Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Garden In December 2018

It's time for another tour of the garden. Let's start with the view from the hillside above. The big differences between the view now and the view from the last tour in November are a) clear blue sky, b) Fort Pepper is wide open, and c) the hillside is turning green.

Beds No. 1 and No. 4

Beds No. 2 and No. 3

The rest of the differences are in the details.

Bed No. 1

I cut down a few of the pepper plants that had overwintered and come back from 2017. And the weird setup around the trellis, a combination of hardware cloth and Agribon fabric, is what I put up to deter the birds from pecking my sweet peas into oblivion. Those are ornamental sweet peas not edible ones. I know that the birds love edible pea foliage but didn't know that they also love Lathyrus odoratus just as much.

The spinach has grown enough to provide another harvest soon. The cilantro that I planted in front of it got to be too big so I gave it a good hard whack. It should grow back again because it is very reluctant to bolt at this time of year.

Amsterdam Prickly Seeded Spinach
The small daikon radishes are in need of thinning again but I don't think that there are any sizable roots yet. Fortunately the greens of these radishes are not very prickly and are mild tasting so they won't be going to the compost.

Bora Bora and Mini Purple Daikon Radishes
Carrots are growing slowly but surely.

Short Stuff Carrots
I'm glad I put a few I'itoi onions into the garden bed because they are much happier than the ones that I have growing in fabric pots.

I'itoi Onions
I never got around to harvesting the potted I'itoi onions and now they are too crowded.

I'itoi onions

The lettuces are holding well in the garden and I'm harvesting them as I need them.

Queen of Crunch and Three Heart Butterhead Lettuce
Arugula is still resisting bolting.

Speedy Arugula

I had scattered some seeds of Rishad cress in an area and then decided to plant the Yellow Potato onions in the same area. The cress popped up around the emerging onions and the onions don't seem to be adversely affected by the cress, at least while it is small, but I've been thinning out the cress before it gets to be too big. In the past I've intentionally done the same thing when I used to grow bulbing onions, I would scatter seeds of parsley or Golden Corn Salad when I set out the onion seedlings and then harvest the young greens before they overwhelmed the growing onions. It's a good way to get 2 crops from the same space.

Yellow Potato Onions and Rishad Cress

Saffron crocus is the only other thing that I've got growing in this bed. It should continue to grow through the winter and then go dormant some time in spring or summer.

Saffron Crocus

There is a bunch of happy volunteer nasturtiums growing at the end of the bed. They will continue to grow vigorously until they get zapped by a hard frost.

Not a lot has changed in Bed No. 2. 

The Brussels sprouts and Kalettes plants are taller. I've been cutting the older leaves off, partly because they are getting powdery mildew and aphids and partly because it seems to be encouraging the sprouts to size up.

Brussels Sprouts and Kalettes
But I'm still waiting for the Brussels sprouts to reach a respectable size. Perhaps they never will get very large and I should just take what I can get.

The Autumn Star kalettes plant was the first to produce sprouts large enough to harvest and it has more nice ones coming along.

Autumn Star Kalettes
Snowdrop is the kalettes variety that is supposed to take the longest to produce sprouts. I've just noticed in the past week that the sprouts are starting to swell.

Snowdrop Kalettes

Mistletoe is the second of the three kalettes varieties to produce. I got one small harvest last week and there's more forming.

Mistletoe Kalette

Not much has changed inside the cages in Bed No. 2. The parsnips have nice lush foliage but the roots aren't quite big enough to harvest yet.

Gladiator Parsnips

The celeriac is holding well, the roots are slowly growing larger. There's no rush to harvest them.

Prinz Celeriac

The same for the carrots, there's some nice roots in there but I don't need to pull them all yet.

Short Stuff Carrots

And the beets are still just a runty now as they were last month.

Sweetheart and Badger Flame Beets

I think that the first rutabaga will be large enough to harvest pretty soon.

Improved Helenor Rutabaga

The chard made something of a comeback since I cut it back severely because of aphids and ants. After I took this photo I cut it back hard again because there were a lot of leaf miners. If it isn't one pest it's another. I did not manage to get an even halfway decent photo of the amazing multiple cropping fennel but you can catch a glimpse of it growing (again) in the cage behind the chard. It is growing much more slowly now but I think I'll get a few more small bulbs in the next few weeks.

Peppermint Stick and Italian Silver Rib Chard

Pink Plume celery has been one of the star performers in the garden of late. I managed to not screw things up this year and it's been very happy. Last year I kept the plants in little pots for far too long before I put them in the garden and they never recovered. My photo of them from this time last year shows a few stunted plants that look more like seedlings than the mature plants that they were.

Pink Plume Celery
Pink Plume Celery

The only other veggies in this bed are some sorry old broccoli plants that I didn't even bother to photograph. I can't believe it, but I'm buying broccoli from the farmer's market again. Broccoli used to be such a reliable veggie for me. I could harvest it almost all year long. But it's such a favorite of the rodents now that it's just too much of a bother to grow it because it's just a bit too large to be easy to protect.

Over in Bed No. 3 is just an odd assortment of things. If this was a normal year without a plague of rodents I would be completely clearing out this bed and preparing it to sow a cover crop. This would be the bed where I would be growing tomatoes and peppers next year. But I've decided that next year I will skip growing tomatoes again and grow just a few sweet peppers for fresh eating. That leaves most of the bed free for growing something else. What that will be I haven't decided yet. In the meantime I took an artichoke plant that has been growing in a pot for years and put it in the corner of the bed. The plant was never productive in the pot, only putting out an occasional artichoke that I allowed to bloom because they are so pretty and the bumble bees love them. It will be interesting to see if the plant will actually produce artichokes worth harvesting. To the right of the artichoke are some Bachelor Buttons and to the rear are the Nema-Gone marigolds that I hope are putting a dent in the nematode population.

This should be a patch of Cosmos but the birds decimated the plants. I've grown Cosmos before with no problems from the birds but I guess the birds didn't find much to eat in the natural landscape so they ignored the bird scare flash tape and zeroed in on the Cosmos. They were attacking the marigolds for a while but as soon as I put the cosmos in the garden the marigolds were pretty much left alone. Maybe I need to put something in the garden that the birds prefer to cosmos that I don't care about. Whatever that might be?

The rest of the bed has old things that I need to remove. This end of the bed is where I'll put the sweet peppers next year. For now there's a lingering Orion fennel plant that produced bulbs for me in 2017 and that I allowed to bloom this year. I harvested a lot of ripe green seeds that I dried and now I've got enough fragrant tasty fennel seeds to see me through a couple of years. Other than that there's a small patch of parsley and some lingering basil plants.

The basil is nearly dead.

And finally Bed No. 4, aka Fort Pepper. The last good rain event that came through came with some good wind gusts that tore into the flimsy Agribon fabric roof of fort pepper so it's now wide open. The main target of the rodents was the sweet peppers and those are all gone now so it's not a problem. And since I took these photos I also removed nearly all the side panels so the bed is wide open to whatever wants to have a taste.

Look closely and you'll see plenty of ripe peppers still hanging in there. I am really tired of dealing with peppers!

And to finish the tour I'll direct your attention to this handy metal box that has been the final destination for a number of mice. I figured out purely by accident that this area between the pots and the fence seems to be a mouse highway. I put that Ketch-All trap back there to get it out of the way and then found that it was repeatedly catching mice. I've lost count of how many.

That's the latest from my garden. Thanks for taking the tour.


  1. Oh, yum. I want rutabagas, celeriac, fennel and B. sprouts. Can't get good ones in a supermarket. Did we talk about my favorite B. sprouts recipe before? Using your trusty iron skillet, put a little olive oil in the bottom, place put halved sprouts flat side down, add chopped garlic and pine nuts. Cover and cook slowly until the sprout is lightly browned on the outside and soft inside.

    1. Brussels sprouts and cast iron skillets are a match made in heaven. Your method is slightly different from mine, I roast them in the oven. I'll have to try your method the next time, it will save me having to wait for the oven to heat up.

  2. You still have lots of growing going on. Do your plants just keep going through most of winter? Our parsnips are dying back now and are at the harvesting stage. As for our sprouts they are pathetic.

    1. Most of the plants do keep going through the winter. Things don't necessarily grow a lot but they do keep well. And most of what is there will tolerate some frost and short term freezing temperatures.

  3. Kalettes is really new for me. interesting

  4. Is that a snake ? in Saffron Crocus

    1. Fake! It's meant to scare the birds but they just ignore it.

  5. What fun to see your garden in such detail. Have the Nema-gone marigolds been effective for you? So sorry you can't grow broccoli, certainly one of the joys of the winter garden. What a clever device the Ketch-All trap is. Thankfully, we rarely have mice these days but an occasional rat is vexing. They live in the palm trees in the neighborhood. Look forward to other garden updates.


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