"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant."
Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, December 23, 2013

Today's Harvest and Some Winter Squash too

I picked a nice batch of Lacinato Kale and will make my favorite Tuscan Kale Salad for Christmas this year.

 Rocket Arugula, Swiss Chard and a few leaves from Giant Red Mustard, Russian Kale and Swiss Chard.  I am growing Bright Lights and Ruby Red Swiss Chard this year.

 Close up of Rocket Arugula

 This is Bok Choy Tatsoi Rosette an Heirloom seed from Botanical Interests.  It is very mild and taste similar to the green and white swiss chard. I love to saute this with garlic and also enjoy the leaves and stems in salads. It is wonderful used in place of the bulb like Bok Choy and used in a stir fry. Tatsoi is wonderful used in place of Chinese cabbage in Kimchi a traditional spicy, fermented Korean condiment. 

 I plant onion sets about every two weeks, I pick about a dozen a week for salads, etc.

 This is Round Black Spanish Radish, an Heirloom seed from Botanical Interests.

 Radish greens from the Black Spanish Radish.  I will add them to cooked beans for the greens, or add them to vegetable soups.

Here is a close-up photo of the Black Spanish Radish, I picked these about 2-3 inches in size but you can let them get even larger; I was impatient and wanted some in our Christmas salad.

I didn't grow these squash but wanted to share in this post. The squash in the back is Buttercup.  Buttercup grows like the turban squash you see in the markets right now. It is very sweet and I like to use this one in Indian Pudding with cornmeal. The first two are Kabocha Squash, a sweet flavored Japanese variety, the skins on these are edible.  Steam it or bake it, either way a delightful treat.  Kabocha is one of my favorite winter squash, it can be used in place of Yams or Sweet Potatoes in your recipes. One of my favorite ways to use this is in a Vegetarian Black Bean Chili.  Here is a link to a great recipe using Sweet Potatoes.  Give it a try and substitute your favorite winter squash; it is also delicious using butternut squash.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winter Garden Update 2013

Onions amongst the Arugula and Bright Lights Swiss Chard. I removed the Red Winter Kale seedlings that you might be able to see here in the center of the onions, and transplanted to another area so they will have room to mature.  This area is the second planting and is growing leaps and bounds with the rains we are having. Just enough rain to keep the soil wet enough so I won't need to use the sprinklers.

A few of the Red Winter Kale I transplanted on Sunday.

Beets, Early Wonder, Bulls Blood and a Gourmet Blend, all from Botanical Interests Seeds.  I will thin them out to give them room to expand and eat the baby beets with the tops attached.  I just scrub the tiny ones lightly, and eat with the roots and all.

  Third planting of Lacinato Kale and Little Gem Romaine Lettuce.

I think this is Red Velvet, and below is Little Gem Romaine, both organic heirloom seed from Botanical Interest Seeds.  I started these a couple of months ago and put them out on Sunday.


Salad Burnet, is ready to pick and some will be in tonight's salad.  This herb grows year round for me, I keep it next to the house on the West side, but it is in the shade which it prefers this far South.  Salad Burnet has a light cucumber-melon flavor and is wonderful added to a vinaigrette dressing or just mixed in with your salad greens. It is lovely added to cucumber tea sandwiches or sprinkled over Cucumber Bisque.  Lucky for us it will still be here when I am growing cucumbers.

Winter Savory growing in my herb garden.  It is much stronger and pungent in flavor than the Summer Savory and holds up well in hearty Bean dishes.  Although the flavor is strong, add it fresh, near the end of cooking. Try adding it to white wine vinegar, it will give it a spicy peppery note.  I add Winter Savory in my bouquet garni when making my vegetable broths.
Here is one of several Nasturtium Fiesta Blend patches that cover my front bank. I pick the leaves and flowers when small and tender and add them to our salads.  Many people use the flowers to stuff with cream cheese and herbs.  Both the leaves and flowers have a light peppery taste. I love the leaves tossed with apple cider vinegar and pears as a salad.  In late summer I pick the seeds that will form and when they are green you can pickle them; they will be similar in flavor to caper's.

The Snow Peas and English Peas are blossoming now.  The white blossoms are from the English Peas and the pretty, pale pink blossoms shown in photo below are from the Snow Peas.  I picked a few of the tendrils to add to my Ginger-Honey Roasted Carrots for tonight's dinner.

I didn't plant enough radishes this year, but here are some from the Easter Egg Radish blend from Botanical Interest Seeds.  The one above is large at two inches across. Too big now to enjoy as it will be hot.  I will add it to the vegetable broth pot, along with the green tops. I don't waste the roots either, I just clean them well and add to my soups or chop finely and sprinkle onto salads or use in my vinaigrette's.

Easter Egg Radish and French Breakfast Radish.

I thinned out the Parisienne Carrot's and have just enough for my recipe tonight.

I have at least 5 volunteer tomato plants coming up.  I transplanted a few of these to give them some room as they were all coming up in the lettuce and onion patches. I have no idea if they will make it through the winter months or what variety they are, but that is what gardeners love about a volunteer, the surprise. 

Here are a few Bright Lights Swiss Chard seedlings that I transplanted out on Sunday.

I think this is Arugula Rocket Salad, from Botanical Interest Seed. Most of my markers faded in the sunlight, I will know in a few weeks if it is indeed arugula.

Here is Giant Red Mustard an heirloom from Botanical Interest Seeds, just now showing its colors. This is one I transplanted on Sunday so it is looking a little sad right now. The rain will perk it up and it will grow beyond 2 feet tall if I let it, but I will start picking the leaves in a few weeks. If let to grow too tall they become bitter and tough.

I will leave you with one of many Borage seedlings; annual volunteers that pop up all over my front yard and bank.  They don't enjoy being transplanted so I leave them where they decide to sprout and work around them.  This is what is in store for us in a couple of months Borage Ice Cubes.  The leaves are also edible with a cucumber flavor, and when picked young can be added to sandwiches and salads. But don't harvest when too old or large as the leaves are 'hairy' and get prickly shape.
Hibiscus Flower Tea adorned with Borage Flower Ice Cubes.  The flowers also look lovely floating in light, creamy soups and have a slight cucumber flavor.

Who loves a garden
Finds within his soul
Life's whole;
He hears the anthem of the soil
While ingrates toil;
And sees beyond his little sphere
The waving fronds of heaven clear.

Louise Seymour Jones

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Harvesting Kale and Mesclun

Earlier in November the cabbage moth worms were devouring our lacinato kale plants. I would check each day and if I found any, I would toss them in a garden far from my vegetable garden. I hoped that the birds would find them and eat them before they made their way back to my plants, besides I hate to kill anything.  This is the first nice batch I have picked from my plants, I would get enough now and then to add to a soup, but now I am getting at least two dozen leaves at a time.

The mesclun salad mix I planted is flourishing too.  This batch is from the Mesclun Sassy Salad seeds from Botanical Interests.  

Yesterday I also seeded more areas and transplanted some of the Red Winter Kale that was coming up in the mix, I want to make sure it has enough space to grow to full size.  Also transplanted some of the  Giant Red Mustard plants as these leaves grow to tremendous size and need the extra space.  If you like to harvest your Mesclun mix when small, you will not need to transplant any of them, but I like to allow some of  the seedlings to grow to full size.  These larger leaves are nice to use in soups, and fresh  salads.  I can pick a couple of the larger leaves and have plenty for a big pot of vegetable soup.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Brave Souls, Autumn in San Diego County

Little 'Ballerina' fuchsia lifting her arm to wave at me as I pass by. 

Even though the temperatures dropped down to the low 40's, I still have flowers on many of my plants. These are both on the South wall of my home and they get a bit of warm sunshine during the day.  This fuchsia grows next to the Iochroma cyaneum seen below, which provides just enough shade for it.

Iochroma cyaneum is a flowering shrub or small tree from tropical South America in the family of Brugmansia.  It has lovely trumpet shaped flowers that the hummingbird and bees enjoy and visit often.  I am happy to see this blooming now with so many of the flowers in my Hummingbird and Butterfly garden spent.  I am training this to be a small tree which will provide a canopy for some of my shade loving plants, like my  madarense geraniums.

This is a repeat blooming Iris, the name escapes me at the moment.

I have 5 Christmas Cactus coming into bloom now, you can barely see the red flowers on the plant below this one.  The white/pink you see here is in full bloom.

A few brave buds and blossoms on one of the two Plumeria plants I have.  This one is 3 years old and I grew it from a cutting.  I did have it in a clay pot but decided in June of this year to plant it directly in the ground.  It is near a sprinkler head, see it at the base of the flower, this provides it with water 3 times a week when needed.  It bloomed most of the summer and is still trying its best to continue.  It is in a somewhat protected area of this Southwest spot, with both a large rosemary and lavender bush nearby to shield it from too much of the hot Southern California sunshine.  

We rarely get below 40 degrees in our zone so I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will do well through the winter.  My other Plumeria is called Golden Rainbow, which I also grew from a cutting in June of 2012.  It flowered once so far and is planted close to this ginger plant shown below. You can see it just peaking over the top of the ginger, at the top right side of the photo.

 Here is my Galangal Thai Ginger plant I purchased in June 2012 from City Farmers Nursery in San Diego.  You may have seen a piece of the rhizome in your bowl of panang curry at your favorite THAI RESTAURANT.  I will need to wait until next year before I begin to cut the rhizomes for my cooking adventures as the plant needs some time to spread.  I am so excited to see it doing so well in this location just off the South side of our patio.

Our loquat tree that we planted a couple of years ago is flourishing.  I am surprised at how many buds are on this small tree. Last year we were able to pick for the first time, and with this many blossoms already on it May of 2014 looks very promising!

I can't leave without showing you a few photos of the pretty fallen leaves from our two Sweet Gum (liquidambar styraciflua) trees. The heavy rains last week and some hefty Northwestern winds left the trees almost bare.
A beautiful carpet just in time for our outdoor Thanksgiving day dinner, providing the sun is shining, rain is in the forecast but I will keep my fingers crossed that we can dine alfresco!

Changing Time
The cloud looked in at the window,
and said to the day, "Be dark!"
And the roguish rain tapped hard on the pane,
to stifle the song of the lark.
The wind sprang up in the tree tops
and shrieked with a voice of death, 
but the rough-voiced breeze, that shook the trees,
was touched with a violet's breath. 
-Paul Laurence Dunbar

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Winter Garden Update 2013, First Substantial Rain of the Season

Beautiful rain earlier today, it's warm at 63 degrees, and a perfect afternoon for weeding in the winter vegetable bed.  I took a lot of pictures to keep my blog up-to-date to review for next year.

Paw Print
 I did a second planting a little over a week ago and the seedlings are coming in.  My neighbors' dog likes to come by late in the evening and use one of our birdbaths for his drinking bowl; I don't mind that as much as I mind that he takes a short-cut through the newly planted area of the lettuce patch.  Paw prints that size can push the seeds so far down that they will not find their way to the light to sprout.  This is the second time he has walked though it, the first time he was digging too.   I had to reseed most of these beds, who knows what will come up in what row now.  At least they are salad greens and if they are mixed up it won't matter.  I can identify them as they come in and transplant if need be to give them more room.  I did try the first time to space the seeds of the head lettuces: Speckles, Oak Leaf, Red Sails and Romaine, so they would have enough room to form a good size head, but...oh well, if that is all I have to complain about I am one lucky gardener.  I should have covered them the first time!

Lacinato Kale, still some damaged leaves from the worms, but new growth looks free of holes.
On a positive note, my kale is coming back!  When the weather was still warm the white butterflies were still around and laid their eggs so we had worms that devoured the leaves. We still ate the parts they left us, I am not bothered by holes left from freeloading moochers.

 The peas and snow peas are making their way up the old tomato cages. I did have to add a few thin, cane poles to support them when small, but I think this will work out very well for me and make it easy to harvest. I have more growing in another area and I picked a few snow peas today. 

 Yellow string beans and green beans, both are bush type.

 We have blossoms!

I am harvesting all of the greens now, picking just what we need each day for our salads. It is amazing how little amount of space one needs to grow their own lettuce. You can even grow them in shallow wood boxes.  Line the bottom with many layers of newspaper to keep the soil from running though, sprinkle the top soil with the seeds and dust lightly with soil, press down and sprinkle with water once a day to keep the seeds moist.  In just a few weeks you will have your own salad greens to cut.  Also the greens continue to grow new leaves, try to harvest from the outside in and leave a few in the center to grow.  I do this even with the head type lettuces, not Iceberg mind you, but the types I am growing here.  

If more people would set up small gardens in their backyards, we would not have so many unhealthy people, and it costs cents on the dollar compared to the $4.00 bags you buy in the market for gourmet greens.  You can  grow your own for as little as $1.89.  That seed packet will supply your family with enough greens for the season.   You will be amazed at the flavors, many people that we share ours with said they had no idea that it tasted so different and so much better than what they buy even at the farmer's markets.  I think it is because ours is grown out in the open and not in green houses or hot houses with liquid fertilizers running through the watering mechanism that are used in mass grown facilities. We only use organic fertilizer and it is not liquid.  We blend our own which I mix in the soil before I plant.  I rarely need to fertilize more than once during the long growing season.  The winter rains help immensely in nourishing the garden, another reason it taste better than what is grown in greenhouses.

 Spicy Salad Mix

This is Tatsoi (taht-SOY), an Asian green in the brassica family.  I add this to the salad mix but also like to use it in the same way you would baby bok choy.  This plant can have a peppery note to it, but with the mild winters we have, it remains sweeter. It really took off when we had the rain a few weeks back and today it looks like it is loving this cooler rain.

 More of the spicy salad mix from Botanical Interest seeds.  See the link of have on the right side of my blog, look for the Mesclun Farmer's Market blend or Sassy Salad blend.

The second planting of Lacinato Kale on left.


 Second planting of onions

Swiss Chard

More onions, I also have Swiss Chard seeded in here that should be coming up soon.  The onions will be harvested by the time the plants need the room.  I like to put onions in amongst my seeds when planting,  I use onion sets and they come up quickly.  

These are onions I am growing from last years seed heads that I saved.  I will transplant them in the next week or so to give them more room.  If you have ever transplanted onion seedlings you know it is torture on your back and knees. 

Well that's about it for now.  I will leave you with St. Francis in the garden, watching over the hibiscus plant and keeping a close eye on all the little ones, protecting them from visiting cats and dogs.