March 26, 2007

Spring Rain Falls

Since rain was predicted for this evening, and as I look out of my window, I see the first misting of it now, I wanted to get all my garden tools secured and potting soils either laid into their designated beds or pots or put away into the garage. I've been busy in my gardens the last few days. I've potted up a few hanging baskets of verbena, bopoca and million bells for my backyard, planted a strawberry pot with everybearing strawberries and today, I filled up my front square foot garden bed with soil and steer manure. I've been delighted with the introduction of more organic soils to the gardening centers. The soils are rich and well mixed, not sticks or strange crud that would not work with my garden.

I still haven't gotten to planting my new pepper plants, but since they are still small and might fall to cutworms, that is not a critical. Once this current system of rain has passed, I will get back to work on my square foot garden. Meanwhile, my tools have been put away so that the rain won't damage them, my open bags of potting soil have been stowed in the garage and all is peaceful in my garden.

March 20, 2007

Clearing the Bed

Rain was forecast for the day here in our little section of Los Angeles. All my gardening tools were still outside and I had even left my gardening gloves out on the patio table. Fearing that everything would rust and become ruined in the rain, I got hustled outside early to be under overcast skies.

I took my shovel and cleared the dead tomato plants from my front raised bed, cutting the stalks with my pruners when they got caught on the picket fence that surrounds my vegetable garden. It didn't take long since all the plants had withered away to dry stalks during the winter's cold. All my beds have been cleared except for the chile plants that I am keeping. Once the current "storm" has gone through, I will be ready to start adding new soil and organic compost to my raised beds and planting my chiles and tomatoes into their new locations. All of my tools and gloves have been put away and my yards are ready for the rain.

I hauled all the plant matter away and got the can back to the side of the yard. The city will come and take it all away in the few days on their weekly rounds. Our city has two recycling programs. One takes cans and cardboard. Another takes yard "waste" and sends it to a composting program. I'm glad that our city does this. I feel that it helps us do our part to help the planet.

March 18, 2007

Pink Jasmine in Bloom

One of the pleasures of early spring is the sight and scent of pink jasmine when it comes in full bloom. I have three jasmine vines in my backyard garden. The eldest and most beautiful is the one over the entrance arbor. I thought I'd share a photo of this beautiful vine. I only wish that I could share the scent. The flowers are so massive that you can smell the jasmine from 30 feet away. It is heavenly.

I am always glad when spring arrives. While we enjoy a mild six week long winter (rainy season) here in Southern California, it can be dreary since most of the plants either lose their leaves or go dormant. When the first of the spring flowers begin to appear, it can be a cause for celebration.

For those of you who are curious, the yellow blooms behind the gate in the photo are flowering maples.

March 16, 2007

Monster Tomato and Pepper Sale

Yes, it is once again time for the Monster Tomato and Pepper Sale at the Fullerton Arboretum! March 15th through the 18th over by the Potting Shed, the plant loving public has an opportunity to purchase rare heirloom tomatoes, exotic chile and bell peppers and a good selection of unusual eggplants too. This is my second year buying plants at the Monster Tomato and Pepper Sale. Even though it was Thursday morning, the place was packed with shopper of all ages. I brought a small luggage cart with me to roll my cardboard box of seedlings around the sale and back to my car, but the Friends of the Fullerton Arboretum do provide a limited number of little flyer wagons to haul your plants around if needed.

I didn't buy as many seedlings this year as last, but then I successfully overwintered many of my peppers from last year. This time I purchased two italian pepperoncini plants, two lemon drop chile plants, one of the Carmine Hybrid chiles that was a feature of the sale and one Coro de Toro Giallo pepper plant. I purchased three heirloom tomato plants and will look forward to wonderful salsa and italian spaghetti sauce this summer.

If you live in Orange County or Los Angeles, CA, you should make a point to visit the Fullerton Arboretum and get in on the action this weekend.

March 08, 2007

Pruning Back Chiles

We have been having our front yard re-landscaped this week. A new sprinkler system, a new section of concrete to our driveway, new boxwoods forming a hedge and a new sod lawn laid down. It all looks so pristine. I love it. The gardeners are doing a good job, although the project is taking a bit longer than was originally planned. I'm still waiting for my new boxwood hedge to go in, but hopefully that will happen next week and we'll be all done.

With all the activity in the front yard, it has motivated me to return to my organic salsa garden in the backyard. I spent time this morning going over each and every chile in my garden with garden clippers. Most of the stalks had budding new leaves and a few tiny flowers on them, but I decided to be ruthless and cut back the chiles as far as I could. I want them small enough so that I can put cages over them and to promote new growth this spring. I also did a little light weeding, mainly pulling wandering jew vines from where they were invading from the neighbor's yard.

I ended up losing a few plants to the last winter cold snap we had this past February. Two of my chiles were nothing more than dried up sticks. I have two blushing beauty bells, one Corno de Toro Red, one gypsy bell, three fresnos, one cherry bomb, one fatali, one fish, one kung pao, one scotch bonnet and one chocolate habanero. I discovered two bulgarian carrot plants, although I only planted one last year. I think that one of the fallen chile pods must have sprouted during the winter. I have not moved any of the plants to new locations, but I want to get more of the bed fixed up before the pepper sale. This way I will have a better idea about additional peppers to purchase at the sale. Now that the chile plants are smaller in size, they will be easier to transplant.

March 06, 2007

Spring Arrives

Outside, the weather has been turning bright and sunny. Temperatures have been steadily getting warmer and my pink jasmine vines are putting forth the most lovely clouds of blooms. I have not done much with my salsa garden, other than be around when the termite exterminator injected the wooden fence with poison. The process was done quickly and now dealing with the termites seems like a faraway dream.

Old tomato plants remain in the front bed, mostly dead and needing to be cleared out. I am going to start with fresh tomato plants this year, hopefully I will find a couple of interesting heirloom varieties at the pepper and tomato sale next week. The soil levels in my raised beds are about half of what it should be. Once I'm ready to begin the March plantings, I'll fluff up the soil in the beds with a claw and then add in more organic compost and garden soil from the nursery to bring the soil levels up to the top.

Most of my overwintered chile plants survived! I'm grateful because this means that I'll have access to fresh chiles in my cooking far sooner than usual. While there are a few chile pods still on the plants, none of them have put out fresh blooms as yet. They are still all relatively dormant. This means that it should be safe to prune them back, dig them up and transplant them into new areas or back into my new beds.