Sunday, December 02, 2007

They're growing, but.....

But probably not fast enough. Day 14 with 20 to go and there's no way these will be in bloom. Drat.

The ones that had sprouted in the box have some promise, but I'm not sure if the flowers aren't damaged.

I've considered moving a few to the garage space where I have a heat mat going and the light of a south-west facing window.

Well the Cabrillo Winter Plant sale is on Wednesday the 5th. Maybe she would like some nice poinsettias.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Amaryllis Update - Day 7

Changes seem rather insignifigant except the bulbs have gotten a little color. More red than green, but I'm not too worried that they won't be green. The stems are beginning to straighten. Although I might have to shift them to the other side of the greenhouse if they become too tall and start to hit the ceiling of my very small greenhouse.

(grow! grow! grow! - only 27 days to go)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Taking any bets

So does it take 8 weeks for an amaryllis to bloom or 30 days? Yesterday, I spent the day potting up 22 amaryllis plants with the hopes that they will be ready for a wedding on December 22nd. I always thought 30 days to bloom. But the box said 8 weeks.

Escape from the package and a few are sprouting already.

Yikes. I'm already thinking of contingency plans. I was thinking how they'd make great arrangements for the tables at the reception, but now I'm not so sure. I also have too many, with the hopes that some will be 100% ready to go. Funny thing was I wanted white, but couldn't find anything other than apple blossom. And I didn't really have enough apple blossom to feel sure that there'd be enough for the 7 tables. When I finally found a store that had more apple blossom, they also had white. And they were less expensive than the first batch I purchased, so I went a bit overboard. Now I have whites and apple blossom. Maybe if they aren't in bloom, I can combine 2 bulbs with white pansies or some such at the base and dress them up that way. I don't know. You believe that you can do something less pricey than the florist, but I'm beginning to wonder.

Coconut coir that came with the packets, soaking in water.
Much easier to work with than dessicated potting soil.

Reconstituted coconut coir going into the pots.

All the "Dazzler" whites potted up
And to think the bride is nervous......

First picture in the greenhouse - Day 1

Monday, November 05, 2007

Weekend Chores

So here was my list of things to get done on the weekend:

transplant the vegetables I purchased
clear beds 1 and 2
put in chicken manure and regular compost
seed in fava beans and winter grain cover crops
dig up the dahlias and label them for storage
turn the soil in the dahlia beds ready to be amended
clear out any rose cuttings that obviously aren't cooperating with being propagated
try to keep up with the weeds.

Here's what I didn't plan on doing:

Bury the dead mole that I found floating in the cat's watering bowl.

I noticed that the water pan that we leave out for the feral cat was looking horribly murky. And when I started to dump out the water I noticed something lurking in the depths of the murk. I have no idea how he got in, perhaps he fell in as he tried to get a drink. I hate to think that's the case. Or maybe he'd been dropped in by the cat or other animal. Regardless, he was very bloated and smelly.

Ugh, I thought. Have to get rid of that. I wandered off to find my spade. And I find in my wandering that I'll make a couple of diversions here and there (like oh, I really meant to dig that up, and here I am spade in hand - you get the picture) After I did the little diversions, I found a spot to bury the mole and dug the hole so I'd spend the very least amount of time with dead stinky mole on the spade.

And I trudged back to the water bowl, only to find the mole was missing. I have no idea how he left, but I suppose that there's a neighbor nearby who's probably saying "Holey Toledo, what on earth did the dog roll in?" Let me tell you, he probably stinks of dead mole.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Doesn't feel like November

Apple from the Chadwick Garden at the Center for Agroecology (UCSC)

The weather is unseasonably warm. Of course this means that with the little bit of early October rains we had, every weed seed is now happily sprouting. I'm not complaining, at least I can do a little weeding in the warm weather and get a head start on the winter rains. Not to mention, I'm putting in my winter crops. I picked up some "Purple Sprouting" broccoli, Walla Walla onions, hollyhocks, and a green globe artichoke. Not to mention scads of chicken manure (which my husband complained all afternoon about the smell.)

Not to mention, I'm concentrating on lots of fava beans for cover crops. I've got to fortify the soil this winter. My summer growing season really stank this year, and I believe it was depleted soil that was the culprit.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Garden Chaos Theory

Strangely, it works for me.

(Seen on a bulletin board in the Alan Chadwick Garden, U.C. Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems)
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Friday, July 13, 2007

Losing Battles

I've been reflecting on my last post. Frankly, I guess I'm resigned to the fact that the web is the web and hypertext will always be what it is. I've decided just to leave things be and "get over it" or "snap out of it" or whatever else it is that I'm concerned about.

There are far worse things that happen at sea.

For example, sawflies. I've had an annual problem with them on my pear tree. But this year, it's been too much. There was enough of an infestation that the tree dropped all of its leaves last week. And the pears are going to have to be stripped off, with the hopes that it won't kill the tree. If I had applied myself to the problem sooner, perhaps I wouldn't have lost the crop.

I tried to find Spinosad which was recommended by Pam Pierce who was "Battling a Swiss Chard Pest". I couldn't find Spinosad, but found "Patrol" at a local hydroponics shop. So far, it's killed the nasty critters. They look like a mix between a caterpillar and a slug. And they eat the leaf down to the veins. It would have been a great year.

Young pear before the sawflies devastated the tree.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

If I ever find the time

I purchased about a dozen dahlia's at a recent gardening plant sale. They are only tubers, so I went hunting on the web to see if I could foresee what the blooms will look like. And they need to be planted, pronto. I'm hoping to do it this weekend, even though I'll have a house guest. But so much of my time is now being spent on understanding and fretting over RSS, that they are being neglected.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Potato Experiment

I have been looking lustfully at English potato barrels. They look so nice and I like the idea of slipping up the sides and sneaking a few new potatoes. And I have relatives in England who might be persuaded to buy such pots and ship them to me. But not for the hefty cost of £35 each! (about $70 and I'm not including what it would cost to ship)

My greatest success with potatoes was when I put them in the raised beds. But they were difficult to dig up at harvest time and I've been chasing potatoes in that bed ever since. I'll admit that it's fun to find them when turning the bed in Spring and Fall. But I tend to find them with the fork stuck straight through the center of the spud and then the ones I miss pop up in odd places, like where the garlic is growing now. Strangely enough, I've even found potatoes in the planters on the deck 12 feet above the garden! My only guess is a bird re-planted a spud it had dug up.

So container planting is my preferred method, but I haven't found a pot that reliably produces a big crop. So far all my other "potato tower" and container potatoes have been of limited success. The "potato tower" barely yielded the same weight as the starter potatoes that I put in. Once I had a sizable crop from a container (where the potato sprung up magically). I keep planting that same pot, but it's never produced the same yield.

I've been hoping that an American vendor would show some interest in buying potato pots, and then I would purchase from there - but it hasn't caught on. I did notice now sell potato grow sacks, but I'm afraid the gophers would make short work of those. But why not look for a pot the same size as the grow bags? I have some "tree size" pots that I now have some potatoes growing in. I believe it is classed as a #15 tree size pot and it measures 15" in diameter and 18" tall. The picture here shows them next to a pile of classic "1 gallon pots".

It's smaller than a wine barrel half, therefore easier to harvest. So I think this might work. I placed 3 starter spuds in each on top of 8-inches of soil. I covered the starts with 3 more inches of soil. And as they grow, I've been adding in more potting soil. And they are growing like gangbusters. I have high hopes for these new "potato pots".

By the way, these were planted near St. Patrick's day - the time when my Granddad used to plant his annual spud crop. However, with the temperate climate here, I'm lucky to be able to plant potatoes 3 different times a year (from my own starts) and if these pots work out, I might try a go at a 4th crop kept in the greenhouse over winter.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Where does the money go exactly?

"The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has."

- Will Rogers (1879 - 1935)
Illiterate Digest (1924), "Helping the Girls with their Income Taxes"

Well, another year, another tax bill. And no, I do not wish to know how much your refund is; sour grapes on my part. I should be used to it by now. A refund coming my way has been such a rare occurrence that I can scarce remember that I did get one. Once, from the feds, many years ago and I think it was for about $15. I should have hung the check on the wall, marking the day permanently in my personal history, but I think that same year the state charged me $50 so it was a borrow from Peter to pay Paul year. But what does this have to do with gardening? Well, as the electronic packets were flying forth and back from my computer to the tax slurping server, all I could think about was this little corner of the garden. This is where I want to put in some retaining walls and fruit trees. And I was thinking for the amount of money I just sent to the government, I could have afforded the stones and materials to build this part of the garden and I would have been able to hire some help to build said walls.

But then they'd have to pay taxes, poor sod.

Well, I guess I'll just have to pull out my $7 hoe (taxes paid on it too) and keep the weeds down for a while longer.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


What a dry year it's been. Especially when last year we Californians were all moaning about whether or not the rainy season would ever end. I've heard that Santa Cruz is talking about water restrictions.

February we saw about 3 inches of rain, March only 5/8-inch. And yesterday we only saw 3/8-inch. There's more in the forecast for Saturday, but I'm already watering the garden. It has felt odd, seeing that many times, I don't start watering until April.

So, I guess I'll be glad to see more rain Saturday, except I've made all these plans, like checking out the Dahlia Club sale. Oh well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Universe in a Grain of Sand

It's really not a garden blog if you don't have pictures to share. At least I see it that way. I'd thought I'd "check in". All's well, I just don't have many pictures. The daffodils have faded, the ceanothus is also fading. Most of my spring flowers have moved on. The arugula is bolting as is the Giant Red Japanese Mustard. Right now I'm concentrating on cleaning up what hasn't survived, turning beds for summer vegetables, and putting in more hardscape. And frankly, some of the pictures are a bit gruesome, not something I'm quite ready to publish. And really, how many tomato start pictures can anyone stomach? I'm only half through potting up this year's batch and my regular "adoption families" are waiting with anticipation. Lots of sprouts, but just as I went out with my camera, I'd discovered a snail had found them first. So, no sprout pictures (and back to the potting bench to re-do my work).

But Mr C. seems to notice the beautiful in even the very tiniest of things. I had sort of ignored the orchid pictured above. It's a Dendrobium kingianum. They are quite easy to grow here and like the same environment that Cymbidiums enjoy. And it's in bloom, I just hadn't thought to take a picture. But my husband did, and looking at it this way, I can see just how beautiful it is, even if it is the size of the tip of my pinky.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Touring the UCSC Arboretum

Last Saturday, I spent the morning touring the UCSC Arboretum with one of the garden clubs I belong to. I really enjoy this arboretum, especially at this time of year because many of the collections are in bloom. There is an emphasis on Mediterranean garden plants from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and California. Although the garden isn't formal, I've always had a fun time tramping about and taking pictures. The hummingbirds are particularly fun to watch, with their mating displays and other antics. First the club was given a short history of the Arboretum by Ron Arruda, the curator of the South African Collection. Then, a few of the volunteers spoke about volunteer opportunities available. I love Proteas and Leucadendrons so I'll share a few of my pictures:

Protea Nerifolia 'Bishop Desmond Tutu'

Leucadendron argentatum
This plant is a 30 foot tree

In addition to the gardens, there is a gift and plant shop called Norrie's. It is completely run by volunteers and you can purchase plants that have been propagated by the volunteers from plants found in the gardens.

Close up of the yellow Leucadendron

Here are some cuttings from the gardens. You can see how just a few of these plants make fantastic arrangements:
Leucospermum (Pincushion flowers)

A variety of Leucadendron

History of the Arboretum:

Arboretum main web page

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Expectantly thinking of summer

Please spot the nut job. She's standing under the apricot tree, up on her toes, straining to see if there are apricots. The flower petals just recently dropped. The pollen has barely had time to travel down the style to the ovary. Or has it?

Yes, I'm thrilled to say that there are lots of these tiny fuzzy knobs all over the tree. I might actually have to thin this year (fingers crossed). The five I had last year were just enough to wet my palate. I'm terribly excited to see these fruits, so small they haven't burst the flower collar yet.

Now in the other corner of the garden, this is what you don't want the cabbages to do:

You can tell that a cabbage is about to bolt when the leaves start to feel loose and "fluffy" versus tight and compact in a ball. A cabbage that is about to bolt can be slowed down by grabbing the head and twisting it so the root rotates in the ground and breaks some of the roots. But, if a cabbage seems like it's about to bolt, it's better to harvest it. My problem is that they look so enchanting in the garden. They are lovely, gigantic rosettes and sometimes I'm too enamored with them to harvest them.

I guess I kept hoping it might get bigger. Oh well. But it does make an interesting pattern.

The tomato seedlings are up and I'm now brushing them everyday. Brushing them involves lightly running your fingers over the seedlings, almost like tickling them. Outdoors, of course, this slight motion back and forth would be caused by breezes, and the stress strengthens the stems so the plant is stronger and stockier. I was taught this technique by another gardener who loved my seed starts, but felt they could be a little stronger if I had added more light and brushed them regularly. My first ones would fall over at the slightest hint of a breeze. A few have their first true leaves, so I think next week I'll start to pot some of them up.

Picture taken on 21 March just after I arrived home from work. They're leaning towards the last rays of sunset.

Listening to Amy Stewart, author of Flower Confidential

Again, I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera. I went to Amy Stewart's talk at Capitola Books, promoting her new book Flower Confidential. I've been following Amy's writing over on her blog, and then at Garden Rant where she is a contributer. But as her new book is out she hasn't had much to contribute to Garden Rant. But I always enjoy reading her work.

And I sat in the audience wondering why I don't go to more of these author talks. As I am taking this writing class, I found I was learning a lot about the writer and the process of writing. I think the only thing that I find to deter me is that I'd spend a whole lot more money on books if I went to the talks more regularly. And that is a dangerous temptation for me.

Amy Stewart's book is very enlightening, if you've ever wondered about the flower industry at all. I find that the subject is parallel to where our food comes from (before the grocery store). She does touch on many current topics like sustainable production techniques, organic growers, fair trade, and carbon footprint. Even in the first few chapters, I know the names of people she is writing about; Luther Burbank, Leslie Woodriff, Ted Kirsch, etc. First of all, I have a passion for plants and when all you can think about is plants, you start to learn the names of hybridizers, growers, resellers, garden authors, and the lot. I was similarly amused when I read The Orchid Thief, as I recognized many names there too, since I had been a suscriber to American Orchid Society for years. I didn't think I'd like the book as I had judged it by its cover. First of all, it's not a ghost orchid, which is what the plot revolves around. Secondly, and perhaps the most disturbing aspect is that the cover is a picture of a Phalaenopsis and it is upside down! But I digress.

And secondly, much of the writing in Flower Confidential is about places that are local to where I live. On my way home, I pass greenhouse after greenhouse. Nurseries here grow everything from exotic succulents and orchids, to poinsettias and carnations. Colorspot - the company that grows many of the annuals in Home Depot, has it's main growing facilities only a few miles from my home. So maybe the plant disease is an airborne contagion, but I think the problem simply caused me to gravitate to where the plants are. I must be near them. [grin] She also writes about Bonny Doon Garden Company, which is a florist located on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz. I love her bouquets and would pass up a delicious meal in a fine restaurant in trade for one of her creations. She brought 2 arrangements to the book talk that were to die for. And I love the fact that many of the arrangements come from local gardens & nurseries. As much as I appreciate the lovely roses from South America, I would rather have locally grown flowers.

By the way, I should note that I ended up loving The Orchid Thief, despite the cover. And so far, I am really enjoying Flower Confidential.

Here's a little description of the book in the author's own words:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cutting Day

My favorite day at my garden club is cutting day. It's the day when we get together and bring branches from our gardens and we all make some cuttings. The idea is that we will propagate plants that are successful in each others gardens. And as we all have similar soil and climate conditions, this can be a real boon. Here are some of this year's cuttings:

The picture below is from a Leonotis leonurus that I grew from a cutting last year (just before it was going to bloom - not currently blooming now, though). It's one of my favorite plants, and I've never seen one at the nursery.

I've gotten some great plants this way, although I'm not 100% successful. But even a few plants are greatly appreciated.

Monday, March 12, 2007


This morning I was musing to myself "I wonder when the poison oak is going to spring back to life so I can try to eliminate it." That being said, I should also mention that I'm hugely allergic to it.

Then I looked down and noticed a vine. I grabbed it and thought "what's this?" Of course, I was standing dead in the center of a huge patch of poison oak with one of it's newly sprouting tendrils in my hand.

You can imagine the next few choice words......

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Oh no. Not again.

I've started this year's tomatoes. I'm only planting those seeds that succeeded last year. So many didn't make it. The ones that did, I preserved the seeds, even if I didn't like the variety or it didn't produce many tomatoes. Tomatoes that made the list:

1884 (raised in the greenhouse)
Anais Noir (also raised in the greenhouse)
Beauty Lottringa
Black Plum
Cherokee Purple
Cream Sausage
Florida Pink (raised in the greenhouse)
German Strawberry (greenhouse)
Great White
Heart of Compassion
Jaffe's Cherry
Japanese Oxheart
Jersey Devil
Kentucky Beefsteak
Northern Lights
Roma Pompeii
Peche Jaune
Silvery Fir Tree
Sunset Red
Ukranian Heart
Ukranian Pink Pear
Orange Russian

(If you've reached this page by google search and wonder why I'm only listing these varieties, please read my post "Garden Mistake Confessions". Then you can try to find specific varieties if you wish.)

But on the other side of the greenhouse I was surprised to see this:

The German Strawberry, the Anais Noir, and the Ukranian Pink Pear have all sprouted from what I thought was a dead stump. And the German Strawberry has been busy this winter. I found a couple of rotten tomatoes from the freeze. If I had noticed them sooner, they would have been eaten. Too bad.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Thoughts in the garden today.....

How many wonders are in the corners of a garden?

Seeing the bright colors of the flowers

Tasting sour sorrel leaves

Hearing a carrot go pop when you pull it from the soil

Watching a lizard as it finds a warm spot in the sun

Discovering that an onion flower smells like onions

Enjoying how the birds feed their young and finally teach them to fly

Nibbling sweet sugar snap peas straight from the vine

Surprised by a frog leaping out of the watering can

Having a butterfly land on your arm

The wonders of a garden are as infinite as the world

And all within reach of home.

A bee working an onion flower in the garden.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


bright green leaf buds swell
white blossoms drift in the breeze
weeds even look good

Friday, March 02, 2007

Strolling in the garlic forest?

The picture is this year's crop of elephant garlic or Allium ampeloprasum. They won't be ready to harvest until July or August. But I was amused by this point of view. I've raised this batch over the years I've lived here. I got them from a gardener, years ago. I didn't have a yard, so I put a few of the bulbs in my father's yard. They've been growing and flowering there for 6 years while I lived in Aptos. Then, when Mr. C. and I moved to Elkhorn, I went by Dad's to see if I could find any bulbs. There were only 2 left. For the last 3 years I've been increasing their numbers. This year there are 15 plants, and I will finally get to have some elephant garlic this summer.

Elephant garlic has larger bulbs than regular garlic and a milder flavor. In fact the plant is more closely related to leeks. Don't make my mistake of growing both together as I couldn't tell one from the other until harvest. Also, a benefit to growing your own garlic year after year is that the plants become more adapted to your specific growing conditions, making stronger and bigger bulbs. Save a few of the biggest for planting next season.

Elephant garlic makes a lovely flower, but it's best to cut them out to get bigger bulbs. You can sauté the scapes (unopened flowers) in butter or olive oil.

Although, with the sniffles that have been going on here, I was wishing I had more now. Garlic is a good expectorant and helps with chronic bronchitis. Although I think if I grated it into honey (as is the recommended procedure for coughs), Mr. C. would run out of the house as if I was trying to poison him. I guess I'll just have to slip some garlic chives into his eggs for breakfast.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dune Restoration - Planting out

I spent Saturday with the Beach Garden Project, in Marina (Monterey County, CA). I finally took my plants that I had sprouted out to the beach to be planted out. Here's a shot of the Artemesia from January 27th:

I may have mentioned that my beach aster (Lessingia filaginifolia) hadn't sprouted much. I thought perhaps I hadn't collected the seed properly or perhaps some other blunder. But Joey (the project coordinator) said the soil mix was too mossy and many of them had failed. So it wasn't just me. (phew!) On the other hand, my Sagewort (Artemisia pycnocephala) was very healthy and nearly every cell had a plant. (And by February it was lush and shaggy) She was delighted to see such a healthy tray. Here's a long distance shot of my tray as the plants are being positioned onto the dune:

After spending the morning transplanting into sand dunes, I will never complain about my garden soil again. You have to dig a little to get beyond the dry drifting sand, and then make sure that the wet sand is all around the transplant. Then you make a water well around the plant, and I'll admit, there were some dry spots that made that pretty challenging. Also, each of the plants have to be oriented the correct direction behind the straw wind break. Basically the straw plugs are placed into the dune to help stabilize the sand sheet. By observing which way the wind predominately blows from, the transplant is placed behind the break to give it some protection. Add to this the steep and crumbly hill you are working on, it makes for a difficult task. Here's a planted transplant:

And here's a picture of the straw plugs that are placed in the fall to stabilize the sand sheet. Some of the plants have already been planted in this photo:

There were about 15 volunteers who showed up and we were able to transplant about 1,000 plants. The project volunteers sprouted about 10,000 plants and had transplanted 9,000 on weekends during January and February. What is unique about this dune restoration project is the variety of native species that are started and transplanted. There are up to 20 different plant species that are used. This is more species than other projects attempt to propagate. Here is a sample:

So we finished transplanting, cleaned up our trays and cell plugs, and hoped that the clouds would bring a little rain for the transplants (which it did lightly sprinkle). Despite the sore muscles, I felt good knowing that I'd done a small good deed in the larger garden of the world.