Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy holidays!


Merry solstice and happy holidays! Our holiday cookies are already quite dwindling. Guess I need to make some more.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Rain and hollyhock


Taken this summer. It is fitting it is raining this weekend.

It is such a mysterious place, the land of tears.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "The Little Prince"

Friday, December 14, 2012

CA poppy leaves in the rain


I love how the rain drops decorate the poppy leaves. The CA poppies in my garden are perennials and these are embedded in the shadiest part of my garden. Even when there are no blooms, I find the fronds provide another type of beauty. Better still, they are essentially drought tolerant and do not need extra watering.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fava beans for the winter garden


I have been told fava beans are good for the soil. So I grow fava beans every winter. These are planted where the Sungold stood as I like to rotate crops with different families (Sungold is Solanaceae; Fava is Fabaceae).

The seeds came from last year's fava beans. And last year's fava beans were from the previous years. Somewhere along the way, someone gave me a pod of beans which were planted. I soak the beans overnight before planting. As they grow somewhat tall, I always provided some support for them.

The roots of the fava bean apparently fix nitrogen, thus, benefitting the soil.

Fava beans are commonly planted to improve soil. Like all legumes, they have nodules on the roots, containing rhizobium bacteria, which “fix” airborne nitrogen, allowing it to replenish usable nitrogen in the soil. In addition, the sturdy plant deters erosion, and protects topsoil from wind and impaction by rain. After harvesting the beans (or without harvesting if you are using the plant simply as a cover crop), the bushy foliage chops up well as green biomass for the compost pile. The large, fragrant blossoms attract pollinators. Fava beans are an integral part of my rotation and fertilization plan throughout my kitchen garden beds and half-barrel containers. I dedicate a portion of my crop for kitchen use, another portion for compost biomass, and yet another to grow out as seed for next year’s planting.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Peas at last


I believe peas are essential for my winter garden. I sowed the seeds about three times before achieving successful peas. I'm not sure what is the deal but I suspect part of is due to the gourmet tastes of the local birds, who are rather fond of pea sprouts for lunch.

In the background, you'll see some strands of garlic which have recently emerged.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Chard grows well in our cooler months


To each its own season. The mainstay of my winter garden is chard, and it thrives in the cooler months. Not only that, in the winter, I don't worry about them bolting, a bad habit, which they will do in the summer. This plant was grown from seed on my balcony in late summer and transplanted.

Chard is underrated as a veggie. Lately, I chop chard leaves into little bits and throw them into warm soup at the last few minutes of cooking. In the summer, I saute minced garlic in extra virgin olive oil for a few moments until fragrant and then add chopped chard leaves until they wilt.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sweet potatoes still growing strong


The sweet potatoes planted this summer don't seem to be ready for harvesting. I understand they should be harvested when the leaves turn yellow. They missed Thanksgiving. I think they will miss this year's holiday season altogether. I'm thinking it might before next summer!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Asparagus in the rain


In the rain, the asparagus fronds gather raindrops, and these remind me of miniature holiday lights, perhaps fit for fairies. I am waiting for the leaves to turn yellow, at which point I will cut the stems back to the ground. Later I will add fertilizer to help fuel next season's growth. I don't know about your asparagus, but with mine, the weeds seem to grow perniciously in between the stems and are quite difficult to access, and, yes, I'm talking about you.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Parsley, Oregano, Cilantro and Thyme

thanksgiving herbs I gathered a bouquet of fresh herbs from my garden for Thanksgiving. To keep them fresh, I place them in a glass of water in the fridge. I grew the parsley, cilantro and thyme from seed.

Sage grows on the balcony. sage

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

2012 Tomato Post-morten

Pineapple Tomato


Momotaro Tomato

The tomato plants have been pulled up and composted, to come back next year as soil.

To recap, this year, in my limited space, I grew several Black Krim, several Momotaro, several Pineapple and two Sungold cherry tomato, one in the garden and one on the balcony.

Overall, it was a very good tomato year in that we did not get the usual coastal fog in the summer, not a even a hint. This means, tomatoes, plant and fruits, were happy.

The SunGold on the balcony was a bust, however. It only gets a few hours of sun every day, at the most four hours a day, not enough to produce a health plant. I did get some cherry tomatoes but not enough to warrant the space, as I had it in a 15 gallon pot. I'm not doing this again for 2013.

For next year, I would have fewer Pineapple, perhaps just one plant rather than three. They produce very large fruits that are 'okay' in flavor and not great. I would prefer to use my limited space for another beefsteak, maybe a Sudduth's Brandywine, if the weather holds true to 2012. Also on my wishlist would be a Paul Robeson. So I would keep one plant but add a Sudduth's Brandywine and a Paul Robeson for next year.

The Black Krim were fantastic. They started early and ended late. It stays for next year. The SunGold is always a monster overachiever. It stays for next year. Momotaro is a faithful heavy producer of gorgeous sweet tomatoes. This also is a 'go' for next year. The only negative, and this goes for the SunGold as well, is that it is a hybrid. That means, I don't save seeds as the next generation is unstable.

I'll start seeds in February and March 2013.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Green bean saga continues


Hot and muggy here, one block by the beach, even in the morning. No fog, no clouds, just beautiful blue sky. With regards to my green bean sprouting a few days ago, alas, it was chomped by one of the hordes of snails and slugs presiding in my garden. Yes, I use Sluggo, but being part of a larger community garden, there is little to stop the neighboring snails and slugs from dropping by my place for a quick snack.

Hence, I plant more bean seeds. Here is the next wave. We'll see how they fare in a few days.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Gray skies in the morning

gray skies

For those who think we have a good life here one block from the beach, our usual morning weather in the summer looks something like this. Or worse. That would be the fog. However, this year, we have had more than our fair share of days without gloom and fog. I attribute this to why my non-cold tolerant tomatoes, that is the Pineapple Tomato, did do better than usual this year. We generally get clearing later in the day.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The good, the bad and the ugly: my potatoes

I simply do not have a showcase garden. My veggie garden can look quite ragged at times especially when the tomato plants begin to senesce about midway through their cycle. I find tomato plants age quickly and basically look just terrible by the time they are giving up the last tomato.

However, by far the worst offenders are the potatoes. I grow them in containers in my garden, and they start out fine early on.

Towards the end, they look like this.


Not pretty, are they. Even worse, I like to keep them in the containers for a bit longer so that they can mature a bit. Sorry, neighbors. But freshly harvested potatoes for dinner is a rare treat and well worth the ugly.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Emerging green bean

This I planted late in the season so we'll call this an experiment. The soil I prepared well with worm castings from my worm bin and a bit of my favorite organic fertilizer. The seeds, saved from last year's crop, were soaked overnight in water and then tucked into the ground about an inch deep. I was happy to see the seedlings emerge a week later. I covered these seedlings with something that I got from the discount store, I think they were a buck a piece. They work well against the birds but not so well against the bazillion slugs and snails. Yes, the hungry hordes still inhabit my garden despite the Sluggo that I now use. How tenuous is the life of seedlings here in my garden plot. We'll see whether these guys are still around tomorrow.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Foraging in my garden for lunch

Sometimes, it is just wild arugula and purslane, along with the tomatoes. Oh, yes, and I add mozzarella cheese, all mixed with extra virgin olive oil and a bit of balsamic. This is enough for a small happy lunch.


Friday, July 27, 2012

An abundance of Sungold cherry tomatoes

Some days, there is simply an abundance of Sungold cherry tomatoes. This was one of those days. Half were given to the local Boys and Girls club where they were made into tomato caprese skewers. The other half stayed with me, the tomatoes which split. They were cut in half, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, and slow-roasted in the oven for several hours. 200 F.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

First eggplant

I spied my first eggplant, it's calyx and stalk accompanied with some gnarly spikes. Even thought it is in the same family as the tomato and potato, Solanaceae, the eggplant appears to have figured out it needed extra protection.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Foraging in my garden for purslane

Purslane grows wild in my garden. I don't know how it first found my garden plot but now it shows up every summer, growing in between my planted veggies as a self-determined companion plant. It seems to do well without much water. A perfect visitor.


I am now a big purslane fan and find it amusing I can now forage in my own plot. It comes from the family Portulacaceae, Genus Portulaca, species oleracea. In my garden, it is self-seeding and appears around July.

Of note, purslane contains more omega-3 than any other leafy veggie, thus cementing its status as the most perfect visitor. Wikipedia on purslane:

Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid in particular[4]) than any other leafy vegetable plant. Research published by Simopoulos states that Purslane has 0.01 mg/g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). This is an extraordinary amount of EPA for a land-based vegetable source. EPA is an Omega-3 fatty acid found mostly in fish, some algae, and flax seeds.[5] It also contains vitamins (mainly vitamin A, vitamin C, and some vitamin B and carotenoids), as well as dietary minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron. Also present are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, the reddish betacyanins (visible in the coloration of the stems) and the yellow betaxanthins (noticeable in the flowers and in the slight yellowish cast of the leaves). Both of these pigment types are potent antioxidants and have been found to have antimutagenic properties in laboratory studies.[6] 100 Grams of fresh purslane leaves (about 1 cup) contain 300 to 400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid.[7] One cup of cooked leaves contains 90 mg of calcium, 561 mg of potassium, and more than 2,000 IUs of vitamin A.
The article also notes when collected early in the morning, it can be tangier due to something called CAM, which is an alternate type of metabolism that purslane turns to in arid conditions.

I am still trying to figure out recipes so if you have a favorite, please leave it in my comments. I eat it raw in yogurt but my favorite way, so far, is to saute it with lots of garlic and extra virgin olive oil and have it taco style or with rice.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Eggplant flower

I have forgotten what type of eggplant this is but I loved how this flower seems to light up in the morning. Very similar to the tomato and eggplant flower, which makes perfect sense, as they are all in the same family, Solanaceae. I am not sure if this is late in the season to transplant this but I will give it a go. At least it is flowering. We are enjoying unseasonably warm weather. Normally we are socked in with all-day coastal fog in the middle of summer where we are, one block from the beach.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Potato plant flowering

I came upon the potato flowers early in the morning, lit up by the sun rising. I really don't know what the ant is doing on it but I have ants all over my plot so this is par for the course.

Lately, I plant potatoes in containers. This plant is now flowering, which does not always happen, and I don't know why. In the past, I have used 15 gallon containers for potatoes, and it is quite the mystery to me why I have not had good luck with that size. Since downgrading to a smaller size container, I have found the plants to be much happier. They grow tall and overflow the container.

This flower reminds me of its relation to tomatoes and eggplants as they are all in the same family, Solanaceae.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sungold ripening one block from the beach

I have good news and bad news about Sungold cherry tomato. The good news about Sungold is that the Sungold is a major overachiever. They produce large clusters of tomatoes, and this they continue from the beginning of summer to the end. Sungold does well here, one block from the beach. And the bad news about Sungold is simply that I can not save their seed since it is a hybrid.


Friday, July 20, 2012

the summertime boysenberry growth

We are in the middle of gorgeous weather with blue skies and moderate humidity. We just had the remnant of a tropical storm pass through a few days prior. It dropped enough rain to dirty the cars but we still have a bit of humidity in the air. This morning, when I got to my plot, I noticed how the boysenberry bush is working overtime, putting out canes for next year, resulting in this piling of the green. These canes will be the ones to bear fruit next year. In the meantime, one of the tasks on my list is to hunt down this year's canes, which bore this year's fruits, and to cut them back. Good luck, as they are buried somewhere underneath the newer branches.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

tomato conversation

Last year, I had a tomato elf and a Jimmy Durante tomato. This year, no elves but I do have these guys. What do you think they are saying?


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

first pineapple tomato ripens one block from the beach

My first Pineapple tomato begins to ripen, one block from the beach. I harvested it today because it hovers too close to the ground for my comfort. And now that it is almost perfectly ripe, I did not want it snagged by the opposum (yes, you!) who visits our garden plots at night. I'm thrilled with the progress of this tomato because it simply does not do well in our cool coastal climate. After three years, this tomato is the first I have grown. It seems Pineapple develops later than the others I am growing, and there are definitely fewer tomatoes per plant.


At home, it continues to darken with orange tints. The seeds will be carefully saved for next year.

Pineapple Tomato

Monday, July 16, 2012

it's alive!

I was generously gifted with a pair of precious coastal concord grape cuttings by two dear fellow community gardeners a few months ago. Their much admired coastal concord grapes grow extremely well here one block from the beach, resulting in many pounds of grapes for them each year.

I stuck the cuttings in the ground with the very best of intentions. The leaves eventually fell off, and for several months, I carefully watered a pair of sticks faithfully. I wondered if I would have to go off to a garden center in search of coastal concord grape cuttings for next year. I wondered if I would own up to admitting the cuttings dropped all their leaves, and the leaves never grew back. Today, I saw there are leaves and buds bursting off the end of one stick. Glory be. I gratefully postpone that trip to the garden center.


tomatoes one block from the beach

Selected tomatoes from my harvest today. This Momotaro looks simply gorgeous. This year, I have only planted four varieties: Black Krim, Momotaro, Sungold, and Pineapple. I planted seeds the end of January this season. I nurtured them inside on a east facing window and then later I acclimated them on my balcony throughout our colder months.


Momotaro, a hybrid, and Black Krim, a Russian heirloom, do well here one block from the beach. However, Black Krim has peaked. I only have a few left while Momotaro is probably close to its peak. Looking below, the center one is Black Krim. Notes to me for next year: plant more Black Krim. I crave Black Krim's smoky and slight salty taste. These I can eat as is, like an apple. They are best, in my opinion, sliced, drizzled with a good extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with a good salt.


The Pineapple Tomato comes from a tomato I bought at the local Farmers' Market a few years ago. I saved the seeds. The last two years, they did not do well at all. They are not well-adapted to growing next to the beach. This year, we have had sunnier and warmer days. This will be the first year I have tomatoes.This one is just beginning to show its true color, which is yellow with orange mottling throughout.


The Sungold is a hybrid. I have only one plant, as it tends to be an overachiever.



Saturday, July 14, 2012

matilija poppies and coastal sequoia

We are lucky the Santa Monica Mountains edge Los Angeles, and there are easy ways to get a quick hike in nature without driving far. On the weekends, however, it can be like Disneyland at times in terms of crowds on the easier hiking trails.

It was foggy and overcast in the morning, a perfect day for a hike, in my opinion. But the clouds melted away very early, leaving blue sky. Either way, foggy or blue, both are good excuses for a hike. Today, I find the Matilija poppies are still in bloom and as photographic as ever. I puzzled over the water drops. Are they dew drops? We haven't had rain in the last 24 hours.



The coastal sequoia planted near the hiking trail show new growth as light green against a dark background. Unfortunately, these shots do not do justice to spurt of new growth on the tips of the branches.



I purposefully did not take photos of the kazillion hikers on the trail, thus leaving the illusion of being out communing with solitary nature.

Friday, July 13, 2012

after a light summer rain

While I don't love how my car looks after a light rain, it does wonders for my garden.

I love how the hollyhocks pick up the light on a cloudy day. Yes, I know it's due to the UV rays which cause the pigments to flouresce but who cares about the technical reasons. Family Malvaceae, Genus Alcea

hollyhock after the rain

hollyhock after a rain

I did not have the heart to pull this weed out. I don't know what it except it is likely a Mallow in the family Malvaceae.

mallow after the rain

Likewise, the squash flowers luminesce as well. To be honest, these were volunteers. I understand that this is risky as seeds do not run true. I believe these are likely to be Japanese squash, kabocha.

kabocha flower

So unusual to get rain in the summer in southern California.

hollyhock after the rain

Thursday, July 12, 2012

local hike in the santa monica mountains

There be flowers blooming though these are native plants placed by either the state park or the local conservancy along the hiking trail. I love how the setting sun highlights these Matilija poppies. Family: Papaveraceae, Genus: Romneya. These perennial tree poppies are good for drought tolerant plantings. I was told these can be difficult to start but once they take, they grow like mad. My neighbors call them the eggs sunny side up flower.

matilija poppies

matilija poppy

These cute furry tips are likely to be the seed pod.

matilija poppy seed pod

These flannelbush plants, now flowering, were also planted by the state park or local conservancy. Family: Malvaceae, Genus: Fremontodentron. Needless to say, these native plants are also great for water conserving gardens.

flannelbush flower

Amazingly enough, there is still running water, albeit algae-ridden, at the top of the hiking trail. It is still shady and green along parts of this hike.

waterfall at Temescal

Saturday, July 7, 2012

my potatoes in pots

I am finding better luck growing potatoes in 5-10 gallon size pots. These are smaller than the 15 gallon pots I had been using with mostly poor results. It may be that we are too cold and foggy, here by the beach.

I add a layer of good organic potting soil in the bottom of the pot then add the potatoes. These are Yukon gold. I moundup as they grow taller. I harvest after the plants die. I like to wait as long as possible though I worry I may get cited for unsightliness.

Funny, with veggie gardening, the esthetics take last place at times.

Here, you'll see the blackberry vines forming a wall behind the potatoes. In the foreground, there is a solitary hollyhock, which I allow to grow wild in my plot. Potato plants in pots

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My late summer tomatoes: pineapple

Several years ago, I spied a gorgeous yellow mottled with orange beefsteak tomato at the local farmer's market. It's name was Pineapple, and, naturally, after buying it, I saved its seeds. It turned out, quite frankly, to NOT be a cool weather tolerant type which meant it would be a challenge to grow here in my garden one block from the beach. In the last two years, they did not well. They grew tall, gangly and spindly, bearing few fruits which never ripened, with the leaves spotted with mildew.

I wanted to keep trying. This year, I started seeds in February rather than March. I planted the seedlings in the sunniest warmest corner of my garden.

And there be fruits! I noted these don't yield as much as my hybrids and they aren't as far along as the others. But I'll have late summer tomatoes this year barring a catastrophe. The seeds will be saved again for future years.


Pineapple, Still green

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