torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
The cucumbers and regular basil have gone in -- the lemon cukes are seeds, but the Armenian and Cool Breeze are small transplants.

One thing I learned over the last couple of years is that proper timing is really important. I used to plant my peppers too early, which is why they never thrived -- they simply didn't recover from the chill, and stayed stunted all season. Conversely, last year I planted my tomatoes too late, and a third of them died from Fusarium when they were too young to bounce back (while the peppers tried to take over).

So this year I'm separating things out -- tomatoes first, while the soil is cool, along with the squash, beans, and some flowers. Then the tomatillos. Now I've got the cukes and basil in, and I'll hold off for a little longer before I put in the peppers, melons, and Thai basil. Finally, the hot weather stuff -- the sweet potatoes and okra -- will take up the rear. If I've done it right, nothing will stunt, and I'm going to finish off by Memorial Day so that (hopefully) nothing will fry either.

As the garden gets larger, this also makes planting less of an all-day push. I can go out and spend a half-hour putting cucumber seedlings in, then it's another week before I have to plant anything else. As long as I have the bandwidth to track the weather and what still remains to be planted, it works really well.

I'm trying to allow the celery and parsley to go to seed... the last pepper will have to share some root space with the parsley, but the Thai basil still isn't even showing in its pot yet (there's celery in its spot) and the other celery plants are shading the young tomato starts. So I think it'll work out.
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
Set and waiting )
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
Land use planning )
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
I just took out two tomato plants which weren't performing, the tomatillos (which never produced), and reconfigured the irrigation in one bed. I'm ready for the winter garden.

details )
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
First tomato! It's Legend by a nose, despite the fact that it's still only 12" tall and recovering from an early bout with Fusarium. Legend is the plant that tried to take over my garden bed and part of the driveway last year; apparently it can crank out tomatoes even when recuperating from a severe illness.

In two or three days the first Vorlon will come in, followed by its twin a day afterward. Most of the plants are loaded.

I yanked the expected (every year!) virus-infected summer squash plant, but it looks like the other two are true to type for White Egyptian. Even if I can't get any more plants going, I can at least do a seed increase with those two.

Everything else looks good; the beans are bravely producing in the midst of a thicket of sweet potato vines, which grew faster than expected and which have started to bloom. The basil is tremendous. The peppers are not only thriving, they're loaded with fruit, more than I can use. And one of the tomatillo triplets has finally started to set.

The tomato plants hit with Fusarium are indeed bouncing back, some faster than others; the worst hit (other than KBX, which I lost) seems to be Earl's Faux, but I think it'll survive. Black Krim is coming back very well, and Baylor Paste is right behind it. Legend is, as I said, small but putting out some good replacement foliage. Vorlon didn't notice the Fusarium at all.

So, same old report: Vorlon is trouncing everybody, and we're about to get buried in tomatoes.
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
Wrapping up this summer's garden. Here's the summary )


On to thinking about garlic and greens, and how I'm going to juggle beds for winter.
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
Today, Amanda came over and helped me stem the tide of produce.

While waiting for her, I went to the irrigation supply store (well, two of them) to get stuff for a client and two replacement sprinklers for the front lawn. Then I came home and hacked down the tall weeds at the corners of the lawn; from first slice to stuffing the green bin completely full was about 20 minutes, which may be some kind of record.

I went on to harvest the last of the potatoes and four juggler's-pin-sized Armenian cucumbers. I guess we'll be eating a lot of salads and tzatziki. Then I ran the tomato sauce (made two days ago) through the food mill to extract the seeds.

When she got here, we picked a week's worth of tomatoes -- I estimate about 25 pounds, and we didn't touch the cherry tomato. Staggering in, we started by canning fifteen pints of tomato sauce left over from Wednesday's efforts, then she pitted the second harvest of nectarines while I blanched and peeled a load of Podarok Fei tomatoes (they're very solid, so I figured I'd try canning them whole). She helped me can those up as well, and we ran those dozen or so pints with two pints of juice and a leftover pint of chicken stock that didn't seal two days ago. They all did just fine.

The nectarines are almost all frozen and in bags now, and the only urgent thing I have left is to trim some of the cracked and damaged tomatoes we picked today, so they can go into the freezer for later rounds of sauce. The rest of the tomatoes will be eaten, given away, or tossed into the freezer as well. Thank goodness I spent day before yesterday clearing a third of the chest freezer for things like this...

The plants are still gearing up, so I'm in for more days like this. At least we know that we use most of our preserved tomatoes for sauce (cacciatore, casseroles, and Indian masalas), so I don't have to try to can coherent chopped or whole tomatoes for the most part. Still, I need to make sure I can put some time aside every week or two to cope with the bounty which has finally descended on us.
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
I just hauled in two baskets of tomatoes, the flood has begun, and it's time for my initial harvest report.

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes )
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
As I was looking for ways to use our embarrassment of plums (this is what happens when you suddenly inherit a bunch of plum trees because your brother bought the house next door), I was reminded of the time I used dates and green apricot puree to make the sweet-sour base for vindaloo. I did it because someone was avoiding refined sugar, but it turned out stupendously well, and I keep meaning to do it again.

So it occurred to me that if I grab a bunch of the almost-overripe plums (for sweetness) and cook up a few of the underripe but injured plums (for tartness), I could probably do a decent vindaloo. It might be worth a shot.

Anyway, here's the normal recipe. If you want to experiment like me, eliminate the tamarind and brown sugar, add tart and sweet fruit purees to the sauce instead, and keep tasting it.

Chicken vindaloo recipe )
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
In case you were wondering: yes, I did plant a garden this year. I even put two new raised beds in, in the back where the veggie garden traditionally lives.

Pics and ramblings )
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
Okay, my brain is turning to mush and I need a cheat sheet. So, right here where everyone can use it, thus:

Central Contra Costa vegetable growing seasons )
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
So it rained yesterday.

You have no idea how much of a relief that was to me. The people I spoke to immediately qualified it with "well, it was barely anything" and "it's not enough to make a difference"... I know that. What makes me breathe a little easier is that the thrice-bedamned high pressure system is breaking up. I had worried that it would persist into late March and we'd REALLY be screwed. Now we're probably still looking at a dry year, but we can handle that, at least in the north. It's the "no rain at all" "worst drought year since 1850" thing that had me worried.

Besides, I walked outside this morning into the smell of wet walnut leaves. Everything is all right now. :)

Garden nattering )
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
I just finished figuring out my tomato varieties for this year -- it's harder than it sounds, harder still this year because my summer garden has had to move, temporarily, to smaller quarters. So I get eight good and two fair slots to a) get a good haul for the freezer, b) grow a variety of different colors/sizes, and c) refresh some of my aging seed varieties. Out of close to a thousand varieties, I have eight whose seeds are a decade old, and that doesn't include some of my tried-and-true heavy yielders. Very tough choices.

So here's the list I came up with -- non-gardeners can skip this with no repercussions. :)

List! )
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
I keep moving the goalposts on the winter garden.

The saga so far )

I have to confess, it looks like gangbusters. I have got to start doing this sort of overhaul for the summer garden.
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
Yesterday I planted most of the winter garden. The state of affairs in the edibles department )
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
sometimes comes a good idea.

It's time I bit the bullet and made raised garden beds. For one thing, I could control the fertility and organic matter content so much better. Moisture levels would be more even in lighter soil. I can mulch mature tomato plants (seedlings are still susceptible to earwigs), and that's easier to do with definite boundaries. I can't keep digging every single bed every single year. My knees would appreciate raising the plants up even six inches. And I could put something like wood chips on the paths without worrying about drift -- which would also help with water retention and (more importantly) keeping dust down so as not to encourage the mites.

Problem... solution! )

I have the winter to work the place over. Woo!

(Yes, I'm feeling a bit better now)
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
Everything's settling in )

Just in case you think gardening is all I'm doing, I should post an update on my Maker stuff... it's getting late tonight. Maybe in a couple of days. I've got to walk some cherry orchards on Thursday for the Buckskin survey, but Friday may be quieter.
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
I have planted the tomatoes and peppers. FINALLY. I threw in a couple of clumps of basil and called it a day. The watering is set up, everybody has a chunk of animal protein below the roots, they're ready to go.

I still have to sow beans, squash, and cucumbers (my attempt at cucumber seedlings for transplant failed utterly this year), and fill in a few holes in the sweet potato bed, then I'll consider the garden planted. It's smaller this year, but that's good -- even with a couple of transplanted volunteer tomatoes (KBX and Joyce's Brandywine) I have six fallow beds. Maybe it will make harvesting a little easier -- if this year is better than last, and it can hardly fail to be, I'll still get a decent haul.

My heart isn't in it this year, for some reason. It seems to be echoed by the seedlings, none of which actually took off... I was transplanting tomatoes that were three inches tall, not the twelve inches they should be by now. The peppers were dinky, and the cukes never got started. (I blame the potting mix -- it was a couple of hand-me-down bags.) They should do all right now that they're settled in, but I'm three weeks late now and just not feeling it. I have to grit my teeth and clear the squash and bean beds.

Maybe I lost my momentum while stressing about weed control this spring. With luck, I can grind the grassy weeds under my heel this year and I just won't have to deal with them at all next year. Oh, we'll have alliums and remnants of other invasives to stamp out, but I won't have to spend all my time and energy mowing vast areas of foxtails. Add that to (hopefully) a much easier gardening season this year, and perhaps that will renew my enthusiasm.
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
Vorlon wins again. I picked the first two today because I didn't want to chance having them split with the watering tomorrow morning; they're perhaps a day away from full ripeness.

More garden news )

So that's the report from the garden here... I'll take a little time this week to tie up the tomatoes again, but otherwise I get to sit back and let the plants do their thing. Yay summer. :)
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
As a veggie gardener, I rarely need plant tags beyond the annual sharpie-on-cardstock variety names posted next to my tomato plants. When the herb garden started to come together, however, I realized I needed something a bit more permanent... telling ginger from turmeric can be difficult for gardeners who aren't very familiar with them, and if my mom needs to go out and fetch some winter savory, it would be nice if she could figure out which bush that was.

Making cheap, classy plant tags )

Edit: Think I should set up an Etsy store or something to make custom tags? Each one takes 10 minutes or so and costs about 50 cents in this quantity, so I could price them at $5 each, maybe? It's something that's easily done around the edges, since there's no real set-up involved. It seems silly to sell something that's so easy to make, but I know most people don't naturally generate things like this... :)

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