Saturday, July 31, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird or Sparrow or Dove

This morning a mockingbird (I call them cat birds because they taunt the cats.) was in the garden.  What?!  Doesn’t that bird know that I have scare tape dangling everywhere?  Upon seeing the invader, I had a talk with the garden kitties to let them know they need to come out of retirement every once in a while to help with garden intruders.

Oh, they stepped it up a notch and presented me with bird leavin’s.

DSC_1879_4809 Thank you girls. 

Why do they always leave me one foot?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cat Grass

The garden kitties deserve a treat in the garden.  They receive nutritious food and store bought treats twice each day and plenty of fresh, cool water.  They can have all the birds and grasshoppers they can catch.  Once upon a time, they would dine on gophers, rats, squirrels, and mice.  I’ve never grown anything just for them to enjoy.DSC_0335_383Licorice is the oldest of the two and thinks she’s the queen over everything she sees.  She is.  She gives darling Pumpkin a swat every once in a while.  She was not intimidated by a full grown English Mastiff nor any of the many Great Pyrenees we’ve had.  She can hold her own and she likes to graze on grass.

DSC_1597_1798 Pumpkin is a big scaredy cat; but likes to follow me around like a little puppy.  She grew up cuddling with Great Pyrenees doggies; but for some reason she would scat whenever the English Mastiff appeared.  This only led to a chase.

DSC_1871_4801 I picked up some Cat Grass and planted it in a low bowl for the kitty girls to enjoy.  The seeds are oats or maybe wheat.  I thought they would be small little seeds.  The treat is supposed to help with digestion.  Good.  Hairballs are pretty gross.  Hope this helps.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Important Tip of the Day

Don’t forget to irrigate…especially when it’s July…especially when it’s super hot.DSC_1866_4796

The wilted pumpkins perked up 1/2 hour after the application of a nice drink of water.  I don’t recommend irrigating in the evening but when you overlook it in the morning you have to gamble with the fungus and disease that may occur and water in the evening.DSC_1874_4804 I suppose I should rely on the timers.  They won’t forget.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lobelia Rebound


As the temperatures moved closer to those found on the surface of the sun, the Crystal Palace Lobelia was cut back eliminating all the dried out stems.  I did that BEFORE asking someone at a nursery if that was the thing to do.  The nurseryman told me that it’s okay to trim back the lobelia in the summer just don’t over do it.  Exposing the core of the plant to the hot July sun may kill it.  Oh great.  I probably just gave a death sentence to all the lobelia lining the raised beds.  I had cut them down to nubbins. 

DSC_1857_4787 Last night a cool breeze came up allowing the air conditioners to be turned off and the windows and doors opened.  What a treat.  Tonight, I noticed the lobelia is making a rebound.  They’re in various stages of growth; but there are signs of life.  There are even plants coming up in the surrounding gravel from an explosion of lobelia seeds.

I take this as a sign that the worst is over.  Fall is on the way.  I’ll be able to wear a sweater soon.

A girl can dream.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bountiful Harvest


Today I wanted to put off harvesting the tomatoes.  I wanted to just lay around and read the Sunday paper.  Maybe I would get out of my jammies…maybe I wouldn’t.  I was weak.  I couldn’t resist the call of the garden.  “Pick me.  Pick me.”  This morning I was up irrigating, fertilizing, and harvesting.  Since I discovered the wonders of freezing whole tomatoes it wouldn’t be so bad.  I just needed to go through the 37 plants and haul the harvest up to the house for processing.  I try to cull as I go removing damaged fruit to the green waste.  Once they’re in the kitchen, I wash and dry the tomatoes then quick freeze them separately before storing them in freezer bags.

DSC_1848_4758 Along with the tomatoes I harvested Black Hungarian Peppers, Serrano Peppers, Genovese Basil, and a couple of Atomic Red Carrots.  Not pictured are the Lemon Squash.  Salsa production will crank up again now that the Serranos are going bonkers.  It should be faster and cooler using the freezer method to skin the tomatoes.

DSC_1851_4761 The Red Flame Grapes were harvested with the gluttonous eyes of the mourning doves coveting our booty.  Although this bowl of grapes may not seem like much, it’s about 10 times the amount produced in 2009.  The vine is only  2 years old.  This was a nice surprise.  I was also surprised to find a hornworm munching the grapes leaves high in the arbor.  That dude was swatted down and squished about as fast as I could move. 

Via con Dios, hombre.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pumpkins & Butternut Squash

Earlier this spring my house was tented and fumigated for termites.  Termites flourish in this area.  We do what we can to protect our dwelling from an invasion; but it happens every once in a while.  We packed up and gave away anything perishable, boarded the garden kitties, and went to Sonoma for a few days.

Everything went smoothly.  One thing.  I forgot to store my seeds out in the shed instead of inside the house under the big tent.  Dang!  I didn’t dispose of the seeds.  The packets have important information so I bagged them up for future reference.

Rip a load of calendar pages off and move forward in time to the 4th of July.  I needed to plant some pumpkins but forgot to order any seeds from my new favorite seed company in Arizona, Terroir Seeds.  I opened the seeds that were exposed to fumigants and pulled out my Cinderella Pumpkin seed pack.  These will only be used for decoration; so I proceeded to experiment. 

There were 6 seeds leftover from last year.  I made 2 hills and planted 3 seeds in each hill.  I was surprised that the seeds germinated in just a few days.  Unfortunately I didn’t record the date – but it was a matter of 3-4 days.  Only 2 plants sprouted from one hill.  I was happy to have 2 germinate.  Earlier this week, 1 seed germinated on the 2nd hill.  Crazy.  I now have 3 Cinderella Pumpkin plants that I never expected to do more than become compost.

DSC_1844_4754Here they are almost 20 days after planting.

The seed packet lists maturity at 110 days.  That hits right around Halloween.  Anything these plants produce will be more than I ever expected.  This variety makes great decorations that keep throughout the fall season – my favorite time of year.

DSC_0576_1890          I wonder if I have enough time to order and plant some butternut squash.  While we were up Sonoma way, I had a wonderful butternut squash ravioli with toasted sage and walnut brown butter that I would like to try to master.  I found a recipe from Emirl Lagase that should work.  Waltham is the variety I would like to try.  Perhaps I’ll just settle for whatever seed variety the local hardware store is carrying then expand from there.

Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli with a Sage Brown Butter Sauce

Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2000

Prep Time: 25 min
Inactive Prep Time: --
Cook Time: 10 min
Level: --
Serves: 4 appetizer servings


  • 9 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 cup roasted butternut squash puree
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus 2 ounces
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1 recipe pasta dough, rolled out into wide ribbons, about 1/4-inch thick
  • 12 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves


In a large saute pan, over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallots and saute for 1 minute. Add the squash puree and cook until the mixture is slightly dry, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cream and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons cheese and nutmeg, to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Cool completely.

Cut the pasta ribbons into 3-inch squares. Place 2 teaspoons of the filling in the center of each pasta square. Bring 1 corner of the square to the other, forming a triangle and seal the pasta completely. Add the pasta to pot of boiling salted water. Cook until al dente, about 2 to 3 minutes or until the pasta floats and is pale in color.

Remove the pasta from the water and drain well. Season the pasta with salt and pepper.

In a large saute pan, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter. Add the sage to the butter and continue to cook until the butter starts to brown. Remove from the heat.

Place some of the pasta in the center of each serving plate. Spoon the butter sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle the 2 ounces of cheese over each plate and garnish with parsley.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Freezing Tomatoes!

Are you flippin’ kidding me?!  I never knew tomatoes would freeze as a viable way to preserve them.  Never thought about it.  I’ve been spending the past few weekends canning and I’m still overrun with tomatoes.  I learned from a commenter over at Sacramento Vegetable Garden that tomatoes can be fresh frozen.  That’s right.  FROZEN!  I did a quick search and learned a wonderful trick.  Now I’m going out to harvest this evening.


PS – If you wander over to Sacramento Vegetable Garden don’t be startled by Bill’s music when it starts up.


DSC_1843_4753Here’s the haul from this evening’s harvest.  There’s a bunch more to follow.  This freezing thing is a nice option that I’m excited to try.  Meanwhile, this bounty is chilling in the garage refrigerator.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pruning Before & After

This is the 2nd year for the espalier trees.  All are stone fruit trees.  They are irrigated the same and fed the same “Dr. Earth”.  Some perform better than others.  This evening, it was time to break out the pruning shears and make a few snips.

Always start with sharp pruning shears that are clean.  I use rubbing alcohol to clean mine.  It evaporates quickly leaving no chance for rust.  I have a couple of sharpeners in the shed to keep the blade sharp.  They’re cheap and very portable.

That’s it for pruning advice except to clip at an angle with the blade close to a joint.  The very best resource is prune

Santa Rosa Plum This tree really thrives in this climate.  Fruit did form this year but the immature tree was unable to hold it.


O’Henry Peach   Both years this tree has produced fruit.  This spring there were about 3 dozen peaches but a wind storm knocked the fruit from the young branches.  This is a tasty variety of peach.  Only a small amount is pruned so the leaves can continue to shade the fruit.DSC_1825_4735DSC_1831_4741

Granny Smith Apple  Only 1 apple this season and not much pruning.  Here the top lateral is being formed.  In the photo on the right the longest vertical branch is now making a gentle turn to the right to begin developing laterally.



Warren Pear  This tree along with the apple bend easily and grow easily to an espalier form.  There was damage to the leaves earlier in the spring and an aphid attack a couple of weeks ago; but the pear is continuing to form.  There have been no blossoms.



Fantasia Nectarine  A score of “not-so-great” has been handed out to the nectarine.  Only 3 lateral branches have formed with sparse amounts of leaves.  It did bloom this spring; but no fruit has formed yet. 



I believe the branches have been sunburned.  Any diagnosis and recommendations are welcome.  I will either learn to graft with this tree or start all over with a new tree in the winter.  Like the peach, the nectarine doesn’t get much pruning to allow the leaves to shade the branches.

DSC_1836_4746 Blenheim Apricot  This must be THE most vigorous of any of the fruit trees planted as espalier.  I’ve given it a number of prunings this summer.  Small fruit did form in early spring; but immaturity ruled and I’ll just have to wait for another year.



I was chasing sunlight by the time I was cleaning up the apricot pruning.  That’s how it works in the summer…the sun chases you until you go inside then you chase the sun until it gives up.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hot Hot Hot Hot Stuff

Oh sure.  It’s hot.  Gardening happens 12 months out of the year around here and I really get burnout in July.  The heat pushes me to the point of not caring and letting the garden take care of itself (for about 5 minutes).  Like most gardens, tomatoes are exploding along with squash and peppers.  I’ve been canning salsa (both 5 alarm and 1.5 alarm varieties) and tomatoes to preserve summer’s bounty at least until Thanksgiving.  That’s why I haven’t been blogging lately.  Any spare time is used in the garden or canning the harvest.

The heat and my persistence has rid the garden of hornworms for now.  This is good news for the gajillion pounds of tomatoes yet to be processed.  Everything is moving right along nicely.DSC_1812_4722Red Flame Grapes continue to ripen.  This vine really thrives with the hot, hot temperatures.  The grape arbor is laced with scare tape that seems to be keeping the birds out.  This is the 2nd year for the vine in the garden.  Last year there were a few grapes produced to my surprise.  2010’s production  has increased by about 5 times.  The vines were pruned when dormant and fed sporadically with Dr. Earth.  I don’t apply as much water as Farmer MacGregor.  His method seems to be working well.

DSC_1799_4709 Malali Watermelon also are going bonkers with the heat.  I counted about a dozen the other day.  Keeping the vines in bounds of the raised bed may be helping but this is the 1st year I’ve grown this variety.  As the vines creep over the blocks and out into the garden paths, I turn the vines back over on top of itself.  This is shading the melons growing below and the blossoms are on top for the bees to handle.

DSC_1802_4712 Borlotto Solista Beans were planted on May 18.  Here is the progress 2 months later.  They love the heat too.  I planted Summer Savory around them; but the shade from the vines is preventing its development.

DSC_1795_4705 Luffa Gourds are thriving in the heat.  They were planted last month on June 18.  In the late afternoon, the leaves get a bit droopy so I give the 4 vines a little drink and all is well.

Hope you’re thriving in the heat or at least coping.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Garden Beasties

Here’s what was in the garden on July 15, 2009.

DSC_1183_1396I miss my friend everyday.  This photo is my computer wallpaper.


Thank goodness I have their company.

DSC_1194_1407 She’s always most tolerant of her human staff.  Most of the time.  She’s mostly the napping queen.  And why not?


DSC_1219_1418 And this is my puppy kitty that follows me around in the garden.  She’s pumpkin pie with whipped cream highlights.

What would we be without our pets?  Lost.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010



This is the 1st time garlic was grown in the garden.  It was planted in October and harvested in May.  Success!  It was fairly easy to grow and fairly easy to braid.  Currently, the braid is being snipped at a rapid pace as salsa production goes into full gear.  Another great use is to chop it up and cover it with olive oil to use on anything being grilled.


Garlic nuts swarm to the Garlic Festival held annually in Gilroy, California.  It’s happening July 23-25 this year.  I’ve never been and wonder about using garlic to flavor ice cream.  Maybe if I lived closer I would visit the festival and give the ice cream a try.

I’ll plant again in the fall.  In the meantime, vampires continue to fly over.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Quiz – Name That Plant

I did my evening tour of the garden and snapped a few pictures of the various leaves that are vigorously growing there.  There is pruning that needs to be done; but I’m pooped from making salsa this afternoon.  Some of the plants were hit with a few sprinkles last night from a freak occurrence of clouds in July.  This disturbed some of the dust.

See if you can name the plant.  Answers will be provided at the end.  No.  The only prize is the eternal satisfaction you will have in knowing you’re danged brilliant.

Here we go.



3. DSC_1779_4689 

4. DSC_1781_4691




































bay laurel