Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wild Strawberries

I was walking through the yard the other day when something caught my eye. Something red, down there near my foot. I bent down for a closer look and found . . . . .

Little wild strawberries! Last year I found some of these in my yard, but they were bushes along the fence. These are basically growing in the field of weeds that is the, uh, "lawn."

How cool is that?

No wonder that little bunny keeps coming into our yard.
I wanted to show the fencing that keeps Peter Cottontail out of the garden.
One side has tall fencing:

You can see it there on the other side of the bean and pea patches. That goes around almost two sides of the garden. The other two sides have much lower fencing:

Disregard the lack of tan, etc., but what I was trying to demonstrate in this photo is that it's a little bit higher than knee-height. So you can just step over it. But no Brer Rabbits can get in. Or at least they haven't yet.
The beans look great in their mulch bed:

And here in this shot you can see that i actually did get some newspaper down beneath the mulch in the pea bed.

Here's a closeup of the newspaper peeking out. I just used one sheet, folded in half. Hope that's enough.

And the cucumbers are popping up too!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sprouting Pride

There is a certain feeling one gets when one sees all of the little seedlings sprout. A feeling of pride, and accomplishment. And after three years of trying this stuff, of . . . relief, honestly.
This is what I saw this weekend:

The peas are growing :) All around the jury-rigged pea trellis. You can notice very clearly that the two front rows are growing much more hardily than the two back rows. We will see if that changes.

These are the Top Marvels (I think i called them Modern Marvels before. They are Top Marvel peas.) They are looking great as of 5-2-10. They have come up in droves and are smiling at the world.

Back here on the back are the Sugar Snaps. These are the ones that never took last year. Now, granted, I was trying to grow them in May, June, July, and August - months that peas don't generally like (I now know.) However, in comparison to these Top Marvels, they aren't looking too happy, are they?

Take a look at the bean patch:

All the pretty looking sprouts raising their heads and poking out. Here's what they look like up close.

When they first come out, you can see the shape of the actual bean pod still as they unfurl.

But as they get larger and grow bigger, they grow a great big leaf, to aid in photosynthesis. Later they will flower, like last year, and develop bean pods. I read last week that I should plant a new set every two weeks to ensure a constant harvest. I'm glad to be reading these sorts of things. Because of my job I can't get all of the information I need all the time. I did not realize that I would need to be replanting lettuce and beans. I know this year. Zucchini, on the other hand, you apparently don't need to replant. It just overtakes your garden and produces enough for a neighborhood.

Speaking of zucchini:

I planted three seeds in this hole so will need to thin it out. There are two plants growing about 12 inches away that I will also need to thin out. I hope the zucchini does better than last year! With everyone complaining about how they have too much zucchini, I am going to feel like a total failure if I can't have an overabundance of zucchini. I can always bring it to church.

The cucumber seedlings look very similar to the zucchini:

Same shaped leaves.

Before I closed up shop for the day, I mulched the bean patch and the pea patch.

I protected all of the pea shoots first before putting a 2-inch layer down here (approximately.)

For the beans:

Same thing, basically. Actually I meant to put down newspaper first, but only accomplished this in the pea patch. I want to mulch the rest of the garden to keep down the weeds as well. Need more mulch!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Weeds weeds everywhere

Already this year a lot of time is being taken up weeding. But, as you can see, there is a lot of square footage in this garden.

There are many different types of weeds encountered here. I am not good at identifying them but I would love to know if anyone else can. I have noticed from year to year that the types of weeds change. Once I eradicate a certain type, another type becomes more prolific. This year, we have the following:

This grass. I wish it would grow in the actual yard. When i yank it up, i throw it over into the yard, hoping it will take root there. All i really have in the "yard" is crabgrass, patches of dirt, and weeds. But unfortunately not this particular one. Which i don't want in the garden.

There's this one, which looks like an herb, doesn't it? I wonder if this is a remnant of something the gardener before me planted, before I came onto the scene. The garden layed fallow and became a jungle for a couple of years in between the last gardener and me. But there is something fragrant and tasty-smelling when I weed, and I have always suspected this is it.

It grows up to look like this:

I mean, it sort of looks like something you would munch on, doesn't it? (I know the bunny thinks so.) It is hard to pull up, has a deep root system with thick, ropy roots along with thready shoots, that, if you don't pull up when it's young, turn into woody substances.

Then there's this one:

It looks like lily pads, sort of, and is an invasive vine. It's very easy to pull up. It has little purple flowers but the root system is not deep and it's thready.

This one is easy to pull up but pops up all over the place. Before I was familiar with it, I thought it was one of the plants I had planted, like a pea or something (last year.) Now I'm wise to it. Not sure what it actually is, though.

Then there is this:

This is a seed pod dropped all over the garden (ALL OVER IT) by some tree in the vicinity. It looks sort of like a feather, doesn't it. A beautiful piece of nature's handiwork. On the left hand side you have a lighter than air, papery substance made for the express purpose of taking flight. On the right hand side you have a seed encased in a pod. It lands in my garden, plants itself, aaaaand:

The pod begins to disintegrate. The seed germinates. And a little tree begins to grow.

And then I yank that sucker out.

But there is no way I can ever pick up all the pods laying all over the garden. Lordy.

Anyway, if you know what any of these weeds are, lemme know!

The Bunny is Back

It's hard to get a photo of him because he is so sneaky. But he doesn't scare easily. Or else his absolute stillness when I photograph him is a defense tactic. Instinct, if you will.

He's down there in the right corner, hiding from you. I put up the rest of the fencing this weekend in order to protect my newly sprouted plants from being, basically, his salad bowl.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cool weather running

It's been in the 50s and 60s here. for the most part. I know the peas are happy about that. There's another plant that flourishes in cooler/shady weather, and that is lettuce.

So I planted some, on April 25, 2010.

I planted three rows of it. The far right hand row has, uh, sorrel and arugula, i beeve (sorrel closest to the rear and arugula getting closer.) The middle row has regular leaf lettuce, and then spinach as you get closer. The far left row has all mesclun greens.

Here is what spinach seeds look like up close. They look like cilantro seeds. It's weird b/c in all the times I have eaten spinach, I have never come across these seeds.
Like with the peas, I threw caution to the wind and did not obey the spacing reccomendations. I just tossed them into the row all snuggled up next to one another getting cozy and crowded.

This is what mesclun green seeds look like:
Like a bunch of mish mash, mostly. Same thing on the spacing. It's nice to plant seeds. It makes you feel like Johnny Appleseed.

I had to put the fencing back up around the garden because of the little bunny. He's been back already. I will put up a photo to show you how we combat varmints around here. Maybelline of Bakersfield puts up shiny ribbons called "scare tape" to scare away birds. I think I will do that once I plant the tomatoes.

Grow lettuce, grow!

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm a little late, but I'm a little Lazy

I'm Ba-aack! And I'm not the only one. The little bunnies are back too, looking much bigger and huskier than last year. I don't know where they were hibernating for the winter but they must have chomped down on some serious root veggies beforehand. I'll try to catch them in action.

Yes I lost heart and kind of fizzled out at the end of last season. This has been mentioned to me. But I do have other time-consuming hobbies. Such as:

I've also taken up the country fiddle. Harder than it sounds, actually.

Ok well back to gardening. Don't want to bore anyone with overexplaining why I am not a fantastic fall - spring gardener. Such as Maybelline. I was shocked/jealous/impressed that when I went out back to finally clear my land for planting again, (admittedly a bit late), I checked out how things were going in Bakersfield and learned that her pea vines are already done and getting cleared out. This shed quite a bit of light on my problems last year with the peas. I mean, I know I don't have a lot of online fans, mostly this is just a journal that keeps records of planting times from year to year for myself. However, I'm embarassed that through all of my lamenting about the peas not growing last year, I never figured out that darn peas simply don't grow in the heat of the summer. They are really a cool weather crop.

I give a pass to my Florida relatives. Anything will grow anytime in that state. Lucky you guys.

Well, we will see this time around if I got them in early enough. I planted them this weekend, April 18, 2010.

First I prepped the garden. The dirt was in good shape but there were serious and invasive weeds that had taken root. I can't identify them like Skippy's Garden does so easily by sight. To me they are all weeds and annoying. I began by trying to rake them up with the hard rake after a good rain but that did not quite work. So I turned to a tool we found in the shed. I think it is a manual tiller. Here it is.

Now when I said "I" turned to this tool, I turned to this tool for approximately 3.5 minutes. Mister Siren took pity on me and put his biceps to work, tilling up the weeds in no time at all.
up the dirt and I plucked as many as I could out. We still needed more dirt. This garden has always flooded b/c it is low. With the help of a friend's pickup, we got a truckload of free dirt from nearby, but contrary to all of our assumptions, it was inadequate. We still need more dirt, and I am worried about drainage.

I should just make raised beds, sort of like demonstrated here,
but I am too cheap/poor . . . so give me another few years.

Now, the "trellis" I used last year was woefully inadequate. See here: It was just an old tomato cage and it did not work. However, that post was from June 2. So I'm impressed it was growing at all. Another thing this photo demonstrates is how goopy the soil in that corner of the garden got last year. I don't know if we have solved this problem with the extra dirt.

This year I made a better trellis, I hope. I read somewhere recently that because the peas have tiny little tendrils, they need something skinny to grab onto, so I wound string around the stakes. The "stakes" are just fence posts that are falling off of the cruddy old ancient fence around my property. We split them up and pounded them into the ground. Well, you can't beat free. We'll see how these things work before I start spending money on future crops.
I also read somewhere recently (Grow! Magazine, I believe) that you can sort of control weeds if you crowd the crops. This works for some crops but not for others. Potatoes and carrots and turnips, for example, will be ruined by crowding, b/c their roots will twist up. But other crhps will crowd out the weeds - bush beans, lettuce, etc. Taking this advice, I threw caution to the wind and ignored the spacing recommendations for the seeds and just planted a bunch in the trench I made. I'm hoping they take off like gangbusters.

Now, I planted two kinds. Sugar snaps (my favorite) and Modern Marvels. Sugar Snaps are supposed to grow 6-8 feet tall, the Marvels are supposed to be shorter. So we'll see which grows better here. I can always put up taller stakes.

I plan to mulch this year to also control weeds. I don't want to use last year's newspaper-mulch method. That was great as an experiment and everything, but I don't think I'll be repeating it. I want nice wonderful paths of mulch and as few weeds as possible. I think that mulch is the secret to that. Along with the truckload of dirt we got a truckload of mulch. It still is not enough. I don't think I'll put the mulch down until the seedlings start to come up. I don't want to make it too hard for them to come on out.

I see all of these perfect gardens with paved walkways and gravel walkways, etc. etc. I'd love to have one of those. I know the first step is to mark off the "areas" where the plants will be. But you know how frugal I am. Gravel and pavers cost money. I just grabbed some logs from the woodshed and used them.

You have the peas in the corner, then the bean patch, then the zucchini. Who am i kidding, that will never be enough room for zucchini. I will have to move them. Then to the right I planted five cucumber plants. I plan to put in lettuce/spinach/arugula/mesclun/sorrel patch to the far right, and then the area closest to us is reserved for the tomato and pepper plants when they get here. I'm ordering from Burpee's.

This is a closeup of the bean patch.

I think i might paint the logs white and maybe paint cute sayings on them. To make it more homey and less "some logs fell in my garden."

Okay, April 18, 2010. Let's grow!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pepper Sickness?

Mr. Stripey wasn't the only thing that suffered in the garden. I had some nice peppers finally develop out there as well. I didn't show you much of them. It took forever for them to grow, and I mean FOREVER. Maybe next year I will plant the bell pepper plants over by where I have that crazy jalapeno planted.

(POP QUIZ: how many different things can you put jalapenos in? Homemade salsa, tuna salad, tacos, chickpea salad, potato salad, tortilla soup, chicken enchilada casserole . . . and now I am drawing a blank. A little help here? comment section below.)

The peppers refused and refused to grow- i complained about it at length here, such as in this post entitled "My Little Peppers and How They Grow." The photos in that post were so cute and tiny as the bell peppers began their journey toward adulthood:

They quickly grew to a large size but hovered in their green state for weeks upon weeks

Now, one plant was an orange bell pepper plant, and therefore should have turned orange, and the other plant was a red bell pepper plant. So, I knew when they were ripe they would turn colors, then I could pick and eat them. Meanwhile, I was preoccupied with Mr. Stripey, the death of zucchini, the confounded beans which never really produced, and the sugar snap peas which sort of but never really gave me anything. (I did get about seven pea pods and we ate them in a yummy salad! I WISH i had gotten tons of those peas!)

But, finally, one day, color appeared:

This color appeared after a couple of days of rain, which suggests that perhaps the peppers needed a bit more water in order to really ripen and move the process along.

Unfortunately, after this, I didn't get a photo for a couple of days because I was out of town. When I came back in town, however, they were BRIGHT orange and red and ready to pick. They had slight abnormalities on their skins but no big deal, right?

So, I picked them and prepared to use them in dishes. First, I picked the red pepper. It wasn't totally red but as soon as I touched it, it fell off of the plant. It had a bit of brownish/green at the bottom. I left it on the counter, thinking it would finish ripening. It didn't. It turned mushy. That was a disappointment. Disappointment No. 1, as it turned out.

Disappointment No. 2, as it turned out, was this:

The "abnormalities" on the skin of the orange pepper, after it was left on my counter for a day or two, got worse and worse and worse, until it ended up looking like this! Now, what the hell is this all about? Should I have washed it with antibacterial soap as soon as I brought it in? Is this caused by bacteria or by insects or what? THey are just, spots that sort of sunk into the pepper itself. I really, really don't get it. I never used any pesticides or chemicals in the garden. I'm trying to eat fresh and get free food here, darnit!

I carved off the unusable portions, just like I did with the tomatoes, and got some usable parts diced up.

And . .. i ended up adding it to a chickpea salad, and it was fresh and tasty. The above shots are what the inside of the pepper looked like. I am just at a loss as to what is the deal with the produce from the garden. Something similar happened to the last zucchini we brought in, before the zucchini plants died. It had a little break in the skin, and we left it in the fruit basket, and two days later - the entire zucchini had sunken in on itself like it had a worm or something. Yuck.

I bring produce home from the supermarket all the time and leave it out on the counter . . . should I be putting my veggies in the fridge or something? Not the tomatoes, surely . . . but they are having problems too! Help! thanks.