Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Growing carrots in containers

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You see, I have tried to grow carrots in my garden plot but to no avail. Yes, I use generous amounts of Sluggo. Yes, I have tried copper tape. Yes, I have tried beer in shallow containers. Between the slugs and the snails, I get very nice germination but decimation afterwards. The slugs and snails take no prisoners. They leave no carrot behind.

My bright idea this year is to start the carrots in containers on my balcony. This should be fine even though I don't get much sun this time of year. Then I will take the carrots, container and all, and let it loose into the gastropod-infested environs of my garden. But the container will be covered with fine netting. My plan for now. We'll see who wins. So far, it feels like it's been Gastropods 100, me 0. This is life in a community garden.

How I sow the seeds: I fill the container with good organic potting soil. When the soil is moist and drains well, I sprinkle carrot seeds over the top. I dust the seeds with fresh potting soil, a very light cover.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ranunculus in bloom

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A walk around town reveals ranunculus in bloom after the rain. Not drought tolerant but oh so pretty. They have their own family. Family Ranunculaceae

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Potato flowering in winter

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Our winter, that is. We have fairly mild winters although it's way too cold for subtropicals like tomatoes, basil, and chili peppers.

Over the years, I have not had the greatest luck with growing potatoes. I would described it as meh.

But then I had always grown potatoes in our summers when it was warmer.

These took off over the last few months and finally flowered. Lesson learned. In the winter, here in southern California, you can grow potatoes.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Notes to self on mizuna


Here's where I make notes to self regarding future plantings: plant mizuna in October at the latest! I started the seeds on my windowsill in late November. It's January and are obviously nowhere near ready to be transferred to my garden. My seeds are not as viable so it will also be time to get new seeds.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

First toadflax bloom


What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fortune of the Republic, 1878~

It has been unnaturally colder than normal the last week, with the lows in the mid 30s, F, a lovely visit from the jet stream which normally doesn't traverse our way. I am not used to cold like this. Amazingly, I still have green plants in my garden, and these include fava beans, peas, chard, parsley, potato plants and cilantro.

Not surprisingly, weeds continue to do well despite our cold spell, and right now, the toadflax is just coming up. I keep toadflax around for the dainty Easter egg colored flowers. Family Plantaginaceace, species Linaria. They were originally in the Scrophulariaceae family, which was my first guess. I don't think they do well as a cut flower because they only seem to last a day in the vase, after which the tiny flowers fall off and form a mess both on the table and in the water. Still, I occassionally bring them home for the table, if only for a day.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Finally pulled out the sweet potatoes


With our colder weather now upon us, and I am talking 37 F at the coldest, the sweet potato vines have started to look awful. Finally time to pull out the vines.


I didn't get too many but will place these carefully in the dark, my closet, to cure for a few weeks. Maybe we'll have sweet potatoes for Valentines Day!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

California poppy sprouting


I have been like Johnny Appleseed these last few weeks and dispersed some of my California poppy seeds which I have collected. I don't know what subspecies these are but they are the yellow variants which grow in my garden. Family Papaveraceae, species Eschscholzia californica. These are drought-tolerant but they seem to need rain to kick them off to a good start, which we've had. It's also been chilly for us, which is around 40 F at the worst. It seems they like the colder weather for germinating.

I find poppy seedlings to be distinctive, with the two-pronged needle like cotyledons. You can see the more classic feathery look emerging. They seem to like disturbed soil. I also find they seem to pop up after a winter rain, classic fire ecology traits for living in the chapparal, our native flora.

Monday, January 7, 2013

January blooms around town


The green veggies in my garden such as chard, peas and fava beans are growing well but the peas and fava have yet to bloom. As I don't have any blooms in my garden, I thought I would trot out these I spotted on my daily walks around town. January is camellia time in Southern California. Although the camellia is far from drought tolerant, they can fill out the corner in partial shade gardens. They prefer acidic soil. Family Theaceae, same family that provides green tea.


Lavender early in the morning still has rain drops from the storm which blew through overnight. They are not in bloom yet. Lavendar is great for the drought tolerant garden. Even without blooms, the foliage is a treasure. I don't know what species these are but I'm sure these are not native. Family Lamiaceae.


Lantana seems to always be in bloom in Southern California. This should be a great book title. I believe lantana is drought tolerant and not native. They are somewhat sensitive to cold but do fine, generally. Family Verbenaceae.


These provide loads of color in the winter, our winter, that is. I used to know what these were called. I believe these non-native but drought tolerant. All I know is they are in the Lamiaceae family.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Time to pick the Meyer lemons


I confess to neglecting my poor Meyer lemon tree, and it is time to get around to finally harvesting this season's crop a bit late. I have a smaller crop than last year, and this may be for several reasons. The most obvious one is that I may need to repot the plant into a larger pot. We are not allowed to plant trees into the ground here in this community garden which is perfectly fine with me. Citrus requires a more acidic soil, and having the tree in a pot allows me to customize the soil.

But to be honest, perhaps the real reason why I have a smaller crop is that I have been less faithful in fertilizing it this last season. My usual schedule has been once a month, and this has fallen on the wayside the last half year.

I find it handy to have a Meyer lemon tree around. Although my lemons are on the smaller side, that's perfect for most recipes. I use Meyer lemons in my favorite Turkish rice recipe.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

For a new year


Do not dwell in the past

do not dream of the future

concentrate the mind on the present moment Buddha

Although I am not buddhist, I like the reminder. I don't do new year's resolutions because I believe we get to start over again every day, every moment. But this doesn't mean I think you should feel the same. Resolutions can be a nice way to start the year.

About the nasturtium above, I saw this vibrant fleur peeking out today at on the path, as if it was saying hello.

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