Archive for the ‘winter garden’ Category


A flower arrangement for Mrs. Hardy, and countless other items on the day’s to do list scrambled me just enough to end up driving across town to The Family Plot, without a basket or bucket. Luckily I had some plastic cups in the trunk. A baby cauliflower, a few beets…My dash and back seat were so royal on the ride home!


I have been trying to make frequent trips to check on the strawberry patch. The crows, squirrels, and mice and taken a break from ravaging…and I was able to fill three cups with the sweetest most delicious strawberries ever!


If it hadn’t been 104 degrees that Monday, I could have filled the entire back seat of the car with sweat peas! Not all is lost however, the seeds are setting and there will be enough to create a 50′ wall of fragrant heirloom sweet peas next winter!! There will be several packets available at the Los Cerritos Carnival – Saturday May 16th from 11-3pm.  Be there or be square.


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Last night the White House announced that Michelle Obama is taking out 1100 square feet of the White House lawn and planting a vegetable garden. You can read more about the “eat the view” movement at Kitchen Gardeners International, and see the plans. This is awesome! It’s the first step toward food reform and a promising indication that they GET IT! They get that we desperately need to overhaul our food policies and farming in the U.S.

But, not everyone has 1100 sq ft. in a sunny location. Which brings me to the idea for a Community of Gardens. A local garden club with an edible bent. An Urban CSA, if you will. A gathering of like minds and dirt. I have a community garden plot, because the trees in my yard limit the sunlight for certain crops. I wanted to have real farm conditions and grow “crops” to feed my family. And to know that the food I was feeding them was free from pesticides, irradiation, bacteria and full of the nutrients that are supposed to be in them.

Many of my friends and neighbors expressed the desire to grow their own, buy and eat local. Many want to convert front yards to drought tolerant herb gardens and backyards in to robust vegetable gardens. But there are hurdles. So, I was thinking…wouldn’t it be nice to pool our local resources, the land immediately to my right, or left. I can grow celery in my shady yard…pretty much year round. Maybe you have a super sunny yard and cannot grow lettuce during the summer…And there is the time. And the knowledge. You see where I am going with this?

Okay, I can think of 20 projects right now! The local schools have gardens but limited resources, they need teachers and volunteers to run the school garden programs. We could start a community compost, so the green waste being incinerated could go back in to the earth instead of into the atmosphere. We can pick the low hanging fruit, literally…there are dozens, if not hundreds of fruit trees loaded with citrus right now, that just goes to waste. We could take the citrus peels and make our own cleaning wipes. We can grow hundreds of pounds of tomatoes and have a canning party! We could volunteer at the Rancho, and help them with their gardens. We could collectively support bringing a community garden plot in out neighborhood. We can identify friends and neighbors with plenty of space and but no time to farm. There are strips of land for guerilla gardening as well.

But we have to start somewhere and perhaps a little meet up and food/seed swap would be a good start. What do you say the 1st Sunday in April? Now, where should we gather? How about the benches outside Rancho Los Cerritos? If you park in their lot, and walk straight ahead and take the low road…there are picnic benches in a pretty lovely setting! The alstroemeria on the little slope will probably be blooming by them…and the orchard in front of the Rancho is intoxicating right now…there are a zillion orange blossoms on the trees!! There is a red bud tree that is in full flower and their wisteria vine has begun to show as well. It would be a fun place to start and a nice walk around the grounds is an added bonus! The Rancho doesn’t open until 1:00pm, so we couldn’t get in to the area before that time. Hope this works, let me know!!

If you’re on Facebook, we have a Community of Gardens page that you can join. If you’re not on Facebook, get on Facebook!

Also, the photo above is my 10 x 10 raised bed in December, last year. I planted a bunch of peas in the middle on the black rack. There was an x of celery, and four triangles filled with radishes, carrots, onion, cauliflower and broccoli. I jammed the plants in close together and thinned as I went, eating baby vegetables and making room for some of the plants to reach full size. I would go out and break off a few ribs of celery all summer, before they bolted late in July. You would be amazed at how much you can grow in a small space!

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The lettuces went in the ground after the broccoli came out about a month ago. They are tasty and beautiful right now, but it might be done in a couple of weeks if it gets hot. Out at the Family Plot a neighbor and resident lettuce expert, has been just mowing his crop down and they come right back. He has done this three times, and I was the beneficiary of two large bags of lettuce last week. To get started he broadcast seeds, which means throw the seeds out willy nilly, and has large square areas just completely full of mixed greens. Needless to say this method looks to be quite successful and I will try it this way next year.

This year I am already thinking about moving lettuce and greens from ground to containers. In general, I really like to grow from seed because of the wide variety available and of course, the economic benefits are great. So right now I am starting several greens in flats for transplanting. Mache, cress, oak leaf, romaine, spinach. You can grow lettuce greens all summer in the shade and should because it’s so easy! I like to use the vintage baby bath tubs, because they keep my salad bowl, my living pantry at a nice height for daily picking and the snails and slugs don’t even know to look there!

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Just a few, scant weeks ago the apricot tree was in full bloom. Tree covered with blossoms, blossoms covered with bees, us covered with smiles. Spring has sprung we thought. Kiely could see her special apricot & cream cheese delight in the offing, Griffin is focused on NOT hitting the baseball through the tree. However, I have seen it all before and was hopeful but skeptical. Well, It looks like we are lousy with apricots!! The blossom above was photographed the last week of February. The photo below was taken this dewy morning. There are more apricots on one of the dozens of branches, than there were on the entire tree last year! I don’t know if many will make it in to the house, I for see a pile of pits at the base of this tree.


Although it’s a little late for bare root trees (December through mid February), it’s never too late to go to the nursery and pick up a specimen tree for your own yard.  The California Apricot council has a lot of general information to help you decide on a variety. From listening to local chefs, home gardeners and boutique farmers I gather the following “late” bloomers to be among the favorites:  Tilton, described as large fruit with firm texture and tart flavor.  Tomcot, large fruit with very orange sweet flesh.  And the Blenheim seems to possess a somewhat celebrity status with the pastry chefs…boasting a medium size fruit with intense flavor.  Late season indicates fruit ripening middle to late June.  I believe my tree is a Royal Blenheim and seems to be in the early category, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

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The spring indicator at my home is the white wisteria bush on the front fence.  This photo was taken March 13, 2007.  The buds are just beginning to grow long, and the sculptural vine is still mostly bare.  The photo below was taken 30 days later, in April o7.


This is what the vine will look like this year in about 1 week.  So, looks like we are one month ahead of the 07 spring season.  I wonder what the research on conditions would show.  More rain this year?  Doubtful.  More warm weather? Perhaps.  Global warming?  Maybe I should check it out!  Okay, I just found this insanely cool site Weather Underground.  You can look up historical temperature data here, check it out!  In December, January & February of 2007 there were an average of  30 “growing degree days”, and in 2009 the number of growing days where the average temperature is 50 degrees, is 27.  It’s interesting but temperature seems to be a small part of the growing and flowering habit of fruit trees, vines and perennials.  I would guess a detailed journal that includes water, feeding and pruning might shed more light.  Also, the age of the plant?  Maybe.   I am going to wander over to the Rancho Los Cerritos and check out their Wisteria Vine.  It’s old and giant, and I am curious to see if it’s blooming!  Get planting…looks like we are having an early Spring!

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Over at Life On The Balcony they are having a little contest.  Container gardening tips…Go check it out!!  Here is my container garden tip…

I found a nice baker’s rack and placed it on a south facing wall.  Or, if you have a sunny balcony-terrific!

I like to plant red cyclamen, lobelia and strawberries together in say October.  The bigger the pot the more you can plant…but the idea is, plant the strawberry plants around the outside edge about 2/3 around.  Cyclamen in the middle and lobelia in back.  The strawberries grow over the edge and remain virtually flawless!  The lobelia cascades down and puffs out, looking full and colorful.  The cyclamen gives you a splash of red up and the berries a splash of red down.  Plant lots of these and you will have fresh strawberries for months beginning in February.  I have also used the pots for buffet decor around Easter with great fanfare and admiration!  When it starts getting too hot (strawberries don’t like hot roots), you can move them from the “south wall” location to a more mild “zone” in your yard or balcony!  Also, I placed a bird feeder right next to the rack, and watched the birds queue up behind my strawberry pots.  They took turns hopping over to the feeder and never once attacked a strawberry.  I believe they prefer millet and black sunflower seeds over the berries, yea!

Enjoy the sweet and pure berries at their peak.

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I had fully intended to plant the favas in December. There was this groovy Italian box of seeds on the share table last Spring, so I grabbed a few seeds and saved them for our mild winter to plant. They were coated with a crazy hot pink powder that ended up making my hands pink for days! I did a little checking and they must have been treated with a germination chemical…this keeps the moisture from rotting the seed in wet conditions. Interesting. I also found this really groovy Italian Seed and Tool website…great catalog! I went to this site and printed myself a catalog…I am going to look for some reading glasses and go through it. I know right off I am looking for a variety of beans, tomoatoes, peppers, escarole and arugula…I am very excited!!


Okay-This fava procrastination had gone on long enough! After borrowing some tomato cages from a garden neighbor, in the ground these mysterious seeds went. I was watching them daily…because I did not know if the seeds were actually even viable. Where were they from and how old might they be? Will they even come up? Planted around February 16th, they are 10 days old here. Hooray!! I stopped watching for 5 days and they look to be at least 50% germinated and I’ll got take a look tomorrow…which will make it about 3 weeks old


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