Category Archives: garden
I’m way overdue for some birthday posts, but we spent today puttering around the garden and the yard in general, so I snapped a bunch of pics and will just talk about that instead.
I tend to be pretty optimistic on my seedling starting dates, so unfortunately my basil and tomatoes are more than ready to go in the ground… but we have some predicted overnight lows of 45*F this week, so I’m trying to hold off on transplanting for now. My system of leaving the tomato pots out during the day and tossing my PVC pipe coldframe on them at night has been working quite well though. Here are the 16 plants that fit in the cold frame, they’re in 1 gallon pots, and the coldframe is sitting in the background, where I generally leave it during the day:
The rest of my seedlings mostly stay on this little “greenhouse shelf”:
Because the basil plants are still in 4″ pots I worry about them not retaining enough heat at night so I’ve been bringing them in pretty much every night that’s supposed to get under 50*. I’m getting pretty sick of it though, so I think I’ll go ahead and stick them in the ground on the warmest looking night this week and hope for the best. I do have a bunch of individual plastic cloches, so I’m thinking I’ll cover them for the first few nights, but after that I think I’ll just wish them good luck and call it done.
I’m trying again with peppers despite last year’s failure, but this year I’m going to be much more serious about keeping them warm, so I’ll be babying them along in individual pots for quite awhile. I may not put them into the ground until June. I had them on the greenhouse shelf with the basil, but it’s been cold enough I finally decided to bring them back into the garage with the warminb mat underneath and the grow light on top:
Moving back outside, here are some new things I’m trying this year… potatoes (foreground box) and snap peas (background box):
I planted them both in February, but they spent a lot of time doing nothing and then finally went to town once it stopped raining. I used the hoop over the potatoes to throw plastic over them and keep the rain off so they wouldn’t get too waterlogged. Once they’re done I’m going to refill the box with soil and put green beans in on a trellis. The trellis that’s currently holding the peas in the other box will get spaghetti squash in a month or so.
Here’s my garlic (going great) and broccoli (why can’t I grow straight broccoli? Sad face):
And here’s some spinach that’s kinda growing. And non-existent carrots. (I sowed seeds and saw some growth but it’s gone now.) And kale that seems to have survived being transplanted:
Perhaps the spinach would grow better if the toddler didn’t sit on it? Anyway, this is the “partially shaded” box, but it’s a lot less shady now because we just had the tree people in to lop the top off our elderberry:
Moving along, I got more bare root strawberries this year, and they’re already a lot bigger than when I tried to plant them last year. Good job, self. Here they are, in the foreground and along the left side:
The two new strawberry boxes, the ones in the foreground, should get some afternoon shade, so I’m hoping the plants won’t fry the way they did last year.
One last picture… a friend gave me some calendula seeds last year, which I just tossed around near the back corner of the yard and then ignored. They’ve been happily growing and reseeding themselves ever since:
Last year was my most successful year ever in the veggie garden, which means I actually harvested something! So the bar is not set terribly high for me to do even better this year. 🙂
Spaghetti Squash: this was my big winner, I think I ended up with about 10 squashes off of 2 plants, out of the 4 that I initially planted. Here’s how they looked midway through last season:
My biggest learning there was to make sure I put something over the newly planted seeds and then the new seedlings until they get established. My first attempt I think a squirrel came through and dug everything up, so my second attempt I put overturned buckets over the newly planted spots. But then I don’t think the trellises I had were big enough for 4 full-sized plants anyway, so I’ll have to up my trellis game this year. We do spaghetti squash basically once a week all fall and winter, so I need more!
Tomatoes: similarly, I got 4 good-sized seedlings transplanted, but 2 thrived and 2 limped along until I finally pulled them. I thought I got them in pretty early but they took a loonnnggggg time to finally really start setting lots of fruit. Possibly the soil mix wasn’t very good, Or I planted them too deep and they spent all their energy making new roots? At any rate, I was finally harvesting lots of fruit and many more green ones were forming when it finally got too cold back in early November-ish. I was super happy with the trellises we made out of trellis netting and electrical conduit for a frame. Here’s how it looked early in the season (I don’t seem to have a photo from the end of the season, but the plants were almost to the top!):
The problem is I don’t really have all that much raised bed space, especially if I want to actually, you know, rotate my crops each season. So I’m going to be brave and plant them… gasp… in the ground this year! There’s a big spot, about 4 feet wide by 24 feet long, on the side of the house, that up to this point I’ve just used to stash random yard stuff and junk intended for the landfill. I haven’t been deliberately amending the soil, but I’ve been throwing layers of cardboard and mulch there ever since we moved in to keep the weeds at bay. So the top 6 inches or so look pretty nice, then it gets dense and clay-like. So for now I’ll throw a bunch of compost on top. And in April I’ll dig big holes and add fun amendments and stuff in with my tomato seedlings and hope for the best! Here’s how the space look right now:
Other stuff: I’m putting hoops on one of my raised beds, I’m hoping to use row cover to keep it shady and a little cooler, maybe it’ll help the broccoli, spinach, and cilantro when things get hot in the summer? I’ve ordered more bare-root strawberries, and I might try putting row cover over them in the summer too. I’m going to try some peas on last year’s tomato trellis this spring. And I’m going to try filling one of my 3’x3′ beds with potatoes. Potatoes! Crazy!
I’ve also ordered some bare-root blueberries, but the spot I have picked out for them is on the other side of the yard, and I’m going to build a new raised bed to hopefully keep the soil appropriately acidic and keep the bermuda grass out. I think that will kinda be a separate project from the rest of the garden, we’ll see.
Gardening things are happening!
In the past few years I’ve made some novice attempts to get a veggie garden going, with some successes and a lot of misses. So now I’m reading up on how to grow veggies effectively in our warmish San Francisco bay area microclimate. For starters, I’m making a concerted effort to start a bunch of seeds indoors, for real this time. My problem in the past has been that all of our south-facing windows are blocked from the sun by the patio covering thing. Oh and we have curious cats who like to knock over anything that’s sitting on “their” window sills. So I’m setting up the operation in the garage. It’s not even remotely insulated in there, and overnight lows have mostly been in the high 40s Fahrenheit, but I bought one of those heat mats to sit under the seed flats… and everything is sprouting really fast!
The next hurdle was getting light for the seedlings. I ended up buying some 6 watt LED “grow lights” and a shelving unit with a zip-up plastic covering billed as a “mini greenhouse”.
I set the grow lights and the seedlings on the top rack, with the heat mat and unsprouted flats on a lower shelf. Possibly the extra heat keeps night time temps just a little bit warmer for the seedlings, I’m not really sure if it made a difference. But everything still seems to be growing fairly well, so that’s cool. The plastic covering certainly keeps sawdust off the plants while they hang out in the garage, and I’m in and out of there several times a day doing laundry and such, so I get lots of opportunities to peek in and see how they’re doing. I have a spray bottle sitting right there so I can easily mist anything that’s looking dry.
I’ve already started tomatoes, broccoli, kale, leeks, celery, basil and parsley, and I’ll be starting some bell peppers in a few weeks. The basil, tomatoes, and peppers I’m growing inside now to get an early start. For the broccoli, rather than picking at random I actually did some research and am trying to grow a fast-maturing cultivar called “De Cicco”. I got a different one to plant in late summer, “Watham 29”. I’m so fancy with my names and such. 🙂 We’ll see how it goes. The celery and leeks I probably could have seeded directly outside, but those were two that I failed at last year, so I’m starting them indoors to keep an eye on them.
I did sow some seeds directly in the garden boxes too, basically all the ones I had success with in the past: spinach, carrots, cilantro, green onions, and lettuce. And I’m growing some radishes too. I don’t really ever buy them to eat, but maybe I’ll eat some if I grow them. 🙂 Really they’re supposed to be super easy to grow, and I figured I could direct Dakota’s “helpful” energy at the radishes so hopefully she doesn’t drown my other veggies with love and too much water. Maybe I’ll even make a special garden box just for her and plant more radishes in it.
I’m going to try to grow a winter squash this year, so I’ll plant that in April. I’ll build a big trellis for it and the tomato, and hopefully they won’t take up too much horizontal space.
Oh, for the spinach I bought a culitvar called “Okame” that’s supposed to be more heat tolerant. I sowed the last of the cultivar I bought last year already, but when I sow more in a month or two I hope to have more success than my late-spring attempts last year.
The big plant on the right in the picture above is the one kale plant that actually germinated from what I sowed last fall… It took its sweet time and came up while I was away for xmas. Cool. The radishes are poking up on the left and the spinach is along the back.
Herb-wise, The sage got too big for the raised box so I moved it over next to the rosemary, and it’s doing just fine.
My thyme and oregano both died. For the thyme I think I just wasn’t watering it enough, but for the oregano I planted a new plant in one of the main veggie boxes, because I think it needed more depth than the little herb boxes provided. We keep checking the home improvement stores for thyme plants, but they don’t seem to have any in stock yet. Blarg. I’m also going to try to grow dill and chives this year. I don’t currently use either in any of my recipes, but I’ve heard that dill, at least, tastes good in chicken soup… Oh! And I’m going to grow ginger indoors. Should be interesting…
Last but not least, the strawberries! I was sad last year that Dakota couldn’t reach them in the middle of the big box, so I made a long skinny box just for the strawberries, and they seem to have transplanted okay. I’m going to stick with the “remove all the runners” philosophy of strawberries and see how it goes. Having them in this box by themselves probably makes them more vulnerable to birds and bugs and stuff, but I’ll just take things as they come and see how it goes… Here’s Dakota watering them shortly after I transplanted them. You can still see the sage in its old location in the background.
We had bought the temporary fencing to give the chickens their own space on the other side of the yard, but the dogs seem to respect it (though Alaska, at least, could totally jump it if she was feeling adventurous) so we set up the extra fencing to keep the dogs out of this part of the yard. The dogs need to stay out because we’re slowly getting around to repairing the fence and it’s full of exit routes, but the extra benefit is that this setup keeps the dogs from digging in the garden boxes. Sadly it does nothing to deter the neighborhood stray cats. >:|
My first attempt at growing herbs in little pots two years ago bombed… because I didn’t water them enough. Now that I’m home full time though I figure I can probably keep up with the little daily things a bit better. This time I thought instead of pots I’d try for a mini square foot garden, more like the garden box I made last year with limited success. This time instead of fancy 2×4’s I realized I could save a few bucks and use cedar fence slats. I wanted to make two boxes that were 3 feet by 1 foot, so all I needed was five 6 foot long slats. Here they are after a few quick cuts on the miter saw:
The bottoms of the boxes were just two boards side by side, which left a convenient exit for water between them. I wish I could say I thought of that beforehand, but I was just being lazy since I didn’t want to have to cut plywood for the bottoms. I only realized my brilliance afterward. Here’s a completed box:
Not the most beautiful bit of carpentry, but whatever, it works. Maybe I’ll paint the outside or something if I decide they’re too ugly. In the meantime here they sit on the back patio:
I found the little metal labels on clearance at Target. Sadly there wasn’t a label for cilantro, which I’m growing from seed since I managed that with no trouble last year, even with my limited watering. The other two empty looking spots are for garlic (I just stuck a few cloves from my CSA in the ground) and green onions. I really have no idea if I’ll get anything from them, but I wanted to stick to stuff that I used really frequently, since I figured I’d be more motivated that way.
The bucket of water is great since I only have to refill it about twice a week instead of running to the tap every day. I fill the little gray watering can from it.
The whole setup is in easy view of the kitchen. In fact here’s what I see when I walk out the back door:
I know from past experience that if I don’t make this as easy as possible I’ll start to let it slide and then I’ll be left with yet another pile of dead plants and/or weeds. This way I at least have a shot of being successful. I guess we’ll see how it goes!
I finally worked up my courage and decided to attempt a vegetable garden. I decided that a raised bed in the “square foot garden” style was probably my safest bet, so we bought some boards and built a 3′ x 5′ bed:
It helps to have knowledgeable people standing around and going, “Hm, interesting.”
Actually, she did way more than that. We blew through the gardening section of the hardware store and tricked out the flower boxes in the front yard with columbines:
Okay, that picture is boring. How about the glam shot?
Pretttyyyyy. And I hear they’re perennials or something, so maybe they’ll last awhile. Though only if I actually start watering way more than I’m currently doing, or so says Mom.
In the other box the alyssum and pansies were still going strong, so we just added two more columbines in there:
The chrysanthemums were actually still pretty green-looking (no flowers though), so I replanted them near the lavender while receiving admonishments to actually WATER THEM!
Anyway, back to the vegetables, I’m going to try starting most of them from seeds, but I got started too late in the season for broccoli, so I bought some broccoli plants:
I’m not entirely convinced that I’ll actually succeed in keeping anything alive, so I’ll finish up with a picture of one of our roses, since the roses somehow all stay alive despite my ineptitude:
I’m still a compete novice when it comes to even the most basic of of gardening. The petunias I planted in the spring were still alive, but looking pretty yellow and not very flowery.
So I started looking around on the internet to see if it’s even legit to plant different flower in the fall. Apparently it is, but I’m still pretty confused as to what I’m supposed to plant, since I live in zone 9 where it pretty much never freezes. most introductory garden sites seem to assume that you live somewhere with real seasons. 😛 Anyway, I figured it would be safe to stick with some of the most common suggestions: chrysanthemums and pansies. And sure enough, when I got to the store they were out front and center. Right next to them were some other plants I came across in my internet searching: alyssum and flowering kale. I love how cheap they all are, I don’t feel as bad buying a plant that I may not be able to keep alive if it only costs $1.29.
I split them up based on how much sun they need. I think our bigger flower box qualifies as “full sun”, at least for another month or two, so it got the kale and chrysanthemums:
View from the front door:
and the smaller, shadier flower box got the pansies and alyssum:
I think I keep underestimating how big our flower boxes are when I’m at the store… they still look a little sparse, and that’s after we picked up one more of each type of plant to make them look a little less empty. Hm. Ah well, it’s a process.
After my “success” with the bougainvillea, I figured I’d better get to work on the jasmine. We’d already heard a comment from at least one neighbor that the vines were creeping under the fence into his yard, so I did some researching on pruning. From what I found, it looks like jasmine can handle being pruned back pretty harshly, it just may take a few years before it starts flowering again.
I started with the biggest one, which I had previously tried to cut away from the purple bougainvillea, with limited success (jasmine on the left, bougainvillea on the right):
That’s a 6-foot tall fence behind it, in case you needed some perspective. It also mounded out a good 3 feet. For lack of a better plan, I just started hacking away with no idea how far I’d get. I quickly discovered that only about the first half foot was leafy green vine, the next 2 feet in were dried and disintegrating plant matter from who knows how many years of growth. And after some more hacking, I found a trellis, which explained how this thing was so tall and deep:
I gave up at that point since my forearms were on fire. When Dave came home and saw the carnage, he could only say, “You killed it!” I think he was joking, since there was clearly still a big chunk of green stuff on the left-hand side…
I didn’t get a chance to work on it again for another two weeks, but I may have really killed it this time. I’m pretty happy though, I can actually see the ground on all sides and the rather decrepit fence is no longer being attacked:
I left a few short vines with leaves, maybe it’ll grow back? If it does I’m going to put up a new trellis for sure, and make sure it doesn’t get completely out of hand again.
Unfortunately I managed to snip through the irrigation line during the battle:
We were already planning a trip to the hardware store though, and they have an entire aisle devoted to accessories for irrigation systems, so this should be fixed pretty quickly.
Actually, we have an entire apple tree! For quite a while when we first moved in, it looked like this:
Then, very late in the spring, it started pushing out a few leaves. And for a short while it was covered in white flowers. I didn’t get a picture at the time, but I did take a close-up when there were just a few left:
And now it’s covered in fruit. So much fruit in fact, that one branch broke off entirely and another is leaning out into our neighbor’s yard. Oops…
I stared at it distrustfully for a while, (I assume anything growing in my presence is secretly trying to kill me) but Dave finally went in and grabbed a smallish one and cut it open:
And then I ate it! It’s been a few hours and I still feel okay, so maybe it’s not going to kill me after all. I guess we should go pick some and put them in our fruit bowl or something. Oh, and as for the variety of apple, I’m pretty sure they’re green. That’s as much as I can say for sure. 🙂
Jasmines aren’t the only vines on our fence. We saw this other plant/vine thing push out a few blossoms early in the summer, and had no idea what it was. By random chance, I happened to walk right by the exact same plant (the flowers are very distinctive) in the hardware store while searching for mulch. Thus I was able to identify ours as a bougainvillea, and then discover that everyone else already knew all about this plant. Go figure.
Anyway, at that point I figured we’d just leave it alone for the summer and see what happened. Fast forward a few months, and it turns out we actually have two of these plants, and they apparently flower and grow like crazy. Sigh. It was getting to the point where I was concerned that it might start growing into our neighbor’s yard (where they have a pretty hardcore edible garden going) so I finally pulled out the hedge trimmers and attacked. Oh the carnage…
The hulking purple, before and after:
And this was just round one. The purple one was especially exciting because it was all tangled up with the jasmine on the left. I also took the opportunity to cut back what I’m convinced is a giant weed masquerading as a tree growing almost right on top of the pink roses. It’s the tall plant growing just to the left of the magenta bougainvillea in the “before” picture above. I think I gave it a fair chance to do something interesting, but all it did was get taller and greener, while the roses got yellower and sicklier.
Anyway, I figure we’ll cut the jasmines and the bougainvillea waaaay back in the fall and try to direct their growth in a more planned way in the spring.
Unfortunately the previously neglected rose bushes are taking a hit. I first noticed the rust on the red rose bush about a month or so ago- bright orange powdery spots on the underside of the leaves. I had to prune it down so much that there were barely any leaves left. I thought it was going to just die and was too depressed to blog about it. However, I just came back from a 5-day trip to discover it was covered in new growth!
(The reddish leaves are new growth.) Some of the older leaves, and all of the blooms, showed more rust spores though. I pruned away, but at least I have some confidence that the bush will live and I can take a more drastic strategy once it’s dormant.
Here’s what the rust looks like… kinda looks like I caught the plant right after it had been sticking its leaves in a bag of cheetos:
Unfortunately the pink roses are looking much more sickly (very little new growth) and now show definite signs of rust. I pruned all the visibly diseased stuff off, but they’re less mature so maybe they just don’t have as good of a chance. I wasn’t going to even post a picture because it makes me sad, but here they are:
I need to figure out why there’s some sort of tree/shrub growing inches behind the one on the right, that seems odd to me.
In more inspiring news, the behemoth rose finally pushed out some flowers! They’re white. And there are NO signs of rust on this guy, so I pruned him first with a separate set of shears and gloves.