In My Garden – October 2019

In My Garden – October 2019

It’s pumpkin time, and there is a tsunami of pumpkin this and pumpkin that everywhere! I am not a big fan of pumpkin spice or even pumpkin pie (which seems somehow un-American). But I do love all the winter squashes that are currently in the market. Unfortunately my own garden environment is too cool in the summer to grow them.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other things growing in the garden.  I’m still harvesting lettuce, arugula, chard, cilantro, parsley, Lacinato kale (or cavolo nero or Tuscan Kale), beets, and carrots. This month I seeded more kale, chard, cilantro, carrots (the small round Parisienne variety), arugula and several varieties of lettuce. The weather has cooled so growth will slow but, since we rarely get any frost, they should flourish with our winter rain.

Raised bed vegetable garden - Fort Bragg, CARaised bed vegetable garden – Fort Bragg, CA

The baskets are to keep the birds from eating the seedlings, to discourage marauding night creatures from digging for worms (the skunks can come in under the gate…we have captured them on our night camera), and to prevent our cat from using the beds as a litter box.

The artichoke plants completely died back during the summer and I thought they hadn’t survived. In fact I started to dig them out and then was surprised to see new shoots at the base of a stem; I added compost and mulch to see what would happen. Here they are now in early autumn, with luck I will have artichokes in the spring.

Artichokes - October 2019Artichokes – October 2019

The redwood trees surrounding us make gardening a bit of a pain. The redwoods roots are very aggressive in searching out any water, they love the rich damp soil in my raised beds and come up through the wire mesh in the bottom. Once all the plants in a bed are finished, I have to dig out the roots and add new soil (otherwise the roots would completely fill the beds). It’s a lot of hard work because there are a lot of roots, about half the soil is gone and needs to be replaced. It’s the price of being surrounded my such majestic beauty.

This time of year the color green takes over as many flowering plants are not at their best. Here is a view of the back perennial bed.

Western cottage garden - Back bed Fort Bragg, CA

Western cottage garden – Back bed Fort Bragg, CA October 2019

And here it was at the same time last year.

View to the back of the house, October 2018 Fort Bragg, CA

View to the back of the house, October 2018 Fort Bragg, CA

The garden has changed!

Much to the delight of the resident hummingbirds, the salvias and cupheas are still in full bloom. They will keep providing nectar throughout most of the winter. From those birds I have been able to identify (they are rarely still), we have Allen’s hummingbirds. They usually leave in mid-winter to migrate and then show up again in the early spring. I would love to attract some Anna’s (who stick around all year) but haven’t seen any so far. The Allens are quite aggressive in defending their territory.

Salvia 'Amistad', in back Salvia greggii (I am not sure of the variety but it is lovely salmon color)

Salvia ‘Amistad’, in back Salvia greggii (I am not sure of the variety but it is lovely salmon color)

 

Salvia elegans also called 'Pineapple Sage' this one is especially loved by the hummiingbirds

Salvia elegans also called ‘Pineapple Sage’ this one is especially loved by the hummingbirds

 

Cuphea – Candy Corn Plant (appropriate for October)

The pollinator meadow is greening and showing millions of baby seedlings.

Pollinator meadow, mowed but millions of baby seedlings starting

Pollinator meadow (2019), mowed but millions of baby seedlings starting from the seeds

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Meadow- soil improved by ton of new soil and compost – October 2018

Everything survived while we were away in Scotland last month, this month is busy as we leave for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland tomorrow and will be gone again. Thank goodness for a wonderful house/garden/dog/cat sitter. I am not sure what we will do when she goes back to work early next year.

 

 

In My Garden – September 2019

In My Garden – September 2019

There are definitely changes in the garden, the flowers are starting to set their seeds as they finish blooming. I’m noticing less of our native bumblebees (the furry kind) and more European honey bees. I’m not sure of the reason for the shift but it is rather dramatic.

Cuphea, the bees were swarming over this bushy perennial. It’s a favorite of the hummingbirds as well.

That’s the Cuphea in the back, Nicotiana (an unusual pink one) in front. The European bees were swarming over the Cuphea a few days ago. They haven’t been the predominant bee until now.

The vegetable garden is still producing lettuce, green beans and zucchini. My artichoke plants, which I thought had died, are sending up new shoots. I’ll be pulling out the beans and zucchini this coming weekend as we will be away for the next 2 weeks. Our house/dog sitter is not a cook, it will be enough for her to keep up with the watering (and the dogs) while we are gone.

Vegetable Harvest

We mowed down the pollinator garden last week. I am interested in what comes back with the winter rains. It was a bit too thickly seeded last year, next year everything will find their place. Also the birds have been very interested in the seeds, thinning the plants naturally.

I cut back the tall bearded iris bed, the Spanish lavender planted there is till blooming along the side of the driveway..

Iris Bed along the driveway

The Geum Totally Tangerine has been a non-stop bloomer.

Geum Totally Tangerine

And I am totally in love with this Scabiosa, Pincushion Flower, Fama Blue. The flowers are on sturdy long stems (some are 3 feet), they last a long time in a vase and are the most beautiful blue/purple. The bees love them and it’s a great color with orange or peach.

Scabiosa, Pincushion Flower, Fama Blue

My dahlias are almost finished although I am still getting some blooms. This spring I think I will separate them a bit as they are planted too close together leading to some powdery mildew. My husband has been encouraging me to add another bed and I have already ordered some additional dahlia tubers. But I think I like them mixed in with other flowers rather than in a bed of their own.

Dahlia

This dahlia came from my Oakland garden where it did not like the heavy clay. I am not even certain it ever bloomed. Isn’t it beautiful? And the bee seems to agree. When we moved up here I dug up as many plants as I could manage and replanted them in the Fort Bragg garden. Much of my garden there was in my neighbors side yard and I knew he would not grant the new owners the same gardening rights (in fact he completely mowed all the remaining plants down and replanted with completely inappropriate plants). Sad.

I wish you all happy gardening as the seasons change. There is something very satisfying in putting a garden to bed, cutting things back and preparing for the new season. When we get back from Scotland that will be my goal.

For those of you on the Southern Hemisphere, your gardening season is just beginning. I look forward to reading about your gardens.

In My Kitchen – September 2019

In My Kitchen – September 2019

It’s been several months since my last “In My Kitchen” post. Why has it taken so long? I honestly don’t know since there has been a lot of cooking going on. But the type of cooking that happens in the summer months is quite different from that in the fall and winter. We eat a lot of salads, and grilled vegetables. I don’t do a lot of shopping because we have been eating out of the garden (my own, farmer’s markets and friends) whenever possible. Our ‘meat’ is often a sous-vide chicken breast or sausage tossed on the grill to brown at the last minute. Simple food, and light, which is appropriate for the season. During the summer months I would much rather spend my time in the garden than the kitchen. That will change once the weather cools and our rainy season starts.

Local Tomatoes

So, In My Kitchen I have salads.

And in my kitchen I have grilled vegetables from my own and other local gardens.

I learned a trick this year when grilling vegetables. Wait to toss them with oil until they come off the grill. Once warm and cooked they absorb whatever dressing you would like to add quickly. If you coat them with olive oil before grilling, the oil can turn rancid in the high heat and have an “off” flavor.

I cooked the carrots sous vide before tossing them on the grill to char. The artichokes were par boiled first.

In my kitchen I had half a flat of fresh figs from our warmer inland area. I did try to grow a fig tree here on the coast and it was a colossal failure. I don’t think it is hot enough here. I had one in a container on my deck in Oakland, it did really well but I had to fight the critters for the figs. These are Black Mission Figs, I made fig jam and we have been enjoying them fresh in salads (as well as in hand).

Black Mission Figs and Fig Jam

In My Kitchen I have homemade taco seasoning, this recipe came from Mollie and her blog, Frugal Hausfrau.

I used it to coat a chicken  chicken breast before cooking it sous-vide. We then quickly browned it on the grill. It was delicious.

Once you cook a chicken breast sous vide, you will never go back to another method. This one cooked away to perfection in the water bath while we attended a neighborhood meeting. It only took a few minutes to toss it on the grill once we returned home.

In my kitchen I have fresh herb sauces to use on vegetables or grilled meat.

This Salsa Verde contained cilantro, mint, fresh thyme, scallions, jalapeno, and garlic with olive oil, cumin, lime juice, and harissa. It was delicious on simply grilled vegetables.

Trader Joe’s has had some interesting new products. These artichoke hearts were preserved in a simple brine, wonderful tossed into a mixed vegetable salad.

They also have grilled ones in olive oil and sun dried cherry tomatoes in olive oil. The grilled ones were a little stringy. There is not a Trader Joe’s up here on the coast but I stock up when I am at the Oakland apartment.

At our holiday craft’s fair I picked up this European butter keeper. It was made by a friend’s brother who is a potter. I’ve never used one before but it is supposed to keep butter fresh at room temperature. You fill the top part with butter, then turn it upside down on the bottom which is filled with water.

I really like the tree on the top. Do any of you readers preserve butter this way?

This post is part of a monthly gathering of bloggers. Click on the link to Sherry’s Pickings for a look at what is happening around the world.

In My Kitchen
Sherry’s Pickings

That’s all for now, I will see you all again in October. Thank you for visiting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In My Garden – August 2019

In My Garden – August 2019

Can you believe it is August and fall is just around the corner? I certainly cannot. It has been beautiful here with highs mostly in the 60’s and an occasional foray into the low 70’s. We live in the banana belt of the Mendocino coast, it’s both slightly warmer and sunnier because of the shape of the coast. The city of Fort Bragg is only a couple of miles south of us, but it’s often foggy while we are clear.

Fog rolling in along the coast

So, what’s going on the garden? I’ve been concentrating on the edges of the borders and filling in some of the bare spots with low plants and succulents. My target goal is to not have any dirt showing, it’s a long range plan as many of the plants are still small.

I’m after a style called ‘intermingling’ with a high density of perennials. Annuals will self seed and find their spots in any bare areas. The following is from an English gardening blog I read, (Noel’s Garden):

Modern thinking on perennial planting density tends to favor around seven to nine plants per square meter, considerably more so than conventionally. Plantings quickly look full and potentially a good canopy can develop, but only if the plant forms used mesh together – which single cultivar blocks of upright growers often never do, which is a good reason for using an ‘intermingled’ approach to planting. Both German Mixed Planting systems and Piet Oudolf use plants at this density, with the former filling in quickly and the latter potentially so, depending on what is being used. Management, which conventionally has always been focussed on the integrity of individual plants tends to prevent meshing together. Spreading and seeding can fill, and perhaps should, fill the gaps.

Speaking of bare spots, nothing seems to grow in the very center of one of the back island beds. I couldn’t figure out why nothing was thriving until I discovered it’s the favorite spot for our elderly cat, Lucy, to doze and watch the birds. Thankfully she is too old and well fed to hunt them.

Last month I said I would list some of my favorite plant combinations, those that have done well in my zone 9b climate. The combinations all need similar water and light requirements. There is a delightful book, Plant Partners by Anna Pavord, that I was given a couple of decades ago when I was starting the Oakland garden. The pictures of the combinations are truly stunning and inspiring. However, the plants require different growing conditions…water, sun, soil, etc. In reality you can’t grow them together successfully. Additionally many of them were unsuitable for our dry summer climate. It was a big disappointment because, as a beginning gardener, I tried some of them with unfortunate results.

Anyway, here us a snapshot of my favorite combinations. They have been both beautiful and successful.

Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ with Geum coccineum ‘Totally Tangerine’, with Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Margareta BOP’, with Scabiosa caucasica ‘Fama Blue’, with the yarrow Achillea millefolium ‘Salmon Beauty’. In spring and early summer there are also red annual poppies, orange California poppies and the native wild flower ‘Baby Blue Eyes’. The Deschampsia “Tufted Hair Grass” is there for textural interest.

August island beds – Geum and Yarrow

 

Geum Totally Tangerine

This Geum is one of the most successful plants in my garden, growing into clumps 18″ tall and wide with flower talks of tangerine orange blooms that wave in the breeze. The bees love the flowers and they last quite a long time when cut for the house. I have other Geums, both red and yellow varieties, and they are slowly growing into respectable plants. But this variety takes off from the get go.

Marmalade

Heuchera Marmalade

The contrast of the leaves is gorgeous, but an added delight is that the foliage mirrors the tangerine blooms of the Geum.

Another favorite (and a favorite of the hummingbirds as well) combination is the bright red Nicotiana alata ‘Crimson Bedder’, with Achillea millefolium ‘Paprika’, with Cuphea ‘Kristin’s Delight’ and Agastache ‘Purple Haze’. All of them are perennials and come back larger each year.  The Cupheas are sometimes called cigar plants and are native to Mexico. The blooms have a wide range of colors but all are beloved by hummingbirds. In our growing zone they seem to be in constant flower.

On some of the following pictures you will also see snapdragons, Agastache (hummingbird mint), Scabiosa (pincushion flower), and purple toadflax as well as some annual poppies and other native wildflowers.

 

I’ve repeated these combinations several times throughout the back island beds.

You may be interested in what is happening in the pollinator garden. Well, since I have decided to withhold supplemental summer water, it is drying up.

August Pollinator Garden

I was considering mowing the plants under or pulling them out. But, as I walked past the meadow, a large flock of sparrows and finches flew into the air. The birds are enjoying the seeds. So, I think I will leave the dead plants until later in the fall. The seeds that survive will sprout in the spring once the winter rains start. It will be interesting to see the changes from one year to another. It does look rather sad right now though.

I’ve always loved Kate Wolf’s song about California being brown in the summertime. It’s really true.

Coastal meadows

I think that’s all from the north coast of California. Happy gardening.

 

 

 

In My Garden – July 2019

In My Garden – July 2019

In truth I am spending more time in my garden these days than in front of the computer. It has been too long since my last update. There is so much to do outside, I am busy watering and pruning and mulching and weeding. It’s certainly a full time job as the garden has expanded over the last year. However, I find it very satisfying and great exercise. The garden has responded to my love with a plethora of flowers.

In full bloom are the roses and dahlias.

There are so many flowers that I’m having trouble finding places for them in the house, and running out of vases. I do love seeing the flowers from the kitchen and in the bedroom, they make me happy.

We have been grilling summer squash from the vegetable garden. I try to pick the zucchini before they get too large and we are overwhelmed. They are wonderful sliced thickly, lightly brushed with olive oil and cooked on an open grill.

I’m still harvesting lots of lettuce, arugula, chard, and radishes. The carrots are almost ready to harvest but the beets have not done well. I worry that it is because the soil was depleted by the previous planting of lettuce and have added some blood meal for nitrogen. My worm compost bins only contain shredded newspaper and kitchen vegetable scraps (plus egg shells), maybe too much carbon? Anyway, I have planted another row of beets in the enhanced soil, fingers crossed. It’s not warm enough here for many of the regular summer vegetables as I don’t have a green house. I’m thinking next summer of putting a hoop house over one of the raised beds, I do miss summer tomatoes and cucumbers. Thank goodness for a good friend who is providing me with her extras.

I was worried about the lack of bees earlier in the season. They are now here in abundance, almost entirely our native varieties of bumblebees and not the European bees. There is a definite buzz to the air when I am in the garden and I find sleeping bees in flowers early in the morning.

As an experiment, I put out a praying mantis egg case a month ago and was startled to see hundreds of babies this yesterday when I went out to water the pole beans.

Praying Mantis - babies

Praying Mantis babies

I am lucky to be without too many pests so I hope they find enough to eat. I think in a pinch they will eat each other.

The pollinator meadow has changed, going from reds and pinks to pinks and blues. I pulled out the red poppies once the seed pods had dried out. They will return next spring after the winter rains. Now I see mostly Clarkia, bachelor buttons, larkspur, and a few lingering poppies of different colors. Here’s a quick snapshot of the progression.

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It’s starting to dry out, as is our ‘lawn’, without any summer water.

But there are plenty of flowers in the backyard island beds.

I plan to write a post about my favorite plant combinations, there are some that I have found especially pleasing.

Time to get back out there. Thank you so much for visiting and happy gardening to you all.