Friday, December 14, 2012

Seed Dreaming: Amazing Native Corn Variety

I came across this on Mother Earth News and haven't been this excited about seeds since... last winter!  A man in the Southwest US has been carefully saving from extinction a beautiful corn variety now dubbed Glass Gem.  I've been thinking about growing some of the ornamental varieties of corn since seeing a blood red ear (and husk!) at a farm several years ago.  Glass Gem is at another level.  Look through the image gallery for some of the gorgeous color variations that have been cultivated.

As it turns out, there are many varieties of heirloom corn that are colorful and edible.  While Glass Gem may be hard to come by this year (Native Seeds has a waiting list) there are quite a few alternatives out there.  Shop for some at Native Seeds or Seeds Trust and grow an ear of American History!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Favorite Jersey City Maple

This tree always puts on a spectacular fall show. This year did not disappoint.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

2012 Pumpkin Review Spectacular

I have a modest collection this year. What it lacks in numbers it makes up for in personality. The dark warty specimen is new for me. Last week I ate a few of the smaller varieties before documentation so you'll have to imagine an acorn and a delicata on the mantle.

What do you think of that big stem?!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lazy Cat and New Kitten

The white cat is one of the garden's regulars. There's a whole troupe of white and gray and white and black and just plain black cats running around there. They've all been fixed (except one newcomer adult male) and are fed daily by a few dedicated cat lovers.

We think the new kitten was dumped about a month ago. He's fitting right in with the rest of the bunch, eating and playing with whomever can stomach the company of a rambunctious kitten. Before I photographed him, we played for a while with a grass tassel. He's adorable and playful but still distrustful of humans. In a few months that will probably change and with regular contact I'm sure the process would go even faster. Yesterday he was nose to nose with one of the kind souls who brings food and you could see curiosity almost trumping fear.

The man asked if I knew of anyone on the market for a kitten. So I'm getting the word out that this little gray tabby is looking for a home before the cold weather sets in! If we can't find someone, a local pet shop offered to show him off in a cage in his store to find an adoptee. That might scare the fluff out of the little guy but it's better than life on the streets.

More updates to come when they're available.

Munching Monarchs

Monarch butterfly caterpillars have been on my carrot tops all summer. Yesterday two fat ones were munching away. In the past I've moved them to the designated Butterfly Garden but this time I just let them be. I don't know if they winter over. They were really enjoying the carrot greens so I was happy to share!

The rest of the garden is winding down. I pulled all but one sunflower and the last cherry tomato. I'm hoping the broccoli will produce florets in the spring.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Fall Plot

After a week and a half hiatus I finally got to the garden and did some much needed editing. The sunflowers got a big haircut and two cherry tomato plants were culled. Another kale plant was harvested and the marigolds all got some attention. The cool weather has been wonderful and it has me thinking about my fall garden plans. I know I will plant more garlic for spring and keep the broccoli going through winter but I'm still brainstorming the rest. Updates will follow.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cactus Fruit Agave Ale and Mixed Veggies

We're bottling our very experimental brew this evening.  The stuff floating on top is the cubed cactus fruit.  It was bright pinkish red when it first went in, then the beer turned red, then it turned black, and now it's a medium brown.  I've read mixed reviews of prickly pear beers so it will be a surprise tonight when we sneak a taste.  It will carbonate in the bottles and be ready for drinking in a couple weeks.

I removed one of the kale plants this morning to free up some space in the plot.  I also pulled and thinned the carrots and moved a hot pepper into a sunnier spot.  Between the fig tree behind my plot and the massive sunflowers in my plot, I'm battling shade and trying to maximize my season.  Two of the three cherry tomato plants are next on the list to go.  They haven't been super productive and I'm trying to make room for late season crops.  The broccoli plants are finally bulking up and turning purple (they are Purple Sprouting Broccoli, after all) so they could use more room.  I might have to say goodbye to one of the sunflower trees. 

This morning I sowed beet, lettuce, and bean seeds to see if I can get some in before winter.  Last year we had an extended mild fall.  If we get the same thing this year, I should be able to get a few salads out of the planting.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Slow Harvest

Onions, kale, tomatoes, beans, cherry bomb, and a carrot. I pulled out the beets today and composted them. I also moved several huge marigolds to a public bed to free up some room. If the sunflowers weren't in their glory right now they'd be removed too but the bees seem to love them. And they add color and a little verticality to the plot. I'm slowly taming the jungle.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vacation Days

I'm watering two additional plots this week as many gardeners are on vacation.  One has allowed me to enjoy some of her ripe tomatoes while she is away.  What a treat!  Nothing is more delicious than that first homegrown tomato of the season, dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  The two in the back were "payment" for my services.  I'm harvesting a pint or two of cherry tomatoes a week from my own plot.  And of course the broccoli leaves continue for Mao Mao and I.  I've added the chopped leaves to pasta, pizza, rice, eggs, and even pierogies.

The sunflowers have topped out at about 9' this year.  The tallest is supporting a very vigorous cucumber vine that has its sights set on the fig tree.  So far the flowers have all been a classic yellow with large brown center.  The mixed red variety I planted has had trouble catching up under the shaded canopy of jumbo leaves.  I might clear out the largest in August to see what happens.

The plot is just packed with foliage and flowers.  Everything is big and bushy and green and competing for space and sun.  As usual, I misjudged the capacity for some things to branch out when given the chance.  One misplaced tomato plant is stunting the growth of another.  Two misplaced pepper plants are wondering why it's been such a dark summer.  You never know what will thrive.  Every season is different and full of surprises and disappointments.  This year the broccoli has been a steady producer, loving its shaded corner of the plot.  Next year the hot peppers are getting a front row seat to the sun. 

The vegetable garden is never perfect, no matter how many times I read the seed catalog descriptions, draw planting diagrams, and consult the plant succession tables.  There are so many variables to consider.  Fun, fun, fun!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Beautiful Jungle

BIG cucumber, little pepper

Bee Hangout

My Beautiful Jungle

Monday, July 16, 2012

Instant Insalada

The harvests are definitely getting more colorful!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Floral Diversion

Three nasturtiums are growing under the cucumber plants.  I would love to add the flowers to salads but they haven't been flowering too much.  They might need a bit more sun.

What flower is this?  It has feathery silver leaves and delicate yellow blossoms that turn white after a while.  The centers of the flowers also change from yellow to white.

More clues: They seem to have four petals.  They grew from seed.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summertime in the Garden

Big and Green.  The garden is enjoying the heat but could use a bit more rain.  I try to get there every other day but when the temps are in the 90's, the plants get thirsty.  The big leafy things are my volunteer sunflowers.  They'll be yellow with red and rust colors mixed in.  One in the center extends way beyond the top of the photo and trellis.  I think it's close to 8' tall.  There isn't a whole lot going on right now in the plot in terms of harvesting or flowers.  Everything is in production but not quite there yet.

The first Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes are coming in.  I've got three plants and they should all be big producers.  Depending on what i harvest, I might try making some sauce with them.

These red onions can be used as scallions or small onions.  I've picked some early and chopped them into salads and stirfry dishes.  If they last through fall, they might have more of a bulb on the end.  This is my first year growing onions and I'd probably get sets or plants in future seasons if I want actual onions in the summer.  I grew these from seed but they've taken longer than I thought to get this far.

I've got several 7" long cucumbers that are just starting to fill out, from the bottom up.  I won't be making pickles, but we will have our fair share of cucumber based salads.  Maybe I'll be able to contribute a little more homegrown bounty to this year's batch of Asian Gazpacho!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Big Dog Tiny Car

Kinda hard to see, but the dog was Hooch HUGE!  You can click on the photo for a bigger view.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Everything is big and bushy in the garden.  I've managed to stay on top of the cabbage looper invasion and harvested lots of broccoli greens today for Mao Mao and I.  The cherry tomato plants are full of blossoms and a few fruits and my Cherokee Purple is flowering.  The shuyo cucumber has several 5" long fruits on it but they are about as thick as a pencil at this point.  The beans are just beginning to produce and look like they could be a prolific variety.  I threw a few more carrot seeds into the ground in the bare spots despite the unfavorable moon planting conditions.

The harvest today was surprisingly bountiful: garlic, kale, broccoli greens, carrots, purple onions, beans, and peas.  I enjoyed most of it for lunch.  Ahh, the sweet rewards of my gardening efforts!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Presby Memorial Iris Garden #7

I will be hitting the plot this weekend to assess the bug situation and possibly to plant some insect repelling herbs.  If I have to take out the broccoli, I might plant some zinnias in its place.  They have always been one of my favorite blooms; I'm a sucker for saturated hues.

Without further ado, here is the final installment of the Presby Memorial Iris Garden series!