left to Right: Silver Star Red, Carousel Pink
Breeder - Fischer (all)

I've oftentimes thought of posting a Thursday 13 meme with thirteen of the plants that I kill regularly. I have a few friends who are amazed that I even have plants that die. They think that every plant I grow thrives because I have this supposed "green thumb". I am often given plants that are dry, leggy and dwindling with the belief that I can resurrect them to their previously green and luscious glory. Let me be the first to admit that I seriously doubt my "green thumb" abilities. I regularly have seeds that don't sprout, transplants that don't take, trees that unexpectedly die, and "fail proof" plants that drop over dead within the first week. This is the way of a gardener.

Plum Pudding: Breeder - Ecke

I have simply applied a few rules to growing plants, and I think this is the reason why people think I'm "great with plants". And I'm willing to share these rules. Rule one; compost your failures quickly and quietly. Only you will remember that you have once again killed that plant that looked so easy to grow. Fortunately, the worms will never tell your secret. Rule two; learn which plants you kill with ease and never ever bring them back into the house or garden, no matter how attractive they appear in the nursery. You know they will only be a waste of your hard earned cash. It would be better spent on a new and untried plant because that one might just be the fabulous find that is easy to grow and perpetuates the "green thumb" illusion. Rule three; stick with the plants that are winners for you. Use these as the centerpieces and if you must have a "failure prone" plant, use it as a complementary planting or filler that won't be noticed if it "disappears" to the compost pile.

Puebla: Breeder - Fischer

And I have found that every gardener has a different style of gardening. Some people love to water and therefore water loving plants thrive for them. However, their same method causes cactus and other dry loving plants to keel over dead. My advice: don't grow the cactus. Keep with plants that are jungle plants and forest dwellers. Find plants that are their relatives and love the same conditions. You can always try to grow the cactus, but realize that you are going to have to move outside of your comfort zone and do things that are optimal for the cactus and not necessarily for the gardener. Me, I'm just the opposite to someone who loves to water. I like and keep plants that can go through a dry spell and not be too phazed by the problem. I like orchids and have quickly learned which ones are content with the once a week watering schedule. I do not bother with the ones that want a constant moisture or demanding temperatures. The fun thing about plants is that there's bound to be hundreds maybe thousands that fit in with how you want to grow things. Therefore, go with your strengths and admire the other gardeners who can make the plants you kill, thrive.

Sonora White : Breeder - Fischer

One plant that I always kill is Euphorbia pulcherrima or Poinsettia. I adore the pictures of them in the magazines at this time of year. I fantasize about how I can beautify my house with some luscious pink or green hybrid, which is this year's rage. But when I go to purchase the "new fashion", the price makes me balk. Do I really want to spend $20 for a plant that will be dead by February? And I know all the ways you can make them continue to grow, but it's never worked for me. My dad, who really doesn't bother with plants and gardening, seems to keep poinsettias growing and blooming for years. I'm always flabbergasted by this, but have learned simply to admire his little collection with calm subjectivity. Moreover, I buy my poinsettias with the stark realization that they will be dead by February. The nursery industry doesn't seem to mind, in fact, they're banking on it.

So, this evening, I went to the Cabrillo College Poinsettia Sale and Open House, with a certain amount of resolve (I'm here just to look). They had an extraordinary display of many different varieties, propagated by the horticultural students. I was also impressed by the price, so, you guessed it; I have a new set of poinsettias for the season. And despite their helpful culture guide, I believe they'll last until February, perhaps March.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

They've got my number

Here come the catalogs. I had to drag this one into work and show it to a co-worker. I think she's been amazed at the different colors, shapes and tastes of the different tomatoes I brought in to work. I don't know if I will buy anything, however. I have plenty of seeds saved.

The Thanksgiving holiday was busy. I was hoping to have more from the garden on the table. But I guess it was alright to have onions, some remaining fresh tomatoes and butternut squash. I had wished that I had some turnips, but perhaps I'm the only person who really likes them.

Once everyone had left, I had a small amount of time to work. I transplanted some of the Artemisia so that each one of the plugs have a plant. I also am trying to sprout more of the Beach Aster. But of course Sunday brought rain showers. I was so focused that I just kept planting in the rain. Mr. C finally brought me an umbrella. But I was glad to get that done. Now I have my fingers crossed that more of the Beach Aster will sprout.

Monday the gauge read 3/4-inch rain. However, a high pressure system has brought in a cold front and now it's really freezing. We're on frost warning from 2 am until 9 am and I've already dragged my kumquat into the green house. Ugh.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Quick look in at the garden this morning

I believe this is Castilleja affinis which was growing on a beach in Seaside.

I'm a little worried about my dune sprouts. There aren't many beach aster sprouting.and I think I should see if my seed envelope have any more in them and try to sprout the rest.

On the other hand, the giant red mustard has shown an amazing amount of growth for just one week. The transplanted onions look like they'll take. I have so many more to plant. The swiss chard and cabbages are hanging in there.

So much to do before next week, and I'm hoping to put some flowers in to pots to make them look nicer.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A rainy night brought a sunny day

A photo of the terrace from August. Now, it''s looking rather bare.

The rain yesterday was light but persistent until evening. Then it really came down. After months without rain, you sort of forget what it sounds like when it comes down. I was glad that I'd gotten most all of the transplants in on the weekend. I put in some more cabbages (Red Jewel), some Giant Red Mustard, and Bright Lights Swiss Chard. I transplanted some of the Walla Walla onions, but not all of them. Most of the transplants went into the terrace but I also was able to clear and plant bed 2. Now all I need are some flowers that will survive the cold and wet; probably some pansies, icelandic poppies and calendula. I put in some poppy seeds, but I'm not sure if they'll sprout as they are a little old.

Precipitation 1 1/2-inch

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What's bugging me

Okay, for a gardener the following pictures may be disturbing.

Here are the blasted caterpillars that have devastated what used to be nice cabbages; these two and about 3 dozen of their cousins.

And this is just too aggravating for words. The picture is of the blasted ants, which I have been fighting with borax and diacomatous earth and ant bait traps. I wouldn't be so aggressive if they didn't import or "farm" the aphids and the scale which coat entire plants. I have blasted them off time and time again, and the ants quickly bring the aphids back, repopulating every tender dahlia bud, rhubarb leaf, or lettuce. It's enough to drive me to .... well, I don't know what. The ants are everywhere. I know this is a very active time for them, but I sure can't wait for the rains to drown some of their population. Unfortunately, they have set up home in the greenhouse, which they love in the winter, incubating their young. I bait them again and again, but it's a losing battle.

On to other things. Woke up to a rainy morning (3/8-inch precipitation). Took a few pictures, two of a confused squash that came up from the compost. Now if I thought for one moment I could get a squash, I'd hand pollinate it. But I give the plant about 2 weeks before mildew has its way. The picture below is a female flower:

And this one is male:
Notice at the base, there isn't any fruit/squash forming. The most common reason why zuchini don't grow (and just drop the fruit) is because there weren't any male flowers open and ready when the female flowers are. I've observed that the plant will put a number of male flowers out before the females, but they usually fade before the female flowers are ready. I'm assuming that this is so the plant will cross with other plants nearby instead of self pollinating. I don't do seed saving for squash because they cross so easily (and the results can be disappointing) so I leave it to the experts and just buy a few seeds to sprout. But if I'm really anxious to get a few squash, I'll borrow a male blossom from another squash plant (even a compost sprout) to get the job done. Thank goodness they are so productive. What I might do is fry a few of these blossoms for lunch tomorrow. It would be a nice "off season" treat.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The rustling of leaves

October slipped by. This blog has become a cobwebsite. I thought that I could talk endlessly about plants and gardening. But of late, I've been pre-occupied with other thoughts and tasks. None of which have been about the garden. Well, mostly.

A few of the things I have been doing:

1. Working on a dune restoration project. Sunset magazine featured an article in September (which I haven't been able to find - I need to stop by the library) about the Monterey Dune restoration project. Currently, I have 2 trays of California dune natives that are sprouting (ever so slowly). One tray is beach aster (Lessingia filaginifolia) and the other is Sagewort (Artemisia pycnocephala). Once they get their true leaves, I'll be able to thin the seedlings down to one plant per cone. They are planted out in January and February. Sounds like cold, wet, windy work. And I'll probably be there.

2. Going to evening lectures at Cabrillo Horticultural Center about Sustainable Landscaping. I missed the first two classes, but have attended the last two and the final one is in a couple of weeks. I have some interesting notes; maybe I'll share them. (I hate promising that I'll write an entry and then never do it, so I'm hoping that I really will write up what I learned at the lectures.)

3. Trying to put away the harvest and take down the tomato vines. Rather dull work, but it needs doing. Don't feel like blogging every time I go out on a pruning or weeding expedition, because what more can you say about it?

4. I put some cabbages into bed 3 a couple of months ago. The sulfur butterfly caterpillars have devastated the poor things. They look more like lace than cabbages. I don't seem to have the heart to pull them up. But I just might have to.

The garden is pretty dismal. As the evenings are darker and time is shorter after work, I never get around to watering. I don't have things set up on timers. Maybe next year. I've lost a few plants, but so far, nothing that I'm upset over. I was even thinking of a Thursday 13 meme of what plants I've killed this year.

I had a short visit by Bambi one week. He took every single autumn rose bloom off, and de-nuded a couple of plants. But again, not much of a hit so I am thankful. I need to spray the back part of the yard again with the nasty anti-deer spray. So far, there's nothing they are interesting in. Or the neighbor's dog is keeping them spooked. (Good dog!)

I have been haunting the garden center on occasion, hoping to spot a 6 pack of walla walla onions. I really loved the crop I produced this year, and I was hoping to get another run on them. I finally found a set at a natural food store, and I purchased them with a 6 pack of Japanese red mustard and ruby cabbages.

Rain started on Thursday, but I barely received an 1/8th inch. But apparently Aptos/Cabrillo college (their weather station site) had only seen 0.26. But driving through La Selva/Freedom on Highway one in the morning, you would think that there would be more in the rain gauge. And although I was enjoying the small warm spell, I am looking forward to the rains and the greening of the landscape.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Adventures in Canning

The tomatoes are finally ripening up in large enough numbers that I finally can do some canning. I have 3 quarts already in the freezer (one with the spices ready for a moussaka). I finally got a test run of the pressure cooker. Now I remember my Mom using the pressure cooker, and I think I should have been on the phone more often with her as a consultant. And I also remember the time where her pressure cooker “blew up”. The vent pipe had become blocked with probably some bean skin or other bean by-product. I was at school when the pot blew, and when Mom rushed into the kitchen to turn the heat off from under the pot, to rush back out again. When a pressure cooker blows its pressure regulator, there’s little else you can do but kill the heat and let it cool down. Of course it will continue to blow the contents of the pain out through the vent pipe. So when I came home from school, there was Mom in the middle of the kitchen on her hands and knees cleaning up vaporized bean goop from every corner of the kitchen. The goop hung like stalagmites from the ceiling, dripping into a deep gelatinous pool in the floor. Mom was not amused by my uproarious laughter at her plight. It was a pretty funny picture at the time, but it has always made me wary of pressure cookers.

So this weekend, I had made some spaghetti sauce and some apple butter. I hot packed the jars and settled them into the pot. I only canned one quart of the tomato sauce as I really didn’t know how it would turn out and I only wanted to lose one quart if that’s what happened. I remember how the pressure regulator sounded on Mom’s old pot, but this thing sounded like a steam train coming through the kitchen. And the pot is huge. It dwarfs the stove.

The whole time while I’m watching the steam expel the air within the pot, and then the pressure building and being kept for the length of the processing time, I thought how much I didn’t know what was going on in there. And when it had cooled down and I got to open the pot, I found out my fears were justified. I didn’t leave enough head room in the jar for pressurized canning. So some sauce had bubbled out under the lid and into the water. So, I don’t trust that the jar is properly sealed, as there may be food in between the jar lip and the seal. Well here’s the end result, not a fair winner but I’m looking forward to seeing how it turned out. The other part of the sauce (that I didn’t can) was delicious. So I’m interested to see how the extra heat affected the end product.

And it's raining!

Haven't seen the wet stuff since May 22nd. Looking forward to looking at the rain gauge in the morning. I'll admit I haven't looked at it in a while and I'm hoping there isn't a dead bug or some other bit of flotsam waiting for me in the morning.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tomato Sauce from Anais Noir

So, I thought I would post a couple of pictures of what sort of sauce an Anais Noir makes. The tomato is classed as a bi-color and the only way to tell that it's ripe is to turn it over and see if the bottom is starting to turn red. And from my previous post, it makes a great sliced tomato. But I've always mixed the bi-colors with red tomatoes and I've always come up with red sauce. So here's what they look like after going through the tomato press.

Now, they do turn a bit redder under heat, but the sauce stays mostly green, which wouldn't matter in a sauce that has lots of spice, like curry, or my favorite chili mac. Or there are other recipes that the color wouldn't matter because Then you wouldn't see the green at all.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A time of balance

Autumnal Equinox hearlds the first day of Fall and sunlight diminishes each day until the Winter Solstice. Now is the time to gather in our harvests and count our blessings. Although, I feel I am bending the rules some, as it is also the time to plant parsnips, cabbages, fava beans, and other cool season crops. Frankly, once again, I am looking forward to the rains.

I am amused to notice that it is also a new moon; so many conjunctions at once. Anyway, I wrote a couple of Haikus for a friend a few days ago and I'm going to "reprint" them here.

Cool fog winds blow by
Warm fruit vines wither. Somewhere
a tomato falls.

Cabbages grow large
As bright days edge towards autumn
Summer ends too soon.

Jersey Devil

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Pressure Cooker is here, but.....

I am developing a virtual appreciation for determinate tomatoes. The benefits of indeterminate tomatoes is that they produce tomatoes over a long period of time. The problem with indeterminate tomatoes is that they produce tomatoes over a long period of time. This weekend, I probably pulled about 30 tomatoes off the vines (weighing about 6 and a half pounds). So there's enough all over the counter tops to justify making some sauce or canning the fruits whole. Problem is, it's about a quart at a time, maybe two. Canning is an involved process, and I wonder how sane I am to fire the whole system up just to preserve a quart. I do have plenty of apples to preserve. So, I'm going to stop whining and start working. Freezers do make the whole thing easier, but I like the idea of having the veggies not needing electricity for "life support". We haven't had a major power outage (knock on wood) but living on the fault lines always leaves that possibility open.

I am thinking of going over to Cynthia's Farm and picking up a large supply of tomatoes. Then I could have a bumper supply in my cupboards. I'm also thinking of next year. What if I choose a few indeterminate vines for a long season of fresh eating, and a bed full of determinates for canning and processing? Might be a possiblity.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Autumn's Wild Ride

The picture above is an Anais Noir tomato.

Is it just me, or is there a flurry of activity everywhere? Maybe it's just the vibe here in California. But it seems that everything is stacking up and needing attention right now, please!

Fall is the best time for Californians to put in perrenials. Then there's "crush" and the other harvests that happen now. Time to build compost piles, clean up gardens, put mulch down. Add the local and state fairs, garden center sales, plant sales, weddings, birthdays, etc. etc..... Just seems like it all piles up at once.

Every day this week there's been something planned for after work. Fortunately, the cold fog has kept the plants from wanting too much water. I'm getting tomatoes and they are piling up on the kitchen counters. I've processed a few quarts, one quart frozen, one quart used for moussaka, one in the fridge. It looks like I could get another two or three quarts this weekend. But I don't want to repeat my last mistake. I cleaned up the counter tomatoes, par-boiled them, put them through the Tomato Press, and then cooked the sauce. I was pleased with the end product & the counters were clear of tomatoes. I went down into the garden to pick some flowers and whatever veggies were available. Wouldn't you know it that I picked almost the same number of tomatoes that I had just processed? So I had to do it again! Pick first, process second (make mental note!).

And I don't have much room in the freezer. I finally purchased the pressure cooker to can the tomatoes (and large pile of apples Mr. C brought home). But I'm just waiting for it to arrive. Oh UPS, where are you? So my frenzied mind tries to calm itself by thinking in rhyme:

Lack of produce? I now will recant,
As tomatoes drop off of my plants.
Till my pressurized pot
Arrives to my spot
I'd sure like to can, but I can't.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Joke, dear.

The following letter from the family's solicitor is addressed to a member of the British aristocracy who has been spending much of the summer in his residence in the south of France leaving his wife in the United Kingdom to look after the ancestral home.

Dear Sir Royston,

I hope you are having a good time on your holiday. I say this with sincerity because I am afraid that I have some bad news for you, although there is good news too.

First the bad news. I am sorry to tell you that your favorite dog, Honey, is dead. The vet says that she died instantly and could have felt no pain. She was kicked in the head by your horse, Sherbert, though I'm sure that no blame can be attached to Sherbert, frightened as he was by the fire in the barn.

I'm afraid that Sherbert was in the barn along with your other horses when it burnt to the ground. The fire brigade had been called within a short time of the barn catching fire and would normally have been able to put the fire out. Had it had not been for the fact that the tender crashed into your Bentley in the lane. Your wife had taken it out for a spin with your brother. As it was, both the tender and your Bently were written off. No blame can be attached to your wife for the accident I'm sure.

The Bentley was stationary at the time and your wife was in the back seat of the car. She managed to escape death only due to the fact that your brother was lying on top of her at the time of the collision. The doctors say that given time she will regain her sight but that she will never walk again. She has also lost her memory and cannot even remember you. Your brother, unfortunately, was killed.

I should explain how the barn came to be on fire in the first place. You see a spark from the house blew over and set the roof alight. The fire started in the main hall of the house where, as you know, your Mattisse and your Picasso once hung. I say 'once' because they are not there now. Fortunately neither of these paintings were damaged in the conflagration as they were stolen beforehand by the burglar who started the fire.

Although all of this may seem to you very serious it is not in fact the bad news that I wrote of. Your wife and brother had been visiting your Insurance agent in prison where he is serving a three year sentence for fraud. I'm afraid that none of your insurance policies are valid.

As I said, there is some good news. The heat from the fire warmed your greenhouse and brought your tomatoes on.

From my dear husband, who knows what makes me laugh.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Garden or Garden Blog?

Well, over the Labor Day weekend, gardening won out over blogging. I'm still putting mulch down in an attempt to get ahead of the winter weeds. It's a long process, but everything is looking tidy and kept. I may even take a LS (long shot) of the garden. I will confess, my pictures are always CU (close up) because I would no more take an LS of the garden than I would open my sock drawer and take a picture to be posted on the web. But I may change that soon (shot of the garden, not the sock drawer).

The picture is the tomato monster on the 1st of September. It's looking a bit bedraggled now. But tomatoes are holding and growing, so I can't complain. The yield is under normal par. Sorry Angela, I can't put the calculator down.....

I'm also looking forward to when I can tear out the tomato plants. I had hoped to make this area a permanent perennial bed. I'm sketching out where the plants are going to go and I'm taking inventory of all the plants that are in containers waiting to be set "free". Just having dahlias growing and blooming for bouquets in the house has been really satisfying. I can't wait to have more flowers to choose from. And there are plenty of hummingbird plants that will go in too.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ever have that little voice say "didn't I tell you so"?

Saturday I was working on one of the gardens in the Master's Tour and it was pretty cold and damp. I was thinking to myself, "I'm not dressed properly for this, I'm going to catch my death of cold." and thereby fulfilled my own prophecy.

Summer colds are the worst, I think. At least when you are smacked with one in the winter, you can feel assured that hiding under the covers and sipping hot lemon tea will not seem contrary. It's cold outside; it's likely I'd be in bed with tea anyway. However, a summer cold you think, why would I willingly miss a day out in the garden?

I did don a sweater and go out for a quick look around once or twice.

One, I ask myself, how many times must I lose a set of freshly planted out seedlings before I remember to use shadecloth? I mean how many times can you chalk it up to a "learning experience"? Well, I'll be sprouting more "yuppie chow" salad mix to replace the sad, wilted & dead seedlings I left to roast in the sun.

I had ripped up the three dying tomato plants and turned the bed. I added an entire box of vermicompost, 2 cups of blood meal, 2 cups all-purpose organic fertilizer and another bag of compost from the nursery. I wanted to increase the organic matter in the soil and boost the macronutrients that seemed to have "bottomed out". This is where I thought I was going to have some cabbages and leaf lettuce. The cabbages might just make it with the "now in place" shade cloth.

Two, what the devil is going on with the tomato monster? It's dying off in places, but it's also flowering like mad. And much to my surprise, some of the flowers are keeping fruit. Maybe it's true that you have to stress the plants a bit to get them to fruit.

"No more lounging in the garden boys, time to make tomatoes or become extinct!!"

I'm still not holding my breath for an overwhelming bounty, because botrytis can settle on any of the young green fruits and rot them out completely. But I've ordered the pressure cooker just in case the monster proves me wrong (again). I have been surprised by the Northern Lights tomato, which now has two fruits forming. I was resigned to not get any this year. Maybe I will, fingers crossed.

In addition, the lack of sunshine here has affected the pollinators. When it's foggy, the garden is oddly quiet. Moment the sun shines through, the place is a-buzz. During the weekend, I was so concerned the butternut squash not being fertilized; I ended up hand pollinating it (once I picked the correct male flower - couldn't believe I mistook the first one for a male, please tell me it's the Sudaphed working on my poor brain!)

I noticed one google search land here with the question "how to pollinate pumpkin". I'll try to post my method later, minus using a female flower as the pollinator. D'oh!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Masters Garden Tour 2006

If you are in the Monterey area on the weekend of September 9th, consider going to the Masters Garden Tour. It is a self guided tour of 5 gardens around the Monterey Penninsula to be open from 10 am to 4 pm. There is also a Raffle, art galleries and a Plant Sale (see "gardeners and their gardeners for locations). There is also a vermicomposting exhibit and of course Master Gardeners to ask all sorts of gardening questions. For more information, please see their website

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Oh, snap out of it!!

Tomato Monster July:

Tomato Monster August:

I'll have to admit, I've been in a bit of a funk of late. Who can say when it started? Last weekend was frankly, cold. I needed a sweater while I was putting down mulch. The tomatoes are definitely getting the signal that summer is coming to a close. The crookneck squash is succumbing to mildew, and my strong and productive Black Beauty Zucchini also has a bad case of mildew. I'm not ready to give up on having fresh zucchini, dammit!

I've finally come to admit that the Cossack is dead. It didn't even flower properly. How come after such a tremendous beginning? The Ukranian Pink Pearl is declining fast and so is the Jaffe's cherry. I think I could get a cutting from the Ukranian Pink Pearl, but I wonder, is it worth the effort? At least the last two actually bore fruit. The Jaffe's cherry has terrific taste, but doesn't have any branches that would make a decent cutting. All of these tomato plants were in Bed 3. Perhaps they didn't have enough compost and fertilizer worked into the soil. But I'm leaning more and more towards the constant exposure to the sea breeze as an explanation.

I am enjoying tomatoes. I've gotten more this year than ever before from my garden. But I'm certainly not putting up 11 quarts! I'd really be grinning! No, I think I will barely get enough to freeze for the months up until the next tomato season. And of course my friend from Scotts Valley sent me this picture:

Beautiful, but I can't help but see it with envious green eyes. I have to look at the wonderful harvests of other bloggers with the unattached fortitude of a Buddhist monk. But after a while in my garden, picking handfuls of fresh green beans, I gain enough strength to say "this isn't a contest, I'm not entering the county fair". What I have is enough, and I should be grateful. I am grateful. I just have to remind myself.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Off Topic Post

A post for Sweet's wilder cousins.

Okay, so this doesn't qualify as gardening as such. But I was reading Susan's blog "Farmgirl Fare" and I have to admit, this story made me think "I'll post this and perhaps it will help". The basic gist is there is a wildlife preserve in Colorado and its affiliates, and they need help. They are having to close due to lack of funds and maybe, just maybe, we, the blogsphere, can make a difference.

So what am I asking? If you can, send some money. Or if nothing else, write a post about The Wild Life Sanctuary. Spread the word. I know from my own life, we all have "connections". Some bloggers are writers, some are in the entertainment fields, some know people connected with foundations and or other money sources. I don't have a large "readership". But some other people do, and perhaps we can get the word out enough and find a way to keep the Sanctuary running.

Here's an article by the Denver Post regarding the refuges: Animal Sanctuaries may be on last legs.

The three sanctuaries are:
The Wild Animal Sanctuary, Keenesburg, CO
Big Cats of Serenity Springs, Ellicott, CO
Prairie Wind Animal Refuge, Agate, CO (no website).

Susan wrote a beautiful appeal, and I'm hoping that somehow these preserves can survive. Thanks for your time.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

What to do with an apple bounty

So a co-worker of mine heard about my apple "disappearance" and low and behold a "package" shows up on my desk on Friday. He has too many apples and he doesn't have any interest in "dealing" with them. Well, I don't mind at all. First I got them sized, and determined which had so much moth damage or bruising that they wouldn't make a decent pie apple.

And I had plenty for a nice batch of applesauce. The nice thing about applesauce is that you don't have to peel the apples, especially if you have one of these:

I think this is called a food mill, but I actually think it has a different name as it is used to make jam and fruit juice. It makes the job really much easier because it clears fruit of the skins and you have a quick batch of applessauce.

Now usually I can the finished product, if I'm feeling industrious, I'll make apple butter, but instead I was inspired to make Applesauce Cake. Someday I'll post a really old family recipe for applesauce cake, but it is pretty involved and I'd like to publish it with pictures of the 6 layers of cake. But today, I must get more mulch put down in the garden, although it's looking foggy and cold.

(I apologize if your blog aggregator shows this a million times, but I've been having problems with this post. So much for point and click publishing)

Monday, August 14, 2006


I think I should get a hint when it comes to things like this.

I went to extra effort (asked a friend to bring a flowering apple branch cutting) to pollenize the Pink Pearl apple tree. It took on a single apple, which was growing quite well. I was excited to find out what this apple would be like. I checked on it and watered the tree and fussed and worried.

I looked out my bedroom window this morning, and I couldn't see the lone apple. In disbelief, I went outside to see if it had ripened and dropped off. But to no avail. It's gone. Just like the first tomato in my garden from years before.

I didn't even get a picture. Sigh.....

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Seeing more red in the garden

Beauty Lottringa

Cynthia described this tomato as so beautiful that you will bring visitors down into the garden just to look at it. It's so true. Her tomato stand is open now, if you want a really tasty heirloom tomato! She will be open Saturdays, Mondays and Thursdays from 9 to 6. And there's more than just tomatoes to enjoy. It looks as if she'll have a variety of vegetables and dahlias for purchase.

The "pumpkin" is finally ripening. Again, I can't believe I have a tomato that is this big. I wonder what it will weigh? Can you see that it has grown?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I wish I knew what this plant was

Anyone who gardens regularly gets asked "what's this plant?" I like to try and identify them, if I can, but sometimes it's impossible from a simple description (usually "well it was about a foot tall and had these cute purple flowers) or a photo (mostly because the concentration is on the flower and not the leaf or growth habit). Here is a plant I saw at a winery in Amador County. It was a shrub about 5-6 foot high, and was in the protected area of the winery. I'd say it was a hibiscus but the flowers don't look like a hibiscus. Leave a comment if you know what it is. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The first ripe tomatoes

I picked the Ukranian Heart and a Jaffe's cherry on Monday. Snapped a few pictures. Now I really need to update the tomato page. Had guests over on Sunday and it was a real challenge to get everything ready in the record breaking heat. It was unusually hot here on the coast. We hadn't seen fog since Wednesday night and the air was unusually still. Last night was the first time the fog even made it to shore. Tonight we've had a nice cool wind off the ocean so it's certainly nicer to sleep at night.

It's funny the things you don't own when you don't need them. I hardly remember to whom I gave my oscillating fan. But I was regretting letting it go as the house was really stifling and I thought how unfortunate to have the house full of people and no fan! But the breeze thankfully picked up and it was more pleasant. I had thought about serving a hot black bean side dish, but that morning I changed my mind and made a black bean salad instead. It was really convenient to walk down to the garden and pick up the "extra" ingredients. The yellow tomatoes (Azoychka) came from a friend who has some of the original plantlings. She sees more heat in Scotts Valley and is already enjoying the tomato crop. Now I'm looking forward to tucking into mine. Posted by Picasa