Monday, May 31, 2010

Stringing Tomatoes

tomato supportAlright.  The Farmer MacGregor series continues today with his creation for tomato supports.  This season I’m growing heirlooms from seed.  Most of the varieties are vines rather than bushes.  I decided to try stringing the plants to be economic with my garden space.  Plans were drawn.  Lumber was ordered.  The beast known as MacGregor was set into motion.  Points were cut on the top of each stake resembling ancient Egyptian obelisks.  Paint (green of course) was applied to all the lumber and metal stakes.  The frames were constructed and screwed into the metal stakes.  There was a lot of measuring, marking, and leveling going on.  The gentle farmer is a stickler for detailed accuracy.  These are the essential tools for construction:DSC_1525_4180 A square and a durable marker.

DSC_1527_4182 A level.  (MacGregor has several to choose from.)

DSC_1526_4181  Power drill (Snort snort.).

DSC_1529_4184Heavy duty clamps (Don’t let one of these things bite you!).

Also make sure to have a variety of words to use that when spelled look something like this:

F&%K, D@M^ it, $H1zt

Farmer MacGregor is a wordsmith when it comes to using special words to show exasperation.  Noun, verb, adjective – it doesn’t matter.  He’s so skilled he doesn’t even realize what he says sometimes.  Remarkable.

Eye bolts were inserted to the bottom of each stake to string jute.DSC_1571_4229

The jute line helped to mark a nice straight line to plant the tomatoes.DSC_1572_4230 

DSC_1577_4231 Once the tomatoes were planted, jute was tied to the top stake and run down to  the jute below to use as a support for the plants.  It’s difficult to see the jute until the tomatoes grow taller.  The photo above was taken on May 11, 2009.  Below is the same tomato bed today. DSC_1697_4362

The western most bed is planted similarly.

DSC_1694_4365 Please ignore the make shift shade for the camellias and the lounging garden kitty in the background.

DSC_1643_4309Here’s an Arkansas Traveler starting the trip up the line.  I come out and check the growth progress and wind the plants skyward up the jute.  I believe I might need to trim some of the side branches to encourage growth upward. DSC_1699_4367 With the heat turning up, the tomatoes are developing on most all varieties.  This is the same Arkansas Traveler photographed today.  The center stem is quite a bit thicker and fruit is abundant.

DSC_1698_4366 The whiskers on the Arkansas Traveler are really profound.

The tomato supports can be dismantled and stored when not needed.  They will probably take up less room than the old wire cages.  So far, I really like them.  The garden is kept nice and neat.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Support Can Be Beautiful

imageFull figure gal, Jane Russell, hocked Playtex bras to us in the 1970’s telling us that support can be beautiful.  What on Earth does Jane Russell and beautiful support have to do with Maybelline’s Garden?  Well, read on. 

Farmer MacGregor recently set out to make beautiful supports for the Borlotto Solista beans.  They’ve sprouted and will be in need of something to climb soon.DSC_1520_4176The gentle farmer took some lumber scraps and cut pyramid tops to match the rest of his garden structures.  He is known for his painting skills so he painted the support green.  He painted almost all the structures in the garden green.DSC_1692_4361 The gentle farmer whipped out his Eagle Scout skills and tied jute to the eye bolts and created a diamond pattern for the beans to enjoy.  The wooden frame is screwed into metal stakes (painted green) to keep the wood out of the dirt and damp.  When the beans have been harvested the jute can be clipped.  The dried vines and jute can be put in the green waste.DSC_1691_4360 Old MacGregor is pretty slick.  Ain’t he?

Okay.  The association between Jane Russell’s beautiful support and the beautiful support Farmer MacGregor constructed is a stretch.  Here’s a nice clip as a payoff for making it to the end of this post.

Note:  Ms. Russell has an impressive list of accomplishments.  However, her contribution to beautiful support suits this post.  If Ms. Russell were to even read this post I think I would spin.  What a life she has enjoyed.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Drying Rack

drying rackFarmer MacGregor should have been born in 1906.  He was meant to have been an adult in the 1930’s.  The clothes.  The music.  The movies.  The food.  The lifestyle.  Everything.  That is why he designed and built the drying rack the way he did.  I suggested/requested that it would be nice to have something so I could dry garlic and onions when the time came.  A few photos in a magazine sparked the gentle farmer to go way beyond expectations.DSC_1320_4031 Lumber was ordered and delivered from a local hardware shop.  Measurements were taken and the cutting began.  Neighbors stopped in to find out what was old MacGregor making now.  (They gave up years ago trying to keep up with his home improvement projects.)DSC_1367_4034 The cut lumber was left to dry out before construction could begin.  With plans and tools gathered, the assembly began.  There is a frame with removable drying trays.  With the trays removed, dowels strung with herbs (mostly lavender) can be inserted for drying purposes.DSC_1378_4041 The drying rack was painted and wire was attached to the trays to complete the rack.  Farmer MacGregor wanted to use this green color of paint thinking this would be the color of choice in a decades old garden.  It’s a green wash.DSC_1683_4353 See?  The garlic was harvested and is now drying.  I pulled out the center tray to show how they come out.  The garlic is delicious.

Farmer MacGregor did a fine job.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

1st Tomatoes of the Season

image Nope.  This isn’t about strawberries AGAIN.  Today, I noticed the 1st tomatoes of the season.  Al Kuffa is the winner.  Al delivered 1st.  There are five tough bushes all with several tomatoes.   The stem end of the fruit reminds me of fairy caps.  DSC_1670_4339It’s exciting to see the 1st successful tomatoes arrive on the plants grown from seed.  The fruit should be medium sized.   Chives are planted along with the Al Kuffas as companion plants to ward off pests.  This variety comes from Iraq and will no doubt be able to endure all that Bakersfield summers will dish out.DSC_1674_4343 Since these are dwarf bushes rather than vine type tomatoes they are supported with old wire cages that have supported many, many tomatoes over the years.  Farmer MacGregor has constructed all the tomato supports for the remaining tomatoes to be strung.  I hope to be able to post about the gentleman farmer’s handy work over the Memorial Day weekend.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Beans Beans the Magical Fruit

DSC_1665_4334 The Borlotto Solista beans planted on 05/18/10 germinated today.  The Summer Savory seeds have been ordered.  The savory will be planted along side the beans as companions.  According to Carrots Love Tomatoes,

in Germany savory is called the bean herb because it’s good to grow with beans and also to cook with them.  It goes with onions as well, improving growth and flavor.

image Farmer MacGregor has plans to build a bean support for what should be very colorful beans.  I’ll feature more of his handy work soon.DSC_1668_4337 Also in garden news – The Black Hungarian Peppers have bloomed.  There are 5 plants sharing a bed with Serrano Peppers and Al Kuffa Tomatoes.  The garlic will make way for more Serranos.DSC_1644_4310 From left to right:  Al Kuffa tomatoes, garlic, Serrano peppers, Black Hungarian peppers. 

The beans are planted in the holes of the cinder block seen in the foreground.   Planted in the other holes are chives, thyme, marigolds, and lobelia.  There’s also lavender but you can’t see it in the photo above.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Breakfast Guest

DSC_1667_4333This morning I had a guest on one of my strawberries.  I have no idea what this critter is except for dead.  It was a little guy; but I didn’t have any intention sharing any other berries.DSC_1667_4333 If I find out what this thing is, I’ll post the answer here.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday in the Garden

DSC_1624_4290 This morning after taking care of the garden kitties, cleaning up after the mourning doves nest building mess, irrigating whatever might need a drink, and trimming the roses, I harvested a bit more lavender.  I like to clip the stems in the morning because I have heard that the essential oils are at their peak in the morning.  The last harvest of lavender, I made lavender wands.  DSC_1630_4296 Saturday’s harvest will be bundled up with jute and hung upside down with a brown paper bag over the blossoms until the bundle has dried.  The blossoms will be stripped off the stems and used in potpourris (not the Jeopardy kind).  The dried stems will most likely be vacuumed up.  Each time the vacuum cleaner is revved up a nice lavender scented breeze will fan through the house.

I needed to scoot to the farmers’ market.  Today, I just needed a few items to add to fruit salad.  However, there was a new stand.  These farmers were all things almond.  Their cookies caught my eye.  Since I had almonds to munch on in the pantry, I picked up one of each kind of cookie and headed home to continue working in the garden on this rare cool May day.DSC_1632_4298 My produce was unloaded and put away. While I  pulled a few weeds I kept hearing a small voice calling my name.



Eat me, Maybelline.

DSC_1633_4299 I fell under the Fat Uncle Farms spell.  De-stinkin’-licious!  The other two cookies will not be long in the kitchen.  I hope Fat Uncle Farms is a raging success.  I’ve included a link to what I believe to be the blog that old Fat Uncle is building on. 

S U P P O R T   L O C A L   F A R M E R S

Now out to the garden to plant peppers (with a sweater on!).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Grape Help Request

DSC_1618_4284 Here’s my little, baby grapes on my two year old Red Flame grapevine.  What are the little brushy white things?  Need a closer look?DSC_1617_4283 What are these little flowery things?  My search for information continues.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Garden Update

The weather has been great.  Yesterday it was cool and rainy!  It’s May and it was cool and rainy!!!  Here’s a quick garden update:DSC_1624_4274The strawberries are really producing well.  They’ve been fed (Dr. Earth), irrigated daily, and are enjoying full sun.  The fruit size is large and well developed.  There is some loss to insects; but no loss to birds.  The scare tape and owl kite seem to be great scarecrows.DSC_1629_4279French Breakfast Radishes were planted among the Lemon Squash on 05/15/10.  They germinated today, 05/18/10.  The purpose of planting them with the squash is to repel pests that could damage the squash.  If anyone is new to gardening with seeds and would like to enjoy fast results, these radishes should do the trick.DSC_1632_4282In the holes of the cinder block that form the raised bed for the peppers, I planted some Borlotto Solista Beans.  They are only planted on the north side of the bed to allow for maximum sun to the peppers.  Al Kuffa tomatoes are also sharing the bed with the soon to be planted peppers.DSC_1614_4263 A few small oranges are hanging on to the Robertson Navel Orange tree.  I thought this tree might be in danger of being lost; but it looks like it is gaining strength and may grow vigorously.  Sadly, the Satsuma Mandarin was pitched into the green waste.  It’s root system was very small and the tree ended with no leaves.

All the tomatoes have been planted (37 plants) with the remaining to be given away.  Four of the tomato plants were auctioned at today’s meeting of the Daughters of the British Empire.DSC_1606_4255 It was a nice day in the garden.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Southwest Living – Phoenix Home & Garden

phoenixhomegarden I found a great resource for gardening in the southwest.  Phoenix Home & Garden is a similar layout to Sunset Magazine but the emphasis is on desert living.  It’s jammed with loads of photographs and helpful articles with not many ads.  What ads there are are (ooo I hate using the same word back to back) just as good looking as the rest of the magazine.

beagleOne of the ads was for Southwest Gardener in Phoenix.  They have a nice little newsletter with seasonal gardening tips and a list of events.  One of their scheduled events is a trip to tour Los Angeles area gardens.  Very ironic.  The site also has a few items for purchase like this bit of comical art to place in your garden.

The May issue of PH&G has an interesting article about a Tempe couple that have turned their yard into an edible garden.  Their garden is so successful that an abundance of plants are potted up and given to friends and neighbors while the bounty of the harvest is auctioned off in the form of berry pies to help support the local Boy Scouts.

Phoenix Home & Garden is loaded with decorating ideas if you love the southwest look.  Even if you don’t, there are some really trick ideas to incorporate into most any home.  They are based out of Scottsdale and have been putting together my new find for 30 years.  Give it a look.


PS Santa, I would really like this pony bench I spotted at Valerie’s.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Breakfast of Champions


I have to visit the local farmers’ market each Saturday to supplement my strawberry stash.  My habit is severe.  The market berries are used to chop into a fruit salad throughout the week.  The berries I grow are lucky to make it out of the garden.  If they do, they’re sliced up onto my Cheerios.  Now just because I use soy milk please don’t think I’m a Birkenstock wearing hippy.  Wait.  I wear Birkenstocks on occasion.  Whoa.


DSC_1594_4242 It’s garlic harvest time in Maybelline’s Garden.  Farmer MacGregor built a drying rack that will soon be holding heads of garlic for drying.  The garlic was planted on October 10, 2009 with the label promise of maturity in 90-120 days.  Well, almost double that estimate it’s time to harvest.DSC_1596_4244 I pulled the irrigation line off the garlic last evening and will let nature do most of the drying.  Once the tops have browned a bit more, I’ll pull the heads out of the ground and place on the drying racks.  The temperatures will start to get with it and help the garlic tops dry out.DSC_1598_4246 The heads have developed into a nice size and they smell great.

This evening’s events met the approval of my supervisor.DSC_1600_4248 Cat Call – get it?