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

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

See me jumping up and down

like a kid at Christmas.

The first sign of a blush has shown up on three different plants. The one pictured here, which is the Ukranian Heart, the Jaffe's Cherry and the Japanese Oxheart(#2). I didn't know if the Jaffe's Cherry was red or some other color. I guess I will find out soon. It's looking like a red.

The Florida Pink, remains green and continues to swell. Mr. C thinks that I've mistakenly planted a pumpkin. It has set a number more fruit, but I'm trimming it back heavily so I can at least get into the greenhouse.

I keep telling the greenhouse tomatoes that it's no good growing to their grand and luxurious greatness if the gardener cannot come in and give them refreshing drinks of water and nutritious supplements of compost tea, fish emulsion and liquid seaweed. I sometimes think I should write them a little book, Lessons of the Wild Tomato; a Cautionary Tale.

All of this exhuberance is due to a heat wave they have been enjoying. For me, it's a little uncomfortable, but livable. Flowers seem to be staying and fruiting instead of the usual drop off. When the temperatures regularly see 55°F (or lower) blossom drop is to be expected. But we have been staying at 60°F or higher in the evenings. A high pressure system is parked over the coast and the predicted temperatures are expected to rise and stay through the weekend. The weak onshore flow is creating humidity so there's a stickyness to the air that is really unusual. So I feel that the "experiment" has been blown. But if predictions are what they claim to be saying (as there is no snow on Kilimanjaro and there might be trees growing in Antartica soon), this might be the upcoming "norm".

ooh. I've scared myself......

But there's a blush on the tomatoes! :D (attention span of a kid, I know)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

This is the fog I'm talking about

This was taken at about 1 p.m. 16 july '06
Fortunately for me, it stayed in Moss Landing for the day, and didn't roll in until about 6 p.m. And it kept everything nice a cool for a pleasant day in the garden (even if I didn't get much done.)

I did start a new worm bin and realized I need to harvest another. Potted up a couple of plants. Watered and made notes and picked a few things. Really just relaxed today.

Ferals are our Friends

I call the cat in the picture, Sweet. She's not "my" cat. She's feral. Three years ago, my freshly planted Nepeta disappeared. And the usual suspect (Mr. Gopher) was not to blame. I couldn't blame snails either as there weren't any slime trails and the leaves and stems looked "eaten". The culprit was a momma cat and she had left her small litter of 3 kittens under the juniper. It was then that I realized how many feral cats live in our area.

The kittens were quite mature, and frankly, I couldn't adopt them myself or convince others to adopt. I ended up turning to Project Purr. They have a low-cost spay and neuter program. So there was this period of time where I was humanely trapping and escorting these fellows to a participating veternarian. Quite the chore, and somewhat harrowing in some regards. But, as far as I can tell, they live perfectly happy lives. Sweet is the only one that regularly comes around my garden. I used to feed the others when they came around, but they have since moved on (or have passed on). She's no lap cat, but will come to watch me (at what she sees as a reasonable distance) putter in the (ahem, her) garden. In fact, this morning, I came around the corner and she looked quite surprised with a "what are YOU doing here? don't you work elsewhere?" look. She'll even get surprisingly close when I'm harvesting beans. With all the leaves rustling, I think she believes I've caught something interesting for her. She looks a little disappointed by the long green things in the bowl.

She does her job at keeping the field mice in check. I've never seen her catch a gopher, but she does hang out in the "active areas". I assume when she doesn't show up for her usual "supper time", she's found fresher fare (and yes, I hope it's a gopher).

The only thing Project Purr asks in return for their services is to send a letter to the editor of the local paper, talking about how they helped me, and their overall mission. I sent the letter, but I never saw it published. So after I had snapped the picture, I thought maybe I'd blog about Sweet. She's a very nice companion and I thank Project Purr for helping us out.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Today I ate an Echinacea purpurea

Pretty interesting class on Herbal Medicines in the Garden. There are so many people using herbal supplements and remedies and so many can be found growing nearby. No need for a trip to Longs, the "medicine cabinet" is right there in the garden. But this was just an overview, I can see where a person could spend a lot of time studying not only the uses of the herb or plant, but how to derive the best tincture, infusuion or decoction. The presenter was Darren Huckle, L.Ac., a clinical herbalist and acupuncturist in Santa Cruz. He is also an instructor and co-director of the American School of Herbalism (his website is Roots of Wellness) and he was personable and engaging. He certainly had lots to offer and it was fun wandering around the herb gardens at CASFS and listening to him talk about the many uses of the plants there. And yes, I ate an Echinacea. He had cut it up in segments like an orange and passed it around. It made my mouth go all tingley and was certainly a rush. Now I have another long list of books to yearn for. It seems that if I'm not wishing for one plant or another, then it's a book on a plant. The cycle is never ending.

Friday, July 14, 2006

How do you photograph fog?

I had hoped that this would show how foggy it gets here. But all it seems to show is the greenhouse, my unfinished mulching project and my usual disorganized nature. This shot is facing west, and at 6:30 in the evening in the summer you'd think that you'd see a bit of sun in this direction. What I can't seem to effectively capture is the billows of soft, cold fog lazily drifting by. I don't think Elkhorn saw much sun today. The garden beds didn't look like they needed any water. I held my hand to the concrete stones on the walled terrace, and they didn't have any perceivable residual heat. The greenhouse thermometer was showing 60°F and the soil temperatures on the outside beds were only about 72°F and the greenhouse planters were only 76°F.

I'll have more mulch down tomorrow, after the herb class up at UCSC Center for Agroecology. I know that I don't show many wide "establishing shots" Close ups are nice as I'm still composing the garden "picture". But I'll post a few soon. So much of the yard is in flux and remains unplanted, that there's not a lot to see. Have a fun weekend gardening, I hope to post a few more pictures on Monday at least.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Will one of you just ripen already?

I was reminded of my college years this evening. I had a roomate while I was at UCLA who used to warm up her dinner in the microwave while softly chanting "hurry up already, hurry up already".

I'm feeling just as impatient.

Tomatoes are still green, all of them. The Florida Pink in the greenhouse is frankly the very largest tomato I've ever grown here. Ever. Probably the largest I've ever grown in my life. Everyday it seems to swell just a bit larger. I'm half expecting it to burst like a balloon that has been blown up too far. I'll come home, trot down to the greenhouse to find little green tomato bits blown everywhere. But not yet. It too is completely green and shows no sign of changing color. My prediction for having ripe tomatoes in two weeks may be off the mark. Sigh.....

But what really reminds me of my roomate and the microwave is the black beauty zucchini. The 2 female flowers opened on Sunday and the male flowers were not open. I looked in another bed where I popped in a mystery squash. I have sworn time and time again not to grow mystery squash that arise from the compost pile. You never know what hybrid genetic catastrophe you'll get. Last year I had these pumpkin looking squash but the shells were so tough you had to use a hatchet and then the insides were like a spaghetti squash only more tasteless. I felt it was a waste of growing space. But Mr. C convinced me that his little volunteer was worth saving and that was lucky because it had male flowers in bloom. I "borrowed" one to hand pollinate the black beauty. Now the 2 zukes are swelling, and even though they are growing amazingly fast, I can see myself standing in the garden with a knife softly chanting "hurry up already, hurry up already".

Monday, July 10, 2006

Updates and Link to the Tomato Monster

I've finally put together a web page listing all the varieties of tomatoes in the monster. I've also decided to copy/steal the idea of putting what's growing in the sidebar here. The link to the monster can be found there. I may make the other veggies listed into links to pictures, but I'll have to see how detailed I want to make this. I apologize sending you off-site to look, fortunately the "back" button is becoming my favorite feature of a browser (it's either that or "open link in new tab" which is my next favorite feature - but enough of the computer ramblings). I'm only an html novice, so I'm afraid the pages are really basic.

Weather has been really foggy. Our usual summer pattern. The fog was so thick this morning I was running my wiper blades all the way to work. Everything was damp. I was wondering if I should have opened the greenhouse at all. But it usually burns off at about noon. But this last weekend, the fog was back in by 6pm on the dot. No matter if we had a couple of hours more daylight, gardening was to be wrapped up and the greenhouse closed. As I am at work on Monday thru Friday, I end up wondering when it burned off, if it did. This evening the ground was still damp from watering yesterday, so I chose to delay for a day. Blossoms are dropping off the tomatoes and I'm assuming this is why. Just not as warm as they would like. But there are a few troopers. I'd really like to have a ripe one soon. Now it's just the waiting game.

Bed 1 is in decline. I am having a hard time deciding what to plant. Maybe just clean it up and make it the first fall bed. I'd like to grow corn, but can't seem to gather the enthusiasm. Decisions, decisions.

Also, when I was out this evening, I noticed a skunk ambling along in the neighbor's garden. He might be the reason one of my half barrels looked as if something was digging in it. I had thought maybe it was a squirrel. I mentioned it to my neighbor with the dogs, as I know it wouldn't be nice to have one of them sprayed. He said it had been rooting through his compost earlier. Hmm...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Name that bug

So this evening I'm down in the garden, picking peas, watering, dead-heading, poking in some beet and carrot seeds, when I noticed this odd bug fly by. It flew upright, had black, clear wings similar to a wasp. It also had something that was reddish in color that hung down looking like tuxedo tails. I was thinking it could have even been a clear wing moth. Needless to say, it got my attention. So I'm following it as it's cruising through the garden, hoping it will settle so I can get a good look at it. We veer to the right, we veer to the left. I'm just about to catch up to it when over my shoulder flies a towhee and swoop! He nabs it out of the air and makes a quick dinner of the bug.

What was the bug? Obviously he was a dinner bug (dressed for it too).

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rêver est plus facile (Dreaming is easier)

I will admit,in the evening I am more prone to dreaming than writing. So much easier to read what others are doing or perhaps to fantasize about going back to France for a while and dawdling in the gardens there. I found this interesting site, L'Atelier Vert, this evening and it nearly kept me from getting some documentation in.

This very nice 4 day weekend saw plenty of work in the garden. I started by harvesting 3 pounds of sugar snap peas. And looking this evening, it seems that I have at least another 2 pounds to pick (right away please!). And I picked all of the apricots (after one startled me by falling off!) There were only 6 this year, but that's 6 more than I've ever gotten before. So, I'm pleased.

I cleaned up the Rubine Brussel Sprouts (victim to the grey plague of aphids) and harvested the Elephant garlic and some of the Walla Walla onions. I collected seeds from the dying calendula and did plenty of clean up, dead heading, potting up, weeding and watering. The prunings that I took from the German Strawberry tomato (which Mr. C put in a bucket of water) are sending out roots. I suppose they will reach up to the shelf in the green house soon and add some fish emulsion when I'm not looking. I just have to be careful where they crawl out of the bucket and plant themselves.

Two new beds went in and I planted them with a bunch of bulbs and such that were needing planting out. I've been behind with planting dahlias, but they were about to join the tomatoes and plant themselves as well, since I wasn't working fast enough.

I keep trying to think how to present all the tomato varieties I'm growing and I think I will have to supply a link to an outside site where I can build a table in HTML. I've fiddled with this blog and the HTML long enough, and still don't like how it builds a table. But until then here are some green tomato shots:

Florida Pink (greenhouse)

German Strawberry (greenhouse)

(The Doomed) Kentucky Beefsteak (just before I plucked it off)

Roma Pompeii

Ukranian Pink Pear


Cherokee Purple

Ukranian Heart (biggest tomato at the moment)

I think the only vexing thing is that I've lost a few tomatoes. Another one this evening, I noticed it on the ground. I think it came from the Japanese Oxheart. There is a little mold on the top, just like the Kentucky beefsteak. I pulled the beefsteak off (broke my heart too as it was one of the largest tomatoes I had) but the mold had gone too far. In fact, there was no saving it or frying it green as it had rotted out to the very center of the tomato. The third was off the Cream Sausage plant, but there are so many little fruits on those plants, it could have been a "bump" accident. The weekend was nice and warm and clear. I could see the fireworks in Monterey on Tuesday from my deck, it was that clear (pretty unusual for July). I can't figure out what is causing the continued blossom drop on some of the tomatoes, as the temperatures have been plenty warm. Maybe just not warm enough. There are about 45% without fruit: Sweet Horizon (removed only fruit as there was blossom rot), Mom's Paste, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Cosmonaut Volkov (why, why?) Julia Child, Northern Lights, Hawaiian Pineapple, Great White, Purple Russian (again, why?), Heart of Compassion, Black Zebra, Sunset Red Horizon, Ruffled Yellow, Orange Russian, Peche Jaune, Hungarian Heart, Great White, Anais Noir (I'm assuming the German Strawberry is overpowering it or I can't see the tomatoes through the jungle), and 1884.

If I haven't thanked Cynthia before (or often enough) I'd like to do that now. Cynthia is the owner of Love Apple Farms in Ben Lomond. It was her class that supplied 95% of the varieties I'm growing, and she will be selling tomatoes to anyone who ventures her way this summer starting in August. She also has a blog, which hasn't been updated in a while. She's probably busy working in the tomato fields. Please support her efforts, and buy some tomatoes. They really are wonderful.

Hope everyone had a happy July 4th. And now, a little fireworks ("Cactus" Dahlia Nuit d'été)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Why Mr. C doesn't do the pruning around here

So, I get up this morning and over my cup of tea, Mr. C says he's seen some ideas for the garden, and he'd like me to incorporate them if I would. He says he's sent them to me in an email. And this is what I see:

Oookaaay, but the real kicker was the second one. Now the question remains, which way would I point it?