Saturday, May 30, 2009

Central Coast Tomato Trials - part 2

Our trial varieties are growing along (and setting fruit!) here on the central coast. The tomatillos are growing outstandingly well:

Loads of flowers have bloomed:

and subsequently fallen off the plants without developing. But after today's check, I believe some fruit is finally starting to set!

As far as the tomatoes go, we've now got fruit set on Early Girl, Stupice, and Sungold (F2; a regular-leaved individual). That's in addition to the first variety to set fruit - Camp Joy. The plants are about 2-3 feet high. I'm testing 3 ways of growing: stakes, cages, and interweaving between twine. The later method is how a local organic farmer grows his tomatoes, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Last year at the farm they hosted a "tomato U-pick", which was fantastic...delicious organic tomatoes for 50 cents a pound! And now...back from that's a shot of a few of my tomato plants.

If you look closely, you'll see that I've interplanted some marigolds between the tomatoes. Marigolds have a reputation for offending aphids...that makes us best friends. (I actually tested this theory last year and aphids were not nearly as prevalent on plants that got marigolds for neighbors.)
The tomato trial data thus far:

Please click it for optimal viewing. Till next time!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Strawberry Sentry

Not sure if he's an aphid-eater, but I appreciate all the help I can get guarding the strawberries!

This is my first attempt growing strawberries. The six-pack of 'Eversweet' plants that I'm growing were an "impulse buy" at OSH. Since they didn't have a place in the garden plan, they've been subjected to pots. These "everbearing" plants seem to be doing ok, but I'm not sure of what I should expect. The picture above was taken about 3 weeks ago and since then I've picked 2 ripe berries.

I've placed the pots inside bird netting to prevent theft by the hungry crows.

Since I'm a strawberry newbie, I have a few questions:
1) How many berries should each plant produce to be considered "good producers"? Right now each plant has 1 stalk with 4-7 developing berries. I'm assuming more stalks will develop throughout the summer since they are everbearing.
2) The plants are sending out runners. What should I do with these? I would like more plants, but how do I root them?
3) Does growing strawberries in containers actually limit production? I saw a picture on Skippy's Vegetable Garden of what appears to be a great use of space for those of us with smaller gardens. What do you think?

Random photo of a curly-q calla lily:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Central Coast Tomato Trials - part 1

First fruit set on May 18! The variety is Camp Joy.

If you live in an area with cool or short summers, you know the pain of not being able to grow most tomatoes. Here on the central coast of California, we've got some "issues", to say the least. I tried to grow some tasty varieties last year like Green Zebra and Cherokee Purple, but they just wouldn't set many fruit and the few that set were tiny. Enter the "Central Coast Tomato Trials". I am determined to grow some nice tomatoes here. After a lot of research, these are the 11 tomato varieties that I am trialing:

Camp Joy*
Early Girl
Lahman Pink*
Paul Robeson*
San Francisco Fog
San Marzano

Also 2 tomatillos:
Green Toma Verde
Purple Heirloom

These candidates have been described as "short season" or "cool summer" varieties. Some were suggested by friends, the others were discovered in seed catalogs. The starred* varieties were purchased as seeds from Gary Isben's TomatoFest. Gary puts on TomatoFest each summer in Carmel, CA with hundreds of heirloom varieties available for tasting. That way you "know before you buy" (and grow).

All of the plants were started from seeds at the end of January. Except, for a couple of duplicates that I started in late Feb. Plants were set out in the ground around the first week of April. I wish I had enough space for several plants of each variety, but that is simply not the case. So, I'm only able to fit in 2 plants of Camp Joy, Early Girl, Glacier, Paul Robeson, Stupice, and Sungold. The other varieties only have 1 plant. I know this is very unscientific, but it's the best I can do at this point. My primary goals are taste, reliable fruit set and good production of normal- or close to normal-sized fruit for the variety. Secondary goals are taste, total production, and disease resistance. I'll keep you updated through the summer and fall on our progress.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2009

Blooms from my garden and greenhouse. I can't believe it's mid-May already!


An iceplant

Orchid - Coelogyne tomentosa

Orchid - Sarcochilus hartmannii

Orchid - Dendrobium striolatum

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rainbow Roses

I was in Seattle last week and got a chance to visit the famous Pikes Place Market. There were beautiful bunches of standard tulips for only $7. One could also find exotic (at least to me) tulips, such as the 2 types below:

But the real question is:
Who is buying THESE?

At up to $9.50 a stem, nonetheless!
I just can't understand why someone would want to buy these completely fake (dyed), poor souls. The dye was even dripped all over the leaves. So sad. I felt sorry for these roses, like the way you feel when you see animals up for adoption. They were probably white before someone decided to make them look like artificial roses from the dollar store!

What makes this even more unbelievable is that Seattle is gorgeous this time of year. Neighborhoods, parks, even street medians were dripping with lovely, natural, floral beauty. Here is just one example from the University of WA:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The fate of the artichoke

Steamed for 30 minutes with garlic, salt & pepper in chicken broth. Lemon-butter dipping sauce...mmmmm! Oh, and a crabcake on the side. This dinner has "sealed the fate" of the smaller side artichokes ;)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bizarre blue-striped flower

I saw this plant on display at the Carmel Vally Flower and Garden Show over the was LABELED! Queen's Tears. A little bit of research and I find that the scientific name is Billbergia nutans. It's a member the Bromeliaceae family and similar to other bromeliads it produces offsets or "pups". Another common name is Friendship plant.

What IS this? I've seen it growing (& flowering) in pots outside 2 local restaurants lately. Here's a picture of the entire plant:

The leaves are unremarkable, but the they are something else altogether!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Monsanto - what planet are YOU on?

Do you prefer corn to be a GMO or not?

Have ya'll heard Monsanto's ads on NPR?
"Produce more. Conserve more." Plus, they tell us how Monsanto is committed to sustainable agriculture. Yeah right!

This seems like some desperate attempt to turn their image The round-up fellas are starting to take notice of the organic, simple farming movement. And now they're getting a little bit scared! Here's a quote from their website:

"...Then factor in a pressured water supply, an energy-supply crunch and climate change. How do we surmount these obstacles? Agricultural innovation holds a key solution – and Monsanto pledges to do our part."

I think I'll pass on their brand of "Agricultural innovation".

Here's the wiki on Monsanto, in case you think I'm over top.

By the way, if this is the last you hear from me, you'll know what happened.......