Category Archives: food gardens

Making Sweet Garden Compost

 

Ahhh, the sweet smell of compost!…..

“Sweet??”, you say?

Yes, actually. A healthy compost pile should never smell bad, but should have a nice earthy smell- and when it does, I and many of my garden zealot friends can often be found running our fingers through the finely aged compost. (I’m not kidding!) Anyway, eccentricities aside, a compost pile can be not only a recycling facility for your kitchen and your garden waste, but also a highly efficient processing plant- ran by earth worms and other critters- that produces a first rate soil improver- compost.

No garden should be without it!

worms4sale

If you are one of the many people that are intimidated by composting, fear not. It really is easy. There are a few basics everyone need to have, like a space for the bin or pile- usually out of plain site, but not so much that it’s out of mind, some time (not very much) to tend it, and some simple ingredients. The main ingredients will likely be fallen leaves, weed and grass clippings, other garden waste and fruit and veggie scraps from the kitchen. You can also compost paper (without dye), egg cartons and bread (without butter, etc.)

The part about composting that usually stops people from actually doing it, is fear of not “adding the right ingredients”. The solution to that can be broken down into one simple statement:

If the contents of your pile tends to be wet and smelly, mix in more browns; if they are dry, mix in more greens.

“What”, you say, “the heck are greens and browns??” Well…

Greens

– Comfrey leaves

– Grass clippings

– Soft garden cuttings

– Nettles

– Kitchen scraps, incl. coffee grounds, tea bags, spent cut flowers (cut up small)

– Fresh (herbivore)animal manures

Browns

– Old straw

– Tough vegetable stems

– Herbaceous stems

– Cardbord tubes, egg cartons, paper bags – all crumpled up

– Dry fallen leaves

– Aged (herbivore) animal manures

If you’re interested in more info on composting and/or help in creating a composting system for your garden, contact me here, or at carla.lazzarini@gmail.com. I don’t mind at all getting my hands dirty!

 

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Growing Fruit on the Coast

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More and more people are growing their own food these days (how quaint ;-)) and some of us are getting a bit serious about it. Planting fruit trees or hedgerows of berries is taking it to the next level, in my opinion. That’s not to say that growing seasonal veggies like greens, squash, tomatoes, etc. isn’t a big commitment, because it is, but when you plant food-producing trees and bushes, they start to take up some space! Granted, once they’re planted there is less overall labor involved, as compared to a vegetable garden, but most of us just don’t have the space sitting around waiting to be turned into an orchard. So now we’re talking real commitment and dedication. What part of your existing garden are you going to rip out??

If you’ve got to the point where you’re ready to make space, you really want to make sure that you plant the right varieties so they’ll actually produce fruit here on the coast.

First, find out if the variety you want is self-pollinating (1 plant will do) or if it needs cross-pollination (you’ll need at least 2 different varieties). Also, many types and varieties of fruit need a certain minimum number of chill hours (temp. between 32 & 45 deg.) in the winter and a sustained period of warm weather in the summer that we just don’t get in our temperate coastal climate. You can find out these requirements from either the tag at the nursery or from the catalog you’re ordering from. Here’s an important bit of info that you’ll need: we get an average of 500 or less “chill hours” here on the San Mateo County coast, so it’s usually safe to plant something that requires 400 hours or less and is early ripening (again, catalog will indicate).

Here’s a list of what we can grow, might be able to grow and probably can’t grow:

YES

– low chill apples & pears

– most plum varieties

– strawberries

– most blackberry varieties

– figs

– Meyer lemons

MAYBE

– low chill blueberries & raspberries

– low chill nectarines

– kiwifruit

– avocado

NO

– peaches

– pomegranates

– cherries

 

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Annual Garden Party- 2010

Every late May/early June I have a garden party to share with my friends and family the abundance of blooms in my garden. It’s so floriferous at that time of year that if would be just plain selfish of me not to share! I recently came across some pictures from last year’s bash- where we served the best mint juleps ever!- and thought I would belatedly share with y’all.

Here’s the delightful Josie, sniffing the Italian parsley:

Judy and Leslie enjoy a chat amongst the heady blooms of Rosas ‘Buff Beauty’, ‘Lilian Austin’ and ‘Tamora’:

Taking a break from the crowd,

Emily and John find a seat with Rosa ‘Buff Beauty’

in the midst of clouds of Nicotiana mutabilis and Penstemon ‘Garnet’ (among others!).

If they sit still enough, a hummingbird is bound to come by!

Peeking out from the bed of roses is Rosa ‘Fantin Latour’,

bordered by peppermint scented geranium (Pelargonium tomentosa), already-bloomed Bearded Iris and Nepeta fasanii ‘Six Hills Giant’.

They look like they’re enjoying the aromatherapy…

It was a perfect day

to wear a hat,

talk with friends,

sip a mint julep,

smell the flowers

and relax in the garden!

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Parsley Gone to Seed -for the beneficials!

I let my Italian parsley plant go to seed because I wanted to attract beneficial insects to my other veggie plants. You probably hear the term ‘beneficial insects’ a lot. I know I do, but what the heck are beneficial insects?? Well, the two benefits that “good” bugs can bring to the garden are either eating other bugs that are considered pests or being pollinators. So predators and pollinators are what we want in our bug population. These types of insects are attracted to certain types of flowers and some of their very favorites are the flowers of herbs and greens from your food garden that have gone to seed. So it’s not always a bad thing to let your cilantro or lettuce bolt, as long as you know that it’s no longer tasty as food for you (bitter!), but now is serving another purpose- contributing to the health of your garden!

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Growing Tomatoes in Half Moon Bay

For the first time, I have successfully grown tomatoes (besides cherry tomatoes) in my garden in Half Moon Bay! They’re not in a hot house and we didn’t even have much sun this summer. (to say the least!) I just put them in the warmest, most protected part of the garden, fed them with compost and fish emulsion and watered them a lot. I planted three plants- Juliette F1 (60days), Oregon Spring (58days) and Stupice Early Tomato (52days)- in a black, plastic 15gal pot and placed it against a south-facing fence next to my compost bin. Voila!

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Late Summer in the Garden

We’re now coming into what I call the “Dregs of Summer” in the garden. Dregs being what’s left, or, the remnants of… In my experience, this last part of Summer is a tough time to keep things looking fresh in the garden, so I just don’t. I usually put in about as much effort as I do during the rest of the summer (aside from a mid-summer refreshing) and so the result is that about now things will start to get a bit leggy, a bit blown out, or just pain tired. I’m ok with that. I like seeing the different seasons in the garden. On the temperate Coast here, the seasons are stingy with their changes, and the ones we do get are subtle. I try to pay attention to the rhythm of the garden and I don’t try too hard to force things into looking permanently like it’s late Spring or early Summer. (prime-time around here)

August in the garden

I trim things back if they’re in the way (of me or other plants), I keep up with my watering & weeding and I continue to harvest the food we’re growing. Aside from that, I also do a lot of thinking about what to do next- what changes I want to make in the layout of my garden for next year, what plants will need replacing, which ones I want to plant more of or try for the first time, etc. Mostly what I do, though, is wait for the sun to appear so I can go out and enjoy it! As garden seasons go, it’s one of the more relaxing ones.

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The Great Pretender

This past Spring I spread my home-made compost all over my garden and after about three weeks, the soil was thick with tomato seedlings. I then made a mental note to not put tomato seeds into my kitchen waste container. I guess my compost doesn’t get hot enough to kill them, but I’m ok with that… For every 100 tomato seedlings, there appeared one zucchini seedling. “How sweet!”, I thought. “How useful!”, I thought next. I took three of the more robust specimens and planted them on a little hill, watered them lots, and waited. While I was away on vacation, my husband  sent me pictures of the garden and THIS is what the “zucchini” looks like! Hmmm… I was fooled. I think it’s baby acorn squash. Can anyone confirm this? (We ate some of them green and they were creamy and delicious!)

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