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We are lucky to have 3 citrus trees on our property, and despite the neglect they received over the first 5 years we lived here, they continue to produce fruit. I try to prune, and shape, remove suckers and water sprouts. Last year the Navel orange tree got a severe pruning that shocked it a little but water sprouts and suckers were taking  over so I had to fight back. It’s still a battle but I like to think I’m winning. They say to snap off the water sprouts as they appear and I’m trying! Making a mental note to check the trees weekly. Just seems to be the one tree that we’re having an issue with, not sure why that is?

Right now all the trees are laden with fruit but also blossoming. I love the citrus blossom, the smell is divine and the hummingbirds love it so we get to them zipping about from flower to flower, aiding in the pollination and providing me with entertainment!  The blossoming seems a little early this year though, but that’s probably the weird weather we’ve been having here in Southern California. Really warm January with little to no rain, and temperatures touching 80 degrees!  The start of February as I mentioned has been wet so I think the poor trees are pretty confused!

I’m harvesting oranges every few days right now. This means that smaller oranges on the tree will grow bigger, and the tree will put more energy into producing more oranges. Oh and the oranges taste great! I have one every morning with my breakfast and Bob takes some to work for lunch.

Can’t wait till the grapefruit get big enough to eat.

Reasons for my vegetable garden

Opening this gardening only blog was a real incentive to get the garden going, increase the growing space, take more pics but I thought today I’d share my incentive to start the edible garden in the first place.

Back around Spring last year I had started to get interested in the green movement, going back to basics and living more simply. I subscribed to a couple of blogs and one led me to Path to Freedom. If you’ve never seen the Dervaes video below I suggest you take the 10 minutes to view it. Totally inspiring and because they live just 45 miles away I figured if they could do it, then so could I!

The main differences is the Dervaes have 4 people to tend to their garden and there is just me, but with small steps anything is possible! The hardest part is the initial change, digging over, weeding and in our case removing plastic, nails, screws, glass, rebar, and stones! After the initial part the upkeep comes in, the sowing of seeds, maintenance, watering and harvesting.

We’re vegetarian so we eat lots of vegetables, I’ve grown veggies before, albeit in a different country, so why not now? So last May I got some veggie starters and began my own Homegrown Revolution. I’ll share some pics of my first growing season last year, the changes I made in the back garden lessons learned, and plans for the future.

The great part was when others were worried about ecoli in spinach and salmonella in tomatoes I had my own growing fresh in the garden! THAT alone was more than worth all the work! It hasn’t been easy, it has been a lot of work, along with some initial expense, but I am trying to do everything as frugal and green as possible along the way. Some of those tips I will also be sharing.

It has definitely changed my outlook on fresh fruits and vegetables just in one year. Store bought tomatoes are just not the same as homegrown fresh off the vine. Lettuce tastes better homegrown, and carrots are super sweet fresh out the ground!

I think the message that rung loud and clear on the Dervaes site is that with just a trowel and seeds you CAN grow food. Anyone, anywhere can do it. Why not you? Why not now?

February Quest Update

Work on East facing strip of front garden: This project is on hold right now. After working on the area for a few hours it occurred to me that ‘if’ we do get an RV or similar vehicle that we’ve discussed previously this is the area that it would be parked! I’d been told by a friend that it was against city ordinance to park the RV on the driveway so I called the city (and checked the site online) and nope it’s perfectly fine. We just have to pave the area and we’re golden. Needless to say that area is on hold till we decide what we’re doing. I’ll still work on the plot as we need to clear the area either way no matter what we do on it, but it’s not a priority right now (not like the rest of the yard!) so I’m changing the goals to reflect this change of focus.

  • Work on sidewalk strip: This was the area I started first but it was disheartening as there are palm trees that needed removing, juniper roots and a whole lot of stones and debris. I was lucky on Thursday that a neighbor saw me out and asked if I wanted help removing the palm trees! Naturally I accepted the offer and we made good headway in the 3 hours I was out there! Pretty much since then it’s either been raining or soggy wet. The picture above is an old one from last year but you can see the highlighted area I’m talking about, and the arrows point to palms/trees we took out last week! I just need to dig over, remove weeds/grass and work my way down. Right now I have dug over from the driveway to about a foot past the mailbox. As you can see LOTS of work to do!!! I need to get out there and take some new pics really! Will do that this month for the month end round up!
  • Plant seeds for Summer crops: Planted lots of seeds, but then we had a frost so hopefully they will be ok! Planted: tomato, eggplant, herbs, pumpkin, peppers and more. I need to get a better system for keeping track! I also need to find a good seed starter trays. The ones we saw at walmart looked ok but I prefer individual cells and theirs were ones that you had to buy the coir/peat pots each time which is not me at all. But then maybe I should try them? They did smaller ones so perhaps I will give them a go? Be nice to have something that lasts season after season.
  • Get ground cover between raised beds: Not done yet. Honestly the weather has hindered this. Basically I need the ground cover cos when it rains it’s muddy (plus it’ll stop weeds) but it’s too wet most days to get out there, or I can’t rely on good weather for drop off and me hauling it round the back! *sigh* Someone tell mother nature to cooperate with my gardening schedule please!!!

As you can see the weather is hindering plans and gardening activities. What I am trying to do is get ahead with other tasks in the house/work so that once the weather dries up a little I can attack the garden with full force! At least that’s the plan! The forecast so far is 2 days sun, 2 days rain followed by 3 days sun, 3 days rain, and temperatures between 55 – 70 degrees.

These boots are made for walking…

All the rain we’ve had recently has made me go out and buy a pair of Wellies, gum boots, rain boots whatever you want to call ’em! To us they’re Wellies – Wellington Boots. I bought them at Target for $19.99 and I’ve had lots of opportunities to try them out and I love them.

They come to about mid calf level which isn’t really a good look for anyone but sooo comfortable! Plus with my chunky calves probably a good thing they don’t go any higher! Another good reason for buying them is I can use them for walking the dogs in the rain. So they pretty much have lots of uses. Good job I got them too as we have MORE rain on the way this weekend and later in the week. After a really dry and warm January this February downpour is really drowning us. At least it’s one less job as I don’t have to water the plants…

Also for some reason, now I have wellies I feel like a proper gardener, lol!

Trying new produce

Until last year I’d never cooked eggplant (aubergine to fellow Brits) and I love it, especially eggplant ‘Parmesan’ and in Indian curries. Having this blog makes me try new things with a view to growing them in my garden. Or sometimes I have the items in the garden and just need to try them, like radish greens last year. The other week I was researching how to cook collard greens and noticed that you can eat beet greens! Well when out in the garden and thinning the green tops on the beets I had to try that didn’t I? Thinning the beet tops I harvested 5oz of the greens, I washed them and grabbed a bunch (1oz), chopped them up, and threw them in a pan to saute. Mixed in some peas, and corn then served it as a side with Spaghetti.

I have to say they are delicious. Also they take on the flavors of herbs/spices quite well! I’d read that some mixed greens can be bitter so I was wary of them, but now I could eat them every week! Much nicer than radish greens too. Plus I hear they are similar to Chard which is good as I have some of that growing too. Next I plan to use them instead of lettuce in a salad!

I’m gardening on a budget. There are many reasons for this, whether economical, environmental, sustainable and just plain frugal. I was tipped off that a site called is promoting their winter sowing techniques ( which are great btw!) by offering your choice of 6 tomato seed varieties in exchange for postage! All you have to do is send in your SASE (with two first class stamps) and your choices from the tomato list and they’ll send your seeds in the mail! Full details are here on their site!

I thought what the heck I can squeeze more room for tomatoes, especially if I put some in the front garden, so I narrowed down my list and sent in my SASE. 2 weeks later I get my envelope in the mail : Here’s what I got:

That’s a seed saving brochure and 10 packets of seeds. I guess they put more in as it’s the start of the season, or they are just enablers that want me to grow more tomatoes! lol! Here’s the list of seeds they sent me:
  • Tomato – supper Sioux
  • Tomato – Celebrity
  • Tomato – Black Cherry
  • Tomato – Yellow Pear Cherry
  • Tomato – Elberta Peach (my wild card choice)
  • Tomato – Yellow Lemon
  • Tomato – Green Zebra
  • Tomato – orange banana
  • Herb – Parsley
  • Watermelon – crimson sweet

Over the moon at the different tomato varieties! I also like that they use plastic baggies. Sure they are plastic but they are reusable! I may change my seeds over to this style! Plus I can take out a few at a time, reseal and come back to them later!

Now I need to get busy sowing the seeds! Whoohooo!

Freedom Harvest Challenge

If you’re a freedom gardener and not signed up for Freedom Gardens then go do it now to join in our 2009 challenge! You can find full details here

Collectively we aim to grown 1 million pounds! Obviously January is over and most of us have our tallies for the month (mine was 10lbs 8.5oz) and eventually there will be a little widget on the site to add your totals. Together we can do it!

On a side note my goal for the year was 50lbs! Looks like I’ll definitely make that, barring any disasters!

Pest or Predator?

With gardening you see lots of insects, LOTS! I’m sure anyone who’s been out and looked at plants closely will have seen aphids, ants etc, but sometimes you come across insects that you don’t know and it’s all too easy to get cross assume they are pests and pick em off. Stop and think, is that a natural predator you are picking off? I say this because I was out in the garden last week (before the rains) and I noticed a couple of  these little things, wriggling along the beds and in my Mesclun patch.

I stopped and thought pest or predator? Took a pic, came in and researched. Thankful that I did cos they are ladybug larvae! And any gardener knows these are your best friend for fighting aphids and other nasties that suck the life out of plants.

Now you can see mine is a little different from the one above, definitely the same species though. So I did further research and found these: 7 Spotted ladybeetles

This one is definitely mine! Though there photo is better admittedly, lol! At least I know to leave these alone and let them do their thing, then grow into beautiful ladybeetles to eat all my aphids.

So stop and think: pest or predator! The same rule applies to eggs! Afterall the larvae has to come from somewhere right? Anyone who’s grown anything green will be all too familiar with eggs. From the hard round bright green pellet of a tomato horn worm to the ladybug eggs above that I saw on my lettuce last week. I wish I’d applied the rule then but I was so intent on stopping the pests I ripped the leaf off and threw it in a yard bucket. And now it’s rained. I hope the little guys are ok! The good news is according to the site:
In a one to three month period the female can lay from 200 to over 1,000 small (about 0.04 inch or 1 mm) eggs.

So hopefully the females in my garden and busy laying more eggs! Next time I see some I promise I’d leave them alone!

At least now I know one predator in the garden! Off to research some more!

It’s raining, it’s pouring….

So it’s pretty much been raining since Thursday lunchtime, not complaining we sure need the rain in Southern California, after all we are headed for a drought this year! The weather has been so changeable here in Southern California. 80 degree’s last week and storms this weekend, the plants are as confused as I am. Yesterday I harvested some oranges, collard greens and broccoli (more details on that coming soon). The broccoli was small but it was bolting, as is some of the lettuce. The crazy warm temperatures last week and the cooler wetter weather is just wreaking havoc for us freedom gardeners! I guess it’s just something to chalk up to experience, make notes for next year to get the broccoli etc started earlier. But with all this rain, what to do when you can’t get out and tend to your garden? Well obviously you drool over seed catalogs, do research online, do some planning and go shopping.

We had to go shopping at Walmart as Bob wanted a duffelbag for his snowboard gear, and naturally I had to stop at the gardening section! Now I still have LOTS to do in our garden but that doesn’t stop me buying NOW, lol. Afterall I have my monthly gardening budget burning a hole in my pocket! I had firm idea’s of what I wanted and knew that tomato plants were OUT, no tomato plants or seeds Di! I have 12+ varieties to shove in somewhere this year! lol! I knew I wanted mint and lavender, potting soil for all the seeds I bought last month and strawberries. Those were my priorities. So I came back from Walmart with:

2cu ft of potting soil ($8.50)
10 strawberry roots ($3.00)
60 onion sets ($1.50)
Packet of lavender seeds ($1.00)
Packet of mint seeds($1.00)
Packet of Black Radish (99c)
2 planters from 99c store ($1.98)

grand total = $17.97

What I really need are wellington boots so I can get out there and do something!

Quests for February & general 2009

I already mentioned that my quests for Yardcraft would be monthly but I will break them down into manageable chunks. Otherwise I tend to get overwhelmed and give up. Besides continuing to grow all the fruit and veg I can (and extend my planting space) the BIG project for 2009 is the landscaping of the front garden into an edible oasis. I also want to eek out more planting space in the back garden, get more pots, get fruit canes and basically just grow more, more, more!

February quests:
Work on East facing strip of front garden.
This strip runs along the boundry of our neighbors and our driveway from the house to the sidewalk. It probably won’t all get done in February but I hope to have at least the top 1/3 done. Using existing pile of rocks I am building a natural raised bed and retaining wall as the lot is sloped and I want it to retain water better. Eventually I’d like to plant the peach tree, and some veggies along here. Maybe grapes and some strawberry plants too! You can see the strip of garden on the pic below

  • Plant seeds for Summer crops! I have TONS of seeds to sow this month to prepare for the Summer season. Hoping for a double crop so better get busy NOW and get planting!!!
  • Get ground cover between raised beds. The back garden needs the bare soil covering between the beds so I plan on researching my options and getting those  covered up this month. Thinking tree chips, I saw a free ad in the local paper so may give them a call later this month.

    As you can see I have my work cut out for me this month! Good job I committed to getting out in the garden DAILY when possible this month! Though impossible right now as it is raining in buckets right now! Which is good, we need rain!!! We we’re headed for a drought, hopefully the rain and snow we’re getting will help tremendously with that.

               In the meantime I’ll be planning the garden, and thinking about seed sowing whilst it’s raining.