East Sac Edible

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Saving Seed: Onion

About a month ago I pulled up my onions some of which went to seed. Below is an onion flower head in May…

and this is what the same flower head looks like today. DSC_2514

I left the flower head on the patio table to dry out and honestly forgot about it. The other day I walked by and noticed lots of little onion seeds scattered on the ground letting me know I needed to take care of this. To collect the onion seed I brought the flower head inside and put it in a brown paper bag…

I shook the bag vigorously and was left with this: DSC_2519

The seeds easily popped out and I have collected another season’s worth of onion seed. I still need to collect a few more flower heads and do the same collecting process so I get some diversity of seed.DSC_2520

I also cleaned up some of the onions that had dried up to put away for storage. I think a few of them are not going to store so well so I am going to have to use them up sooner rather than later. I was very pleased with this set of onions so I am glad I have some of the seed saved. These onions did really well in poor soil and with irregular watering!DSC_2521

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Today’s Harvest: The Longest Beans and A (Mostly) Green Bounty

Coming back from vacation is always exciting if you have a garden. Plants have grown and there is always lots to harvest. The yard long beans do not disappoint! I picked the first of my Orient Wonder beans to put into a quinoa and tofu stir fry. Just two beans weighed 37 grams and one was almost 20 inches long (50 cm)! I quickly stir fried them with lots of other veggies and tofu in a bit of sesame oil. The taste was good but I think I am going to try to pick them when they are little younger. There are not a ton of beans on the plant but when you have 20 inch long beans you don’t need too many to make an adequate meal!DSC_2476

DSC_2474I have been more than impressed with my pepper plants. My mostly green harvest today was interrupted by a few red jalapeño peppers. Today I picked 1466 grams of jalapeños which is about 3 pounds!

The other week I was able to make a few more Quick Refrigerator Pickled Jalapeño. I made 5 jars so this is plenty for my monthly consumption. Today’s harvest is going to be pickled and then canned! A gardening goal of mine this year was to grow enough to can so I could enjoy pickled jalapeños all year long. I wonder how many jars I will get with my 3 pounds.DSC_2475DSC_2476





Today’s Harvest: First Basil of the Season!

DSC_2203 DSC_2201It’s finally here! Basil season! It took a little longer this year and I don’t think I am going to get as much basil as I did last year but I am so excited my kitchen counters are full of basil drying after their first rinsing. Basil is probably my most favorite plant to grow. It’s easy to grow from seed. I start basil seed under grow lights starting in February and keep sowing periodically month after month to ensure succession planting. I also broadcast some seed directly in the ground when the soil warms but my preferred method is to start basil seeds indoors.

When harvesting basil I keep a few things in mind. First of all basil is a cut and come again plant which means it will be producing all summer. The basil plant will have a main shoot up the middle and several side shoots. To create a bushier plant and encourage more growth, try to cut each growth back keeping one to two leave sets on each branch. In other words, cut the top off just above the second set of leaves from the ground. This will encourage new shoots which will give you more basil over time. I also try not to take more than a third of the plant at a time. Harvesting basil is important so do it often! Basil is quick to form flower heads so you really want to harvest often to discourage the flower heads from forming. When you return the next week to harvest more basil, your plant will be healthier and even bushier than before!

Last year I probably had about 25 basil plants around my property. This yielded me 21.01 pounds of basil. That’s a lot of basil people! What do you do with that much basil? I make pesto and freeze it in quart bags. Frozen pesto was pretty much taking over my freezer which is great considering we (and my extended family) eat it by the spoonful. I was able to harvest basil from May through November of last year so this year I am definitely getting a late start. Most of the basil plants that I put in early didn’t thrive and are already woody and flowering. The plants I put in later seem to be doing fine though so I am hoping to catch up on my pesto production. Yum!

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Planting Beans

Last year my most prolific bean was the Blue Lake Runner Bean. My niece and I built two bamboo trellises in between our pineapple guava plants. The beans took over and wrapped themselves around the guava plants as well. Here is a picture of when we first planted in April, then a picture of the beans sprouted in late April and then finally a picture in September of 2013. You can’t even see the pineapple guavas!

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I also made an 8 foot trellis to plant Scarlet Runner beans, saved year after year from my dad’s garden. These flowers of the Scarlet Runners are so beautiful and attracted many pollinators but I ate a whole lot more Blue Lake beans than Scarlet Runners. Here is a picture of the trellis which I made partially to screen the compost from view, the second picture you can see the Scarlet Runners in mid-season and then a picture of them in September on the left.

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I also planted several varieties of bush beans and staked them up using short Mulberry branches. I planted Purple Queen Bush Beans and Yellow Wax Bush Beans. I like planting bush beans because they give you a harvest earlier than the runner beans. I also tend to plant these in my raised beds so they give back to the soil. They also are a faster crop than runner beans. Bush beans tend to put out lots of beans at once and then the plant is done whereas you can harvest from runner beans all season. It is nice to have a mix in your garden. I harvested 4.21 pounds of bush beans and 15.25 pounds of runner beans in 2013.

After the 2013 bean season was over, I let the plants die on their trellises. I collected some seeds from the best specimens. Then I cut the bean plant at the base leaving the roots intact in the ground. I chopped the plants into smaller pieces and lightly dug them into the ground. Beans are soil builders. Their roots fix nitrogen into the soil which benefits following crops of heavy feeders. This is why I use the chop and drop method of cleaning up my beans. Plus it is hard to keep up with all the biomass at the end of the summer so dropping them in their place helps free up space in my compost.


This year I decided to move my Blue Lake Beans to the main 8 foot trellis since that was what we enjoyed eating the most. I planted some Scarlet Runners in the front yard because I thought they would be a beautiful addition to my front yard landscape adding color from the flowers and height. However, the beans never germinated so I wont be enjoying any Scarlet Runners this year. I also planted two more varieties of runner beans: Trionfo Violetto and Orient Wonder. I also wanted to experiment with a few beans for storage so I planted the Calypso Bush bean in the back of the yard and California Blackeye Cowpea in my raised bed. Since I am just going to wait for these to dry on the plant to collect and store the beans I tried to put them in places that were out of the way. I think some of the beans I am just getting into the ground way to late so I am hoping I will get some sort of harvest from them before it is too late! Here are a few pictures of what my beans looked like in the garden yesterday:

DSC_2116Blue Lake Runner BeansDSC_2114 Calypso Bush Beans

DSC_2121Cowpeas waiting to go in the ground


Orient Wonder Pole Yard Long Beans in the herb garden.DSC_2124 Trionfo Violetto Pole Bean climbing up a corn. The corn blew over in strong wind the other day so I am not sure how successful the bean or the corn will be.DSC_2127Trionfo Violetto climbing up Mulberry canes attached to the support cables from the power lines.

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Harvesting Onions

DSC_1751 DSC_1752 DSC_1270Way back on September 17, 2013 I planted a row of onions along the curved path in my front yard behind the salvias. Now that I think about it, that was about 9 months ago! I put these onions in as an experiment to see how well my recently de-lawned soil would handle a crop. I barely worked the soil. In fact, I just dug a small hole right were I was going to plant which was difficult to do since the soil was quite hard. I think I threw in a little compost into the hole but other than that I let them be. I barely watered them either.

The reason why I decided to plant a row straight into my landscaping was because in 2013 I planted onions in one of my garden beds. They did pretty well but I planted them so packed together that I ended up with really small onions or where two onions meshed together into one plant. The two onion heads were particularly hard to store and many times when I went to cut into it, the onion had mold in-between the two-headedness space. Onions take a really long time so I decided to move them to the outskirts of my landscaping where I wouldn’t bother them. And my results were pretty good. I had many that are just huge (soft-ball sized onions) and others that are a little smaller.

Well the last couple of weeks I have noticed a lot of those onions go to flower and a few days ago I noticed a few of the stems had finally flopped over, a sign that they are ready to be harvested. I harvested the flowering onions separately from the flopped over, non-flowering onions because flowering onions will not keep so I need to be sure to use them first.

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In 2013 my total harvest for onions was 9.31 pounds. I am letting this harvest dry out on my patio and I even have a few left in the ground that were not ready to be picked. I will weigh them after they are cleaned up, tops chopped off and ready for storage. Here is a picture of my small 2013 onion harvest.


Onions are light feeders. This means that they can get by with less fertile soil. If you have soil that you are gradually improving you can put onions in areas of your garden that is not your richest soil and still have a good yield. That is why I think onions are a great crop for first time gardeners.

Even if you have a small space or you are not sure how much work you want to put into your garden, planting onions gives you a whole lot of output for very little effort. You basically can just plant them and forget them. Plus onions are a huge benefit to your garden. Since they have such a strong scent they tend to deter a lot of insects. This means I don’t have to worry about my onions for pests plus they discourage insects on other plants as well. I haven’t had much luck starting my onions from seed so I usually get mine in seedlings but I have also grown them from bulb sets as well.

Plus did I mention they are delicious? There is a reason why most recipes start with sautéing onions as a first step. I love slowly sautéing them in olive oil and making caramelized onions to top my homemade pizzas. Yum!


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A Failed Experiment: Garlic Harvest

In September of 2013, I decided to try to make the most of my garden space. This means I decided to plant things where they probably shouldn’t go. But I am always up for an experiment. I decided to use this very small patch of dirt on the side of my house to grow garlic. Digging into this ground was almost impossible and I found lots of fun stuff like broken bottles. I dug it up as well as I could although the pitchfork kept getting stuck under the fence… that shows you how small this space really is. I stopped about half way down the fence because I couldn’t even get my pitchfork into the dirt further down the line. This definitely was dirt and not soil. I didn’t find one living thing in the dirt… not an earthworm in sight.

I put in some better soil since this dirt definitely didn’t have any nutrients in it. As you can see this part of the “garden” really doesn’t get all that much sun through the day since it is shaded by the house. Again, probably not the most brilliant place to try to plant something. DSC_0859

I decided on two varieties of garlic for no particular reason. One was Chesnok Red a hard neck variety, and the other was a no-name variety I got at my local garden store, Talini’s NurseryDSC_0861

This is what the garlic looked like on May 17, 2014. I was pretty impressed that they did this well. DSC_1601Well that is pretty much as good as it gets. This week I started pulling up the garlic that has dried leaves and is falling over. And this is what I harvested so far…DSC_1874Isn’t it the tiniest garlic you have ever seen? So basically no growth! It looks almost exactly the same size as when I planted it. Below is a picture of some garlic I put in along my fence line in much better soil and these look like your standard size garlic. DSC_1872Here they are side by side. The garlic from the side of the house is on the left and the garlic in better soil and spaced out a bit more is on the right. DSC_1875 DSC_1873So the lesson of the day is… soil matters! When you plant in unworkable, barren soil you get small, dinky plants! Well I am not going to give up on this little plot of dirt I have on the side of my house. I am thinking that if I can work up the soil by adding compost and maybe a handful of worms that this little strip of land can be used for growing shadier veg like lettuces or some herbs.


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Baby’s First Blueberries

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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.


Detroit Red Beets

DSC_1345Way 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!

DSC_1346I 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!  DSC_1349