Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Community Garden Visit

The bee and butterfly garden is coming into full bloom, just a few paces away from our garden bed.

I really love working in the community garden, and even more so now that we have our own garden bed. For the first year or two, I didn't really want a bed because I have some garden space in our backyard. But enough beds go idle, or neglected, that I didn't feel bad finally going on the waiting list, and this year, the 3rd year of the garden, we got our bed in the January lottery. It was baked hard in the sun, and needed some TLC, but we dug in (literally) and it's a happy, happenin' little place now.

Low-growing plants dominate this third of our community garden bed, so as not to shade the rest of the bed.

The garden beds were laid out east-west, so that they get full sun along the south all day. Terrific! One of the many tips in the mandatory new-gardener class is to arrange your plants so that taller plants are to the north and east. We followed that advice, putting corn in the eastern third of the garden bed and our tomatoes and peavines along the north edge along the bed.

We wanted a lot of sun for our peppers, and some low vines along the south side of the bed. I'm hoping that the tomatoes and corn will also act to filter some of the hottest sun, so that mid-summer won't fry our peppers. We can always rig some sunscreen, though, if that fails.

An icebox size watermelon may or may not make it: the stem has been half-eaten by those darn pill bugs! We're told that ashes from a wood fire or all-wood charcoal are an effective deterrent for these pests, but found out too late for it to do any good for us.

The eye-catching red of this merlot lettuce gives way to bright green at the base of the leaves, so it looks flashy, not weird, in the salad bowl.

Peas and peppers and beans for the middle!

After a slow start, Cherokee Wax and Blue Lake beans are now thriving in the middle section of the garden. Time to start another row or two of beans or soybeans there, to spread out the harvest.

Happy squash plant!

Just a little gal now, this Big Mama kabocha is a bush-type, rather than vining, winter squash-- ideal for smaller spaces. Of course, I planted two of them too close together, because I thought they were vines. Wups. This is why you should read the packages when you start seeds, not when sorting seed packs after transplanting.

The eastern third of our garden bed: corn!

The last third of our garden bed is mostly sweet corn, with some bush beans and dwarf sunflowers around the edges. There's one gorgeous Purple Queen bush bean plant there, which I neglected to get a picture of this time (wups!) and one or two tiny ones coming up. The pill bugs ravaged them and not all of them made it! There's always a lot to say about corn, so I'll save it for next time. Just remember: it's not too late! You can put in 65 - 80 day sweet corn, or even 90 - 120 day dent corn, all the way into June here in the SF Bay Area's mild climate.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Springing back from the heat wave

Nobody has moved into any of my fence birdhouses yet, alas. I will try putting a few up under the eaves in the shade. Cornflowers came up nicely this year, though!

We had another of our spring heat waves this past week, with daytime temps in the high 90's (F) and daily watering to try to save young plants. The timing was spectacularly bad: traditionally US Mother's Day is the time to set out tender plants like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Many seedlings had only a few days in the ground before the heat slammed into us. This meant that their root systems weren't necessarily developed sufficiently to support the plant during a time of great stress.

More seedlings waiting for kinder weather, or for me to finish preparing the other beds.

I had to spot-water my teensy pepper seedlings in the mornings all week, and hope that providing water directly at the plant would provide a margin of safety. I lost a couple of them anyway, but the majority are good so far. The peppers I transplanted a few weeks earlier into my hydroponic trays, however, adored the hot weather and doubled in size during the past week!

A pair of sweet pimiento peppers flank a ping tung long eggplant.

Other heat-lovers included the basil in my new blue herb planter. It's an ordinary strawberry pocket planter, which I populated with kitchen herbs rather than strawberries. I moved it into 'bright shade' during the heat wave, as the herbs were planted only a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to be sure they didn't cook in the planter. I really recommend making a planter like this, so you won't have to constantly police your herb bed to keep some of the busy herbs like sage or oregano from crowding out and overshading others. My tiny 2 square feet of herb bed had sprawled to over 9 square feet through the fall and winter, and I had to cut it WAY back a week or two ago to get good access back to the fence.

Dual pockets of basil, plus sage, marjoram, italian oregano, and a crown of english thyme.

Normally I'd have beans by now, but I was late to the game and didn't plant my usual Monte's Italian heirloom (a variety of borlotti bean). The pill bugs, aka "The Eaters", have been wreaking havoc on bean seedlings of all kinds, eating away parts of the stem until the leaves hang by a tiny thread. Of a dozen bush bean seedlings, only two have survived so far, and they seem to have gotten 4 of the 6 Monte's Italian that I planted a week or two ago. I need to get some diatomaceous earth and hope that slows them down. I should also be 'baiting' with melon rind, or a saucer lid, or other thing they can hide under so I can remove them. Gotta get on that!

At least my painted lady runner beans came back on their own, an annual that goes perennial in this mild climate. They stopped setting flowers during the week of insane heat, but should get back to it now.

It wouldn't be a garden update if it didn't have a shot of our Garden Helper, usually found napping on the job. It's better than sitting by the bird watering area, thinking impure thoughts, so I won't complain.

Hey, when you're this gorgeous, you need to really max out on the beauty sleep!

Labels: , , ,