This year I was determined to plant my entire garden from seed.  Most everything was a success, minus the few that met their demise with the slugs, but otherwise fairly successful – except for my tomatoes!  Of course, another crappy year for The Calhoun’s and their tomatoes.  For those of you who know me, you know that I do not eat tomatoes during the off season and that I LIVE for that first fresh farm grown tomato from either my garden or the farmers market (usually the farmer’s market is where I get my first).  And from that moment, until the end of the season, I live on tomatoes.  Tomato sandwiches everyday, sliced tomato with sea salt or olive oil or just as is, panzanella salad (my two loves – tomatoes and bread – seriously is there anything better!?), pesto pasta with fresh tomatoes, faux bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, fresh tomato sauce, the list goes on.  I’m surprised I don’t have sores all over my mouth from the acid!

But going back to our tomatoes, I used Renee’s garden heirloom tomato seeds – I usually like Renee’s garden – so I’m not sure if it’s the weather we’ve had in Northern Cali (unusually cool and foggy) or if it was a bunk batch – but whatever it is – the plants looked lovely but the tomatoes not so much.  Small, small, small  – not big enough to slice for a sandwich.  So when all the tiny green tomatoes finally started to turn red I started making salsa, sauces, salads, etc.  They taste fine – just not that uber juicy giant beauty I like to sink my teeth into.

Luckily the farms in the area have provided me with my fix, as well as Doug’s co-worker and our friend who works at a local farm (we get lots of the leftover tomatoes – perfect for sauces). 

So I got my first batch of leftovers and other stragglers that had not been grubbed and made some sauce to freeze.  Oh, did it feel good to be in the kitchen, over the stove, smelling the slowly simmering sumptuous sauce – all made with veggies from our yard, our friends yards and a local farm (which the property is shared with our friends’ so essentially our friends property too). 

I will look forward to that cold rainy winter day when I pull out a bag to use for our dinner.  The smell will bring me right back to the beautiful summer day when this was simmering all day – as kids run barefoot through the house squealing with joy.  Ahhhh a moment in time 🙂

I was happy to see this little guy with pollen all over him flying around the garden.  We have not had as many bees in the garden as in past years, but there are still plenty flitting about from flower to flower, providing us with the lulling hum of their buzz.  Some days my favorite thing to do is go out in the early morning and sit close to the rosemary bushes or wherever they happen to be congregating that particular morning, and get lost in their hum.  It’s very therapeutic.

This little guy showed up one day (a volunteer from our compost we dumped in that particular raised bed).  At first I thought it was a squash of some sorts, then as it continued to grow I was thinking a type of melon and then when my friend Kendra was over she pointed out the flattened bottom and said “that’s a pumpkin”.  How silly of me – of course that’s what it is!  It’s now starting to turn orange.  The kids and I are so excited about our little guest in the garden – what a welcome face.

Luckily the peaches and nectarines didn’t ripen at the same time.  It was actually perfect.  As we finished with the peaches, the nectarines were ready.  These two trees are fairly young – the peach is about 2 years old and the nectarine about a year so we don’t get a whole lot of fruit (maybe about 2 -3 dozen) but enough to enjoy .  I love walking to my car to head out to work and grabbing a nice ripened fruit to bring for my lunch.  Yum!

Our first two potatoes 🙂  I can not wait to start harvesting the potatoes.  With the way the plants have been going, we should have a good crop – we’ll see.  These two were volunteers (or at least not with the rest) I must have left a seed potato in the other bed by accident.  But what a nice accident it was.  I uncovered these when I was pulling up all our onions (and boy did we get a lot of those).

Early August in the garden

Our first sunflower face to say hello 🙂

or a much more appropriate name “deadly nightshade”!  Much to my dismay, this little villain has taken root in my garden!  I saw these plants coming up in random spots in the garden and at first I thought it was a volunteer tomatillo – kinda looked a bit like them.  But then as they continued to grow I didnt’ really think that’s what it was, I didn’t really know what it was.  Then I saw these little berries form in clusters, hmmmmm?…… I am always a bit cautious when I see a plant with berries that I don’t know, always makes me think of poisonous berries? 

Well, my intuition was correct.  I had been meaning to take a picture and bring to my garden guru at work but kept forgetting so on Saturday as I was walking out to my car to head to work, I remembered I needed to ask Kimberely about the plant, so I ripped off a stem.

The look on Kimberely’s face when I walked in to her office – panic, horror, mouth agape.  Before I could even get the words out of my mouth “what is this” as I’m holding the deadly little bugger in my hands, she says (in her oh so eloquent english accent) that is “deadly nightshade”! 

I wanted to drop it and scrub the first couple layers of skin off of my hands, but I sat and listened to what she had to say.  So I was right to link it to a tomatillo, because they are in the nightshade family as well (as are potatoes and tomatoes – both which were in the same bed as this guy – probably cross pollinating each other).  But unlike those nightshade species that you can eat, this guy, not so much.  Wikipedia stated 2 berries (and these are little berries, about the size of a small blueberry) will KILL a child – yes, that’s right folks, KILL!!!!! 

I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach.  My kids, my animals, the other animals in the area, all potentially in danger due to this death trap!  All I wanted to do was walk out the door, get in my truck and head back home to eradicate these little suckers.  But I had to work 😦  So of course I had to do a quick read on wikipedia myself, which made me feel more sick. 

But then I wondered about homeopathy – it’s used in small amounts?  How can that be?  So I felt a bit more calm, as well, as my kids are pretty good – they only eat what they know from the garden.

Kimberely had told me to go wash my hands thoroughly – you just don’t want to take a chance.  I did read that the roots are the most toxic, so while I was eradicating them at home I wore gloves and made sure to not come in contact with the roots.  I’m sure I was being overly cautious BUT not taking any chances.

I’m not sure how it made it into our garden but I will definitely be on the lookout for this “grim reaper”.

Thursday we had fun tending to the garden and harvesting a couple yummy items…

The strawberries are final coming in and we have a few blueberries too 🙂  We only have 3 little blueberry bushes – one we planted last year and the other two are new, so we won’t be harvesting enough to make a pie but they sure are delicious to eat as an afternoon snack.

Ryder and I harvested all the favas – we got about about 7 lbs or so ( I should have weighed them but I was so excited to get them shelled and turned into that yummy fava spread I talked about here). But they are all out and now there’s room for some more goodies – edamame and kale.

one of the baskets we harvested ( I think there ended up being about 5 of these). 

Here’s a shot of the little nitrogen nodules on the root of the fava’s

those little white ball looking things are the nitrogen nodules that are so good for the soil.

now these plants will all go back to the soil (once they’ve spent a couple weeks and made a couple spins in the composter – which is now my work out for my quads – I’ll show pictures later but we took an old 50 gallon pickle barrel and drilled holes all around it and now I kick it across the yard a couple times each day – it cost $8 – much better than the hand cranked ones that are more than $100 and it’s a good workout!)

What have you been harvesting?

I just stumbled upon this draft of a post I wrote in April.  I was just about to write a post about our garden so I’m going to start with my draft that never made it “live” and then I’ll continue with the status of the garden as of this past week.

April Post……

Yummy french breakfast radishes. 

I have been busily working away in the garden, every day off, every non raining day, that’s where you can find me – it’s been my therapy.  There is nothing better than being outside, alternating working in the garden and playing with the kids.  Their new fave thing is to draw on the driveway, race their bikes up and down and launch paper airplanes – so it’s perfect to be out front in the garden while they are laughing and playing.  The majority of our edibles are in our front yard (gotta work with Mother Nature – this is where we get the most sun) I wouldn’t change it – I love having our edibles up front for our neighbors to see and hopefully be inspired by. 

We have been harvesting our young lettuces and arugula which has been heavenly. 

We planted our favas a bit later than we should have, so they are going to be later than I would have liked – but nevertheless, we’ll have favas.  I always have good intentions of getting a cover crop going or getting a winter garden going – but when we are in the thick of the rainy season – I just can’t pull it together to get out there and plant.  Especially when it’s dark when I get home from work.  I vow, one year I’ll get it together and then I’ll probably be so happy about it that it’ll continue year after year.

favas

The kids were excited to see the nasturtiums coming up a few days after planting them – those are totally rewarding plants to plant with kids – plus you can eat them!

We’re so stoked about the plans we have for this years garden, we plan on doing a lot more “intermingling” of our edibles and ornamentals to really utilize every square inch of yard.  We’ll keep you posted on that.  We are waiting for our seedlings to get bigger and the weather to warm up to transplant our summer veggies.  For now they hang in the mini greenhouse. 

While browsing the yard I was sad to see we have scale again on our Santa Rosa Plum

Doug used some horticultural oil over the winter – but I think it just got washed off in the heavy rains we had.  So he sprayed some more and since then it’s looking better.  I also found some peach leaf curl on our peach and nectarine.  So I hand picked every leaf and bagged it and trashed it and they are both looking much better.  Keeping my fingers crossed.

June update….

Well, remember that little nasturtium sprout above, here is what they are looking like now!  They are (to me) very happy looking plants – not quite sure what it is about them, maybe their round scalloped leaves or their beautiful little flowers or that star burst appearance of the veins

but they just make me happy. 

The other plants in this bed are our potatoes ( Yukons, purple peruvian, creamers and red).  This is my first year with potatoes – I didnt’ realize how big they would get, I must rethink their location for the next crop – I don’t think this is the ideal location or at least I need to move them in this raised area to another side (they are starting to shade some of my other plants.  We planted the tomatoes on the other side of the potatoes and ran some fencing across the back so the tomatoes can weave in and out of the fencing (a different method of staking – basically trellising – we did this with an orange tree too and it has worked great).  You have to get creative in a small space if you want to grow a lot.

I’m hoping that the potatoes will die back in time for the tomatoes to flourish – it’s all about trial and error around here.

By the way, the raised bed we made out of some rocks our neighbors were getting rid of (backyard remodel).  We had been looking for an old stock tank to use but couldn’t find one in time to start planting.  I actually like how this came out.  Another really rad idea is using straw bales.  Our friends over at A Sonoma Garden recently did this and I was over there last week and checked it out – sooooo cool!  Great seating and sometimes the non permanency is kind of nice – it gives you the chance to experiment and move things around.

We added to this new bed some hot peppers (annaheims, jalapenos, serranos and pasilla), some broccoli (the kids can’t get enough of this), rainbow chard and basil. 

The kids and I harvested our first bunch of french babettes. 

These were so delicious!  I’m working on my succession planting so there should be some more ready soon.

We continue to harvest head’s of lettuce -our lettuce love continues.

The guava’s are in bloom 🙂

You may have noticed my generous use of straw, it’s my attempt at my urban farm – Doug isn’t on board to packing it up and buying a farm in Wisconsin – he’ll come to his senses soon.  But until then, I have created my own mini farm.  It’s actually been great – it really helps keep the soil moist and is cost effective and has helped with weeds (and I get to pretend I live on a farm)

I was just told there are strawberries ready for picking tomorrow – yippee!

Here are just a few more pics of the goings on in the garden.  It’s been keeping us all busy – I LOVE it!

Happy Gardening to you.

The garden is looking good and keeping us busy.  Pretty much everyday that I am off I’m out there doing something (which I LOVE).  We recently purchased a bale of straw to help with weed control, retention of water and warming the soil – we now have our “urban farm” – WOW does a bale of straw go far!  We ended up using it in every square inch of the garden.  I’ve always wanted a farm 🙂

It has definitely helped with weeds, moisture and warming and I do actually like how it looks. 

We’ve been harvesting lots of arugula and lettuce and have re-sowed for another crop (I’m working on my succession planting).  Our potatoes are looking good, broccoli’s coming up, been harvesting our french breakfast radishes, the fava beans were planted late, but that’s ok, it will be great when they are mature (the kids love them).  I have a lot of plants that are almost ready to be transplanted (delicata squash, zucchini, watermelon, heirloom melon, eggplant, tomatillos, cucumbers, thai chili peppers, bell peppers and heirloom cherry tomatoes.  The temps at night were a bit warmer so I planted the 3 tomatoes that were ready to be transplanted and I have 2 more that are not quite ready for transplanting.  My goal this year was t try everything by seed.  We’ll see if that plan works.  I have a feeling I might be getting a couple plants at the nursery (and that’s ok).

I’ve been so busy working in the garden that I have forgotten about taking pictures – so those will follow this week. 

Here’s one I snapped the other day when I found this beautiful head ready for eating in the garden

I thought this was a beauty (I guess a couple bugs thought so too).

How’s your garden doing?  What have you been harvesting?  What are some of your faves?

our onions and shallots

I finally transplanted the sprouts from the plantings we did with the kids at school.  I believe these are the radishes the kids planted – the kids get a little excited and things get a little confusing as to what seeds were planted where- but I think by the appearance these are the radishes.

The nasturtiums are doing fantastic.

and look who came to visit the blooming rosemary – I was so excited to hear their buzzing while I was working in the garden over the weekend.  Our yard is always a buzz in the summer with these busy little workers – I miss them over the winter – but my friends have returned.  Welcome back dear little friends.