When Things Go *Pop*

There comes that time every year in the garden.  The seedlings slowly make their way out of the ground. You wait, you wonder. Finally...the plants start to pop.

That's what happened to us. The picture at the top was taken 8 days before the picture below. You can see how much the corn has grown in that week plus.

Finally, the tomatoes are grown, the chiles are blooming, and we'll soon have fresh produce.

Soon? We've started harvesting zucchini and radishes. Sweet onions will be available soon.

Check out this ear of corn. I'm hoping to have a real good harvest with this patch...

...and the zucchini is coming along great too.


Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Plant ID 101 - The Jacaranda Tree

Jacarandas are beautiful trees when they bloom. It's one of the quintessential trees of Southern California like the California pepper tree which it is often confused with when not in bloom. Like the pepper tree, it is not a California native...it originally comes from the more tropica regions of South and Central America as well as the Caribbean.

In bloom, it's a snap to ID. How many trees go into a completely purple or lavender bloom? You can drive the freeways of L.A. in spring and easily pick out a jacaranda in bloom at 70 miles an hour in the blurring landscape.

The flowers are trumpet shaped tubes in lavender or a light purple...pick a color, either one won't be wrong.

When not in bloom, look for the leaves or seed pods to identify. The leaves are bright green and feathery. The seed pods flat and round, like a petrified beaver's tale or a small ping pong paddle.

While they are strikingly beautiful trees in bloom, the jacaranda...like the fig...is not a tree for my garden.  Those beautiful flowers are also full of sticky sap that'll ruin your car's paint job, among other things, and they drop by the thousands...everywhere!

Yes, I love the jacaranda tree...as long as it's in my neighbor's yard.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

Harvest Time?

Getting closer to harvest but I'm a bit disappointed with our lot so far. I've overseeded a bit so we should have more later this summer. 

Meanwhile, I've got ears showing on the corn, flowers on the zucchini and guava, small fruit on the citrus and grapes...

...and these radishes.

All that, and here's the first harvest of the season. The complete first harvest...

Hope to have more a little bit later in the season.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

A Gallery of Ne'er Do Wells

We're on the cusp of starting the harvest season here at the Cheapskate's garden. Looks like we might have a slightly paltry first crop but with overseeding and warm weather, summer should be producing something more like a bumper crop.

In the meantime, I'm spending time working with the plants that REALLY do well here, the weeds.  As I pull them up, let's see what's clogging up my garden this week.

The Scourge of Spurge...this little guy is a bit on the nasty side. Not too bad if you get it early but let it ride for a week...

...and you get these mats along with deep, hard-to-pull-up roots.  Not to mention, it has a sticky sap that gets all over your hands and resists efforts to pull up with a glove.

Grass sprouts up here and there. Pull as soon as possible to avoid deep rooted clumps.

Oxalis (pictured at the top of the page) have spring-loaded exploding seed pods (really!) and are impossible to eradicate completely.

Oak trees are native in my area. Squirrels, jays, and woodpeckers stash the acorns everywhere, leading to this unique weed...the oak tree seedling.

Finally, palm trees. Enough already. I spend more time pulling up these free-sprouting seedlings than anything else.

Here, you can see the little seed too.  That's one more palm tree that won't be growing in Southern California.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Plant ID Faceoff - Orchid Tree vs. Trumpet Tree

Quick...what's that blooming tree in the picture above?

It's nice to be able to indentify plants on the go. It's not only helpful when you see something that would go great in your garden but is also a nifty parlor trick.


Sometimes, Nature likes to play it's own party trick on us by making plants very similar but different at the same time. That is the case with the Orchid Tree and the Trumpet Tree.

From a distance, these two trees are basically identical. I know I'd find myself saying "what a nice orchid tree that is," only to find out it was something else. Looking at the trees above, can you tell? They are different.

Upon closer look, the blooms give it away. The orchid tree is not an actual orchid but the flowers look very similar. There is the 5-petal, fan shaped arrangement but is missing the usual lip of an orchid, which is actually a 6th petal that is modified as a pollinator attractor.

If the orchid tree flower looks like an orchid, what do you think the trumpet tree's flower looks like? That's right, it's trumpet shaped and a close up look gives it away. It looks like a trumpet bell with a frilly fringe on it.

When you see something you think you know, be sure to take a closer look. It just might be something else. Oh, the trees above? The orchid tree...or Bauhinia...is at the top. The trumpet tree...or Handroanthus...is the second one.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Spring Flings...More Visitors to the Garden

Look who's stopping by the garden this week...

Above is a hooded oriole. We get these visitors each March and they usually stay till September. Migrating up from Mexico, they really like the sweet. We look forward to them every year but the hummingbirds wish we had a more secure border...they don't care for the orioles hogging up their feeders.

Speaking of hummingbirds, we had three different kinds this week.

Here's an Anna's hummingbird, a year round local in our yard.

This black chinned hummingbird is a bit more rare and only seen during the warmer months.

The Allen's hummingbird is very aggressive and thinks the backyard belongs to him. Here he is in full warrior mode.

Not quite in our yard but in the park a block away is this guy, the red whiskered bulbul. Our research indicates that they are escaped pets here in the U.S.

Also at the park, this western tanager is a colorful spring and summer visitor but rarely makes it down the block to our garden.

Looking over the whole affair is this turkey vulture, a very common bird around here.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

May's Gray Days...

Not a lot to do on the gardening front this weekend as clouds moved in for a spring shower.  Deadheading a few roses, mowing the lawn...not the most visual or interesting chore to talk about (although it is good exercize), sweeping, and fertilizing.

Still, this gives me more time to just enjoy the garden, look around, and take stock of where we're at.

There are a lot of things about to happen, as evidenced by the little flower buds popping up here and there. The corn stalks are shooting up flowers, it won't be long till we see some ears developing along the sides.

The grape vine is in full bloom. Not spectacular flowers, hard to even see, but it'll be much nicer when these polinated blooms mature into delicious fruit. It's looking good right now but there'll be a battle coming up on to fronts...the animals that like to eat the grapes and the fungus that'll destroy them if I don't treat at just the right time.

Chiles getting ready to bloom. No problems here, just waiting for all that flavor to be ready to pick.

Squash blossom...zucchini and summer squash will be very dandy when they come up.

A little beyond the flowering stage, our citrus is now showing tiny, little fruits.

The guava tree is showing a ton of blooms. This has been a rehabilitation project for us. We used to have it in a container and winds kept blowing it over. We moved it into the ground but haven't had any fruit for three seasons. We're crossing our fingers because we haven't seen this many buds on it for a long time either.

Lastly, on the beauty front, these little buds will open up to the very fragrant and pretty plumeria flowers soon.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

While the Cheapskate's Away...

We've been on an island in the Caribbean for a week, it's always interesting to see what the garden's been doing while we've been away. To start, the last cymbidium of the season bloomed, this yellow one above.

The zucchini plants will keep their place as the first to be harvested, I'm sure, but the radishes are also giving them a run for their money.

Our cornfield has grown a foot while we've been gone.

This hanging dendrobium is really doing well.

The plants have been behaving well but the weeds are sneaking back in. A pinch at the base of the plant is all it takes to get it out, roots and all.

This single rose has really broken out the blooms...

...but it looks like another deadheading session is in this weekend's plans.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

DINNER TIME! Dutch Oven Beef Stew

It can still get a little chilly at night here in Northern California. A hearty stew is just the thing to take the chill off. This reci...