Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hello Garden Club

I mentioned at the June garden club meeting that I blog. Well, if you followed the link in my email "newsletter column" (thanks, S! what a nice thing to do & and I'm honored.),

Welcome. :-)

As you can see, I'm going by my initials, so if you like to comment (and please feel free to) just call me C.C., names, are usually not kept in the fore on blogs.

So why do I blog and what do I blog?

I pretty much write here exactly what I would have written in my 98 cent spiral bound notebook. However, in this case, it's open for anyone to read. Really it's just me thinking about plants, what I'm growing, why, how they are doing, what I'm thinking might improve what's growing. Nothing is particularly scintillating or brilliant. In fact I try to be honest in where I am making mistakes, and perhaps learning by them. I write my observations. Sometimes I write bad poetry or reflect on something I've read or heard, but it usually is just about the plants. And I'm afraid I'm prone to poor grammar and bad spelling, so bear with me. I wasn't an English major (or a Botany major either).

Another blogger said it very eloquently, it's an invitation to look over your neighbor's fence(See Angela's post "Why I Love Garden Blogs" that I'm referring to by clicking here). Albeit, you might think it's your "crazy" neighbor's fence. Hey, I was the one that asked if oxalis would be considered for plant of the month & have been known to look and see if a cutting has roots yet by shaking off the potting material. So if you're interested, stop by once in a while and see what nutty thing I'm doing of late. If nothing else, you can give me a hard time about it at the next meeting.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Run for your lives!

This year's first tomato plant has broken its cage! I came home this evening and went down to the greenhouse, contemplating what I was going to do about the jungle in there and just as I came to the door I realized the German Strawberry was toppled over. A gnarled and twisted cage was lying underneath. I always let the tomato plants take over during the summer, but this is just a bit much. It has taken more space than the Golden Currant Cherry tomato did last summer. So tonight, I've got to figure out if I go in with a machete or just a chair and a whip.

Next year's experiment: tomato pruning; does it affect yield? I am of two minds when it comes to "suckering" tomatoes. I understand "suckering" is pinching out the branch growths that appear at the top of a leaf along the main stem. I recently changed methods and instead of taking the entire sucker, I wait until it has 2 leaves and then pinch. Granted, keeping up with 40 tomatoes is daunting and I haven't done the best job. But according to the gardening books I read, suckering is done to improve the vigor of the plant. Does anyone really need to improve a tomato plant's vigor? From what I can tell, it's hard to keep them in check. Suckers are supposed to divert energy from tomato production. Now with dahlias, when you pinch the 2 side heads while it is growing a bloom, the main bloom does become larger as all of the energy goes to the remaining flower. Fruit trees are similar. I have already thinned the pear tree so there is only one fruit per spur. This increases the size of the fruit. But tomatoes?? The sucker produces flowers, and then fruit. So where is the problem? I sometimes think the garden writers are talking about determinate tomatoes, but not making the distinction. I grow indeterminate tomatoes almost exclusively. They are supposed to be aggressive vines. So next year, I'll plant 2 of the same tomato in the greenhouse and pinch suckers on one while letting the other go wild. Then I'll know for sure.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Now it looks like summer

All those lovely sunny evenings, with no fog made me wonder if we'd get into our usual summer pattern.

Last night, I nearly had to turn on the navigation gps (fondly referred to as Laurie) in order to find my way home. The bands of fog were rolling in thick dark swirls. Which is interesting to watch from the driveway as they power over the hill to cool the sweltering silicon valleyites, but not much fun to drive through. I've only observed fogs like this in San Francisco and Pacifica (keeper of the fog). I was always amused that it could be sunny everywhere, but Pacifica remained socked in. Although I also noticed when the rest of the Bay Area was fogged in and dreary, Pacifica was bright and sunny. This sometimes is the case with Elkhorn, especially on our hillside; we are sunny while others are fogged in. When the high pressure system is over us and the Valley is baking, you can see Moss Landing and the ocean quite clearly. When we have the usual summer pattern, and the fog burns off, it's hit and miss whether or not you can see the ocean. Sometimes, it's amusing to look out and not be able to see Moss Landing for the thick fog that settles over it. Then you turn and you can't see the little neighborhood shop at the bottom of the road. Depending on the time of day and wind patterns, it might recede once more and give you a glimpse of the ocean, or it can swirl right over and sock you into it's cold wet layers.

So, if you grow tomatoes or any other warm season plant, you can imagine the difficulty of the situation. I was talking to a friend who mentioned how Pam Pierce, author of Golden Gate Gardening, seemed to have such a despairing outlook on warm season vegetables. I agree, it can be frustrating to the point of despair, but I feel sure that there is a tomato plant that can muster through such difficulties. They grow palm trees in Virginia Beach, VA - so why not tomatoes in Sunset zone 17?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Not that I'm complaining.....

But I think the weather is messing with my tomato experiment. As I look at the ever growing tomato monster this year, I'm realizing that this is the warmest year we've had since we moved here. The first year I was busy painting the house all summer. But I didn't mind so much as every time I went outside for a break, it was foggy. We had some lovely summer days on the occasion where we would take dinner out to the deck and eat in the glow of the sunset. But these stand out in my mind as they were the occasion and not the rule. Year two was about the same for the summer. I know that I was feeling a bit despondent that the sun would be shining in Scotts Valley or Mountain View during work hours, but as I approached home, I could see the fog looming dark and cold. It makes for a nice cool evening, and I wouldn't trade it for a hot sleepless night in the Bay Area. But I've been keeping these facts in my mind in regards to tomatoes. What can I grow in a fog belt? Year three saw the addition of the greenhouse and a very happy harvest of tomatoes, but not a huge harvest. I wanted big plants grown "in the ground" so they had a more aggressive root system and hopefully a larger harvest.

And of course I'm completely going overboard with the numbers this year (it wasn't my plan, but I'm coping). I think somewhere in my mind, I kept thinking that many of these plants wouldn't fruit. They are proving me wrong (again). I'm still seeing lots of blossom drop, and I need to make some notes as to why I think that is happening and on which plants. I also want to make a complete chart of the varieties.

Like I need more tasks in the garden. ;-)

Oh, before I forget, I picked the first apricot on Monday. Nice if a bit tart. I pulled it because some blinking bird beat me to it. Only 3 more, and it looks like they might be ripe soon. But I keep thinking how cool it is to actually get fruit. Mr. C. suggested planting a second apricot. I just might. I also put "bird scare tape" around the blueberries which are beginning to ripen. I'm hoping to see some for me this year.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Weekend work update

Was I the one hoping for cool weather? Gads, it was certainly that! It oftentimes felt as if we were standing on the beach with the ocean cooled air coming directly off the water. I swear I could smell salt spray.

But the wall progressed easily enough. We placed the other rows of blocks on Saturday. We made a lazy day of it, fetching blocks, stacking a layer, grabbing a cup of tea, repeat. So unforunately, on Sunday, I ran out of time running to Tri-County for the soil mix.

It filled the bed 3/4's full, but then they shut at 2pm, thwarting a final run. But it looks like nice stuff, 1/4 yard topsoil mixed with 1/4 yard organic amendment. Needless to say, even unfinished I did some planting. More tomatoes into their final spots (Kentucky beefsteak, Sweet Horizon, Azoychka, Camalay, Mom's Paste,) blue lake bush beans, parsley, crookneck squash and black beauty zuchini. I added some cosmos, cherry profusion zinnias, and marigolds for the beneficials.

I'm glad to be seeing lots of ladybird beetles (mature and larval) and syrphid wasps/flies. Of course the syrphids seem to like the dandelion blossoms best. I've yet to see a lacewing this year. Also I'm seeing lots of dragonflies.

Bed one is popping with sugar snap peas. The calendula is in decline and I am needing to take some of it down, especially around the garlic. I harvested the garlic scapes (sauted them with the other vegetables that I stuffed into cabbage leaves) a while back so the garlic is finally beginning to decline. I'm anxious to see the heads. I've let some (well, maybe lots) of the leeks flower. I enjoy the flower and I can't say they were going to get any bigger than a thick pencil. I see minor growths where the brussels sprouts should be but nothing large enough to cut. I may have to cut it down soon & count it as a no show. sigh.....

I'm still procrastinating over bed 2. Don't know what I can do to kick myself into gear on that one. Maybe find a home for the salvia.

Bed three is blooming profusely with campanula cup and saucers. I staked a couple of the tomatoes there (Jaffe's Cherry, Ukranian Pink Pear), as the Annais Noir (in the greenhouse) was standing on Saturday, and lying down Sunday morning. I didn't want to see that happen in the raised beds.

I had removed the wall-o-water from the cossack (Purple Russian). He didn't seem to be thriving. But he's looking a bit better, I'm sure the Nitrogen shot helped (alphalfa meal scratched in). I've seen fruit on the Jaffe's cherry, Ukranian Heart, Marmande, and the Kentucky Beefsteak. I removed the one from the Sweet Horizon because it had bottom rot and I think I knocked one off the Cream Sausage.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I can hardly wait for the weekend.

Mr. C. has all but completed the new terrace. It has the first row of concrete blocks neatly and evenly laid. It's even level! Fantastic! Knew he was the right man for the job.

Anti-gopher grid is down and locked in by second row of blocks.

Weekend assignment: go forth and buy the remaining blocks to bring it to the final level and then fill in with nice soil from local landscape supply place. I see lots of sweating going on this weekend. But the result should be astounding. And I'm hoping the fog that is lying on the coast this morning continues into the weekend. It will certainly cool the temperatures we've been seeing of late. Not much of the usual June gloom like we normally see.

Also want to get some seeds planted (beans, salad greens) and the tomatoes (and other patiently waiting plants) transplanted into their final positions. They desparately need fish emulsion. Many have small tomatoes already formed and growing, largest one I've spotted is on the Kentucky beefsteak.

Roll on Saturday!!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Hot here, and you?

Probably not the best weekend to be mucking about in the dust and blazing sun. But the new wall of concrete blocks has the first layer nearly complete. It was grueling work out by that west facing wall, and our lunch break was probably longer than was needed. I was complimenting Mr. C on his handiwork (he levels stones better than I do) and said it looked so nice that I'm looking forward to terracing the area to the left side of the steps.

He was afraid I was going to say that.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Friday, June 02, 2006

Shouting from the rooftop

My husband is the sweetest guy ever (of course that's why I married him). A huge florist bouquet of lovely flowers show up at my office today (every woman's secret dream - please take note guys - because she instantly becomes the envy of every other woman at work - no joke).

I was going to freshen the table flowers this evening, with a new set from the garden. I am really enjoying my own flowers this year, as it's been the first year I've had enough to cut without depleting the "look" of the garden. I can't believe I have dahlias blooming in late May - early June. And I admit that I'll plant an uncuttable flower over a cutting one if it draws beneficial insects. So the flowering spurges are preferred over a rose. But they are green and they have milky sap therefore I don't find them to present much use in a vase. But syriphid flies love them. And my husband asked me, as I tossed the faded flowers into the worm pot last night, what was I trying to hint at? Really, no hint, I just wanted to wash the vase.

We're eight years married and I love him dearly, regardless of the thoughtful flowers.