Category Archives: gardening

What I’m planting- Week of June 1-7

Because of our trip, I got a little behind on planting. I didn’t want to start seeds before leaving because no one would be here to water them. And it took me about a week when we got home to get my bearings enough to plant. I was getting discouraged and thinking we’d just have to go without summer squash, winter squash, and green beans this year. Then I remembered that last year we didn’t even convert the backyard to a vegetable garden until Memorial Day weekend. That means I didn’t have anything in the ground until the beginning of June. And we got PLENTY of produce last year. In fact, I just checked my handy dandy spread sheet (more on that later) and I hit 184 lbs of produce from my garden last year. Not bad for a late start.

So on Wednesday, the stars aligned. Little man was at preschool and baby girl FINALLY took a good morning nap. This has been a rarity since returning from our vacation. I got a good chunk of time to work in the garden. Here are the seeds I planted:

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I have grown Trombetta di Albenga (bottom left) for the past 3 years and they are AWESOME. The best zucchini out there. The flesh stays firm even when you sauté it. This squash lends itself well to being diced up and sauteed in butter, garlic and salt. It is seriously good. And very prolific too.

I’ve never grown Cocozelle squash but have bought them at the farmer’s market and really love the nuttiness of this zucchini. I hope it does well! I’ve never grown Dragon’s Tongue bush beans, either. I thought my little man might get a kick out of the beautiful beans and eat more of them. Turnips are one I’ve actually never grown, surprisingly enough. My friend over at East Sac Edible loves to grow them is always bragging about her awesome turnip tops that she uses in her miso soup. So this year I had to give them a try. You might be wondering what that ugly-looking squash is on the upper left. That Hubbard squash is quite the interesting winter squash. It’s not much to look at, but my aunt brought one over that she grew in her garden last Thanksgiving and it was SO yummy. She prepared it simply- steamed and then mushed up with butter. It was one of the best winter squashes I’d ever tried. And since I’ve never seen it at a farmer’s market, I decided to grow some myself!

I also planted 2 kabocha squash plants and 2 sugar pumpkin plants I bought at the farmer’s market. And, in the front yard raised beds I got some beets in the ground. Now if I can get out there to water often enough to get all these seeds to germinate I’ll be set. Fingers crossed.

Chicken Coop Progress

This post has been a looong time coming. I have really let you down, blog readers. I apologize for the lack of posting lately. Every year as the holidays approach I think about all the great holiday-related posts I could write. And every year, I fail. Maybe I should write my holiday-related posts in the summer in preparation, huh? 🙂
Anyway, hopefully I’ll get back into the swing of things soon. In the meantime, here’s a post I’ve owed you for a long time. Rockstar husband started building the coop back in October right after we got our chicks. He spent 3 or 4 weekends working all day on it. I helped with some small parts, but really this was his project. He designed the coop after spending many hours researching coops on www.backyardchickens.com. He’s almost done with it now. There are a few last things to finish that haven’t happened because it was rained almost every single weekend since he last worked seriously on it. We plan on painting it and sealing the wood once it dries out completely in the spring. Ideally, that would have been finished BEFORE the rain started, but oh well.
Now for pictures!
Work station
Rocks that little man and I collected in the yard to backfill the trench. These are the make the run more “predator proof” because an animal trying to get in wont be able to dig through the rocks.
The footprint of the coop and run. Our goal was to make the run completely predator proof. That way, if we are away overnight, we can leave the coop door open and the chickens can let themselves out into the run in the morning. Without a predator-proof run, we’d have to make sure to be home everyday at nightfall to lock the chickens up. 
We borrowed a friend’s jackhammer to dig through some of the tougher parts of the dirt. Thank you friend! If you’re wondering why there’s a stump in the middle of what will be the run, it’s because we just cut down a tree that was there. We left the stump so that the chickens can perch on it. 
Framing out the run.
Rockstar husband demonstrating his jackhammering skills.
Lots of progress done at this point! It’s still missing a door for the coop, door for the run, nesting boxes, perching rack, welded wire on top of the run, and probably lots more. 
See that irrigation tube? We dug it up while digging the trench. Eventually we’d like to add a hose right by the coop to make filling water and cleaning easier. It’s not top priority but it’s on our list.
Here’s where the chickens will go in and out of the coop. And see how the coop is raised up, allowing extra run space under it? It’s perfect for rainy days and hot summer days so that the hens can get out of the elements but still be outside   if they want to be.
Adding paneling over the welded wire so that varmints can’t rip it off and get in. You can’t see it here, but we also ran the welded wire down into the trench before backfilling. This adds to the predator protection. 
Nesting boxes done. A feature that most nesting boxes don’t have that I LOVE is that it is designed to open UP instead of DOWN. Know why? So that little man can eventually open it up himself to collect the eggs. If it opened down, it would be hard for him to reach the eggs inside. I love that rockstar husband thought of a little detail like that. What a good papa! 
Almost done! The run has a door now, there’s a ramp in place for the chickens to get up and down from the coop, the chicken door for the coop is in place. You can’t really tell because the ladder is blocking it, but the coop door is on a pulley system so that we can just run out and open or close the coop door from the outside of the run without having to unlock the run on a cold winter morning.
Chickens exploring their new home. I think they like it!

Growing Garlic

It’s about that time of the year to get ready to plant garlic. If you’ve never considered growing your own garlic, you should. The first time I tasted home grown garlic I was totally blown away. It’s much more fresh than anything you can buy in the store and you can taste it. Plus, it’s fun to choose heirloom varieties of garlic, and never run out! 
People are usually surprised when I tell them I’m planting garlic in September or October (in CA you can plant it up until November). Apparently, you can plant it in the spring too, but you will end up much smaller bulbs. Planting in the fall is like giving the garlic a head start. It has to have enough time to grow some greens and establish itself before the first fall frost so that the bulbs can grow in the spring and early summer. 
Another question I often get asked about planting garlic is, “What do you plant? Garlic seeds?” The easiest way to grow garlic is to break apart a bulb of garlic and plant the individual cloves. Make sure you plant them with the root end down (pointy tip of clove is up), and plant them 2 inches deep, about 6 inches apart with 1-2 feet between rows. Then make sure to water evenly. This year, I will probably mulch the garlic to help the soil retain water. I’ll also amend the soil with compost and some worm casting before planting my garlic. 
If you’re wondering where to buy seed garlic, I get it from the Seed Savers Exchange (pretty much where I buy all my seeds). They’re almost out of garlic for the season so order now if you’re planning on growing garlic this year. (A quick Google search for “buying seed garlic” will give you some other sources that are still selling garlic if you missed SSE). 
Here is last year’s garlic in the spring.  The greens are looking good!

Getting bigger:

Garlic is ready to harvest in July. You’ll see the greens start to turn yellow. Two weeks before harvesting your garlic, stop watering it. It needs time for the skins to dry up. You don’t want to leave the garlic in the ground past when it’s ready to be harvested, though. That will just result in moldy garlic skins that wont keep.

Here is half of our garlic after I pulled it up:

Once you’ve pulled up your garlic, let it dry in the sun (or a dry, well ventilated area) for 2 weeks before storing. You can store soft neck garlic by braiding it together, or just break off the bulbs and keep them in a dark, dry place.

Chicken dreams

I’ve been dreaming about raising chickens for years now and my dreams are finally about to become a reality! Just 2 months from today, my handsome (and accommodating) hubby and I are taking a backyard chicken raising class at Love Apple Farm in Scotts Valley and will come home with 3 chicks each (actually, we might not take all 6, we’ll see what we decide we can handle).

I’m so excited I could squeal! Or cluck? Bad joke, I apologize. Anyway, we’ve both been combing the internet for coop plans and starting to look for sources of reclaimed wood. We already have some that we received from a freecycler, but we’ll need more as I’d like to use as much reclaimed wood for this project as we can.

I’m sure I’ll update more about this as it gets closer! For now, I will continue to dream of fluffy chicks and fresh eggs. But not for TOO much longer.

We think this coop is particularly awesome (from here). But we’ll see what we end up tackling.

 

Pruning lavender

This spring, I planted 4 lavender plants in the section between the sidewalk and the street in front of our house. That space used to be covered with concrete, but a tree root had grown too big and pushed up the concrete both in this space and in the sidewalk. The city came out to fix it for us and gave us the choice as to whether we wanted them to put new concrete in the middle space or leave it filled with dirt so that we could plant something. We thought planting something would be prettier, so we chose that. But we ended up keeping the space empty for several months before getting our act together. We like to take things slowly with outdoor renovations (or any renovations, really) because we’d rather get things right the first time. 
So we decided to put lavender there, and my neighbor mentioned that they were selling French lavender at our local nursery. Perfect! So finally, before our trip to France, I cleaned out as many rocks as I could from the space, dug some holes and planted 4 lavender plants. They thrived there (thanks to our neighbor who watered the plants for us while we were gone!). 
Mid-late summer is about the time to prune lavender back, though. This is to avoid the plant from getting tough and woody. According to my gardening books, it’s most important to prune the lavender in the first three years of it’s life. If you don’t, the plant wont survive future pruning well and new growth will have trouble developing on the old wood. 
I had never pruned lavender before, though, so I consulted my good friend Google. I found an awesome video by a lavender farmer in Oregon who walked me through how to prune a lavender plant in it’s first, second and third year. She was so awesome that I’m going to embed the video here for any interested parties (note: this is not me, nor was it created by me. It was created by Sarah at http://www.lavenderatstonegate.com/  If you’re interested in lavender, check out her website. It’s very informative.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any “before” pictures of the lavender plants. Too bad because they were really beautiful. It’s tough to see that go, but according to Sarah (above), a correctly pruned lavender plant can last for 20 years, whereas an unpruned plant will need to be replaced much more often. Tough love, lavender.

Lavender after:

Along with a curious little boy who grabbed his walker and toddled over to the door one morning in his PJs. It’s becoming a summer morning tradition, and I don’t mind one bit. 
The benefit of pruning your lavender is having your hands and house smell amazing! We now have several bouquets hanging to dry in our pantry, along with a beautiful bouquet in a vase on the table. I really need to plant more flowers in our garden for making bouquets.