Last year I made a several jars of pickled jalapeños that were so delicious that I ate them all up before we even got into November. I thought I would make enough jars to can and save for the year but I just kept on eating them. One goal of this year is to grow enough jalapeños in order to can this spicy treat to last me the entire year… well, at least half of the year.
So I decided to start my peppers earlier this year. Last year I started in February, so this year I started some seed in January. I used a heat mat to increase my germination rate with varied results. And I put my peppers under grow lights after up potting them. They were truly pampered peppers!
Then while I was in Japan, there was an aphid infestation.
Then the slugs got them.
So basically I was able to salvage about 20 good peppers plants but only a few of these were jalapeños. Last year I had 4 jalapeño plants from which I harvested so I need more than a few if I want to can them.
Enter: Mucho Nacho!
So I was at Green Acres yesterday and I always take a look at their vegetable plants. I never buy any plants because I try to start everything from seed but it is always nice to look at plants and get good ideas for my next growing season. Anyway I looked over and saw this magnificent pepper plant. Then I looked at the name and I couldn’t pass it up. If you want a year’s supply of jalapeño peppers, wouldn’t you buy a plant named Mucho Nacho? I think you would.
My dad is growing a different variety of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia “Hidcote”) than I am growing and it smells delicious. The stems are long and easy to harvest whereas mine are stumpy and not easy to bunch together. Plus my lavender doesn’t smell as good. So I harvest my dad’s and dry it out. I use a twist tie to gather a small bunch and cut! Hang it upside down until it dries out. Then you can separate the lavender flowers from the stems. I bottled mine into an old spice jar. I opened the top and put it into my linen pantry.
Our three blueberry plants are two years old now. Yesterday the baby and I went out into the garden and the green blueberries had turned a deep blue color. Ready for picking! I gave a blueberry to my daughter. This is her first whole blueberry (I made her some pureed blueberries when she was younger). I don’t tend to buy blueberries because blueberries are not our favorite fruit.
My daughter tasted her first blueberry from the garden… in the garden… and immediately said, “Mo” (her word for more). She ate a dozen right away before we came back inside to grab a colander to collect more. This is the reason why I garden. Fresh, straight from the garden food for my family.
The variety of blueberries I am growing is called Southmoon. These plants can get 6 feet tall and have been doing extremely well in our garden. These plants are so low maintenance that I usually forget about them until one day they are full of blueberries ready to pick. Occasionally I will throw some coffee grounds or Azalea fertilizer to give a boost of acid in the soil on them but other than that I just leave them alone.
East Sac finally has its own farmer’s market! Ever since moving here two years ago I have always felt that our neighborhood needs its own market. Now it is finally here. I walked to the debut farmer’s market yesterday. The market is much, much smaller than the Sunday Sacramento farmer’s market but it was lovely. There were fruit, vegetable, fish, honey, pasta, bread, mushroom, flower and a juice stand. The only thing missing for me was a coffee stand and egg stand but I am sure they are to come. There were probably only 10 tents so it is quite small but pretty much has everything you want. Also everything was LOCAL.This is such a great contribution to our community!
Here are the market details:
Year round on Saturday mornings 8:00 am-1:00 pm at 35th Street and Park Way in McKinley Park next to the Shepard Garden and Art Center.
We put all of our veggies from the farmer’s market (minus the goat’s milk) to make a birthday basket for a 1 year old. What better way to celebrate a baby’s first birthday other than to give organic, fresh fruit and veggies?
Kale plant falling over heavy with seed pods
Look at how tall the plant is!
I planted this six Italian Lacinato kale plants last year and they grew into incredible kale trees, providing me kale all year long. I was surprised how long the growing season of these plants were and they seemed to get even stronger during the winter months. I left two of my best plants up to save seed. It took forever for the seeds to finally dry out but this week I went into the yard and I noticed that some of the pods were dry enough to harvest! I was contemplating just tearing out the plants because they were falling over into my other garden bed but I am glad I waiting because now I have hundreds (probably thousands) of seed. Also these were my two healthiest and strongest plants. They even combated an infestation of aphids at one point.
This year’s kale plant
A few dates:
Kale from seed: February 13, 2013
Kale sprouted: February 17, 2014
Kale transplanted outside: March 16, 2014
Kale harvest dates: May 2013-February 2014
Dates for seeds to form and dry: February 2014-May 2014
When saving small seeds like kale it is best to work in a box or a bag in order to catch the seeds. When fully dry the seed pods can spring open spraying seeds in all directions. Releasing the seeds from their pods is deeply therapeutic work! It reminds me of my childhood when I would search my father’s garden for poppy seeds ready to burst open. Such simple childhood entertainment!
I love my ornamental grasses in my front yard. They provide me with constant movement from my front window. When I look across the street to the typical lawn, I am deeply reassured of our decision to get rid of our grass. These grasses are beautiful at all times of year. They sway back and forth in the wind and even look beautiful when they turn brown. I look outside my window and know my yard is full of life. Plus I get the added satisfaction of knowing that I only have to tend to these plants a few times a year whereas my neighbors are out mowing their lawns every week!
So it pained me the other day to have to give them a hair cut. As you can see from the pictures that the seed buds are starting to form and although these grasses are beautiful, I learned from last year that if you let them seed you get new plants growing everywhere in your yard. Time for a hair cut.
Don’t worry, these grow back super fast. The neighborhood cat came to check on my work this morning. She likes to hid in the grasses so I am sure she was upset that her afternoon nap spot was taken. She will have her hiding space back in no time. Also another good sign were the dozens of ladybugs I found hiding in the base of each plant.
One principle of permaculture that I am trying to follow is, “Produce no Waste.” Christopher Shein writes in The Vegetable Gardener’s Guild to Permachulture,
One of the great things about a permaculture garden is that there isn’t any waste. Instead, we find ways to re-use the leftovers from our gardening efforts.
One way we do this is by using the “chop and drop” method of permaculture. This means that when you are trimming bushes, trees or other foliage in your yard you simply chop up and drop the clippings straight onto the ground. Think of it as the lazy woman’s form of gardening. The trimmings will decompose and give back to the health of the soil.
Back to the haircut.
Let’s say I was super organized. Then I would have cut my grasses back before the seed heads started forming. This way I could ensure that no new plants would be springing up all over my garden. No seeds, no new plants. Chop and drop would have been perfect for these grasses as they would have provided a good layer of mulch to my garden.
But I am not that organized. The seeds are already there. I could also put the trimmings into the compost. The heat from the compost should kill the seeds. My compost does get hot. There is often steam coming out. So in theory this should work. By putting the grass clippings back in the compost I would be following proper permaculture principles. However, I am not that confident yet in my ability to kill these seeds. And I also know I don’t have time to be pulling up these grasses all over my garden which is what I had to do last time around. So into the green waste bin they shall go.
Maybe next time we are ready for a haircut I will get my timing straight…
Way back in the cold days of January, I planted some beet seeds in six packs. I placed these by my sunniest window and waited. I planted on the 17th of January and the beets sprouted on the 22nd, a pretty quick germination time if you ask me. They stayed indoors for a few weeks and on February 12, I transplanted the Detroit Red Beets in my raised bed in the front yard. Last week I noticed that some were ready to harvest. I picked three of the largest looking ones, almost 3 pounds of beets! I washed, peeled, sliced and threw them onto a baking sheet with a glug of olive oil, a little salt and pepper. I roasted them in a 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes. Nothing beats eating freshly picked and roasted beets!
I also planted directly in the ground Early Wonder Beets and Bull’s Blood Beets but I am still waiting to harvest those. Also, a side note about my beets. The leaves are tall and lush and almost look like chard. I noticed wasps flying around my beets and went to check it out. There were brown spots indicative of a leaf miner. I have noticed these trail like spots on my vegetable leaves before but I have never actually seen the culprit. When I looked closer, I could see little larva squirming inside the leaf. Yuck! My instinct was to squish each one I found but then I remembered there would be no more food for the wasps. I decided the wasps could do the dirty work and benefit my garden at the same time. Free pest control!
No party can go without party favors! To go along with our birthday theme for the babies I made thank you seed packets and a make-your-own-party-favor station. I used various flower seeds to fill the packets and printable labels for the thank you note. I really liked the look of these scalloped labels and it was super easy to download their templates online. I topped off the thank you seed packets with red and white ribbon and jute to tie into our red and white check and burlap theme.
On the day of the party, we set long reclaimed pieces of wood onto wine barrels. We bought straw bales for the children to sit around the make-shift table (the straw will have a dual purpose of serving for mulch in the garden). Children gathered to paint terra cotta pots with outdoor paint. When children were ready to go home and the paint was dry, we gave each child their pot in a strawberry basket and put their seed packet inside so they could plant their flower seeds at home.
For the children’s birthday party, my sister came up with this idea for a height chart for one of the children’s activities. She put up an old piece of cardboard on the wall. Her good friend is an amazing artist and frequently does mural work for children so we asked her if she could be our muralist (as well as our face painter for our party!). My sister researched heights of various flowers and our artist beautifully painted the flowers on the cardboard the morning of the party. The flowers from biggest to smallest were: Sunflower, Rose, Dahlia, and Daisy. My sister also cut out little leaves out of paper and wrote the names of the children attending the party so that they could stick their names next to their corresponding heights.
Now my sister and I always go a little overboard with the food at parties. But in our defense we were expecting 75 people to attend this party and we didn’t want anyone to go hungry.
Let’s do the rundown:
Assorted cheese platter with nuts and bread
Chips, beans and salsa
Hummus and Veggie Sticks
Andy Spark’s Orzo Salad
Garden Green Salad
Chinese Chicken Salad
Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Beet and Goat Cheese Tarts
Roast Beef and Turkey Sandwiches
Karaage (Japanese Chicken)
Turkey Meatballs with Sesame-Garlic Sauce
Garden Scene Italian White Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Pineapple Coffee Cake
Fudgey Saucepan Brownies
Lemon Pound Cake
Hay Bales (Rice Krispy Treats)
We tried to have as many ingredients from our gardens as possible so we included lettuces, kale, peas, beets and basil from the garden. The entire menu was made from scratch. Many are recipes passed down from our grandmother.
Now for some photos: