Category Archives: Gardening

Logs in the Garden: Cleaning up the Edges

Remember my make-shift ‘natural’ raised beds? Well I still had a few logs, so I decided to tidy up some of the edges of my planting area. In my attempt to convert my backyard into a big open space to plant edibles, I brought in lots of soil and have added layers of mulch over the past couple years. This has made the planting area higher than the level of the patio area. With all of our walking around, the edges of each planting area had become messy and were sort of sliding away. See my solution below. What do you think?

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Mid-June Garden Update

Things are happening in the garden! I started putting vegetables in the garden back in March and continually planted until the end of May. With the exception of the beans and corn (which I planted from seed directly into the ground), all of the plants came from my sister who started them from seed (thanks J!). So far, this is what I have in the garden:  Continue reading

Mid-March Garden Update

With finals over at one school and midterms over at another, I finally found a few hours to get out into the garden the last couple of days. Between December and now, I’ve been swamped with work and barely even looked at the backyard; crabgrass, bindweed, dandelions, and other nameless weeds had a field day, so I had (and still have) lots of cleanup to get to. My fall-winter composting project went fairly well. Back in September-October, I made 3 huge piles of coffee grounds and brown matter (leaves and branches). They started out about 3 feet high, and by this weekend, they had shrunk to about 1/4 that size. I removed any larger branches and spread out the remaining composted material – nice black soil with some bits of leaves and branches. Over the winter, other areas were covered completely in straw. I watered a grand total of zero times over the winter, but the soil beneath the straw was nicely moist, not dry as one would expect with Northern California’s pathetic amount of winter rainfall. I am trying not to till too much, but I did take my small rake and move the straw/leaves around a bit to smooth out the planting areas. Some plants are flowering nicely:

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French Lavender

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Akebono (Flowering Japanese Cherry Tree)

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Calendula (Pot Marigold)

About a week ago, I received the following from my sister and knew I had to get them into the ground.

  • 3 tomatoes – Moonglow, John Baer, German Pink
  • 5 peppers – 3 Bulgarian Carrots, 1 Hungarian Yellow, 1 Early Jalapeno
  • 6 basils

She started them from seed, raising them under her grow-lights. So yesterday, I put 2 tomatoes, 4 peppers and 4 basils in one of my raised beds. One tomato, one pepper, and two basils went into one of the larger areas of the garden.

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Notice the flowers growing around the edges of the bed. Except for the calendula in the upper-left corner of the picture, all the flowers on the edges of the bed came up from seed over the winter. The one with orange flowers is the California native poppy. The other one I like to call the “Dr. Seuss” flower due to its strange “Dr. Seuss-ey” like appearance, as Maya (5) says. It was part of a mixture of wildflower seeds for my sister’s baby shower a couple years ago. I planted wildflowers in pots in a couple beds, let them go to seed, and this is the result. In a few weeks, they should develop some purple and blue flowers that will hopefully help with bee activity.

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This coming week, I hope to get some more vegetables into the ground, and I will try to keep this blog up-to-date. Happy spring!

Back Fence Area: Update #1

So the purpose of this post is to keep myself honest and on track. For a couple years now, I have said that I want to clear out this area along the back fence and plant blackberry, raspberry bushes, strawberries, and possibly 1 or 2 dwarf fruit trees. When we began to clear out some of the grass back in 2012, we thew a lot of the sod and its plastic mesh back along the fence. I wasn’t planning on leaving it there – the plan was to slowly put the pile into the city greens recycling bin. But I was 6-7 months pregnant at the time, so I never followed through … a couple years later, and I figure I better get started on that follow-through.

The area is roughly 4 feet deep and 23 feet wide. It runs along the back fence of my backyard and does not get any direct afternoon sun. Grass has overgrown the area (crabgrass – the bane of my existence), but actually, the soil underneath is fairly nice – it’s soft, healthy-looking, and there are plenty of pink worms! So my plan is to dig up all that grass and try to remove as many grass roots as possible. This will probably take a while given that I start a new semester next week, but I’m hoping to be able to post my progress on a regular basis. Wish me luck.

Here are two photos of what the area currently looks like. The part that I want to clear out is currently covered in green grass. The brown straw that you see is part of my winter composting/mulching project. I plan to plant my tomatoes in this brown straw area this spring.

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Today’s Harvest: My Garden is Confused

So evidently, my garden thinks it’s August 31st rather than October 31st. Most of my plants produced slowly over the course of the summer – never giving me any big harvests at any one time. Some of my tomato plants hardly did anything at all. I’m not sure what happened, but all of a sudden, I look outside and realize that I have food on my plants! I knew it was supposed to rain some today, so in the morning, before the rain (yes, it DID rain in Sacramento today), I got out there and harvested …

2014-10-31 All 6

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 Bulgarian Carrot Pepper

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 Sweet Canary Bell Pepper & Bulgarian Carrot Pepper

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Jalapeno Pepper

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Sweet Banana Pepper (light green peppers on the right), Amish Paste Tomato (the ovalish ones on the left – not so great to eat raw, but great for making sauces and pastes), Cherry Tomato

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Persimmon Tomato (yellowish), Black Krim Tomato (darkish), Super Sioux Tomato, Hungarian Carrot Pepper

2014-10-31 Tomatoes 5

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Basil

2014-10-31 Pumpkins

If you took your kids trick-or-treating this evening, be sure to read about the Switch Witch. Happy Halloween!

The Crazy Mulch Lady

This may just be me. It’s sort of a cross between the crazy cat lady and the guys who go around the neighborhood on the night everyone puts out their recycling looking for bottles and cans. Back in June, I took a pile of my neighbor’s yard clippings from her driveway. It was dusk, and anyone looking out their window would have seen two strange figures (my husband and I) going back and forth across the street, wheeling our wheelbarrow full of our neighbors garden waste. Okay, granted, I did text her earlier in the day to ask permission, so I’m not so daring as I hoped it would sound, but I DID contemplate digging in their green bin (it was full of branches and leaves!). Why would I be taking a pile of yard clippings? I am attempting to convert my entire backyard into a food-producing space based on the concept of permaculture: chop and drop just like in nature. Of course, I’m helping nature “chop and drop” with my clippers and handy-dandy wood-chipper! And while my neighbor’s garden clippings aren’t from my property, they certainly are from the environment my garden shares – the idea is everything in your garden should stay in your garden – all leaves, yard clippings, small twigs, and branches should be used to feed subsequent crops through the natural composting process.

The same weekend, I noticed another neighbor trimming some trees in his front yard. I ran over and said, “Ken, can I take all that stuff?” He didn’t look at me like I was that crazy. After explaining our backyard goals, he said that I could, of course, take whatever branches and leaves that I wanted. Then, he came over to take a look at our progress. “Sort of a farm thing going on, huh?” Music to my ears … exactly the response I wanted to hear! After explaining to Ken the importance of leaf mold, I enlisted my husband to take the wheelbarrow back and forth between his front yard and our backyard. The majority of what we got that day were branches from his non-fruit-bearing pear tree. Take a look:

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And here are those same branches at the end of August:

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Seeing as it is now mid-October, I need to get working. Since I don’t want to burn out my wood chipper, I do a little each weekend – a couple more weekends, and all this will be converted into great wood chips that I will add to my growing compost piles.