Beet seedlings and seeds at the bottom end, then tatsoi, chard, and lacinata kale seedlings. The bed is covered with fruit-tree netting and staked every 3 feet to keep out skunks and other diggers (they don't like to get their claws caught in the netting; it works well to also keep cats out). The seedlings will mature and be eaten first, when the seeds germinate they'll be transplanted to elsewhere in the garden. Asparagus ferns are allowed to develop until they die back of their own accord - all that energy goes back into the roots for later harvests.
Lacilata kale was munched when left in its 6-pack overnight. As long as the nodes and perhaps one leaf still remain, the plant is worth transplanting - and protected with netting from further marauding munchers.
Texas Everbearing Fig fruits are large, very sweet and fully-flavored. Great timing, a month later than other figs -- we'll see whether this is just because this is its first year bearing.
California fuchsia's gray-green foliage is nicely set off by its red-orange blooms.
Tips of boysenberry vines are anchored in the soil to sprout roots that I can transplant in the early spring.
Oro Gold grapefruits. The burned edges of the leaves are from sunburn during those too-hot days when I should have watered beforehand to keep the foliage fully hydrated to better withstand damage.
Spider lily. Years ago, I purchased one bulb that I felt was too expensive, but last year I transplanted 10 of it offshoots. Ultimately, it was an economical purchase - at least that's my excuse for repeating the process!
Amarcrinum from a friend is a brighter pink that my original ones.
Rose hips make wonderfully bright holiday decorations.
Eucomis that blooms well here, although it's only 1 foot tall.
Are you still debating whether to pull those still-bearing tomato plants? This continuing warm daytime weather is keeping lots of plants actively green and growing, still looking attractive and bearing fruit and flowers – although not as plentifully – in the garden. The debate is always whether to pull up those still-performing plants in favor of shifting to cool-weather edibles and ornamentals. You have a couple of options, depending on your garden space and eating and viewing preferences.
Keeping plants bearing through the winter If your garden doesn’t get frost, potentially you can have some of those tomatoes and perhaps squash and cucumbers and beans bearing fruits through till spring and beyond. Although the amount you’ll get will be pretty sparse, and the flavor will be hardly better than what you’d purchase in the market, just the idea of continuing to have your own home-grown summer produce continuing through winter is comforting to any gardener but especially beginning gardeners – a real feeling of success in overcoming the seasons! If this is your goal, leave the plants in place, trim off any dead growth, trim down tomatoes to the new shoots, and continue feeding and watering so the plants will continue bearing flowers and fruit.
Moving on to winter-season plants If your garden has more space or you’d prefer moving on completely to growing and enjoying edible plants that truly thrive in cool weather -- like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, leeks, onions, radishes, spinach, turnips – and ornamentals – like calendula, chrysanthemum, coreopsis, hollyhocks, larkspur, poppies, snapdragons, sweet peas and wildflowers – then see my October and November monthly tips columns -- http://www.gardeninginla.net/monthly-tips.html -- for the many choices you have, and visit your local nursery for the beauties that are available. If you’ll make this shift, pull the worn-out plants, amend the soil with compost and manure (and coffee grounds if you have them), and plant new seedlings and seeds.
I much prefer to grow plants in their preferred seasons when they're thriving, instead of trying to nurture along plants that won't do as well because they’re struggling to survive in an uninviting environment. But, it's always fun, if you have the garden space, to "play" with some plants that you're interested in just seeing what will happen. This is how you learn about the microclimates in your own garden, and what you can do when to extend the seasons. For example, when I first began gardening, I grew corn and melons and winter squash just to see how they grew and produced, but didn't bother after that since I could buy much-better-tasting ones at farmers' markets and didn't have to "waste" my own garden space growing some things that didn't really do well. Then, I'd had the experience of knowing something about those crops, and I could concentrate on growing the ones that we enjoyed most and produced the most for the amount of effort I devoted in my garden.
Plant Bulbs This is definitely the time to plant all those winter- and spring- and summer-blooming bulbs you can get your hands on. Bulbs guarantee attractive foliage and blooms in the garden, always a delight whenever they decide to appear, and many continuing to multiply through the years. They’re perfect for beginning gardeners since they come with their own food supply for at least that first year, and after their first watering-in will withstand neglect and drought and still bloom their hearts out. Even the ones that are more expensive than you want to spend will thrive and reproduce mightily through the years -- even so much that you'll be spreading them around your own garden and sharing them with all of your gardening friends!
"February Christmas Tree" - Sweet Tangerine tomatoes still firm and holding on the just-about-dead bush.
Red Nerine suddenly appears in all its frilly delicacy.
Amarcrinum keeps on blooming
And the plumeria with its wonderful fragrance
My tomatoes are well and truly dead for this year. Despite deep watering every second or third day, the extended over-95-degree heat was more than they could manage to keep growing and setting fruit or even staying green. The four last-harvested plants - Celebrity, Red Zebra, Sweet Tangerine and Sungold - looked like February Christmas trees, with dead foliage studded with red or yellow fruits. The fruits were still firm, and I’d left them on the plants until I’d needed them. But now that I’m ready to shift to fall- and winter-growing and eating, I’ve harvested all the remaining fruits and pulled the plants. Here’s my final tally and thoughts about varieties and what I’ll grow – or not – next year. I hope the info will help you make your decisions, as well.
Overview I transplanted 4” containers with 9” tall plants three times – March 18, April 20, and June 9 – in 4 separate beds that had been amended with manure, compost, and Dr. Earth organic fertilizer. I planted multiples of most varieties that I’ve enjoyed in the past – 2 Ace 55, 1 Berkeley Tie-Dye, 1 Big Rainbow, 1 Black From Tula, 4 Black Krim, 7 Celebrity, 4 Cherokee Purple, 1 Chocolate Cherry, 2 Green Zebra, 2 Isis Candy, 1 Momotaro Gold, 1 Mr. Stripey, 3 Paul Robeson, 2 Red Zebra, 1 Stupice, 1 Sungold, 2 Sweet Tangerine. March 18 plantings = Berkeley Tie-Dye, Big Rainbow, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Chocolate Cherry, Green Zebra, Isis Candy, Momotaro Gold, Mr. Stripey, Red Zebra, Sungold, Sweet Tangerine. Some of these plants began bearing on June 27, most bore through mid-to-late-August, and some lasted until September 17. April 20 plantings = Black Krim, Celebrity, Cherokee Purple, Paul Robeson, Stupice. First fruits were from Paul Robeson on July 18, and Celebrities from July 29 through September 17. One bed of Paul Robeson and Cherokee Purples developed nicely and set fruit but died in the too-intense heat wave. I’ll pay more attention to that bed next time around! June 9 plantings = Ace 55, Celebrity. I chose these hybrid varieties to plant this late since I thought they’d been sturdy enough to deal with the coming heat. However, all of the plants died before growing much, except one Celebrity plant that developed enough to bear 2 small fruit before dying. I won’t plant this late again! Total fruit count = 1256 fruits
Cherry Tomatoes = 784 fruits Sungold – 552 1/2-inch fruits were yellow-turning-orange and a tasty balance of sweet and acid. Definitely grow again! Chocolate Cherry – 135 3/4-inch fruits were a rich brown color and rich but milder flavor. Definitely grow again! Isis Candy – 97 3/4-inch fruits were a beautiful cream-and-rose-striped color with sweet tones in a richly-flavored base. Definitely grow again!
Mid- and Larger-Size Tomatoes = 472 fruits Ace 55 – Weak growth and then died following June 9 planting. Berkeley Tie-Dye – 4 large fruits, nice swirly coloring, bland flavor. Maybe I’ll grow one more time. Big Rainbow – 27 medium-sized fruits, coloring not variegated so perhaps plant was mislabeled, nice flavor. I’ll try again. Black From Tula – 23 medium-sized fruits, purplish-brown coloring, similar to Black Krim. Definitely grow again. Black Krim – 46 medium-to-large fruits, purplish-brown coloring. One of my favorites; will grow again. Celebrity – 77 medium fruits, clear red coloring, nice balanced sweet-to-acid flavor, firm fruits that hold on the bush well. One of my favorites; will grow again. Cherokee Purple – 20 medium-to-large fruits, reddish-purple coloring. One of my favorites; will grow again. Green Zebra – 84 small-to-medium fruits, striking green-to-white striping that turns golden chartreuse when ripe, a bit tart flavor that mixes well with other varieties’ sweeter fruits, firm fruits that hold on the bush well. Will grow again. Momotaro Gold – 1 medium fruit with undistinguished flavor. Won’t grow again. Mr. Stripey – 2 fruits, muted striping, ok flavor. Will try again since last year’s planting bore many flavorful fruits. Paul Robeson – 16 medium-to-large fruits, purplish-brown coloring, similar to Black Krim and Black From Tula. Definitely grow again. Red Zebra – 108 small-to-medium pointed fruits, red with faint striping, firm fruits that hold on the bush well. Will grow again. Stupice – 11 small-to-medium fruits, red with nice flavor. It’s borne more fruits in years past. I always grow this variety in tribute to my gardening-mentor mother since both she and the tomato variety come from what-was-then Czechoslovakia. Sweet Tangerine – 53 small-to-medium fruits, bright orange skin and flesh, nice flavor, firm fruits that hold on the bush well. Will grow again.
I organize my seed packets first by season and then each individual container by type of seed, like carrots; then alphabetical by variety. I label 2 stakes for each variety, one for seeding now and the other for the next sowing.
Sowing in rows in the raised bed. Note sprinkler lines on either side.
Sowing seeds really thickly is fine for parsley and cilantro and mesclun-type greens since you'll harvest by handfuls with a knife cutting about an inch above the soil.
Beet seeds scattered about an inch apart on either side of the soaker hose.
Rolled newspaper filled with potting mix works.
The bottom of a large bin offers side protection from crawling pests and breezes.
Starting in my Speedling trays. I've punched a hole in each cell to receive the 3 seeds.
Placing 3 seeds into each depression.
Covering each depression with a bit of potting soil to keep the seeds in place each time I water.
Keep 1/4" of water in the bottom tray so potting soil can reabsorb it as needed.
6-packs and 4" containers fit into a plastic tray for easy watering. Keep 1/4" of water at the bottom so potting soil can reabsorb as necessary.
Place containers in light shade - with NO direct sun - until at least half of the seeds have sprouted.
Cheesecloth stretched and anchored over seedbeds provides some light shade from midday blasting sun as well as flying insects.
Nursery trays make excellent light shade so soil won't dry out before the seeds germinate.
Window screening offers light shade from sun.
Stella d'Oro still reblooming.
Amaranth keeps reseeding throughout the summer and fall.
Amarcrinum continues its one-bloom-each-day.
It’s time to get started with seeds for fall and winter crops. If you’ve never started seeds or are still mystified with the germination process, here’s what works for me. The many wonderful edible choices to start now include beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, chervil, chives, collards, endive, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, green onions, short-day bulb onions (like Grano, Granex, and Walla Walla), parsley, parsnips, peas, white potatoes, radishes, spinach, and turnips.
Starting Seeds In the Ground or In A Container? Seeds that have taproots – like carrots, parsley, parsnips – should be started where they will mature so the root can grow straight and long. The tap root is many times longer than what you observe as the above-ground portion, so if started or purchased in containers it will get curly and perhaps even stunt the growth of the plant. So, save these for starting in the ground where they will mature.
Starting Seeds In The Ground
Choose a location that gets afternoon shade or at least filtered light so soil doesn’t dry out before seeds germinate.
Loosen soil to a 3” depth, knocking apart all clumps larger than a quarter of an inch. If clayey, incorporate finely-grained compost so the soil mix drains well.
Smooth soil mix.
Scatter seeds sparsely either in rows or in the whole area. More space between seeds is better, so they each have its own 1/4” of soil to develop without much competition for moisture and nutrition.
Scatter a very small amount of fine compost over the seeds to anchor them when you water.
Gently sprinkle water over the whole area, making sure to just barely moisten the soil and settle the seeds but not sweep them away.
After a couple of minutes, repeat the light sprinkling so the water sinks deeper into the soil mix.
Repeat again after another couple of minutes.
This sequential sprinkling should have moistened the full 3” depth and anchored seeds nicely in the soil mix so they can absorb moisture and be warmed by daily sun to germinate.
Every other day, sprinkle the area again at the end of the day so the water can remoisten the soil surface that dried during the day.
Seeds will germinate according to the genetics of their type and variety. For example, lettuce and radishes should be up in a couple of days, but parsley and carrots may take a good three weeks!
Starting Seeds In Small Containers To Be Transplanted Later
Use 2” or 3" deep container with drainage holes - recycled plastic containers or Speedling® trays or 6-packs, etc.
Fill the container to its top with a quality good potting mix with small granules that are finely-textured, not bigger shreds of bark. I like Dr. Earth or Whitney Farms or LGM.
Press the mix lightly, or gently slam (not a contradiction in terms) the container on the table you’re working on so the mix granules settle a bit, releasing any air pockets.
Press the tip of your finger into the center of each container’s cell or an inch apart in a single larger container to form a depression about 1/4" deep.
Place 3 seeds into each depression. Fewer likely won't ultimately result in a seedling that's sufficiently-developed to transplant, and too many more will be too competitive between all of ones that initially germinate. You want to end up with one really nicely developed seedling, and trim off the others at the soil level, instead of trying to salvage every seedling by splitting the seedball with several seedlings.
Thinly scatter a bit of mix on top of the seeds - just enough to hold them in place when you water, but still have a bit of the depression remain so water can sink in right next to each seed.
Gently sprinkle with water several times to moisten the mix without dislodging the seeds.
Place individual containers or 6-packs into a group tray that will hold at least 1/4" water so the mix can pull up residual water as it needs it within a couple of hours after you water each time.
Place the group tray in a brightly-lit area with NO direct sun. Direct sun will dry out the mix too much before the seeds are able to germinate.
Sprinkle with water both in the morning and the evening for a week or so until about half of the seeds emerge. Then water once a day or two depending on the weather just to keep the mix barely moist to foster good root development.
Once seedlings grow to about 1” tall and start leaning toward brighter sunlight, move the group tray to a location that gets direct sun in the morning.
Make sure that the bottom of the group container retains 1/4" water in it for a couple of hours after you water so the seedlings won't dry out during the day's direct sun.
When seedlings are 2" tall and have several “true” leaves, move the group tray near where you're going to transplant them so they acclimate to the weather pattern at their new home. Keep an eye to the water at the bottom of the tray.
After a week's acclimatization, transplant seedlings where they’ll mature and water in well.
For 2 weeks after transplanting, water the seedlings every other day to keep them hydrated while they reestablish their root systems into the surrounding soil.
This bed of cool-season crops is dry enough to harvest seeds to resow and share.
Red Zebra still have a couple dozen fruits ripening, even though the foliage is pretty dried out.
Lettuce with large paper bags tied over the seedheads to contain all the seeds as they dry over several weeks' time. When the stem below the bag becomes brittle, it'll snap off for storage. When ready to sow into the garden, take handfuls of the seeds and chaff and scatter onto soil surface, then water. The chaff will help the seeds germinate.
Parsley falls into my hand when thoroughly dry. Don't pull off of the stem since this means the seeds aren't dry enough.
Hold a bin under the breadseed poppy pods. The seeds easily fall from the "salt shaker" holes under the top cap at the merest tilting of the pod.
Swiss chard seed branch is quite large, and the seeds will fall readily when they're dry enough.
Celery seed held over the bin before brushing off the seeds into the bin.
Asparagus seeds are ripening.
Several kinds of potatoes ready for harvesting in my "potato tower" of stacked tires. Huell Howser got a real kick out of this technique. See the video of his visit -- see "Green Gardener" under "Yvonne's Web Appearances" on the Web Links page
Stella d'Oro reblooming daylily
While summer crops are still producing but plants are getting tired (my first-planted tomatoes are pooping out and some have died), the heat has been accomplishing another unnoticed task – maturing seeds of non-hybrid veggies and flowers that we can harvest to save for next year’s gardens and share now with other gardeners. These are the “dry” seeds, unlike the “wet” seeds like tomatoes and cucumbers and squash which have their seeds embedded in flesh that must be fermented off. For drying those kinds of seeds, go to my blog article -- http://www.gardeninginla.net/blog/saving-seeds-from-non-hybrid-vegetables Dryness and crispiness are required in determining when to harvest these “dry” seeds. This means REALLY dry! If plant stems are even a bit still green and wiggly, they need to dry further. Let the foliage dry naturally – don’t pull the plant and set it aside to dry, since this won’t allow the seeds to fully mature as they dry. This waiting process can take up to two or three full months after the fruit or blossom has looked its best, and the plant looks progressively disheveled. The gardener must consider this area out of bounds for continued watering or further planting to allow the plants to fully mature and dry completely till they’re crispy. So, my bed where I grew cool-season crops last winter – lettuce, spinach, bok choy, chard, kale, celery – is now ready for my harvest of its seeds.
Here’re a couple of supplies that’ll help.
Large paper (not plastic) bags Tied over lettuce stalks when the first blossoms dried up months ago, the paper bags “breathe”, allowing moisture to escape. Plastic bags don’t allow this, so moisture is retained and the seeds can’t dry thoroughly. The paper bags also keep the seeds captive as they dry, avoiding having all the seed scatter. If the seed had scattered, later in the season when watered or rained upon, at least some of the seeds would germinate. But, collecting them in the paper bags enables sowing in other more contained locations. However, when any of those self-sown seeds do germinate, consider this your cue to sow the ones you’ve saved, since environmental conditions are apparently perfect!
Plastic bins A dishpan or other wide container is helpful when held under the seedy branch or tilted seedpod as it’s snapped off its stem. Chard has really long shoots with many seeds, and breadseed poppy pods have little holes just under their caps so the seed shakes out with the merest movement.
Newspapers or paper toweling on a cookie sheet or other rimmed flat sheet Once you’ve collected the seeds, spread them onto paper on a broad pan set in a dry place out of sun for a couple of weeks to ensure more evaporation and complete the drying process. For seeds like lettuce and parsley and cilantro that may have lots of dried foliage along with the seeds, there’s no need to separate them since when sown later the extra chaff just helps provide some accompanying mulch that’ll aid germination.
Paper envelopes Store collected seed in paper – not plastic – envelopes to allow “breathing” and preclude any spoilage from any remaining moisture. However dry you think you’ve gotten the seeds, never use plastic for storage since any bit of remaining moisture will potentially spoil the whole batch of seeds.
Indoor Interior Closet Store seeds in a location that has the least change of temperature and moisture, such as an interior closet in the house. You want the seeds to go into a bit of a suspended animation by not being stimulated by any environmental changes.
Now you have a wealth of seeds to resow into your garden, and to share with other gardeners! And, just think -- after seven years of resowing and saving seeds, you’ll have them acclimated to your locale!
Why Do This Now, Instead of Waiting Even Longer? Once you’ve moved all the dead foliage to the compost pile, you can incorporate nutritive amendments like compost, manure and coffee grounds into the beds and water them in so the soil microorganisms can do their thing prepping the soil for new sowings and plantings. This heating-up and cooling-down process takes two or three weeks. If you sow seeds or transplant seedlings too soon, the soil will be too warm and the new seeds and seedlings will literally burn up with the soil heat. While you’re waiting for the microorganisms to do their magic, purchase your new seedlings so they can use those two weeks to acclimate to their new location. Place the seedling containers in a bin that you’ll keep a quarter-inch of water in to keep the containers’ soil consistently moist, and gradually move it more and more into the full-day sun. By the end of the two weeks, when the soil has cooled down to being barely warm when you stick your hand into it, the container plants will also be acclimated so you can plant them.
My fern collection loves the filtered light under the oak tree.
After 5 years, these succulent pots need to be repotted.
Draping plants love tall plant stands.
Maranta's striking foliage is offset by baby-blue pot.
Plastic window screening is directly over the drainage hole. The broken pot shard is on top, providing an air gap to keep the potting mix away from direct access to the drainage hole.
Trimming long tendrils and rooting them alongside the mother begonia plant will enable a fuller bloomset.
Newly repotted plants under the oak tree get only a bit of direct sun in the late afternoon.
Tomato tally up to 612. However, 377 of them were Sungold and Chocolate Cherry, and Isis Candy.
Third Harmonic alstroemeria continue to bloom. They were the first ones to show color way back in early Spring, and they're still going, although not quite as vigorously.
Conadria fig is full of fruit.
A couple of forgotten beets. The larger one is 5" tall. We'll see whether it's gone completely woody.....
Almost ready Celebrity tomatoes from the first planting in late March.
The champion producer, Sungold. So far, 302 fruits since June 27. It's a good thing they're so yummy!
It’s just too hot in the garden for me, except for an hour or so after the sun surmounts the back hill so I can work in bright light but no blasting sun. Then I can spend time harvesting and watering the tomatoes and squash, and the fruit trees once every two weeks. During the day, I have to find other gardeny things to do. In the early to mid-morning, when the shade from my oak tree makes my front patio comfortable, I repot up shade-lovers like ferns and begonias and orchids. At the same time, my extended house roof overhang on the southwest side provides shade for repotting my succulents.
When to Repot There comes a point, perhaps years after you’ve first brought home a plant and settled it into its new container home and it’s thrived, when it doesn’t look so happy and you’ve observed that perhaps not much of the original potting mix remains in the pot. Or, you may have collected so many small pots of plants that you never got around to settling them into their new homes, and they’re beginning to look neglected. In my case, these conditions move me into thinking “I’ve got to get them repotted” but then the activity doesn’t happen. Until it’s too hot for me to find the excuse to do something in the garden. Like now.
Choosing a Container: Material, Color and Pattern, Size Clay (glazed or not?) or plastic? I prefer unglazed terra cotta, either glazed or not, because I know the pot will “breathe” and foster a healthy root system. I always use the same potting mix so all plantings will dry out at the same rate and I don’t have to guess so much who needs watering when. I try to aesthetically match the plant to the pot’s color, glaze and pattern – taking into consideration the particular shade of green, form and texture of the foliage, and any bloom color. I choose larger size pots according to how quickly the plant will develop. Deeper is better than wider to accommodate enlarging root systems and lessen evaporation from the soil surface. At minimum, the pot should be at least 3 or 4 inches wider and deeper than the plant’s rootball.
Covering the Drainage Hole Keeping the potting mix inside the pot while allowing irrigation water to drain can be accomplished using two separate materials. Plastic window screening cut into 3-inch squares will do both functions. Also placing a piece of broken pottery shard pointing down on top of the screening will form a bit of an air gap on top of the screening that will keep the bulk of the potting soil in place above it and also augment the draining of irrigation water. Never fill the bottom of the pot with more pottery shards or packing “peanuts” or anything else because this lessens the amount of potting mix for roots to develop. Why create a smaller pot and disadvantage the plant?
Potting “Mix” or Potting “Soil”? For containers, soilless potting “mix” is what you want to use. Potting “soil” has actual “dirt” in it, which makes it too dense for containers since it won’t drain properly and roots will literally drown. But “mix” and “soil” as marketing terms on packages continue to be confusingly interchangeable, so read the package's description and experiment with several until you find the ones your plants seem to prefer, especially with your particular irrigating habits. I used to like SuperSoil, but over the last several years, the texture has changed to be too similar to shredded bark more suitable as mulch. Three brands I prefer now are E.B. Stone Organics, Whitney Farms, and LGM All Purpose Potting Soil.
Transplanting Into Containers
Place several inches of potting mix on top of the screening and pot chard covering the drainage hole.
Water the plant in its container to make sure that the rootball is fully hydrated.
Holding the plant upside down and supporting the stem at the soil level with one hand, knock the plant out of the pot.
Holding the plant upright suspended in the container, massage the rootball with both hands to release most of the plant’s original potting mix into the container until you see many of the roots on the rootball.
With one hand holding the plant, use the other hand to mix the plant’s original potting mix with the new potting mix, and begin to spread the combination up the sides of the container.
Holding the plant so the soil surface where the stem emerges about an inch below the top rim of the pot, fill in handfuls of the new potting mix around the rootball.
With individual fingertips, press the potting mix down, still holding the plant the inch below the top rim.
Continue adding new potting mix until the plant is fully supported and the potting mix combination is somewhat compressed by your fingertips.
Water the container 3 times immediately, filling to the top rim of the pot. The first time, the water will drain quickly as it fills all the air pores between the potting mix particles. The second time will drain more slowly. The third time will make sure that all of the potting mix is moist and the roots are in good connection to the potting soil particles.
Place the newly-planted-and-watered container into a filtered-bright-light area – with no direct sun – for at least a week and preferably 2 weeks during this hot weather.
Water once including the foliage every third day in the morning so that the foliage dries by sunset.
After a couple of weeks -- once the plant’s foliage is completely perked up and obviously growing nicely – you can be assured that the plant is established well enough to move to its final location.
Green Zebra tomatoes - wait until the clear green background turns yellowish.
Blossom-end rot due to too-little water and too much heat at the same time. Just cut off that portion, and enjoy the rest of the fruit.
Volunteer cherry tomato. Slightly stripey variations and wonderful flavor.
Celebrity planted on June 9 blossoming.
Ace 55 planted on June 9 not doing well, but recuperating with new growth. We'll see how it survives or really thrives.
Another hoya blossom
Goldfish plant - Nematanthus gregarius
Crown of Thorns - Euphorbia milii - blooms year 'round
Asparagus seeding. There's no difference in the amount of spears produced between male and female plants. Don't trim the foliage until it turns brown when all its energy has been reabsorbed into the roots to provide for next year's crop.
The second crop of artichoke sprouts matured so quickly in the heat that I never harvested any.
'Oro Gold" grapefruit set.
Summer has definitely arrived, thankfully without the 116-degree vengeance that tortured us a year ago! From the first tomatoes I picked on June 27, we’ve now reached the 300 mark, although three quarters of them were from cherry tomatoes - Sungold, Chocolate Cherry, and a volunteer cherry that came up on its own and I have no idea who it is, but it is delicious and beautifully striped. These were all from 4” plants that I’d transplanted on March 18. So, they took a bit more than 5 weeks from transplanting to bearing – augmented I’m sure by our blissfully cool spring during their establishment. The tally so far: 162 Sungold, 34 Chocolate Cherry, 22 volunteer cherry, 21 Red Zebra, 13 Black Krim, 21 Sweet Tangerine, 11 Black From Tula, 9 Green Zebra, 3 Berkeley Tie-Dye, 3 Cherokee Purple, and 1 Momotaro Gold. Taste-wise, here’re some of my observations: Sungold – wait until they turn from orange to orangy-gold, very sweet, prone to split. I always grow. Chocolate Cherry – nice color and taste, less sweet than Sungold but not tart either. Volunteer Cherry – nice stripey variegation, sweet. Red Zebra – smallish size similar to Stupice, haven’t observed any “zebra” patterning, very susceptible to blossom-end rot. Black Krim – wonderful flavor and color. An “always grow.” Sweet Tangerine -- Brilliant color, firm flesh, moderate flavor. Black From Tula – similar to Black Krim; can’t tell them apart. Green Zebra – wait until the green background turns golden. Beautiful “zebra” patterning. Nice flavor, slightly tart. Berkeley Tie-Dye – Nice coloring, ok flavor. Cherokee Purple – wonderful flavor and color. Another “always grow”. Momotaro Gold – with experiencing only one fruit so far, it seems ok but not special.
How to Harvest Tomatoes Remember to harvest tomatoes by snapping them from their stem at the elbow just above the stem’s connection with the tomato. Some varieties are easier to snap than others. For these less-easy-to-snap ones, cut them off their stem. This enables the fruit to stay “whole” with no potential entry spots for spoilage. Or, just eat those damaged ones first!
Later-Planted Tomatoes The 9 plants I transplanted on April 20 are thriving, with vigorous plants and most beginning to set fruit. These fruits I will depend on once the determinate varieties of the March-planted bushes give up. The indeterminate varieties, of course, will continue bearing through Fall or frost if we get any. Of the 5 plants – 3 Celebrities and 2 Ace 55s – that I’d planted on June 9, one Celebrity has died, one Celebrity has thrived (reaching the first rung of its cage and blossoming), and the other Celebrity and two Aces looked pretty shrively when that heat first hit a bit more than a week ago, but with several concentrated days of watering, they’ve put out some new growth since then. So, we’ll see whether they can surmount the upcoming stresses of life in the consistently hot summer garden.
No Blossoms on Tomatoes and Other Veggies? Speaking of the hot garden, plants that are mature enough to set blossoms will not set them when daytime temperatures are above 85 degrees and nighttime temperatures are above 60 degrees. To make this no-bloom period even worse, the plants won’t start setting blossoms again until 2 weeks after the temperatures stay below 85 and 60, respectively. Which, given the time of year and “depth” of summer that we’re heading into, may be a while, if not months. This is why it’s so important to get our tomatoes established in the garden as early as we possibly can so they develop sufficiently to set blossoms early and set fruit before we get our first lasting heat.
Spider Mites and Blossom-End Rot Hot, dry temperatures are another impetus for pests that both thrive in these conditions and on the plants that are stressed by the heat and dust. Teeny Spider Mites love the heat and dusty conditions. If you see the beginning of a colony’s webbing, immediately dislodge them with a forceful spray of water, especially on the undersides of the leaves. If they continue to thrive, pull the plant and discard in the trash – not into the compost pile – so they won’t spread to and other neighboring plants. See the article on spider mites on the University of California Integrated Pest Management Pest Notes -- http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7405.html Blossom End Rot appears as a grayish-brown leathery spot covering the bottom of the tomato fruit. It results when the plant hasn’t received enough water to continue hydrating the furthest-out growth (the fruit). This occurs mostly when the weather suddenly got hot and we as gardeners didn’t notice that the plant needed more water until the appearance of the scabby growth. Some varieties are more susceptible, and of all my varieties that I’m growing this year, only the Red Zebra exhibited this.
Other Garden Nasties For help in identifying and dealing with assorted garden nasties, rely on University of California Integrated Pest Management Pest Notes Library -- http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/
My watering cues - brightly colored plastic flags -- to remind me where newly-transplanted plants are.
Batches of mini-roses
Even more - this one provides transitioning color
Mary Lou Heard rose
Isomeris arborea - Bladderpod
And another daylily
Irish bells - green flowers! The real flower is the white bit in the center. As the calyxes dry, they become crispy and form stickers at their back that help them "travel" to other locations via animals. The real seeds are the "hot cross bun"s at the base of the dried calyx.
Loads of figs to come
Sea lavender - Limonium. The real flower is the white bit at the center.
Carrot's "landing pad" bloom fully open at the bottom. The fertilized one, with maturing seeds crumpling the shape at the top.
Chinese Date - Jujube - blossoms and tiny fruits set.
Sunflower losing its petals and developing its seeds
Among the last nasturtiums. I let them die back and leave them in place as mulch.
Our high-80s-degree sunny daytime temperatures and mid-60s nighttime temperatures have signaled the true beginning of hot weather for both us gardeners and the garden as a whole, especially inland here in Pasadena. Although still pleasantly warm to work in the shade, it’s just too hot for me to stay in the sun for long. So my gardening time is limited to after 5pm, when the sun has gone over the hill to my southwest.
No More Transplanting or Seeding For Me Inland I did just transplant 5 native Asclepias for the future pleasure of monarch butterflies and larvae: A. fascicularis, A. physocarpa ‘Family Jewels Tree’, A. speciosa ‘Davis’, A. speciosa ‘Showy Milkweed’, and A. syriaca ‘Virginia Silk”. My newest trick to remember to keep watering new transplants is marking them with brightly-colored plastic flags. In the past, especially when transplanting more than six 4-inch pots, I’d forgotten where I’d planted many of them, and they didn’t survive the neglect until I again remembered them. So far this year, my flag cues to myself have worked just fine. The real test will be carrying on with watering them through the summer! I won’t make any othe new additions to the garden of transplants from now until fall since they have to struggle too much to merely survive through their first month establishing their new root system, much less thrive and produce lots -- regardless of how much mid-day shade I provide and water I pour on. However, those of you closer to the coast with more overcast skies and lower temperatures may still have success in transplanting and seeding. Just keep your eye on them at least every third or fourth day to see if they need your help in shading them or watering while they get re-established in their new home!
Finally Tomato Time! I just picked the first tomatoes – 2 Black From Tula, 1 Green Zebra, 2 Red Zebra, 2 Sweet Tangerine and 55 Sungold. Of course, only 20 of the Sungolds made it to the kitchen, since there’s nothing yummier than munching those bright orange, midday-sun-heated treats as you’re harvesting others. Definitely “one for me, and one for the bowl” priorities. I’m growing 35 tomato plants of 17 varieties this year: 2 Ace 55, 1 Berkeley Tie-Dye, 1 Big Rainbow, 1 Black From Tula, 4 Black Krim, 7 Celebrity, 4 Cherokee Purple, 1 Chocolate Cherry, 2 Green Zebra, 1 Isis Candy, 1 Momotaro Gold, 1 Mr. Stripey, 2 Paul Robeson, 2 Red Zebra, 1 Stupice, 1 Sungold, and 2 Sweet Tangerine. Another of my tomato plants had lost its label by the time I got it home to plant it, so that one’s a mystery, but probably a duplicate of one of the other varieties I’d purchased. We’ll see if its fruits match anyone else. If it doesn’t, and it’s wonderful, I’ll have no way of knowing which to purchase again!
Branchy sunflowers with six-inch blooms self-sow every year.
Double Delight roses
Tomatoes growing lushly with lots of fruit!
The first Tomcot apricots, about mid-June. I chose this variety because my husband's name is Tom. Good thing they're delicious!
Apricot main harvests on June 14 and 20, totaling about 90 fruits.
Apricot last fruits still on the tree. What a lovely 2-week harvest! Just enough to relish each one without getting tired of the flavor!
Carrot blossoms attract many beneficial insects.
Salvia canariensis provides beautiful mauve color through the Fall.
Early-season artichoke on the left is dying, and follow-up shoots to the right are beginning to produce.
Leonitus leonurus comes in many shades of beige through orange. In life, these are colored like the deepest shade that shows in the photo.
These must have come up from the assorted seeds I scattered in the fall, before our rains.
The tail end of this color of alstroemeria, showing the green seed pods.
Feverfew makes the whole garden a bouquet.
Dancy Tangerine babies.
Sparse fruit set on grape allows good air circulation so less chance of mildew.
Lots of figs set on both last-year's brown wood and this year's green wood.
Artichoke blossoms are the same "blacklight" color of Jacaranda trees.
More ripening Tangerine tomatoes.
Let poppies get crispy dry before harvesting the seed. Hold a container underneath as you snap off the head so the "salt-shaker" top doesn't spill all the seeds before you capture them.
Weather is always weirder than we remember or expect, so we’re just continuing the pattern. But this coolness after that barely-hot spell is definitely bespeaking Spring instead of Summer. I personally love the cool mornings with sun burning through the cloud cover for midday. But I know the tomatoes and squash and cukes ad infinitum thrive on the heat and intense sun. So I keep waiting for our usual burning heat of Summer to finally happen.
Should I start a garden now? A friend of mine, in anticipation of being able to determine his own Father’s Day activities, asked if he was too late in the season to begin incorporating amendments and planting. Expecting the summer heat to be upon us any day, I warned him that the amended soil would warm up as the microorganisms from the mix of manure, compost, and coffee grounds would heat up too much to plant transplants for about two weeks. I urged him to dig in the amendments and purchase the plants, but to wait to plant them until his hand stuck into the soil six inches deep was barely warm, indicating that the plant roots wouldn’t be “burned” by the still-active soil mix. He’s accomplished the amending, and has the transplants waiting nearby so they acclimate to the climate of their new home. The weather forecast through July 6 is for low-to-mid 80s daytime temperatures, so getting those seeds and plants in should be just fine. So, I’m doing more seeding and transplanting than I’d planned, as well. If you choose to, as well, just be sure that you purchase healthy plants that have extensive roots but aren’t rootbound in their pots. For vegetables and flowers, purchase four-inch-size pots. You want more root system at this time of year than is provided in 6-packs, since you want them to be able to quickly establish themselves into your garden beds before summer heat arrives and stresses the plants.
Dig a hole that’s several times as wide as the container.
Rough up the rootball as you hold the plant above the hole so the potting mix falls into the hole.
Mix the original soil in the hole with the potting mix from the container to create a combination of what the plant has grown in and where it will grow.
Hold the plant at the same level it was in the container (tomatoes are the only plants that can be planted deeper)
Pull the mixed soil into the hole around the rootball.
With your fingertips, press the soil around the rootball to anchor it.
Create a shallow basin about four inches around the plant so you can water the plant in and have the water go down deeply into the soil.
Fill the basin three times to make sure that the soil has made good contact with the roots.
If the sun does get intense, provide a bit of shade from about 11am-6pm for a week or two, until the roots have established themselves and the plant is growing well.
In four days, water again three times.
After that, water as necessary to make sure the water reaches a good foot or so down. Most vegetables’ roots go at least that deep; tomatoes can go three feet down!
First ripening tomato is Sweet Tangerine. Surprising that it's ahead of any of the cherry-types - especially Sungold - that were planted at the same time.
First apricots. Yum!
Artichokes that matured faster than I could eat them are now providing that "black-light" brilliant purple color to the garden. I'll let them mature completely so I harvest the seeds.
Carrots blooming their "landing pads" for beneficial insects.
Cauliflower that's overmature but still mildly tasty.
Iochroma is loved by hummingbirds
Celery going to seed.
Leonitus Leonurus provides brilliant orange "sparklers" in the garden.
Minimal fertilization allows sufficient air circulation to avoid mildew problems.
August Pride peaches ripening.
The heat has come, with a blast. From high-70s daytime temperatures and fog taking till noonish to burn off, yesterday and today have been in the high-90s with intensely clear sun. Although not as severe a jump compared with last July’s 113 degrees, our gardens may show some effects in another week or so. In the meantime – or rather, immediately – make sure your garden is deeply watered so existing plantings will have the reservoir of moist soil to keep their roots viable and enable them to overcome whatever stress they’re undergoing. Fortunately, the forecast is for temperatures to be in the mid-to-low 80s for the rest of the week.
Tomatoes I watered my tomatoes yesterday, both in their sunken planting holes and in the 5-gallon buckets between them. But I also planted 5 more tomato plants – 3 Celebrity and 2 Ace 55 – into the spaces where I’d finally cleared out the last of the peas. I’ve placed a nursery tray on the south side of each plant to hopefully reduce the intensity of the direct sun during this intense heat, since the plants haven’t yet had the time to re-establish their root systems. I make a point of tucking in the wayward branches into the cages before I water, when the branches are somewhat limp. Then, they’ll bend more readily so I can push and pull them under the rungs with minimal breakage. If I wait until after I water the plants, the branches become rigid so are not so easily manipulated without breaking. I have purposely pruned the cherry-type tomato branches that have grown taller than the double-stack cages. This will foster new growth from existing nodes further down in the plant, so harvesting will be within easy reach. Last year, I’d let the plants grow as tall as they wanted, which meant they bent over and grew down outside the cage, so to harvest I had to reach through the new growth to fruit in the inner cage. It was difficult to see which were ripe because of all the shading. We’ll see whether this new method works better.
First Apricots; Peaches & Plums Yet to Come Yum! I was happily relieved that only a few of the ripening apricots had been nibbled, since I just now got around to wrapping bunches of fruit with the netting. Because my trees have a thick layer of mulch at their bases, I harvest by gently shaking the branches. Whichever fruits fall are ripe. They fall onto the mulch so don’t get damaged. Peach and plum fruits have been wrapped with netting.
Artichoke Blossoms The last artichokes that I hadn’t harvested before they were too mature for eating, I now let them mature fully into decorative blossoms and even beyond so I can use them at workshops to show where the seeds reside – at the very outer edge of the completely dried blossom.
Carrots Many of the carrots are sending up their bloom stalks, which I allow to mature to attract beneficial insects and go to seed. I keep watering the carrot bed in the hopes of getting the roots to continue being fully hydrated and sweet so I can continue eating them. Once the hot weather is unrelenting, they’ll become too “turpentiney” to enjoy.
Color In The Garden Irises are done and getting trimmed back, and nasturtiums are dying back but left in place as mulch. Alstroemerias, begonias, bougainvilleas, geraniums, iochroma, roses, salvias and Verbena bonariensis are fully in color. Succulents are colored up and blooming; repotting them results in lots of offshoots to root and give away.
Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, with pink alstroemeria and orange/yellow bulbine
Four colors of alstroemerias
Mustard colored fleur-de-lys iris
Salvia canariensis' exquisite mauve bloom and cottony white fuzz
Persimmon fruit beginning to develop with dried blossom still attached
Consecutive harvests of artichokes are smaller.
Drying nasturtiums provide protective mulch for newly-planted perennial. The plastic flag is to remind me where the new plant is so I make sure to water it again in a couple of days to get its roots well established before Summer's heat.
Boy, more rain, and not just drizzles, either, but an inch or so here in my Pasadena Garden, totaling 32 inches so far! And do the plants love it, all green and perky and blooming their hearts out! Barely into the mid 50s at night, and not even into the 80s during the day – now that’s real Spring weather, and it’s been going on for months! But I know that Summer heat will settle in at some point, so I’m getting the garden prepared by making sure everything is deeply watered so the roots are well down into the soil by the time that the heat blasts the top several inches.
Planting More Tomatoes I’d given up years ago, due to the ongoing drought, planting another batch of Celebrity tomatoes and another Sungold tomato toward the end of May, so I’d have tomatoes to harvest from August through November, following the demise of the main plantings. That had been my practice every year up until the drought was so severe that I couldn’t water the May-planted tomatoes enough to keep them barely alive, much less producing fruits. So I gave up. Why waste my water - which I had to pay for - instead of just purchasing my tomatoes at farmers markets? This year, however, with our tremendous winter rains and now this looooooooonnnnnnnngggggg Spring, and super-vibrant plants that I’d planted at the end of March and then more at the end of April, I’m going to plant 5 more plants in the spaces that have been finally vacated by the late-bearing peas. We’ll see what happens, whether the real Summer head returns with blast that overcomes these new plants, or the replanting results in Fall tomatoes!
Sowing Beans and Squash The two other crops that I’d given up planting at the end of May, for the same reason as the tomatoes, are beans and squash. I’m going to do them again now, though, also for the same reason as the tomatoes. I think I’ll sow both bush and pole types this time, to see how each performs in the coming heat. When I first started growing beans years ago, I used only the bush type. But the last couple of years I’ve grown the pole type and got many more beans over the long season of harvesting since the pole type kept producing. We’ll see what the results will be this time around.
Carrots I’m not keeping up with harvesting my carrots, however. I’d oversowed them because the first ones didn’t come up when I thought they should have, so as munching as much as my husband and I have been able to, there are still some carrots that are bolting (going to seed) despite our efforts. However, I’m keeping them well watered so their flavor remains pleasant instead of going “turpentiney”.
Last of the Artichokes We’ve certainly had a bounteous year of artichokes! I’m always fascinated by the size differential from the very first huge ones and then successively smaller-sized harvests. I always save a couple of the huge first ones to let them go to blossom so I can discuss them – and show their seeds – at future workshops. After last year’s crop, I discarded the extra-spiny plants. One of them even had spines up and down each side of the leaves as well as all the pointy leaflet tips of the fruit. I was relieved to find that the spiny ones weren’t as delicious as the non-spiny ones – or at least that was my rational for allowing myself to rip out the spiny ones! No more danger of injury when harvesting!
Nasturtium Mulch My nasturtium “ocean” is looking tattered, but I’m letting the vines stay in place to wilt down and provide mulch in place over the entire garden. This method doesn’t look very neat, but I consider that the greater value is in the mulch and shade it provides as the greenish-tan foliage color will become a darker brown as it dries and decays, providing much nutrition and protection from Summer’s beating sun. Besides, the dying-down vines also provide shade protection to newly-planted perennials so they can get well-established before the Summer sun becomes intense.