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Blooming-Nov

• African daisies
• Calendula
• Ivy geranium
• Mexican Sage
• Lantana
• Society garlic

Harvesting-Nov

• Parsley
• Onion and garlic greens
• Thyme
• Garlic bulbs

Plant winter greens now, the ugly way!

Yesterday I heard that a “bit of rain was coming” and I hurried to get some edible greens seeds planted. It’s mid-November in our coastal garden and if we get some rain, I’ll have some nice greens to add to our winter salads come late January.

Seeds of Arugula seeds are tiny.

Seeds of Arugula seeds are tiny.

As most of you have heard, we’ve had a drought in California and I’ve had to cut back on planting edibles. We have been allowed limited water, so laundry, household water, and water for the animals took priority. I used to raise all our fruits and vegetables but now am using just a few of my raised beds for edibles plants. Yesterday, I planted arugula, spinach, and Komatsuna (tendergreen mustard spinach). These are fast-growing, tasty bitter greens.

I prepared the bed for winter greens by just “raking in” some home-made compost. Nothing fancy. I also sprinkled the soil (before planting) with water to be sure it was moist. I used seeds I’d saved from last spring. They are tiny seeds so they need to be planted near the surface of the soil. The “rule of thumb” is the amount of dirt to cover the seeds should be equal to the size of the seed. When planting tiny seeds gardeners must either put dirt though a sieve or do it the lazy way, like I do, and sprinkle a bit of potting soil over them.

Vegetable box with cardboard covering newly planted greens.

Vegetable box with cardboard covering newly planted greens.

Now comes the “ugly” part. Because there is an issue in Cambria with water usage and keeping the soil moist, I tore up a few cardboard boxes, mostly recycled “Amazon boxes”, wet the pieces with the hose, and placed them on top of the freshly planted seeds. Now, those of you who know me know that I’m a bit of a “neatnik”. I think that even vegetable beds should be kept tidy and with a few flowers mixed in to make them pretty. But I’m willing for the freshly planted bed to look ugly for a week, covered with cardboard, rather than struggling to keep the seeds moist. I tell myself “It’s just for a couple of weeks”. When the seeds have sprouted, I’ll remove the cardboard on an overcast day, so they don’t get sunburned, and hope the upcoming rain will spur them on.

The seeds of greens are, this morning, being moistened with light rain. They are protected under cardboard. In a few days, I’ll check on them by lifting up a corner of the flattened “recycled Amazon boxes”. Magic!

 

Fall clean-up the easy way

Liquidamber tree turning red. Falling leaves can be left on ground to compost and feed tree in the spring.

Liquidamber tree turning red. Falling leaves can be left on ground to compost and feed tree in the spring.

Winter is approaching and it’s time to do our “fall clean-up” in the out-of-doors. This year I’m taking the easy route, changing some of my habits, and substituting some of the standard clean-up tasks for easier ones. Kinder to the back and more enjoyable.

We’ve been hand-watering our ½ acre to conserve water. This is time-consuming. Most of you who read my blog know that Cambria, as well as most of California has been experiencing a drought. I can let up on watering now as the days are shorter and the air moister, requiring little watering except for plants living in pots. If you have an automatic watering system be sure you change the time of day for watering and the number of times per week it needs to be in action.

Poppy and calendula seeds can be left on plant to reseed.

Poppy and calendula seeds can be left on plant to reseed.

Annual flowers are dying back or have already “bit the dust”.  Annuals come to the end of their lives and go to seed in the fall. Let annuals settle into their own pattern of survival. If you want them to reseed themselves, let them dry and scatter their own seeds. Plants such as poppies, calendula, sweet peas, nasturtiums, and alyssum are self-sowing. You’ll enjoy newly sprouted plants as soon as rains moisten the earth.

I’m letting Mother Nature do my work for me this year. Trust the old girl to break down leaves and create food for trees and shrubs. No need to be fastidious and remove every fallen leaf. After all, your garden is “out of doors”. Rake leaves of deciduous trees and put them over the roots of shrubs and trees. Or, make a pile in an inconspicuous place and let nature do its work. You’ll have compost in the spring.

I’m trying something different in my vegetable boxes this year. I usually fill the empty boxes with dry, dead leaves from the apple and pear trees, and let it compost over the winter. Then dig it into the soil. This year I’m layering the beds with a single layer of cardboard first, then putting the dead and dry leaves on top of it. Cardboard adds carbon to compost. This layering of compostable materials is sometimes called “lasagna gardening”. Sow bugs and worms will eat it over the winter and the soil will be enriched. Magically, I’ve fertilized without lifting a bag. Just remove any material that might not have broken down and the bed is ready to plant.

Cut off spent blossoms on Viburnum "snowball" or wait until winter and prune back branches.

Cut off spent blossoms on Viburnum “snowball” or wait until winter and prune back branches.

I’m waiting to cut back hydrangeas this year. I usually remove blossoms as they fade. In winter, when new leaves begin to emerge, I prune again. This year, I’m leaving the big “mop heads” and “lace caps“ on the plant until stems send out new leaves. I’ll be pruning and deadheading at the same time.

 

If you have a way to save time and your back on chores in the garden, please use the comment space to share. I’d like to have a few more tricks up my sleeve.

 

 

 

 

Cambria – Labor Day Weekend – Pinedorado

Clydesdale horse, raised on a nearby ranch, follow the Main Street path of the Cambria Pinedorado Parade.

Clydesdale horse, raised on a nearby ranch, follow the Main Street path of the Cambria Pinedorado Parade.

Cambria Garden Club members wear their hand-painted overalls for Pinedorado.

Cambria Garden Club members wear their hand-painted overalls for Pinedorado.

Before moving to Cambria in 2002, we would come to visit my parents each year in late summer. One of the “big” events for us was Pinedorado. Pinederado, a time-honored tradition will return to Cambria this Labor Day weekend. The 68th Annual Pinedorado Days celebration extends from September 2, through September 5, offering fun, for the whole family. Pinedorado Days has taken over Cambria on Labor Day weekend since 1949, bringing with it a parade, car and motorcycle show, barbecue, art show, kids’ games and more.

Saturday morning at the AFS-Pinedorado 25th Annual 5K Fun Run. The race starts at 7 a.m. at the Coast Union High School and follows the parade route. The entry fee is $15 and proceeds benefit the Coast Union’s American Field Service Program.

 

Handmade floats are artistic creations of Pinedorado Parade participants.

Handmade floats are artistic creations of Pinedorado Parade participants.

Joslyn Center’s Annual Waffle Breakfast. Start your morning off from 7 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 3 with a delicious breakfast featuring both regular and gluten-free waffles, pork or veggie sausage, organic strawberries and melon, and more! Tickets are available for $10 at the Joslyn Center office or the Cambria Chamber of Commerce.

 

Friend Jay ride an old classic motorcycle in Pinedorado Parade,

Friend Jay ride an old classic motorcycle in Pinedorado Parade,

The Pinedorado Parade begina at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 3. See Cambria’s artistic home-made floats  make their way along the parade’s route that winds down Main Street from East to West Villages.

After the parade, head to the Pinedorado Grounds off Main Street where the festivities continue throughout the weekend. Featuring food booths, beer & wine, carnival rides & kiddy cars, games for the kids, face painting, an art show, live music, and bar-b-que. Concessions open daily at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, September 3 through Monday, September 5.

Cambria Garden Club members sell potted plants and flowers.

Cambria Garden Club members sell potted plants and flowers.

The Cambria Garden Club, of which I am a member, will be selling hand-potted treasures and raffle tickets for handmade treasures for the home and hearth.
On Sunday, September 4, be sure to check out the 10th Annual Pinedorado Car Show. Featuring over 150 cars on display, from vintage muscle cars and motorcycles to stock cars from the early 1900s to “souped-up” street rods, car enthusiasts will love this showcase of classic cars and bikes. Located at the Veterans Hall and Cambria Drive, the car show runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more about Pinedorado, 2016, go to http://www.pinedorado.com. The Cambria Lions Club works all year to sponsor this event. It is fun and funky, and quite charming. I don’t think there is anything like it in all of California.

Labradoodles watching parade from back of car.

Labradoodles watching parade from back of car.

Tomato Extravaganza in San Luis Obispo

Come to the "Tomato Extravaganza" and plant sale on Aug. 20, 2016.

Come to the “Tomato Extravaganza” and plant sale on Aug. 20, 2016.

If you haven’t been to the “Tomato Extravaganza” in San Luis Obispo before, you’re in for a treat. A treat for the senses. You can sample “real” homegrown tomatoes and basil, learn how to grow them and take some home to enjoy.

The Master Gardeners of San Luis Obispo County are a dedicated group of men and women who are there to “get the word out” about composting, managing gardens with “IPM” integrated pest management methods, and to teach you how to be a successful gardener.

Go and have fun!

Hens eating their eggs – think again

Don nailing new ¼' hardware wire over original 2" wire to keep out birds.

Don nailing new ¼’ hardware wire over original 2″ wire to keep out birds.

When we built our chicken coop 8 years ago, it never occurred to us that wild birds would fly into the coop each day and eat the chicken pellets. Nor did we know that rats from the adjoining open space would come in the night and help themselves. We use ¼” hardware wire around the bottom 3′ and 2″ square welded wire on the top.

I really didn’t mind that towhees and sparrows were eating the chicken food, but the numbers increased over the years, probably doubling the amount of feed we use and then the jays arrived.

Our little flock of 3 produce 2-3 eggs a day and that is perfect for our small family. We don’t however, have any extra eggs at this point. Suddenly, the eggs began being pecked, sometimes eaten, shell and all. Yes, hens DO eat eggs occasionally.  We believed our hens were pecking their eggs and eating them. When this happens, the only solution is to ‘dispatch’ the hen. In other words, kill her.

For a while, we blamed it on Daisy. But alas, we saw (on camera) her leaving the nest with the egg intact. A kind reader also notified me that he saw her leave the egg whole and that there had been a jay nearby waiting.   The indignity of having those 2 delicious, lovely, golden-yolked eggs being devoured each day by those pesky jays was enough to get my husband outside with a new roll of ¼ inch wire, hammer, and staples and spend a couple of afternoons sealing up that pretty little coop. Don covered the original 2″ welded wire (too much trouble to remove) with ¼” hardware wire,

Chicken coop has been reinforced with ¼' hardware wire to keep out wild birds.

Chicken coop has been reinforced with ¼’ hardware wire to keep out wild birds.

The coop is now bird-proof. Since  building  the coop, he has had to do little maintenance over the years. But considering the problem with wild birds we’ve had, I’d recommend to anyone building a coop to spend a few extra dollars and use hardware wire or aviary wire to exclude wild birds, rats, and critters that harass your hens.

Growing, Harvesting, and Cooking Artichokes

Artichokes growing six feet high in front of chicken coop.

Artichokes growing six feet high in front of chicken coop.

It looks like a bumper crop for artichokes along the coast. Artichokes grow well in our coastal environment with just a little bit of supplemental water. Then again, I’ve seen them grow in inland vacant lots with no water at all. Artichokes are a striking perennial plant that provides produce for the table.

Globe artichokes (Cynara scolymus) are thistle-like plants with deeply lobed silvery blue-green leaves, and bear edible buds (about 3-5 inches). They are believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region where they grow wild. The plant typically grows to a height of 5 feet and blooms prolifically in good garden soil.

Artichokes soaking in salted water before rinsing.

Artichokes soaking in salted water before rinsing.

Artichoke flower buds are covered with scales and have a fleshy base, known as the “heart”, and a mass of immature florets in the center called the “choke”. These become inedible as the flower matures. If the bud is leftto bloom, it opens to a lovely thistle-like purple flower so don’t feel guilty if you don’t have a yearning for artichokes for dinner.

To grow artichokes, buy rootstock, divide roots, or start new plants from seed. Add plenty of organic matter and slow-release fertilizer to the soil when planting. Provide supplementary water to the soil during the dry season.

Cut off dead leaves with a lopper as they appear at the bottom to prevent damage to developing shoots. When the main stalk has finished producing, cut the plant to the ground, let it rest a few weeks, and then begin watering again. You’ll soon have another beautiful plant that produces unique and unusual vegetable for your dining table.

Small artichokes with leaves cut. Ready to cook.

Small artichokes with leaves cut. Ready to cook.

Cooking Artichokes

  • Harvest artichokes by cutting off artichokes below the unopened bloom. Timing is everything. Harvest before the scales are open.
  • Put artichokes in a pot of salted water in the sink. Any bugs between the scales will crawl out. Soak for about an hour and then rinse and drain.
  • Artichokes can be cooked in boiling water for about 45 min. to an hour or until tender. Serve on a plate with butter and garlic or mayonnaise.

 

Olive oil, garlic, and spices drizzled over artichokes before baking.

Olive oil, garlic, and spices drizzled over artichokes before baking.

Easy Way to Cook Small-sized Artichokes. Baking makes a delicious and pretty dish.

  • Harvest and soak in salted water for an hour. Rinse and drain.
  • Cut off ends of leaves. Cut the stem close to the bud.
  • In pan, cook 3 cloves chopped garlic in 1/2 cup of olive oil. Add Italian spice to taste. Stir.
  • Place prepared artichokes in a baking pan.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and spice.
  • Salt with sea salt to taste.
  • Put ½ cup water in bottom of baking pan.
  • Cover with aluminum foil. Take off foil for last 15 minutes
  • Bake at 350ª.

These can be served as a salad, side dish, or appetizer.

An artichoke ready to serve.

An artichoke ready to serve. Below, baking dish with small artichokes, drizzled with olive oil and garlic.

Small artichokes can be baked in baking pan.

 

Visit Cambria – Memorial Day Weekend

We’ve had perfect weather and lots going on in Cambria. Come and enjoy our “neck of the pines” for Memorial Day Weekend, 2016. We are a dog-friendly community.  You will be greeted with a smile in Cambria!

 

Heritage Day in Cambria, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend 2016 in Cambria, California. Celebrate Heritage Day.

 

 

Milkweed for Monarchs – Native or tropical?

Pink blossoms of the "Showy" milkweed, native to California.

Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) flowers.

Much of the monarchs butterflys’ food source is being destroyed by drought and spraying along roadways here in California and along the Central Coast. Gardeners want to help by planting milkweed (the host plant of the monarch) in their gardens. Before you plant milkweed seeds or seedlings, know which variety is best to feed monarchs. There are varying opinions on this subject. Native milkweed is considered invasive in some areas. But contained in our gardens, native milkweed is not likely to present an “invasion” problem.

Showy milkweed plant

Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) plant, is a native to California.

Some scientists recommend planting only native milkweed in California gardens like; Asclepias californica (California milkweed), Asclepias cordifolia (purple or heartleaf milkweed), Asclepias fascicularis (narrow-leaved milkweed), and Asclepias speciosa (showy milkweed). They believe exotic (non-native) milkweeds may cause some monarchs to loiter and avoid migrating and become infected with harmful parasites. Because non-native milkweeds are perennial and don’t die back, they tend to pass parasites on to monarchs more readily.

Monarch on milkweed bloom.

A monarch getting nectar from a “showy” milkweed flower.

The loveliest of the California native milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) is call ‘Showy’. Its blossoms are carnation-scented, a rosy mauve. Monarchs, however, seem to prefer “showy’s” homelier stepsister, the narrow-leafed milkweed (fascicularis). Hide its rather plain looks behind native irises or shrubs in your garden.

If you have planted a non-native species of perennial milkweed and REALLY want to keep it, cut it to the ground several times a year. This keeps it healthy and helps to kill the parasites that infect the monarch. “Going native”, of course, is always safer.

For information and pictures of the California milkweed, go the Xeres website. You’ll be inspired!

Gardening in February along the Central Coast

Pink coral flower of Passiflora jamesonii.

Passion flower ‘Coral Seas’. Attractive to hummingbirds.

February is here and it’s time to begin gardening along the coast. We’ve had a bit of welcome rain and I can’t stop digging around in that blessed moist earth, planting some of my favorites. Don’t be afraid to plant in the month of February near the ocean, inland you must wait until all chances of frost are over. Until then, you might satisfy yourself by putting in some bare root roses or fruit trees that will not be harmed by late frost.

Along the coast it’s full speed ahead! As I browse through the nursery, I can’t resist a lovely Cecile Brunner rose. I lost a potato vine; one that nearly covered our chicken coop and run. I’m going to replace it with a Brunner rose. I have found the Cecile Brunner climbing rose to be nearly indestructable. By the way, Cecille Brunner was a woman. It can survive nearly any condition as long as you are up to keeping it contained so it doesn’t crawl through the shakes of your house and join you for dinner.

I also bought two Passion Flower vines, Passiflora ‘Coral Seas” (jamesonii), for the back fence. I’ve never gotten any vine to survive on that fence due to gophers and lack of water but I don’t want to give up. We have a passion flower along our fence out on the road and while the deer stop to nibble it occasionally, it grows beautifully along the top with lovely striking flowers that bloom nearly year-around. We’ll give it a try along the back fence. Learning from our previous lesson, the vines are being planted in “gopher baskets” (or some kind of pest management) this time around. For ideas see Pest Control Tips. And of course, I’m replacing some lavender plants. Six tiny plants to fill in where others that have died. The trouble with lavender is, it only “lives well” for about six years, then declines. I love lavender, though, it’s drought-tolerant and will only need a bit of water the first summer.

February along the central coast means that some chores that are done now will save you time later. Keep after those pesky weeds. They’re easy to pull when small and while the soil is moist. Prune hydrangeas and fuchsias before they produce new leaves.

Pink coral passion vine need little water once established .

Passion Vine, Pasiflora ‘Coral Seas” (jamesonii). Droughr-tolerent, fast growing. Good on fences.

Fertilize plants with slow release fertilizers like bonemeal, cottonseed meal, and well-composted manure. Save the chemical fertilizers for later if you must. Feeding plants too heavily, too early, may shock them into leafing out or flowering before “it is their time”. Fruit trees, however, appreciate a feeding with a balanced commercial fertilizer (like 12-12-12). Do not feed Mediterranean plants. They are not hungry! Cut back perennial grasses as they die down. Shear down to about 4″ to 6″ or dig up and divide.

You can plant now along the coast and in some inland areas. Prepare your soil, then put in seeds of beets, carrots, lettuce, and snow peas. You can plant seeds of parsley, leek, turnips, garlic, shallots, and bulb onion sets.

You can begin planting spring bulbs in February. Calla lilys, cannas, dahlia, daylily, bearded and Dutch iris, and gladiolus are available and ready to be put out.

I’ve been rushing out to plant between our lovely light rains. I just hope it continues. Gardeners are such optimists!

To see and read about passion flowers and fruits go to R.S.Landscape Design at http://rslandscapedesign.blogspot.com/2011/04/passiflora.html.

 

 

Cambria’s Art and Wine Festival 2016

Come join us in Cambria for three days of wine tasting events.

Come join us in Cambria for three days of wine tasting events.

 

I know some of you come to my Central Coast Gardening blog to see what events are coming up in Cambria. Just letting you know that Cambria’s Art and Wine Festival is happening this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, January 29 – 31 in our little “Village by the Sea”.

 

For $30 you will be able to stroll and taste all three days and participate in three main pours in the Veterans Memorial Building, Cambria’s Center for the Arts, as well as the Saturday art show and Artist’s Faire. Sound like a nice weekend? What an excuse to come and enjoy Cambria.

 

While you’re here, drive around and take a look at the green hills and gardens.  Find out more about this upcoming event at:

Cambria Art & Wine Festival
January 29, 30 & 31
Cambria, California
CambriaArtWine.org
http://CambriaArtWine.org