Thursday, February 20, 2014

Grave Digging in the Burbs

Grave digging... snort... 
Thanks to my Mom and Dad doing a backyard re-do, I came into some bricks.  These are not your normal little brick red bricks, either. They are serious bricks, retaining wall bricks.  They are big and heavy and exhausting to move.  I have about 45 of them.  This is obviously not all of them, but there, now you have the idea. 
I thought and thought about how I wanted to use them, and I decided that I wanted to dig up some of the grass in the yard and make vegetable beds from them. 

So on Monday, The Guy and I got to work.  We dug, and we hauled, and we dug some more.  Pulling up grass, moving dirt, laying weed blocker, moving stone.  By the end of the day, we were tired.  Unfortunately, it didn't look much like a garden bed at all.  It looked like a grave, out there in the corner of my yard.  Oh man. 
The Guy left me to go work on another project, and I got to work laying the stone in, to keep the grass out of my new bed.  The retaining wall bricks are angled, so I alternated laying them face up, then face down, so there wouldn't be holes in which the grass could come through.  I thought that, for sure, once I got the stone in, it would look better. 
It still kind of looks like a grave though, doesn't it?  Now, I still have 3 cubic feet of compost and 3 cubic feet of chicken manure that need to go down (not all of it in that grave... er, hole).  I have to fashion some fencing first, before I do that, because once the chicken manure goes in, the Trampler and the Fuzzy Digger will think it's snack time.  Ugh, gross...but true.
On Wednesday morning, I had some time before the Pipsqueak had to be at school, and we had no plans, so I decided to see what I could do to make it look less like a grave and more like a stylish, custom garden bed.  This is what I came up with: 
 It still needs some cleaning up, and yes, it still needs some compost and manure to plant in, and mulch to finish off...  and of course, it needs plants.  It's still a wee bit early for my seedlings, provided they leaf out and are ready in time.  Othewise, I have a date with Louie's Nursery...
At the top corners, I have two determinate tomatoes that I picked up over the weekend, and in the middle there's a Jasmine, which should attract bees to the area.  It is sooooo fragrant!  When it was in the house it was overwhelming!!!  At the bottom corners, I planted some lavender for the same purpose...  bees!!! 
Yes, I built that trellis for the Jasmine, and I know it's pathetic.  Don't judge. 
So that's that.  Now the Pipsqueak is banging on me for breakfast...
Green Thumb Out.

Kohlrabi... ups and downs

Over the weekend, I harvested my first Kohlrabi bulb.  I was so excited.  I was going to sauté the leaves and eat them with onions and garlic, but I decided to use them as salad greens.  They are much firmer than lettuce, but they are just so yummy.  I added some tomato, cucumber, carrots, green onions, radishes (also from the garden) and served it with an Asian sesame dressing, and oh man, it was so good. Of course, The Guy, who loves salad, declined.  I was a little disappointed, but seriously, I think he was afraid.  He just didn't want to admit it....  That's okay, honey, the next batch is getting sautéed, and I KNOW you won't eat that!!!

 So here is the stuff I pulled from the garden for that salad.  If you've never eaten Kohlrabi, it's kind of like the cross between a radish and a broccoli stem in taste, and a bit like a carrot in texture, although less firm.  Does that even make sense?  It's really like nothing I've ever eaten before, but I do love it.  Once you cut the leaves off, you have to peel it, and it's not easily done with a vegetable peeler.  I used a paring knife, which make the job quick.  I julienned the Kohlrabi and served it with carrot sticks.  The Pipsqueak was not impressed.  Green, bad.  Orange, good.  Ugh. 

This is the bunch of leaves that I got from this one Kohlrabi bulb.  Aren't they beautiful?   See the one leaf at the bottom of the picture that is ripped?  That's the one I took a bite out of...  ha ha.  No, really.  I really did.  I read ( on some blog, somewhere) that you could sauté them like collards or chard, so I wondered what they taste like raw.  Broccoli stems.  That's what I think.  When I offered a bite to The Guy, he said, "Lettuce".  So I made salad, and like I said, he didn't eat it.  Men!

So that's the good.  When it's good, it's really good, and I am so happy and love gardening.  Seriously, when it's bad, it's really bad.  The photos above are from Sunday. 

Yesterday, I went back out to check on my other Kohlrabi bulbs, and look for caterpillars, which I do about every other day in this weather.  Things have been a bit crazy this week, so I didn't get out on Tuesday.  This is what I found:

Complete and utter APHID INFESTATION.  In four days!!!  I don't know if I can save it.  I'm going to have to try to figure out what to do.  I'm going to try some cayenne pepper and water in a spray bottle today and see if they leave.  Sure, I get aphids here and there, and I usually pick them off.  I don't want to use chemicals...  but this?????  This is bad. 

So when it's good, it's really good; when it's bad, it's really bad.  The life of a gardener. 
Update later: save or pull?  I'll let you know.

Green Thumb Out.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Garden Update: February 10


I took a stroll around the yard today, checking on everyone's progress.  It's slow this time of year, with the cooler temperatures, but all my little garden babies seem to be doing okay. 

In the garden boxes:

I'm particularly excited about the Kohlrabi.  (See photo above.)  It's beautiful and healthy, and I have four large bulbs growing in one of my garden squares.  I researched the leaves the other day, and it turns out that you can sauté them like collards, or kale, which I also have, so I'm thinking that a collection of sautéed greens is in the near future.  I'm sure I'll be the only one in the family eating it!!!  (But that's ok with me)

 Beets are supposed to be very easy to grow, but I haven't had any experience growing them in the past, and this year has not been especially promising.  I finally have a couple that look healthy.  These are in garden bed #2, the one that I used compost and chicken manure in.  The beets that I planted in garden bed #1 never came up.  None of them!!!  Not sure why.  I KNOW I planted seeds.  (rolls eyes)

Here's the Kale and Mustard Greens, with a couple of Kohlrabi leaves in the background there.  The curly Kale is so pretty.  I harvested it once already, and it came back, along with some new seeds that I planted at the same time.  I'm thinking all of these greens sautéed with some onion and garlic and served alongside a nice piece of grilled chicken, or mixed into a pasta dish.  Yum-o.  I have a couple of nice recipes for Kale as well, so I'm going to try them out, and if they turn out well, I'll link them here. 

 Aren't these little heads of lettuce pretty?  They have a sprinkle of red in them.  I keep checking on them, hoping that they'll be big enough to clip, but they just aren't yet...  Taste testing has proved them to be sweet and tender, and I just can't wait to eat them!

You know what would be even better?  Eating them with tomatoes!  Isn't it a crime that lettuce is a cool weather crop and tomatoes are a warm weather crop?  Well look at this!!!! 

Depending on how fast this baby grows, I just might get a home-grown salad!!!  I'm pretty excited about that little guy.  He came with the plant, and I know I'm supposed to clip him off, to encourage leaf growth, but I just can't!!!!  Salad!  C'mon little guy!  Pace yourself so you're ready when the lettuce is ready and I promise to eat you! 

It's just so exciting.  It really is.  I guess that's a gardener's heart talking. 

I just read a really interesting post on Espaliered fruit trees at EVER GROWING FARM (, and I'm thinking I might like to try a couple.  I'll need to discuss it with The Guy first though, because, really, who's going to be building the trellis for them?  Not me, for sure...  She didn't post any pictures, but she did say that she had grafted varieties of apple, cherry and pear trees that had FOUR VARIETIES EACH on each tree!  I'm kind of excited about that idea. 

Well that's all for now.  See you soon.
Green Thumb Out

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Expanding the Class of 2014 - - with the help of the Pipsqueak

It's a cloudy, rainy day here in Southern California, so Pipsqueak and I transplanted some seedlings and planted some new seeds.  Some of the little squash plants were getting too big for the little containers, and, happily, all of the tomato and pepper seeds that I planted sprouted, but that meant there were two per cell, and I knew they'd be in trouble soon. 

I've been collecting toilet paper rolls this week, and after cutting them in half, and folding up the bottoms, they make great little containers for sproutlings. 

The Pipsqueak was more than happy to play in the dirt with me.  She put a spoonful or two of compost in the bottom of each little cell, and then I transplanted the babies into their new homes.  The best part?!  They are biodegradable!  When It's time to plant, all I have to do is open up the bottom a little, and plant the entire cell into the garden.  Oh yeah.  I'm totally excited about this. 

So this is where we stand with babies:
10 Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes
5 Delicious Tomatoes
11 Cubanelle Peppers
3 Burgess Buttercup Squash
This is the list of seeds we planted today:
Virginia Pickling Cucumbers: 4 cells/ 2 per cell
Blue Lake Bush Beans: 8 cells/ 1 per cell
Black Valentine Bush Beans: 6 TP roll cells
Yellow Heirloom Tomatoes: 3 TP rolls (my last 3 seeds from last year)
Dill: 4 cells
Purple Basil: 2 cells
Cinnamon Basil: 2 cells
When they sprout, if they sprout, I'll transplant any multiples into TP cells, because I think they will do better that way.
Now all I need is my garden boxes, so that I'm ready to plant in about another 4 weeks.  I love the early spring here, but it comes at the cost of a really hot summer.  I'm thinking about covers for my garden boxes, which we'll need by August.  That's a long way off though, and there's still a lot to do between now and then. 
I'll keep you posted!!
Green Thumb Out