Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Big Fat Pollinator Garden

March in California was sandwiched by rainstorms. Not enough to quench California's overwhelming thirst but enough to bring my garden to life.

Last fall, I skipped planting fava beans in their traditional patch.  Instead, I stuffed the bare soil with California native seeds.  All winter, I tugged out oxalises but let the cheeseweed grow.  Hey, its a butterfly larvae plant!

One sunny day, armed with a camera and a telephoto lens ...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Shack Up with Your Farmer

What to do with two rowdy boys during a ski week with no snow?  Two words: Farm Stay!

This past ski week, I scratched my head as to how to keep the boys out of trouble.  We decided it might to explore Sonoma County, which is just under an hour from my parents' home.  Although Sonoma is sadly being converted to a monoculture of vineyards, it still has some real actual farms.  And some of those farms let real actual people - including crazy boys - stay on site.

The view from the cottage.  23 acres of woodlands and farm!

We found a great little farm on VRBO where we could stay in the private guest house.  The stay included access to an organic vegetable garden and a tour of the farm.  They also threw in fresh eggs and goats milk for giggles.

The organic vegetable adjacent to our cottage. We made some killer 
omelets using broccoli and greens from the garden.

As part of the tour, we visited the 100+ hens (and one handsome rooster) that provide the farm with eggs. Even though I have chickens, it was fun to see so many and to ooh and ahh over the strutting rooster.  I picked up a few tips on how they organize their nesting boxes and the boys enjoyed collecting so many eggs.

The tour also included some 1:1 time with the three goats in residence. I had not realized how friendly goats can be.  Far from eating our clothes and metal cans, these pretty girls nuzzled and romped . . . 

And one even gave us some milk!  

I cannot recommend enough shacking up with your local farmer.  Farm stays are another way for farms to make ends meet.  They help keep those pretty open spaces in our country pretty and open.  But its more than that. 

If going to the farmers' market is "knowing your farmer", this is getting downright intimate.  You see how farmers really live and get a taste of that life yourself. (My boys are hooked!). 

Our week off, I know where we'll go.  You can keep Maui.  I'll take the farm.

This post is part of the Homestead Barn Hop

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tomatoes Were My Gateway Drug

It started with a single "color bowl" - a cheap plastic pot from the local big box store stuffed with petunias and lobelia on my apartment balcony.  I watered the pot diligently and it made me feel happy, cheered even when the annual flowers faded.

The craving grew though.  My first rental house offered a single raised bed, high above the rows of hydrangeas and camellias. Sure, my first tomato plant occupied that bed right along with some Iceland poppies and sunflowers. But the fruit it produced . . .

That was the gateway.  The beginning.  There was no turning back.

As the years went by, I added more tomatoes.  Basil and cilantro. Then pumpkins.  Peppers, peas, summer squash soon followed.  I became a full blown veggie gardener and it didn't matter where I went.  Tomato cages cluttered apartment balconies in search of sun.  Ornamental beds at rentals were cleared for carrots and lettuce.  From home to home, my vegetable garden followed me.

When we finally bought a home, I poked bareroot sticks in the ground, planning orchards and berry patches.  I hauled home citrus trees and built more raised beds, conscripting broken branches and feed containers once the redwood beds overflowed.

 Soon after, I planted a few flowers - as "companion plants" for the vegetables. Nasturtium here, calendula there, and borage over in the corner.  Before I knew it, I was putting together bee gardens, joining the local native plant society and filling my greenhouse with butterfly larval plants - because baby butterflies - or caterpillars - need to eat.

Gardening occupies my mind at all hours of the day.  I wake wondering whether how long sun hits the patch along the fence and go to sleep debating whether I should add that new Asian pear tree - the one resistant to fire blight.  My bookshelves are littered with gardening guides, my Pinterest boards brimming with pretty pictures and clever ideas. I'll admit it.

My name is Green Bean and I am an addict.

And you can be too.

Whatever you do this spring, do me a favor.  Grow something!

This post is part of Oregon Cottage's Tuesday Garden Party and Homestead Barn Hop.  Check it out for more gardening fanatics.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Right as Rain

Northern California has been dry as a bone this winter.  Up until last week, I'd resorted to hand-watering and even turned the irrigation back on the fava beans and raised beds.  The rain has come at last though and what March showers do to my over-wintered flowers, well, I couldn't resist the urge to snap a few.

This little flower pops up every spring and spends the rest of the year, blanketed under the earth as a bulb.  They are all over my yard.  Anyone know what they are called?

I'm not the only one who loves borage.  It attracts bees like nobody's business.  They venture out for their hit of borage even in between rain storms.

Speaking of borage, I had thought this was comfrey (which I had planted there, under the apple tree) but I'm fairly certain it is white borage, which I also planted around this and other trees.  Borage grows SO well from seed and reseeds so easily, you only need to invest in one packet of borage seeds and you are set for life.

Ahhh, the Indian blanket wild flower.  Be still my heart.  This beauty was part of a wild flower mix that I planted last spring.  It overwintered fairly well and what flowers did go to seed, I kept the seed so I can plant more again this year.

Calendula is right up there with borage for a re-seeder and a multi-use plant.  I have clumps of calendula all over my yard.  It has many uses, including edible flowers, medicinal uses and making a lovely lotion.

With plenty of rain, my nasturtium have reseeded and grown and grown.  I love how their large leaves cup the rain drops.

Loving succulents these days for my pots.  That way, if I forget to water, oh well!

* I'm linking to Tuesday Garden PartyGarden Tuesdays,Homestead Barn Hop and Farmgirl Friday with this post.
* Join the Facebook page where things are growing every day.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Give Me Honey

A year ago, Amber Strocel wrote a guest post here at the Booth about washing her face with honey.  She referenced her sensitive skin as well as her concern for chemicals as the reason for choosing honey.  I was intrigued. 

My dermatologist calls my skin "exquisitely sensitive."  I call it haggard and blotchy.  I've never found a face wash that hasn't left my skin drier, tighter and even painful.  I also have rosacea and have not received much relief from over-the-counter or prescription treatments. 

So, after a year of hemming and hawing about washing my face with honey, I attended a beginner beekeeping class.  The beekeeper lauded the benefits of using honey at home.  His adolescent daughter used it as acne treatment.  His wife worked at a hospital where honey was employed to treat cuts instead of polysporin.  I headed home with three jars of his honey and a determination to stick at least one of them in the bathroom.

Read more at The Green Phone Booth. . . 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Long Live the Edibles!

Spring is in the air and, along with it, veggie garden fever.  Starting seeds, tucking seedlings into soft beds of carefully cultivated soil, it's what we do.

But what if it wasn't.  The harvesting, yes, but not the seed starting, not the planting of spindly little sprouts.  What if we did it once and that was it?  The lazy gardener's vegetable garden . . .

I'm talking, of course, about edible perennials.

Fruit Trees and Berries

The first blossoms of the year on my Asian pear.

My native currants are budding out.

The first thing I do whenever I move somewhere is get in my fruit trees and berries.  They are the stalwarts of the garden - there year in and out.  The best time of year to do this is in winter, when most fruit trees and berries are available in bare root form.  In other words, cheap!

Currently, I have four apples, one plum, one quince, one pear, one Asian pear, one fig, two pomegranates and a persimmon.  Oh, and a lemon, mandarin orange, navel orange and lime.  I've got more blackberries than I can count but no blueberries.  I've never had much luck with those where I live.


Nothing can beat home-grown grapes.  The last two homes I've lived in, I've planted one (bare-root style again) and been rewarded with table grapes to die for.


My perennial onions are poking out.

I've always done sets when it comes to onions and replanted every fall.  This year, I opted for Egyptian Walking Onions which are an old heirloom.  Apparently, they "walk" or bend over after blooming and replant themselves.  I cannot attest to taste or even how well they'll do but I figure it is worth it.  I bought my starts on Local Harvest.


Welcome rhubarb!

Another first for me this year is rhubarb.  It apparently only does so-so in my neck of the woods but given that I can plant it once I forget about it, I decided to go for it.  I mostly came across rhubarb seeds but apparently planting the "crown" is the way to go.  I opted for a variety that supposedly does better in my zone - even though I had to order it from Oregon.  It popped up and, while I know that this year I won't have much to harvest, things are looking tart and crunchy all over.


At our old house, whenever I went on walks, I would make it a point to walk by a little cottage whose picket fence was bordered with artichokes.  In my new home, I've included artichokes under several fruit trees.  They are supposed to be a wonderful green mulch in fruit tree guilds and, in milder climates like mine, they can be grown as perennials.  I only put mine in the ground last year so I'll have to report back after harvest.


I personally wouldn't qualify them as "perennials" but, in my California climate at least, Swiss chard, kale and collards will grow for more than one season and occasionally for more than one year.


My garlic.

I recently read that garlic can be grown as a perennial.  I'll give it a shot this year.


And finally, the be-all, end-all of perennial vegetables.  I adore asparagus but you have to make quite a commitment to grow it.  You need dedicated space and patience -years worth of patience.  I have yet to take the plunge but I'm preparing a bed (apparently the soil needs to be super duper wonderful) for next year.  In the event you are more of a container kind of gardener, you can grow them in raised beds, galvanized tubs or the like.

Do you have perennials in the garden?  Have you grown something that I haven't?

* I'm linking to Tuesday Garden Party, Garden Tuesdays, Homestead Barn Hop and Farmgirl Friday with this post.
* Speaking of perennials, join the Facebook page where things are growing every day.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Don't Fence Me In

After finishing a fence and finding himself with extra wood, my father offered to build me a fence with the leftovers.  He thought it would be nice for the chickens to stretch their wings a bit more.   

The girls agreed. 

You see, the ladies are cooped up when the garden is cooking.  They are offered true free range only in early spring, before all the seeds go in, and in fall, before the cover crop is tucked in.  Then, they are slug eating machines.  Any other time of year, these innocent looking featherheads are nothing short of natural born killers - decimating pumpkin patches and tearing through peas in the click of a beak.

I happily took my father up in his offer.  Along side the run, he built a chicken "corral" with both sun and shade.  For now, I'm only letting out the tamer girls (Minerva Louise, you are out of luck, sister!) because I have to shuttle them back and forth until we make an opening in the run.

Can't they just fly over the fence, you ask?  Theoretically.  Most of my girls are too chubby to get off the ground though.  Heck, one of them is too fat to flap up to the roost at night.  Gotta love cochins.  In any event, their girth coupled with the staggering of the top railings seems to mostly deter them - and, will hopefully let my garden grow in peace this spring.

* Linking to Homestead Barn Hop, Tuesday Garden Party, Garden Tuesdays and Farmgirl Fridays for this post.
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