East Sac Edible


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We are just on a break…

Finally some rain!

Finally some rain!

My garden and I have taken a little break from each other. After the hustle of the height of summer, I needed a little time away. The weather changed perfectly this week to provide some cozy time inside. Last week, we had our first “real” rain in longer than I can remember. You know you are in a real drought when you have a 16 month old and she has never seen rain fall from the sky before.

Deconstructed compost bins

Deconstructed compost bins

The new open air compost pile. It looks so nice because there is an obscene amount of coffee grounds thrown on top!

The new open air compost pile. It looks so nice because there is an obscene amount of coffee grounds thrown on top!

The garden seems to be happy with the rain. In Sacramento, the summer season really seems to extend quite a long time. Last year I was still harvesting tomatoes in November! This year I think I will take down the tomatoes earlier though to get my compost piles ready. Yesterday I pulled apart both compost bins and made one huge open air pile. I like doing this in the fall so that I can easily turn the pile and things seem to decompose much faster this way. Plus I don’t have room for all of my old summer plants in the bins so a huge open pile is the way to go.

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Synchronized Trombetta di Albenga squash!

Synchronized Trombetta di Albenga squash!

There is still plenty to harvest. Basil, peppers, squash, kale, and tomatoes are still coming in. I planted some fall seeds directly into the ground although I still have not fully committed to my fall garden yet. I am feeling a bit tired from gardening so I might take this season off just to plant cover crops, build up my compost piles and work on soil fertility. Sometimes the garden needs a break from me too.

Corn was replaced with some fall seeds

Corn was replaced with some fall seeds

Don’t worry though… I am sure we will reconcile after we both have our space.

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Children’s Garden Play Space

One question I got from many visitors on the garden tour was, “What is this for?”

DSC_2834I think a lot of people thought it was so sort of shade structure for my plants. Well it is a shade structure but it isn’t for plants. It is for children! My back yard doesn’t have very much shade. Actually it has none. There are no big trees on my property or overhang from my neighbors. My daughter is loving being outside but I did want her to have a shady place she could retreat to if the sun was just too much. So I made this tent for her. It was the simplest design and very easy to make. If you want to make your own check out the instructions for your very own DIY A-frame tent. Actually this design is so simple that I might make a few more to fit over my garden beds to shade new seedlings! The frame collapses very easily because there are no nails or screws so it would work nicely in my garden since I don’t have a lot of storage space.

20140912_094224After observing my daughter in the garden, I have noticed that she loves picking up small things like the chive heads, flowers, rocks and especially the marbles in the bee bath. I am pretty lucky that my daughter doesn’t try to put too much in her mouth but I don’t want her to be playing with marbles just yet. Instead I set up her very own play space so she can freely play while I garden without me needing to hover over her.

I had a bunch of thrift store “sand toys” that I had bought for my niece when we go down to the playground. They include Jello mold tins, bundt tins, measuring cups and kitchen spoons. (Side note: It is amazing how “real” materials can offer children a different kind of play. First of all the sandbox at the park is filled with broken plastic sand toys which are dangerous and unattractive. My alternative of thrift store finds gets much more attraction from the neighborhood children. Also my niece and I picked out every item and discussed whether it would be a good toy. I had to ask her guiding questions like, “What materials would be safest in the sandbox, especially if there are babies?” and “How many of these tins should we get to make sure we bring enough to share?” She was completely part of the process which made the “toys” even more special to her.)

DSC_2890 I reused the sand toys in the backyard space. I added various rocks, decorative balls made from natural materials, dried bean shells, and dried flowers. I also planted some herbs and flowers around the area so she can freely pick. I want to move all these materials into a more permanent space by the tent, maybe a dirt or mulch pit for her to play in but the sprinklers would be a problem. I am still trying to figure the best placement for these spaces! I am really inspired by this space so I hope to create something like this over time with my daughter so we can spend time together in the garden.DSC_2891 DSC_2892 DSC_2893 DSC_2894

 


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Play Kitchen Revamp

Even though this blog is mainly about gardening, one reason why I grow my own food and cook at home is so my daughter has first hand knowledge about where her food comes from. My daughter already loves going into the garden. She particularly loves the chive flowers and picking strawberries. Inside the house I have been working on a play area for her which allows for her to play out some of our everyday adventures in the garden and kitchen. So bare with me… this post is slightly indirectly about gardening. This is mainly going to be about kitchen play.

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A few months ago I was lucky enough to score this Plan Toys play kitchen off of freecycle. Yup, that’s right folks… I got this thing completely for free. It definitely was dirty and even came with a few spiders. The wood was a little warped in some places from being left outside on a porch. The lady that gave it to me said her sons got a few good years of playing with it but she just didn’t have the energy to redo it. DSC_1860 DSC_1861

I first cleaned it up a bit just with some wet wipes. I took apart the entire thing and I sanded down some of the wood. I used Amy Howard’s Chalk Paint to give it a new face lift. I used Ballet White for the trim and doors and Lime Lime for the face. At first I tried to paint around the dials to keep the detail work but in the end I didn’t like how the orange clashed with the green. Also I wanted a streamlined look. DSC_2689DSC_2686I did several coats of each color to get a good finish. I also did some touch up paint in some areas since it got a bit dinged up being in the high foot traffic area of the garage. The top part of the kitchen had a shelf and a rack but some screws were missing and I decided to go without the shelf since I liked the look better.DSC_2690

After the few coats of paint I used Amy Howard’s Antique Wax to finish the piece. The wax will help protect the paint and will hopefully be a bit water resistant as well. I just lightly painted the wax on with a brush, let it dry for about 30 minutes and then buffed it with a clean old cotton t-shirt.DSC_2692 DSC_2693

I also had to fix the doors. There is an oven on one side and a refrigerator on the other. The kitchen came with only two plastic dowels to hold the door in place which meant that one door wasn’t attached at all. My solution was a 45 cent one. I got a 1/4 inch dowel from the hardware store, cut it to match the length of the plastic one. However, the width of the dowel was too big so I spent time striping the dowel down with a rasp (carefully as to not rasp my fingers) and then sanding it until it fit.DSC_2809

The inside shelving of the kitchen was water damaged, warped and overall pretty gross. I decided I didn’t want to paint it so I opted for removable wall paper. I wanted something that would pop from the inside but nothing too crazy. I ended up ordering this Tribal Chevron wall paper. It was a bit pricey but I justified the cost because I got the kitchen for free. Did I mention that it was free?

DSC_2811 Over the past several months I have been collecting some kitchen items for my daughter to use while I worked on the kitchen itself. We went to thrift shops and found some wooden bowls, and awesome measuring cups that she can pretend are saucepans. We also went “shopping” in our own home and found a teak container to hold cooking utensils and a jar full of wine corks. I found a sweet Etsy shop called Gems from Before where I bought some wooden bowls, plates, egg holders, wooden acorns, crab apples and eggs. Before I introduced the play kitchen, my daughter used a wine crate as her cooking surface and spent a lot of time transferring the acorns from one bowl to another with the wooden spoon.

DSC_2812 DSC_2814 DSC_2813The only thing left to do is to replace the burners so I have been on the look out for coasters or trivets that would work in the space. Over the next several months we will continue to transform the space around the kitchen. I am thinking of putting in a mirror and hooks along the wall to add some aprons and dress up materials. Also I will be on the look out for some more natural materials to add to the space like buckeyes for her pretend cooking. Overall I love how this project turned out and I am glad a simple piece of furniture will get many more years of play!DSC_2901 DSC_2902 DSC_2904

 


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Drying Herbs: Thyme and Oregano

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Herbs are one of the easiest plants you can grow especially in small spaces. Once plants are established you can pick from them when you need small amounts. I much prefer cutting herbs from my garden than buying a bunch from the store only to use a small portion. Also store-bought herbs are expensive. Picking herbs right before using offers the freshest taste as well as smell.
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One of my favorite herbs is thyme. I love picking fresh thyme because it smells so delicious. Currently I have about 6 thyme plants around my garden. I have tried to grow thyme from seed without much luck. I have also grown thyme from cuttings from my dad’s plant. I just took some cuttings, put them in water for a few days until I started to see little roots then stuck them in some pots. This year I have bought a few established plants from the nursery because my seed starts did not transplant well. DSC_2893

Today I also picked some oregano to dry. I have two main oregano plants. One has been established in my herb bed for two years now. The other I started by taking some cuttings off the first plant and sticking them in the ground. This plant has done amazingly well and for little to no work! Two plants for the price of one! DSC_2894I have tied up the oregano and thyme bunches with ribbon to dry. I usually dry my herbs inside because I like smelling them as I walk by. Hang them up for a few weeks and then you can separate the leaves from the stalks to put in spice jars. This is an extremely economical way of having spices and much cheaper than buying dried spices from the store.

 


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Liriope

During the Edible Garden Tour, one question that I got a lot was what is this plant?DSC_2882

Well I knew it started with an L-sound and it had something like a “rope” in the name but I couldn’t quite remember. By the end of the day we had about 8 different pronunciations. I had to look back in my garden notes to find the correct spelling and pronunciation. This plant is Liriope. I have the variegated clumping type along the walkways of my garden.DSC_2883

One reason why I didn’t know the name was because my landscaper put it in and I don’t pay much attention to plants that don’t give me food. I do know that it is extremely drought tolerant and does well in the shade of my house as well as in the full hot Sacramento sun. Since we landscaped, I have barely paid attention to them and they don’t seem to be bothered by my neglect. They even decided to bloom bright violet flowers for the Edible Garden tour for all the people to ooh and ahh over.  So if you want a nice plant that you don’t have to worry about I suggest “Le-rope” (my suggested pronunciation… which was probably THE WORST out of all the suggestions of the day)… or “Liriope.”


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Day After the Tour Harvest

This morning I went into the garden to do some major harvesting. The week before the East Sac Edible Gardens Tour I slowed my harvesting so that visitors to my house would see what some of the vegetables looked like. This meant that I had an abundance of peppers, basil and squashes that were ready to be harvested this morning. Take a look at today’s haul! DSC_2878 DSC_2879 DSC_2880You are looking at about a pound of tomatoes, 2 pounds of basil, 8 pounds of peppers, and 3 and 1/2 pounds of Trombetta squash. Guess I will be busy today making pesto and pickled Jalapeños!

 


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A Great Day for Gardens and Charity: Edible Garden Tour

DSC_2835Despite the extremely hot weather yesterday, we had a great time hosting our garden as part of the Edible Garden Tour. Our garden was open from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm and we were the 5th house out of 6 on the tour. The day before there was a flurry of activity at my house to prepare. Each house on the tour was paired with a local business to embellish the gardens such as a florist, or garden shops. Our sponsored business is a store called Haus which is a home decor and gift shop. On Friday, their team brought over pumpkins and lanterns for an autumnal theme on the front porch. They also staged my back patio table with table settings and hung garden themed art along my side walkway. My most favorite addition was the Welcome to East Sacramento sign that they hung on my back fence.DSC_2839 DSC_2840DSC_2828 DSC_2830 DSC_2831 DSC_2832 DSC_2836 DSC_2838

The day before the tour I worked on some labels for my plants. I thought about how I wanted to label my plants for a long time and finally came up with a solution. Plant stake labels requires the viewer to crouch down low to read the label and I wanted labels to be closer to eye level if they could. I found these plain wooden tags at a craft store. Because I was unsure how the pen would hold up on the wood, I also got smaller tags on which to write the varieties of plants and then taped them together. These labels I hung from the plants. If plants were closer to ground level, I had a huge pack of leftover drip line stakes that I used to clothes pin my labels.

I tried to write the different varieties of plants on my labels because gardeners should know what varieties do well in the East Sac area. If they are looking at my squash and think it is doing great in our climate then they should also know the variety. Also I tried to give some information on the labels to inform my guests as to why I might be keeping a dying looking plant up in my landscape. For drying beans, I explained that I was saving seeds. I think the labels really added to the experience of the guests and brought their attention to plants that may be providing me food but currently had no evidence of food such as my Apple trees, blueberry bushes or pineapple guavas.
DSC_2827DSC_2842DSC_2874DSC_2870DSC_2871DSC_2873Also on Friday I set up a harvest table, displaying some of my harvest. I included some of the squashes that I have picked, onions, garlic, peppers dried from last year, seeds and some of my canned and pickled goods. The Monster Squash made an appearance on the table and was a hit with the guests!

DSC_2846We were up bright and early on Saturday morning (4:30 am!) to put the last finishing touches in the garden and sweep the pathways. The Soroptimist ladies arrived to set up their table, the Master Gardener came early to tour the garden so they would be able to answer guests’ questions and Bill, the trumpet player from Sacramento Symphonic Winds set up his area. DSC_2844 DSC_2875DSC_2845 DSC_2848

Hundreds of people walked through my garden yesterday and I had a great time talking to everyone. I met some neighbors who are also growing their own food and it is inspiring to hear what everyone else was trying in the neighborhood (one man I talked to said he was trying to grow saffron in East Sac!). I think I may have met some new best friends yesterday (ok ok… gardening best friends!).

Here were some common questions about my garden with links to posts:

If I talked to you during the tour and you are local, feel free to contact me for seed swaps, plants, cuttings, or harvest trades! I really enjoyed talking to everyone! Thanks for coming out and bearing the heat! It was a great day for gardeners and for charity too!

Also I got to sneak away for a little bit during the middle of the tour to check out two of the houses near me. I visited houses #4 and #6 on the tour and snapped a few pictures. Here are a few from Garden #4: Grandma’s Secret Cottage Garden.DSC_2854 DSC_2855 DSC_2856 DSC_2857 DSC_2858 DSC_2861 DSC_2862

And here are a few photos from Garden #6: The Whimsical Garden. This garden had a complete food forest growing in the front yard but I failed to take a picture.DSC_2852 DSC_2853Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

 

 


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Saving Seed: Calypso Drying Beans

I planted a few Calypso beans this year for drying. The Calypso bean has black and white markings with a contrasting dot so it is also called the Yin Yang bean or the Orca bean. I planted these bush beans straight into the ground back in May. This is the first time I have planted these so I really only did a few for a test run. I only had four plants that survived so it really isn’t enough for much of anything but I can always throw them into a soup or save them to plant next year. I let the bean plant completely die (in the ground!) and let the beans dry out on the plants. It is hot in Sacramento so this works really well but if you live in a climate where you can’t let them dry completely on the plant you can always pull up the plant and put it in a dry place to finish drying. Opening bean pods is always like unwrapping a gift especially when you have such interesting and beautiful beans as Calypso. Next year I am going to plan a little better to get many, many more of these plants in the ground!DSC_2762 DSC_2763 DSC_2766 DSC_2767 DSC_2760


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My Garden Live: Good Day Sacramento

This morning my garden went live with Courtney Dempsey on Channel 31 to promote the Edible Garden Tour and water wise gardening. Good Day Sacramento is a live local morning program. The crew showed up around 8:45 am and left around 10:00 am all for 5 minutes of television! Susann of the Soroptimist International of Sacramento, which is putting on the Edible Garden Tour for charity, spoke to Courtney about some of my water wise garden techniques. Also my monster Trombetta Squash stole the show if I may say so myself. The Good Day team was really fun to work with and Courtney was really enthusiastic! At the very bottom of this post there is a link to the segment if you want to see the video for yourself.

Does this mean my garden is famous even if it only got 5 minutes of fame?

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Here is a link to the video: Edible Gardens « Good Day Sacramento.


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Lady Bug Larvae and House!

I was in Bernal Heights, San Francisco the other day and stopped into a sweet little succulent shop on Cortland Avenue, called Succulence. Now I am not a huge fan of succulents even though they are the perfect drought tolerant plants. They just don’t float my boat and I’d rather plant something I can eat. However, I can’t avoid going in gardening stores. This store is really lovely with lots of modern trinkets for the garden and all the supplies for succulents you would ever need. If you are in the neighborhood, I would recommend checking out this shop then walk down the street to the Sandbox Bakery for a coffee and out-of-this-world pastries (white cheddar, mushroom and onion stuffed croissant… yes please!).

DSC_2756At Succulence, I bought this little Lady-Bird House made by Wild on Wildlife. This is a little house that the ladybugs can shelter. The directions state that ladybugs often hibernate in clusters and to put some leaves or corrugated carton rolls inside for them to nest. There is a small hole in the back so you can nail it to a fence but I think I am going to put it into my first garden bed where I have seen lots of ladybugs and larvae.

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After my ladybug release several weeks ago, I have been thinking about the practice of buying ladybugs. Of course I want to naturally attract ladybugs to my garden and I felt a bit guilty for buying them. First of all I really don’t know anything about where these ladybugs come from or how sustainable the practice of harvesting tons of ladybugs for home garden use is. But I bought them so I want to encourage them to stay. Hopefully the little Lady-Bird House will help.

Since releasing the ladybugs, lots of adults have flown away but many have stayed due to my large number of juicy aphids. I have already seen ladybug eggs under my apple tree leaves. I have also noticed lots of larvae on my tomatillo plants. Currently, the tomatillo plant has lots of flowers blooming so I think the ladybugs like the pollen on this plant. Additionally there is an aphid ridden cucumber plant meandering among the tomatillo so there is lots of ladybug food.

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I think that under the tomatillo plant will be the location of the new Lady-Bird House. I have noticed that ladybugs really like to sit on top of the Mulberry sticks I use for trellising some plants. I am not sure if they like the dew that collects on them in the morning but I think I will add a few of these sticks into their house along with some leaves and cardboard.