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 fruit tree to flower every year - apricot!
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!

Currants are one of the first perennials to fruit each year and provide year round interest.
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, blood orange, and lime.  I've got more blackberries than I can count but no blueberries and several currants.  I've never had much luck with those or raspberries where I live.


Grapes and blackberries.
 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.


Egyptian walking onions.

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.  I have also heard the potato onions are wonderful perennial onions and better tasting than the walking onions.


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.

Swiss chard on its second 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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