Friday, October 24, 2014

Amended and Planted Community Garden

For a birthday gift, dear friend T.W. did the labor of adding wheelbarrows full of soil to my garden box to bring it back up to level.  Thank you!  We also added some composted chicken manure and a composted manure blend.  Today I planted many seeds, including saved carrot and lettuce seeds, plus commercial chard, bok choy, beets, and probably some other things that I forgot.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Solarizing North and West Beds

I've given up on the soil in the North and West Beds, since I know it has tested positive for Fusarium and Root Knot Nematodes.  Finally, I bit the bullet and I'm solarizing it, hoping it will help.  Following the directions on this site, I cleared out all the plants and debris, watered deeply, and covered the soil with clear plastic sheeting.  We pulled the drip irrigation lines up such that they are resting on top of the plastic.  We also anchored the plastic down with river rocks on the edges.  Since this isn't peak summer sun, although it is darn hot out there still, I plan to leave the plastic on for about 2 months.  I hope it helps.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Apricot Apple Leather

After dehydrating several batches of apple leather, I moved on to apricot-apple leather.  It was so delicious that I want to record what I did.  Use apricots - about 10-12 washed, pitted and trimmed.  Put into Vitamix container.  Fill the rest of the container with washed, cored, trimmed and quartered apples.  Puree.  Pour onto the dehydrator sheets.  They took about 18 hours or so to dry, which was much longer than the apple leather.  It could be due to being thicker, but I think part of the issue was the apricots being more watery and less pectin-y.  (Is that even a word?)  Anyway, it tastes fabulous!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Apple leather and dried fruit

The apple supply this year is beyond my energy for canning it into applesauce, so I got out the dehydrator.  I've made several loads of apple leather and dried fruit.  I have a 7-tiered commercial dehydrator with a fan in the middle.  There are 4 sheets that can do apple leather, so if I want to run the dehydrator full, I need to add in some dried fruit.

For the apple leather I simply wiped the sheets with olive oil on a tissue to provide a little non-stick help.  I washed, cored, trimmed, and quartered the apples before pureeing them in the Vitamix and pouring/spooning it onto the trays.  About 2 full VM containers of apples yields enough for the 4 trays of leather.

For the dried fruit I sliced apple thinly (less than the thickness of the puree in the tray) and put them on the drying trays.  I also put in some apricot slices and banana slices to dry.  The dried banana ended up being a family favorite along with the apple leather.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Home garden update

The upper mandarin's water was a little low, although we ran the irrigation to check it before I got to assess how dry the soil was relative to when it last ran, so hard to tell if that was the issue.  Anyway, adjusted the drippers so the upper mandarin is getting more water.  Also added compost to its well.

Used fish emulsion to fertilize the two mandarins, the back lemon, the North bed, the West bed, the carrotwood tree, and the front hedge.  Used Grow Power Plus on the carrotwood and hedge.  Also used Organic Citrus fertilizer on the two mandarins and back lemon.  Used organic veg fertilizer on the North and West beds and pots.  Finally, DD put old commercial worm castings in the North bed, West bed, and pots.

I saved seed from our cauliflower and broccoli and tore out the old plants.  I planted cucumber seeds in the West bed, and zucchini and pumpkin seeds in the North bed, plus some nasturtiums for fun.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Canned Applesauce

Last week we were lucky enough to help pick a friend's apple tree.  We came home with a TON of apples.  So, it was time to can applesauce, which I've done in years past, but haven't taken notes on it for the blog.  So here goes:

For the most part, I used the directions at this site, but I'd like to add my own notes.  First, a note on SET UP: I have the 22 Qt Pressure Canner with rack, that I can use without pressure as a BWB canner.  I have two other very large stock pots, neither of which have Qt markings on them.  I'd guess they are about 16 Qts and 12 Qts, but who knows.  For this project I used the Pressure Canner as my BWB (I need that height to do Quarts) and the 12 Qt for the applesauce cooking itself.  If I were to can Quarts again, I may wish to use the 16 Qt stock pot to allow more room for boiling.  If I were to do pints (as I did last year), I think I'd use the 16 Qt as my BWB and the 12 Qt for the applesauce.  I also had out a large saucepan for heating the rings and lids.


1) Wash, core and remove any bad portions of the apples.  I did not peal them.

2) Put the apples in the Vitamix until fairly full.  The VM works better with quartered apples than halves because it is easier to push the apples down to the blades.  Puree.

3) Pour the puree into a large stock pot.  Once I had about 7 quarts (the canner capability of my BWB) in there, bring to a boil, stirring frequently 'cause this thick sauce can sure bubble in a messy way.

4) Heat the clean jars in the canner, which also serves to warm that water.

5) Using a canning funnel, fill the jars.  The directions say to leave 1/2 inch of headspace, which I thought I left but maybe not, as many of my jars ended up bubbling over during processing.  Leave more headspace next time.  Maybe aim for an inch.

6) Processes quarts for 20 minutes in BWB.

7) After process time, turn off heat, let jars settle for about 5 minutes (not required for food safety), and remove jars from canner.  Leave them be to cool, although I did tighten the ring seals after a bit.

This was mostly successful.  I canned 14 Quarts and 2 1.5 Quart jars (the latter I processed as Quarts).  One lid came clean off in the canner, which was a grande mess and I did have some bubble over in the canner, so 1) make sure the bands are a GENEROUS "fingertip" tight on when going in the canner and 2) leave about an inch of headspace next time.  Also, I'll add that it took FOREVER to wash, core and puree the apples for this project.  So if I want each batch to be more approachable, pints might be a good size choice, as I can't do as much volume at once.  Either size container works well for my family when eating applesauce.  Another point, this does make for a thick sauce, which my family likes.  For a thinner sauce, one could of course add a little water in the cooking process.

Worm Bin

DH turned over the worm bin this weekend, putting the worm castings in the two mandarins, the back lemon, and in the North garden bed.  The smaller mandarin isn't looking too happy.  I need to check its water.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Fertilized Community Garden

Today I used the granular Dr. Earth's fertilizer on the community garden bed.  I had a busy day of harvesting celeriac, lettuce, kale, carrots, 1 strawberry and my friend's turnips and bok choy.  The marigolds I recently planted are mostly  denuded of all foliage and some are further along and completely dead.  There must be some pest both at the community garden and at home that loves to eat marigolds.  This happened last year as well.  Aren't they supposed to be pest repellent?

Here is a picture of my friend T. with her monstrous kohlrabi.  It reminds me of the plant from Little Shop of Horrors!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Planted and Fertilized at home

Ah!  Spring is definitely here, and I've go the bug!  I spent almost the whole day in the garden, after starting the morning at Zumba.  I pulled out some old veggies and gathered fennel and basil seeds before planting.  I put in basil, dill, and chive seeds.  Plus I had starts of Celebrity Tomatoes that I planted, which are VFNT resistant.  If anything can survive my diseased home garden beds, they seem the most likely candidates.  They went in the North and West beds.  I hope they at least taste decent.  Also, I planted marigolds (for looks and to discourage nematodes), snapdragons, and celosia.  The latter I've never grown before.  The flowers went in North, West and South beds, plus pots.  DH harvested the worm bin and put the castings in the North and West beds.  Finally I gave a very thorough fish fertilizing to the Carrotwood tree and the hedge on the North side of the house that I'm hoping will pep them up, along with the deep watering they've been getting.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fertilized Community Garden

Used fish emulsion to fertilize at the community garden.  Picking lots of lettuce, kale, broccoli greens, celeriac.  Planted some strawberry plants that I found in the compost bin last week, more lettuce from seed, plus transplanted in excess broccoli starts from friend.  Thanks friend!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Fertilized and applied compost at home

Today I used the fish emulsion to fertilize the N. and W. garden beds at home, plus pots and citrus trees (except missed one on the side yard).  I also applied compost to the two lower mandarins.  The lowest one is still looking less than thrilled with life.  When we planted it initially (was it only a year ago?) the dirt there was shockingly pale and whitish/chalky.  I wonder if that is impacting the tree.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Fertilized at Community Garden

Today I fertilized with Fish Emulsion at the Community Garden.  I also planted the rest of my onion starts.  I harvested a good bit of lettuce.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fertilized at home, Carrotwood Tree

Today I used seaweed and fish emulsion deeply on the citrus trees.  Trying to perk up a little mandarin in back.  Used this on a quetionable apple tree on the back slope to see if it would leaf out better this year.

Also used the seaweed and fish emulsion on the N. Bed, S. Bed, W. Bed, and pots.

Still trying to help the Northern part of the Carrotwood Tree.  Used the seaweed and fish emulsion deeply there, then wound a new soaker hose around the back area and watered deeply.  Please let this help!

Finally, took that seaweed and fish emulsion to the front yard and fertilized the North hedge.  Somewhere on that hedge the dial-a-sprayer must have clogged, so I don't know how much fertilizer that hedge actually got.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fractal Cauliflower

This cauliflower was so much fun to grow!  I got a bunch of starts at what I'll call a "Squirrel Sale" at a local nursery - a squirrel had munched on many starts in each 6-pack so they were super cheap and I bought a lot.  More survived than anticipated, so we've been eating A LOT of cauliflower.  Some was the usual type that is white with a usual cauliflower form.  This one we affectionately called the Fractal Cauliflower.  It was so beautiful!

In addition to growing cauliflower for the heads, I also like to eat the leaves.  I typically will de-stem the leaf and then stir fry it.  My favorite accompaniment to the greens is crimini mushrooms with salt, pepper and olive oil.  The heads we've enjoyed steamed and roasted.  My mom took some home to make a soup out of.

After posting this, a friend commented that it is Broccoli Romanesco.  I can see both Cauliflower Romanesco and Broccoli Romanesco on line.  I suspect they are the same thing, don't you?  Since it is such a pale green, who knows what to call it!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fertilized Carrotwood Tree

I fertilized the backyard Carrotwood Tree with Osmocote and GroPower today.  I've continued to do approximately weekly deep watering of the tree to help it leaf out and get healthier.  Since the fall when the whole thing was looking pretty sorry, one side has leafed out but the other has not.  The side near the neighbors is the one struggling.  I've asked them if their watering/fertilizing/chemicals has changed in the last year, but they haven't really.  That side is harder for me to deeply water due to the slope of the land.  I wonder if it is just a water issue or if one of the main trunks is diseased.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Fertilized Community Garden plot

I fertilized the community garden plot with fish fertilizer on 1/14 and sprayed the asphids again with horticultural oil there on 1/16.

We've had several weeks of warm, Santa Ana conditions.  Today I noticed that tomato plants still in the ground are blooming.  They think its spring.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Fertilized with Fish Emulsion at home, Pruned Roses

I fertilized the South, North and West garden beds with Fish Emulsion today.  The lettuce and beet seeds that I planted in my nematode-infested North bed are hardly germinating.

Pruned all the roses, so now my house is littered with vases of roses that were still on the bushes.  What do other people do in warm climates?  You have to prune sometime, right?  But it always seems a shame to cut off so many flowers.

While pruning roses, I found more raccoon scat.  That thing loves my garden.  DH was kind enough to clean it up for me, wearing gloves and mask and such.  Nasty diseases in that stuff.