Monday, May 21, 2018

Harvest Monday - May 21, 2018

It's a quick and easy harvest post for me this week. I only took 1 photo of three heads of Queen of Crunch crisphead lettuce.

Queen of Crunch Crisphead Lettuce
The heads averaged one pound each. I served them as finger food, presenting the separated leaves naked with a caesar dressing on the side along with grated Parmesan cheese and mild fermented mixed Habanada and Aji Amarillo pepper flakes. It was fun to munch each individual leaf drizzled with a bit a dressing and a sprinkling of cheese and pepper flakes.

The only other harvests last week were and couple pounds of fava beans and the Golden Sweet snow peas that I gathered as I cut the pea vines down. The vines were quickly being overwhelmed by powdery mildew and the rodents were climbing the trellis that the peas shared with the fava beans and they were defoliating the fava plants that were protected behind the pea vines. So bye bye peas. Those harvests escaped the camera.

I had a break from cooking duties for much of the week because we were away for a long weekend enjoying the delights to be found in and around Tomales Bay and the Point Reyes National Seashore. We feasted on oysters and petted baby water buffaloes and sampled fresh buffalo mozzarella along with other tasty delights. Thank goodness we also enjoyed some refreshing hikes in the park to work off all the goodies.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Mid May Garden Update

Things grow so quickly at this time of year with warmer temperatures and longer days that I could almost do an update every week. I just can't find the time to do that though and barely find the time to do just the highlights as I'm doing with this tour.

First an overview from up on the hillside. The favas in Bed No. 1 are tall enough now that they almost obscure the view of Bed No. 4. which is still covered with cardboard and awaiting final preparation for tomato and pepper planting.

In Bed No. 2 what stands out is the blooming-their-hearts-out Pink Lettucy mustard on the right and the reaching-for-the-sky Syrian Medieval chard on the left. Across the way there's a couple of green patches which are the potato plantings which seem to grow as you watch them.

The favas are really happy this year. It seems that they are more than happy to go into soil that has not been amended. I pulled out most of the tomato plants that occupied the space in early January and about a week after that I set out the fava seedlings that I had started in paper pots. I didn't add anything to soil and didn't even pull the tomato plants but just cut the vines off at soil level. I was not sure how the favas would do with a start in pots because they have a very strong tap root, but I made sure the beans didn't spend much time in the pots after they germinated. The best thing about starting the beans in the paper pots is that it significantly sped up the germination from a least 3 weeks in cold soil to about a week in the pots.

Fava Alley

The fava plants look very erect in the photo above but they actually needed a bit of restraining because they were leaning over the pathway and making it difficult to get through. I set a number of tall stakes along the length of the outer edge of the bed and used strips cut from old cotton t-shirts to hold them back out of the path. I still remember the days when I would plant an entire bed with favas and then let them flop every which way which meant that I literally had to wade in amongst the flopped over plants to find and harvest the beans. This method is much better!

Elsewhere in Bed No. 1 the Piccolo Dattero tomato plants that survived the winter and a big trim a few weeks ago are starting to fill out and are blooming. First tomatoes in June this year?

Piccolo Dattero From 2017

Aji Angelo is the most robust of the overwintered pepper plants.

Aji Angelo Returns!

But it's Craig's Grande Jalapeño that has the first flower buds.

Craig's Grande Jalapeño Bud

Aphids are being kept in check by parasitic wasps.

Aphid Mummy on Pepper Leaf

I think the Golden Sweet snow peas are hitting the peak of their production. The upper parts of the vines are loaded with peas and looking great.

Golden Sweet Snow Peas
Look lower though and the vines are getting to be a powdery mildew mess. So far I'm quite happy with my experiment with having the favas and peas share the trellis, each to their own side.

Here side by side are the Royal snow pea and Little Crunch snap pea vines. What a difference. The snap peas are looking snowy white with powdery mildew and the snow peas are vibrant green and healthy. I'll be pulling out the snap peas soon and plan to replant with some bush beans.

The garbanzos (chickpeas) are blooming. I'm hoping that the plants will dry down in time for me to plant some bush beans or perhaps more of the Royal snow peas for fall harvests.

Pico Pardal Garbanzo Blossom

I have been giving the I'itoi onions more water and also gave them a mulch of the coarse stuff left after sifting some shredded oak based compost. Most of the pots have responded positively.

I'Itoi Onions

The onions in this pot aren't so happy. Perhaps they are not healthy.

The highlights in Bed No. 2 include the bolting Syrian Medieval chard. Seeds please!

Syrian Medieval Chard Bolting

New Tennis Ball lettuce happily growing. They don't mind the foggy nights and mornings typical of May Gray days.

Tennis Ball Lettuce

Queen of Crunch lettuces are also looking good. I've harvested all of the interplanted extras as babies and now it's time to start harvesting the full sized heads.

Queen of Crunch Lettuce
Pai Tsai Napa cabbage is a non-heading type. It's growing incredibly quickly and I wouldn't be surprised if they aren't ready for harvesting in a week to ten days.

Pai Tsai Napa Cabbage
Purple Pac choi is ready for harvesting.

Purple Pac Choi

This was the broccoli plant that I showed on the previous tour that was just a rodent gnawed stump. Rodents allowing, it may yet produce a small head. I chose not to publish the photo that I took of a rat that was caught in a nearby snap trap and which was in turn snacked upon by something else in the few hours that passed before I found it. It was a gruesome sight and reaffirmed to me that there's an overpopulation of hungry critters out and about. It seems like everybody in the neighborhood has their own tales of rodent woe. One neighbor had $8,000 of repair work done on his car because of rodents. And my Dave discovered that he's been chauffeuring rodents in his car. One of my morning routines lately has been to check the traps in the garden, the traps under the house, the traps in the garage...

Batavia Broccoli

Back on April 25 the potatoes were mere tufts of green starting to poke some green leaves up through the soil in the potholes that I had planted them in. Look at them now. And under the Agribon fabric attached to the trellis beyond there were newly planted out Tromba D'Albenga vines sitting under water bottle cloches.

They are too big for cloches now and are ready to start clambering up the trellis. I had them covered with the fabric to keep the birds and the you-know-whats from nibbling devouring the tender young plants.
Tromba D'Albenga Squash Vines

Yay! There's basil in the garden. Summer must be nigh.

L to R - Corsican, Italian Mountain, Persian, Profumo di Genova Basils

That's the latest. Thanks for stopping by and taking the tour.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Harvest Monday - May 14, 2018

Where is May going, it's already half gone! And it just wouldn't be May without favas. That's the first significant harvest shown below.

Extra Precoce Violetto Favas

I really amazes me at times how resilient plants can be. This final head of Pixie cabbage came from a plant that spent a bit too much time in a pot before I put the plant in the garden. And then it got a good trim from a rodent. But I left the poor neglected and battered thing in the garden and it went ahead and produced a 1.6 pound head anyway.

Pixie Cabbage

We are enjoying lots of salads with the Queen of Crunch crisphead lettuces. I think I must have blue cheese dressing on hand at all times until the last of the Queens are decapitated. It is the perfect lettuce to stand up to such a thick and assertive dressing.

Queen of Crunch Lettuce

Tennis Ball Lettuce

Tennis Ball lettuce is an heirloom with a long history. There's actually a few varieties of heirloom butterhead lettuces that go by the name of Tennis Ball. William Woys Weaver writes in his book Heirloom Vegetable Gardening that there are three recognized varieties: white-seeded, black-seeded, and stone. The one that I'm growing has black seeds, but it seems that there are 2 Tennis Ball lettuces with black seeds. It's all too confusing, but what's not confusing is that this is a very good lettuce.

Tennis Ball Lettuce

More snow peas. I'm not sure how long I'll be harvesting the Golden Sweets, the plants are becoming covered with powdery mildew. Fortunately it's the lower parts of the plants that are most infected and the upper parts of the plants where most of the peas are being produced are still pretty clean so I should get at least a few more harvests.

Golden Sweet Snow Peas
Royal snow peas are just starting to pick up the pace, this was one of 2 harvests, the second harvest being larger but with a poorer photo. Royal snow seems to be highly resistant to powdery mildew. The Little Crunch snap peas that are growing next to the Royal snow peas are quickly succumbing to powdery mildew but Royal seems unscathed so far. I did harvest the first handful of Little Crunch snap peas but forgot to photograph them. I don't think I'll be harvesting many more snap peas because the plants are really being overwhelmed very quickly by powdery mildew. I don't think I'll be growing those again.

Royal Snow Peas

Baby Shanghai Pac Choi
The Pac Choi is sizing up quickly. I harvested 2 rounds of the Baby Shanghai variety with one round left in the garden and you can see in the background in the photo below that the Purple pac choi is not far behind.
Baby Shanghai Pac Choi

There's a grapevine in my garden that grows like a weed and I have to trim it back a few times every year to keep it from sending vines up into the neighboring oak trees or scrambling across the ground and up and through the nearby fence. I made the first trim early enough this year to harvest  rescue a big bunch of tender leaves that I used first to make some Turkish stuffed leaves (beef, bulgur, dried split favas, and seasonings simmered in a tomato sauce) and the rest of them are sitting in a jar fermenting. The grapes are never worth harvesting because the vine gets infected by powdery mildew every year which spoils the fruit before it ripens and what does manage to ripen just attracts rodents so I strip the grapes off before the rodents can enjoy a snack. So it was very satisfying to get something worthwhile from the vines other than fodder for the compost bin.

Fresh Grape Leaves
I pulled the first round of scallions. Very nice to have for stir fry with pac choi.

Italian Scallions

And I'm finishing with a shot of one of the best looking loaves that I've baked in a while. Not exactly a harvest unless you count the yeasty beasties that I grow in my natural yeast starter.

The Latest Bake

What else did I cook up this week. I went pantry diving and cooked up a half pound of Greek Gigante beans from the 2013 harvest. I'll admit that I was a bit skeptical about how they would come out but they cooked up tender and creamy in spite of their age. Old beans have a reputation for being impossible to cook up properly, generally remaining too firm to be palatable. I've found that cooking them low and slow and never allowing them to boil reliably produces tender beans that don't fall apart. This isn't the first time that I've rescued some old beans from a dark corner of the pantry and had them cook up just fine with the low and slow method, although nearly 5 year old beans is testing the limits. So those big beans went into a tomatoey stew with some local Chicken sausages and cabbage. I also made a braise of pac choi, snow peas, and favas served with a couple of fried eggs on top. And a stir fry of pac choi, asparagus, and snow peas with grated tofu and shrimp.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Harvest Monday - May 7, 2018

Snow peas have featured prominently in the harvests this spring and they continue on. Well, actually the Frieda Worlds won't be continuing on because that's the final harvest that I gleaned as I took the powdery mildew infected vines down last week. But the Golden Sweet snow peas are getting going with a handful of peas every few days.

Frieda Worlds and Golden Sweet Snow Peas
 And the Royal snow peas just got started.

Royal Snow Peas
And there's the first harvest of favas! I cut just a few that we enjoyed grilled whole topped with some Parmesan and some dried fermented Aji Amarillo pepper flakes. Everything but the string running the length of the bean is edible when the pods are young and fresh.

Extra Precoce Violetto Favas
Golden Sweet Snow Peas

One of the reserve Pixie cabbage plants that I set out after the first planting got trimmed by the voles actually made a decent head. That weighed in at 1.75 pounds after trimming. I can't complain about that.
Pixie Cabbage

Not the best shot with the strong contrast, but that's a couple more baby Queen of Crunch lettuces that we enjoyed with more of that blue cheese dressing that I whipped up accompanied with some roasted golden beets that I bought at the farmer's market.

Queen of Crunch Lettuce
I've been clearing out the bolting Pink Plume celery. The central stalk is actually good eating if it's chopped up and that's how I've been enjoying it in crunchy chopped salads.

Pink Plume Celery
That's the latest from my garden, if you want to see more harvests head on over to Our Happy Acres where Dave is hosting Harvest Monday,

Thursday, May 3, 2018

A Non-Veggie Tour of Mostly Flowers

It has been a long long time since I've posted about some of the non-veggie things that grow around here. I have to admit that I'm pretty laissez-faire about my so called ornamental landscape. My priorities the last few years have been to weed, trim, water as little as necessary, and edit out the volunteers that are out of place. The landscape has become semi-wild and is not all that impressive taken as a whole. But after seeing all the pretty photos on Jane's blog Close To Home I got to looking around and noticed that there's actually quite a few pretties scattered around the area. (Note that I'm not calling it my garden, that to me denotes something that is more managed and under control than what surrounds my home.)

So let's take a tour.

In no particular order or organization, just a random walk around.

One of the most manageable volunteers here is Aeonium. It's super well behaved, not being the least weedy. It has a big visual impact whether it's in bloom or not, but especially when it's in bloom. The bees absolutely adore it. And it doesn't require much water to look decently good.


It's foliage color varies from basic green to green with red to full on red and one variety is variegated yellow and green with hints of pink. The produce seeds that will germinate around the garden but never in a weedy way. When I want new plants I can uproot a volunteer seedling or just break a branch off of a plant and throw it down on the ground where I would like it to grow.

Aeonium Sunburst

Aeonium Sunburst Blossoms

I can't remember what this is, but it started off long ago as a bedding plant and then started to volunteer around the garden. As you can see it is happy to volunteer in the gravel covered areas which is where I let it hang out.

Tri-color culinary sage is very pretty in bloom and it's good for cooking too. Win win!

My Pride of Madeira bush is not one of the most impressive specimens but still pretty and a huge bee magnet.
Pride of Madeira

Frogger is eyeing the spare I'itoi onions that I potted up to have near the kitchen.

I'itoi onions don't generally bloom, but that doesn't mean never. I hope I get some seeds to try to grow.

This pretty little geranium is a well behaved volunteer that loves to grow in the gravel but seemingly nowhere else. It get's to stay.

This pretty geranium only has little flowers, otherwise it's a big sprawling weed that would take over the planet if allowed. It get's edited out from most places.

Centranthus ruber is another invasive but pretty thing. The minute I see seeds forming the plants get the chop. Not to worry, they grow right back from their big fat juicy roots.

Centranthus Ruber

It's nice to have thyme volunteering around the garden. Definitely not a weed. It's feeding the bees and beneficial insects now but after I cut it back the plants that get some additional water will feed me.

I've been trying to get rid of Vinca major for 11 years. Thank goodness it doesn't want to invade new areas that don't get summer water. At least the flower is pretty.

Vinca Major

Found on the Vinca - a Tussock Moth caterpillar.

Dude, chow down! Invite your friends.

Gardeners who like these call them tough plants. I call them weeds. Fortnight lilies, Dietes vegata. I keep on digging them out and they keep on growing back. Again, at least the flower is pretty.

Meyer Lemon

My pomegranate usually sets a few fruits, but they aren't very juicy or sweet so I leave them for the birds.

Last Year's Pomegrante

Sweet Pea Shrubs started to volunteer in the "low maintenance" part of the landscape. Those get to stay.
Polygala Sweet Pea Shrub

Lavandula stoechas very much likes to volunteer in the "low maintenance" area and comes in a variety of colors and "wing" sizes. It definitely gets to stay. (The spiky thing in the background is Puya venusta, definitely not a volunteer, definitely a trier of patience).

Gomphocarpus physocarpus is a milkweed relative that the monarch caterpillars do love to munch. Ballon plant is the polite name but it is also know as Hairy Balls or Family Jewels because that's what the seed pods look like. It volunteers around but isn't weedy.

Ballon Plant
Another look at Puya venusta. Cool looking plant, but it's the flowers that will grab your attention should it ever get around to blooming. 

Did you happen to notice in the first photo, that yellow flowering aeonium, that there was a pole sticking up in the background? That's no pole, it's a Yucca shooting it's flower stalk skyward.

I haven't even tried to measure how tall it is, perhaps 10 or 12 feet and getting taller by the day. Oh wow, I can't wait until it starts to bloom. Did you know that yucca blossoms are edible? They can be irritating if eaten raw, but the petals are supposed to be delicious cooked and supposedly taste like a cross of green bean and artichoke.

A leftover from the days when previous owners actually put more time and money into landscaping. 

Whatever you are you get to stay because you are out of the way, keep coming back, don't need a lot of water, and you bloom.

Just coming on line, not even fully open yet.

I love nasturtiums and allow them to grow wherever they manage to pop up. These will be around just until the deer get hungry enough to mow them down.

Catmint volunteers in a non-weedy way also.


Verbena bonariensis has the potential to be quite invasive but around here the heavy soil and lack of summer water keeps it confined to areas that get irrigated. It slowly spreads in some really tough areas along with the Santa Barbara Daisy (Erigerion karvinskianus) that grows like a weed.

Another pretty thing whose name doesn't come to mind at the moment.

California poppies don't open up until the sun comes out. If you hadn't noticed I did the photo shoot on a very foggy morning which is usually good for taking photos of flowers.

This little Anna's Hummingbird (a juvenile?) was sitting watching as I took photos near the feeder. They are fearless! The ones that have been around a while will come to the feeder even when I'm standing literally next to it, sometimes they will alight even as I'm just hanging the newly filled feeder.

Anna's Hummingbird
I love succulents and keep lots of them in pots.

This pot started with just the big ruffled thing (name forgotten) and then the others just added themselves.

I couldn't have planned it better.

A Gladiolus of some sort, I think. It's in a pot that I want to get into the ground somewhere, but first I have to figure out if the gophers like them.

Another plant in the tough-as-nails category. Sweet Alyssum will grow just about anywhere.

Darned. I missed the first caper blossom.

Another wake me when the sun comes out flower, Calendula is perennial in my mild climate and happily volunteers around the garden without being a pest.

Have you noticed that the majority of the flowers in my garden are volunteers? I really haven't put much effort into ornamentals for the past few years. The prolonged drought and a balky irrigation system were my excuses. It's really amazing what hangs on or even thrives in in the spots that get some water. In this case it's lobelia hanging out in a pot with a Spanish caper bush.

I might have weeded out the lobelia but this caper bush shows how capers got their latin name of Capperis spinosa. It's a painful task to work around this variety because there is a very sharp claw like hooked thorn at the base of every leaf. The caper bushes that I harvest buds from are Capperis spinosa inermis, which means that they've lost their spines. The funny thing is that the lobelia dosn't volunteer much of anywhere else which leads me to suspect that there's something that eats it that can't get past the spines.

Down to the end of the tour where I'll finish off with Blue Dicks, a wild flower that is growing up next to the house.

This is probably the height of the flower season now. Spring has sprung and some late season rains prompted growth and blooms but summer is coming up fast. The rainy season is over which means that most of the more wild parts of the landscape are going to get pretty dry so only the toughest flowers will continue to bloom. I water some areas to keep things from becoming tinder but not enough to keep things looking lush.

I hope you enjoyed the tour. It was a bit of an eye opener for me because I hadn't realized just how many things were blooming around here. It's true that you stop seeing what you see all the time. Thanks Jane for prompting me to take a closer look at what's right under my nose.