Garden Update: Frosty and Dry

Days of unseasonal frost have left my garden looking desolate. I raced past the dying tomato plant on my way to dump kitchen scraps.  I upended them into the compost bin, then raced back inside for warmth.

frozen tomato plant

Tomatoes last stand

Still no rain in sight, other than one brief storm last month. The days are cold and dry.

The leaves have been off the Pistache since mid-November, but the maple is just now turning color. It’s nice that they set color at different times. It gives us a chance to enjoy each one.

japanese maple

View from my living room window

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

Somewhat comically, I won’t need to refrigerate my bulbs this year.  Generally speaking, California isn’t cold enough so we have to tease the bulbs with a six-week chill.  They’re getting plenty of cold in the garage and should be ready to go soon. I’m not ready, but they are.

The hyacinth bulbs are popping up, happy with the autumn chill.  When they finally bloom, the smell is potent and intoxicating.  I can’t wait.  It evokes a happy childhood memory, so I look forward to breathing that in each year.

hyacinth

hyacinth

I’m off to the craft store to buy some ribbon for the finishing touches on a gift. One last seasonal trip to the post office tomorrow.

What’s happening in your corner of the world? I’m behind on my reading, but look forward to catching up with all your lovely comments, and blogs, soon.

 

Frosty San Jose

frosty inflatable

My son’s prized inflatable, pretend snowing in San Jose

Still no rain, and certainly no snow, but we did get some frost last night.  This isn’t a big deal for everyone, but it’s a rare occurrence around here.  It’s December 4th after all.  The tomato plant had to go eventually.

DSC_0008

I have lots of frozen peas (and I never stepped foot in the freezer aisle). They look plump and juicy and, well, frozen. Since it’s a winter crop, I’m not sure what to think.  The plant doesn’t seem to mind, but it may take a few days for any damage to appear.  I’ll let you know.

frozen pea

Frozen peas, available now in your neighborhood garden

Last week I *finally* planted some beats. I soaked the seeds at the same time I planted the peas, but originally planned to put them in the veggie garden out back.  The tomato plant hung on and on in one bed, and the strawberries in the other, so I didn’t have room.  I planted the beats in the curb garden with the carrots and peas.  I hope they’re equally successful, and that I didn’t plant them too late.

plump pea

Plump and ready

I started my broccoli seeds indoors and all was going well. Somewhat foolishly I started hardening them off, the process of acclimatizing the seeds to their new outdoor home. It would have been better to wait till the holidays were over. I simply forgot about them.  They came back inside for water and a rest.  Hopefully enough of them will recover so I can make a go of it.

Next up, spring bulbs. My back just hasn’t been up to the task this year, so bags of bulbs sit in the garage waiting for my next move.

I think I’ll go make myself a hot cup of tea while I give this more thought. I hope you’re enjoying your day.

Frosty paw prints

Frosty paw prints

Organized at Heart

I’m posting a series of articles featuring organizing around the holidays this week on my blog Organized at Heart. If the subject interests you, please go take a peak.  Today’s blog has a few filing tips (boring) along with beautiful file folders (sweet) to inspire this mundane task.

Seeing Red

Roma tomatoes and Chinese Pistache leaves

Roma tomatoes and Chinese Pistache leaves

I’m seeing red.

I like it! The cherry and heirloom tomatoes died back a month ago, but our Roma tomatoes continue to grow unabated.

In November.

This is Silicon Valley after all, originally known for its rich, agricultural roots.  But I’m still amazed at the prolific production of this plant.  I did a bit of reading and learned that the plant will continue to produce, as long as daytime temps remain about 60F  (15C).  That explains it.  We’ve had a mild autumn so far.

While the Roma happily churns out fruit in the back garden, the Chinese Pistache flashes red outside my kitchen window.

Pistacia chinensis (Chinese pistache)

Pistacia chinensis (Chinese pistache)

The Pistache’s slow, beautiful descent into dormancy is under way.  The colors are magnificent. I’m grateful to live in this beautiful valley with such optimal growing conditions.

roma tomatoes

Seeing red

DSC_0007
Further Reading:

Tomatoes: Last Call

tomatoes

Tomato Goodness

It’s hard to say goodbye to summer tomatoes.  Unless you buy heirlooms or ‘cherries’, the tomatoes in the store are flavorless.  I used to think I was having a streak of bad luck, until I read that farmers have spent nearly 70 years perfecting the look of the tomato, at the expense of flavor.  They’ve removed the sweet, wonderful taste.

We grow our own every summer and enjoy the harvest for a few months.  This year we had plenty of orange cherry tomatoes, a few red heirlooms, one or two orange ones and a ton of Roma’s.

It’s mid-October now, and the plants are looking tired.  Today I finally pruned away the dying branches on most of them.  I’m still seeing one or two small tomatoes a day, so it’s hard to let them go.

Spent tomato plants

Spent tomato plants

The Roma plant is still going strong, pumping out at least a dozen or so a day.  Even the garden pests can’t keep up, so we’ve had plenty for salads and salsa.

If you’re a salsa fan, here is my husband’s quick and easy recipe:

  • 6 – 12 tomatoes (we’re using the Roma)
  • 1/2 sweet or yellow onion
  • a few ounces of Jalapeno peppers (or to taste)

Combine and blend.  Serve with corn tortilla chips or as a garnish.

Halloween Countdown:

cat inflatable

Halloween at our house

Salad: It’s What’s for Dinner

I cling to the fantasy of eating a salad made entirely from my garden. Alas, we don’t have the room to grow all we would need, so our meals are about compromise.  Tonight’s dinner was a blend of both worlds: supermarket greens and a delicious avocado, along with fresh tomatoes from our garden.  I sliced our first heirloom grown from seed, and tossed in a handful of Sun Gold organic cherry tomatoes grown from a nursery starter.

garden salad

Garden Salad

Two of the peppers are turning yellow, so they’ll make it to the table by the end of the week.  Our basil continues unabated, a garden staple all summer long.

tomatoes, basil

Basil, Roma, Sun Gold and Heirloom Tomatoes

The days are shortening with our hemisphere’s Autumnal Equinox just 10 days away.  Suddenly summer is over.

Living in our moderate climate, warm days will continue into November.  The garden tells a different story, however, as plants perform the grand finale, before packing it in for the season.  It’s been a great run.

Golden pepper

Golden Pepper

Tomatoes: Ripe for the Picking

I have nothing original to say about tomatoes.  Grow them. Eat them. Love them.

Fresh off the vine they are sweet and delicious. They resemble nothing you get in the grocery store, unless you’re lucky enough to find heirlooms.

I seem to be a two-crop wonder this year: my first optimistic attempt at growing them from seed; then round two with starters from the nursery.  No matter.  They’re here now and I’m enjoying them while I can.

Given our temperate climate, tomato plants can produce well into late October.  If that holds true, I’ll have a beautiful bounty for the next six weeks.  Yum!

Here’s what’s ripening on the vine:

Orange cherry tomatoes

Orange cherry tomatoes

roma tomatoes

Roma Tomatoes

green tomatoes

Indeterminate (hopefully Baker Heirlooms)

Thanks for stopping by!

You Say ‘Tomato,’ I Say ‘They’re Planted!’

Baker Creek Heirloom SeedsLife is busy lately, putting a crimp in my gardening vibe.  I’ve been fitting things in here and there, but long for an uninterrupted day to catch up on a few projects.  I started to worry that I’d never get the tomatoes into the earth.

Timing is everything when it comes to planting. April is prime seed-starting season in our neck of the woods so I needed to get to it. This week I did!

Once again, I started my crop in a pair of City Pickers. Much like the Earth Box, but double the size, the City Picker is an all-in-one planting system. Further, the boxes are portable, so they can roll from place to place for maximum sun.

My friend Doug, a nurseryman at a local garden center, gave me half a dozen Baker Creek heirloom tomato seeds a few months back. He received two sets of seeds from the Baker Creek rep and generously passed on one of the sets to me. I am one lucky gardener.

Of course I’m a stress case now, because the pressure is on. Will they sprout? Will they grow big and tall?  Will the squirrels, birds, rats, mice, snails, etc., let them be? The seeds sat on my desk for several months, full of promise and potential.  Now they’re out in the real world, no longer abstract. Grow babies, grow.

You say ‘tomato;’ I say ‘please grow.’ I’m thinking of changing the name of my blog to ‘The Worried Gardener.‘ What do you think?

City Picker Tomato Collage

Here are the steps for planting your City Picker:

1. Assemble as shown
2. Fill with potting mix (not potting soil) to about two inches below top
3. Add a thin layer of Dolomite (Agricultural Lime)
4. Create a two-inch trench down the center of the planter.
5. Add 3 cups of organic fertilizer.
6. Mound with dirt.
7. Plant
8. Cover with plastic mulch
9. Stake your tomatoes early. After a couple of hot days, you’ll turn your back and they’ll have grown like weeds.