Sunday, July 31, 2011

Harvest Interrupted


This morning, the skies were overcast as I plucked tomatoes and twisted squash for harvest.  I didn’t get a chance to grab some corn or peppers before the clouds started to spritzel.  Since I think of myself as a little sugar cube, I darted inside before I melted with the splash of a drop.  Really, my biggest concern was my camera.  To celebrate the harvest, we headed to Floyd’s for some canning supplies and seeds for the winter (broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, Buttercup squash) before we had lunch out at the air park.  French fries and ketchup is most likely a perfect food.  This afternoon will be spent canning salsa and dreaming of cooler fall days with the rain drops won’t mean swamp pants.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bird’s Eye

Early in 2009, a pergola was constructed to create shade.  There was shade before; but the ratty trees that were in this area had to go.  And they did.  Back then there was an unorganized mess surrounding the structure with a pile of bird’s eye gravel to be spread beneath.DSC_0523_613Wisteria was planted to make the shade more dense during the hot summer.  Family heirloom ferns were transplanted into baskets. Now over two years later, the bird’s eye gravel is a pain in the Croc; but most everything else is moving right along.DSC_2152_6832A basket of mixed plants thrives in the late afternoon sun.  Moon flower vines are creeping up to the top of the pergola.  I’ve never grown moon flowers before and am anxious to experience the perfume they are said to emit at night.DSC_2149_6829All the ferns are as tough as they should be.  Their survival was nothing to worry about.DSC_2150_6830And the wisteria is creating a bunch of thick shade.  The only thing that’s bothersome about the pergola is the bird’s eye.  Not the gravel bird’s eye.DSC_2150_6830The mourning dove’s bird eye is bothersome.  I can’t keep these flying rats out of the stuff.  Scare tape didn’t do the trick.  I can’t blame them though.  It’s a cushy pad.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Can’t Judge a Flower by its Bud

DSC_2214_6822Isn’t it interesting that something so bright and cheerful can come from something that seems completely creepy?DSC_2218_6826

Has anyone in the Central San Joaquin Valley planted their winter crops yet?  Butternut squash?  Broccoli? Anything?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mother’s Little Helper(s)

Even though I’m out numbered by the bad bugs something like 592 gajillion to one, I still have my friends the predators and pollinators to help in my continuous war in the garden.  Yeah.  I know I’ll never win.  Just think of me as the gardening Alamo.

Here’s some insects on my team this morning.

DSC_2205_6813The Jarrahdale pumpkin from yesterday has it’s flower fully opened today.  Little bees are doing  their thing early in the morning along with bumble bees and butterflies.  I’m not clear on where the Jarrahdale originates.  Maybe New Zealand.  There must be some powerful attractant in that pollen.  DSC_2210_6818Bumble bees seem to get drunk on the stuff.  Maybe the weight of the pollen stuck to them affects their ability to fly with precision.

DSC_2207_6815A big, fat praying  (more like preying) mantis is gorging on the aphids in the watermelon patch along with the lady bugs.  This big gal just experienced a morning blast to the patch in a feeble attempt to knock down some of the aphids.

Birds do their thing by gobbling up the worms and caterpillars.  Wasps and spiders do their part as well.  And I believe the absence of rodents in the garden can be credited to good ol’ Pumpkin and an occasional owl.DSC_2417

Do not rest easy bad things in my garden.  My team is hungry.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pumpkins, Time Machine, and Etiquette. Huh?


Know what pumpkins remind me of?



Nope.  Well.  Kinda.




Here’s a hint.imageThat’s right, old timer.  The Jarrahdale pumkins that are thriving in the second 3 Sisters bed remind me of an old telephone cord.  This variety is growing so well that it is starting to climb up the green bean support.Remember how the cord on that avocado green phone would get all tangled up? DSC_2202_6810 Looks just like the tendrils on the pumpkin.  Want to stay in the Way Back Machine a bit longer?  Remember these handy things?imageThat’s right.  A phone booth where you could see how many people could get stuffed into the thing OR change into your Superman clothes OR have a private telephone conversation without bothering others or being bothered by others.  Ah, telephone etiquette.  Those were the days.  Before I return you to the current day of continuous telephone bad manners, let me share a fun phone moment.


What was the name of the telephone operator on the Andy Griffith Show?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Everybody Love Watermelon

Two varieties of watermelon were planted this season, Malali and Sugar Baby.  I have absolutely no idea what I have growing in the watermelon patch except for a nagging aphid problem.DSC_2281_6797Pests have descended upon the watermelon patch.  Each morning, I spray the foliage with a powerful stream of water to knock off the aphids.  All day long the lady bugs feast.  Aphids can annihilate a crop so persistence is key.   They pierce through and suck out the sap.  Buggers.  Aphids aren’t the only pest grazing on the watermelon vines.DSC_2280_6796I really don’t know what the grasshoppers purpose on this planet but to make my “squashing” skills more keen.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Promise of Winter


Just think, six months from now I may be enjoying the cool weather without swamp pants and some lemons.  This spring, the lemon tree had an explosion of blossoms.  Scads of miniature lemons started to develop; but bit by bit they fell.  Erased from existence.  The little potted tree can only support so much fruit.  Fortunately, quite a few lemons remain.DSC_2266_6782

Six months from now I hope to be harvesting lemons, oranges, grapefruit, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peas, and carrots.  Until then, I’ll keep my swamp pants on and not get them in a knot trying to enjoy with summer has to offer.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

‘Mater Stringin’

DSC_2270_6786Summertime is in full swing and harvest time is getting under way.  All varieties of tomatoes are maturing and the bell peppers keep on giving.  The bell peppers grow upright without any support needed.  The tomatoes are a different story.DSC_2275_6791The most important support for the tomatoes is a nice, big roll of natural twine.  No.  Having a strong frame is probably most important followed by a generous amount of twine.DSC_2274_6790Start out with metal stakes driven into the soil.  Screw on the vertical wooden stakes to the metal stakes.  Attach a horizontal wooden stake (beam) across the top of the vertical stakes.  There’s some eye screws at the bottom of each wooden stake that has the first row of twine threaded.  Twine is run vertically from the top horizontal wooden beam down to the horizontal string.  As the tomatoes grow, a row of twine is added.  This helps keep the vines upright and off the ground for the most part.  It makes detecting varmints and harvesting much easier.DSC_2272_6788When the vines have played out, simply cut the string and haul everything to the compost pile. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tootie Fruitie

Fruit in the garden comes in waves.  Boysenberries, apricots, and plums ripen earliest.  Those are all finished for the summer.  Strawberries sustain me until the next wave ripens.  Watermelons, grapes, peaches, and apples are in various states of maturity.DSC_2260_6776

This could be one of two varieties planted – Malali or Sugar Baby.  Malali was planted first; but the pill bugs were getting the better of the sprouts.  Sugar Babies were planted with hopes of filling in wherever Malali failed.  Currently, there is an aphid problem.  The leaves are blasted each morning and that seems to be bringing in more ladybugs to do their thing.  It looks like I have made a friend with a pesky fly.  Geez, I need to file my nails.DSC_2252_6768The grape arbor is bustin’ with loads of Red Flame grapes this summer.  The bunches are in various stages of “redness”.  There was an initial problem of having mourning doves nesting on the top of the arbor; but once the first birds flew the nest the scare tape has helped to keep all other birds away.DSC_2256_6772O’Henry peaches are due to mature sometime in August.  There were many more earlier this season; but the tree has naturally thinned itself down to the size of crop it can hold.  These really are tasty peaches.DSC_2257_6773Granny Smith apples should be ready after the peaches are done.  The tag from Dave Wilson lists maturity “very late” in October or November but our local nurseryman said that we should have harvested in August.  This one will be played by ear (mouth).

There’s citrus to look forward to during the winter – lemons, oranges, and grapefruit.  The mandarin lost all of its fruit for this season.

I know tomatoes are fruit; but like most people, I think of them as a vegetable so they’ll be featured separately.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mother-In-Law’s Tongue

DSC_2248_6764Dang it.  My week long vacation in the garden has come to a screaming end.  I will be heading back inside to a nice office during the bulk of the hot summer hours.  It’s not like I have a depressing cubicle or share a workspace with an annoying associate.  My office is pretty nice.  My big window looks out to native landscaping and a large pond with a variety of wildlife.  Everyone I work with really is great to work with; but it’s still not vacation where I can putter around the garden in my “jammies”  until I need to dress for work in the front yard.  And the weather this past week has been terrific.  It was so terrific that my planned activity of canning tomatoes was postponed until there is enough heat to ripen all the fruit on the vines.  I can wait if it means enjoying cooler weather.

To ease me back into the rhythm of work, I decided to fill an empty pot with a plant to take back with me.  Sansevieria trifasciata (per Sunset Western Garden Book) also known as Bowstring Hemp, Snake Plant, or Mother-In-Law’s Tongue is what I selected.  The first names comes from the use of the tough leaf fibers as bowstrings.  The second name comes from the mottled banding on the leaves resembling a snake.  The third names comes from the toughness of the leaves and the plant in general.  This plant is ideal for the filtered light location I have in mind.  It’s perfect for the empty vertical spot in desperate need of something.

The ceramic pot is filled about half way with large gravel to add some weight to balance the top heavy planting.  There’s a drain hole in the bottom so the 6” plastic pot that the plant is in is set in a thin, plastic saucer on top of the gravel.  A little moss was soaked and added to the top to help keep moisture in and make the whole planting look a little nicer. 

There will still be mornings and evenings to work in the garden; but I’ll sure miss my “jammies”.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pumpkin Center


South of the garden, about 7 miles, is a little community called Pumpkin Center (pronounced:  Punkin Cenner).  If one pumpkin has ever been grown there in that farming community, I’ll be surprised.   Alfalfa, corn, and cotton are the main crops of this burg.  To my knowledge no pumpkin celebrations or festivals have ever taken place.

I’ve grown pumpkins in the past – some seasons successfully and some seasons were a complete flop.  This summer Jarradale pumpkins are winding their way under the corn and Borlotto Solista beans.  On June 1, seeds were sown with hopes of a bounty of blue grey squash to use to bake the Thanksgiving pie and decorate the table.  So far, so good.  Above is an image chronicling the progress to date.  Quite a few more pumpkins are developing under the shade of those huge leaves.  There has been a mild infestation of aphids that has been kept under control by spraying the underside of the leaves in the morning and letting the ladybugs do their thing during the day.

If things continue as they are, the center of Pumpkin Center may be relocated to OIldale.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Heinz Harvest


It took about 1 week for my perfect Heinz green tomato to ripen to a red tomato.  It probably would have been quicker if the temperatures this week had been hotter.  I can be patient whenever July temperatures dip into the frosty 80s.  Tonight, we enjoyed sampling this beauty with our dinner salad.  “Very tomatoey”, raved Farmer MacGregor. 

Here’s what Tomato Fest has to say about this variety:

One out of four heirloom tomato varieties sent to me by Kees Groenewegen, Manager of Operations for HeinzSeed for TomatoFest to grow out and share. This open-pollinated tomato variety was developed in Bowling Green Ohio and Leamington Ontario when Heinz had breeding stations there many years ago. This variety was developed primarily for Eastern Canada and the Northeast U.S.. Plant produces very hearty, leafy plants in our Central California fields that yield huge crops of 3รข€, bright-red, round, tomatoes. Sweet-acid balance and complex flavors. Uniform fruit appeared to be slightly larger than other Heinz tomato varieties.  A great canning tomato, salad tomato, and sauce tomato.

This tomato is doing well in the garden.  So far, so good.  Ketchup making is out.  There’s no way I can improve on what Heinz has created.  These will be treated like all the other tomatoes in the garden – fresh, frozen, or canned.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011



Not everything in the garden is edible and I’m making an effort to incorporate more ornamental flowers.  Duranta has been around for a few  years.  It’s part of the verbena family.  The one I have is a tree growing in a pot facing west against a wall.  That’s hot.  Blooming continues summer through fall.  Once the flowers are finished, yellow berries come in.  The deciduous plant takes a break in the winter.

Duranta is a perfect choice in zone 9.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

3 Sisters Update

DSC_2233_6749This summer I’m trying out the 3 Sisters method in two beds.  3 Sisters means corn, beans, and squash grown together to benefit each other.  The corn in both beds is Golden Bantam Yellow Sweet corn.  The beans in both beds is Borlotto Solista beans.  The types of squash is different in each bed because I ran out of some seeds AND I wanted to grow pumpkins for the fall.  With that, one bed has Lemon squash and the other has Jarrahdale pumpkins.  The Lemon squash, planted on April 2, has been producing for some time providing fresh squash for the BBQ, casseroles, and pasta salads.  This bush variety of squash doesn’t meander as much below the corn to help shade the ground; but they are producing shade.DSC_2237_6753

Jarrahdale pumpkin leaf.  Size 9 Crocs used for scale reference.

Planted on June 1, the pumpkins should be ready in mid to late September.  Jarrahdales really wind through the bed and are providing exceptional shade for this 3 Sisters bed.  Hopes of blue-grey pumpkins in the fall make the temperatures of hell a bit more bearable.  Next stop is the local, tiny hardware store to pick up some nastursium seeds.  They’re suppose to ward off squash bugs.  Last summer the garden was overrun by the buggers. 

My size 9 crocs can only stomp on so many bugs to help them on their way to an eternal garden.

image                                  image

Thursday, July 7, 2011



Tomatoes are really ramping up in the garden with the summer heat pouring down.  Heinz looks like it may be in the lead for my favorite/perfect tomato.  It’s looking good.  I picked up a plant from the Tomato Lady at the local farmers’ market a few months ago happy to find the variety that I thought I wouldn’t grow until next season.  This is definitely a determinate variety.  All the fruit should be ripe at the same time.

Next week is set aside for canning tomatoes with the hopes that everything ripens.  Now I’m going to search for a recipe for Heinz ketchup.  Ketchup is my favorite condiment and the Heinz variety will be reserved to make ketchup - if I can find the recipe.  Any references to the Heinz recipe will be appreciated.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gold in the Garden & Podcast Update

How much does a pirate pay for corn?

A buccaneer!  (A buck an ear.  Get it?)


Harvest time is in full swing in the garden.  The apricots were a success.  That little tree produced about 4 dozen pieces of fruit.  The Santa Rosa plum gave a bounty too.  Excellent.  I don’t  measure and weigh the harvest; so those details simply aren’t tracked and recorded.  The tomatoes (Tigerella and Cour Di Bue pictured) are starting to ripen and carrots are mature enough for pulling.  BUT the big news is that I’m a successful corn producer.  Not a farmer; but, dang it, I was able to harvest my 1st cob last night.  GOAL!  All I wanted was to sample one cob that I had grown.  Now that I’ve met that demand, I need to learn the finer points of freezing corn.  Golden Bantam Yellow Sweet Corn was planted in waves with the hopes of having fresh corn all summer long.

I’ll consider growing pop corn if I learn that it tastes as good or better than my preferred brand – Orville Redenbacher.image


Podcast Update

Sadly, this “podcast” has come to a sudden end.  The fruit on the Split Leaf Philodendron broke off from the plant on June 29.  The pod-like fruit looks like an elf’s slipper.


Curiosity got to me; so I split the thing open to learn what was going on inside.  Kinda looks like a weird banana.


I’ll be watching for this next June.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Operation Hornworm–Battle Plan

imageYou can do it.  American loves a winner.  We’re here to destroy those that want to destroy us – or, at least, destroy my tomatoes and peppers.  That’s right.  Hornworms.  If you have tomatoes or peppers you probably have hornworms.DSC_1111_1331They are the stealthiest bastards in the garden; but you can do it.  You’re a winner.  And American loves a winner.  First you need to locate the bugger.  Oh they leave their mark.  They’re pigs.DSC_2236_6729The enemy leaves signs of their destruction right where you can see it.  Look on the leaves, on the fruit, on the ground.  Now look up.DSC_2233_6726Hornworms will strip the leaves, stems, and even chew on the fruit.  Bastards!  Keep looking up beyond this destruction.  Look from the ground up.  It’s easier to see their camouflaged bodies.DSC_2235_6728There’s the culprit.  They move fairly slow and have suction cup like feet.  All you need to do is peel it from the plant.  You can do it.  You’re a winner and America loves a winner.  The first time is the roughest; but once you’ve made that successful accomplishment you’ll be able to peel these terrorists out of your garden with precision.  After you’ve removed the enemy you can squash it beneath your garden feet.  Until you can bring yourself to that level of annihilation, try placing the enemy in an open space where you can monitor their movement.  Your local air force (scrub jays and mockingbirds in my garden) should move in quickly to remove the terrorists and put them to better use (bird food).

Reveille and taps is the prime time for successful hunting.  Now go out there and give ‘em hell.

That is all.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, America!


Ajax – 9 months old

What a coincidence.  Ajax is 9 months old on the 235th birthday of our country.  Let’s celebrate!

It’s hotter than a firecracker out in the garden.  Today will be a balmy 104°.  Yee Haw!  The extent of our celebrating will be finishing all outdoor work before 10am.  Check. 

Now we will be hibernating until the chill of the evening arrives when yours truly will crank up the bbq for some Hebrew Nationals.  Sure swamp pants will be involved.  But there will also be Ruffles and baked beans.  We’ve been snacking on homegrown plums and apricots; but dessert will be special for this birthday celebration.  Apricots from my baby espalier trees provide all the fruit.  Here’s what it looks like.


It was inspired by Miri Leigh but helped along with advise from Julia Child.  Thanks Julia.  If you’re allergic to dairy products find something else.  This baby is loaded with cow fat!

Happy Birthday, America.