Friday, March 31, 2006

Garden Dreaming

Now other than clearing the downspouts, I am dreaming of re-working the compost areas. I have 3 worm bins that I put most all of the household food scraps in. But I would like to have a better set up for my garden scraps compost. I am very happy with the worm bins, and I have thought maybe I should expand them again, but I'd be really pleased if I could successfully create a "hotpile" compost system.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Rain, rain, here to stay?

I was talking with my neighbor (as I was upgrading the RAM in his computer - but that's another story) about the very wet March we've been having. He bought the house next to us that at one point, we had made an offer on. I was attracted to the already built raised beds and the sunny exposure that his home enjoys. But it was more expensive than the home we are now in, and we dropped the offer.

He says, when he lived in Gilroy, he used to keep an extensive garden. And in the early days here, he was often busy puttering around the raised beds that I had so coveted in the beginning. But he used a small rototiller to turn the beds and I think he broke the gopher wire lining in the bottoms. Needless to say, the gophers had a hey day in his new garden and he abandoned the raised beds and hasn't grown any veggies since. But we still exchange ideas and supplies over the fence. I am usually happy to share any "bumper crop" and he gives me gardening "stuff" that he isn't using. I think I won't elaborate on what the "stuff" is, but any gardener would know what a hobby fisherman can contribute to a garden.

He was saying (while I fiddled with the computer case) that even though there is so much rain coming down, he doesn't mind. Mostly because, soon enough, we will have no rain at all. I have to agree. Even though the "storm door" opens and dumps rain throughout CA, I simply remember what rain we don't get, and I can shrug it off. I find the end of summer more depressing, when everything is dry and parched and it's near impossible to do anything new. It's our version of winter. Better to sharpen the tools and clear the shed, than to garden.

The other pressing job is potting up the remainder of the tomato starts. I peeked into the greenhouse to see how they were doing and I was quite impressed by the growth on the ones in 4-inch pots. Also the sugar snap peas that I transplanted in bed one are nearly 2-inches tall. Boy, the level of excitment here is dizzying. ;-)

30 March 2006 1/4-inch
29 March 2006 5/8-inch
28 March 2006 3/8-inch

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Keeping Count

3/4-inch rain last night. Boy did it howl and pour.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

First warm dry day

So the past couple of weeks have been cold. But the tomatoes have been holding up well. I haven't had enough daylight after work to do any more potting up, but I decided to water the sprouts tonight, even with night-time fast approaching.

I felt a little guilty at work all day as I had dashed off without opening the door to the greenhouse. The last few days of the week I've remembered and when I get home, I wondered why I bothered as it is sharply cold and the greenhouse doesn't have any residual warmth for the night. So I head off this morning, forgetting to open the door until I am at least 2/3rds the way to work. But I figure, how warm can it get, even though Pete Giddings was talking about a warming trend for today. At lunch, I stick my head out the door and start to worry that the greenhouse might be getting too warm, and how the little plants were on the verge of needing a drink. Cross fingers and hope all is well. When I arrived home, they seemed to be okay (phew). I need to buy an auto vent for the hatch. Then at least during the spring and fall, I can leave the door closed and feel that some fresh air will get in if it gets too warm. I've also considered a solar fan, but it's a sight more expensive than the vent opener. And it would require cutting a hole in the roof.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Keeping Count

3/21/06 3/4-inch
3/19/06 1/4-inch
3/15/06 3/8-inch
3/14/06 3/4-inch
3/12/06 1/4-inch

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Potting up the Tomatoes

Started the task of potting up tomatoes today. The weather has been relentlessly cold. Since last weekend where there was ice/snow on the ground at nearly sea level, there has been no warming. The soil temperatures have dropped back to 52 degrees. I'm taking a risk leaving the tomato babies in the greenhouse, as my greenhouse is small (8'x6') and passive solar. I don't heat it at night. But I don't think it's going to get much colder than 40, crossing fingers.

So I potted in the greenhouse just to stay out of the chilly winds. I don't mind the cold, but the wind will cut straight through you. So I stand in the nice 70 degree greenhouse and trot out to sift potting soil and water in the transplants. (Mr C. watched for awhile and came up with an idea to build me an actual potting bench from some left over metal shelving he has). I ran out of pots after about 50 so I need to collect some more.

My back is tired and I am wishing that I had another day to the weekend. Had to work Saturday on a OS upgrade. Took a comp day last Thursday to go to the SF Garden show. I'll try to post some pictures of that later. But I'm guessing the week will be long with users calling in with whatever problems show up that weren't caught in the test upgrade. And for some reason, I never feel rested for the work week if I don't have 2 consecutive days off. Mr. C says I should call in for a sickie. But I'll see.

Also, I transplanted some of the sugar snap peas that I started March 6th. I transplanted some purchased starts of lupines and columbines and generally cleaned up and re-arranged bed one. I still have 2 rubine brussels sprouts plants and one looked like it was about to set sprouts. The calendula planted next to them are beginning to bloom and the elephant garlic, leeks and onions are still looking good. My plan is to clear the bed in May/June when the garlic finishes and do a short crop of beans. Of course this depends on many things with the garlic being the priority crop. Whether I make this a veggie bed again or a grain bed for the winter, is hard to say. The thing I noticed is that it didn't get much sun around the soltice as the tree shadows keep it in the shade.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Really weird weather here

Nothing really happened here in Elkhorn. Lots of electrical storm and thunder to the north of us. Had Mr. C and I not gone out to the hummingbird day at the UCSC arboreteum, we'd probably wouldn't have seen the snow. Wow, snow at sea level in CA. Amazing. See the eucalyptus in the background?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Rebirth of the Tomato Monster

One of the things I was busy doing in February (and not blogging about) was taking a couple of classes. Nothing hugely academic, but enlightening and light hearted Saturday lectures. I did take the Tomato class offered by Cynthia at Love Apple Farms. That was worth the time and money. And I'm afraid the Tomato Monster 2006 has already raised its fiendish head and laughed.

The class was better than my expectations. I have even more information and Cynthia had great advice and suggestions, especially regarding coastal varieties. The picture above is the flat that I seeded, taken from her extensive collection of 300 different varieties of tomato. Her enthusiasm was infectious. Now I have about 150 little sprouts that need potting up. As I may have mentioned already the tomato gods are making me their monkey. When I took the class, I was about 2 weeks from taking a short vacation in Canada (Toronto/Niagra area). I erroneously believed that if I didn't water the mostly dry mix, the seeds wouldn't sprout. And I wasn't too worried that they would mold as it was rather warm in February, as I may have mentioned. I figured I'd water them in just before leaving and I'd see cute little sprouts when I returned, and I wouldn't have to bug anyone to babysit the seedlings. Anyway, just two days before Mr. C. and I were to leave, I noticed the tray in the floor was turning quite green. About 45 little seedlings were staring me in the face. I cursed mildly, watered the flat, and started looking for a plant sitter. The next morning, I went to look and 35 more had popped up. By the time I delivered them to Dad (who had offered to look after them) there were nearly 100 little sprouts. Dad did a great job and they have been slowly putting out their first true leaves. I'm thinking the slowing is mostly due to the decrease in temperature as lately the weather has been a bit of a bear. (Tonight it was predicted that snow level may get as low as 500 ft and as I write this, there's a terrific thunder and lightening storm about 12 miles to the north of us.) I'm picking out the varieties I most want to try and I will put many into the Watsonville garden. But there will be many to give away and I'm quite happy at the prospect of another tomato filled fall.

Lastly, I have a singular picture of the Tomato Monster 2005. It was taken in December and half of the bed has been cleared. The space was about 15x15 ft. and you might see a few tomatos left on the vines.

Keeping Count

I was absolutely amazed at the rain gauge this morning. For all the rain and wind and howling it read 1/4 inch. It rained some yesterday as well, but didn't even make it to the 1/8 inch mark. Maybe the rain gauge isn't very accurate if the rain comes in sideways. I've always wondered about that.

This was an exceptionally cold storm. Snow level dropped to 1000 feet and the "mountains" around the Salinas valley are wearing snowy white mantles. I could see my breath I as left for work. Very unusual for our area, especially in the morning. I've always advised people who want to visit California to come during the off season. October is one of our nicest months. February is also pleasant and potentially more green. Last month was a terrific example as most of the days were warm and breezy. Felt like spring was within reach. But anyone who grows fruit trees here knows it a false spring. March will come in with a howling gale and won't let up until April or so.

I heard someone say that the snow levels will be dropping to 500 feet. And I happened to notice a car in downtown Santa Cruz with snow on his roof and windshield.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Broccoli Romanesco

I am the biggest fan of this variety of Broccoli. It has a very sweet taste, not quite cauliflower, not really broccoli. The above picture was taken in Dec. 2005. In January I cut the main head out. Now, in the Watsonville garden, when I harvested it last year, we pulled up and composted the plant. I didn't do that in my garden and much to my surprise, the smaller stalks lower down sprung up.

Here it is at the end of Feb 2006. The new heads are turning a bit purple and looking like they are about to flower, but they remain very tasty. But the one that I'm really enjoying has the small heads extending themselves up in order to bloom. The flower head is enjoyable, but I find the stalks really tender and sweet. I can sit out there and nibble them right in the garden. It is reminiscent of broccoli raab but having a cauliflower sweetness. But they are at their end for this year. The "grey waxy winter" aphids got into them. I have a devil of a time trying to discourage those type as it's already winter and a blast of water doesn't deter them much. And I have a hard time keeping ladybugs in the cool winter/spring months.

Keeping Count

3/8-inch of precipitation. I would have thought there would be more.

Sunny during the day, only warming a bit (at least in Santa Cruz) but the skies were looking wicked at sunset.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Keeping Count

Precipitation 1/4-inch, although, there will be more in the rain
gauge tomorrow. As I was going in to work, the rain was coming down
hard enough to drown a toad. Of course that was only the cell that
was moving through our area. 20 miles up the road it was sunny - but
the streets were wet enough that it looked as though the cell
hovering over at my house had already been through there. I wish I
had gotten my rain barrel set up. I had ample time in February with
the mild weather, but I had lots of other things I was doing (which I
will backtrack and write about).

Monday, March 06, 2006


Today I started some sugar snap peas in 6 packs (little late, but I think the cold weather is going to be with us for a while) and some marigolds. Feb 26 I put some seeds in a couple of the beds, beets and carrots in with the leeks and some lettuces, radishes and some fennel. I was thinking with all the regular storms that it would keep the ground moist enough for the carrots, but with the temperatures dropping, I fear that the sprouts won't come up as it's too cold. Tomato sprouts all seem to have their first leaves now, so I'm going to have to find the 4-inch pots to put them in. But I'll add more to that later.

Keeping Count

3/4 inch precipitation
All from a cold and windy storm last night. I was thinking to myself on Sunday that I should photograph the apple blossoms before a storm blows them away. Oh well.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Dull information

1 inch precipitation
Also a lot colder. It was about 53F when I got home this evening. The cold wet weather has had an effect on the soil temps. While last Saturday the temp was 58F in the raised beds, today it is 52F.

I am still hoping to run across the soil test readings from last year, but in the meantime, here's this year from bed 2.
ph 7.0-6.5
N Depleted
P P2-Adequate
K K3-K4 sufficient-surplus

I'm thinking that I will need 36 oz of blood meal (11%N). I won't be needing the Potash (K) and I think the compost will boost the Phosphorus sufficiently. I am also considering adding Humic Acid as I am still scratching my head about how to get Nitrogen to "stick" to the bed.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Gardening Mistakes

February is a perfect example of this, my very worst gardening mistake:

Complete lack of documentation!!

This is what I had hoped blogging would correct, if I would only get back into the habit of writing things down. I'm still keeping up with the rainfall. I was curious to see if we actually get 13 inches of rain annually. (Somehow I just don't believe it.)

Lack of documentation can leave me stood in front of a bed, scratching my head and wondering "when was the last time I put in fish emulsion and how much?". I spent the last weekend tearing around the house trying to figure out where I put the soil test results from the home kit I procured last year. Not that it was worth documenting as I think I remember that N P and K were neglible. But I really would have liked to know for sure by looking at my non-exhistant notes. I thought for sure I jotted them into the margins or something, but alas, nothing. AndI really need to write in the nitty gritty info, so if there is anyone looking at this blog for some info, documented experiences, or just to laugh at my ineptitude, you will have to bear with some of the dull details.

I'll probably back-track with some of those dull details in the next few posts.

By the way, precipitation was 1/2-inch this morning.