Despite the fact that it will be 90F this week we are definitely at the end of Summer here in Northern California. We’ve already had rain and you can feel the cool weather starting to settle in.
But this is still California and I really appreciate our sunny climate especially as we head into Fall, my favorite season of the year. This beautiful climate affords us more evenings out back enjoying our patio and BBQ. And more time in our garden.
The side alley is already started for Fall crops. I’ve got TONS of kale, leeks and bok choy. More peas, carrots, chard and spinach, which did really well in early summer before the extreme heat set in. This is my second try on the leeks. I tried to start them about a month ago, but then we got slammed by the heat and they just couldn’t take it. They’re much happier now. Keep your fingers crossed.
In the back garden … here’s a little reminder of where we started in early summer.
Here’s where we’re at now.
Not bad, huh? Everything is full of produce except this little triangular bed in the front here. That I filled with cutting flowers: sunflowers, various varieties of zinnia and mums.
If I turn around we’ve got this little curvilinear bed that I’ve also filled with flowers and succulents. It’s an odd mix, but so far seems to be working well. I planted my first rose bush and surprisingly it has been blooming all summer. My biggest challenge has been that the cats use this bed as a litter box. They’ve killed two plants already. It’s driving me a bit nuts. If anyone has any hints on keeping the cats out of the flower beds I would appreciate it.
Anyway, a quick tour of the veggies.
We’ve the requisite squash and zucchini growing like gangbusters. That zucchini there is about a foot long. They’ve been HUGE!
We’ve got tomatoes that line our driveway plus these guys. These fellas were supposed to be bush plants (hence the reason I put them back here), but they grew like crazy and Jack had to build this super-cage for them.
They are still producing like crazy and boy, are they delicious. I have been eating tomatoes all summer and haven’t tired of them even a smidge.
This bed is full of peppers: bell, anaheim, banana, chili, cherry … we’ve got peppers coming out the whazoo!
From the same company that I got these Kaleidoscope carrots from …
… I also got Rainbow bell peppers, which gives us these amazing dark purple bell peppers along with the standard red, orange and green. The purple tastes a little sweeter than the green. I sliced some up for fajitas the other night and they were delish!
Although a little on the pricey side, I have been super happy with the seeds from Cook’s Garden. If you’re looking for something a little different, I highly recommend them.
In our long bed I’ve got tons of lettuce (in fact I have lettuce all over the garden; anywhere there was an empty spot I squeezed in more lettuce), rhubarb and these funky Asian cucumbers. I got these cukes from my friend Jason as seedlings and really had no idea what they were going to be like. Right now they look like okra on steroids, but according to Jason they get really big and are quite delicious. We shall see.
Ah. My lettuce. I’ve got 8 varieties of lettuce growing all over the place. Everything from the standard red leaf and Romaine to mesclun and arugula. I am so happy that I planted so much lettuce and with such variety. It’s really easy to grow, taste so good and has been a terrific part of our daily diet. I love it, love it, love it!
Next year I’m going to start it as early as possible. I regret that I wasted 3 months in the early season knowing now that it would have probably have done great and then we would have had fresh lettuce all summer long. Oh well, it’s all an experience, right?
Eggplant and bok choy, the perfect stir fry combo.
Here are the things that I learned in the garden this summer.
1. Fertilize weekly!
2. Neem oil is a girl’s best friend against aphids.
3. A concoction of beer, dish soap and water works just as well as expensive herbicides for pennies vs bucks.
4. Keep a large bowl of water in the garden for harvesting. Harvest and rinse outside before you take it into the house. Saves on mess/time.
5. Automatic watering is awesome. Invest in drip, my friends. Do not be me.
6. In 95F heat plan on watering 3x per day. Again, do not be me.
7. Check for pests on a daily basis. I went lax a couple days and the aphids took over my brassicas.
8. My favorite gardening hat is the traditional Vietnamese cone …
… the wide brim offers substantial protection, it’s VERY light weight and the cone shape at the top allows for a lot of air circulation so it’s way more cooling than some of my other more “traditional” sun hats. Plus, you avoid the sweaty “ring” around the forehead that you can get with traditional hats that have a collar. Ladies, you can totally avoid “hat head”. I was surprised to discover that it is dramatically more effective and comfortable than traditional western hats, especially in real heat. Final pro: they’re cheap!
9. Most importantly, gardening is super fun. All that hard work that we put in earlier this year was totally worth it!