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Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

I meant to do my work today,
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

–Richard Le Gallienne (1866–1947)

Miss Peanut answers the call of a Mint leaf

Well, the last week has simply been heaven. Every spare moment was spent planting the seedlings started during Spring Break. Several huge cans full of grass and weeds were pulled as well. There is still a lot to be done, but the garden looks tended again. It’s impossible to express just how good for me this process has been. My intellectual pursuits of the last 20 months were very intense and I had not been grounded in the way I need, which is that special brand of grounded I only get from, well, the ground. All head and no body makes one a bit insane after a time. The garden is medicine. My muscles are delightfully sore and I have a touch of color back in my cheeks. The weather was even on my side with cool cloud cover and a bit of rain midweek. The photos all came out with a bit of fog in the center, so I apologize for the quality – not worth retaking them though. Let’s just pretend that I was going for that vintage nostalgic hazy days of summer sepia toned wonder and call it a day. Later I’ll clean the lens, since I know I probably thumbed it with sunscreen. We get messy when we’re gardening 🙂

Somewhere around 42 Tomato seedlings went into the ground in various spots around the property. They had priority, of course. Those are the leftover winter peas drying on the tops of the stakes so I can plant them later.

the Brandywines are in the ground and all is right with the world

The Artichoke seedlings, 4 of them, came from last year’s fruit.

Artichoke seedling

I found a bird’s nest, probably doves, in a burrow on the ground in the meditation circle. This makes four nests that I save in a special place in the potting shed. They are among my favorite things.

I have quite a growing collection of bird's nests in the potting shed

The Hollyhock seedlings are from Andrea’s seeds, so of course I’m hoping for dark colored flowers!

Andrea's Hollyhock seeds are finally in the ground

Tom bought me an upside down hanging Strawberry planter so I would have more than just a few ripe ones at a time. He loves me.

Tom's Topsy Turvy

There were at least three of these cans full of grass and weeds pulled out to make room for seedlings.

out with the old - in with the new!

At a certain point, I had pulled out so many plants needing new homes, I had to spread out over the lawn. I find I have to make a mess before I can bring about any kind of order.

finding joy amid the chaos

There is still a lot of transplanting to do; finding new homes for what I dug up, re-potting things that have grown out of their pots, moving all succulents and cacti to pots leaving more ground for herbaceous plants, etc…

looking for new homes

When I get it all cleaned up, probably by the Full Moon this coming Wednesday, I’ll be able to sit in my rocking chair and celebrate with a juicy glass of wine. In the meantime, the bees are busy gathering pollen…

greedy little bee in an Agapanthus

…the flowers are blooming…

Roses and Grapes and Andrea's birdhouse

…completely oblivious to the fact that I’m literally turning the entire garden upside down. The only ones to really notice have been the spiders, but we get along famously as long as we respect each others space.

the ever-faithful Feverfew

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Today is Tuesday, so time to honor the Muse. Today, she takes the form of mentors, those people who come into your life and teach you things, and I would like to talk about my father-in-law who passed away last Wednesday. He leaves behind a very large family that adored him and a lifetime of friends who loved and respected him. He came into my life when I was still a very young woman, about 20 yrs old. He gave me a job when I desperately needed one and that’s how I eventually became a Northcutt myself.

There are many things I am grateful to him for, but the one I will highlight here is that he shared with me his knowledge of gardening, took me under his green thumb and taught me how to grow things. He had been a sharecropper in Oklahoma before moving to California all those years ago when so many people fled the dust bowl. He also had a small farm here in Ramona, Ca. By the time I met him he was mostly settled back into the suburbs just a few miles from where Tom and I live now, but his backyard was always lush and blooming with as much as would fit. The crowded state of my own backyard testifies to his influence: a little bit of lawn in the center with all the edges packed with fruits, vegetables and flowers.

He taught me how to grow peppers and potatoes and how to train vines, told me when to cut back my roses and to plant garlic under them to help keep bugs off, and how to cage my tomatoes. Thanks to him, I know about burying rusty nails in the dirt under a Hydrangea to change its color and many other nuggets of gardening wisdom and folklore that all seemed like magic in the beginning. He taught me to garden by the cycles of the moon and to read the Farmers Almanac, told me why things were not doing well and how to fix it. He told me to loosen up the dirt around the base of plants so they could breathe, answered all my questions and told me silly stories. Most impressively, he knew all of this without ever consulting the internet or a book.

Over the years he must have given me a hundred planting pots , every size and shape and material. He picked them up, along with the half dead plants that were in them, in alleys and abandoned lots, or from the recently vacated houses and apartments he was working on. We always had fun trying to bring those poor plants back to life and more often than not we had success. If I admired a plant, he would immediately whip out his pocket knife and give me a cutting, along with another pot and some dirt, and told me how to grow it. My hands were always dirty when I left his house, but they were never empty. Every time I visited we took a walk together around the yard to tour his garden, where he was always happy and always in denim overalls. We had to stop at every plant and discuss its progress, every bloom was appreciated and snails were collected and thrown over the fence – I won’t say in which direction 🙂 There was a turtle that lived in the yard and we fed it broccoli together. If there was something new growing, he told me all about it. Billy Wayne Northcutt taught me more about gardening than anybody else. It was something we had in common, besides Tom. He passed along to me one of his life’s passions and for that I will always love him and am deeply grateful that he took the time and effort to teach me something so important. Thank you, Billy, from the bottom of my heart.

If you have a mentor in your life, it is an honor, say thank you. If you are a mentor to someone else, it is an honor, say thank you.

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When we were little, our mothers sent us outside to play when we were getting on her nerves. We thought she was being sweet and encouraging us to have fun when all she really wanted was a moment alone with her thoughts and perhaps a Highball or two. Well, I’m on my own nerves lately, so the moment I get free from work, rain or no rain, I’m going outside to play and I’m dragging Tom with me.

Carrots get curly if the soil isn't loose enough - be sure to prepare your soil!


In gardening news, it’s an excellent time to plant anything with an underground harvest such as root vegetables, like carrots before it gets too warm, or bulbs. Today I’m planting the garlic that was leftover from an olive oil roasting I did on Monday. When the garlic you use in the kitchen has little green centers, it means the garlic is growing again in your pantry and it will most likely be bitter tasting and it’s past its prime. Bury it and you’ll have fresh garlic later. I know I’ve said it before, but I really really want you to plant garlic! It helps keeps aphids off your roses and vampires will think twice before messing with your garden.

red Dragon Carrot - sweet and adds color to salads or cake - did someone say cake? 🙂


It’s also a good time to plant radishes if you live somewhere with a cool spring. I just harvested mine, so I won’t be planting more, but it’s not too late if you want to get another batch through before summer. I had the “Easter Egg” blend and they were delicious!

Spring Radishes - Easter Egg Blend - April 2011


The Moon is waning so it’s also a good time to prune where needed. My pruning is done for now, so I can take a break on that front. In fact, the garden seems to be doing her own thing quite effectively right now, so I can take a little breather. I have some extremely feral patches around the property, but I’ve put those off until summer when school is over. Thanks to the budget cuts, summer classes have been canceled so I have no opportunity to change my mind about taking the summer off. Tom and I are going to plan a little trip someplace we’ve never been. It’s very exciting.

I didn't really like carrots until I grew my own


This is also a good time to think about feeding your garden. Spring is a time when nature has a voracious appetite and plants need food and mulch and compost-y nourishment to reach their full potential fruit and bloom-wise. I like the pellet kind of food because I can walk around the garden with a bucket of it and toss toss toss. I’ve tried the Miracle Grow liquid with the hose attachment and, although the food itself works well, it’s not a great way to apply it and I think it wastes a lot of water while being inconsistent with the delivered amounts. I did see an ad in Sunday’s paper that they have a fairly new device with premixed solution, but I have not tried it yet. The bucket/toss method seems to work for me, for now. That’s the key with this gardening thing – do whatever works for you and you alone. Gardening is a much easier task than it was even a decade or so ago. When I started gardening seriously about 10-15 years ago, there wasn’t a huge online community of plant enthusiasts, garden blogs were rare, websites that explained how to care for plants were terribly incomplete, tools and products were still old fashioned and not much of it was geared toward those of us who choose the organic way. Now, the world is your oyster, or pea, if you want anything from a tiny pot of herbs on your urban balcony, to a farm in the backyard, and anything and everything in between. Information is instant online and there’s a huge community of people just like me writing about gardens just like mine and sharing information. It’s awesome, easy, rewarding and healthy, and will improve your mood considerably. Even if it’s just one Strawberry plant – the fresh and pristine pesticide-free fruit will have you hooked in no time. So, what are you waiting for? Go outside and play!

Inside a sea of Nasturtiums - March 2011

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Ode To Tomatoes ~ by Pablo Neruda

The street
filled with tomatoes,
midday,
summer,

These were warm from the Sun when we ate them. - July 2010


light is
halved
like
a
tomato,
its juice
runs
through the streets.

Beauty on the inside. - August 2010


In December,
unabated,
the tomato
invades
the kitchen,

We roasted these for sauce. Yum! - September 2010


it enters at lunchtime,
takes
its ease
on counter-tops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.

Tomatoes so bright, I gotta wear shades. - August 2010


Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
sinks
into living flesh,
red
viscera

Cherokee Purple/Brandywine - September 2010


a cool
sun,
profound,
inexhaustible,
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
we
pour
oil,
essential
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,

Happy Tom making kitchen Magick - September 2010


pepper
adds
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;

Lots of fresh cracked pepper and coarse salt. - September 2010


it is the wedding
of the day,
parsley
hoists
its flag,
potatoes
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
knocks
at the door,
it’s time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
star,

an extra ripe "Green Zebra" - August 2010


displays
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

time for a BLT! - 2010

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Well, It seems like forever ago since I started the posts about the potato experiment that my friend Kenny and I were going to do over the summer. Things got busy and complicated and we have all been taking care of business. I have a few minutes before I close up the office for the day, so here goes the update. You can click on the vegetables/potatoes category to your right if you want to see the previous posts.

From Kenny:

“Much to my disappointment my potato harvest has been rather pathetic. I found one white potato and zero blue potatoes.

The White Knight


The one Idaho spud I tossed into a pot and pretty much ignored, did provide several little fingerling potatoes…those were tasty!!

Idaho spud-in-a-pot


French Fries, we need French Fries!


I think the problems were the high heat we had in Arizona this summer. Many days were over 110F! The potatoes in the raised beds just couldn’t handle all the heat all the time The beds didn’t even get a chance to cool down at night since even our nighttime temps often stayed in the upper 80’s to low 90’s.”

Thank you, Kenny! I’m sorry you didn’t have better luck with your spuds, but I remember trying to garden in Arizona and every time you plant something you just have to hope for the best against the weather goddess. Here in San Diego, we had one of the coldest summers on record and my potatoes did really well, for which I can thank Mother Earth since I was busy at school while she took care of everything…

Let me just say I was assuming the absolute worst outcome with this experiment! After planting mine, I got busy with school and work and didn’t check on the garden for long stretches at a time. One day Tom said he saw potatoes under the apple tree and suggested we dig em out. Part of me didn’t want to see that I had a bunch of raisin-looking spuds that died in the shadow of my abandonment. Bad Mommy! Anyways, here’s what we found under the apple tree:

August 2010 - French Fingerlings


Pink Potato Happiness


…and there was an honorable harvest out of my plastic buckets:

Buckett Potatoes


my fabulous assistant!


My thoughts:

* the potatoes under the apple tree were the best and I didn’t even plan those – it’s where I tossed the leftover pieces! I will assume that direct contact with Earth had something to do with that.

* the buckets were great but they took up a lot of patio/sidewalk space and were not pretty to look at – not a big deal though

* the plants never actually bloomed, which was odd and the reason I had no hopes of finding spuds…seems a miracle to me

* the small fingerlings did well and were tender and delicious, buttery too…I wonder if the type of potatoes that we each planted had something to do with the success rate? perhaps I’ll try bigger ones next year, although Tom says he really liked the little pink ones.

Next year, I will definitely be planting more potatoes since these were gone in a couple days, and next year I won’t harvest until I’m ready to eat. We dug these up all at once because I couldn’t stand the suspense, but they will last a little longer under ground than in a basket on my table.

French Fingerling harvest - August 2010

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Scabiosa columbaria 6-5-10


Tom and I just got back from a weekend in Newport Beach. We went up for business and stayed for pleasure. What a wonderful couple of days it was too. All worries were left behind and we did our favorite things together…romantic walks, romantic lunches, romantic dinners….well you know. When I got back I spent two hours catching up with watering. Everything needed it and by the time I do the orchids and house plants and everything outside, I’m pooped. Tonight I’ll water the grass and be done with water till Tuesday. It’s hard for me to keep on the schedule that the “City of San Diego” wants me to keep with watering. But I do my best.

Anise - Pimpinella anisum


It was strange to come home after only a couple days gone and find the garden the same but very very different. All the plants are still there but the tomatoes went berserk and suddenly need help getting back up in their cages. The grapes have burst forth once again and my previous efforts to vine them up seem to have been futile.

Grapes June 2010


The potatoes are as tall as I am and I haven’t built the dirt up around them yet, I’m missing some tomato cages, the leeks need more soil…As I went around the yard, almost every plant told me it needed some attention and Cicero (my beta fish) needs a good bath since it’s the New Moon and there’s a fungus growing on his Greek temple columns. The list is growing faster than I can think the thought.

Baby Apples June 5 2010


I’ve been focusing on business lately but now my garden needs some love!

Squash Blossoms 2010


But none of it matters today! Sundays and New Moons don’t always fall together, but today they did and I’m taking advantage. No more lists or chores until tomorrow morning. For now, I’m off to watch “dude tv” with my husband and son and this evening I’m watching the first episode of the new season of True Blood: the only TV show I really really like any more and the one thing I’m doing tonight no matter what! I’ve been waiting forever for it to come back and I’m not missing a moment of it!

Swiss Chard, Hollyhocks, Nasturtiums, Tomatoes, Feverfew


So right at this moment, I’m about as happy as one can get. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining at last, I just spent a romantic weekend away with my man, the flowers are blooming and my garden looks better than ever, there are sparkly bubbles in my favorite Champagne flute, True Blood is on tonight, I’m feeling good and I’m in a good mood, the Moon is New…none of this is going to last, so I’m off to wallow in it. Happy Sunday everyone!

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“Money is the root of all evil, and yet it is such a useful root that we cannot get on without it any more than we can without potatoes.”
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), American novelist

As promised, an update from Kenny for the Potato Experiment!:

Arizona: BAKED Potatoes!!!


“They are growing quite well in my raised beds. As a matter of fact they are about 2 feet tall now. I’ve added more dirt to the bed twice, so it is full to the brim!

Build up the soil around the stems as they grow


I noticed today that they are also starting to get blooms which means that potatoes are forming underground. Once the flowers die off I’ll be tempted to dig up some fingerling potatoes just to see how they taste!

Potato Blooms


I also noticed today that I have some inch worms inching their way among the potato leaves so I picked off what I could find and then mixed up a batch of Castile soap bug spray to help get rid of any I missed. The Castile soap bug spray is really easy to make, here’s the ‘recipe’: in a clean two liter bottle add 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil, 2 Tbsps of Castile peppermint oil or Eucalyptus oil soap ( I use Dr. Bronner’s brand because it is certified organic and a USA owned company). Shake the bottle well then pour into a clean spray bottle. Spray tops and bottoms of leaves, making sure all surfaces are completely soaked. I’ll do that every couple of days for a week then check for critters. If I don’t find any then I’ll just spray once a week to help keep things at bay. If it rains, which is not a problem here in the Arizona desert, then you have to apply again.

Inch Worm: cute and hungry

Nothing like home made “camping potatoes” as I call them: potatoes fried up in a cast iron skillet with some butter, onions, garlic, salt & pepper with some Parmesan cheese cooked till everything is a golden brown! YUM!”

Thanks for the update Kenny! The plants look healthy and I can’t wait for you to dig them up! I’m not going to talk about my potatoes since they aren’t blooming yet and Kenny’s are the star of the show today! I am, however, in the mood to go camping now, as long as Kenny will get up early to fry the potatoes. 🙂

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