Harvest Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring has most definitely sprung in my southern California garden. Everything is green, growing, lush, and colorful now. Just give it a few months. Our gardens wilt in the summer heat.

We will get no more rain here until October at the earliest. More likely our first rain will come in November. That means six months of no rain, sometimes seven. With a rainfall season of only four inches this year and and four inches last year, California is in a major drought. We have to water our vegetable gardens and fruit trees, or they would die. The rest of my landscaping is drought tolerant, and goes for 7-10 days between light waterings in the summer. And yet it blooms and blooms and blooms. The trick is to choose drought tolerant plantings. Take a look.

Pink cobbity daisies in the foreground, fortnight lilies and gazania in the background, bloom like crazy with very little water.

Pink cobbity daisies in the foreground, fortnight lilies and gazania in the background. They all bloom like crazy with very little water.

Camellias are in the shade all day, so there isn't much evaporation in their planting area.

Camellias require more water but they are in the shade all day, so there isn’t much evaporation.

I planted these perennials last year. They died back a bit in winter, but bloom from spring into fall. I think they are from South Africa, whatever they are. Was it Spermophylum?

I planted these perennials last year. They died back a bit in winter, but bloom from spring into fall. I can’t remember. what they’re called.

I have white ones as well as the deep purple.

I have white ones as well as the deep purple.

Gazanias make a great ground cover. They require very little water and bloom almost all year long.

Gazanias make a great ground cover. They require very little water and bloom almost all year long.

This lavender bush is getting huge. I made lavender sugar one year, putting the flowers into a Mason jar with sugar. The sugar picks up the scent, and can be used to make lavender cookies or lavender cake.

This lavender bush is getting huge. I made lavender sugar one year, putting the flowers into a Mason jar with sugar. The sugar picks up the scent, and can be used to make lavender cookies or lavender cake.

I have bloodflower milkweed growing here and there in the yard. It makes lovely flowers, and the Monarch butterflies love it. We have raised many butterflies in our organic garden.

Bloodflower milkweed makes lovely flowers, and the Monarch butterflies love it. We have raised many butterflies in our organic garden.

This beautiful sunflower sprang up on its own. I have no idea what kind it is, but it has a short, stocky stem and a huge flowerhead. I am definitely hoping to save some seeds from it if the birds don't get to them first.

This beautiful sunflower sprang up on its own. I have no idea what kind it is, but it has a short, stocky stem and a huge flowerhead. 

This is the first Mexican poppy of the season. They self sow and spread like wildfire. I love them.

This is the first Mexican poppy of the season. They self sow, spread like wildfire, and require very little water. I love them.

I think this is Autumn Sage. I have three of them, part of my hummingbird and butterfly garden.

I think this is Autumn Sage, a California native plant. I have three of them, part of my hummingbird and butterfly garden.

I have a few rose bushes along the back of the house. Our plum and apple trees are getting bigger and shading them, so they don't bloom as profusely as they used to.

I have a few rose bushes along the back of the house. They grow where I clean the watering cans for the chickens. The water does double duty, cleaning the cans and watering the roses and surrounding irises. 

These cheerful little sundrops need little water, self sow, and bloom year round. Wonderful little plants.

These cheerful little Sundrops need little water, self sow, and bloom year round. Wonderful little plants.

The Gala apple tree in back has some flowers on it this year. Maybe we will get apples from it even though it is still young.

The Gala apple tree in back has some flowers on it this year. Maybe we will get apples from it even though it is still young.

Our Granny Smith apple tree got attacked by birds. They ate the petals off the flowers. If they ate the stamens and pistols as well, then our Granny Smith crop will be a bust this year.

This doesn't look like much, a few leaves coming out of a stem. But I am thrilled because this is my new Gala apple in front. It is ALIVE! Which is more than I can say for my two Fuyu persimmon trees. I seem to have killed them off.

This doesn’t look like much, a few leaves coming out of a twig. But I am thrilled because this is my new Gala apple in front. It is ALIVE! Which is more than I can say for my two Fuyu persimmon trees. I seem to have killed them off.

We have two varieties of Asian pear trees in back. Here is a flower on one that hasn't produced any fruit yet. Maybe this will be the year? My fingers are crossed.

We have two varieties of Asian pear trees in back. Here is a flower on one that hasn’t produced any fruit yet. Maybe this will be the year? My fingers are crossed.

This teeny, tiny, baby Asian pear is one of three that are growing on my newest Asian pear tree in front. It is a grafted tree with four varieties on it. Only one variety set fruit, the one with the lowest chilling requirement.

This teeny, tiny, baby Asian pear is one of three pears that are growing on my newest Asian pear tree in front. It is a grafted tree with four different pear varieties on it. Only one variety set fruit, the one with the lowest chilling requirement.

Whoopee, look at all of the peaches on the Florida Prince peach tree. They are small, but there are a lot of them. I hope I can beat the birds to most of them.

Whoopee, look at all of the peaches on the Florida Prince peach tree. They are small, but there are a lot of them. I hope I can beat the birds to most of them.

The Katy apricot tree is loaded with fruit this year. I  must remember to get a net to put over the tree to keep the birds from getting the apricots before I do.

The Katy apricot tree is loaded with fruit this year. I must remember to get a net to put over the tree to keep the birds from getting the apricots before I do.

Some of our fruit trees are blooming, some have produce ready to pick. The avocado tree has both this time of year. There are still a few avocados left, and it is in full bloom. The neighbors cut down their avocado, but our is supposed to be a self pollinating variety. I won't know for some time yet if I am going to get avocados next winter.

Some of our fruit trees are blooming, some have produce ready to pick. The avocado tree has both fruit and flowers this time of year. 

This is our entire Valencia orange crop. These oranges are on a dwarf tree in a large pot, and are ready to pick.

This is our entire Valencia orange crop. These oranges are on a dwarf tree in a large pot, and are ready to pick.

We are down to our last few Navel oranges. There were about 50 on the tree at the start of the season. We have eaten most of them already.

We are down to our last few Navel oranges. There were about 50 on the tree at the start of the season. We have eaten most of them already.

Our dwarf Eureka lemon tree produces about half a dozen lemons a year.

Our dwarf Eureka lemon tree grows in a pot and produces about half a dozen lemons a year.

This is our lemon producer, a Meyer lemon planted in the ground. I can't count the huge number of lemons on it.

This is our major lemon producer, a dwarf Meyer lemon planted in the ground. 

Our lime tree has been producing a few limes each week, not an impressive harvest this year. It seems to alternate between light crops and heavy crops. We still have lime juice in the freezer from last year’s big crop.

I am always amazed when a crop thrives in my garden of benign neglect. The white onions are beginning to make bulbs.

I am always amazed when a crop thrives in my garden of benign neglect. The white onions are beginning to make bulbs. My garlic crop, however, was a bust.

The red onions are also bulbing up. Let's not talk about the yellow onions. Let's hope that they are a later variety.

The red onions are also bulbing up. This one is right next to the soaker hose and doing well. Let’s not talk about the yellow onions. Maybe they are a later variety. 

This may not look like much, but it is the chard that swallowed Los Angeles. It is HUGE. We had six monster leaves for dinner and I hardly made a dent in what is ready to harvest.

This may not look like much, but it is the chard that covered Los Angeles. It is HUGE. We had six monster leaves for dinner and it hardly made a dent in what is ready to harvest.

Eek, the Freckles Romaine lettuce is starting to bolt. I must do something with it. Like eat it!

Eek, the Freckles Romaine lettuce is bolting. I must do something with it, quickly. Like eat it!

Here are some kale and mustard plants that are going into a stir fry soon.

Here are some kale and mustard plants that are going into a stir fry soon.

More kale.

More kale.

Uh, oh. Only one artichoke is ready. I need to pick them in pairs so my husband can have one too. Guess who is going to get this one. :-)

Uh, oh. Only one artichoke is ready to pick. I need to pick them in pairs so my husband can have one too. Guess who is going to get this one. :-)

What? Ripe bell peppers in April? Global weirding.

What? Ripe bell peppers in April? Yep.

The collard greens are growing like weeds. Time to eat them too.

The collard greens are growing like weeds.

I sometimes marvel at all that we have crammed into our tiny yard. We have over 20 producing fruit trees and seven separate vegetable growing beds of various small sizes. Our entire “urban farm” sits on a tenth of an acre (4,500 sq feet) and shares space with our house, 3-car garage, driveway, sidewalks, and front yard landscaped area. We have water barrels to save water, two compost bins, and a chicken coop. Do we grow all of our own food? Of course not. But we harvest something every week of the year.

All of these photos of what is growing in the garden, and not one picture of a harvest? Oh well. What can I say? We have been out of town twice over the past two weeks. The harvest over the last two weeks was lemons, limes, artichokes, and lettuce. You know what they look like.

HARVEST FOR TWO WEEKS March 31-April 13

FRUIT

9 oz Lemon, Meyer

18 oz Limes

Subtotal 1 lb 11 oz fruit

VEGETABLES

10 oz Artichokes

1.5 oz Lettuce

Subtotal 11.5 oz vegetables

TOTAL 2 lbs 6.5 oz PRODUCE plus 26 EGGS

TOTAL

 

Harvest Monday, March 31, 2014

I haven’t managed to make very many Harvest Monday blog posts this year. Not that I haven’t had harvests. I just seem to have too many others things going on with gardening and photography and other things. I find that I am reasonably good about weighing and logging my harvests, but terrible about photographing them and putting the harvest weights into an Excel spreadsheet. I would rather take pictures of things growing in the garden, or dishes I made with the harvests, than photograph harvested things that I have put onto the kitchen counter.

Komatsuna (foreground) and Swiss chard

Komatsuna (foreground) and Swiss chard

That being said, this week’s harvest included artichokes, chard, Komatsuna (Asian mustard greens that are delicious in soup and stir-fry), and snow peas.

This may be the last of this early planting of snow peas. More are growing, and I may be able to get in one more planting before hot weather sets in.

This may be the last of this early planting of snow peas. More are growing, and I may be able to get in one more planting before hot weather sets in.

Here is an artichoke that we haven't eaten yet. It is still growing.

Here is an artichoke that we haven’t eaten yet. It is still growing.

DSCN2812

So what do you do with Komasuna and snow peas? You make soup with frozen Asian dumplings (gyoza), using a chicken stock base. I added the snow peas a couple of minutes before serving the soup. Then it was eat it NOW, no time for photographs. Same thing happened with the artichokes: cook them, eat them, oops no photo.

So what else is growing in my coastal Southern California garden at the end of March?

Red Onions

Red Onions

Kale. This is dwarf Scotch blue curled. I'm also growing Lacinato (aka Tuscan kale, aka dinosaur kale)

Kale. This is dwarf Scotch blue curled. I’m also growing Lacinato (aka Tuscan kale, aka dinosaur kale)

Chard, aka Swiss Chard, aka Silverbeet

Chard, aka Swiss Chard, aka Silverbeet, ready to harvest

Freckles lettuce ready to harvest

Freckles Lettuce ready to harvest

Collard Greens ready to harvest

Collard Greens ready to harvest

My FloridaPrince peach tree is loaded with peaches. It will be a few more weeks before they are ripe.

My FloridaPrince peach tree is loaded with peaches. It will be a few more weeks before they are ripe.

I have a mere four peaches on the my little August Pride peach tree. The Babcock Improved peach hasn’t really bloomed yet. Well, one branch bloomed. My fruit trees seem to stagger their blooms on the same tree these days. I attribute it to Global Weirding, the crazy temperature fluctuations and unseasonable heat waves that have become the new normal.

The Panamint Nectarine tree has nearly finished blooming. I pruned it last fall, so there aren't as many blossoms on it as usual. The Snow Queen Nectarine hasn't bloomed yet.

The Panamint Nectarine tree has nearly finished blooming. I pruned it last fall, so there aren’t as many blossoms on it as usual. The Snow Queen Nectarine hasn’t bloomed yet.

I have four Asian pears set on my newest grafted Asian Pear tree, but only on the 20th Century Pear branch. Another Asian Pear tree has just started to bloom. It is also a 20th Century Asian Pear. The third Asian Pear tree is still dormant. It requires too much chilling to set fruit now that our winters on the coast have become so warm. Global Weirding at work again.

My four apple trees are still dormant.  It was so warm this winter, with record-breaking heat waves in January, that they didn’t even lose their leaves this year. Global Weirding.

We still have a few oranges left on the trees, and a nice crop of Meyer lemons that I am going to need to do something with soon. I plan to make some Meyer Lemon and Orange Marmalade with Ginger. As soon as I get a Round Tuit. :-)

Keep in mind that we live on a tiny lot, about 45 ft x 100 ft, making it one tenth of an acre. The 1700 sq ft house, 3-car garage, deck, patio, driveway, and sidewalks occupy most of that space. And yet we harvest something all year long.

Harvests for the week ending March 31, 2014

VEGETABLES

1 lb 6 oz Artichokes (2 of them)

5 oz Chard

14 oz Komatsuna

7 oz Snow Peas

TOTAL 38 oz = 2 lbs 6 Ounces Produce plus 15 Eggs

 

You can visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others harvested this week. Check the sidebar for the link.

Arg, I STILL haven’t added up my produce for the year-to-date to put into the sidebar. And if you notice, I didn’t finish totaling up 2013 or 2012 either. Hey, I can’t do everything. But little bit by little bit, the most important things get done. The chickens are fed and the garden is watered. Time to open a bottle of wine. I have my priorities straight!

Our yard as seen through a fisheye lens – March 29, 2014

I bought a new Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens for my Nikon D7100. It arrived yesterday and I couldn’t wait to try it out. My favorite photographic subject is my yard and garden. Here is what I shot.

close-up of a cymbidium orchid on my back deck

Close-up of a cymbidium orchid on my back deck. I love being able to grow orchids outdoors here in sunny southern California.

My chickens in their run, coop to the right.

My chickens in their run under the plum tree, coop to the right. I am using pine shavings for bedding. I don’t see all of the five hens, so maybe one was inside the coop laying an egg.

Love what the fisheye does to the view out our patio door. Chicken coop to the left, veggie garden to the right.

I love what the fisheye lens does to the view out our patio door. It makes the yard look huge. It isn’t. Looking west, chicken coop to the back left, veggie garden to the right beyond the deck, fruit trees all along the yard perimeter. I can see that I need to replace the outdoor rug on the patio. I love sitting on the deck, sipping wine or drinking coffee and admiring my garden.

A view of my herb garden that shows the coop to the left and garden to the right, fruit trees along the back fence.

A view of my herb garden and bird bath that shows the chicken coop to the left and garden to the right, fruit trees along the back fence. Note the paving stones. They are a water-saving strategy.

I am standing with my back to the fruit trees along our north wall, looking south.

I am standing with my back to the fruit trees along our north wall, looking south with the veggie beds in front of me, deck to the left. Nasturtiums grow between the beds. I feed nasturtium leaves and stems to the chickens.

My 6-year-old granddaughter Megan planted these snow peas for me a couple of weeks ago. She loves to garden.

My 6-year-old granddaughter Megan planted these snow peas for me a couple of weeks ago. She loves to garden.

I have gone to the other side of our back yard with the fence behind me, looking north past the peach and apple trees, past the chicken coop to the herb garden and veggie beds beyond. This section of our back yard is only 10 ft from house (on the right) to the back fence (on the left). Grapes grow on a trellis to the right.

I have gone to the other side of our back yard and am standing with the fence behind me, looking north past the peach, apple and plum  trees, past the chicken coop, to the herb garden and veggie beds beyond. This section of our back yard is only 10 ft from house (on the right) to the back fence (on the left). Grapes grow on a trellis to the right.

This view of the front of house, taken from the street, is my favorite fisheye photo so far. We just had our liquid amber (sweet gum) and olive trees pruned. There are three veggie beds in front, essentially under the olive tree. The freesias are pretty much done blooming.

This view of the front of house, taken from the street, is my favorite fisheye photo so far. We just had our liquid amber (sweet gum) and olive trees pruned. There are three veggie beds in front, essentially under the olive tree, and another one out of site to the left on the other side of the driveway. The freesias are pretty much done blooming.

Our front yard, showing the pruned liquid amber trees.

Our front yard, showing the pruned liquid amber trees.

See the paving stone walkways? I have them front and back. They help conserve water because the rain washes off the pavers and into the soil, essentially increasing the amount of rain that the plantings receive. That is only one of our water-saving techniques. Rain barrels are another strategy for saving water, as well as planting drought-tolerant landscaping and using soaker hoses for the vegetable gardens rather than overhead watering. Our per-person water usage is about one third that of the average California household.

Another view of the front yard, looking east toward the street.

Another view of the front yard, looking east toward the street.

I want to add a technical note about these photos. I have just begun to shoot RAW files, which gives more detail and better color preservation than jpeg files. Let’s just say that I got tired of having the highlights of my photos blown out, so I finally made the switch to shooting RAW files.

I then processed these photos using Aperture, then additionally processed most of them with a Topaz photo editing software plug-in called Adjust to do HDR (High Dynamic Range) in post processing. That really snaps out the color and puts detail into the shadows. Ah, but using the Topaz program on RAW files gave me tiff files, which I couldn’t upload to WordPress. Bummer. The RAW files not processed with Topaz converted automatically to jpeg when I uploaded them to WordPress.

It took me a while to figure out that I had to Export (iMac command for Move) the tiff files to my desktop, converting them to jpeg in the process, THEN upload them to WordPress. What a pain in the patootie. No wonder I don’t make blog posts very often.

Well, did you enjoy this fisheye view of our yard, and seeing my urban mini-farmlet from a new perspective? Please leave a comment.

What’s in bloom in February 2014 in my southern California garden

I am experimenting. I got a new Nikon D7100 last summer and am still learning how to use it. I have been shooing in JPEG format until now. But I am getting tired of blown out highlights and would like to now experiment with getting a wider tone range with RAW files. This will be my first attempt at posting photos that I took in RAW format.

Ah, but it is never as easy as it sounds. Not only did I have to change two separate settings on my camera (Image Quality and Role for Card #2), I had to upgrade my operating system on my iMac to OS X Mavericks, and then upgrade my photo processing program to Aperture 3.5. VBS. Whatta nuisance. Then I had to figure out the new method of loading photos from the disc to hard drive.  Looks like the same as the old method, except it took FOREVER to load a mere 81 photos. This has taken me all week as I stumbled through one process after another.

I finally have processed a set of RAW images taken in my garden earlier this week. I really can see the superior quality compared to JPEG. No more blown out highlights! Now the question is: Do I have to convert them back to JPEG to post them on WordPress, or will the program do that automatically? Here goes nothing.

A view of my backyard vegetable garden in raised beds (behind the herb garden and bird bath)

A view of my backyard vegetable garden in raised beds (behind the herb garden and bird bath)

Ah ha, the WordPress program seems to automatically convert the RAW files to JPEG. Good!

My Super Sugarpod peas (snow peas) are chin height already and just now starting to bloom. I probably have too much chicken manure in my homemade compost, i.e., too much nitrogen. Oh well, it makes for lush growth. The nasturtiums outside the beds get runoff from the drip irrigation and are at crotch height, but with very few flowers.

My Super Sugarpod peas (snow peas) are chin height already and just now starting to bloom. I probably have too much chicken manure in my homemade compost, i.e., too much nitrogen. Oh well, it makes for lush growth. The nasturtiums outside the beds get runoff from the drip irrigation and are at crotch height, but with very few flowers.

Don't you just love pea flowers? I can hardly wait for our first snow peas. The birds ate my entire first planting, gobbled up the little seedlings as soon as they sprouted. They never had a chance. They are now attacking the tips of these huge plants. Naughty birds. I may need a net cover,

Don’t you just love pea flowers? I can hardly wait for our first snow peas. The birds ate my entire first planting, gobbled up the little seedlings as soon as they sprouted. The peas never had a chance. The birds are now attacking the tips of these huge pea plants. Naughty birds. I may need a net cover,

Salad making from my garden with the first harvest of radishes for the spring. There is also baby kale, Freckles lettuce, cilantro, and arugula.

Salad making from my garden with the first harvest of radishes for the spring. There is also baby kale, Freckles lettuce, cilantro, and arugula.

The chard is also growing like gangbusters.

The chard is also growing like gangbusters.

The lettuce etc went into a salad.

The lettuce etc went into a salad with pine nuts.

I sautéed the chard with garlic in olive oil, added a splash of basalmic vinegar and some Parmesan cheese, and topped each serving with a sliced boiled egg. Garlic toast and lasagna completed the lunch for company,.

I sautéed the chard with garlic in olive oil, added a splash of basalmic vinegar and some Parmesan cheese, and topped each serving with a sliced boiled egg. Garlic toast and lasagna completed the lunch for company.

That is what I should have posted for Harvest Monday earlier this week. But I was too busy fussing with camera-computer technical stuff.

Now for actual flowers! Pink jasmine is perfuming the air with honeyed sweetness.

Now for actual flowers! Pink jasmine is perfuming the air with honeyed sweetness.

Pink cymbidium orchids bloom on the back deck. They have been blooming for weeks. The white ones aren't open yet, so I get about 3-4 months of orchid bloom each spring.

Pink cymbidium orchids bloom on the back deck. They have been blooming for weeks. The white ones aren’t open yet, so I get about 3-4 months of orchid bloom each spring.

This is another type of orchid. These little beauties bloom year round.

This is another type of orchid. These little beauties bloom year round.

Tis the season for succulent blooms. These are Mother of Thousands, which have spread everywhere.

Tis the season for succulent blooms. These are Mother of Thousands, which have spread everywhere.

Freesias are in full bloom, front and back, adding their own delightful aroma to the spring garden.

Freesias are in full bloom, front and back, adding their own delightful aroma to the spring garden.

Most of my fressias are yellow.

Most of my fressias are yellow.

The flowers are fading on our apricot tree, but little tiny green fruits are forming below the dying petals.

The flowers are fading on our apricot tree, but little tiny green fruits are forming below the dying petals.

I moved my ultra dwarf Garden Gold peach tree into a sunnier location. This tiny tree grows in a pot. I am hoping to get actual peaches from it this year.

I moved my ultra dwarf Garden Gold peach tree into a sunnier location. This tiny tree grows in a pot. I am hoping to get actual peaches from it this year.

These are flowers on the August Pride peach tree in front. The Florida Prince has already finished blooming and is covered in little peaches. The Babcock Improved peach hasn't bloomed yet, nor has the plum tree nor the Panamint or Snow Queen nectarines.

These are flowers on the August Pride peach tree in front. The Florida Prince has already finished blooming and is covered in little peaches. The Babcock Improved peach hasn’t bloomed yet, nor has the plum tree nor the Panamint or Snow Queen nectarines.

The single paperwhite narcissus have finished blooming already, and the double paperwhites are almost done.

The single paperwhite narcissus have finished blooming already, and these double paperwhites are almost done.

I am trying out this new succulent, Kangaroo paws. At least I think it is a succulent. It is drought tolerant at least.

I am trying out this new succulent, Kangaroo paws, in my flower garden. At least I think it is a succulent. It is drought tolerant at least.

I grow green onions in pots. They are about to bloom. I save the seeds to grow more next year. I haven't had to buy green onions at the store or farmer's market in about five years now, as I grow them year round.

I grow green onions in pots. They are about to bloom. I save the seeds to grow more next year. I haven’t had to buy green onions at the store or farmer’s market in about five years now, as I grow them year round.

The background is white lantana, part of my butterfly garden. This succulent is blooming. No idea what it is.

The background is white lantana, part of my butterfly garden. This succulent is blooming. No idea what it is.

Another blooming succulent. The flowers are similar to Mother of Thousands, but that isn't what this is.

Another blooming succulent. The flowers are similar to Mother of Thousands, but that isn’t what this is.

It looks like a Kalanchoe (sp?) is blooming in this pot of succulents.

It looks like a Kalanchoe (sp?) is blooming in this pot of succulents.

These flower buds are the ones that I am the most excited about. They are on my new grafted Asian Pear that has four different varieties on it. This is a newly planted tree, so I'm happy to see it leaf out and bloom. This winter was most likely too warm and mild for my older Asian pears to set fruit as they need a certain number of hours of chilling. Time will tell.

These flower buds are the ones that I am the most excited about. They are on my new grafted Asian Pear that has four different varieties on it. This is a newly planted tree, so I’m happy to see it leaf out and bloom. This winter was most likely too warm and mild for my older Asian pears to set fruit as they need a certain number of hours of chilling. This new tree spent most of the winter in a nursery somewhere colder than our yard.

This little Valencia orange is doing fine in a pot in front. I looks like we will get some fruit from it this year. The navel orange, lime, Meyer lemon and Eureka lemon trees are doing fine with fruit ready to harvest.

This little Valencia orange is doing fine in a pot in front. It looks like we will get some fruit from it this year. The navel orange, lime, Meyer lemon and Eureka lemon trees are doing fine with fruit ready to harvest.

It also avocado harvest season.

It is also avocado harvest season.

These are the flower bud clusters for next year's avocado crop. Let's hope I get some fertilization. Come on, bees!

These are the flower bud clusters for next year’s avocado crop. Let’s hope I get some fertilization. Come on, bees!

We just had the olive tree pruned to give my garden more sunlight. Check out that nice row of blooming yellow freesias in front.

We just had the olive tree pruned to give my garden more sunlight. Check out that nice row of blooming yellow freesias in front.

This little bed in front has green onions, some garlic, a volunteer sunflower, a chard, and some Freckles lettuce that has been decimated by birds.

This little bed in front has green onions, some garlic, a volunteer sunflower, a chard, and some Freckles lettuce that has been decimated by birds.

I made a cage of hardware cloth to fit over this bed of mesclun, lettuce and Napa cabbage, but I built it too late to save the lettuce.

I made a cage of hardware cloth to fit over this bed of mesclun, lettuce and Napa cabbage, but I built it too late to save the lettuce.

Dwarf blue-curled kale

Dwarf blue-curled kale

Lacinato kale, aka Tuscany kale, aka dinosaur kale, aka black kale.

Lacinato kale, aka Tuscany kale, aka dinosaur kale, aka black kale.

This Komasuna (Japanese mustard greens) looks ready to go into a stir fry. I harvest only the outer leaves to extend the harvest in my tiny garden.

This Komatsuna (Japanese mustard greens) looks ready to go into a stir fry. I harvest only the outer leaves to extend the harvest in my tiny garden.

I have three camellia plants. One is still in bloom, but the others are finished already.

I have three camellia plants. One is still in bloom, but the others are finished already.

Rosebuds have appeared, but they are a long way from opening.

Rosebuds have appeared, but they are a long way from opening. Look at that, no aphids in February.

The row of jade plants has nearly finished blooming.

The row of jade plants has nearly finished blooming.

The Pink Lady bushes have just begun to bloom.

The Pink Lady bushes have just begun to bloom.

Snowdrops in bloom are a sure sign of spring in our front yard.

Snowdrops in bloom are a sure sign of spring in our front yard.

I just love this row of red and white cyclamen. But I still haven't planted them. They are in pots. So many plants, so little time.

I just love this row of red and white cyclamen. But I still haven’t planted them. They are still in pots. So many plants, so little time.

Nemesia (sun drops) bloom all year long in our yard, as does Allysum.

Nemesia (sun drops) bloom all year long in our yard, as does Allysum.

I didn't process this photo of Allysum and it is a bit dark.

I didn’t post-process this photo of Allysum and it is a bit dark. Sorry.

Lavender is another year round bloomer.

Lavender is another year round bloomer.

These Fortnight Lillies bloom every two weeks. Wonderful plants, and quite drought tolerant.

These Fortnight Lillies bloom every two weeks. Wonderful plants, and quite drought tolerant.

I have other things in bloom and more growing in the veggie gardens, but this is more than enough.

Keep in mind that although California is suffering from a major drought, and that the average household water consumption per person is 150 gallons/day, we use only 50-60 gallons/day per person. I (1) use soaker hoses for my vegetable garden, (2) use rain water collected in rain barrels, (3) group plantings by water requirements, (4) have low-flow toilets, and (5) don’t let the water run indoors or out. We have all of these fruits, vegetables and flowers, yet we use one third of the amount of water that the average person uses in California.

I hope these RAW files really did convert to JPEG and that you can view them. I can sure see the difference in quality of the photos on my computer. Hope you can see it too. –Lou

We got RAIN! And I saved it.

Oh boy, its Super Bowl Sunday (not that I care) and a storm is coming! Rain is exciting during this terrible drought in California.

Oh boy, its Super Bowl Sunday (not that I care) and a storm is coming! Rain is exciting during this terrible drought in California.

I have never been as excited about a little rainfall in my life. I think the storm total for Huntington Beach from this storm was 1/4 inch, but we really, really needed the rain. My rain barrels were EMPTY, unprecedented for January. In anticipation of this “storm”, I set out all of my Rubbermaid 20-gallon trash barrels to collect runoff from the non-guttered portion of the eaves.

This tiny amount of water in the bottom of this container was from a mere mist. And yet I got measurable water in the bottom, because I set the containers under the eaves to capture runoff from the roof.

The tiny amount of water in the bottom of this container was from a mere mist. And yet I got measurable water in the bottom, because I set the containers under the eaves to capture runoff from the roof.

Here are three containers in a row, positioned to catch the maximum amount of dripping from the eaves. There are two other barrels farther down the row of jade plants. Note that I didn't waste water to wash off the containers, which are stored next to the chicken coop during the dry season.

Here are three containers in a row, positioned to catch the maximum amount of water dripping from the eaves. There are two other barrels farther down the row of jade plants. Note that I didn’t waste water to wash off the containers, which are stored next to the chicken coop during the dry season.

The quarter of an inch of rain that fell last night resulted in about 4-5 inches of water in these barrels.

The quarter of an inch of rain that fell last night resulted in about 4-5 inches of water in these barrels.

This rain barrel in front holds 50 gallons. However, it collects directly from roof runoff, not from a gutter, and so it got about the same as the Rubbermaid trash containers, 4-5 inches.

This rain barrel in front holds 50 gallons. However, it collects directly from roof runoff, not from a gutter, and so it got about the same amount as the Rubbermaid trash containers, 4-5 inches.

This is where the bulk of our rainwater collection occurs. We have one rain barrel set up under a gutter. The other two barrels are linked in series to it through tubing. These 50 gallon barrels are 2/3 full! From just one storm that produced only a quarter of an inch of rain. Amazing.

This is where the bulk of our rainwater collection occurs. We have one rain barrel set up under a gutter. The other two barrels are linked in series to it through tubing. These 50 gallon barrels are 2/3 full! From just one storm that produced only a quarter of an inch of rain. Amazing.

So does this type of water conservation help? You bet. Over our southern California rainy season from September to April, I use that rain water to water my garden in between storms. Over the wet season, I may empty the barrels several times, and they refill during the next storm. I have four 50-gallon rain barrels, and seven 20-gallon Rubbermaid trash containers that I put away when the wet season ends. That is a total capacity of 540 gallons, times however many times I can empty and fill them during the wet season.

That certainly isn’t the only water conservation measure that Vic and I use. We have two low-flow (1.6 gallons per flush) toilets, a Toto and  a Kohler. Now that California is in a drought crisis, “we don’t flush for number one in this land of fun and sun.” “If it’s yellow, it’s mellow. But if it’s brown, flush it down.” I know, TMI.

Our water-saving measures do really work. We get a water bill from the City of Huntington Beach that shows our water usage over the past two year period in a graph. I did some calculations and found that our two-person household used 5.6 units of water per month for 2013. A unit is 760 gallons, so that works out to 69 gallons per person per day. Average in California is 150 gallons person per day.

For 2012, we got more rainfall and I didn’t need to water the garden as much. For that year, we used an average of 4.3 units per month, or 54 gallons per person per day. That is 1/3 the California average. And yet we manage to grow about 250 lbs of fruits and vegetables a year.

How do we do it? Our washing machine has different settings for various size loads, and we use only the amount of water needed for a particular load. We don’t let the water run when we brush our teeth. And we don’t waste water letting it run to get hot when just washing our hands. The cold tap will do just fine.

We have friends who are collecting water from their showers, and using that to water plants outside. We know other people who move the outlet hose from their washing machine from the drain to a large container to collect the rinse water from the laundry. Another water-saving strategy is to keep buckets by the sink and shower to collect the tap water as it runs to get hot. Or you could invest in a hot water circulating system so there is always hot water on demand.

The Orange County Waste Management District does their share too. We have a “toilet to tap” program of purifying sewage water to better than tertiary treatment with reverse osmosis, and then pumping that water back up river to percolate down through the Pleistocene alluvium that underlies the Santa Ana River. Consequently, we are not yet hurting for water in Huntington Beach. But Vic and I practice conservation because we want to, and to set a good example. There are something like 18 million people in the greater Los Angeles area, of which we are a part. There just isn’t enough water in Central and Southern California to waste when it has to cover such a huge population.

I expect everything to grow like gang busters now that they have had some rainfall. This is my herb garden, with three veggie beds beyond. Fruit trees border the yard.

I expect everything to grow like gang busters now that we have had some rainfall. This is my herb garden, with three veggie beds beyond. Fruit trees border the yard.

With luck, this will be a link to my post in January 2010 when I first set up my rain barrels.

Setting up and using rain barrels

If the link doesn’t work, just go to the tags section of the sidebar on the right, at the bottom of the sidebar, and click on “rain barrels.”

Are you in a normally low rainfall area? Is your area in a drought crisis? How do you save water?

January 2014–heat and drought are wilting my southern California garden

Southern California is in a record-breaking heat wave and is experiencing horrible drought with precipitation at 20% of normal. This is our rainy season, but it isn’t raining. I don’t think it has rained since early December. Temperatures in the garden are hitting mid 80s every day. This is NOT NORMAL for January, and is wreaking havoc with my orchard and vegetable garden.

By the time I got home from work today, the sun had almost gone down. I wanted to make a blog post, so I took some photos before I lost the light completely, just to show you what my January garden looks like. With record-setting heat, things have gone into bloom prematurely. And with no rain, what is blooming is wilting. I can’t seem to keep up with the watering. I am 2/3 of the way through spring planting. Here is my urban mini-farm and orchard, all on a 4500 sq ft lot with the house, 3-car garage, driveway, and sidewalks occupying most of the space.

My mini-farm boasts a mighty flock of five laying hens.

My mini-farm boasts a “mighty flock” of five laying hens.

The garlic has sprouted. I have about 17 Sonoran garlics, about 18 Early Italian, and about 14 California Early garlics sprouted. My favorites, the Ajo Rojo, haven't sprouted yet. Will they? Don't know.

The garlic has sprouted. I have about 17 Sonoran garlics, about 18 Early Italian, and about 14 California Early garlics sprouted. My favorites, the Ajo Rojo, haven’t sprouted yet. Will they? Don’t know.

This little raised bed has green onions, one lone chard plant, and all of my Sonoran garlics.

This little raised bed has green onions, one lone chard plant, and all of my Sonoran garlics.

I am growing four onion varieties this year: Texas Red, Texas Yellow, Texas White, and "Sweet". We shall see if any of them make bulbs. Some years they do, and some years they don't.

I am growing four onion varieties this year: Texas Red, Texas Yellow, Texas White, and “Sweet”. We shall see if any of them make bulbs. Some years they do, and some years they don’t.

I am growing some green bunching onions in bowls. I don't have much garden space, so I grow food wherever I can.

I am growing some green bunching onions in bowls. I don’t have much garden space, so I grow food wherever I can.

This is the second year that these strawberries have been in this planter box. I wonder if I should dig them up and replant them. Does anyone know?

This is the second year that these strawberries have been in this planter box. I wonder if I should dig them up and replant them. Does anyone know?

Our Florida Prince peach tree is blooming extra early this year. The flowers opened yesterday, and are already wilting. I don't know if I will get fruit set in this heat. It's still early for the bees to be out.

Our Florida Prince peach tree is blooming extra early this year. The flowers opened yesterday, and are already wilting. I don’t know if I will get fruit set in this heat. It’s still early for the bees to be out.

I am growing arugula in planter boxes. We harvested the first today for a salad.

I am growing arugula in planter boxes. We harvested the first today for a salad.

I harvested some leaves of speckled lettuce today to go into the salad as well.

I harvested some leaves of speckled lettuce today to go into the salad as well.

I planted radish seeds in a nice regular pattern for square foot gardening, but they came up in a jumble. I'm going to try transplanting some of them to give the others more room.

I planted radish seeds in a nice regular pattern for square foot gardening, but they came up in a jumble. I’m going to try transplanting some of them to give the others more room.

I have a LOT of cilantro that seeded itself in my raised bed. Why can't it be ready to pick when tomatoes are ripe? But no, it is all gone by summer.

I have a LOT of cilantro that seeded itself in my raised bed. Why can’t it be ready to pick when tomatoes are ripe? But no, it is all gone by summer.

But thanks to Global Weirding, I have a tomato that is ripe. In mid-January! This is a first for my garden, a winter so mild that tomatoes set fruit and ripened.

But thanks to Global Weirding, I have a tomato that is ripe. In mid-January! This is a first for my garden, a winter so mild that tomatoes set fruit and ripened.

I have a few more tomatoes coming along. I just can't believe it. This is SO early.

I have a few more tomatoes coming along. I just can’t believe it. This is SO early.

I have a half dozen chard plants coming along nicely, but they are not ready to harvest yet. I take only the outer leaves to keep the plants producing over a long period.

I have a half dozen chard plants coming along nicely, but they are not ready to harvest yet. I take only the outer leaves to keep the plants producing over a long period.

I have six collard greens plants, two of which are almost ready to provide leaves for cooking.

I have six collard greens plants, two of which are almost ready to provide leaves for cooking.

These Oregon Sugar Pod snow peas are the normal size for January, but the birds ate all of my Sugar Snap peas. Time to replant those.

These Oregon Sugar Pod snow peas are the normal size for January, but the birds ate all of my Sugar Snap peas. Time to replant those.

Our navel orange crop is ready to pick, and we have been enjoying fresh oranges since the first of the year.

Our navel orange crop is ready to pick, and we have been enjoying fresh oranges since the first of the year.

It looks like the navel oranges will be huge this year. The Valencia oranges are tiny and not even close to being ripe yet.
I have a couple of Eureka lemons ready to pick and a few more ripening. I have a bumper crops of Meyer lemons and need to do something with them SOON.

I have a couple of Eureka lemons ready to pick and a few more ripening. I have a bumper crops of Meyer lemons and need to do something with them SOON.

Our little dwarf Valencia orange produced 7 oranges this year. The stone border around the flower bed is new. I emptied the water barrel, shown at the right, and put it up on concrete blocks to allow us to get the last of the water out more easily. This is the first time that I have used all of the water in this barrel during the rainy season. Normally it empties partially with use and fills with each new rain, empties and fills until the rainy season is over.

Our little dwarf Valencia orange produced 7 oranges this year. The stone border around the flower bed is new. I emptied the water barrel, shown at the right, and put it up on concrete blocks to allow us to get the last of the water out more easily. This is the first time that I have used all of the water in this barrel during the rainy season. Normally it empties partially with use and fills with each new rain, empties and fills until the rainy season is over.

We have a few limes that are ripe, and many more forming. Not all of the flowers in a cluster get fertilized.

We have a few limes that are ripe, and many more forming. Not all of the flowers in a cluster get fertilized.

We are still harvesting ripe bell peppers. This heirloom Giant Marconi sweet pepper is about to turn red.

We are still harvesting ripe bell peppers. This heirloom Giant Marconi sweet pepper is about to turn red.

I am still getting Black Beauty eggplants ripening, which is pretty strange for January.

I am still getting Black Beauty eggplants ripening, which is pretty strange for January.

Our border of jade plants is in full bloom. Since the neighbors to the south cut down the tall cypress trees, the jades are getting more summer sun. This is their best bloom ever.

Our border of jade plants is in full bloom. Since the neighbors to the south cut down the tall cypress trees, the jades are getting more summer sun. This is their best bloom ever.

These Snowdrops are blooming a couple of weeks early.

These Snowdrops are blooming a couple of weeks early.

These double paperwhite narcissus are also blooming a couple of weeks early. The single paperwhites started blooming in November, and have already finished blooming. Crazy.

These double paperwhite narcissus are also blooming a couple of weeks early. The single paperwhites started blooming in November, and have already finished blooming. Crazy.

These Mother-of_Thousands succulents have pretty blooms this time of year.

These Mother-of_Thousands succulents have pretty blooms this time of year.

These tiny orchids bloom nearly year round.

These tiny orchids bloom nearly year round.

Most of my Cymbidium orchids bloom in February-April, but these bloom in January. They all stay outdoors on the patio.

Most of my Cymbidium orchids bloom in February-April, but these bloom in January. They all stay outdoors on the patio.

These artichoke plants are doing nicely and should make some artichokes in a couple of months.

These artichoke plants are doing nicely and should make some artichokes in a couple of months.

Here is my next garden project--finding space to plant this grafted Asian pear, a dwarf Kieffer pear, and a dwarf Fuji apple.

Here is my next garden project–finding space to plant this grafted Asian pear, a dwarf Kieffer pear, and a dwarf Fuji apple.

I hope you enjoyed my tour of our January garden. I hope it rains soon, and I hope this heat goes away. Temps in the mid eighties are not normal for here for January.

November 2013 in the garden

VBS, I have become absolutely horrible about blogging. Its seems that photography and genealogy have trumped gardening and writing as hobbies these days. Perhaps the sad state of my garden has discouraged me from working in it. Kind of a downward spiral.

Our yard in November is littered with liquid amber leaves. We save them in bags to compost over the course of a year.

Our yard in November is littered with liquid amber leaves. We save them in bags to compost over the course of a year.

The record-breaking heat out there has not been to my liking. Yes, it’s mid-November. No, it isn’t supposed to be that warm, even here in southern California. But it is. We had another 85 degree day yesterday. I have managed to give the back enough water to keep things alive, but the front is suffering in the heat and drought. Come on, rain, this is rainy season. Where are you?

Without a storm, the leaves are still on the tree and the color is peaking beautifully.

Without a storm, the leaves are still on the trees and the color is peaking beautifully.

The olive tree in front of the liquid amber is hiding some of that beautiful foliage. Looks like it is time to get the olive pruned again.

The olive tree in front of the liquid amber is hiding some of that beautiful foliage. Looks like it is time to get the olive pruned again.

Our hedge of jade usually blooms in January, but the first flowers are open already. These are just buds.

Our hedge of jade usually blooms in January, but the first flowers are open already. These are just buds.

Summer lingers. I still have eggplants in the garden.

Summer lingers. I still have eggplants in the garden.

And bell peppers. But not this one. We ate it for breakfast in scrambled eggs.

And bell peppers. But not this one. We ate it for breakfast in scrambled eggs.

Holy cow, there is still a watermelon in my garden. I'd better eat it pretty darn quick.

Holy cow, there is still a watermelon in my garden. I’d better eat it pretty darn quick before it outgrows those old pantyhose.

Our five hens are doing fine, but only one is still laying. The others are either molting, or have finished laying for the winter.

Our five hens are doing fine, but only one is still laying. The others are either molting, or have finished laying for the winter.

I picked the first of our avocados today. It will take about 10 days after they are picked before they will be ripe.

I picked the first of our avocados today. It will take about 10 days after they are picked before they will be ripe.

Citrus season is just beginning. I have a few ripe Meyer and Eureka lemons, with more coming along.

Citrus season is just beginning. I have a few ripe Meyer and Eureka lemons, with more coming along.

It looks like the navel oranges will be huge this year. The Valencia oranges are tiny and not even close to being ripe yet.

It looks like the navel oranges will be huge this year. The Valencia oranges are tiny and not even close to being ripe yet.

I froze a lot of lime juice from last year's crop. Good thing, because this year's crop set is scanty.

I froze a lot of lime juice from last year’s crop. Good thing, because this year’s crop set is scanty.

Some of my Komatsuna (Asian mustard greens) lasted through the summer. I am hoping that the plant will produce more leaves once cooler weather gets here. Then I can make a stir fry.

Some of my Komatsuna (Asian mustard greens) lasted through the summer. I am hoping that the plant will produce more leaves once cooler weather gets here. Then I can make a stir fry.

This is a Giant Marconi sweet pepper. I have four nice big ones that I plan to stuff.

This is a Giant Marconi sweet pepper. I have four nice big ones that I plan to stuff.

This is a beet that is going into its third year. I will enter it in the county fair next summer if it survives this winter. I don't know yet if it is a contender for Largest Beet or Strangest Shaped Beet. Right now it looks like it could win in either category.

This is a beet that is going into its third year. I will enter it in the county fair next summer if it survives this winter. I don’t know yet if it is a contender for Largest Beet or Strangest Shaped Beet. Right now it looks like it could win in either category.

I took some pictures of my four raised beds for vegetables, but am too embarrassed to show them. I have really let my garden go raggedity. I got two of the beds cleaned up today. Two more to go. Then I will add compost and manure and they will be ready for fall planting. It is planting season now for peas, onions, garlic, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard, lettuce, radishes, and Asian greens such as Komatsuna, Mizuna, and Bok Choy.

I have tried to create my first poll for my blog. I hope it shows up below.

It shows up on my screen. If is shows up on yours, click on the appropriate button so I will know if it works or not. That is assuming that people are still reading my blog.

Aha! I did not have the poll “open.” I fixed that, so now try it. I think polls are going to be a fun addition.