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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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. Below, baking dish with small artichokes, drizzled with olive oil and garlic.
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!
Memorial Day Weekend 2016 in Cambria, California. Celebrate Heritage Day.
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 (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.
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!
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.
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.
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
A neighbor admires a big white pumpkin.
We had a “bumper crop” of pumpkins this year. Not wanting to waste these nutritious vegetables and needing to include more vegetables in our diets, I’ve been experimenting with produce (such as the orange and white pumpkins) from the garden. I’ve come up with some great recipes (other than pumpkin pie) for both humans and dogs. But before you use pumpkin, a little preparation know-how is involved. Preparation is really quite simple and worth the effort. You’ll get many delicious meals from this beautiful vegetable.
Pumpkin halves ready for cutting into cube and roasting.
Before you comment that the pumpkin is really a fruit, squash, or a gourd, I checked it out. Using Webster’s Dictionary, the correct answer is-all of them; fruit, vegetable, squash, and gourd. Technically, all of the descriptions fit the pumpkin in some way.
Getting back to preparing the pumpkin, the easiest way to cook a pumpkin is to first wash it well. Lay the pumpkin on its side and cut it across. Scoop out the seeds. I use an ice cream scooper to do this. Lay the half-pumpkin cut side down on a piece of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350º for about an hour or until it is tender when pierced with a fork.
Bake pumpkins in the oven then scoop out contents.
Let cool a few minutes then scoop our the “meat” of the pumpkin, leaving the shell for the compost bin. Mash the pumpkin, adding a little salt and pepper and butter if you wish. It is really delicious like this; similar to baked hubbard squash. A great winter side-dish.
Another easy-to-prepare roasted pumpkin dish requires peeling it first. Now this is no easy task. You need a good, sharp, vegetable peeler. I didn’t have one. So I went looking. On Amazon, I found a peeler/julienne that I also use for zucchini spaghetti, that easily tackles this chore. It’s called Firstchefpro Ultra Sharp Dual Julienne Peeler & Vegetable Peeler, Stainless Steel. This little guy is extremely sharp and works well on any kind of squash. It take off the tough peel of a pumpkin in a jiffy, and that was what I was looking for.
Pumpkin chunks can be roasted in the oven.
After peeling the pumpkin cut into 1 – 1 ½ inch pieces. Put in bowl.
2 Tbls. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
Spread out on a foil lined cookie sheet and roast for 1 hr. at 350º.
Sprinkled with pepper and a few herbs or even cinnamon, this makes a lovely side dish. It is also easy to freeze and can be brought out and warmed as needed. You can also puree these chunks in a blender or food processor and use the puree in pie or custard.
Don’t throw those unwanted pumpkins away. They can provide yellow vegetables for you and your family year-around.
Gathering large mature leaves of Komatsuma for salad or soups.
As it turns out, tendergreen mustard spinach, also referred to as “Japanese mustard spinach” and “komatsuna”, is actually not a spinach but in the Brassica family. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale are also in the brassica family and are often called cruciferous (think crunchy) vegetables. They’re low in calories and fat and full of fiber and vitamins.
I’m a huge fan of komatsuna or Japanese mustard spinach, as well as “red” or purple komatsuna (which has a slighter “hotter” spicy taste, because it’s easy-to-grow in any garden or pot. It does not rush to go to seed. It can be planted year-around and I can harvest for months from my beds or pots, particularly in the winter. You can harvest it one leaf at a time to add to your lettuce salads.
Labradoodle “Tillie” loves greens from the garden.
Tendergreen mustard grows to maturity in less than 40 days, requires little care, can take cold weather as well as heat (although it WILL bolt in hot weather and go to seed). It’s drought tolerant and can be sown and grown year-around in mild climates.
Husband Don and I are trying to eat more vegetables. We’ve been buying and eating root vegetables from the Cambria Farmers Market. But a daily salad is a must for us so I’ve been harvesting tendergreen mustard and purple Japanese mustard, planted in the same bed and adding it to our nightly salad.
Penelope takes a bite or two of the tendergreen spinach.
Tendergreen mustard is a Japanese green that can be eaten raw or cooked. It has thick, smooth, glossy green leaves, oblong in shape. The Japanese purple mustard is widely used in Asian countries both in stir-fry and in salads and soups, adding color to your salads. Its tender leaves, as well as its flowering stems, are used raw or cooked and have a flavor between mustard greens and cabbage. It can be harvested at any stage of growth.
Tendergreen mustard (Komatsuna) can be grown in the ground or in pots, in full sun to light shade. Tendergreen mustard requires nitrogen so prepare the soil with compost and use nitrogen fertilizer as the plant matures. It prefers moisture-retentive, well-drained soil. Plant small areas in succession throughout the year to keep your supply constant.
A syrphid fly looks like a small bee and eats pollen. Its larva eat tiny sucking insects. Photo for UC IPM, Jack Kelly Clark.
Get to know beneficial insects and their larva (good bugs) that live in your garden. Become familiar with their appearance and what flowers and plants they find attractive. “Good bugs” do not eat flowers and leaves, they prey on destructive insects, considered “bad buds”, and their larvae, and they will help to keep your garden in balance without the use of insecticides.
An important beneficial insect is the syrphid fly. It resembles a bee and is sometimes called a sweat bee or hover fly. It darts about sipping nectar from garden flowers. Its larvae are important predators of thrips, mites, scales, and aphids.
Tiny parasitic wasps lay their eggs on insects in the garden. The larvae from the eggs feed on the insect, destroying it. These tiny wasps don’t sting and are very beneficial. Photo from UM extension.
Parasitic wasps comprise many species from nearly microscopic to 3/4 inches long. Parasitoids are insects that kill their hosts by laying eggs on their host. The larvae then feed on it, killing it. The braconid wasp lays eggs on tomato hornworms, as well as on, or in, the bodies of aphids, cabbage loopers, and whitefly larvae. Look closely at the hornworm on the left and you’ll find a tiny wasp emerging from eggs that are living on the worm.
A lacewing larva is sometimes called the “aphid lion”. It has a voracious appetite for aphids and soft bodied insects. Photo from UNebraska
Lacewings, tiny flying insects with white “lacy” wings, and lady beetles are two easily identified examples of beneficial insects that control “bad bugs” while in the larval stage, and to some degree in the adult stage. Lacewing larvae eat aphids, thrips, mites, mealybugs, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects. The convergent lady beetle (commonly called ladybugs) has a voracious appetite for aphids, especially in the larval stage of development. In their lifespan of about a year, ladybugs can eat 5,000 aphids. Their larvae resemble a ½ inch spiny black “alligator” and they can attack and devour aphids at a remarkable rate.
The ladybug larva looks nothing like the “lady”. He devours aphids and their larvae in astonishing quantities. He is considered very beneficial. Photo from UC.
There are many other beneficial insects, called parastoids, that prey on bugs. The minute pirate bug, spiders, fungus gnat predator, and beneficial nematodes play large parts in keeping your garden in balance. Encourage these “good guys” by planting plants that will attract them – trees, shrubs, and especially flowers.
The Minute Pirate Beetle eats small insects he finds among and on plants in the garden. He’s considered very beneficial. Photo from UC.
Plant flowers that allow easy access to nectar. Generally, the same plants that attract parasitoids will nourish lacewings and ladybugs as well. Plant sweet alyssum, cilantro flowers, yarrow, carrot, celery, chervil, dill, fennel, lovage, parsley, as well as sunflowers, marigolds, zinnia, aster, and daisies. Attract beneficial insects to your garden and perhaps they’ll stay for lunch!
For a complete list of of predator bugs, parastoids and insects they control go to the UC Davis website.