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! 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Earth, Wind & Fire! (not the band... the elements)

Last week was a doozy here in Southern California.  We had temperatures in the upper 90's, and winds with gusts of 70-80 mph depending on where you were.  Here in the Inland Empire, we were in the 80 mph gusts for sure. 

It's hard to convey the strength of the wind in a video.  The trees behind our house were blowing around a lot, and the wind was howling, but the video just doesn't do it justice.  Once you see the Pipsqueak's hair blowing around you can tell how hard it was gusting.
It took us the entire weekend to set everything right again. The Guy and the neighbor's grandson had to fix the fence.  They set the new support posts in concrete, so that sucker's not going anywhere.  Then on Sunday, we had to clean up all of the branches and pine needles, fix up all of the broken veggie branches, and re-stake everything that came down.  It was really a mess. 
We were about fifteen miles from the  Etiwanda fire that claimed 2000 acres.  We were close enough to have terrible air quality and ash raining down, but we were far enough to be out of harms way.  Kudos to all of the firefighters who worked so valiantly to save the homes of the residents in the fire zone!

Here's a look at our yard during second day of the winds:

The berries just fell, and I intended to leave them down for the three days of predicted wind.  Well, The Guy was trying to be helpful, because he's that kind of guy, and he hooked them up to the fence after the first day.  Unfortunately, the wind kept on blowing and blowing, and it snapped much of the new growth off.  Pretty sure the wind has just ended my dreams of a bumper crop this year.  <sigh>

In this photo, you can see the berries laying down, and what's that?  Yeah, it's a shattered glass table.  Oh joy.  Glass shattered amongst dirt and rocks.  How the heck we're ever going to get it all up is beyond me.   We've blocked off this side yard so the doggies can't get glass in their paws.
 This is where The Trampler hung out for most of the three days that the wind was kicking.  He didn't want any part of it. We lost a good section of our fence between our house and the neighbor's yard, too (which I didn't get a picture of), so then I couldn't let them out even if I wanted to. 

The wind took our swing, which weighs A LOT, and tossed it into the yard.

Green Thumb Out.