Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rye Grass


Planting Rye Grass isn’t exactly the most water wise thing to do in the thirsty southern San Joaquin Valley; but it gives a nice, cool pop of color to the garden with a soft, brushy texture.  The summer lawn has to get put to bed before the seed is thrown.  Farmer MacGregor buzzed the Hybrid Bermuda lawn down like an Marine haircut.  Amendments were applied to enhance the soil’s permeability.  The seeds are cast and kept moist.  This requires the sprinklers to be turned on about 2 or 3 times a day.  Not for long.  The seeds will sprout in about a week if the Mourning Doves don’t eat your work.  Once the seed is up the irrigating can be cut back because the temperatures are usually on the way down with the occasional rain.  If the weather turns rainy and foggy, the irrigation system needs to be cut completely and that’s a good thing.

People used to top the seeds with steer manure years ago; but a problem with salts and junk has pretty much made that practice extinct.  As a kid, you could tell when Trick or Treat time was approaching by the stink of the manure.  Farmer MacGregor has finally been convinced to mulch the lawn clippings back into the lawn this winter to help build the soil.  January will signal the time to start the pre-emergent schedule.  Maybe the summer of 2011 will be the year of a healthier lawn unlike the weed infested junk from 2010.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Beef Cake on a Carrot Cake

It was a day of gifts starting with bird remains on the patio from a garden kitty before the sun even thought about coming up.  Well wishes, thoughtful thoughts, and a variety of even more goodies that smelled good, looked good, felt good, and tasted good filled my day.  Special deliveries, envelopes from the postman, and personal deliveries lasted all day long.  It’s wonderful to be remembered.  Not many photos were taken to mark the day; but I had to snap off a few to chronicle the occasion.


Even though Tom Selleck couldn’t be with me in person on this special day, I’m glad he could be here in frosting.  And really, is there anything much better than frosting (Except for frosting ala Herb Alpert, 1965.) ?  No.  I didn’t think so.  Thanks for showing up Tom.


This blog is to record what is going on in Maybelline’s Garden for my reference and the occasional entertainment of others.  The only way I can tie this into gardening is that there are royal icing daisies on the carrot cake.  AND  Tom’s chest hair is made of coconut.  That’s right.  Coconut.


It was a nice day with fond memories and no embarrassing hoopla.  Thank you everyone.


To the 2nd City writing classThat cake is a fine example of how to write funny without being shocking.  Find your truly funny niche in a world that has enough shocking junk occurring.  Lift the rest of us up with joyful laughter.  Pure and funny.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bulbs if you can wait and wait and wait


Planting bulbs now can lead to blooms in the spring (March).

It’s hard to get inspired to wait and wait.

This is not something to undertake if you enjoy immediate gratification.


Maybe I’ll plant some bulbs now while I enjoy the bounty that is bursting at the local nurseries.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Aunt Aloe Vera


There is an Aloe Vera plant in the garden.  It’s a gigantic Aloe Vera plant.  Did my neighbor give it to me?  Did I buy it?  Did my Aunt Vera give it to me?  I don’t remember.  I never use it.  Dumb.  I should.  It’s gigantic.  This summer it was growing out in the full sun.  The sun was getting the best of the Aloe Vera.  I put on some heavy duty gloves and rolled the pot under some shade cloth that is used for the Camellias.  It improved and is enjoying the new location.



Black Widow spiders enjoy living in it, on it, and all around the pot.  It has outgrown its pot.  The pot is a cheap, junky, plastic container that really doesn’t suite such a large plant.  The whole thing is top heavy.


This Spring it was in bloom at the end of April when the temperatures started to climb.  Should I plant it in the ground where it is thriving?  Should I leave it alone?  Should I wait until Spring?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Krusty in the Garden

More time is being spent in the garden and less time inside due to the wonderful change of the seasons.  Here are a few things that have been knocked off the list of things to do:


Plant the Cyclamen (Fantasia) at the base of the Wisteria under the pergola.  Cyclamen grows fairly well here during the cooler months.  When the weather turns hot, the Cyclamen say, “Farewell”.  They can make a comeback when the weather eases up.  I used up some of my planting mix for Azaleas and some Azalea fertilizer to get these babies started.  Cyclamen should not be kept wet so plant them a bit high to avoid rotting the roots.


This fall every stinkin’ radish seed must have sprouted.  There is an abundance of radishes that were harvested.  Both varieties (Jaune D’Or Ovale & Watermelon) will be taken to work to share with associates.  Did you know that the greens can be sauteed in olive oil and garlic?  I didn’t even know you could eat the greens.  The golden variety is very peppery.  The space where these were growing is needed to move some lettuce transplants.

DSC_2311_5233 I’ve never transplanted lettuce before; but, like the radishes, most every lettuce seed sprouted and the sprouts need room to develop.  Today was a cool, overcast day; so it seemed a perfect time to give it a shot.  If all the transplants survive their move, I will be in salad all winter long.  The salad bed will be renamed Salinas South.  Most all the beds were thinned and seedlings were transplanted wherever possible.  Sadly, a pile of Purple Cauliflower seedlings were sacrificed because I just don’t think we will be able to eat that much cauliflower.  There are plenty left along with broccoli, cabbage, beets, peas, carrots and onions.


Most all the herbs are thriving.  The Lettuce Leaf Basil just won’t slow down.  It gets pruned regularly.  My work associates enjoy this basil.  Someone brags about their recipe using my basil on their pizza.  I have yet to receive any pizza.  Maybe some day.  Some herbs that were planted didn’t even germinate – Stevia and Lavender.  Duds.


The Borlotto Solista Beans look like blush colored ornaments on the dying vines.  Harvest time for these beans is coming up.  The support will be removed and stored for the winter while I plan out the summer garden.  Maybe green beans will grow in the garden in a few months.


See the pot of Rosemary and Thyme?  It reminds me of Krusty the Clown.  image

These are things I think about when I’m out gardening.  Scary.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Scotch Moss


Scotch Moss (Sagina subulata 'Aurea') is a low growing ground cover that I’m trying for the 1st time.  Scotch Moss likes full sun to part shade and requires well drained soil unlike regular old moss.  It can be grown from seed; but I bought a couple of flats to get started while the growing is good.  The bright chartreuse color accents the dark red of the 5 Alarm Chrysanthemums.  The fall palette for the front yard is burnt red, chartreuse, bronze, purple, and cream.  So much of the stock available in local nurseries has spring colors – pink, yellow, lavender from pansies, stock, and snapdragons.  That’s fine for the spring; but I want fall colors.


The best time to garden here in zone 9 is October through April.  The weather is perfect.  Not too hot.  Not too cold.  Just right.  Hopefully the Scotch Moss will be vibrant and vigorous and fill in all the bare spots.  When the month of May rolls around, I don’t hold out much hope for these plants to survive our summer.  That’s fine.  Just survive the nice bits of the year.

I don’t know who named this plant Scotch Moss.  It’s not moss; but most importantly and quite easy to remember is this:

Scotch comes in a bottle.  Anything else from Scotland is Scottish.  Do yourself a favor and memorize this.  You do not want to endure a lecture from a feisty Scotsman or Scotswoman.  You do not.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Delicious Citrus

DSC_2288_5330The replacement Satsuma Mandarin tree was potted today.  Sadly, the 1st tree didn’t make it. Four Winds Growers in Winters, California produce some nice trees. 

DSC_2286_5328 This is the newest addition to the garden.  Owari Satsum Mandarin produces seedless, easy to peel fruit that ripens in early winter.  This variety is supposed to be the hardiest of all the mandarins.  The dwarf variety is expected to mature to 6’-8’ but pruning will keep it where I prefer.

DSC_0988_2294 Here is the Satsuma Mandarin that didn’t make it.  It produced fruit in it’s 1st season; but it didn’t make it through the spring of 2009.  This picture was taken on November 1, 2009.  I hope to remember to take a similar photo of the new tree on November 1, 2011 to note the progress.

There are other dwarf citrus from Four Winds that are growing well in the garden.

 DSC_2287_5329 The Variegated Pink Lemon is doing so well that it needs regular pruning.  I never realized that the branches were scented until I pruned this tree recently.  The cut branches were heavy with a citrus scent.  Wonderful.  This tree has produced some fruit.

DSC_2285_5327 Poor little Robertson Navel Orange was having a tough time.  It may have suffered whatever attacked the Satsuma last year.  I kept pruning off the affected areas with pruning shears that were sterilized after every cut.  It seems to be doing better and needs a bit of dead wood removed.  It has produced some fruit but dropped it early on.  All the trees are very immature and really aren’t ready to hold fruit.  (Someone needs to read the memo to the grapefruit tree.)

DSC_2282_5324The Rio Red Grapefruit is producing some monster sized fruit that should be ready this winter.  The citrus  trees are fed about every 6 weeks.  They seem to be doing fine with that schedule.  It’s important not to overwater citrus.  I let the soil dry out pretty good before irrigating.  The pot or growing basin is filled with water then allowed to drain down through the root system.  A moisture monitor is really useful.  When the surface is dry, it’s very tempting to irrigate the trees.  The moisture meter indicates that just below the surface the soil is moist and no water needs to be applied.

When the rain came, I needed help draining the soil.  GardenMax seemed to help keep the drainage from getting clogged by surrounding native clay.  Truly.  The native soil is simply adobe.  Most all the garden soil has been imported or amended - otherwise I would be able to only grow tumbleweeds.


The lot where I garden was supposed to have been an Orange grove in the 1960s; so I know it can be done.  This area on the west side of the Sierra Nevada has a thermal zone that is suitable for citrus to thrive.  Having citrus to enjoy in the winter is a great treat that reminds me of Christmases long ago.

Friday, October 15, 2010

We Go Together Like Peas and Carrots

DSC_2268_5310One of the raised beds in the garden has been dedicated to Forrest and Jenny this fall/winter.  Nothing but peas and carrots are growing there.  Two varieties of carrots – Atomic Red and Cosmic Purple – are looking very healthy.  Carrot seeds are fairly fine and are only need to be sown on top of the soil they are meant to grow.  Like all other root crops, remove any stones from the well draining soil before planting.  Just barely cover the seeds and keep the soil moist.  The seeds should sprout in about a week.  A second crop of each variety was sown about three weeks later to insure a continuous harvest.

DSC_1202_2526 Tall Telephone Peas is the only variety of peas that are being grown this season.  The first crop was planted on September 18 and the second crop was planted October 4.  These seeds are much larger than carrot seeds.  The seed is a pea that needs to be planted 2” deep and 6” apart.  I have planted the rows about 3’ apart to allow room to move between rows.  This variety is expected to grow about 9’ tall; so twine has been strung on the supports that were used for tomatoes in the summer in anticipation of vigorous growth.  The seeds sprout in about a week and can be sown as long as the temperatures remain above 78 degrees.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

California Strawberries


Strawberries were enjoying the cooler weather we had recently.  Sadly, the temperatures are back up; but they should be alright.  The berries were forming in an oblong shape rather than a fat, round shape; so they were fed this past weekend.  The runners are being rooted and transplanted to frame the salad bed.  The plants are set up on an automatic drip system that is off for now because I’ve been hand irrigating the beds until all the seeds are up a bit more.

Let’s hope for a wet winter so no irrigation will be necessary.  I’m fascinated by gardeners in other areas that will post on their blog noting they had to attach a hose and irrigate their gardens during brief, hot, dry spells.  What a difference the climate is in Bakersfield.  Irrigating is a way of life when you can garden year round.  With any luck, the Tule fog will be rolling in next month and sticking around until February.

The way, the strawberries may be small and oblong; but the taste is terrific and more intense than ever.  I prefer to simply pick them, rinse them, and eat them.  Others prefer the whole heavy cream version.  Give this recipe from the California Strawberry Commission a try. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Let Us Grow Lettuce

DSC_2202_5221Four varieties of lettuce has been planted in the salad bed – Cimaron (above), Merlot (below), Brune d’Hiver, and Iceberg.  Lettuce needs some heat to get started.  That’s why everything was planted in place by mid September.  The very fine seeds need well drained soil (seems like everything does) in a sunny location.  It’s impossible to evenly space the seeds by hand so expect to do some thinning.   Make sure to keep the soil moist but not soaking wet.  The seeds seem to sprout in about a week.

DSC_2203_5222 When the lettuce is thinned, I plan to try to transplant the thinned plants to some bare spots in the salad bed.  Either slugs or pill bugs have mowed down most of the iceberg.  I have more seed but not enough warm days to replant.  Perhaps in early spring more Iceberg can be sown.

DSC_2219_5237 The salad bed is just sprouting in this image and has progressed a bit since this time. 

From left to right (east to west) here’s what’s growing:

  1. Iceberg Lettuce and White Lisbon Bunching Onions
  2. Brue d’Hiver Lettuce and White Lisbon Bunching Onions
  3. Jaune Pailles Des Vertus Onions
  4. He-Shi-Ko Bunching Onions and Juane D’Or Ovale Radishes
  5. Craupaudine Beets
  6. Cimaron Lettuce
  7. Watermelon Radishes
  8. Merlot Lettuce

In bed #1 where the Iceberg has been hit by a Titanic pest event, bunching onions have been planted to help repel those boogers.  See the stakes laid out to keep garden kitties off?

The bed is framed with Lettuce Leaf Basil, strawberries, and Stevia.  The Stevia isn’t doing a thing; so I believe I’ll thin the strawberries into the vacant spots. 

I’ve never harvested lettuce by just removing the leaves that I need and keeping the plant in the ground to continue to grow.  My harvesting style was more Salinas in nature where the entire head gave its life all at once.  I’ll try the leaf-at-a-time method to try to lengthen the growing season.

Any favorite salad dressing recipes?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Onion Field*


Everything in the garden was planted in place - meaning that a package of seeds was opened and sown in the place the vegetables are intended to grow.  Onions are fairly easy to get started.  Like other vegetables that are root crops, the soil needs to be well draining and free of stones.  Make sure to choose a spot that will get full sun most of the day.

The seeds are usually pretty small – about the size of a grain of sand.  Please do not leave a geological comment regarding the previous generalized term.  Only lightly cover the seeds with soil and sprinkle to get everything nice and moist.  Keep the onion bed moist but not wet.  Some seeds germinate faster than others.  Bright green strings should start punching up towards the warm sun in about 6 – 10 days.  You might get some over achievers like the bunching onions I just planted on Sunday.  They are up today (Tuesday).  You’ll need to thin your sprouts to make room for a healthy crop.  The thinned onions can be used like you would chives.

A variety of onions are in for the fall / winter garden: 

Flat of Italy

He-Shi-Ko Bunching

Jaune Pailles Des Vertus

White Lisbon Bunching

Yellow of Parma

A package of seeds costs about $2 so the investment isn’t a big one.  That small investment helps you to have onions that will allow you to avoid the grocery store more and more while using your money for something else.

I love onions.  In fact, whenever I’m driving behind a trailer loaded with onions I roll down the windows and drive behind the truck for as long as possible to enjoy the onion scented air.



*The Onion Field is a 1973 nonfiction book by Joseph Wambaugh that is set in the fields surrounding Bakersfield, California, my hometown.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fall Radishes


There’s a ton of catch up posts to get posting.  I’ll start with the radishes that were planted.  There are a couple of varieties planted in the salad bed.  This bed had lemon squash and watermelons this past summer.  Now, there is a variety of lettuces, onions, and radishes growing. 

Radishes are a snap to grow.  Jaune D’Or Ovale and Watermelon Radishes were planted on September 16.  By September 20, they had germinated.  Harvesting of the Jaune D’Or Ovale began on October 10.  Keep the soil moist, not wet and radishes will grow without much trouble.  They need plenty of sun and well drained soil.  Since they’re a root crop, remove any stones so they can grow nice and fat.  As they plump, the crop needs to be thinned.  I simply eat them as they are thinned.  The image above is a bunch of radishes that were thinned to help the others fatten up.

A package of radish seeds cost around $2 and produce enough radishes to make it well worth growing them instead of buying them.  Imagine how much better they taste just after the dirt has been rinsed off.  They are a lot crunchier than the store variety too.  Since radishes are fairly small, not much landscape is required to grow a crop.  A pot on a sunny patio might even work.  Radishes are ideal for the gardener that wants to try growing vegetables.

Give it a shot.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Plant Sale?



This Saturday the Bakersfield Business Conference will return to the California State University, Bakersfield campus with the ginormous tents, mega- entertaining speakers (most all are conservative but not all), gobs of food & drink, and horticulture.  The soccer fields of the campus are almost completely converted to the event village it will be for Saturday.  Loads of money will be in town.  Loads of important people will be in town.  Most importantly, loads of plants usually go on sale to the public after the event.  I haven’t heard if that will be the case this year.

If you’re in Bakersfield or reasonably close, pay attention to any announcements of the plant sale.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pick a Peck


I pronounce that I have picked about 5 pecks of peppers this weekend.  Certainly much more than that came out of the pepper patch this summer to make salsa, pepper poppers, and share with others; but the final harvest was about 5 pecks.  The plants needed to be cleared out to make way for the garlic and more broccoli to be planted this week.

The pepper processing has begun in the kitchen.  The peppers are being sorted for salsa and stuffing purposes.  Only the big, beefy ones move on to stuffing status while the others will join home grown tomatoes as salsa.

A peck is a unit of dry volume or capacity in the U.S. Customary System equal to 8 quarts.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cinderella Pumpkins


Last year at this time I was enjoying a bounty of Cinderella Pumpkins.  This October…zip, nada, zero.  I experimented with the six leftover seeds from 2009 that had inadvertently been left in the house while it was being fumigated in March.  The seeds were planted in July and a three of them germinated, grew, and bloomed. The pumpkin patch was plagued with squash bugs.  By the time the plants were ripped from the ground there was only one very small squash at the end of one vine.  Oh well.  It was only an experiment.  The hypothesis was that none of the seeds would germinate.  The conclusion is the hypothesis was wrong.  I don’t know whether to blame the fumigation, the planting schedule, the age of the seeds, or the squash bugs for the failed production.  Pumpkins will most likely be planted during summer 2011 simply because I love the fall – October specifically.   Happy October!

PS It rained today!  Dang it.  That’s so great.