Saturday, May 16, 2009

Can You Dig It?

One of our lovely roses

This has been a very busy week in our garden! The grow heap is finally underway, I planted an herb garden, and the "bean" area is taking shape.

I put the herb garden in on tuesday. I really want to make it into a rock/herb garden but lack the rocks at this point. All in good time I suppose. I tried somewhat to keep the left side of the plot for culinary herbs and the right side for tea/medicinal herbs. Of course some herbs fall into both categories so it's not a strictly followed set-up. So far the herb area houses, english lavender, french lavender, sage, tarragon, creeping thyme, lemon thyme, greek oregano, lemon verbena, chammomile, basil, and chives. I'd like to put in some bee balm, lovage, echinacea, and mint (in pots). As a testament to how invasive mint can be let me tell you this, I've found a mint plant growing in the center of the herb plot. I have never planted mint so it must be from the previous occupant (Greg's grandma). I have tilled and weeded and done all manner of things to this plot and yet the mint remains. You gotta respect that staying power.

All week, all season really, I've been working to prepare the bean area. It has been an adventure. At one point, in december I think, I covered it in cardboard to smother any weeds, then I neglected it so while the cardboard kept some weeds out it acted as a mulch and protected others. It also did a fine job housing all kinds of not-so-beneficial insects, (read: slugs earwigs and ALARMINGLY fast moving spiders, seriously what are those things). We have never had trouble with slugs before but this year they are rampant. I'm going to try the old beer-in-a-jar trick, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Anyway, this week I really buckled down and got the area cleared. I spread five bags of manure only to realize I'll need at least three more. I've mounded the manure up into two long rows. Since the rows are slanted I am left with an awkward triangle space at the corner, I'm most likely going to be putting three tomato plants there. Which should round out the grand total (so far) of tomato plants to...Twenty. We have had, and continue to have volunteer tomato (and squash) plants all over the garden, just a perk from using compost I guess. Whenever one gets in the way I pot it up so I have several waiting to go in the ground.

The Bean Area
The two long rows will become four when I divide them each with a watering trough. I used this trough method for the sunberries and they are growing by leaps and bounds so I've decided to put it to use for the beans and squash as well. One of the rows is planted with onions. I planted the onions close together so we can harvest some for green onion use and leave some to bulb up. The onions share a trough with the Envy Soybeans, which I planted this afternoon. I think I'm going to plant the remaining two rows with bush beans but I'm torn with wanting to put in more peppers so one may be bush beans and the other sweet peppers. I already have two rows of bush beans on the other side of the sunberries.

A few winters ago when it got ridiculously cold here in San Diego one of our shrubs along the fence died leaving us with a bare spot in the shrubbery, which I delight in, I hate wasting water on ornamental things. I'm thinking about planting some dried beans from the cupboard there and seeing what I come up with. We eat a lot of dried beans so being able to grow at least a portion of our own would be helpful.

Our tomato plants are becoming heavy with fruit, although Jonas likes to lighten their loads every so often by picking green tomatoes. This does not make me happy. Jonas's favorite word is "ball" he says it at least 50 times a day. He ascribes the word to anything remotely round...including tomatoes. The poor kid just can't resist and I'm worried with each scolding that he'll catch on to the no picking rule just in time for, well, picking. Of course by then he'll be too afraid to pick anything. Sheesh. Here's one of the selfwaterers, still growing like crazy!

Here are some tomatoes in the ground that have taken off as well.

We've started getting some sunberries, at the rate of 2 or 3 a day. The bushes are COVERED in green berries so when they really start ripening, holy mole. Jonas really likes them, which is good. They're sweet but have a definite tomato-ish flavor. Good news, since eating the berries Jonas has stopped whacking the plants with his shovel, progress. We've also been rewarded with one raspberry and one boysenberry. There are lots of green berries on all of the brambles, but this one early ripening berry thing confounds me.
The sunberries and if you look in the foreground you can see the bean seedlings

And fianlly, the grow heap. Greg and his dad picked up a load of dirt from Alpine Rock and Block today. Some went to the parents house and some came to us. I planted fifteen cucurbits in the grow heap this afternoon. There are already three cucurbit volunteers in the heap. If all goes according to plan our harvest should be wonderful! I've planted: Lemon Ball Cucumbers (LOVE THESE TO DEATH!), Carolina Cross #183 watermelon, zucchini, yellow straightneck squash, several other summer squashes from a mixture so they'll be a surprise, Prescott Fond Blanc melon, Marina Di Chioggia pumpkin, Long Island cheese squash, waltham butternut squash, and Sugar Baby Watermelon. Most of the cucurbit seeds I got from I have several other squashes that I'm going to plant on the other side of the yard, they won't get the benefit of the grow heap, but whatever. Here's the grow heap from one angle...
and another. It may look like just a mound of dirt but you wait.

And here is a reward for those of you who have stuck out this blog post to the end. What troopers you are. While perusing garden blogs I came across this lovely nugget of a website It's all about one family's urban homestead in Pasadena. What an inspiration! Their home looks like my dream. Over 350 different kinds of edible and medicinal plants growing on 1/10th of an acre. And that's just the beginning. It's really cool, check it out.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Worm bin, self waterers, basically an update on the same old stuff.

Hello Faithful Blog Followers (or half hearted blog followers, as the case may be.) I can't believe it's already May! May and I still don't have the cucurbits in their grow heap yet. Time has gotten away from me.

The worm bin is a great success! I haven't harvested the compost yet, though I could, there's plenty in there. However yesterday I harvested the tea from the drip container. And by "harvested" of course I mean "poured it into a glass jar." The amount of springtails living in the drip container was astounding, and seriously gross, I felt like they were crawling on me for the rest of the day. The bramble fruits received the tea gratefully, I assume. I poured the half cup of tea into my big green watering can, filled the can with water and poured it over the leaves and soil. The worms eat the scraps I feed them so quickly that I can hardly keep up. I've read and heard that worms aren't fond of any brassica (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) or onion family member (onion, garlic, leeks etc.) Also you have to take it easy on the citrus because of it's natural pesticide properties. So that cuts down on what I can feed them, we go through a lot of citrus in our house, and I do mean A LOT! The worms still get fed properly but they go through food so quickly I'm worried that they may be over crowded. Should I start a second worm bin? I think I'll hold off on that for awhile. It sure would be nice to have a second one come summer though, we'll have quite a lot of scraps when things start ripening.
Here's a picture of the worm bin.

And the inside of the worm bin a few days ago...

I sprouted 5 black trifle tomatoes awhile ago, if you recall. They grew quickly and feeling pressed to get them into the ground I dedicated part of the grow heap to them. I saved one to put into the last self waterer I have to make. I should still have enough room left for the cucurbits. As it stands now the grow heap is just last years compost pile spread out over one of the garden beds. Yes, I finally moved it over. The portion now dedicated to black trifles will not get a layer of soil, rather the compost will act as a mulch and that's that.

Most of our tomatoes already have fruits on them! The silvery fir tree tomatoes are loaded! Silvery fir tree tomatoes are indeterminate so it's somewhat expected that they should bear a lot of fruit all at once. Still, it's exciting.

On the right side of the yard I've started planting bush beans. I'm working this week on preparing an area for edamame, more bush beans, onions and maybe eggplant. The sunberries have really taken off since the weather has warmed. Jonas has it in for the sunberry plants and whacks them with a shovel if given half a chance. What a weird kid. Still the sunberries are getting larger and there is something to be said for that.

If I haven't stressed this enough already let me say it again, the self watering containers have exceeded my best expectations! The tomato plants in them are simply huge! And they grow so quickly they seem to need tying to their stakes every day! It's only may and I'm starting to wonder what I'm going to do when they out grow their stakes. That time is fast approaching. The red pear is spilling over the edges in every direction. The brandywine's leaves are bigger than my hand! Greg and I have decided to add a lot more self waterers for next year. I can't believe what a difference the constant supply of water has made to the plants. I'm very excited to try carrots in them come winter. Here are several pictures of the self waterers I took a few days ago.