Monday, June 23, 2014

Three's a crowd...

The corn in my Three Sisters Bed is about hip high now (but of course, I'm only 5'1" so to some others it might only be knee high - - who measures this stuff anyway?), and technically, it's time to put in the pole beans. 

I'm actually afraid to.  The Caserta Squash that I planted is SO BIG that there isn't much room for the beans, and I'm afraid they won't get any sun.  So I'm waffling. 

Does it really have to be THREE SISTERS?  Isn't three a crowd?  It definitely is in the case of this bed. 

 Here's a look at the garden bed.  It's not really that big... and when I think about adding MORE to it, I just feel like it's a recipe for disaster. 

Here's an aerial view: (Ok, it's a view from me holding my iphone over the bed and taking a picture)

There IS a little space in there, and the sun IS getting to it, BUT that Caserta Squash has tiny little thorns, and I'm thinking that reaching in there to pick beans might not be a very pleasant experience. 

Not sure what I'm going to do yet.  I am sure, though, that if I do it again next year, I'm going to move a 2nd bed over and make it double the space.  I'll have to file that away in my notes for next year!!!

What's that little vine in the bottom corner?  Well, remember when the dogs dug up this bed?  You can remind yourself here.  Thanks to them, I really had no idea what was growing.  I had squash, pumpkin and melon planted in the corners of the beds, all marked and everything until those two had a go at it.  So when the plant came up, I really wasn't sure. 

It's a melon.  I wasn't sure until I found this little goodie this morning.  I was so excited, I let out a little squeal!

It's about the size of a tennis ball right now, but it's definitely a melon.  Up until today, I thought it might be a rogue cucumber, with it's cute little yellow flowers.  I've never grown melons before, but they love hot weather, and I definitely have plenty of that, so I'm eager to see how it goes.  If it goes well, I'll have to plant a whole bunch of them next year.  Anything that is successful is a do-over in my book!!! 
I'll keep you posted on the TWO Sisters Garden...  well, three if you count the melon.  Maybe she's not a sister though, maybe she's just a cousin, or a close friend. 
Have a great day!
Green Thumb Out

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The one to beat!!!! 2014 edition.

It seems like every year there's just one tomato that is SO much bigger than the others that it sets the standard.  It's crazy. 
This is last year's winner: 
A Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter Tomato
weighing in at: 14 1/2 ounces
This year, my Mortgage Lifters haven't been coming close to that...  but today I picked a contender that's going to be hard to beat!  Here's the new "one to beat" in those same Pipsqueak hands (although, admittedly, the little hands are a bit bigger now):
Why the close up?  Her hair was a mess, and she had dirt on her face from playing outside... ha ha.  So I decided to focus on the hands. 
This guy weighs in at a hefty 17 1/2 ounces.  For you non-math people, that's ONE POUND ONE AND A HALF OUNCES.  Woo hoo, right!? 
This is a Mr. Stripey Heirloom Tomato. The stripes are faint, but they are there.  I have been watching this one for a long, long time.  I even put a net around it so the birds wouldn't get to it before I did.    It's a beauty for sure.  I'm almost going to feel bad eating it. 
Okay, not really.
In addition to this beauty, I pulled a bunch of other stuff from the garden today... 
On Thursday, I picked this: 
 Overall, I'd say it was a very successful week in the garden.  The Garden Diva and I are going to make some dilly beans and some bread and butter pickles tomorrow after church.  Hopefully that goes well and much yummyness will follow.  I will keep you posted.
Hope your garden is giving you lots of surprises this week!  Tell me about it, I'd love to hear!
Green Thumb Out.

A beautiful gift from the garden

It's not every day that the garden gives us an unexpected gift.  This year it did.  We have this one rogue tomato plant that's growing in the area where The Guy planted his peppers last year.  We didn't plant it, it just graced us with it's presence. 

Today we figured out just what kind of tomato we've got there.  It's a Yellow Heirloom.  The first tomato on the rogue ripened today, and this is it!!!

Everything the garden gives is a gift, but this one is just a little better. 

I hope you get a special gift today too.

Green Thumb Out

Friday, June 13, 2014

Drying herbs: Basil, Oregano, Rosemary and Chives

Last weekend, the herb pot and I had to come to an understanding.  It was out of control!!!
When I think of that little, organized planting I did in that giant pot last summer, I can hardly believe that it's the same pot, and the same herbs. 

Here's a look at last summer:

  Aw, isn't it cute?
This year, it looks more like THIS:
Like I said: OUT OF CONTROL.  I absolutely love it.  There are two types of Oregano in there: Mexican and Italian, Chives and Rosemary.  It's fragrant and crazy and wonderful.  It was also seriously in need of a hair cut.  The Oregano was beginning to bolt, as were the Chives, so my scissors and I had a date with destiny!!!   
I was really surprised at how much came out of the trimming.  That's a serious basket of herbs, right there!!!  Once I was done, I decided to try my hand at drying them.  I have a dehydrator and a coffee grinder that never sees the light of day. 
So, I loaded up the dehydrator:
... and the house smelled so good!!!  I have to say, that I'm glad The Guy chose that Saturday to work, because he would not have loved the smell of herbs like I did.  I can just imagine the wrinkled up nose as he walked in, and the question, "What is THAT SMELL?"  Ha ha...

By the time he got home, the herbs looked more like this: 

This was definitely not a load-it-and-leave-it dehydrator project.  These babies dried out very quickly, and I spent a lot of time rotating the trays from bottom to top, and shifting things around.  Amazingly enough, they didn't all dry at the same rate.  I think my dehydrator has some cool spots, because I had to turn the trays as well.  I definitely want to get a better one someday, but for now, it works. 
After about four hours, everything was good and dry, and I started the grinding and bagging process. 
Here's my little coffee grinder.  I have had it for a million years, from a very brief time where I felt the need to grind my own beans.  I must have been a snob.  Whew!  Thank goodness that is over. 
I gave up coffee completely in March, and so this REALLY needed a new use.  I think I've found it's new calling. 
I stripped the leaves from the stems, and tossed them into the grinder.  A few pulses and I had Oregano that was nicely crushed and oh so fragrant.  It blows the top off of any store bought dried herbs!!! 
That giant basket of herbs turned into these four little baggies of wonderfully dried herbs, that will keep nicely through the year.  They will be great in a pinch (ooh, is that a cooking pun?), or whenever I don't want to put the fresh stuff in...  (like it's raining, or I can't find my flip flops). 

All in all, I think it was a really successful experiment, and something that I think I will do again.  If I have to trim up the pot so that it's not bolting anyway, I might as well do something really productive with the cuttings.  I could keep some of the fresh herbs in my fridge, but that just seems silly, since I have the really, really fresh herbs just outside the door. 
You should try it.  If I can do it, anyone can.  Seriously. 
Have a great weekend!
Green Thumb Out.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It's beginning to feel a lot like SUMMER!!!

After a hideously hot couple of weeks, I'm so glad to be able to report that the temps are going to stay in the 80's for the next week.  It's much more like June in Southern California, and less like hell.  Yeah,  I said it, hell. 

The garden likes it too.  This is my little haul today. 

So, what we have here is:
1 7oz Mortgage Lifter Tomato (we'll come back to that because I want to talk about it some more)
4 oz Green Beans
2 oz combined Sungold and Super Sweet 100 tomatoes
3 oz blackberries and strawberries
1 2.5 oz pickling cuke
1 Jalapeno
1 10 oz Caserta Squash

All in all, not a shabby day in my little garden!  Of course, in another month, I'll be picking triple that and thinking - "What was I excited about, back in June?!  HA!"  But still...  I just love being able to pick stuff...

So let's talk about this baby, shall we?  Last year, my first Mortgage Lifter was 14 oz.  It was a monster.  Here's the link if you want to see it - it took The Pipsqueak both hands to hold it!  This one is not too shabby though.  (I just realized that's the second time I've said "shabby" in this post - now that's 3...)  Interestingly enough, our first Mortgage Lifter of the season last year came on June 13th. 

Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter is my favorite variety of tomato.  It's a sturdy heirloom, which is certainly a plus.  It's also just delicious.  It's really fleshy, and doesn't have a lot of seeds.  It's got a really sweet flavor, and because they are so big, they are perfect for slicing and putting on sandwiches and salads. 

If you're wondering where it got it's name, just scroll down on that pic of The Pipsqueak holding the tomato.  The history is there too.  It's a good story, and I'm a sucker for a good story.

So here's the weigh in today - - I like to document the biggies, and whenever I pick something that's the biggest of the season, I post it.  Of course, these being the first, are the biggest so far, but it's a good starting point!!! 

Here we go:

Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter
June 11, 2014 - 7 ounces
Caserta Squash (from the 3 sisters garden bed)
June 11, 2014 - 10 ounces
That's it for now!  Hopefully more pickin' tomorrow!  Yippee!  I love Summerrrrrrrr!!!!

Green Thumb Out

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Garden Clean Up

I had been neglecting the garden for a few weeks.  Sure, I'd been pulling weeds here and there, I'd been watering and feeding, and of course, picking, but if you garden at all, you know that there is much more work to be done that just THAT!!!

My garden is comprised of five raised beds, and many, many containers.  In between those beds and containers, the grass and weeds run amuck if I do not stay on top of it.  On Saturday morning, I got up early, ready to take advantage of that cool morning air, and the overcast skies that usually burn off by about 9 a.m. here.  So at 6:45, I was outside getting started. 

 It took me three hours to get it looking like this!!!  Three hours on just the pots OUTSIDE THE GARDEN!!!  It does look clean though, doesn't it?  Some of the areas between the pots were completely crowded in grass, like a lawn was growing where I didn't want it!  Grass is either the plant you want and struggle to grow, or the plant that you don't want and struggle to rid yourself of, wouldn't you agree?  The other day, one of the blogs I follow asked:  "What's the worst weed in your garden?"  I was not surprised that more than half of the answers were "GRASS". 

If I still lived in Pennsylvania, I think I might have answered, "Poison Ivy", but I am happy to say that I no longer live there... 

Anyway - what were we talking about?  Oh yes, the clean up.  The torture. 

By the end of the day the garden was in pretty good shape.  I didn't get all of the grass out from between the garden beds, because I leave that to The Guy and his weed whacker, and he didn't have time to get out there.  It looks pretty good though.  It's clean and there aren't a lot of weeds anymore.  
Here's a new picture.  I love the panoramic feature on my iphone...  I love being able to see a large area in a picture. 

Here are some close ups:

Three Sisters

Peppers, and an out of control cuke climbing up the sunflowers

They look lonely on the one side, but they aren't.  I recently put in another set on the other side. 
They just haven't come up yet.

Beans, beans, beans.  The smaller bean plants in the front are the ones I transplanted from the onion bed, once I figured out that I had a companion planting problem.  You can read about that adventure right here.
They are getting bigger, and they aren't so yellow anymore.  There are also some okra plants on the one side.  They are still small but are doing fine.  There are even tiny, baby okra pods coming up.

I didn't get a pic of the tomato bed, because as you can see from the panoramic, they are in the shade in the early morning. 

Hope you enjoyed the tour!!!!
Green Thumb Out

Watering troubles

On Sunday, I turned on the faucet to water the garden.  The Pipsqueak was playing in the pool, and I thought it was a perfect time.  I could do double duty: keep an eye on her, and get a garden chore done. 

Then she asked for a towel.   They were inside, on the dryer.  No problem.  She's a good swimmer, and our pool is only 3 feet deep, anyway.  So I popped inside to get her a towel, and all of the sudden I heard this noise. 

POW!!!!!!  (and the sound of water running....  gushing, really)

My first thought was "Oh my gosh, she popped a hole in the pool!" 

So, I go running outside to see what she's done, and she's fine.  The pool is fine.  BUT - - there was a giant rooster tail of water spraying skyward...  from the middle of my hose.

Dammit.  I turned the water on and then left it.  Dammit. 

Burst hose. 

Of course, I thought this was the perfect time to tell The Guy that I wanted one of those cool crinkly hoses that don't weigh anything and that you can stuff in your pocket when you're done watering.  BECAUSE WHO WOULDN'T WANT TO STUFF A HOSE IN YOUR POCKET!!!???!!! 

Well, The Guy, of course.   He dutifully reminded me that we have several hoses I can choose from, that do not require a purchase or even a pocket. 


Of course, he got sidetracked by the mice that we have living in our water heater closet yesterday after work, so this morning, I got a shower while I was watering the garden.  Doing double duty...  I guess I should be glad I'm able to use my time so wisely!!!

Green Thumb Out

Friday, June 6, 2014

I've been away a while... but the garden was waiting for me.

It's been a while since I've posted, and it's not that I've forgotten about my blog - - I haven't!!!  There have been a lot of things changing around here.

1. First and foremost:  SCHOOL ENDED!!!  Oh yeah, now I have all this time on my hands, right?  Nope!!!  Now I have the Pipsqueak all day every day, which is fine, but I also took on her best friend, let's call her "Tiny", and Tiny's little sister, "D-Zilla".  I have them from morning to mid-afternoon.  They are 5 and 4, and they require a lot of attention. 

2. I have two stepdaughters:  The Bird-Girl (26), and the Angel (21), and The Angel got married on the other coast a couple of weeks ago.  It was gorgeous! Isn't she stunning?  And she has a heart of gold to go with all of that beauty.  I am truly blessed to have her as one of my daughters!!!
We were gone for a week, and I gotta tell you, I was not thinking about blogging.  Traveling with the Pipsqueak and The Garden Diva was very exhausting.  It was our first vacation as a family EVER, and we had a great time, but came home exhausted.  I have a wonderful friend, a college student, who house-sat and cared for my pups and my garden.  Without her, I think both would have been a big mess when I returned. 

3. This workout thing.  Ah yes.  I'm sure many of you can relate.  I started getting up EARLY every day to make sure I could get a workout in before Tiny and D-Zilla get dropped off in the morning, and when you add that to everything else, I'm just TIRED!!!

I'm starting to get into my groove though, and I think I'm back on track. 

I need to get caught up in the garden.  The grass in between and around the garden beds is like knee high!!!  I had to search for squash this morning.  I knew they were there, I just couldn't find them!!! Tomorrow I'm going to spend the cool morning out there cleaning everything up.  It's been neglected for too long.  Once I do that, I'll get some updated photos of everything. 

How is your garden growing?  It's picking season around here!!!  It's still early, but about every 3-4 days we have fresh green beans with dinner, and just last night we had a cucumber/tomato/chive salad with our pasta. 

Here are a couple of photos I snapped this morning:

Caserta Squash from the Three Sisters Garden - - these plants are HUGE!  (Post coming soon)

This is my onsie twosie picking from this morning.  Those are tomatillos with the skins on them, and the green tomato I picked because SOMEONE took a bite out of the side.  I'll fry it up with the tomatillos...

This sunflower is about the size of a dinner plate.  It's just such a happy flower.  I could take pictures of it all day!!!
Well that's it for now.  We're off to the park.  It IS summer vacation, after all!!!
Green Thumb Out

Saturday, May 17, 2014

This week in my garden...

This week brought a HUGE heat wave to Southern California.  We had temperatures in the 100's for four days, and now that the weekend is here, we're finally starting to see some relief.  Yeah, relief, HA!  It's only 90 today.  The week also brought gusty winds up to 45 mph.  Luckily, last time this happened, a week or so ago, I put in some extra stakes and worked to stabilize everything.  It really helped. 

May in a Southern California garden is all about onsie-twosies...  a tomato here, a few beans there... it's like a big tease. 

The first tomato I pulled from the Bush Goliath looked like this: 

 It has a couple of appendages...  don't ask, I have no idea.  I do not use pesticides, and we don't live next to a nuclear plant, so I don't know.  It was just a little weird.  The second and third tomatoes I pulled had about 1/2 of them eaten away.  Birds, probably. 
When we went to the pumpkin patch this year, they were talking to the kids about growing pumpkins, and our hostess said that you should always plant 3 of each plant.  One for the bugs, one for the birds, and one for you.  Isn't that the truth? 
Here's the rest of what I pulled this week:
Yep, I know, it's boring.
I snapped a few pictures in the morning sun this morning, just as a record of where we've been...  enjoy.
This is the Bush Goliath, and there are THIRTEEN tomatoes on it.  THIRTEEN!!  Of course, it's a Determinate variety, so when these ripen up, that's all, folks.  Tomatoes in May, though...  I'm not complaining! 

 This is the Three Sisters bed, and what you see there by the plastic knives (that I use for markers when I put seeds in) is corn!  I'm pretty excited.  I've never grown corn before and it popped right up!  Knee high by the Fourth of July, right?

 DO YOU SEE THIS?  I've got berries!  Good think I didn't rip them out and burn them last year, like I threatened to, right?
There are a couple of tomato plants in here, and they are getting too big for their britches...  and it's only May.  I'm always overzealous when planting...  I'll just have to trim them. 
Squash.  I love the blossoms.  They are so gorgeous.  I saw them for sale at the farmers market.  People fry them up and eat them. 

Tomatillos!  They are like little Chinese lanterns.  Love them. 


Have a great week!
Green Thumb Out


Sunday, May 11, 2014

It's the Bee's Knees!!!

Remember when I was going on and on about wanting bees in my garden?  Last year I didn't see a single bee.  I had a feeling that some of my failure with the berries had to do with the lack of bees. 

If the bee disappears from the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.
                                                                   - Albert Einstein

He's a genius, right?  Clearly he knew the value of bees.  Without bees, there's no pollination, and without pollination, many of our foods would cease to exist.   That's not a world I want to live in. 

So, I have to tell you, I was pretty happy when I saw these guys cruising around the other day.  They were busy as - well, bees!  Doing their thing and ignoring me and the extended lens of my camera. 

So there's hope for the berries this year, after all!  Stay tuned.
Green Thumb Out.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Importance of Companion Planting... and paying attention to it.

One of the things that I love to do, as a gardener, is read.  I know, you expected me to say something like: dig in the dirt, or pull weeds, right?  Sure I love digging, and I weed because I have to, but there's so much knowledge out there, and I just want to learn it all!!!  It makes me a better gardener.  I know that I have a lot of room for improvement.  Each year we grow and expand the garden, and we try new things.

I know about companion planting, I really do.  I know about it...  but I can't say that I've paid much attention to it up til now.  Probably because last year everything was in containers, so I didn't have to worry about what was planted where. 

This year, I have raised garden beds.  Five, to be exact, and then a heck of a lot of containers.  I wish I had acres and acres of beds, but alas, I live in suburbia.  That's a dream for another day.  I have two beds that have beans in them.  One bed thrives, the other bed struggles. 

Seriously, have a look. 

Here are my healthy beans:
 They're lush, they are beautiful!  They have a healthy bright green color, there are flowers, and beans all over them.  (Yes, one has a marigold growing out of it, but that's just an extra bug fighting mechanism...ha ha).
So let's have a look at these other beans.  They are smaller, they don't have flowers, they are yellow!  There are a few beans, but they are misshapen and yellow as well.  The leaves are shriveling up and falling off for crying out loud!

I couldn't figure it out at first, until I started thinking about the two beds. 

The healthy beans were planted in a bed by themselves.  Just beans.  The struggling beans were planted next to onions.  That garden bed was split in half.  Onions on one side, beans on the other. 

Hmmm.... companion planting, I thought.  There are things that compliment each other, like in a Three Sisters Garden.  Are there things that are detrimental to each other when planted together? 

The short answer is Yes.  Yes there are. 

The long answer goes more like this: 
(Compliments of:

"Plants release varying amounts of compounds, such as nitrogen and potassium, which can stunt the growth of other plants by altering the pH level of the soil. While cucumbers thrive when planted near bush beans, lettuce and radishes, they choke when planted near potatoes. Beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers and strawberries make good neighbors -- as long as you plant the onions, garlic, leeks and shallots elsewhere. Peppers do well with carrots, eggplant, onions, parsley and tomatoes, but do not plant kohlrabi anywhere near them. Keep lettuce away from cabbage and keep onions away from asparagus, beans and peas. Spinach gets along with everyone."

This season's major mistake #2 - - don't plant the onions with the beans.  What was major mistake #1, you ask?  Oh, that was the first attempt at making beds in the yard - before The Guy went and bought the rototiller.  I'd still be digging if we stayed with that method.  Missed the post on Grave Digging in the Burbs?  It's here.

There's a happy ending to this sad bean story.  I dug them up.  Yes I did.  I dug up all 20 of those sad, sorry bean plants and I moved them.  The next morning, they still looked about the same.  No shock wilt, no dead plants, so I guess I did an OK job at getting under the roots.  As of yet, they haven't changed color, but I'm hoping that they will grow new leaves that come in healthy and happy. 

More to come on that. 
The moral of the story is: research.  Before you plant.
Green Thumb Out.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Three Sisters

The Pipsqueak is in Transitional Kindergarten, and one of the things they participated in at school was "Native American Day".  They had different stations, all geared towards learning about Native American culture.  It was an awesome day, and I wish I had pictures to share, but I don't.  I was quite busy at the facepainting station that day.  I, quite literally, had my hands full. 

Besides face painting, they had a fishing station, a dancing station, and a gardening station.  (Why didn't I get put there? Oh well!)  The gardening station had the kids putting together a mini Three Sisters Garden.

In case you're not familiar with the concept, it goes along with companion planting.  Three plants that work well together are planted in the same spot.  Corn, beans and squash.  The corn provides a stable trellis for the pole beans, and the squash vines around the ground, providing ground cover and acting as mulch for the whole bed.  They are also complimentary in that they don't rob each other of the nutrients needed. 

I was trying to figure out what to do with my fifth garden bed.  Nothing was planted in there, and then when I did plant something, my charming doggies dug it up for me.  I'm sure they were just trying to turn the soil for me, right? (Missed that one?  It's here.)

Last month, my Seeds of the Month Club* shipment included corn and squash.  I already have some beans, so I figured it was just meant to be. (The photo up top has bush beans in it - - I didn't have a pretty package for my polies.) I planted the corn this week, and once it's about knee high, I will add the beans and the squash in.  In Pennsylvania, where I lived for seven years, they had a saying about corn:  "Knee high by the fourth of July".  Not sure if that's going to be true here in Southern California, because the climate is so very different.  We'll see.  This last bed is going to be a true experiment. 

Since there's nothing to show you in my own garden, at least not yet, I thought I'd pull a photo from somewhere on the web.  I really don't feel like a blog post is a blog post without pictures.  So here:

This image can be found at:
It's from the blog Viette's Views, where they had a successful 3 sisters garden in 2011. 

I'm so excited!  I'll follow up with pictures of my own once there's something to show!!!

Green thumb out!

*Doesn't the Seeds of the Month Club sound like a great idea? It's THREE BUCKS A MONTH!!!  Three bucks!  Where can you get four packets of seeds for three bucks?  If you decide to go for it, don't forget to tell them I sent you!  You do that by entering my number: CAU4IB0AZ3 into the referral code box when you sign up.  If you sign up for 6 months, I get six months free!  By spreading the word to your friends after you sign up, you'll get freebies too!