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.