Archive for the ‘garden’ Category

Lord.  Have any of you tackled that crazy flu that’s been going around?  Whenever I’ve had the flu, there’s been one day when I feel like I’m going to die, then 3-4 days of ickiness.  Well, this was a doozy.  My mantra was “I’m going to die”, and I repeated it hourly for 7 days.  Ridiculous.

Luckily, I have the world’s most patient nurse, so was able to send out for Gatorade and Fudgesicles (the only things I could stomach).  Unfortunately, I then got him sick, so had to reverse roles for another week.  Sheesh.  Thank god that’s over, and next year?  Flu shots for everyone!

I haven’t quite gotten back in the kitchen (currently littered with empty Gatorade bottles, numerous straws and Dayquil packaging), but I have been able to take advantage of this lovely weather and play in the garden.

We planted the east side full of melon and winter squash, mulched the whole lot and started the waiting process.  I can’t wait to see what works, what doesn’t, how they all look – we’re planting a lot of new and interesting stuff this year from Baker Creek Seeds, so the experiment continues.

The west side you’ve seen, but now it’s chock full of tomato seedlings, scattered among the broccoli, and the front is full of summer squash, pumpkin and fennel seeds.

Just as we have risen from the depths, I expect these seeds to do the same (we’re very metaphorical around here)…

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Aside from these beautiful, happy broccoli, Lynelle and I now have a blank canvas on which to plant. Chris snapped this picture as we came home from the gym last night – it gives a sense of our new space. The back bed is still going strong, with those strong artichokes, nasturtiums and cauliflower, and I’m starting to clear out some of those winter veggies.


We’ve already planted some tomato seedlings in amongst the broccoli, figuring that when they’re coming up, the broccoli may be on its way out – we’ll see how that works out! The rest will go according to the plan .  I started some melon and squash seeds, all the while knowing that they don’t like to be started.  They apparently can’t take the stress of transplant, so you’re supposed to direct-seed them into the ground.  Well, I couldn’t wait, so I tried it anyway.  I’ll test the prevailing garden wisdom – I’m sure that’ll work out fine.

My garden approach is guilt-free, because I fully expect to kill everything the first time I attempt to plant it.  That way, when some plants grow and thrive, I’m thrilled.  It’s all a learning experience.

I’m encouraged by all the gawking from people passing by – we’ve had many people come by and say that they’ve become inspired!  It is a little disconcerting to look out your front window and see strangers staring at your house, but ultimately exciting.   Time to get to growin’!

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It’s gonna be a good summer.

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Whew.  And I thought the first part was ambitious!  After spending a leisurely afternoon at our local coffee shop thumbing through seed catalogs, my neighbor and I decided that we’d need more room. We’ve got to have somewhere for all those melons, squash, beans and greens to go! Behold, the progress:


Broccoli already planted, even before we’re done.  As you can see from this picture, we’ve got quite an addition going.  Since this was taken, we’ve finished this side and have moved on to expand the garden on the far side of the pathway.  I’m quite pleased with the pathway that we created from broken pots and a few Home Depot pavers:


The after picture is still to come – we’ve got about 3 feet left on one half of the lawn to dig, then comes the borders.  If you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been posting much lately, this is the answer!

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I couldn’t help myself, and started summer seeds today.  January, right before a huge storm – brilliant.  But, I figure, it’s San Diego – how much colder could it get?  My neighbor and I have decided that the garden is ready for a massive expansion, so we’re taking out another big patch of lawn.  I’m hoping these will be ready to take center stage in a couple of months…


Plus, how cute is this IKEA greenhouse?  I’m summer-smitten.


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I was so proud.  Two beautiful butternut squash (squashes?) greeted me from the garden, and the blooms further down the vine gave the promise of more to come.  And then I pruned.  I was getting so ready for my winter veggies to get going, so last weekend I started clearing.  I pulled out the saddest looking tomato plants, caught up on my weeding, then pulled out the shears.  I was so pleased with my progress, and I noticed that one of the vines of the butternut squash could be taken out (and would then encourage quicker growth of the rest of the plant), so I snipped it.  And it was the wrong vine.  I killed any chance of more squash this season.  Tragic. 

At least I’ve made the most of the two successes – the first I simply roasted with a little olive oil until the skin gave when I pressed it with my finger.  I had plans for this squash, but they flew out the window and I ended up eating the whole thing with a spoon.  I even ate most of the skin, it was so light and papery.  Hopefully that won’t kill me.

The second squash received a more elegant treatment – this stew is adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone… 

Thai Tofu and Winter Squash Stew

1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbsp roasted peanut oil, plus extra for tofu
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (leave some seeds in if you like to sweat)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp light brown sugar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 15oz can coconut milk
1 ½ lbs butternut squash, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes
1 10-oz package firm silken tofu, cut into ½ inch cubes and fried in peanut oil (you can use it raw if you’re so inclined, but I like a little extra hard texture in this dish)
Juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup raw peanuts
¼ cup chopped cilantro

Heat oil in wide soup pot. Add onion and cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently until partially softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeno and ginger, cook 1 minute more, then add curry, sugar and soy.  Reduce heat to medium, scrape the pan, and cook for a few minutes more.  Add 3 cups water, coconut milk, squash and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Add the tofu to the stew once the squash is almost tender, then simmer till done. Taste for salt and add the lime juice.

The recipe mentions that you can garnish this dish with chopped fried peanuts and cilantro, but I was out of both of those.  It was just as delicious without them.


Last time I made this dish, I had some shiitake mushrooms and bok choy, and I threw them in during the saute.  This is one of those easily adaptable meals that can change with the contents of your fridge.  Enjoy!

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Before this season, I didn’t know what suckers were on plants, and now I’m obsessed with searching for them.  As the tomato plants grow, they produce side stems or suckers which, if left alone, will grow just like the main stem.  They’re the shoots which grow directly in the angle of two other shoots, cutting a 90° angle into two 45°s.  They’re fine in theory, but they take energy away from the main stem, causing smaller tomatoes that take longer to grow.  Can you spot the two suckers in the above photo?

At the beginning of the season, I was more vigilant about pinching these off so that my fledgling plants would have all the energy they needed to produce plenty of fruit.  Maybe I could slack a little now, since they’re already well established, but it’s become habit.


So, I’ve taken to pinching the suckers off while I’m playing search and destroy with the hornworms (who have grown to OBSCENE sizes, by the way, and are responsible for the bare stems in the first photo)…


I don’t even know what to do with these, outside of squeal and point.  They’re terrifying, really well camouflaged, and can decimate a plant in a day.  Bastards.

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This and bowls like it have been the impetus for me getting back in the kitchen:


It’s a little hazy, but you can see that the tomatoes, peppers, squash and eggplant are coming at us en masse.  Somebody better cook ’em up!  Our meal last night used up just two of our wonderfully fresh ingredients – a massive squash from a friend’s garden and a huge handful of purple bush beans.


These beauties were delicious, just sauteed in a splash of olive oil and sprinkled with salt.  They cook to green, so it’s like nature’s cooking timer.  Perfect cheat sheet.

I had this gargantuan squash that had been mocking me for days – I knew it had grown to an unreasonable size, so it wouldn’t be the best thing to eat plain.  I decided to roast it (scoop out the seeds and place cut side down on a baking sheet.  Roast at 350° until soft, about 20 minutes), stuff it with cooked rice, top with cheese and pop it back in the oven for that yummy browning.  I think I’m re-inspired.  Bring on the harvest – I can take it!


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Quit your filthy thoughts – I’m actually talking about melons here. 

Taken a mere 5 days after this picture:

It’s taking over, along with 4 or 5 smaller friends!

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Right?  The watermelon has pretty much taken over the front bed, creeping into every available space.  I figure it’ll keep weeding to a minimum in that area, so I’ve been letting it spread.  Had I thought ahead (as every story about my burgeoning gardening skills starts), I would have planted the melon closer to the house – I’ve been reading up about training melons up a trellis, simply creating pantyhose slings for the fruit, and it sounds so space efficient and clever.  Maybe next year.  The plant seems happy though, as we have lots of these little babies sprouting up all along the vine.



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