Monday, June 25, 2012


I feel like the garden is almost, almost starting to reach it's potential. I still have a long way to go learning the quirks and little rodents that enjoy feasting here but I've managed to keep most things alive.

I've figured out with the strawberry bed that pill bugs LOVE strawberries. It took me a few weeks but now that the plants are large enough, if I carefully lay the unripe strawberries on top of their leaves, the pill bugs can't reach them.

This weekend was herb harvest central in the garden. Mint, chives, chervil, lemon balm, german chamomile, thyme, sage, oregano, basil and more basil were cut for drying and making pesto. Above is summer savory, something you don't find too often in the grocery store. Eating them with green beans is sublime. A gopher ate one of my plants but this one is already 2' in diameter and still growing. Speaking of beans ...

Here's batch one of Kentucky Wonder and Purple Podded beans. The bed is about 5' square. After planting them all and seeing the gopher destruction on my other plants, I wanted some insurance so I planted more last weekend.

This was where the english peas grew, underneath a weeping Santa Rosa plum tree. I can see beans climbing up the branches now. There's another spot that I've planted even more beans. We'll see how much is too many soon enough.

Other plants are growing quickly too. This is a Rouge Vif D'Etampes pumpkin that I planted far away from the watermelons this year. I overhead someone at the garden store mention this and took their advice. So, we won't have pumpkiny tasting watermelons this year.

And here is one of the watermelons. A little small for my liking but I'm hoping the growth spurt kicks in soon enough.

Our next big project is to rebuild and start to organize some of the raised beds. This little area as you first enter the garden from the house is screaming for some order. I plan to build 3 3''6"x6' beds to replace the four hodge podge beds  located in the back. We'll keep the strawberry bed for much longer. As soon as my beets are ready to harvest in one of the beds, we'll get started. Speaking of beets, they are the best growing thing I have. I thought they would be done but they taste great. We love the greens the best.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A mid-June weekend

Here's a peek at what's going on in the garden in mid June. We had a heat wave last week and all seems to have survived except the remaining english peas turned starchy. I learned that fall planted peas are much more worth it. Those did really well and produced for a much longer time period than the early spring planted batch. Note the hose lying off to the side, well used this weekend.

We bought an umbrella for the center of the garden so I can escape the sun every few minutes. I'm still not sure what seating to put underneath it. A table might be nice but it sure would be great to have a lounge chair out there.

These are the left beds that include my daughter's bed with broccoli, my gopher safe tomato and parsley bed and a bed that held the most productive pea plants. So productive the bamboo trellis wouldn't hold.

The bed above is the most authentic square foot garden we have with a huge variety of plants. The chard here hasn't bolted, yet. And we have tons of calendula flowers popping open every day. There are some bare bits that need succession planting but haven't been able to do anything with this heat.

This is a view of the opposite side of the garden with a weeping Santa Rosa plum on the left. Lots of plums growing. There are brussel sprouts in the center and several bush variety english peas adjacent that I will never plant again, they hardly produced.

I did manage to weed some this weekend. Oxalis is taking over this bed. I'm hoping if I just keep at it and remove all the soil along with the weed, I'll eventually knock those back. I hate oxalis. The kale didn't seem to mind but the lettuces couldn't survive.

And finally, the most important planting of the year, according to my daughter, corn! Not something I would have chosen due to the huge amount of space they take up for so little reward but I hope I'm proven wrong! They certainly look good in the bed. Next weekend I plan to mulch more of the beds. Planting in 95 degree heat wasn't fun but I did manage to finish the irrigation with some help. The beans are behind the corn and are doing well. No gopher action ... yet. And also this weekend, more cherry plum jam making. It looks like a few more weeks before the other fruits are ripe, whew.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cherry plum jam making

Once again, I looked up this weekend and noticed another fruit was ready to be harvested. There's a cherry plum tree that hangs over our yard with plenty of fruit to share. When we first bought the house, we had an arborist come by who pointed out the 'canning' plums and sure enough, when I saw A Sonoma Garden's recent post on past Junes, there was a recipe.

I found very few other recipes for cherry plum jam online. I decided it kind of something you made up as you went along, depending on which variety of cherry plum you have. I started with 5 pounds of fruit which I threw into the pot along with 1 cup of water. I boiled and simmered those for about 15 minutes until the pits separated from the fruit. I then pushed the contents through a fine mesh sieve which left about 3 pints of juice behind.

I added 1 1/2 cups of sugar to the pot but upped it to 3 cups as it was tasting too tart for my liking. I simmered this mix for just over an hour and was left with a little over 8 - 5.4 ounce jars of jam. These should hold my friends over for a year. It's a nice sweet-tart jam with a beautiful bright red hue. Next weekend I'll be making more as only half the fruits were ready this weekend.

Speaking of plums, there are Italian plums growing rapidly in the garden this week. I love the bluish color and oval shape of these.

The green and purple podded beans are clamoring up their supports.

And lots and lots of harvesting other veggies this weekend, including the last of the English peas. We're having a heat wave this week so who knows if they'll last. My daughter set up a nice sunny spot on the kitchen floor. She probably ate half of the peas she shelled.

Here's the rest of the harvest this weekend, including just a smidgen of lavender from the one large bush we have. It's the bee's favorite spot in the yard so I'll leave the rest for them to enjoy.

English peas, beets (beet greens are the best), lettuce, oregano, chard and strawberries.
Next year, I would love to have much more lavender growing. It's gopher and drought
resistent, two things that my garden have plenty of.
Basil, summer savory, german chamomile, mints and red shiso.