Saturday, July 30, 2011

Another great Golden Hill farmers market

We have so much fun at the market and appreciate all of the people who have come to see us regularly. It's been a treat to meet so many new people from the neighborhood. 

Market days are hectic and right now there's a lot growing on in the garden too so I am going to keep it short today. We felt that we had another very successful day and we hope to see you next week. 

Here's a look at today's table this morning
By the end of the day we sold over 80% of what we brought and we were pleased with that. The Armenian cucumbers, Gidget's samplers, personal sugar baby watermelons and the herbs were most popular, but the peppers and tomatoes got attention too.

Next week we should have more tomatoes and peppers to choose from, and we're going to bring some Aloe leaf regularly too, if that is something you are looking for. 

We appreciate your support and we are interested in helping you to grow the things you would like to eat, so let us know if you would like advice, and if you simply are not able to grow your own, tell us what you are looking for and we will try to work it into our rotation if possible.

Gidget isn't speaking to us because we came home again without a Spur Valley Ranch chicken. Maybe next week. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Market harvest day

Friday is here again already so that means I have a fun day of things to do in preparation of bringing good food to you. The past couple weeks I have been taking photos post harvest to show you what we'll have but I'm going to do things a little differently today. I want to get the post done early - like now, so I am going to post photos of things on the vine that we plan to bring. I'm also going to give you a sneak peek at what we plan to bring in the coming weeks.

Tomorrow's Menu: 

Cucumbers; Armenian, Japanese, and Heirloom Lemon

We are bringing some stunning Armenian cucumbers

Lemon Cucumbers
Peppers; poblano, sweet banana, purple bell, orange bell, jalapenos, pizza peppers, and pepperocinis

Sweet banana peppers
There are only 1 or 2 orange bells that are ready so you may want to come early.  We should have more next week.
The purple bells are hard to see but we have a couple and we have a small jalapeno variety
Pizza pepper 
Poblano pepper
The poblanos are a small variety too but we expect them to bulk up as we start harvesting them. We had one the other night and they are tasty!

Tomorrow's Tomatoes; better boy, champion, three sisters, yellow pear cherry, red cherry and maybe an orange queen. They will be in small quantities.

One of the first better boy tomatoes for market tomorrow
This week is a little thin for tomatoes in Gidget's Garden but we have several plants that are beginning to ripen and quite a few more that will be ready after those so next week, and moving forward through the rest of summer, we expect to have more. 

The Japanese eggplant is smaller and has a more tender skin, the other one is larger, both are delicious!

Japanese eggplant
Oval eggplant
Herbs; Italian basil, Pistou basil, large leaf basil, Napalitano basil, purple basil, rosemary, and tri-color sage

Italian basil
I'm sure I'm forgetting a thing or two, please stop by the market in the morning at 28th and B street between 8am and 12:30. If you aren't able to make it tomorrow, we're there every Saturday. Here's a look at some of what we have planned for the rest of the summer feast.

We're going to keep the cucumbers coming. Tomorrow will be the first of the Armenians and we hope they're popular because we have a lot of those growing, we also have some long slicing cucumbers, more lemon cucumbers, a Persian variety, and more of the space master cucumbers taking off. 

long slicing cucumber
Spacemaster cucumbers
We have lots more peppers going and looking great.

Big Bertha and Red Bell Peppers
A Big Bertha bell pepper that may be ready next week
I found a lavender colored bell pepper that I hope to bring to market in a few weeks. 
The zucchini is getting close. We have a green and yellow variety and may be bringing some next week. 

Yellow zucchini
The tomatillos finally look promising. I have never grown them before so I'm not sure how much longer we have.

We have a lot of tomato plants including some new varieties we haven't brought yet. We have a Boxcar Willie, a black cherry, a red grape, and lots of full size lemon boys to name a few. We'll bring new varieties throughout the summer.

Lemon Boy Tomatoes
We also have sunflowers seeds forming as we speak, (or as I type), and we are excited to bring them fresh, unadulterated, and truly raw to the market.

Gidget's sunflower seeds
And then of course we have the finest avocados grown locally and we are eagerly awaiting their completion. Possibly in January, you'll want to stay tuned for these!

Gidget's Garden avocado, still very small
"Where are you hiding the real food, like tilapia?"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Plants that volunteer in the garden

A volunteer in garden lingo is a plant that you did not actually plant, but that just pops out of the ground. This can happen in several ways. Volunteers are fun, but keeping all of them may not be the best idea for maximizing yield, and space in your vegetable garden.
Tomato plant that volunteered and I discovered on my birthday
This plant volunteered because I had my compost bin here last year, and then I moved it. I must have put tomatoes in the compost and the seeds did not completely decompose. When I moved the compost, the seeds took the opportunity to sprout up as new plants. I love plants, and so I really love volunteers because they just appear, and feel like a gift.

You have to be realistic about keeping all of them. Many times you really have no idea what the volunteer will turn out to be. You'll probably be able to recognize a tomato plant, but the variety will remain to be seen until the plant starts producing fruit. I uprooted this volunteer and transplanted it into one of our Earthboxes in April.

I did not know it would turn out to be a yellow pear cherry tomato until a few weeks ago. 
This red cherry tomato also popped up in the compost spot. I potted it too. 
Squash plants are another one that will easily volunteer in your garden. I took some of my compost and spread it around in the front garden where I planted corn and sunflower seeds. I must have overlooked some squash seeds in the compost while I was laying it down because we got a couple squash volunteers in that area.

Corn and sunflower bed with mystery squash volunteer in April. 
When I first saw this one pop up, I assumed it was a zucchini because I had zucchini in this area last year. I was wrong.

It soon became a massive vine that tried to envelope the entire front garden. 
It turned out to be a Kabocha squash that we only got one really good squash off of. It took up way too much room, and was attacked by fungal disease, which then transferred to our cucumbers that we did plant intentionally. I should have taken it out as soon as I saw it. It's easy for me to become invested and attached to plants, but I am guessing the most productive, and successful gardeners pull volunteers like weeds when they see them. I am going to start taking that approach, but I imagine I will always try to pot or relocate tomato volunteers when possible. It is fun to be surprised by the plants you are growing.

Initially, we had the kabocha, a cherry tomato, and a butternut squash that volunteered in this area.
I took out the kabocha squash and the corn we had growing here and replaced with tomatoes and peppers.

Cherry tomato tied to sunflower
This is the cherry tomato that we left here, but it is not in an ideal location, it is producing but not as much as it could if its location were planned in advance.

I also left this sad little butternut volunteer - for now
The butternut is not getting enough sun or space because the sunflowers above it are shading it, and are too close to it. When plants volunteer, they don't pick the best locations, and with squash plants, it is very hard to determine what it will become, so it is impossible to know what their requirements will be during the season.

Here is a photo of my friend, Janet Glover's butternut squash, this is what it should look like. 
I was hoping that our plant would produce at least one sizable squash but it hasn't. The one that is on the plant is ready to be harvested, and we will eat it, but then I am going to pull the whole plant.

A squash volunteered in the back area last week and I did not hesitate to pluck it right out like a weed 
We have a lot of palm trees that volunteer under our avocado tree each year because the seeds drop from the neighbors tree. I have been trying to save them by potting them and giving them away. You'll want to pluck them out early though because they develop strong, deep roots quickly, so they can be a pain to get out if you wait too long and you may traumatize them too much at that point to save them.

Potted palm tree volunteer

Sunflowers also volunteer easily
These plants did not volunteer but I am hoping that I will get volunteers in this area next year because I plan to let some of the seeds just drop here. I want a patch of sunflowers here for years to come. 

Sunflower volunteers from bird feeder above
If you have bird feeders, then you will certainly get all sort of volunteers because of dropped seeds. I pull most of them but these two sunflower won my heart and I'm allowing them to stay.

This is a nemoticidal marigold that volunteered from seeds  I put here last year. 
Sometimes, you'll get volunteers because you planted some seeds the year before. I wanted to grow this plant here last year but it never popped up. It did this year, and it is in a place that I didn't do anything else with, so they're very welcome volunteers in the garden.

Lemon rose geranium volunteer
I love this plant and was thrilled to see a baby volunteering next to the main plant. I will pull it up and pot it soon. Now I know of two ways to propagate my favorite plant. 

Capturing strawberry volunteers
Strawberries volunteer in the form of new plants that grow on shoots. They are also welcome sights for us, and we try to propagate them as much as possible, soon we'll be giving away strawberry plants. 

When you encounter volunteers, it is a good idea to take your space and goals into consideration. If it pops up in a place you have other plans for, then it may be a good idea to relocate it, or just pluck it like a weed. Ultimately, you want to put your dinner first and an unknown squash plant will probably not be worth handing over space that you can grow known, and productive plants in, especially in a small urban garden.

"So...basically you're saying plants multiply like rabbits. Let's just get rabbits! Our many plants clearly are not working to attract them because I haven't seen one yet. I want REAL food!"

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Vegetable garden maintenance

The amount of maintenance your vegetable garden will require depends on several factors. Our garden requires quite a bit of maintenance at this point but we have a larger than average garden. There's a lot going on in the garden right now because we are transitioning from some of the earliest warm season plants that we put in during early March and replacing them with new warm season crops that will get us through the rest of the summer.

We are also starting to think about the cool season and need to order the seeds that we will start soon for the fall crops. In addition to that, the general maintenance of our current plants needs to be addressed. I started yesterday with a list of the things that I need to get done over the next couple days.

The list
One of the things on the list is to feed our citrus trees. We have three citrus trees; a dwarf pink lemonade lemon, a dwarf sweet lime, and our avocado tree is also considered citrus.

Dwarf lime tree that needs more space underneath and feeding 
Our dwarf lime tree had a nice growth spurt over the last 6 weeks or so, and it's time to feed it. We have heavy weed block and rocks in the front garden that act as a mulch on top of walk ways and around our raised beds. Where we put plants in the ground, we cut the weed block and move the rocks out around the drip line as much as possible. The drip line is the width of the branches. We need access to the area for feeding and then we mulch with compost.

I cut away more of the weed block and moved the rocks out further
I added some citrus fertilizer and scratched it around the perimeter of the new space.

Gidget is concerned that we are buying too much compost and thinks we need to make more of our own
After scratching the fertilizer in, I add a thick layer of City Farmers compost/mulch on top
Earwig poop on strawberry leaf
The list only gets longer as you go through the garden because it never fails that you will find something else that needs to be added to it. Something is eating our strawberries and I suspect it is earwigs. This poop is not in the form of small pellets like I normally see with caterpillars, and we already know we have earwigs, and they like to eat strawberries, so I'm going to add this to the list of things to do. I will use my vegetable oil trick on them.

Moving on to feeding this patch of sunflowers and corn
The same idea applies, after scratching the food into the top inch or so of soil, then mulch heavily, and water
This mulch adds more nutrients to the soil, and it helps retain water.

Sunflower seeds starting to show, make me happy
Our compost bin is not adequate
This sort of compost bin is best used as a passive system, meaning that you don't turn it, and it will take a year or so before you're able to harvest your compost. It's called an Earth Machine and the folks there do think it can be turned but the process is very difficult as far as I'm concerned. A year is a long time to wait, and it is not enough compost for our large garden. We have harvested some wonderful compost from the bin though, and we will continue to use it passively.

We need more of our own compost, as Gidget keeps pointing out, so I plan to make a worm bin this week so we can start using vermicompost in our garden as well. I'll show you how I do that in an upcoming post. I am also going to explore some other composting options soon.

For now, I am going to finish the feeding and mulching process for the rest of the flowers in the garden. I did the vegetable last week and will check again in three weeks to decide if they need to be fed again. We feed our vegetables and flowers every 4-6 weeks, or as needed, and our trees every few months.

"So...I guess this fig beetle is my lunch then?"