Monday, December 15, 2008

Slacker's Winter Garden

My job has nudged aside my garden to a large degree in 2008, and I've seen a definite drop in the quantity and quality of my harvests. I hadn't realized how critical it was to spend 30 minutes or so every other day in the garden, to nudge, tweak, water, etc, not to mention pick things in dribs and drabs as they ripen. Oh, yes, and as you've observed for 2008, posts to this blog, and pretty harvest pix, really dropped massively off as well!

That said, it's a good incentive to nudge me toward a more slackful approach to gardening, which may be a better match for some of my readers. Winter gardening is a great place to start slacking off, as the winter rains here in California will water deeply and minimize garden hassles. A little floating row cover to keep the Grey Plague (aka aphids and cottony scale) away and it gets downright minimalistic.

I have a tray of red mustard and some lettuces going hydroponically, and this past weekend, cleared old tomato plants and peppers out of the garden. Put out a few cubic feet of compost on the main bed, scattered crushed eggshells from the great TLC Ranch pastured eggs we've been enjoying, and raked smooth, leaving a few lettuce volunteers in place.

I got about 2 quarts of green peppers, which pains me-- if I had gone out in November and put floating row cover on the peppers, they would have been RED peppers, but I got swamped. That's ok. They may ripen indoors, or I can use them green. I'll put them in a bag with an apple and see what happens.

During a 20 minute lull in the local monsoon today, I dashed outside and scattered seeds in the main garden bed: bok choy 'Fortune', carrots 'Royal Chantenay', a baby lettuce cutting mix, and green joi choi. I tossed a few seeds of purple hairy vetch into places as a cover crop, and planted a row of fava beans. A 'row'-- really, I just did a quick trowel into ground, pulled it forward to leave a slot, dropped a seed into the gap, and then pulled out the trowel and gave a quick pat with the trowel to tamp the ground. About 10 beans, each a couple feet apart, and boom, we are done.

I also took an Encouragement Moment to admire my volunteer lettuce and cilantro, coming on strong. Calling them volunteers may be inaccurate: I let things go to seed, and when doing other garden chores, I periodically strip off seeds and scatter them where I want plants later. Only a few come up, but there are so many more than I need, and the birds get fed, the bees enjoy the flowers, etc. I also save seeds and toss them around a month or two later when it's more apropos. Seeds are pretty good about knowing when to come up. The cilantro I tossed around in August is just sprouting now, when I wondered if it had all been eaten up. Was sad that I had no winter peas, and found 3 or 4 coming up where I'd grown them last winter-- moved a light wire trellis into place and will keep my fingers crossed. Have some spicy pink sweet peas I should put out by the back trellises!

Need to take some pix during the next rain lull, but will need to get into the office and probably won't be able to do so. Will try to get some more pix up during the holiday break. In the meantime, see the flickr feed:

Edit: I did get briefly outside again, in a moment of sun, and sowed spring flowers: cornflower (aka bachelor's buttons), tho I usually have volunteers, clarkia, alyssum, shirley poppies 'Angel Choir', icelandic poppies, and a mix of spicy pink and fragrant red-violet sweet peas. I noticed that I have volunteer blue 'Celeste' sweet peas where I usually grow them. To tell sweet peas from garden peas: the sweet peas have very flat, almost linear stems between leaves, sometimes in an i-beam-like cross section. Garden (edible) peas have round vine stems.