Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Seed Sowing Update

It has been two months since I direct sowed carrots, two types of lettuce, radishes and turnips. Sadly only the turnips are thriving.

Not a single carrot seed germinated and neither did the Iceberg lettuce. (I chose this variety only to appeal to my eldest son who has extremely limited food preferences.) While some of the Buttercrunch lettuce sprouted, it was quickly consumed by, oh slugs, birds, earwigs... (choose your favorite).

As for the radishes, well several came up but only about four have approached maturity. Most of them just quit growing and were these sad, thin, tiny things that I pulled and were later tossed by my husband who thought they were trash.

Needless to say, I am disheartened by this exercise, one of my first in direct sowing. I have also had miserable luck getting my Sugar Ann Peas to sprout, failing on two accounts. What is disappointing is that each of these are considered cool weather vegetables. Even my Sweet Peas seem stagnant after growing to only about two inches.

I hate to rush Mother Nature but I am getting itchy for some real action in the garden.

Ethel Glove Update

Last March I entered a drawing for a pair of Ethel Gloves. Due to a staff changeover I only received them in February. I am happy to report that despite the delay, these gloves have lived up to my expectations. Tailored specifically for women, they fit well, which means I actually wear them. In the past poor fit often meant I didn't bother with gloves. They are good-looking, come in several design patterns and appear to be durable. I'm looking forward to using them for a long time. Priced at $20 they seem like a good value.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Adventures with Herbs

One of my goals this season is to make better use of the culinary herbs that are thriving in my garden. I started this bed in 2008. Originally it contained a lemon basil, which of course is annual so it is long gone. In this photo the rosemary, oregano and marjoram are sprawling. Last year I grew some thyme in the bare spot on the right. Thyme apparently needs more attention than the other herbs, or at least more water, because it now, is also long gone. This year I'm planning on starting thyme from seed but I think I will fill the bare spot with sage, another hardy perennial herb. Currently, the garden includes a potted sage that has flourished there a few years.

In an effort to use these beautiful herbs, I prepared Sage Butter to serve over cheese raviolis earlier this week. I found the recipe in Silver Spoon, said to be "Italy's bestselling culinary bible." It's not much of a recipe actually. You simply melt 7 tablespoons butter over low heat and add about 15 fresh sage leaves as soon as the butter starts to color, then season with salt. When the leaves are crisp, remove them from the pan and serve. I must admit I was too impatient to wait for the leaves to crisp, and I did not brown the butter or add salt, but we enjoyed the dish nonetheless. The butter was delicately infused with fresh sage flavor for a mild sauce, the kind we prefer over raviolis in order to actually taste the cheeses inside.

A quick internet search yielded other versions of the recipe, some included shallot, lemon juice, ground black pepper and even garlic.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Red Admiral on California Redwood

Wow. Another unusual butterfly sighting in my very own backyard. I'm not sure if I just happen to be noticing them more or if there actually are more this year. I say unusual because ordinarily I see the more common Monarch variety here in this neck of the woods. This one alit on a California Redwood for several minutes on Thursday just before 6 p.m. This afternoon I glimpsed what looked like a couple of Monarchs passing through the yard. Neither sat and stayed awhile, so no photo.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Limitations of Spring: Weather, Slugs

With hail in the forecast last week I was glad I hadn’t invested too much effort or cash into this year’s garden. To protect the few tender seedlings that I had already put in the ground, I placed a few “cloches,” fashioned from recycled plastic drink bottles, over them. The hail never materialized but we have had high winds and heavy rains the past few days. Above is a 5-inch green bean seedling in its plastic housing.

Of course wet weather means snails and slugs are on the prowl. I never have good luck with greens. What few butter head lettuce seedlings that sprouted in the half wine barrel appear to have succumbed to the slimy pests. I can’t figure out where they hide during the day. Could they possibly climb the height of the barrel then commute back down under it at dawn? It seems like quite a haul, and it’s not like I can just tip it up and casually peek under. It weighs about a ton. Or, could this be the result of marauding birds? These two pictures were taken only days apart.

Whatever the culprit, they are ruthless. Here is a small arugula seedling I placed a berry basket over. Notice the damage on the protruding portion of the tiny leaf? Someone’s been sampling.

During a dry spell Saturday, I got to work on some seed starts for succession planting. Here is a photo of what I am calling my pop-bottle “greenhouse.”

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Western Tiger Swallowtail on 'Bowles Mauve' Erysimum

Impatiently Waiting

While the weather this afternoon is a pleasant 73 degrees here in the northern tip of California's Central Valley, the summer gardening season isn't quite in full swing.

Hot weather veggies like tomatoes and peppers, both the sweet and hot varieties, won't begin to flourish for a few more weeks at least when temperatures remain warm at night as well as at mid-day.

Mild weather has helped a few seedlings I've planted to germinate but the growing is slow. Daily progress is barely noticeable and I am eager for the days when plants like summer squash seemingly double in size over night. Until then, I am anxiously waiting.

Pictured are seedlings of both green and yellow summer squash, green beans, Armenian cucumbers, cosmos and nasturtiums. I've also had luck sprouting zinnias, sunflowers, alyssum, arugula, butter lettuce and turnips.

This year I hope to fulfill my resolution to keep the garden going year-round and pursue more cool-weather crops come fall.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Best-Ever Seed Tape

Yesterday I got out into the garden for the first time this season. Trying not to be discouraged by the weeds surrounding my raised beds I got busy making and planting home-made seed tapes. I had seen the idea in Organic Gardening magazine and was eager to try it out. If successful it should eliminate the need to thin seedlings, a chore that seems so counter productive to me. Seed tapes are ideal for small seed crops like carrots, radishes and lettuces.

I planted two types of lettuce, Iceberg and Buttercrunch; Cherry Belle radishes and Red Cored Chantenay carrots in rows in one raised bed. Before doing so I sprinkled and mixed in some Plant Tone plant food.

In large containers, I direct-sowed Purple Top White Globe turnip, Sugar Ann peas and a container variety of Sweet Peas. I also assembled indoor starts of three varieties of Southwestern chiles: 'Sierra Fuego' Jalapeno, 'Joe Parker' New Mex and 'San Luis' Ancho.

Follow this link to OG for directions to make your own seed tapes:
Best-Ever Seed Tape