November 2016 garden and chicken update

Take a gander at this nice basket of pumpkins and butternut squash. All but one of them came from my Garden Box of Joyous Anticipation. The seeds sprouted from the compost that I added and I just let them grow. I was rewarded with 10 lbs of winter squash. Amazing.

Because we are probably going to lose our nectarine trees due to shot-hole borers (see last post), I changed the banner shot from a nectarine blossom to this basket of pumpkins. Well, changing the banner from spring to fall seems reasonable anyway.

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My plan is to make pumpkin pie and pumpkin soup, but the weather isn’t cooperating. We have had temperatures in the 90s here in coastal southern California the last few mid-November days. That just ain’t right, folks. Global warming in action.

Normally, my husband and I try to tough it out until at least Thanksgiving before turning on the furnace. Ha. Looks like that will be no problem this year. Why do we do that? Because global warming is caused by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The less fuel we burn, the less we contribute to global warming. So even when we do turn the furnace on, we set the thermostat to 68. One of the reasons why I garden and keep chickens is to reduce the distance that my food has to travel to get to us. Travel takes fuel, and that contributes to even more global warming.

You may have noticed that my blog is called “Lou Murray’s Green World.” That is a play on words. My world is green because of my garden, true. And because it is a certified National Wildlife Federation Wildlife Habitat. But I am also green because I am an environmentalist, a newly retired professional biologist. (I finally retired three months ago from the Orange County Conservation Corps, where I had worked for the past 13 years. I figure that at age 73, and recovering from cancer surgery, it was time to retire. But I digress.)

So how am I green? I garden, I compost, I recycle, I reuse, I collect rainwater, and I conserve. Even my choice of holiday greeting cards is green. This year, I purchased some special cards from the National Wildlife Federation. For each card purchased, they provide trees to non-profits, community groups, and governmental entities. Our Christmas card purchase this year will be planting 60 trees! Each tree soaks up carbon dioxide like a sponge. These cards aren’t cheap, but saving the planet was never going to be easy. We all need to “do our bit,” as the Brits say.

But what you are wondering about is probably the chickens, right? Especially my new girls.

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Ariel (the Ameraucuna) is getting bigger. She is supposed to be about five months old now. But I can tell by her small comb and wattles that she isn’t going to start laying as soon as early December. I am still hoping for eggs by late December.

My two pullets, Princess Aurora and Princess Ariel are getting bigger. They have established their social position in my tiny flock and are holding their own with the two big girls, Chicken Little and Dino-peep. Aurora is fitting in nicely, while pretty little Ariel is at the bottom of the pecking order. The two big girls hang together and the two youngsters hang together, but Aurora is brave enough to hang a bit with Chicken Little. They are the same breed, Black Sex-linked (a cross between a Rhode Island Red and a Barred Rock).

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Aurora’s comb and wattle are also still small, but, like with Ariel, they are a bit larger and much redder than they were a month ago.

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This is what a laying hen’s comb and wattle look like. Is it just me, or does Dino-peep (my Barred Rock) look mean? She is an aggressive hen, and pecks me every chance she gets. She is my only hen laying right now, and one laying hen just isn’t enough. Come on, Ariel and Aurora, grow up.

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Chicken Little is my oldest hen. She only lays a few months of the year now. She is still feathering out from her molt. Her comb and wattle are shrunken and not very red, the sign of a non-laying hen. That will change come January. When the days begin to get longer, the estrogen rises in the hens and laying commences. 

Because my cancer surgery in May and the recovery period sapped my energy and set me back a bit, I only got one of my veggie beds planted this year, plus the Garden Box of Joyous Anticipation. Here is the garden box, that I built from a kit from Gardener’s Supply Company.

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This box has been an absolute delight. We got more basil from it than I have ever grown before, plus all of the arugula that we could want. The summer squash were moderately productive, and we even got surprise pumpkins and a butternut from it. The beets and French Breakfast radishes got crowded out, but now that the green beans and pumpkins are gone, the beets and radishes are thriving. 

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The orange bell pepper plant has three peppers ready to harvest. It has taken until the middle of November for them to ripen, but I didn’t plant this box until July.

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Veggie Bed #2 in the backyard is the only one I got planted this summer. It has been giving us lettuce, kale, and mizuna galore. The cauliflower (in shadow) is beginning to head up. This bed may not look like much, but it is quite productive.

I have been working quite slowly on getting Veggie Bed #1 (behind veggie bed #2 in the picture above) ready for fall/winter planting. It has a huge collard green plant in it, and a couple of struggling bell peppers. If the weather ever cools down enough for me to work outdoors, I will get that bed spaded and planted. Maybe this weekend?

My order of cool season crop seeds has arrived from Territorial Seed Company and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. My order of onion seedlings from Dixondale Farms also has arrived, so I need to get the Garden of Infinite Neglect in the front yard weeded and spaded as well as the two beds in back. Much to do here in coastal southern California in the fall, since we garden year round.

Hey, if you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. Thanks.

The scourge of shot-hole borers

We have been infested with a new invasive non-native pest, and it isn’t pretty. This beetle is killing trees all over southern California.

The nasty little insect has the unglamorous name of polyphagous shot-hole borer. Breaking down the name, “poly” means many and “phagous” means eat. This darn beetle eats/infects almost every kind of tree, it seems.

A female beetle bores into trees, leaving a very tiny hole that is about the size of a period in this post. The female beetle carries a particular fungus (Fusarium sp) into the tree with her to feed her babies. The fungus grows and usually kills the trees whether the beetle was able to reproduce or not. The entry holes then weep sap, which makes it easy for the homeowner or grounds person to detect an infected tree.

The female beetle makes a gallery in the wood of the tree, laying eggs, which hatch into larvae. The males and females mature and mate inside the tree, and only fertilized females leave to infest other trees. They carry a bit of the Fusarium fungus with them, infecting new trees.

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female polyphagous shot-hole borer photographed by Gevork Arakelian, LA County Agricultural Commissioner

This pest came from southeast Asia (probably Vietnam) to Los Angeles about 2003, and has been spreading like wildfire. I live in Orange County, between LA County and San Diego County. All of those red dots are authenticated polyphagous shot-hole borer infestations. San Diego has a different kind of shot-hole borer (blue dots) that is killing trees down there.

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My husband and I live near Huntington Beach Central Park, where many dozens of trees have already been lost and removed. And now we are losing trees in my little orchard, mostly my stone fruit trees.

We have already lost our Santa Rosa plum. It is dead, dead, dead. I think we are going to lose the Panamint nectarine, as it only half leafed out this year, and produced no fruit. The Snow Queen nectarine produced two nectarines this year, but the critters got them both. It is also infected.

My beloved Florida Prince peach tree is fighting back valiantly. It produced a good crop of peaches this year, which had the unfortunate timing of ripening when I was recovering from endometrial cancer surgery in May. I wasn’t able to process all of the peaches, but I did get a few pies and cobblers out of the 2016 crop. Sorry, folks, no pie photos. I was doing good to just be making pies, much less photographing them. It remains to be seen if we will have a 2017 peach crop.

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This is a tiny fraction of the Florida Prince peach crop this year.

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One of many colanders of peaches this spring.

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This shows sap oozing out of multiple holes in our Snow Queen nectarine tree.

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Not sure which of my stone fruit trees this is, possibly our Katy apricot. That space alien blob is sap oozing out.

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These dark stains are on one of our Liquid Amber shade trees. Both are infected, but I think they are going to survive. Sure hope so, since they are pretty big trees, over 30 years old, and provide nice summer shade to our front yard.

From the University of California Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, we learn the following:

There are several potential outcomes of a beetle attack.

  1. Beetle is repelled with no infection. This has been observed in 20 species of trees. Investigators are trying to figure out what features of the tree might repel the beetle.
  2. Beetle drills into the tree and transmits the fungus, but doesn’t produce offspring. This has been observed in over 50% of the tree species attacked. We don’t know the final outcome of this interaction. Often leakage of xylem fluid is noticed on the trunk and branches. Maybe nothing bad will happen to the tree, but the tree could suffer if the xylem vessels are clogged up, which could cause dieback of branches. Damage could also make the tree more prone to attack from other pest species.
  3. Beetle drills into the tree, fungus infects the tree, and the beetle produces offspring in the tree. This has been seen in about 8% of the tree species attacked, and these species are considered true host of PSHB, and include box elder, coast live oak, and avocado. Some trees seem to suffer mild symptoms like branch die-back, while others are killed outright.

Because this is a fairly new invasive species, scientists are still learning about it. So far, it has been found to infect 303 species of trees. Some pessimists say that there won’t be any trees remaining in southern California, but I have to hope they are wrong.

Sadly, the beetle can and does infect avocado trees. This could have a major economic impact to the avocado industry in southern California. So far, I haven’t seen any signs of infestation on my avocado tree, nor my citrus, apple, or Asian pear trees. My pomegranate and Fuyu persimmon appear unscathed as well. Fingers crossed.

But I have already lost a plum tree, and I expect to lose all of our peach, nectarine and apricot trees as well. This is a big blow to our effort produce food in our tiny yard, as my fruit crop is about half of the poundage of our produce.

For a PowerPoint presentation showing other trees infested with the beetle, see:

 

http://caforestpestcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/Polyphagous-Shot-Hole-Borer-update.pdf

Note that the presentation linked above was created in 2008, and the number of tree species known to be susceptible has greatly increased since then.

Adventures in keeping urban chickens

I have been keeping hens for six and a half years now. I started with three adult hens of about one and a half years of age in the spring of 2010. I wanted pullets, but the farmer sold me hens that were pretty much at the end of their best laying years. Caveat emptor.

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My first three hens! Henny Penny (a black sex-linked), Henrietta (black Australorp), and Chicken Little (another black sex-linked) in their coop.

The hens that come to our tiny urban farmlet enjoy a great benefits package of unlimited vacations and retirement. In commercial operations, laying hens are killed after two years when egg production declines. On a real farm, they are killed whenever someone wants a chicken dinner. So I really had no idea how long chickens live. The answer is, “It varies.”

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This is our chicken coop when it was new. I have since added artwork to the exterior, a bench on the inside, and perches for the hens to roost on in case they don’t want to use the roosts inside the nest box. I also added a fenced outdoor run to the left and back, and built a little door for them to go from coop to outdoor run.

Henny Penny, a black sex-linked hen, died suddenly about a year or so after I got her. To replace Henny Penny, I acquired Miss Hilary, a one and a half year old barred rock, from Centennial Farm nearby in Costa Mesa, CA. I got her in 2011 as they were culling their flock. It was the same month that Hurricane Hilary came up the coast from Mexico, hence her name, Miss Hilary. She was a handsome hen, but had a tendency to go broody in the summer and quit laying. So with Chicken Little and Henrietta getting on in years, and Miss Hilary not being a very good layer, I decided to raise three barred rock hens from chicks. I named them Peep, Cheep, and Cluck.

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A new barred rock chick, one of three.

Raising chicks is a nuisance. You need special feed, special feeders for the little ones, and a heat lamp. You also have to house them separately from the big hens or the big ones will peck the little ones to death. And then it turned out that opossums can reach into the cage in which I was raising the little chicks. There went Cluck one night. I was down to two chicks.

Peep and Cheep grew into fine hens. But Cheep got cancer. I know, because I took her to the vet. I was concerned that a two-year-old hen was so sick. I worried about diseases that might be transmissible to humans. I had her euthanized, and paid a bloody fortune for a pathologist report. I was relieved that Cheep didn’t have anything contagious like Mareks disease or avian flu.

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Before we lost Peep, we had five hens. The Black Sex-linked hen is not in the picture, but you can see Henrietta the black Australorp on the right, and Miss Hilary, Peep, and Cheep.

My favorite hen, Henrietta the black Australorp, died, I suspect of old age. So I was down to three hens again: Chicken Little, Miss Hilary, and Peep. Because Peep grew up into a big mean hen that attacks me every chance she gets, I renamed her Dino-peep. She seems to have the personality of a dinosaur more than a domestic fowl.

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Dino-Peep, my barred rock hen that thinks she is a dinosaur.

Then disaster struck. Normally, I close the little door between the fully enclosed coop and the fenced outdoor run at night. The chickens put themselves to bed, going up on perches that I built for them in their coop. Then I go out and close and lock the little door to keep them safe from predators. But one night this summer, I forgot to close the door and a big possum got into the coop and killed poor Miss Hilary. I was down to a mere two hens. Chicken Little is so old that she only lays in the spring now, going dormant the rest of the year. What to do?

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Chicken Little, an old black-sex-linked hen in back, and Dino-peep, a mean barred rock that I raised from a chick, just weren’t giving us enough eggs.

Back to Centennial Farm I went, hoping that they were about to cull their flock. They weren’t. In fact, all they had were four-month-old pullets, but they took pity on me and sold me two. I had no choice of breed, but I lucked out. They sold me a nice little black sex-linked pullet and an Ameracauna that will lay blue eggs.

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We named the white Ameracauna Princess Ariel, and the black one Princess Aurora. The granddaughters love the names.

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The two new girls stick together because the two older hens bully them.

We have had these two sweethearts about three weeks now, and they are finally beginning to get on with the older girls. I fed them separately for the first three weeks, and closed the door between the outdoor run and the enclosed coop for a few hours a day so the little girls could have some time to eat and drink without being harassed and chased. But they seem to have established their pecking order now, and Aurora is bonding especially well with Chicken Little, since they are both black sex-linked hens.

Ariel is quite different, and seems to be the outsider. She has long legs, a long neck, and squawks like a peacock. I just love her.

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Ariel has a sprinkling of black feathers on her neck, with more black on her wings and tail.

 

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Aurora is almost all black, with just a hint of red on her chest.

I am looking forward to when they are six months old (in December) and will begin laying. But first, their combs and wattles need to grow and turn red. It will be fun watching them grow up.

Approaching the Autumnal Equinox

The Autumnal Equinox is next Thursday, September 22. The middle of the month was Sept. 15. Therefore, it is time for fall planting of cool season crops in southern California. It is also time to harvest fall crops.

Oh look, more blackberries. A crop that usually ripens in July, but… global weirding. No, I didn’t weigh this harvest either. I washed them and gulped them down.

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The apples are getting ripe and the night critters are helping themselves to my crop. This is the first year that my semi-dwarf Gala apple tree has produced fruit. But the rats or possums got to these two apples before I did.

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The Asian pears are ripening as well. Some are the size of large marbles and fall off the tree. The rats and possums are devouring the rest. They seem to choose the biggest ones to eat.

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I managed to harvest just barely enough Asian pears for a nice pear tart for the humans of the household.

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Meanwhile, the Garden Box of Endless Fascination is producing green beans! These are Contender bush beans, one of my favorite varieties.

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I managed to get a photo of the surprise acorn squash that is growing in the garden box. It is a surprise because the plant sprouted from a seed in my compost.

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My little pumpkins are slowing their growth. They are now at 13 inches and 10 inches in circumference (not diameter) and just beginning to turn from dark green to… orange, I hope. It looks like they are pie pumpkins, but it will take two of these little guys to make a pie. Good thing there are two of them!

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Other mystery vines are producing their first pumpkins, but I don’t know if there is enough time left in the summer season for them to ripen. We shall see. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. This little guy is just a couple of days old.

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The pumpkin below is what they look like on the day the flower opens. It takes a couple of days to see if the female bud has set fruit.

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The mystery squash is looking more like a butternut than a cushaw at this point. I see tan just barely beginning to appear on it.

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This is my entire butternut harvest from my back garden bed–another volunteer from the compost bin. It weighs just one pound, a tiny little guy.dsc_3418

But I was going to talk about fall planting, not fall harvests. Some people plan their gardens carefully, selecting seed varieties from multiple catalogs and mapping out what is going to go where. My garden is more of a serendipitous happening, hippie style. Feeling in the mood for fall planting, I went to Home Depot and Armstrong Garden Center and bought the following seed packets. My choice, therefore, was limited to what they had in stock.

I got some Toy Choy (baby bok choy), big bok choy, mustard spinach (aka Komasuna, a delightful Asian green), Mammoth Melting Sugar snow peas, and Snowbird snow peas, which is a new variety for me. Neither store had sugar snap peas, unless Oregon Sugar Pod II are snap peas. (I’m old, I forget stuff.)

I got two varieties of parsnips, All American and Turga. I found some seeds for dwarf blue kale and Chioggia beets. All of these are heirlooms, which means that I could save seeds from them if I wanted to. You can’t do that with hybrids because they don’t breed true. Unless, of course, you don’t mind getting something strange from the saved seeds. Remember, you are listening to a gardener who lets completely unknown squash seeds from a compost bin grow in her limited garden space.

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I also bought some transplants because I like instant gardens. But first, one needs to clean up the beds and prepare the soil for planting. So much for instant.

Below is the bed cleared of old foliage. Only an overgrown clump of chives and a miserable bell pepper remained. I will let the bell pepper overwnter and hope it produces a pepper or two next summer. Oh, and I found four tiny garlic sprouts that I planted in the spring from cloves, knowing full well that they need to be planted in the fall. No surprise, the little garlic plants languished.

I removed the soaker hose, dug the bed up, added Sure Start organic fertilizer, hoed that in, and then topped the bed with Miracle Gro Moisture Control fertilizer. OK, so my garden isn’t totally organic. I don’t use pesticides, and I do add a lot of organic amendments to the beds. Usually I would have added my homemade compost, but my husband is the one with the good knees. He can bend down and get it out of the composter, but he was out of town.

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The next morning, this is what my newly planted bed looked like. I strung the bird netting over it after dark (which is when I finished planting), because if the house sparrows and house finches get to the lettuce, it will be gone in a day.

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I divided the big clump of chives into several smaller clumps. I am told that we are supposed to divide the clumps in half every year, but I spread those chives out a lot farther than that. Then I planted nine hybrid cauliflower. What kind of hybrid? Who knows. That is all the label said. And why nine of them? Because it was a 9-pack, not a 6-pack. I don’t think we need nine cauliflowers, but the heads that I grow are usually small, so I think it will be OK.

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I also planted nine Lacinato kale. I don’t need nine kale plants. Oh well, it is what it is.

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The plant below was a surprise. I have never seen purple mizuna in the store before. I have never grown it or eaten it, just the green mizuna, which I really like. It is great in salads, stir-frys and soups. I hope this red variety is as good as the green one.

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I planted two six-packs of lettuce, Red Oakleaf and Red Sails, two of my favorite varieties. The poor little plants below are suffering from transplant shock, but will be fine by tomorrow. I will be planting Black-seeded Simpson and Deer Tongue lettuce in another bed from seed that I saved.

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In case you are wondering why I have lettuce growing in a tomato cage, the cage is merely to hold up the anti-bird netting.

And so my battle continues in my effort to grow food while combatting birds, squirrels, rats, possums, raccoons, disease, drought, insects and random acts of nature due to global weirding.

 

Progress in the Garden Box of Endless Fascination

Time marches on, and my little garden in an elevated box is growing. The basil in the left hand front corner is growing like crazy, and it is time to make another pesto, I see.

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In my last post, I wondered if the female pumpkin flower would set fruit. Yes, it did! Not just one pumpkin, but TWO of them. We aren’t going to starve this winter after all!

The photo below was taken on Sept 12. I can practically see the pumpkins growing.

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These little beauties are putting on about 1-2 inches of circumference a day. As of today, the larger pumpkin is 12 inches in circumference, and the smaller (and younger) one is 9 inches in circumference. In comparison, a mature jack o’lantern or field pumpkin is about 25 inches in circumference, while a little sugar pumpkin for making pie is about 15 inches in circumference. Given what I am likely to have dumped into my compost bin, a pie pumpkin is far more likely. I figure it is some kind of pumpkin-type winter squash, i.e. probably a Cucurbita pepo.

These two pumpkins are on one vine, but I have several other mystery winter squash vines growing out of the box. I was very surprised to find a nice little acorn squash in the box. I don’t seem to have a photo of it, but here is yet another female pumpkin flower on a different vine. I think I have at least three different pumpkin vines that sprouted from the homemade compost that I added to the box, plus two winter squash vines.

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I originally thought that the squash below was a butternut (Cucurbita moschata), but now I have my doubts. I don’t remember butternuts going through such a dark green striped stage before turning tan. This baby seems to have reached its maximum size, about 8 inches long. That seems too small for a green-striped cushaw (Cucurbita mixta). I am pretty sure that I didn’t dump any seeds of a cushaw into the compost bin, but there are definitely butternut seeds in there. At this point, I am just waiting to see if it turns tan. We are going to eat it either way.dsc_3381

The yellow crookneck and yellow straightneck summer squash (also Cucurbita pepo, go figure) are growing like crazy, giving us all the summer squash we want (and more than my husband wants!). Poor guy, I am giving him squash almost every day now, in one form or another. My current favorite dish is quinoa with garbanzo beans or white kidney beans, plus sautéed summer squash and whatever seasonings strike my fancy. This dish really needs chopped parsley or kale added to it for color.dsc_3379

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I am getting really confused about the Latin names of squashes now. According to the New World Encyclopedia (and Purdue University agrees):

C. maxima = Hubbard, Banana, and Buttercup squash

C. mixta = cushaw squash

C. moschata = butternut squash

C. pepo = most pumpkins, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, summer squash (yellow, zucchini, scallop)

Anyway, it looks like we are going to be getting yellow squash for a few more weeks. Hope my husband doesn’t move out. The green beans are going to be ready to pick one of these days. That should keep him at home. He loves green beans.dsc_3370

On to the fruit harvest. I never weigh my strawberry or blackberry harvests. I eat the strawberries right from the planter. There are so few of them that they never make it into the house. Well, this week, I managed to bring in the blackberry crop to photograph. This was it. Two berries! In all fairness, there are some more berries on the vine that are ripening, but not many. They should have been ripe in June, but the vines didn’t even flower until August. Global weirding?

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And that concludes my garden tour for now. I am working on cleaning up my other in-ground raised beds for fall planting, but at my age, that task goes pretty slowly. Good gardening to you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naming my new garden box

I like to name my gardens. Next to the driveway, I have a bed that I call the Garden of Perpetual Responsibility, where I grow artichokes and weeds. LOTS of weeds. There is a never-ending parade of weeds. But there is also a butterfly garden in that narrow strip of soil, with lantana, yarrow, bloodflower milkweed, irises, and pots of zinnias and other plants for pollinators. I have pots of green onions growing there, planter boxes of strawberries, and two fruit trees–a new Fuyu Persimmon and a semi-dwarf Gala apple that is producing fruit for the first time this year.

Here is an overview of the Garden of Perpetual Responsibility, as it looked in late April.

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Here is one of the many, many Monarch caterpillars that we have raised. Well, actually, they raise themselves.

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In a raised bed by the front sidewalk, I have the Garden of Infinite Neglect. As usual, it is neglected. All that is growing there at present is a bedraggled patch of Bergarten sage. I never got around to planting it this spring. It will be time for fall planting in coastal southern California in a couple of weeks, and I intend to plant onions, garlic, kale, chard and carrots there. It is too ugly to show you, trust me.

I have three garden beds in the backyard, beautiful 3 ft x 6 ft raised beds from Gardener’s Supply Company. I call them Beds #1, 2, and 3. I know, not very imaginative. I got two of the beds planted before my cancer surgery on May 4, but after a productive summer, they are shot. Everything in them is dead except for collard greens, a couple of non-producing bell peppers, and mint that is at the end of the season. Those beds are  beyond ready for fall clean-up.

This is what one of the back beds looked like in late April, after I had just planted them. I got a lot of tomatoes and green beans out of this bed.

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This is my newest bed, an elevated planter box in the driveway.

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At present, my vegetable gardening hopes and dreams grow in this elevated planter box from Gardeners Supply Company. It has been nearly 5 weeks since I planted it, and the growth has been amazing. The pumpkins that volunteered themselves from the added compost are beginning to cascade over the edge.

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The first female pumpkin flower opened yesterday. Too soon to tell if it got fertilized or not. I will know in a couple of days. But there were no male pumpkin flowers open, so unless it got pollinated by a bee that visited a male yellow summer squash flower in the box, or that found a male pumpkin flower elsewhere in the neighborhood (unlikely), who knows what will happen. I await further growth of this nascent pumpkin with great anticipation. So should I name this garden box the Garden of Joyous Anticipation?

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I have plenty of male summer squash blossoms. Can their pollen fertilize a butternut or pumpkin?

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Check out these female butternut squash flowers. The first one opened a couple of days ago and appears to have been fertilized. The second one is open today. Come on, bees! Do your job. I am letting this butternut vine sprawl over the hedge. There is also a second butternut vine that is beginning to ramble out of the box. I had no idea that one could grow butternuts in a garden box, but so far, so good.dsc_2951

I transplanted one pot of yellow crookneck summer squash and one pot of yellow straight neck summer squash into the box on August 4. There were two plants in each pot, so in reality, I have four summer squash plants growing in this 2 ft x 8 ft planter box, as well as two butternuts and two pumpkins. For the first time in many years, we are getting summer squash from the garden again. My other veggie beds just don’t get enough sunlight, but this box in the driveway sure does.dsc_2939

The Contender bush green beans began blooming a few days ago, and now they have “set fruit.” I am anticipating a bumper crop of green beans. Check out the two tiny beanlets. They are only a centimeter long at this point, but should be ready to pick in another week.

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The basil at one end of the planter box has already given us several pestos. The squash, pumpkins and green beans have taken over the box and have pretty much submerged the chard, bell pepper, beets, radishes, green onions and mesclun. But those things are down there somewhere under the jungle of squash and bean foliage, surviving and growing. Maybe I should call my box the Garden of Bountiful Productivity and Plentitude.

One of the things I really like about this box is that I don’t have to bend and stoop. At my age, that is important. It has made it really easy to get up close and personal with the seedlings. I enjoy watching seeds sprout and photographing them. Here are some pics that I took earlier in August as the box was getting going.

Green beans, with radishes to the left.

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The first flower buds on the bell pepper. I hope there are some peppers maturing somewhere under the mounds of squash leaves.

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Arugula seedlings in the mesclun mix.

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Beet seedlings with the tips of the first true leaves showing between the cotyledon leaves.

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This is one of the volunteer pumpkin or butternut squash seedlings next to a beet seedling.

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The box lets me get up close and personal with the insects that come visit too. Even though this is an invasive cabbage moth, it’s pretty.

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Maybe I will call this the Box of Endless Fascination.

One month later with my new garden box

Oh my, I do love this garden box from Gardeners Supply Company. It is fabulous. In just one month, it has given me incredible joy and many wonderful meals.

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Above is what it looked like when I first planted it a month ago. Below is what it looks like now. I can hardly believe it. Best garden growth I have ever had.

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Below is the box looking toward the house. Remember those few butternut squash seeds that popped up from my homemade compost that I added to the box? They are taking over. I thinned them out a bit, but probably should have pulled out more of them.

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Some of the plants are indeed butternuts. Here is a female flower about to open. I figure if it manages to get fertilized that I may be able to harvest butternuts from this box.

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But the female flower bud below appears to be for a pumpkin. I am trying to remember what pumpkin I might have put into my compost bin. Was it a store-bought field pumpkin? Or was it a pack of seeds for eating pumpkin that I deemed too old and just dumped into the compost bin? Who knows? I love the adventure of surprises in the garden. I don’t even know if a pumpkin or butternut sprouted this late in the season and growing in a BOX will ripen. More adventure. With our new climate of Global Weirding, anything can happen. First step is for that little flower to open and get fertilized.

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The first flower bud is open on my Contender bush green beans. They are an heirloom variety, so they breed true. I will be saving seeds from some of these beans. Looks like it is going to be a bumper crop, God willing and the creek don’t rise. My heirloom Blue Lake pole green beans growing in my garden beds are already finished, so this new crop of green beans will be most welcome.

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I have been harvesting both crookneck and straight neck yellow squash from this garden box for a couple of weeks now. I have not been able to grow summer squash in my regular garden beds, so this is a first for me in many years. Summer squash! I know, any kindergartner can grow summer squash. Not me. My regular garden beds don’t get enough hours of sunshine. The garden box does. Happy face, happy face.DSC_2385

 

Here are some yellow squash, French Breakfast radishes, and green onion from our garden that became lunch. I sautéed the squash and green onion along with mushrooms and red bell pepper, and topped them with sour cream and some cumin. I split the baby radishes and filled the split with butter, topping them with grated pink Himalayan salt. Yum.

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Below is one of the dishes that I made with summer squash. The recipe is for Salmon Osso Buco, from “Dining at the White House” by John Moeller. Terrific cookbook, BTW. I rolled scallops up in strips of salmon, secured the roll-ups with toothpicks, and sautéed them in butter. They are supposed to look like slices of veal shank, the salmon being the meat and the scallop resembling the bone. It is served on a saffron clam broth. Then I sautéed yellow squash and carrots, adding some herbs de Provence, and mounded those between the salmon-scallop roll-ups. I topped it with chopped parsley for color. Delicious.DSC_2383

Here is another meal from our garden box. I sautéed some onion and summer squash, then added cooked quinoa and a can of garbanzo beans. Can’t remember the dressing, a lemon juice and olive oil base, with garlic and cumin probably. I served it on a bed of freshly picked arugula from the garden box. The melon was store bought. This made a delightful summer lunch.DSC_2316

Here is another lunch from the garden box, using some lemon cucumbers from our brother-in-law Jeff’s garden. I made another quinoa-based salad, with lemon cucumbers and red bell pepper, and a lemon-mint dressing, served on a bed of arugula from the garden box. The tomato bisque was store-bought (Sprouts brand, delicious), with a basil leaf from the garden box for garnish.

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I am having issues with my WordPress blog host. I don’t seem to be able to access my sidebar anymore. Don’t know why. They changed their format and I can no longer even see the sidebar in edit mode, much less alter it. So I have been unable to update my harvest poundage. Bummer. So this will do for now. Happy gardening!