Monday, August 31, 2009

My To-Do List . . .

I'm not sure what I will be doing in the garden this week--I have "several irons in the fire" and seem not to be getting into the garden except for watering! Below is a list of the vegetables that can be seeded into the garden now, and yard work that can be done:

--sugar-snap peas
--onion sets

--It's a good time to clean out roof gutters, before the rains start.

--Another project would be to turn on your sprinklers and check to see if there are any repairs that are needed--broken or clogged sprinkler heads may need fixing.

--If you plan to renovate your lawn on a weekend this fall, now would be a good time to call the rental yard and reserve a dethatcher and aerator.

--If you are not renovating your lawn, then you can feed it with a complete, slow-release fertilizer (be sure to read the label for cautions--we don't want any sick children or pets).


Garlic cloves and onion sets (tiny onions) are easy to plant. They both are planted 2" deep and covered with soil. Both are light feeders (they don't demand a lot of nutrients from the soil) and are planted on 6" centers (6" between plants each way); or they can be inter-planted with other vegetables as they have a strong odor and are a pest deterrent. Planting garlic cloves and onion sets is really fast and easy!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Some Thoughts on Weeds

"Crabgrass can grow on bowling balls in airless rooms, and there is no known way to kill it that does not involve nuclear weapons."
--Dave Barry

"But make no mistake: weeds will win: nature bats last."
--Robert M. Pyle

"The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over never weeded a garden." --Ray D. Everson

"Weeds Never Die."
--Danish Proverb

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Planting Garden Seeds

I recently found the Herb'N Gardens website--it is very interesting. They use the Square Foot gardening system and sell kits to make the garden boxes; they also sell seed mats (see picture). Seed mats have the right amount of seeds within the paper, with the exact right spacing for each vegetable or herb.
These seed mats would be very handy and quick to plant! The spacing is perfect and no thinning! You just cover the mat with soil and keep it moist until the seeds sprout.
As you can see by this picture, the plants grow very orderly. Of course, there is a cost attached to these garden mats. So, I was thinking--we could make our own!

Cut out a 12" x 12" square of black and white newspaper (not the slick color ads), mark the spacing of the seeds that you want to plant, make some wheat paste (flour and a little water to make a paste), dot the paper with small bits of wheat paste, and then put two or three seeds on the paste. Allow this to dry and then plant out! This way you can have exactly which variety of plants that you want, instead of choosing from what is offered. This method of planting seeds is particularly good when using small seeds like carrots, lettuce, radishes, spinach, etc., where we can easily dump (accidentally!) too many seeds into a planting hole. Or, when children are helping us plant veggies and their little fingers aren't quite so nimble.

Once we have the planting sheets, just lay them out in the garden and cover with the amount of soil each type of seed needs (see the back of the seed envelope). Keep moist until the seeds sprout. If more than one-seed-per-hole sprouts, use small scissors to clip the extras--so you don't disturb the remaining seedling's root.

I suggested using newspaper because it breaks down quickly, and enriches the soil! Toilet paper or facial tissue could be used as they break down quickly, too, but their size is not compatible with a 12" square. Cutting the newspaper into the right-size squares seemed the easiest way to do this.

[All pictures from Herb'N Garden]

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tea Leaves vs. Maggots

I thought this garden tip was a good one, and we can use it now in the valley as we plant radishes and turnips. I suppose it would work on carrots, too!

"I've been using this simple remedy for a long time, and it seems to rid my radishes and turnips of maggots.

I rip open used tea bags and place the spent leaves in a shallow container until they're dry. (I've found placing the container on the top of the refrigerator dries out the leaves quickly.) I store the leaves in a sealed container until ready to use.

In the spring, I sprinkle a layer of dried leaves in the turnip and radish rows after planting seeds. I've had 95% success with this method."--Clair Reffner

[From: National Gardening Magazine, June 1990, pg. 52]

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Garden Checklist

I found more of those Redhumpted caterpillars on my plum tree, but they are gone now! Soapy water works wonders!

From The Fresno Bee, August 27, 2009 (edited):
Extend Summer Blooming--Elinor Teague

"Don't be in a hurry to pull out heat-damaged summer-blooming annuals and vegetables and to set out cool-season transplants. Temperatures are still too hot in late August and early September to plant much of anything (with the exception of pole and bush beans)."

You can revive plants by regularly fertilizing, deadheading spent flowers and, pruning off damaged leaves, and you may get another six weeks of flowering. Flower production will naturally slow down in July and August because of the heat; and stressed plants may have insect problems. Mid-October is a better time to replace summer annuals with spring-bloomers.

Some chemical insecticides will vaporize when temperatures are higher than 90', so do not spray in the heat of the day. If you must spray stressed plants, do so very lightly. Cut back insect damage, such as petunia and geranium budworms, or mites in impatiens, before spraying.

Fertilize damaged or stressed plants with half the usual amount of 5-10-10 fertilizer; healthy plants are OK with the normal amount. Feed annuals every two weeks until they are replaced with spring-blooming pansies and snapdragons.

Roses are to be deadheaded; and fed now and again in late September.

Peppers and eggplants love the heat and need once-a-month feeding to continue to produce into October. Tomatoes won't set flowers with temperatures above 95', but will start setting flowers as we cool into fall. Most likely tomatoes won't have a long enough season to ripen, but you never know--give them a last feeding "just in case we have a warmer-than-usual fall."


Garden Checklist--

Take a stroll through your garden with a morning cup of coffee or tea

Tasks: Renovate cool-season lawns--remove thatch and aerate
Pruning: While cutting and deadheading roses, prune lightly to shape bushes and encourage fall bloom
Fertilizing: Apply a complete fertilizer to cool-season lawns at the rate of 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn
Things to ponder: If you do not use your lawn, consider replacing it with a drought-tolerant planting area or vegetable garden

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bad Bugs

I found these caterpillars on one of my fruit trees this morning. I scooped them into a small jar so that I could identify them. They are called Redhumped Caterpillars (Schizura concinna). They attack deciduous fruit trees, especially plums, prunes, and walnuts. And, it was my plum tree that they attacked. You can see what type of damage they did, which is typical of these pests. Usually, they go after a single branch near the top of the tree and defoliate it. Young trees can be seriously damaged, but mature trees can tolerate substantial leaf loss without a problem.

The easiest way to get rid of these caterpillars is to just clip off the leaves they are feeding on and drop them into soapy water. There are many natural enemies of these caterpillars, including parasitic wasps. The wasps lay an egg in the caterpillar, where it hatches and feeds on the caterpillar's insides. My thinking is that by the time the wasp larvae kills the caterpillar, the tree's damage is already done. So, I just got rid of them the easy way--into the soapy water they went!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Peas! Peas! Peas!

It's pea-planting time! There are different types of peas, something for everyone!

When my boys were very young they would go out into the garden and graze. They both loved peas right off of the plant, raw and crunchy--one son would even eat the tough, stringy pods, too. All through their teens they would eat raw or frozen peas, never cooked. Today they are in their 30's and I think they tolerate cooked peas, although fresh is best!

Peas are a legume, which means they fix nitrogen in the soil in a way that it benefits other plants. Because of this process peas are considered a "heavy giver". There are other plants that are heavy givers, some that are heavy feeders, and others that are light feeders. This is one reason to rotate various crops in the garden, so that the soil won't be depleted completely. With rotation, the soil can be revived by different crops. Of course, fertilization helps, too.

There are peas for shelling, Chinese pea pods, and edible podded or snap peas. They all grow the same way--either on bush plants, or vines that may need trellising (check the seed packet for instructions of the particular peas purchased).

Plant vining peas 1-2" apart in double rows with a trellis between the rows. Plant bush varieties on 6" centers (6" between each seed, in every direction). Plant the seeds 1" deep and cover with soil. Keep moist until the seeds germinate, 7-14 days. Peas mature in 55-65 days. Peas also tolerate partial shade.

There is a new pea called "Blondie" that is not green, but is a cream color. If you have children that won't eat "green" vegetables, you might try this one!

Monday, August 24, 2009

My To-Do List . . .

Can you believe how fast the crabgrass and other weeds have practically exploded out of the ground this past week or so? My husband had cleared the weeds from our front yard-- then yesterday he was astounded at how big the weeds were, again! The high heat has given way to the 90's and the nights are cooling down a bit--just right for plant (and weed!) growth. With that in mind, this week my to-do list will include:

--weeding the front yard
--planting some chives, green onions, kohlrabi, radishes and peas


Planting by the stars:

Monday-Tuesday: Virgo--weed only, no planting
Wednesday: Libra--very good for above ground crops
Thursday-Saturday: Scorpio--#2 root crops; #1 above ground crops; OK for planting fruit trees, flower bushes, vines
Sunday-Monday: Sagittarius--fairly good root crops

Books and Bugs

Donna in Clovis left me a comment a couple of days ago and I would like to answer her questions in this post, in case others might be interested.

"Thank you for your posts. I was looking for Elinor Teague's columns and found you. What a happy surprise. I wanted to ask her if there was a book to tell Fresno/Clovis gardeners what to do and when. And your column has been what I was looking for. Got my chives today. Could you write a post on what bugs are good and which ones are not, and what can be done about the bad ones? I found lots of ants in my garden; snails and grasshoppers like it too. Thanks, Donna in Clovis."

Yes, there is a book--"A Gardener's Companion for the San Joaquin Valley." I believe it costs $30; it is available at the Garden of the Sun (the Master Gardener's demonstration garden--at the Discovery Center, located at 1944 N. Winery Ave., Fresno, CA), and is also available at the University of California Cooperative Extension (1720 South Maple, Fresno, CA 93702). The Fresno Bee's weekly "Gardener Checklist" comes from that book, although Elinor's column is new each week. There is another book, "The California Master Gardener Handbook," which is used in the class to train the Master Gardeners ($35), available at both places.

Ants, snails and grasshoppers are in abundance this year. Ants are repelled by cinnamon. Ants also may be a sign of aphids, because they "farm" the aphids in exchange for honeydew. A strong stream of water will wash off and kill the aphids.

"Sluggo" is a dry meal that is sprinkled on the ground where snails are located. They eat it, crawl away and die. This product is safe to use around pets and children, and really works--I have used it for years!

Chickens like grasshoppers! If you don't have chickens, go here and scroll down to "Predators," "Barriers," and "Traps and Sprays." These are organic remedies. I have had an abundance of grasshoppers, from tiny to large, in my garden this year. There is some damage to most plants, but it doesn't seem to be detrimental, so I just let it go.

I have posted about some bugs on this blog, and have labeled them "good bugs" and "bad bugs." You can do a blog search by putting those labels in the search box at the top, left-hand side of the blog. If there are any specific bugs you are interested in, please let me know, and I will post about them!

The Master Gardeners offer classes on various gardening topics, usually for a small fee. They have a website; and a hotline (559-456-7563) where you can call and ask questions.


I am sorry that my recent postings have been hit-or-miss. I am having trouble with my internet provider--it has become slower than dial-up and often won't bring up the addresses I request. I hope it won't last too long--it's quite frustrating!--Gard'n Judy

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Garden Poem

"What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass."
Andrew Marvell, Thoughts in a Garden

Friday, August 21, 2009

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, August 20, 2009 (edited):

Even 'Natural' Options Need To Be Handled With Care--Elinor Teague

Those that are now using less-toxic and organic garden remedies may be less cautious than they should be. Be sure to read and follow label directions. "Less toxic does not mean nontoxic to humans or pets" and may still say to keep away from children and pets.

The label on neem oil says, "avoid breathing spray mist . . . avoid contact with skin, eyes and clothing."

Horticultural oil and sulfur (a caustic ingredient) dormant spray products are harmful to humans and pets, fatal if swallowed, and can be absorbed through the skin. Goggles, protective clothing and rubber gloves must be worn to use these products during application.

Insecticidal soap advises "through washing with soap and water after use." This product may contaminate water sources, and may harm aquatic invertebrates. When using Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), it should not be inhaled or have contact with skin or clothing.

"Many newer organic or 'natural' soil amendments and potting soils contain bat guano and worm castings." Although excellent sources of nutrients, they are a type of manure. All of the harmful bacteria contained within the soil amendments may not be killed by sterilization, so it is "important to wear gloves and cover any skin wounds when using these products."

Elinor said, "I foolishly ignored a thorn puncture wound when repotting a bougainvillea using a soil mix that contained bat guano and worm castings. Within three hours, I had a nasty infection the size of a silver dollar that required immediate medical attention. I now keep prepackaged alcohol swipes in my pockets to clean gardening wounds quickly, wash well with an antibacterial soap after gardening and also wash my gardening gloves frequently using soap and hot water."

[Even Master Gardeners learn by their mistakes! I know I do!--Gard'n Judy].


Garden Checklist:

A houseplant is simply an outdoor plant brought inside.

Tasks: Check drip emitters to adjust flow and remove clogs.
Pruning: Deadhead roses, remove suckers and unwanted branches, and prune to improve air circulation.
Fertilizing: Fertilize annuals and roses for fall bloom.
Planting: If you plant shrubs or trees, be sure to provide adequate water and sun protection; plant Watsonia; from seed: lettuce, mustard, peas, potatoes, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips.
Things to ponder: Standing water in containers can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Planning For A Canning Garden

To make canning fun, you have got to have a well-thought-out plan. Sow bean seed so that all the beans are ripe in the same two weeks, and you'll find canning and freezing the beans a great big chore. Plant the garden so the beans ripen over the eight or twelve weeks of summer, and you'll eat fresh beans as often as you like. And on the days when you don't want to serve beans, you can freeze that day's bean harvest while you cook dinner. It's that simple. If you want to can in 8-quart lots, you don't necessarily have to have 8 quarts of beans ripe at the same time. Each vegetable has a specific processing time. Beans in quart jars are processed in 25 minutes, but so are beets in pint jars. Beets are root crops that can be dug at any point over many weeks, unlike beans, which must be harvested as soon as they are 6 to 8 inches long and still young to get the best flavor and to keep the bushes producing. [You can apply this principle to winter vegetables, too].

[This is a copy that I made from a book about 20 years ago, and I do not have the reference--Gard'n Judy].

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Weeder's Thoughts

I have raked the soil and planted the seeds
Now I've joined the army that fights the weeds.
For me no flashing saber and sword,
To battle the swiftly marching horde;
With a valiant heart I fight the foe,
My only weapon a trusty hoe.
No martial music to swing me along,
I march to the robin redbreast song.
No stirring anthem of bugle and drum
But the cricket's chirp and the honey bee's hum.
No anti-aircraft or siren yell
But there's Trumpet-creeper and Lily-bell.
With a loving heart and a sturdy hand,
I defend the borders of flower-land;
While high over Larkspur and Leopardsbane,
A butterfly pilots his tiny plane;
But I shall not fear his skillful hand,
My enemy charges only by land.

Alma B. Eymann

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Endive can be now be planted from seed. There are two types of endive: (1. curled or fringed; and (2. broad leaved, called escarole. French and Belgian endives are actually a member of the chicory family.

Like lettuce, endive is a cool-weather crop, although it's more tolerant of heat than lettuce. Grow endive in well-worked soil with good drainage and water retention. Water regularly to keep the plants growing quickly; lack of water will slow growth and cause the leaves to become bitter. A few frosts improve the flavor of endive.

Sow endive seeds 1/4" deep, and 18" between plant centers (instead of in rows). It is a heavy feeder, so regular fertilizing is best. It takes 10-14 days for the seeds to germinate, and about 90 days until it's ready to harvest. Crowded plants may bolt early. Endive tolerates partial shade well.

Endive is naturally somewhat bitter. To reduce the bitterness, cut off the light to the heads, or "blanch" them, right out in the garden, about a week before harvesting them. Gather the leaves of the plant and tie them together above the head; or cut the tops and bottoms out of milk cartons and slip these homemade blanching tubes over the plants. To harvest, cut the plant off at soil level.

French or Belgian endive is mostly grown for the bud it produces, shown in the picture. Each root has one growing bud. The "budless" root could be dried, roasted, ground, and used as a coffee substitute.

A great pictorial article on growing Belgian Endive is located here.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Wouldn't you know it--as soon as I post about my Fritillary butterflies, they fly away! I suspect they may have been gathering to migrate somewhere--I will miss them!

My To-Do List . . .

This week will be a little different for me--I will be reorganizing my household and gardening, and setting some goals. Nothing big, it's just something I seem to do going into fall and spring. So, I won't be as focused on gardening this week, but I will still have my "fingers" in it!

My To-Do List:

--planting chives, green onions, and kohlrabi


Planting by the star* signs:

Monday-Tuesday: Virgo--no planting, just weeding
Wednesday: Libra--very good for above ground crops
Thursday-Saturday: Scorpio--2nd best for root crops; #1 for above ground crops; OK for transplanting trees, flower bushes and vines
Sunday-Monday: Sagittarius--fairly good for root crops

*for some reason I got stuck in "moon" sign mode, but they really are star signs!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Chives can be planted by seed now
. It is a perennial, a plant that dies down, but comes back again the next season. It also has a pretty pink flower, so it would be a plant that could go into the flower bed; and because it is in the onion family and has an "oniony" smell, it likely will ward off some of the bad bugs, thus protecting the flowers around it.

You can start plants from seed, purchase a plant or two, or ask a neighbor for a division from their chive plants. To starting chives from seed, plant directly in the. Choose a sunny spot with rich, well-drained soil, and sow seeds in clusters 1 to 1-1/2 feet apart. Keep soil evenly moist until seedlings are up and growing vigorously. If you start with purchased seedlings or divisions, plant them 1-1/2 feet apart.

Chives are hardy and need little care. If your soil is moderately fertile, a light mulching with compost in the spring will provide sufficient nutrients. Encourage deep rooting with infrequent but deep watering. Remove blossoms when they have passed their peak. If you harvest frequently and heavily, in addition to compost, fertilize in spring with an organic 5-10-5 fertilizer as directed on the product label. Divide plants every 3 to 4 years in the spring to keep them healthy.

You can begin harvesting about 6 weeks after planting seeds, or as soon as established plants resume growth. Cut outer leaves right back to the base. Use them fresh or frozen; they do not retain their flavor well when dried.

Chives are great on baked potatoes or many other foods. The bulbs, leaves and flowers are edible.


Three weeks ago I saw my first Fritillary butterfly. A couple of days ago I saw that there were two Fritillary butterflies that were settling down for the night near my citrus trees. The next evening I saw that there were five! The first picture shows what they look like when they rest for the night. The second picture shows one limbering up as the sun is warming the morning. I don't know if they are emerging butterflies or if they are there to mate. I had planned to rip out the aggressive flowers that are under my trees, where the butterflies have been staying at night, but now I may leave them for the butterfly habitat. Otherwise, next spring I will plant some passionfruit vines, which is something that they also like; and then I can remove the aggressive flowers.

Too Many Tomatoes!

Yesterday, when I went out to water, I saw that there were three ripe tomatoes. When I picked them, I saw that there were more hidden by the green foliage. When I was finished I had nearly 40 pounds of tomatoes! So, yesterday I spent the whole day making salsa! I ended up with 17 pints after 8 hours of work!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, August 13, 2009 (edited):

Prepare for Insect Pests--Elinor Teague

"We have two distinct, rather short periods of time when several of the more common pest insects cause problems in our Central Valley gardens."

In early spring, rose aphids serge in numbers and feed on the new rose growth. Also, hoplia beetles (see picture) start chewing on light-colored flowers and flower buds. These insects are finished by early June.

"Our second pest insect surge occurs as plants are stressed by high mid-summer day and night temperatures and by dry, dusty conditions . . . stressed plants attract pest insects."

--Leaf miner larvae leave wandering trails under the surface of plant leaves.
--Spider mites leave webs on the underside of dusty leaves.
--White flies increase as it gets warmer.
--Aphids of summer are more host plant specific: crape myrtle aphids and squash aphids are the most common.
--Budworms feed on the immature petals of buds of petunias, Gerber daisies, geraniums and nicotiana.
--Tomato hornworms damage tomato plants.

These pests appear in our gardens annually, so we can keep a lookout for problems and plan control efforts ahead of time. Firstly, encourage beneficial insects to live in our gardens. "Soft-bodied insects and caterpillars are the favorite foods of several types of beetles as well as thrips, dragonflies and praying mantis. Tiny parasitic wasps lay their eggs inside spider mites and inside leafminer larvae." Frequently the pest insect population will explode after broad-spectrum insecticides have killed off the beneficial insect predators. There are some methods to kill the bad insects and not harm the good insects:

--A blast of water will knock down aphids and spider mites.
--Apply bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) for caterpillars.
--Yellow sticky traps will catch whiteflies [I tried this once--it caught the white flies, plus the tiny wasps (the good bugs) that eat the white flies--Gard'n Judy]
--Beneficial nematodes will kill the grubs of the hoplia beetles that pupate in lawn areas near the host plants.


Garden Checklist:

Catch up on the TLC for your houseplants

Tasks: Water citrus on a regular schedule to maintain even soil moisture
Pruning: Cut back selected annuals and perennials to encourage growth and rebloom--alyssum, dianthus, coreopsis, petunia, penstemon and chrysanthemum
Fertilizing: warm-season lawns
Planting: iris; from seed--chives, dill, endive, fennel, green onions, knolrabi
Things to ponder: Dispose of fallen fruit, which harbors pests

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Flowers or Weeds?

Your mind is a garden,

Your thoughts are the seeds,

The harvest can be either flowers or weeds.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My To-Do List . . .

My to-do list this week is different--not much work in the garden. I have been canning the past few days, turning my tomatoes and peppers into something I can eat later in the year--spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce and catsup. All summer I have been putting my tomatoes in zip bags and then into the freezer. Actually, the side-by-side freezer and the small chest freezer in the garage! My husband is getting cranky that he can't stock up on his ice cream, TV dinners (for when he comes home late after hockey), and frozen waffles. So far I have used about 50 pounds of tomatoes, and there are more to go! Besides that, they are still producing in the garden!

If you are going to use tomatoes for making sauce, freeze them first, even if it's just overnight. Freezing breaks the tomato cell walls and releases a lot of water. When you thaw the tomatoes, just pour off the water (I also squeeze the tomatoes in the bag, like a sponge, after pouring off the water, and more water will run out). This will cut HOURS off your cooking time! The skins will slip off instantly, too. If you don't want the seeds in your sauce, then cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds before freezing. Today I got really thick pizza sauce in 2 hours instead of simmering all day!


Planting by the moon signs:

Wednesday-Thursday: Aries--very good for root crops; not good for above ground crops or transplanting
Friday-Sunday: Taurus--#1 for root crops; good for transplanting all crops

Monday, August 10, 2009

Wall Garden

So, you think you don't have room for a vegetable garden. If you have an outdoor wall that gets about 8 hours of sun you might! This is a pocket garden that hangs on a wall. I believe that it really is a shoe holder that has been converted. You would need to punch holes in the bottoms of each pocket, on the front side, before you fill them with soiless mix. Once they are planted you can just water the top pockets and they will drip down to the next pockets, and then down to the next pockets--just make sure water reaches the bottom pockets! These will need to be fertilized regularly (every 3-4 weeks). There are miniature versions of most vegetables, although some full size veggies will work well--such as leaf lettuce, spinach, radishes, turnips, and such. If you try this, make sure that the shoe holder is very light in color--you don't want to cook the vegetables before they can produce!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Preserving Nasturtium Seeds

Americans like to use nasturtium seeds like other people use caper seeds (the bud of a Mediterranean shrub). The nasturtium seeds are just as spicy.

Gather the seeds (from plants YOU grow to make sure they don't have pesticides) while they are green and let them stand in the sun for a few days to dry. Soak/steep for a day or so in cold vinegar. Drain. Add to fresh boiling vinegar and boil for 10 minutes. Pour seeds and vinegar into sterilized canning jars and cover tightly. Store in a cool place for 5-6 months. This makes them like pickled seeds.

Add to salads!

NOTE: I've also seen where people take the seeds, dry them and grind them to use as pepper. Store in a tightly sealed bottle in a cool place. I'd wait to grind until just ready to use. This was a common substitute for pepper from World War II. Good to know if you can't grow black peppercorns where you are. [We can't grow black peppercorns here, they are tropical and grow in places like Florida. Nasturtiums are easy to grow, but need to be planted in early summer--Gard'n Judy].

From: Survival Cooking

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cross-Polinated Squash

I am growing three yellow straight-neck squash plants, along with one zucchini. I am not keeping the seeds from these plants, so when I see any male and female flowers, I hand pollinate them. As you can see, I have been using the male zucchini flowers to pollinate the yellow squash female flowers and have ended up with some interestingly patterned squash! I especially like the circles! They taste like regular squash, only their appearance is affected. I might just let one cross-pollinated squash go to seed and plant the seeds next year just to see what it produces!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mulching The Veggies

Now that I have made sure that the weed seeds have sprouted and been pulled, I am starting to build the soil in my new raised garden boxes. In one of my beds I am layering lawn clippings. I have done this with my original garden for years, even using clippings from bermuda grass (which never sprouted in my garden), and it helps to feed the little critters that help balance my eco-system.

In another bed, I have started layering leaf cuttings, making a crude mulch. I have done this in my original bed, too, for the last few years, and found the soil come alive with earthworm activity! I have had earthworms before, but not like there is now. So, what works for me in one bed should work in my other beds! This method is not for everyone (it drives my husband nuts!), as it is really messy looking. And, if you don't get the weeds first, it's harder to get them pulled, although with a mulch layer the annual weeds have less chance to sprout and grow.

These types of "mulch" will break down slowly, creating an ideal soil. I do not dig in these gardens, I let the earthworms do that for me! When I remove vegetable plants that are finished, I don't pull them out, I cut them off just below ground level. The roots are left to decompose in the ground, and this helps to aerate the soil, too. When I fertilize my vegetables (if I get around to it!), I put a little organic fertilizer around the base of each plant, gently rough the soil, and then water well.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, August 6, 2009 (edited):

Cool Weather Veggies Planting Season Gets Under Way--Elinor Teague

Soil preparation is key, especially for root vegetables. They "do best in soil that is light and fluffy, that holds water without becoming soggy, and is rich in nutrients." Amend the soil with a 3-4" layer of decomposed compost, fertilizer, or commercial amendments. Work the amendments into the soil using a spade, fork, or tiller (for larger areas). Water the soil well. Let the garden set for two or three weeks to make sure any excess urea or nitrogen has been absorbed.

Seeds for winter vegetables can be started indoors, to be planted in the garden in mid-September when the weather cools. "Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and bok choy are best set out as 6- to 8-week old transplants."

Peas and chard can be planted from seed in late August because they can tolerate heat better than most leafy vegetables. "Root vegetables can become woody and develop a bitter taste during a late summer heat spell. Spinach and lettuce will 'bolt' or set flowers and also become bitter in high temperatures. Wait until at least the first week or two of September to plant them from seed."

Look for vegetable seeds that indicate they are for spring planting, as these are the seeds that we can plant for fall here in the Valley.


Garden Checklist:

Forget the guilt about what's going on outside. It's not your fault that it's hot!

Tasks: Pre-irrigate to soften the ground for tilling in preparation for fall gardens
Pruning: Prune apricots and olives to reduce future disease problems
Fertilizing: Plants in containers
Planting: Do not plant annuals and perennials unless it is absolutely necessary; plant autumn crocus; from seed: broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower
Things to Ponder: Keep water away from trunks of trees and crowns of plants

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Garden Chaos!

OK, I'm telling on myself today. This is a picture of my original garden, one that has been growing vegetables for the last 22 years, mostly non-stop, year-round (this was the only vegetable garden I had). It has been a good raised bed garden. This is what happens when things don't go according to plan! Last mid-spring I started planning for my new raised beds (where the lawn used to be), thinking that we would get the wood, build the boxes, and get it all installed in a week or two. Didn't happen, but in my enthusiasm I bought 18 Roma tomato plants. I figured that since they were determinant (they grow to a certain height and stop) that they wouldn't get too tall. As spring was becoming summer and the new beds were not in, I had to stick the tomato plants in the ground and they all went into this bed. I had forgotten how tall they really can get (about 3', maybe a bit more) so the tomatoes have sprawled all over, including the 1' path at the back and sides of the bed--which means I can't go there unless I walk on tomatoes! This makes harvesting more difficult. I also had trellised cucumbers and the Amish melon in there, and a squash--all of which are almost completely dead from old age, but not removed yet! ALSO, there is a row of Little Brown Cat beans (for dry beans) along the front that have grown out of the box and onto the pathway. The Painted Lady Beans are still blooming, trellised on the left-hand top of the picture, in front of 2 caged regular tomatoes and a volunteer cherry tomato. So, with no pre-planning and everything planted way too close, and tomatoes not caged, chaos ensues! This is one time that you don't do as I do!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sun Damage

Hopefully, our really high heat is past, although you never know! These pictures show some of the plants in my yard that have been sunburned. I try to keep my plants watered well enough, but the sun can become very intense at times. The first picture is of my Smoke Tree Bush (behind an ornamental grass) that is wedged between my Almond and Navel Orange trees.

The second picture is of a Peony that is pretty well shaded by one of my miniature Peach trees.

The third picture is of a Lenten Rose, which really needs shade, but gets morning sun here.

This last picture is of a dwarf Agapanthus, that gets morning sun.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Green Beans

I grow bush green beans because the are ready to harvest at the same time. Pole green beans grow and are harvested over a longer period of time. The texture of the beans are different, too, with the pole beans more "meaty". To see which you prefer, grow both kinds! Because I want to can my beans, I grow the bush variety.

Bush beans are easy to plant and grow. They are planted 6" apart. For each square foot of garden space, plant 4 beans evenly. Divide each square foot into 4 by drawing a big "+", creating 4 smaller squares that will hold one bean each. Push the seeds down about 1/2" and cover with soil or finished compost. Water well and they should pop up in about a week. Depending on variety, they will be ready for harvest in about 56 days or so.

Pole beans are planted 6" apart all along the base of a trellis. Pole beans need some sort of trellis system and there are many different kinds. Trellises are easy to make at home, using a couple of wood poles, then drape (snugly) string between the poles for the beans to climb on. You can use PCV pipe or metal poles in place of the wood--anything you may have on hand. Pole beans may need a little assistance to find the trellis at first, but once it starts it will climb on its own. Pole beans will start maturing beans about 56 days later and the harvest will go on for about 12 weeks (although it may be shorter towards winter).

My To-Do List . . .

--I have fertilized most of my veggies, I now need to get the fruit trees fertilized.
--because I have gotten my garden planning organized, I will be able to maximize my garden by planting one 8'x4' box with green beans--I want to can them and I know approximately when they will be ready, so the calendar is cleared! Green beans are really easy to can, but it will still be a lot of work because of the quantity.
--I will directly seed into another garden bed: beets and Swiss chard.


Planting by the moon:

Monday-Tuesday: Sagittarius--fairly good for all planting; no transplanting
Wednesday-Thursday: Capricorn--#1 for root crops; second best for above ground crops, transplanting
Friday-Saturday: Aquarius--very good for root crops; not good for above ground crops, transplants
Sunday-Tuesday: Pisces--second best for root crops; #1 for above ground crops, transplants, trees, bushes, vines

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Start Planting!

To start your fall planting this month, be sure to plant basil, beans, dill, and squash soon, so that they will be harvested before frost (our average first frost is November 7).

To see if you have enough time for full maturity, check the growing time for your particular vegetable. (For example, if I planted bush green beans on August 3, and it takes 56 days until harvest, I would count the days and find that the beans will be ready to pick by September 28, in plenty of time before the frost). This also helps if you are planning on preserving vegetables as it lets you plan for canning or freezing time in that particular week.

Some growth may slow as the temperatures get colder and may show signs of stress (more towards winter). On the other hand, we may have an extra long warm fall with everything growing abundantly! Seeds are cheap, so plant away!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Here's a quick little recipe to get you in the mood for growing a fall vegetable garden!

Garden Rice

*1/2 c. white rice
*1 c. chicken broth
*1/4 c. fresh vegetables (corn, peas, broccoli, Bok choy, green onions, etc.)
*fresh or dried basil or any herb that pairs with your vegetable

Mix all together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; cover and cook until rice is done.

Fall Gardening--August Planting

This will give you an idea of what to plant this month. Generally, you can plant all of these vegetables and herbs by seed, with the cole crops (cauliflower, broccoli, brussels spouts, cabbage, turnips, many of the Chinese vegetables) going in as transplants (they needed to be started in July). You could try them by seed and you may get lucky! If they are not growing so well by the time you find vegetable starts in the stores, you can always replace them. Starting seeds outdoors at this time of year can be a little tricky for some veggies. I will be covering the vegetables one at a time, and I will give some ideas that I have collected over the years that will help you be successful growing a great garden. If you have any questions, just ask in the comment section of a post or email me here.

Planting in August:

Bok choy
Green onions
Swiss chard

If you are really adventurous, you could plant directly sow tomato seeds, or tomato transplants from the store, for a late fall crop!

Good Luck!!