Friday, May 19, 2006

Peppers and strawberries and birds, oh my

There's no place like California to garden. A native of the northeast living here for almost twenty years, I am still amazed how early warm weather arrives each year. Even though this year's seasonal rains and harsh spring storms lingered longer than usual, I've already got produce from my hot-weather crops.

I was thrilled Thursday to find this tiny pepper dangling on my Anaheim chili.

I had been seeing some action from the volunteer strawberries that showed up mysteriously in the front yard last year. But thanks to neighborhood birds I have yet to sample the goods growing in a small bed that surrounds a large tree. No big deal, I thought. It's not like I put much effort in, heck I hadn't even planted the things. I assumed they were the product of some underdone self-made compost I put there. So I saw them as an offering to the Gardening Goddess, in exchange for the protection of the remainder of my future harvest. And besides, I sort of owed those birds something, what with that empty bird feeder swinging above taunting them for what two, maybe three years since I'd last filled it.

But then I see the same evidence of critters down at the Community Garden plot I'm renting where I'd lovingly and quite purposefully placed two Junebearing strawberry transplants. Alas it is not to be, perhaps. And like the turtles in Susan's Missouri kitchen garden, the birds never finish what they started. I have a feeling the birds take only a bite or two and leave the rest because what they have come upon are only half-red berries, not nearly ripened to their potential sweet perfection. I wish they wouldn't leave behind their half-eaten remains for me to mourn.

Why blog?

The desire to make a garden is often followed by a desire to write down your experiences there.
--Michael Pollan, from Second Nature: A Gardener's Education

After anouncing the debut of Through the Garden Gate to friends and family, someone asked me, "What exactly is a blog?"

As the above quotation suggests, the marriage between gardening and blogging seems natural but perhaps it was best explained by Angela in her Northern California Garden Blog where she answered the question "Why do I garden blog?" quite eloquently. I love the part about taking a virtual peek over a neighbor's fence.

Writing and gardening, these two ways of rendering the world in rows, have a great deal in common. -- M.P.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Garden Plot Update

Here's what the garden plot looked like yesterday. Considerable growth in less than a month. I have noticed, as many other gardeners I'm sure have, the tomatoes I have in containers at home have a little more height and just seem more vigorous. I'm sure it's because those in pots have warmed up quickly while the ones in the ground needed a little more time to get toasty. They seem to be catching up rather quickly, however.

Here's an Early Girl from the same six-pack that is thriving in a container at home. A small pot of basil started from a packet of Renee's Garden seeds is nestled below. The variety is Profumo di Genova and it is labeled a "Specialty Basil." The packet described it as an Italian import bred for basil flavor without minty/clove overtones, its compact shape and good disease resistance. The package goes on to boast: "Fancy European greengrocers offer pots of dense, leafy Profumo di Genova at the front of their market stalls so cooking gardeners can take it home and enjoy a regular supply of its spicy, fragrant leaves." The description made it too enticing to pass up, since I won't be taking that European vacation to the Italian Riviera this summer after all. Kudos to the copywriter at Renee's. I was instantly transported to an open-air farmer's market and could practically hear the sounds of a bustling crowd clamoring to spend their Euros on the best basil available. Instead, for about three American dollars I hope to enjoy some wonderful pesto later this summer from the comfort of my own patio while sipping a phenomenal Italian wine. I better start sampling vintages now to find just the right one.

In the foreground are on the left, some cilantro started from seed next to a Purple Coneflower I picked up for $1.99 at the Natural Foods Co-op.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Community Garden Plot

Here's a section of my plot at the Elk Grove Community Garden. This picture was taken April 26. I planted several types of tomatoes, peppers, some strawberries, marigolds, and some Giant Greystripe Sunflowers. Since then there has been significant growth.

Later I added Lemon Cucumber, Spacemaster Cucumber, Sugar Baby Watermelon and Jack O' Lantern Pumpkins. This past weekend I put in two types of basil -- Genovese and a lime-scented variety -- and another giant sunflower. I read that you can train cucumber vines up sunflowers. We shall see.

As it is the real estate in the bed, which measures about 16 feet by four feet, is bound to get a little crowded soon. The tomatoes, peppers, basil varieties, marigolds and strawberries were nursery transplants. The remainder I started from seed at home then transplanted later.

This is my first experience growing in a raised bed. In the past I gardened soley in large containers with the exception of a Lemon Cucumber last year and a volunteer tomato that sprouted next to it -- a product of a little underdone self-made compost.

Into the Garden

According to an ancient Chinese proverb, "Life begins the day you start a garden."

I have found that a garden sustains not only the physical but the spiritual while nourishing not only the body but the soul.