Friday, March 23, 2012

Market harvest

We're out of avocados for the season so it's going to be a small harvest but a yummy one. We hope to see you at the market tomorrow. 

There's a little bit of broccoli

We'll have a whole lotta basil

There's Swiss chard

Some mint


And some loose leaf lettuce
Gidget says, "Yuck!"

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's time to give the garden a Spring evaluation

Good planning is key in a productive urban farm, especially when you want enough food to feed yourself and a little to sell at your local farmers market but even the best planning can well, not go as planned. It's important to take a look around and adjust where needed and you'll almost always find that you need to add items to your list of things to do. In San Diego when you garden year-round, the list will never get completed. 

It's a good idea to take a walk around your garden and evaluate on a very regular basis. 

I discovered that our peas are getting mildew so I added spraying them with an organic fungicide to my list

Fortunately my lemon blossoms are looking wonderful so after a quick sniff I moved on.

We leave clover growing in the rocks around our garden during the winter for the bees.
The clover in the winter is one of the few things that are blooming in the garden so we leave it until there are other blooms for the bees to enjoy and then we pull it. I imagine people walking by the garden think I'm just too lazy to pull my weeds but I've never been one who cares much about what other people think.

The bees have the stunning lemon-rose geranium blooms among other things to snack on now.

Gidget asks, "Did you see that City Farmers has chicks for sale?"
A true sign that Spring is here, there are chicks at City Farmers Nursery and they are completely adorable. If Gidget would just build a coop then maybe we could bring some home without Farmer D noticing.

The banana tree is looking incredible but it has some white fly so I am going to try some traps. Add that to the list.

This was broccoli fabulous for dinner last night. I tried some earlier in the year that didn't do as well so I'm making a mental note to start broccoli in late January next year. 

Our African Blue Basil is a fantastic performer, it's been here almost a full year. I am going to try to start some plants from cuttings - Add that to the list. 

No matter how much I want the sun to shine directly on this raised bed, it just doesn't before late May.
I haven't had much luck getting things to grow here over the winter. This broccoli and cauliflower is leggy and pitiful. This bed will get full sun in a couple of months but until then, I am going to pull this sad stuff out and try Swiss chard and kale in the partial sun to see if I have more success.

Our side yard is used as a dog run and overflow for ornamental plants that will do okay in the shade.It's also become a storage location for my extra rice straw. This area is always shady.

Weed eating is Farmer D's job but he's so busy at work and our weed eater needs repair, so he hasn't gotten a chance yet. Gidget loves having a jungle to play in though. 

This Swiss chard on the roof is just about worn out, it's going to get replaced with tomatoes and peppers very soon.
We're out of avocados for the season so we will have a more limited selection of food at the market until the tomatoes and other warm season crops start producing their fruit. We will have lots of starter plants to choose from though. This week we'll have some tomatoes, cucumbers, peas and peppers. The avocados will be ready again in late September or October.
Mulching the leaves under the drip line of the avocado tree is a fabulous way to give the tree some extra nutrients and it seems to be thanking us with incredible blooms this year. 
Well, time to quite talking about it all and start doing some of it. Happy gardening - it's a beautiful day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Refreshing the worm bins

Yesterday was the first official day of Spring and while many gardeners around the country are just getting their gardens planned and cool crops planted, we are in full swing and I feel like I'm already late to the party. There's so much to do! Yesterday was a gorgeous day and a welcome change from the 3 days of rain we just had.

I decided to spend a leisurely morning working on refreshing the worm bins because they provide an incredible source of nutrient dense plant food and organic matter which is one of the most important things you need for a successful vegetable garden.
Gidget asks, "Really? The worms are your biggest priority? Have you seen the rest of my garden lately? It's a hot mess!"
Worms make awesome pets because they are very low maintenance, non judgmental, take up a relatively small amount of space, they are contained, they happily eat your vegetable scraps and they provide you with a rich reward. All of this makes them easier to deal with than say - a cat. I highly recommend a worm bin for every household.

I hadn't spent any time on them recently so I knew they would be grateful for some new bedding and a nice meal. If I had any complaints about them before it was that it was taking way too much time to cut their bedding (cardboard) into scraps but Farmer D is a problem solver and he got me this nifty hand held saw that makes this chore a snap.
My hand held saw
I cut down a couple of large cardboard boxes into small pieces and added just enough water to make them damp like a wrung out sponge.

My cardboard pieces
We have 2 active worm bins at the moment and I was thrilled when I dig into the first one.

The first worm bin teaming with life in black gold (worm castings).
All of the worms were active and healthy and the white specs you see are thousands of little baby worms. I made sure there wasn't any funky odor, fruit flies or ants in the bin and then added a nice meal.

Worm food.
I've started putting the vegetable scraps through my food processor before feeding them to the worms so they will be able to break it all down faster, thus decreasing the time it takes to get what I'm looking for which is beautiful worm castings (or poop).

I added a fresh layer of bedding on top of the bin and closed it back up.
When I opened the next bin, I felt as though I struck oil!

This is what you're looking for in a worm bin.
The second bin, which is actually the first bin we started, was also full of life and even better, ready to harvest. The entire bottom of the bin looked like this which is just fabulous. This is the stuff I'll make worm tea with and add directly to my garden for a nutrient boost to the warm season plants that we'll be eating from soon. 

I didn't harvest the castings yesterday. I added a meal to the corner of the bin to attract the worms over to one side so it will be easier to screen the castings without disturbing too many of the worms. I'll wait about a week and then harvest the castings. I think we'll be able to split both bins again soon and then we'll be off to the races in that we'll soon have enough worm tea to start selling to people to enrich their own garden plants with. 

Today is going to be more labor intensive. I have a tour in about 3 hours and need to pull weeds, clean the garden in general, replenish the straw layer in the back yard, plant some new seedlings, etc. etc. 
Gidget is much more at ease with my plan for today.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Seeds plants and labels everywhere

We got a nursery license a few months back so while I am starting seeds for our own garden, I have also been starting enough for your garden too. Plant sales have not been as robust as I hoped so far but I think as the season progresses and people get used to the idea of being able to get seedlings started from organic seed at Gidget's Garden this will pick up. We did sell 4 tomatoes and a couple zucchini plants last week so that helped clear out enough room to start a second cycle of seedlings in our little greenhouse.

The last of the seedlings that sprouted in this tray before being transplanted to larger containers.
My peppers did not sprout up as well as I had hoped but I know this is because it is still a little too cool and because the seeds I used were from 2 years ago, I just couldn't bring myself to throw them away so I decided to see how many I could get to germinate while I waited for my fresh seed order.
Transplanting seedlings to get them ready to plant and sell.
The peppers have a couple weeks before they'll be ready to sell or plant which is just as well because it's still theoretically too cool to put them out in the garden. I had a little bit of trouble seeing what I planted because I used a sharpie to write on the label and sharpie fades in the sun. One of the most common tips a more experienced gardener will give about seedlings and your garden plants in general is to label them well and these more experienced gardeners are absolutely correct. I've learned no matter how well I think I'll recall what I put where, without a label, I'll be scratching my head in wonder a few weeks down the road.

Sharpies fade but these painter pens do not. 
A pack of these pens will set you back about $10 and I used them up in 1 year but I feel like it was a worthy investment because proper labeling is absolutely essential in our garden due to the need for inspections and being able to accurately tell people what we're selling, both in vegetables and plants. The darker colors are great for writing on white tags and the lighter colors show up well on the dark pots. 

Here's a peek inside our little greenhouse after the revamp.
Many of the plants in front are ready to go and I hope to sell them in my driveway tomorrow as we will not be able to attend the market this week. Farmer D has another engagement and I was hoping to have a yard sale including plants over the weekend but it's going to rain so I am planning to try a Friday sale instead. 

I started a whole tray of new tomato plants which I am hoping will be popular at the market in about a month. We should also have lots of eggplant and zucchini at that time too. 

New tomato tray
The new varieties I have going are:
  • Wapsinicon Peach - this is a small, fuzzy skinned, blush colored sweet, heirloom variety. Indeterminate.
  • Indigo Rose - a small, almost black colored great flavored variety that is disease resistant. Indeterminate.
  • Arbason - A hybrid that produces early beefsteak tomatoes that are medium large. Ranked high in trials for productivity and flavor. Indeterminate.
  • Mountain Princess - An heirloom that produces sweet and delicious 3" tomatoes with a slightly orange color. Determinate. 
  • Medford - Produces very large, perfectly round tomatoes with a rich flavor. Good disease resistance. Determinate.
  • Copia - A gorgeous yellow/orange with red pin stripes. Mild and juicy with very large tomatoes. Indeterminate.
  • Brandywine - An heirloom with superb flavor. Commonly weighing in at over 1 lb. Reddish pink color and slightly ribbed. Indeterminate.
  • Toronjina - A medium sized orange cherry tomato. Sweet and juicy. Indeterminate. 
  • Matt's Wild Cherry - Heavily-vining "wild" plants produce a multitude of incredibly sweet and flavorful small fruit. Works great in hanging baskets. Indeterminate. 
  • Rose de Berne - An heirloom with a dark rose pink hue, not too tart or sweet. Soft skinned but not fragile. Indeterminate. 
Gidget says, "You seem to be wasting a lot of time on tomatoes. Cats don't eat tomatoes." 
Gidget's mouth may not be watering but mine sure is. I can't wait for the first of the tomatoes.

Here's a peek at some of the other things we have growing on. 
We hope to have beautiful bunches of pretty carrots in a few months for the market
As most people who buy produce from us already know, we won't have these in very large quantity but we do always strive for the very best quality and I am super excited about these new carrots. We also have a white variety to go with them.

I planted some around a tomato plant that I just put in on the roof.  There are also two cucumbers toward the back on the sides with radishes planted in between as a trap plant for pests.

"I understand the carrots to attract rabbits but I still don't see how the rabbits will get on the roof!"

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Growing plants in your pants

I really love re-purposing things that aren't useful in their original state anymore into things that are useful in another form - especially for the garden so when I started seeing pictures of people growing plants in their old pants, I was all about it! I had a hard time finding any instructions for how to successfully do this so I did the best I could. So far my pants are planted and doing well. Here's what I did:

The old, too small, ripped and stained pants I decided to use
1. Select a pair of pants that you can no longer wear or pass on and cut them into shorts (You could leave them full length and potentially stuff the legs with something like newspaper, straw, or rocks if you want to plant full length pants).
2. I found a plant tray to place the pants in so I can reduce water runoff because I planned to put these on the roof. This also makes my pants easy to move around.

I knew this scrap of plastic would come in handy one day.
3. Turn the pants inside out and line them with plastic to the best of your ability. This will not completely waterproof the pants but should cut down on staining from the dirt you're going to put in the pants and will add some structure to your new "planter". I cut the plastic into pieces that were a little larger than the size and shape of the pants and attached the plastic to the inside out pants with safety pins to keep it in place. I did not worry about closing the bottom in any way.
My pants lined with plastic
4. Turn the pants outside out again and you should have plastic lined pants with some structure ready to plant. 
5. Choose the plants you want to use. I chose succulents as I have an abundance of extra ones around the garden, they are super easy to grow in San Diego even under the worst conditions and they are very pretty. Whatever you choose, I would not suggest food plants because of the plastic but I have nothing to back that up other than plastic is toxic to the human body and I would not want to eat food grown in pants lined with plastic. 
6. Choose the soil most appropriate for your plants, in my case I used cactus mix, and fill your plastic lined pants with it. 
7. Plant your pants. I added a little bit of plastic to line the front pockets, filled those with a little soil too and added cuttings to the pockets as well.
Growing plants in my pants
8. Place your pant plants where you want them and water.

A view of my pants from below.
These could have looked fuller towards the right side but they will, there are plants in there that just need to grow up a little before people will be able to see them from below. I already found a pair of pants that Farmer D can no longer use so I'll be planting those next!
Gidget asks "How does this potentially feed me? I don't get it."

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Photo of the week

This week's photo of the week is actually a commercial featuring Gidget's Garden. Can you spot us?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Market harvest

 It's going to be a small harvest but a nice one.
There's one basket of strawberries for the person who is lucky enough to get them. 
We have some beautiful Green Arrow peas. 

The basil looks great and we'll also have sage, rosemary and mint.
The Swiss Chard is still going and there will be a couple of bunches.
We've got about 15 of our incredible avocados but only 1 that's close to ready, the others will soften in about a week.
We have tomato and tomatillo plants for your garden this week.

And another beautifully scented ginger geranium.
Gidget says, "You didn't really wake me up for this, did you? Chickens. Wake me up when there are chickens."