Friday, August 29, 2008

Today's Harvest

The first pears were eaten today. Very good. Still a handful of beans. Cayenne peppers are reddening. Still a little sourness in the grapes, but definitely closer. Tomatoes are in full performance mode. Some squash blossoms - raw, they taste like lettuce. Some lettuce - this was left over from Spring, and somehow is at it's peak now.

Mesclun is full of holes - slugs. Tome fo rsome organic slug bait.

Missed it.

Even the spent blossom is beautiful. Yesterday I worked a 16 hour day, and was amost too tired to sleep. I didn't even think to check the deck. This morning, here it is, telling me "I bloomed.".

The plant as a whole is lush and has many new branches. It's someting to work on for next year.

It's largely the ephemeral nature of these flowers that drives me to grow them It it was easy, It would not be as interesting.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kitchen Garden Log

Today. I bring tomatoes to work and leave them on my desk like a bouquet of flowers. I Pick them up and feel their lumps and ridges and smoothness. I smell their fragrance. Sometimes I eat them.

You will say, this is one strange guy.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bloodgood Maple Samaras

I just liked the photo. This tree was planted in 2001 as a way to 'set roots' in this home. Maybe I'll try to plant them once they mature.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Here's a thought. Some plants are grown for their summer appearance, and ave overwintered in order to maintain them for the next year. Or at least, to have new and larger specimens the next year, and save money.

Others are grown for their winter appearance, indoors. They can be oversummered. In this case, oversummering is a chance to grow them larger and more lush. This is in contraast to overwintering, which is basically keeping them dormant or at least not growing rapidly.

Most are left in a shady place or northern exposure, since they aren't really designed for full sun. Some may have started their species as under-story plants in the forest. The epiphytic cacti were suited for growing high in the trees, wlthough there may have been higher branches shading them (speculation on my part). Even plants designed for full sun, were not designed by nature to grow in containers, where they are more likely to dry out and become sunburned. Leaving them in protected locations, they don't need quite as much attention.

These are sort of accidental houseplants. Looking around the yard, I found a tulbagia ("Society garlic") that survived last winter in the ground. The oxalis is somewhat tender but somehow escaped into the bean garden. Today I potted up both, to see how they will do in containers again. This photo is basically a 'before' picture.

Some cactus cuttings. These fell off of the Brasilopuntia when I repotted it. This is all it takes to start them.

One year old epiphullum hybrid. It's increased in size, no flower buds yet.

Another epiphyllum hybrid. Same story as the other one.

Here's an aloe that I bought last week at an estate sale. It wasn't labeled for sale. Some poor old soul had left it in a corner of the house and it hadn't been thrown away yet. For 50 cents, something different for the window.

This is like the Carly Simon song, "Anticipation". Epiphyllum oxypetallum, see prior entries. I think it will bloom in a few days. I hope that I dont miss it!

Sanseveria, about to bloom.

Progress Notes - Kitchen Garden

Beans are done. New beans not yet blooming.

Cucumbers bearing like crazy.
Pattypan squash started bearing.

Grapes are starting to ripen. Price is first, then Venus. Each year, I can't wait for the grapes beause I know how good they will be, then I am amazed anyway with how good they taste. No comparison with grocery grapes, not even close.

Tomatoes bearing. Ive had a few Lemon Boy, and some of the "Black" varieties (Black Krim, Black Cherokee). For the first time in my yard, blossom end rot has taken some of the larger tomatoes. Like the grapes, the flavor amazes me. They are so very, very good.

We get a bowl of cherry tomatoes every day now.

What's Blooming

I'm not getting outside much this summer. The recent cool trend and rain started the grass growing again. It's not a sea of green, but enough to cut.

Rose of Sharon

No-name oriental lily. Nice fragrance.

Garlic chives are a favorite for the bees.

Species oriental lily. This is my favorite. Sweetly scented.

Heliotrope, wafting scent around the entrance.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Deck Plants Progress Notes

Today is the day for progress notes.

I have been diligent about keeping the deck plants watered. They are on the North side of the house, although some receive either full sun or morning and evening sun.

Most of these were overwintered by "cheap+easy" methods - click on labels below for that history.

Epiphyllum bud - looks like this will be the only bud. It's growing rapidly. It looks like buds form on secondary branches. Since it grew substantially, but most growth involved production of primary stems, the promise is for next year. Behind the epiphyllum is a clivia in bud. They have been blooming nicely this summer, too.

There are also 2 hybrid epiphyllums. They were bought last year as rooted cuttings. They are growing, but I doubt that they will bloom this year.

I suspected that this Euphorbia "Burgundy Wine" was dead. It was overwintered dry, in the garage.

Cannas, now blooming. They seem to like container growth, and overwintering inside. This is the best that they have grown and bloomed.

More cannas.

Euphorbia splendens. I've always thought of this as a house plant. It's doing nicely outside, with more flowers than it has had before.

There have been occasional brugmansia blossoms. I think that the best is yet to come, wtih more buds forming now. Very fragrant in the evening.

Fig Progress Notes

One of my biggest gardening anxieties this year related to the figs. They got off to a late start, and lost their initial leaves to late frost. I wondered if I would get any figs at all this year.

The main crop figs started late, and seemed to grow slowly. With the recent hot weather, they seem to be taking off and growing.

Hardy Chicago - The figs are the size of a quarter. This variety is supposed to take a freeze that kills the top, and still grow back fast enough for a fall crop.

Petite negri - I thought about cutting this one down this year. The new growth did not look promising. Now it has more small figs than any of the other trees.

"Vancouver" fig - probably Brunswick. These are the largest of any of the main crop figs.

"Vancouver" again - The one and only breba. I ate it today. Very yummy! Sweet and tropical tasting.

Lattarula" - I wondered if this would have any. These are now the size of blueberries. They seems to enlarge from "almost-too-small-to-see", "almost-overnight". Will they be in time for a fall crop? Being on the South side of the house, this location may be warmer and encourage faster growth. Or not.

Kitchen Garden Progress Notes

Other than watering, most of the yard and garden has been neglected. This is due to work demands. The past 4 days have been 100 degrees. Watering eveything takes about 30 minutes. Most of the watering is limited to vulnerable plants / trees and the kitchen garden.

The veggies contine to produce. Cherry tomatoes came 'on-line' about one week ago with occasional ripe tomatoes, and now with a bowlful every day. LemonBoy has been producing for a week, but the first 4 had significant blossom end rot. I'll need to check on that - I thought it was an issue of calcium content of the soil, so used lots of crushed eggshell in soil prep this year. I hope that subsequent tomatoes are not so affected.

"Price" is the first grape to start changing color. This is the most it's had so far.

The yellow beans continue to produce a big bowl full weekly. Interestingly, to look at the plants, they dont seem to have any beans on them. The beans are hidden under the leaves. These are growing under the small Lattarula fig tree. The total space is about 9 square feet.

I also planted a new crop of Ning's "ChangChun" climbing beans, adjacent to the current ones that appear to be giving up. We'll see if they produce this fall.

I didn't realize that I liked zucchinis until growing them. It's interesting, the American and Chinese varieties seem to alternate production, so there is always one about to remove.

These beans were planted last month. They are growing quickly. I weeded and mulched with fallen bamboo leaves and dry leaves removed from the deck (cherry and sumac). Last week I fertilized with fish emulsion. An unforseen effect was that the dogs then got into the bean patch and dug them up. They like fish emulsion, a lot. But after replanting and watering in, I dont think that any were lost.

The front row is mesclun, also growing fast.

Peppers are producing now. They are stuck in the garden here and there, since I didnt have room for a separate pepper patch.

Monday, August 11, 2008

More beans

These are the Roma and French Yellow beans planted 7/26. My non-scientific assessment is that they are growing much faster than the Spring-planted bean patch, same varieties. The mesclun in the front row is also growing quickly.

Planted more today. Nothing lost if they don't produce, but if they do, we'll have some more fresh garden produce in the fall.

"Greening" the lawn

I can come up with an opinion about anything...

"Traditional" lawn maintenance burns as much gasoline in an hour as driving 100 miles, results in as much petrochemical spillage as the Exxon Valdez, causes air pollution with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and ozone, wastes water, damages waterways.

In keeping with living 'greener'-
1. We let the lawn go brown for the summer. OK, some of that was just neglect, but the front lawn was intentional. It greens up nicely when the rains start in the fall. Fortunately, we dont live in Sacramento, where citizens can be harrassed into watering their lawns during an official drought!
2. We let the lawn go 'diverse'. This was also passive, mostly. Anything that stays small (clover, small-leaf ground covers, yarrow, alyssum, violets) can stay. I do pull dandelions by hand. Those are fed either to the compost pile or to the chickens.

3. We bought this new high-tech no-emissions bio-powered mower. It uses only renewable bio-energy, does not result in toxic spills and smog (unless certain legumes have been used in the bioprocess), and provides useful calorie-burning cardio-exercise for the overweight operator. It's quiet as well as healthy to use.

Obviously, with a brown lawn, the new mower isn't needed now. I'll see how it works this fall, before giving up the more traditional rotary (but electric) mower.

Proudly called "American". Of course, the package states "made in China". sigh....

(Image at the top is copyright-expired from wikipedia commons)

States where I've been.

These are the states where I've visited, lived in, or driven through. If just the airport, I would add a few more:

visited 30 states (60%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or determine the next president

These are the states where I've lived at least a couple of months, although in most cases several years. Louisiana was boot camp, Texas was medic training. I've lived at least 4 years in each of the others. My heart is in the Pacific Northwest.

visited 7 states (14%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or determine the next president

(Thanks to Plants are the Strangest People for the cool link)

Ginkgo stats

This ginkgo grew 27.5 inches this year, with a final height of 75 inches. I don't think that it will grow much taller this year.

The smaller ginkgo grew 12 inches, then a bug ate the apical bud. It's now 37 inches tall. I pruned it back to the next bud, which I hope takes over at the new apical bud next year.

The largest ginkgo is about 15 feet tall. I cant reach the top with the tape measure. It;s in the center of the 'dog yard'. The added nitrogen from dog pee probably explains some of the rapid growth. It's been in the ground 1 or 2 years longer that the other two, but all of the seeds were started at the same time.

Tomatoes in the time of burnout.

There's love in the time of cholera. This is different, but you gotta do what you gotta do. The tomatoes do get watered, and I've been fairly diligent about pruning and tying them up. Much of the yard has been neglected this summer.

It's OK, though. Some things may need more care than they are worth. I've prioritized. Brown grass is not only OK but environmentally friendly. Once it's brown, it doesn't need cutting, weeding, or watering. The tomatoes are top priority, as are the fruit trees, ginkgos, and a few others.

See "yellow" for the first Lemonboy. It's not as big as last year. I suspect this is more due to the late start followed by instant heat, than to anything that I might have done differently. This continues to be the top performer large tomato in my yard. One of the 'black' varieties is starting to darken - not sure which one, the labels were mixed up.

We've been getting a few Sweet 100's for a week. Not a lot, but enough to remind me that it's worth the trouble. 1000-X better than any store bought tomato.

One of the tomato patches.

More White. More Yellow. Some Orange.

Chinese chives, First flowers. Bees love them.

Lemonboy. The first full-size tomatoes. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Here's an interesting development. Dozens of male flowers on all of the zukes and squash. No female flowers. No zukes. What's up with that?

This lily survives neglect. It's about 7 feet tall. Not the best location - maybe it will be moved this fall. Maybe not.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Brasiliopuntia first bloom

I've been growing this type of cactus for 20 years. The current plants were grown from cuttings from previous ones, probably back through 3 or 4 generations of starts from pads. It is not winter hardy, which is why the current plant is not larger. Its parent was left outside too long and died in a freeze. The current plant is about 4 years old. This is the first time that I have seen them bloom.

The last photo is a much older brasiliopuntia, photo is from Wikipedia commons.