Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Garden Share Collective - August 2014

I'm joining the August Garden Share Collective, hosted by Lizzie at Strayed From The Table. This is my first time posting to the collective so let me tell you a bit about myself and my garden. I've been vegetable gardening in earnest for about 20 years in three different home gardens. I also learned a lot about gardening in general when I volunteered for about 7 years with the Santa Clara County Master Gardeners before moving to my current home. But I got my start in my parents' backyard as a young teenager given free rein to grow what I wished so my vegetable gardening roots go back something like 4 1/2 decades.

Below is a view of my garden on July 30 on what is a typically foggy morning for this time of year. I live on the central coast of California about 10 miles (16 km) from the Pacific ocean, 9 miles out Carmel Valley from the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. San Francisco is about 120 miles (193 km) to the north and Los Angeles is about 300 miles (480 km) to the south. The climate here is considered to be a true Mediterranean type with dry summers and mild wet winters. The coastal areas are very highly influenced by the cold ocean making for cool foggy summers but long warm autumns. I'm far enough inland that the fog usually burns off before midday so I get plenty of sun but it generally doesn't get too hot in the summer, usually somewhere in the 70-80ºF (21-27ºC) range, sometimes cooler and sometimes warmer. Autumn temperatures are generally a bit warmer, actually the warmest time of the year, and there is a lot less fog. Winter is when we get the bulk of our rainfall for the year. In my location I usually get a few frosty or freezing nights each winter but daytime temperatures are usually moderate, a cold day would be about 50ºF (10ºC) but we can get warm winter days in the 70ºF+ (21ºC) range, and warmer days are not unusual. Such a moderate climate makes it possible for me to grow and harvest vegetables all year without any extraordinary protective measures.

My garden is carved out of a spot on a hillside. The exposure here is south/southwest which means I get lots of sun for most of the day all year long. The soil on the hillside is horrible, not at all suitable for growing vegetables, so my garden consists of 4 very large raised beds filled with imported soil, each about 22 feet long and 6 feet wide (6.7 x 1.8 meters) and about 22 inches high (56 cm), making just over 500 square feet (150 square meters) of growing space. Since I cannot count on rainfall to water my garden for most of the year each bed is fitted out drip irrigation tubing set on a timer.

So, let's take a look at what I have designated as Bed #1. The collage shows the bed on July 2 and July 30. This bed is home to two varieties of flint corn that I'm growing so that I can grind my own polenta and cornmeal and I also plan on experimenting with nixtamalizing some of it. I'm also growing zucchini, cucumbers, bush snap beans, bush dry beans, pole snap beans and pole dry beans in this bed.

Bed #1

The varieties I'm growing here are:

Cascade Ruby Gold corn
Red Floriani corn
Tarbais beans
Golden Gate pole romano beans
Musica romano pole beans
Purgatory dry bush beans (Fagiolo del Purgatorio) (the new planting in the tunnel)
Royal Burgundy bush snap beans
Slenderette bush snap beans
Black Coco bush dry beans (just pulled yesterday)
Rosso di Lucca bush dry beans (also pulled yesterday)
Romanesco zucchini
Tasty Treat Japanese cucumbers
Garden Oasis cucumbers

Harvests from this bed include boatloads of Romanesco zucchini, all the the snap beans have been producing, and the cucumbers as well. The corn and Tarbais beans won't be ready for quite a while, but the Rosso di Lucca and Black Coco bean plants have been pulled and just need to finish drying so they will be shelled and weighed soon.

Now that the bush dry beans have been pulled from this bed (you can see the yellow leaves in the bottom right photo in the collage above) I have to decide ASAP what to put in the space they occupied. I'm thinking either carrots or melons, either way they have to be done in time for the fall/winter transition to alliums.

Bed #1

I'm not going in order here, shown below is what I think of as Bed #4. This year it is filled with solanums. This bed started the year off with a cover crop blend that was allowed to grow for about 6 or maybe 8 weeks (I don't remember for sure at the moment), which was then cut down and dug in, the worms got to work on it for a few weeks after that. The tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants were set out at the beginning of June.
Tomatoes, July 2 and July 30

The tomato varieties I'm growing this year are:

Isis Candy cherry
Sweet Gold cherry
Amish Paste, for canning
Potiron Ecarlate, a red beefsteak type
Chianti Rose, another beefsteak but pink
Jaune Flamme, an early golden small variety
Black Krim, a black beefsteak type

Some of the tomatoes have just started to ripen, so there were no tomato harvests in July.

The peppers have grown by leaps and bounds in the last month.

Peppers, July 2 and July 30

Here's the peppers that I'm growing in this bed this year:

Giallo di Cuneo bell peppers
Lady Bell bell peppers
Odessa Market sweet peppers
Piment doux long des Landes sweet peppers
Pimento de Padron
Shephard's Ramshorn sweet peppers
Sonora Anaheim peppers
Stocky Red Roaster sweet peppers
Tarahumara Chile Colorado
Topepo Rosso

Harvests so far are only from the Pimento de Padron plants since those peppers are harvested as babies. The rest of the peppers I generally harvest at a mature green stage or ripe red (one yellow), and those still have a way to go.

Eggplant, July 2 and July 30

Eggplants are blooming profusely and setting many fruits, but none were ready to harvest in July.

The ends of beds #2 and #3 were planted with wheat over the winter, those got mostly cleaned out by the beginning of July. The end of bed #2 now has a few melon plants and one area ready to be planted with more pole snap beans. The end of Bed #3 seen beyond is planted with squash.

Beds #2 and #3, July 2 and July 30
Growing now in the ends of the beds are:

Alvaro Charentais melons
Retato Degli Tuscan melons
Tromba d'Albegna squash (on the trellis)
Honey Nut butternut squash (on the other side of the trellis

I've got Australian butter beans and Emerite filet beans starting indoors in paper pots on a heat mat, those will be ready to set out below the trellis in Bed #2 in a couple of days.

The rest of Bed #2  is currently occupied with some struggling shallots, the last of the cauliflower, some sprouting broccoli, and a double trellis of pole dry beans. The colorful milk bottle caps and water bottles on stakes are hanging around the garden to keep the birds from doing too much damage. In this year of an official Severe Drought, the birds are extra hungry and are attracted to the foliage in my garden. The persistent breeze that we have here rattles the water bottles around and keeps the caps in motion which does seem to deter the birds from constantly nibbling at the greenery.

Bed #2, July 2 and July 30
Currently growing in the rest of Bed #2 are:

Amazing Taste cauliflower
Di Ciccio broccoli
Petaluma Gold Rush beans
French Gray shallots

I've got quite a bit planned for this bed in August, this should be where my fall/winter vegetables are growing. Normally I would have most of brassicas in place by now, but a combination of being slowed down by a date with a surgeon in early July and the general failure of my brassica seedlings destined for this bed means that the plantings are delayed.

At the moment I'm trying again to get seedlings going for:

Laciniato kale
Tronchuda Beira (Portuguese cabbage)
Amazing Taste cauliflower
Romanesco broccoli
Dorato d'Asti celery
Monarch celeriac

I hope to be able to get these into this bed before August is too far gone.

Now for the rest of Bed #3. This has been primarily my saladings and greens bed this year. I've got two tunnels set up with micromesh completely enclosing the tunnels to protect the tender greens from both birds and rats. I've also added a top layer of lightweight remay fabric to provide some very light shading to protect the tender greens from sun and heat.

In one tunnel I had some lettuces growing at the beginning of July, but those soon bolted. There are beets that have made it through the month and two escarole plants survived a late June seeding and seem to be doing well. I recently seeded some gai lan in this bed which is faintly visible in the bottom photo of the collage.

Bed #3 July 2 and July 30
The second tunnel is where most of my strawberry plants are growing (not really the best planning there), plus all of my cutting greens, and my chard plants. The top left photo in the collage below is the bed on July 2 after harvesting the cutting greens, the other three photos are the contents of the tunnel on July 30. The chard is a bit cramped for space in the tunnel, but for the first time ever it's not been plagued by leaf miners. So long as it is harvested regularly it seems to be tolerating the confinement. I don't have the extra remay protection over the chard. The strawberries don't seem to mind being in the tunnel, but the problem is that the ants find the protected strawberries an ideal spot to farm aphids, I guess the beneficial insects can't get into the tunnel to keep the aphid population in check. There are some strawberry plants outside the tunnel and those don't have the aphid/ant problem (note for next year). The cutting greens are very happy in the tunnel, the birds don't peck at them and so long as I harvest the greens at least once a week the aphids can't establish a population. Some of the greens have started to bolt, so you can see the succession sowing getting started in the upper right photo. It doesn't take a very large space or very many plants to provide all the greens I want.

Currently growing in this tunnel are:

Italian Silver Rib chard
Golden chard
Flamingo chard
Peppermint Stick chard
Portuguese Dairyman's kale
Tokyo Bekana napa cabbage
Ruby Streaks mizuna
Purple pac choi
Speedy arugula
Seascape strawberries

Harvesting from both tunnels for the month of July included everything but the escarole and gai lan.

I'm starting seedlings for new plantings to go into Bed #3 in August including:

Kagraner Sommer butterhead lettuce
Thai Tender amaranth
Tender Leaf amaranth

I wish I could get some Sweetie Baby romaine going but it doesn't want to germinate in the heat. Anyone know of a good small headed romaine lettuce that will germinate in warm weather?

Here's a quick recap of my harvests for the month of July. If you are interested in the details with lots of photos and some recipes I post about my harvests every Monday as part of Harvest Monday which is hosted by Daphne on her blog Daphne's Dandelions. You can find links to my weekly posts on my side bar.

Arugula - 3.4 lb. (1.6 kg.)
Snap beans - 9.6 lb. (4.4 kg.)
Beets - 5.2 lb. (2.3 kg.)
Broccoli - 5.8 lb. (2.6 kg.)
Napa cabbage, baby leaf - 4.5 lb. (2.1 kg.)
Capers - .1 lb.
Cauliflower - 4.7 lb. (2.1 kg.)
Chard - 15.7 lb. (7.1 kg.)
Cucumbers - 5.7 lb. (2.6 kg.)
Gai Lan - .2 lb. (.1 kg.)
Garlic - 5.9 lb. (2.7 kg.)
Kale, baby leaf - 1 lb. (.5 kg.)
Lettuce - 2.7 lb. (1.2 kg.)
Mizuna, baby leaf - .8 lb. (.4 kg.)
Onions - 6.2 lb. (2.8 lb.)
Pac Choi, baby leaf - 1 lb. (.5 kg.)
Peppers - .9 lb. (.4 kg.)
Wheat - 2.1 lb. (1 kg.)
Zucchini - 36.5 lb. (16.5 kg.)
Zucchini blossoms - .2 lb. (.1 kg)

Total July Harvests - 112.2 lb. (50.9 kg)

And I have one more grand plan for August, I've been working on the general rotation scheme for my garden for the rest of 2014 and for 2015 and beyond. This is the first year that I've got all four of my beds completely up and running so it's time work out what the general rotations should be for each bed. Stay tuned...


  1. Oh wow, Michelle. I definitely feel like I've gotten a better sense of your garden from reading this post. I never knew that you only have 4 beds...but they sound massive.

    Is your house above or below your garden? Just curious as to where the steps lead to in the first picture.

    1. The house is actually at the same elevation as the garden, just off to the side. The first photo is taken from the end of our driveway, although the garage is below the house. The house is off to the left. The path above the garden leads up to a bench on the hillside, above the trees, so we get an expansive view of the valley and can eve see a tiny sliver of the ocean from there when it is not foggy.

  2. Wow, ditto what Thomas said, your garden is massive, that is a lot of work.

  3. Those beds are wide. How do you reach the middle? I have trouble enough with a four foot wide bed. Loved the overview. It really gives a good idea about how the garden is laid out.

    1. It's a stretch at times to reach the middle but not as difficult as you might think since the beds are so high. I keep tall things near the edges of the beds which makes them easy to get to. If necessary I lay planks down the middle of the bed so that I can easily get in there, I have some running the length of the solanum bed so that I can get in there later to harvest the tomatoes.

  4. I am saving this blog to ponder over at length. I am impressed with your raised beds and tunnels as well as the variety of planting. Some of those old Italian varieties sound interesting, especially the fagiolo di purgatorio! Great garden post.

  5. LOVE this overview of your garden and your area - you have so many different varieties happening. And your gardening experience...40+years? THAT's a LOT of experience! And a lot of years enjoying such an incredible lucky you have been. I'm trying to come up with rotations on my beds as well. Even though I do plan to add a few more beds in the years to come, I feel like I need a plan for the existing beds in the meantime.

  6. A fascinating "tour" of your garden, Michelle. It's funny how gardeners from all over the world experience pretty much the same issues, and enjoy pretty much the same sense of achievement when their crops do well. I often wish my garden could get more direct sunlight, but then there are times when I'm glad it doesn't - like when I read posts from you!

  7. Your garden is amazing, I always knew that. My community garden plot is 330 square feet, but allowing for paths, the beds are only 180 square feet, a third the size of yours. Looking at the hillside above the garden and the morning fog, I think you need some wine grapes planted there so you can make your own wine. Maybe a project for Dave.

  8. Your garden looks amazing, love the idea of the bottle caps and bottles for the birds. I might adapt this for our place. Going to make a scarecrow today to see how that goes. Thanks for joining in the GSC, see you next month.


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