At the End of the Falls

This hanging basket of tomatoes is called 'cherry falls.' It didn't do real well it's first year but I left it alone and another year of benign neglect led to some pretty good harvests this year.

Tomatoes are not really known as perennials, however, and I think it's the end of the line for this plant.

Easy enough...I have a batch of cherry tomato seedlings in need of transplant so I dump the old plant, line with a plastic bag (with a few holes poked in it for drainage), and fill with mix.

Tada! The new seedlings are ready to go.

They're hung up, got their own dripper, and are being watered in. 

Let's see how they do.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Deep Sixing the Seedlings

OK, 4 weeks in the nursery is enough. Time for you kids to go out and earn your keep.

At two weeks, they were poking their tiny, little shoots above the mix.

Three weeks, they were starting to show their differences.

Now at four weeks, they're about to bust the pots...except for the onions, whose leaves still look a little weak.

Tilling the ground with a little Amend and then popping those seedlings into their slots for the season.

The roots are very healthy, as you can see in this pot of corn. They're fact, already I just pop 'em in the ground.

I need to find something to repel the pests. For now, I'm covering with some chicken wire, watering in, and then tend until harvest.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Blessed Are The Pollinators

Ah, the sweetest smell of spring. I'm talking about citrus flowers, or orange blossoms if you will. Nothing smells like it and it's heavenly.

Our little citrus grove is in full bloom. Well, the orange and lemon, anyway. The tangelo is still just in bud. 

The Cara Cara orange has these gorgeous white flowers.

While the Meyer lemon isn't to be outdone with its pink-tinged flowers.

Last week, I planted some lavender nearby to attract bees.

It may be working. Let's hope these busy pollinators give us a lot of fruit this year.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

How To Train Your Dragon

Our dragonfruit plants grow like crazy. I've given over this corner of the yard to them, where they intertwine with our aloe plants.

We only get 4-8 fruit a year off of them, though, so last night at the local farmer's market, I found the grower who sold them to us and asked him how I could get more fruit.

Very simple, he said. Cut them back one third. It's March, do this and you'll have lots of flowers in May.

Easy peasy...some pruners, cut at the closest joint to one third of the way down (it's a cactus with thorns, leather gloves are a must), and that's it.

Cuttings in the waste bin, now just to wait until May to see what happens.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Trying to Give the Babies Some Room To Grow

A couple of weeks ago, I spread out a leftover bag of grass seed on the lawn. While from afar, it doesn't look to bad, up close, you can see a lot of weeds.

Here is some oxalis, which is relatively harmless.

Some dandelions, like this one, hide very well in the grass. Left alone, they will pretty much take over and spread like wildfire.

I need to get in there and start getting the intruders out so my grass seedlings can grow into a thick, lush mat. I'm also trying to go organic as much as possible and, while it would be very easy to just spray Roundup on it, I will try to hand pull the weeds.

Tools for today are a round edge hoe and a small fork.

The hoe is shoved under the weed to get under the roots and the fork finishes up by plucking it out and putting it into the bin.

It's backbreaking work, so I get my hand-held trowel and see how easy it is on my knees. Turns out, it's much easier than the hoe and fork method.

About a third of the lawn is done which also fills about a third of the green waste bin.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

The Weekly View

It's springtime in Southern California. Last year we had nothing you could call winter at all. This year, well, maybe a couple of weeks. We did have two nights of freezing at the beginning of January.

Now that we're in March, however, the cold is just a memory. Flowers are bursting out all over (see our orchid bench, above), veggie seedlings are coming along fine, and now the concern is making sure everything gets enough water for the 90+ degree heat wave we have coming this weekend.

Mr. Lincoln, our bellwether rose, has some fine maroon foliage popping up after pruning.

Grape clusters are already showing on our vine.

The bletilla orchid has not only awoken from its dormancy, it's now in bloom.

Unfortunately, the bougainvilleas can't get their blooms synchronized. Only the red is showing off, while the others are only green.

I'll live with it somehow.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Evicting Unwelcome Visitors

Kind of slow gardening weekend. Not much to report, except for hand-pulling weeds, like this oak tree seedling that popped up between a camellia and the herb garden.

Probably a scrub jay planting an acorn caused this to grow.

Luckily, the ground is well-tilled and a simple pull on the stem gets it all out (wear gloves, the leaves are sharp).

Off to the trash with you!

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

This Year's Model (Crop)...

I've decided to start my vegetable garden a month later this year. Instead of planting in January, as I have in years past, I'm starting at the beginning of March.  You can see the crop selection up above.

Last year's garden was the most unproductive I've ever had. The main culprit was the extreme and prolonged drought California experienced.  While the lack of water was one thing (a 50% surcharge was added to the water you used over your allotment), the critters were another.

We live right up against the mountains. The very, very dry mountains.  With no food and little water, the animals were pushed down into the residential neighborhoods below.  This meant deer would eat my roses. Rabbits and squirrels joined the mocking birds and jays, taking turns eating the fruits of our labors, or most often just chewing up the tender new growths of the plants.

They killed our zucchini, decimated our chile plants, and took all our tomatoes.  

Only the tomato plant I had in a hanging basket and our grapes gave me any meaningful crops, and not much at that.

Let's hope I can come up with some strategies of pest repellance if the dry weather makes a comeback.

In the meantime, I'm starting my seeds.  It's a rainy weekend, so this is a great project to do indoors, in the garage.

I got this little 7 pot seed starter kit at Lowe's.  The pots are biodegradeble, so I can just stick 'em in the ground when I'm ready.

My wife has this bag of potting mix for her euphorbias and I'm going to use a little for my seeds.

Filling up each pot with the mix, I tamp down on the soil with my fingers, pushing it down to good seed depth.

I put a few seeds in each pot, cover with mix, tamp down and water in.

Finally, I'm leaving them indoors until they're strong enough to transplant and repel the invaders. They're sitting in a sunny, southern window until then.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

The Grass Could Be Greener

This is the time of year my lawn looks its best. From about February to April is its peak. Last year, I tore up the dirt and seeded in a drought tolerant blend in November. This gave me an even longer lush looking lawn, from December to June, then the hot, drought afflicted summer months took its toll, making it hard and brown.

I still have one bag of seed left of that drought-tolerant mix (actually, not tolerant enough for our extremely hot summers). The weather forecast says we're about to get four days of free water courtesy of Mother Nature.

This is the perfect time to put that last bag in the spreader and overseed the lawn.

While the lawn is looking good, it still hosts of lot of weeds and sports a few bald spots where I dug some of those intruders up.  I take my spike tool and aerate those spots, giving the seed holes to take root in.

I go over the entire lawn twice, the bald spots get four passes with the spreader.

Seed spread, time to go in before the rain starts coming down. It may still be a drought but we should be getting at least twice as much water as last year.  

I'll be eager to see how long the lawn lasts this year.

Copyright 2015 - 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...