Sunday, June 26, 2011

Farm Update - 6/26/11

This week starts off with a gorgeous lily from the planter in the front yard. There are many plants up there but this is the only one that has bloomed this year.  We only had 2 bloom last year and these are simply gorgeous.

As I've said before, we not only grown edibles but also some gorgeous roses, hydrangea, marigolds, gladiolus, and a few others. The blooms are sometimes clipped and put into water to go inside. It is great to be able to not only eat from the backyard but also to enjoy the beauty that is a simple bloom.

Speaking of edibles, we now move to those because I know you have been waiting for those all week!

Up next is a tiny cucumber that I found. This is vine is slowly making it up the nylon trellis. We've had 3-4 cucumbers this year and I wouldn't call it a complete success but I can now say that I have grown cucumbers. Of course, I was hoping for better results, but any cucumbers is better than no cucumbers.

Although this plant did better than what I thought it would considering I just tossed some seeds in the soil and only just watered. I did mix in compost before planting anything but after that, it was only watered. I will work more compost and "garden soil" for future plantings. I will need to buy more chicken wire so the neighborhood cats don't use it as the garden as a litter box. I am working on a structure / contraption to help this issue.

Next up is the new lettuce that is coming in. Most of my lettuce has bolted and I haven't bothered to take it out. I have taken out some the plants roots and all, but some have been cut out. Using a pair of clippers, I cut the stem and left just short nubs sticking out of the soil The roots have been left alone.

Since the roots are still intact, the lettuce has begun sprouting, again. I hadn't bothered taking them out because I'm not really sure what to put it in its place and I haven't had a chance to really work in the garden lately. I try to keep up with the watering and harvesting but not much else. The swiss chard has really taken off and it  continues to grow. I really haven't had a chance to trim it either.

These tomatoes are gorgeous and represent what most of the other tomatoes look like. There are also many green tomatoes that will take a while to ripen but that shouldn't take too much longer.

I believe these are Moneymakers and have been great slicers. These have gone into sandwiches and burgers but they are mighty tasty just by themselves.






Up next is the biggest eggplant so far but definitely not the only one. There are more on the other plants and we will not have a shortage this year. It looks like we will be able to have that lasagna made with these.

This is a Black Beauty but there are also some Front Runners coming in. The Front Runners are a new one for me this year but seem to be doing fine. These are longer and look more like a cucumber. I'm not sure how we will be  eating all of them but they will all be enjoyed.




This next shot shows most of the plants in containers and ripe fruit can be seen everywhere. I try to pick most of the tomatoes and other veggies when they are ready to be eaten. Everything here seems to be growing well but there is one strange thing happening. Most, if not all, of the plants are producing and they are watered regularly but the plants seem to be wilting. Some branches are completely dry and falling off but they still keep producing. I don't know if this is happening to anybody else. I live in Southern California and the weather here has been warm recently and I may not be watering enough. I'm not sure.

I  should quit complaining and just enjoy the fact that we have abundant harvests and it looks like they will continue throughout  the season. At least that's what we are hoping for.

Here are the main 3 raised beds that are putting out, not only great maters, but also peppers and eggplants. We haven't eaten the first eggplant this year yet, but that shouldn't be too far away and may happen this coming week.

I am completely addicted to yellow pear tomatoes and can't eat enough of them. Poblano, green bell, and banana peppers have all been eaten and enjoyed thoroughly.

The last photo this week is from the gladiolas from the front yard. These came from bulbs that my mom found at the 99 cent store. I didn't think much of them and planted them and pretty much forgot about them. One of the bulbs sprouted initially but didn't get very far and I thought that this was the end of it. I am glad I was wrong and we have now enjoyed some gorgeous blooms. I am leaving them in and hope to have more next year.

This covers it for this week and I will be back next year with more photos and updates.

Luis

This week's photos can be found here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Weekly Farm Update: 6/19/11

This week starts off with a shot of a tomato harvest. Here we have some delicious tomatoes that are almost gone actually. The yellow pear tomatoes are put into baggies, 5 at a time, and taken to work to be eaten as healthy snacks. The cherry tomatoes are mixed in with salads or eaten by themselves. The larger tomatoes are either diced up and cooked, or tossed into salads, or eaten in sandwiches. We have tomatoes that will probably be made into sauces for pasta or anything else that we may conjure up in the kitchen.





I can now say that I have seen lettuce blossoms but didn't realize they were so small. These only bloomed for a few hours in the morning but once the sun warmed up, they disappeared. I'm not sure what happened but I will leave these plants in a little longer as I'm not sure what will go in its place. Last week I mentioned I may put in the strawberries, but decided against it. They are doing well in containers but will probably be moving them  up at some point. I may add another raised bed and they may go in there but I am not too sure yet.

Here we are looking at the bigger of the 3-4 eggplants that have set. I believe this is the Black Beauty and this particular plant has another 3-5 blooms on it. My wife loves eggplant and can't wait to try to make an eggplant lasagna. This is where the eggplant is sliced and used to replace the pasta in the lasagna. It makes it a little healthier and gives it more flavor. Yes, if that recipe is ever carried out,  you can be sure there will be a  blog post about it.

I gotta start looking for more ways to eat eggplant and I don't think I exhausted my options last year. Eggplant was baked, fried, boiled/stewed, sauteed. I hope to be able to grill it this year.

Up next is a yellow tomato plant that is going insane! This cage was fashioned from some metal panels that were found in the garage. These are sold to make the wire cage shelves that come with those horrid plastic pieces. I could have used those but zip ties work much better and easier to take apart. All I need to do is just clip off the zip ties. This one originally started with two squares going up, but a third layer had to be added. I hope the plant doesn't get too much bigger as I have run out of panels. I also have another cage built the same way in one of the raised beds and that one has also gone insane. The gray posts on the bottom were hammered into the ground and simply attached to the cage with zip ties to give it more stability. The make-shift cages work well but I don't recommend buying the kits for the wire cube shelving for this purpose as they are not cheap. These happened to be in a box in the garage and were not being used.

I know I haven't posted a full shot of the beds on the actual blog post in a while but they have always been in the Flickr sets. I will do things a little differently and start with the bed on the right and work to the left.

As you can see, there are tomatoes that should be picked sooner than later. This bed also includes carrots that should be good to pull in another month or so. I believe these are full size carrots and I am interested in seeing if there is a difference in growing them directly in the ground or in a raised bed.

The middle bed includes peppers, eggplants and tomatoes and they are all producing. No eggplant has been eaten yet this year, but the peppers and yellow pear maters are plentiful and delicious.

The last bed also has tomatoes, what a shocker there, and 3 different kinds of peppers. Banana, green bells, and poblano peppers. These have all been producing more than enough peppers than we need. Like I've said before, they aren't as large as the ones that are found in the stores, but those are just massive. There are only 2 of us and we don't need anything in that size.

Up next is the new bed that was just planted yesterday! I know the quality on this photo is not up to par but it does the trick. This bed was built by using my usual method but instead of waiting for the compost to be ready, I stopped off at Home Depot and picked up 2 large bags of garden soil at 3 cubic feet each. I thought I would need both bags, as the bed is just under 9 cubic feet but I didn't realize that the soil is compacted. I had about an inch or two already in the bed and I just emptied out a single bag and it filed it more than halfway up. I had some grass clippings in a trash can that had cooked down and were tossed in the bed. Everything was mixed together and it looks gorgeous.

This bed was planted with mainly root crops that include: beets, bunching onions, more carrots, radishes, turnips but also include spinach and lettuce. The grid was easy to make with push pins, twine, sharpie and yardstick. The bed is 3x3 and the yardstick was perfect for measuring the squares. Push pins were hammered on the inside of the bed and the twine was then added.

I'm not sure how it will work out but it looks promising. I even covered this bed with a roll of yard guard mesh. It is set on top and falls down the sides to protect it from the cats and will keep them from using it is a giant litter box. I can just water the bed without needing to take off the yard guard. I will be  posting photos of it's progress in the weekly updates.

The last photo this week shows flower buds from the Plumeria cuttings my wife planted. She hasn't had good luck with plants in the past but this is a perfect fit for her. These require certain planting mediums and watering rules. She got these cutting from somebody at her office and has been taking care of them ever since.

She searched the internet for all the information she could find and put it into action. She only waters them once a week and the love is starting to show. The blossoms for this year are starting to form and she simply can't wait. There were a few last year and they were not only gorgeous, but also smelled amazing. It looks like she may get even more blossoms this year and she is bouncing off the walls.


This is it for this week and I hope to back next week with more photos!

Luis

The photos for this week can be found here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekly Farm Update: 6/12/11

I'm back this week with great news! We've got more tomatoes than we know what to do with! The green fruit came from a branch that didn't have enough support and fell over. Once it fell, it snapped. These were cleaned and put in front of the window in the kitchen and will hopefully will turn nice and red.

The Early Girls, Yellow Pears and Cherries are abundant. There are enough yellow pears to put into snacks baggies to bring to work for lunch.  The Early Girls are eaten in salads, sandwiches or simply by themselves. I think the larger ones are the Moneymakers and those are just as delicious.

Tomatoes are not the only homegrown food that we've recently enjoyed.

The peppers are flourishing all over the place and it doesn't really seem to matter where they are being grown. This is a plant in one of the beds that is going insane, but plants in the containers are also setting fruit and don't want to lag behind. The two bottom green bells here have been clipped, along with more poblanos and banana peppers, and will be eaten soon.

One thing I have noticed is that the vegetables, especially peppers, are not as big as the ones found at the grocery store. I know commercially grown produce has products that help give bigger and better yields, but we prefer it small and natural. After all, it is just my wife and me. We don't need a massive bell pepper that can be eaten by 3-4 people. We can use it in much smaller quantities and enjoy it that much more. We also like that we are eating something that does not have any chemicals but that was covered in this blog post.

This week is full of great news as I have also found 2 very small eggplants! I believe this is a Black Beauty and this plant has another 5-6 blossoms that will hopefully set more fruit.

This variety is a high producer and we ate eggplant all the time last spring/summer. I think I have more plants this year than last, so I don't know what we will do with it all. It will probably be shared with family.

Here are more Early Girls still on the vine but there are only 2 left on this specific bunch. I got the wife out to the garden and had her pick some tomatoes for me. I am happy to say that she enjoyed the fact that she picked it herself and understands why I love doing it. I don't expect her to make it a habit but she'll pop out there every now and then.



The vine this one was attached to, had already dried up and bringing it in seemed like the only feasible option. It was washed off and added to my squash collection. I love squash as much as the next person, but I think I may have hit my limit this year already. I've got a few spaghetti and two acorn. We aren't sure how we will be eating these yet, but they will be enjoyed somehow.

I read many blogs and know that I am not the only one with squash coming out my ears. Most of these will be tossed into the microwave for a while and be made into squash soup. We don't add anything to the soup other than salt and/or pepper.


Strawberry season is in full swing and these plants seem to be thriving. Of course, we are not getting very many of them, but we only have 6 plants and they are in smallish pots. I was thinking of putting them into a bigger container. I harvested a small patch today that had carrots and onions, but I think they may go better in the greens bed. Besides, all of my lettuce has bolted and I'm not sure as to what to put in there. Of course, compost will be mixed in. The chard seems to be thriving and will probably stay where it is for now. There is enough room to put in the strawberries on one side of it. I don't know if that will work and maybe somebody may have some experience with that and can give some input.

This week ends with a fun photo. This blue bird is one that my mother-in-law bought for me. I'm sure some of you may have seen it, but here it is inside the raised bed with tomatoes and peppers. This is not the only color available, but one we really liked.

That is it for today and I will be back next week for more photos, hopefully including some of the eggplants!

Til next week!

Luis

This week's photos are HERE!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Weekly Farm Update: 6/5/11

My "farm" not only includes edibles but also flowers and this is from one of the two rose bushes that came with the house. This beauty, along with a few others were clipped and dropped into a vase. The other rose bush is right next to it but the roses are a different color. I can't tell you what varieties, because I honestly don't know and part of me just doesn't care. I will keep watering  and whenever my mother in law comes over, she clips them back for us. The roses keep blooming so we must be doing something right.

Along with these beauties, we have our edibles and this season has been a tasty one already. We've enjoyed some tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, carrots, snow peas, onions, tons of lettuce, radishes and basil.

One of the things we are waiting on is the peppers. The banana, poblano and bells are coming in. This shot shows the bells but they are just a bit on the small to be picking. I grew these same bells last year but I don't remember them producing so much. Granted, this specific plant is in one of the raised beds and it has room to expand. Then again, I've got a plant producing just as much, if not more, than this one. I am thinking the early heat has set these bad boys off.

One of the other veggies we are waiting for are the eggplants. I have two in the same bed as these bells and a few more in containers. I had about the same amount of plants as last year and I remember how many eggplants we ate. I sure hope this year is up to par. There are blossoms on these everywhere and all the bee activity should help these out.

We have enjoyed some tasty carrots already this season but these are the ones that were planted in tomato bed. This is one of the biggest at around 5-6 inches. I believe these are also the full size carrots. There are a more in the bed but this is the best looking one. I hope these grow better than the ones that were directly sown. These were as well, but being in the raised bed gives them a little more breathing room.

I mixed in compost when I seeded the first carrots, in ground, and they grew well. Here's hoping to bigger carrots from the beds!



I'll give the you the bad news first; most of my lettuce has bolted. I have picked off the lower leaves and those will be enjoyed in a big salad later. I had lettuce last year but it was no where near the lettuce from this year and I will probably try more in the fall.

Now for the good news; I will have more room for other plants! Although, I was thinking of letting it flower and see if I can collect some seed. This is also exciting for me as I don't think I've ever seen lettuce flower.

I think I've covered most of the major groups in the garden except for the tomatoes and don't worry, I won't leave them out.

Early Girls, Yellow Pear and Roma tomatoes have already been eaten. Most of them have been eaten fresh right out of the garden. A little rinse under running water is all they need and they are added to salads, sandwiches or just eaten by themselves.

Along with the "normal" tomatoes, I have my tomatillo plant growing and blossoming. Like I've said before, there are different schools of thought as to how many plants are needed for pollination. I am ecstatic to say that with ONE plant, fruit has been set and is growing. I was ready to either yank the plant or see if I could find another one at the nursery but it looks like I may not need to. I don't want to county my tomatillos before they are set but if I get 1 out of it, I will call this a successful season for them. I know I can probably transfer something to that same spot that will have higher yields but where is the fun in that?

On the right is the tomatillo plant but the one that looks like a small bush, is one of my Yellow Pear plants. I love these little ones and this one plant is loaded up with them.

I leave you this week with a tomato that was picked this morning. This is a Roma tomato that grew kind of funny. My wife called it a snowman shape and yes, this is  one tomato. It looks like a tomato that decided to give birth to another tomato of its own.

I shall be back next week!

Luis

This week's update in photos is HERE.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Organic Garden

The time has come for me to bring up the topic of organic gardening. I have not used any chemicals so far and don't plan on it. There are many reasons and ways people go about sticking to organic gardening, or at least claim they are. I've got it down to 3 main reasons; high cost of "organic" or "all-natural" products, I love seeing the insects that come by, and I don't like eating chemicals.

Now that growing your own vegetables has become of the trendy / cool thing to do, everybody is trying to cash in on it. I know it only takes reading the labels for the different products, but most people may not know what to look for. I know I sure don't. Even if you know what to seek out, it may not be cheap and adds up fairly quickly.

Being the frugal gardener that I try to be, I stick to making my own compost in my tumbler. I have also found alternatives to the products to take care of the pest issues. Marigolds sit in small window boxes all around the garden and a little non-toxic dish soap/water mixture does wonders for pest control. Although, we don't want to kill every bug in the garden.

There are those insects that we need, like bees. Of course, we all know that bees are needed for pollination. There are other insects out there that also pollinate and these are the ones, along with bees, that we want to keep around. It is the different kinds of beneficial insects that amaze me the most. Heck, any interesting wildlife that is attracted that I find fascinating. Simply picking off the bad ones is good enough for me and probably will be for a while. Besides, I don't want to taste chemicals.

One of the reasons I started gardening is because I wanted to taste fresh grown produce. Spraying any pesticides on the plants would basically would defeat that purpose. We were spoiled last year with tasty veggies and want to keep it that way.

Well, this my post about my organic garden and I would love to hear what your thoughts are. What do you consider organic gardening? Are there any recommendations?

Luis