A Row of Curly Endive or Frisée

In a fairly straight raised garden row, as nature intended, right? Over several vigorous afternoons, I cleared away back yard weeds (nearly done) and was overjoyed to see that they were not able to overtake the redoubtable but delicious and elegant frisée. They’re almost too lovely to eat, but I do and I am tempted to leave a few to stay on simply because they class up the place. I’ve more frisée seeds to indulge this idea.

As in past seasons, I am keeping track of what will really grow well in my microclimate. It’s often quite frustrating to read the back of seed packets and seeing that “crop X” grows in my area, but then it doesn’t, or not very well, despite efforts. Other times, I take a chance and grow something I don’t guess would do well but it does.

In the meantime, I’ve got bottles of fancy Italian olive oil and balsamic vinegar ready for one these frilly beauties this evening!

Curly Endive or Frisée

Frisée sounds so elegant, oui? Curly endive is a wonderful addition to a food garden and several of these lovely plants are growing in my raised row bed garden. Started from seed a few months ago, these true beauties are gracing my garden with their very elegant frilly leaves. They are destined for my salad plate but in the meantime, I am enjoying the very lovely difference they provide for my entire backyard garden!img_1716

Mesclun

After a failed attempt earlier this year, I am pleased that the mesclun seeds that I planted several weeks ago have germinated. This is the first time I’ve attempted to grow mesclun (among other new seeds). I’m taking note of which seeds are likely to successfully germinate into mature crops, the time of year that success happens, etc. Speaking with friends, they’re surprised that the food plants that have succeeded in my area, as well as those that have failed, and vice-versa.  The microclimate of my food garden is always a great classroom for hands-on learning and experience! These young salad greens will (hopefully) make it to my salad bowl before too long.img_1659

Aunt Ruby’s German Green Tomatoes

You’d think I’d never grown tomatoes before, but I’m so excited when a tomato plant is fruiting! I ran out of raised row and container space (first world problem) so I planted one Aunt Ruby’s German tomato seed in the ground. It must love this location because the plant has grown tall and wide and is covered in tomatoes. Wow! This makes me want to plant a third of these and other tomato seeds in raised rows, a third in containers, and a third in the ground next year. Best laid plants!

The tomatoes are in various stages of maturity, but the one pictured may be ready to pick in no more than two weeks. This beautiful heirloom tomato looks mighty fine and, I’m sure, will be very, very delicious!img_3374

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Tomato Hornworms

I was inspecting the last of my actively fruiting tomato plants when I noticed two tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) eating away at one of my plants. This was absolutely appalling! And yes, these caterpillars will devour and kill your tomato plants if you don’t remove them right away. Their green color is a close match to the stalks and leaves of the plant so you do have to look carefully. They can be easily missed even if right in front of your eyes. If allowed to mature, these caterpillars will become five-spotted hawkmoths.

img_1604And then, there’s the indelicate matter of removing these things from the plant. They cling hard to the plant so you will either have to forcibly remove them by hand (I was too grossed out to do that) or by some other method. I opted to poke and smack them off with a small stick and then smacked them some more once they got to the ground so that they would not make a reappearance. A very hungry pile of ants quickly moved in for their unexpected feast. I found that yelling, “Get off my f***ing plant!” several times helped with the process immensely, to deal with the awfulness of the moment, kind of like that scene in the Harrison Ford film, Air Force One, when he, as the US president, is fighting off Gary Oldman and (spoiler alert), tells him, “Get off my plane!” and out the plane he went.

More information on tomato hornworms and their abatement can be found here: http://www.almanac.com/pest/tomato-hornworms

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Lemon Cucumber

Mildly sweet, this cucumber is wonderful straight from the vine. I pulled one off the vine minutes ago, scraped off the bristles, rinsed it off with the garden hose, and ate it in the garden. IMG_3372Very luxurious, and delicious! The vines are still in various stages of maturity, so I will continue to enjoy them over the next several weeks. Started from seed and grown in containers, I will be growing this heirloom cucumber in years to come!

Armenian Cucumbers, Garden Debut

This is my first attempt growing Armenian cucumbers. Some I’ve grown in containers (as shown here), with tomato cages, and others I’m attempting to grow in raised row gardens. I only planted the seeds in the raised row gardens over the weekend. I started all of these plants from seed … which I’ve kept in an unopened packet for over a year! Be sure to keep those older unopened (and even opened) packets of seeds, because they may still be good. A type of muskmelon (as are cantaloupes, which I’m also growing in a raised row bed garden, from seed), I am very eager to make some wonderful salads where these cucumbers will be the star attraction!IMG_1536IMG_1537

Return of My Food Garden

In the past two years, I put my food garden on hold because of injuries. Now, mostly healed up, I am very happy to report that I’ve revived my food garden. After making two trips to the gardening center for soil, I have readied my raised row bed gardens and containers to (nature willing) produce extraordinarily healthy and delicious vegetables. Having planted seeds and watered, I am now enjoying just looking at my handiwork and dreaming of all of the good things to come in the next few months. At this point, I think that the food garden is in good shape, although, thankfully, I do have more space to put in more rows and containers, so, I’m limited by my imagination, space in my refrigerator and freezer,  (and budget!). This has been such a happy day, doing what I love to do most!IMG_3353

Royal Burgundy Bush Beans: Plants Actively Producing Beans

I harvested some more beans this afternoon. I currently have 6 plants that are actively producing beans and several others on their way to doing so. I was thinking how fortunate I was to be able to have the space to grow beans (and other crops) in my own back yard. I can harvest every few days and enjoy fresh meals from them right after picking. This is the good life!

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Royal Burgundy Bush Beans, First Harvest, Plus Reusing Water

Well worth the short wait! About 1-1/2 months after planting seeds in my raised row bed gardens, I have harvested some royal burgundy bush beans. I have several plants in various stages of maturity so will be enjoying delicious beans for the rest of the summer. There are already several beans that are still too young and will benefit from the extra time. The plants have been producing enough that I will be able to harvest a little each week.

How does the topic of reusing water or water conservation figure into this? I washed my beans in the kitchen sink, in preparation for cookinIMG_3264g them. It occurred to me that if I scooped out the used water and refill and empty gallon-sized bottle, I can then reuse the water for…my royal burgundy bush bean plants! I was a bit surprised that the bottle was nearly full. That’s one gallon of water! If you wash your produce in a large bowl or bucket, you can save the extra step of scooping out water from your sink.

Thinking about how many times I have washed my fruits and vegetables in this way and have the water go down the drain, I am now going to save up the used water and reuse it/return it to my food garden as often as possible.

Although this will not make a huge dent in my water bill, it does make me mindful of making the best use of water and seek out similar opportunities to help my garden be efficient and green as possible!

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