Garden in the Redwoods

Friday, April 11, 2008

Getting ready

Some shots of the boxes, mostly cleared and ready to be turned with organic chicken manure.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

2007 Recap

I figured that before I do my two blog posts for the 2008 garden that I ought to recap how the 2007 effort turned out.

Top level ---

Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins! We had pumpkins growing all over the place. I have never grown so many pumpkins, and the vines sprawled everywhere. The pumpkins did so well that we decided to have a pumpkin growing contest this year. BTW, C's pumpkins were the largest, but he grew his on the bottom level where they received the most mid-summer sun.

Chard and beets grew well, especially where the cat peed. I couldn't bring myself to eat those particular plants, although I suppose it's just nitrogen from the urea. But beets and chard do well on the top level. I'll probably not do the multi-colored beets this year. There were just too many beets... unless I come up with a better way to cook them than boiling and peeling.

Carrots did well, and we enjoyed them. The yellow carrots and fingerlings we planted were not as sweet as the varieties I've grown in the plast.

Lettuce... it pays to be lazy. I let the lettuce go to seed at the end of summer and was pleasantly gifted with early spring lettuce volunteers. I've got about 12 heads of butterhead, leafy and curly red out there waiting to be picked. I love Burpee's Tom Thumb Butterhead. Delicious!

Bush beans... did well on the top level. And gave a nice bumper crop. Slenderette, I think they were called.

Cucumbers... they need more sun. They were so wrapped up in old pea vines and the mystery squash I didn't even bother.

Mystery Squash... a squash seed that I thought was Delicata (something I saved from the store) but then it grew so big that I changed my mind and thought it was Spaghetti Squash. I could hardly get a knife through it, and when I did, it was kind of half spaghetti/half Delicata. Weird. I think I'll buy my seeds from now on. It made some nice decorative squashes, with the warts and all.

Snow peas... a lot of work for a quick harvest ... don't go away for the weekend or you might miss it. These need to be closer to the bottom level. C had some sugar snap peas that were a bush variety which didn't need staking. I think I'll try some of these instead.

Second level ---

Herb box... not much to say except that I discovered that it's easy to fry sage leaves and the whole family loves them. The sage plant was down to it's barest bones. It's coming back nicely though... just in time! Here's a shot of some pesky Four-O'Clocks where I stuck the roots in the herb box to see if they could be transplanted. I'm going to yanking up sprouts all OVER the place this year. I wonder if the deer eat these?

Bell peppers... lovely variety of colors (red, yellow and chocolate) and lots of fruit. I'll definitely plant again.

Garlic and shallots... The garlic was delicious for green garlic. I didn't pull the bulbs out and it's sprouting again now. I need to get out there. The red shallots never came up. This happened to me once before and I thought it was a fluke. What's up with that? Now I know, yellow shallots only.

Clarinette (Lebanese zucchini) and Baby Round Zucchini - this is my third or fourth year growing these. This year I was reluctant to thin them and let about 12 plants grow close together. We had a lot of squash getting away from us, which taxes the vines. It takes them a week or more to recover from a large squash. I think I'll thin this year.

Sunflowers - the Joker. Really pretty red and yellow flowers. The bees love them. I must plant more for the bees.

First level ---

Bean teepee in pots. It was a fun idea, and we got a few beans, but I couldn't keep the watering consistent because the drippers would plug up. Maybe not worth the effort this year.

The kids box: Noteworthy growers: C's Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins, the Peacevine Cherry tomato (prolific, sweet) from Love Apple Farm. Everything else grew well except for the watermelons... just not enough sun or heat here. I was reluctant to actually eat anything from the front of the box because of the Hardibacker dust. I had scooped the soil off, but was still a little wary. Not sure what to plant there this year, but it should be okay.

Tomatoes ... YUM

Yellow Brandywine: just a few fruits, not sure I'll plant again. The red brandywine has done better in the past.
La Carotina: just a few fruits, not sure I'll plant again. I think it was good.
Bloody Butcher: lots of fruit. Richer flavor than I remember.
Early Girl: reliable performer with lots of fruit. The skins seemed tougher this year. Wonder if it has to do with watering.
Azoychka: A small Russian yellow. Got pretty much nuthin' off the vine.
Green Grape: My lovely favorite. Sweet, nutty fruits. I'm forgiving if I don't get many because they are so good, but this season I was rewarded with lots of these yummy treats.
Ant Ruby's Green Cherry: prolific and a little too tart for my taste. I'll stick with the Green Grape.
Costeluto Florentino: A medium-sized ruffled Italian. Delicious and prolific. Rich... I ate a few too many of these and my teeth were sensitive for weeks.

Alabama Beans - did well again, although I wasn't on top of my game picking when they needed to be picked. I didn't get as much of a bumper crop as I would have liked. I planted these in the wet box this past season and I don't think they liked it. This box is closest to the pressure pump and always seems to be dripping all day long even though there are no more sprayers in it than any of the other boxes. I think the soil is a little heavier too. I either need plants that don't mind wet feet or I'll need to somehow change the watering.

Basil - it grows well enough that I can't keep up with it. When it flowers the bees are all over it and then I don't have the heart to pick back the flowers...or the nerve. Not that the leaves would taste as good anyway. But we got a few good pesto makes from it.

That about covers it for 2007.

BIGGEST WINNERS: Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins, Peacevine Cherry
BIGGEST LOSERS: Mystery squash, the red shallots that never came up.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Organic Broccoli Raab and other things....

I've often wondered why I never see organic broccoli raab in the stores. I just found out. Organic broccoli raab is full of little critters! I cut my first bunch and every floret had these sucking little aphids that were nearly impossible to wash off. Now I remember what happened the one time I planted broccoli.... same thing. But broccoli raab thinnings mixed with beet and chard thinnings make the best salad! It's almost worth it to plant it for the salad. Try it with a mixture of grapeseed oil, lemon juice and capers for the dressing.

Hardibacker Dust
My tile guy accidentally cut some Hardibacker board (a cement board commonly used as a replacement to the mortar used under shower and floor tile) right up against the garden fence and cement dust gently landed on top of the kids' garden box, the bean teepee and some of the tomatoes. What is in this stuff?? It seems that the ingredient most warned about is the crystalline silicate, which one does not want to breathe because it causes all kinds of nasty lung problems. But what happens if it gets in the soil? Does it just act like sand? What about any other 'added' ingredients? I washed the plants off and scooped off about an 1/8 inch of soil. Now I just hope for the best. I'll be washing the vegetables really well. I hope K doesn't mind if we don't eat a whole lot of her lettuce.

Can't Find Time to Thin
The garden is in full swing. Will have to get some pictures online. It's been difficult finding the time to do the thinning. I don't think the lettuce is too far gone yet. Yesterday I thinned half the carrots and another 4 foot section of lettuce. It's good stuff, a curly-leafed red... the Lolla Rossa.

Pinching Tomatoes
This weekend the parents of one of K's friends at the birthday party wanted to see my garden. They were very impressed (pat myself on the back). They also mentioned that I could pinch the second growth stems coming from the main stem of the tomato plants. I did a little pinching yesterday and will continue here and there to see what happens.

Lovely Sight
Yesterday while I was doing some thinning I noticed some Lesser Goldfinches doing something near one of my bell pepper plants. They were drinking the water droplets off the plant leaves. It was nice to see the birds enjoying a refreshing drink.

Naughty Cat
One of my cats pooped in the chard. I am NOT happy. I'll have to start sprinkling the red pepper again.

Invasion of the Four O'Clocks
Last year C planted Four O-Clocks (a flowering annual) in his garden box. Has anyone ever planted Four 0'Clocks before? They form a root deep in the ground, like a carrot, which is so full of life that unless you dig the whole thing out, it keeps coming back again and again. It's like Jason. It doesn't matter how deep the root is, either. And I took a couple of these mystery roots early on and transplanted them somewhere else to see what they were and it doesn't take much to keep them going. They are now prolifically growing the herb box. I just pulled two full-sized plants out of the basil. The Four O'Clocks are so prolific, that I wonder if they are poisonous. I will have to look it up. They also drop a billion seeds once they flower that will sprout all year long. It's very similar to letting the morning glories go (which is what has happened at the other end of the garden).

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

2007 Planting

I finished my planting yesterday, April 30th, except for the last few tomatoes, which are still too small to put out. I don't have my map drawn out yet, but when I do I will insert it here.

In the top three boxes I have snow peas, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, Delicata squash, bush beans, onions, lettuce, carrots, beets, chard and broccoli rabe.

In the second row of boxes I have summer squash, garlic, peppers, and shallots.

In the bottom row I have the kids' box, a green bean teepee, tomatoes, Alabama green beans and basil.

I've planted about a week or two earlier this year. The winter has been incredibly dry and mild. The boxes dried out and the dirt cracked. My young neighbor came over and turned 3 cubic feet of organic chicken manure into each box for me. The soil levels were still too low, so I added another 4 cubic feet of organic compost/soil mix to each box and turned it in myself.

Many of the seeds I picked out this year are the same as last year, either because I liked the vegetable or the picture on the packet was just so pretty!

The Seed List
Botanical Interests "Beet, Early Wonder"
Renee's Garden "Jewel-Toned Beets, Red, Gold & Candystripe"
Renee's Garden "Gourmet Ruby Chard, Scarlet Charlotte"
Garlic "ala supermarket"
Elephant Garlic "ala supermarket"
Red Shallots "ala supermarket" (bigger than last year's yellow shallots)
Botanical Interests "Broccoli Raab"
Botanical Interests "Carrot Baby, Little Finger"
Renee's Garden "Yellow and Orange Carrots, Sunshine Mix"
Burpee's Heirlooms "Lettuce, Tom Thumb Butterhead" - YUM!
Botanical Interests "Lettuce Butterhead, Speckles"
Botanical Interests "Lettuce Leaf, Lolla Rossa"
Burpee "Spinach, Avon Hybrid" - supposedly slow to bolt
Burpee's Heirlooms "Pea, Mammoth Melting Sugar"
Botanical Interests "Pea Snap, Cascadia"
Renee's Garden "Specialty Sunflowers, The Joker"
Renee's Garden "English Cucumber, Chelsea Prize"
Renee's Garden "Bush Beans, Classic Slenderette"
Grandpa Norman's (from George Royce) Alabama Pole Beans
Botanical Interests "Squash summer, Baby Round Zucchini"
Botanical Interests "Squash summer, Clarinette Lebanese"

Kids Box - C
Renee's Garden "Giant Sunflowers, Sunzilla" (10-14 feet tall!)
Botanical Interests "Pumpkin, Jack-O-Lantern"
Botanical Interests "Pea Snow, Oregon Sugar Pod II"
Botanical Interests "Spinach, Bloomsdale"
Botanical Interests "Carrot Baby, Little Finger"
Burpee "Zinnia, Thumbelina Mix"

Kids Box - K
Botanical Interests "Zinnia, California Giants"
Renee's Garden "Jewel-Toned Beets, Red Gold & Candystripe"
Botanical Interests "Carrot, Royal Chantenay"
Botanical Interests "Lettuce Butterhead, Buttercrunch"
Renee's Garden "Icebox Watermelons, Rainbow Sherbet"
Botanical Interests "California Poppy, Mission Bells"

I will create a new post to review last year's seeds, but here are the
big winners and losers:

Burpee's Heirlooms "Lettuce, Tom Thumb Butterhead" - compact little heads of the most delicate wonderful butter lettuce. Relatively bug free too.

Burpee "Cucumber, Sweet Burpless Hybrid" - prolific, easy to digest. I don't know why I didn't plant them this year. Maybe I'll stick a few in the ground somewhere.

Burpee "Oriental Vegetable, Pea Snowbird" - C always picks out the best peas, and he has a magic touch with them.

Renee's Garden "Specialty Salads, Gala Mache" - if you like eating grass, go for it.

Seeds of Change "Perfection Fennel" - I just don't have enough sun to do fennel right.

Renee's Garden "Long-standing Spinach, Summer Perfection" - summer what? it never came up!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Garden Update, August 2006

It's been a couple of months since I posted, and I haven't ignored the garden since June, I just haven't had time to write about it.

Yesterday was our first day back from a weekend trip backpacking. It seems that as soon as I step off the property the squash grow like gangbusters and I come home to some giant seedy bombs. And the plants give so much energy producing these bombs that it takes them a few weeks to recover and start producing more fruit again. We ate squash last night and it was delicious.

We ate a few tomatoes too. The Green Grape has been producing decently (by my standards) and some of the fruit are ripening. They are SO good! I picked a few Early Girl fruits, a Rosie Romanian and tossed a Russian torpedo with blossom end-rot. The Rosie Romanian tasted very sweet, almost no difference from the Early Girl.

This is the place to grow cucumbers. They have been growing all over the place and produce many many fruits. Thankfully these are the burpless kind and I can eat them without having tummy troubles later in the night. They are wonderful!

My box of salad greens has grown 3 feet high with overgrown flowering arugula. I need to pull it out and try planting some more, but I can't safely do it during the day because the bees love it so much. I tasted the mache and didn't really care for it. It tastes too much like grass. Spinach was a disaster again. I thought I would put it in a shadier spot so it would not bolt so quickly. Wrong! Spinach does well when it gets a lot of sun early on. I got a bad show of seedlings, and then the seedlings that did come up, bolted almost immediately. Sigh.

The beets and carrots have been good and sweet. I tend not to eat as many of these as I should because they keep longer in the ground than some of the other perishable vegetables.

When we came back from our July camping trip we were overwhelmed with green beans. I picked as many as I could and we were a little tired of eating them and actually threw a spoiled bag away. (Shame on me.) My grandfather used to blanche them and keep them in the freezer. I'll have to do that next year. At any rate, the pole beans haven't started losing many of their leaves yet and it looks like they may be forming a decent bumper crop. I'm looking forward to that.

The kids box has some weird kind of weed growing in it that looks like orange hair. It has been twining around everything and choking out some of the plants. I yanked a bunch of it out because it just didn't look like a good thing and thankfully what I pulled died with some of the plants I removed too. After looking at it more carefully I think it's some sort of parasite (is that the right word?) that twines around the plants and probably gets it nourishment from them through the stems. It's still growing in the garden box but not as wildly. I think I've seen it on the roadside before. Weird and scary.

That's all for now. I will post pictures when I get a chance. I took some last month when the garden was at it's peak. August and September are the harvest months, but the garden always starts looking shabby too.

Monday, June 12, 2006


I was quite surprised to find this little baby coming right out of the retaining wall. I believe this is an Aunt Ruby's Green Cherry, since last year's vine was prolific with fruit and sprawling all over the place. It will be interesting to see what happens with this little vine.

My question for you gardeners out there is this: if this vine bears fruit, what should I do?

a) eat it? I'm reluctant because the vine is growing right next to pressure-treated lumber (which contains arsenic, right?).

b) cut a slip and try to root it and plant it elsewhere in the garden? Is this possible? Will it be safe to eat?

c) save the seeds from the fruit and plant for next year? This should be safe, right?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

My Thinning Companion

This is Butch. He keeps me company in the garden when the kids are not out with me. Today he helped me thin the carrots and beets.

June 1st Update

The tomato babies have all survived and seem to be doing well. They have been in the ground exactly two weeks now.

Black Krim.

Rosie Romanian.

Purple Russian. The leaves on this one are very thin and finely detailed. I wonder how this one is going to survive the season.

Lemon Head.

Costoluto Genovese.

Cerise Red Cherry.

And the rest. From left to right, Hess, Early Girl, Green Grape and Celebrity.

Check out the new tomato cages! I finally built some of my own after struggling for years with those wimpy wire ones from the nurseries. This weekend Kevin and I unrolled the roll of deer fencing wire left over from building the fortress around the garden. I snipped off the bottom 2 1/2 feet and ended up with a 5' high cage with some tines to poke into the ground for anchoring. They are sitting right on the dirt now. I still may need to anchor these to the boxes. I think I can do it later with some u-shaped nails if they get too tippy. I am very excited about these cages! And the fencing appears to be galvanized so there is no rusting. (Although I happen to like the rusted appearance too. It's so rustic.)

And now for a few more row shots of how things are growing....

Top row. The beets and chard in the front are looking a little ragged. A redwood hangs over this corner of the garden and was dripping rain on the seedlings last week, which tears them up a bit. And then they don't get as much sun up here either. But they'll do fine. With less sun the beets don't grow as large so they're really good. The salad greens are in the last two boxes.

Middle row. The front box has everything but the kitchen sink (peas, sunflowers, two bell peppers, cukes, fennel and bush beans). The second box is pole beans and basil. The last tiny box (barely visible) is herbs.

And here's a shot of the kids' box. The pumpkins are starting to really grow!