Summer Sprouts

We planted pole beans and cucumbers in the garden about 10 days ago and they recently sprouted!

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Pole beans planted around a wire cage and cucumbers planted under a trellis.

beanSprout cucumberSprout
Baby bean and cucumber sprouts.

The cucumber seeds were started under plastic bottles with the bottom removed to create a mini-greenhouse.  After the seeds had sprouted, we removed the bottles and replaced them with plastic rings cut from water bottles to keep the seedlings separated from the mulch.  This helps to keep the seedlings from staying too moist which can cause disease.

We have also been harvesting blueberries as they ripen.  Blueberries don’t ripen all at the same time so you should check every couple days and harvest the ripe ones.  It can be a little tricky to tell if blueberries are ripe, but look for berries that are completely blue/purple without any hint of green.  Blueberries can also be sweeter if left on the bush an extra day or two after they turn colors.  Just remember to pick them before the garden animals do.

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Blueberries.

Garden Update

The longer days and warmer weather are great for the garden.

The beets and carrots we planted a couple months ago are almost ready to harvest.

homegrown beets via it's jou life - http://wp.me/p3cljj-8U homegrown carrot & beet greens via it's jou life - http://wp.me/p3cljj-8U homegrown carrots via it's jou life - http://wp.me/p3cljj-8U

Since beets grow partially out of the ground, you can easily tell when they are ready for harvest.  Beets can be picked small or large depending on personal preference.  Beet greens are also edible and are very nutritious as well.  To determine if carrots are ready for harvest, gently brush away the soil near the carrot top to check the carrot size.  Its always a surprise when pulling carrots because you never know whats hidden under the surface.

Our recently planted tomatoes are also growing strong and will hopefully provide us with plenty of tomatoes over the summer.

growing tomatoes via it's jou life - http://wp.me/p3cljj-8U

Each tomato seedling is surrounded by a plastic ring made from recycled 1-gallon water bottles.  This is to keep mulch away from the base of the tomato plant to allow the stem to remain dry and helps to prevent disease.  When watering tomatoes, try to keep the leaves as dry as possible to help prevent blight.  Watering in the morning is also best so it give the leaves time to dry during the day.

{ jou farms & eats } field of greens

Wayne planted baby greens a couple months ago and we finally harvested some yesterday–so lush and plentiful! Within a few hours we made Easter dinner: Roasted organic herb chicken, baby multi-colored potatoes and the freshest of fresh, home-grown baby greens salad. Can’t wait to finish building our trellis so we can grow tomatoes and other summer goodies!

fresh baby greens in gardengreens for dinner{ Photos: Jennifer’s iPhone }

Garden Happenings

An update of whats going on in the garden to mark the beginning of spring.

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Lavender, Feverfew and Daffodils.

We planted some flowers around the garden to help attract bees and other beneficial insects.  They also add color and pleasant scents to the garden.  The lavender is currently blooming while the feverfew and daffodils haven’t bloomed yet.

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Lettuce and Spinach.

We had a bunch of extra lettuce seeds, so we decided to try growing baby greens.  We randomly scattered a variety of lettuce seeds and are planning to pick most of them when they are still young.  We will probably leave a few to grow in to full-size lettuce plants for later.  We also have some larger lettuce that we started on the balcony and transplanted in to the garden.  One of our garden friends also gave us some spinach seedlings.  I’ve always thought that spinach didn’t transplant well because of the long tap root, but the spinach seedlings are doing great.

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Blueberry Bushes.

Our blueberry bushes are growing well with lots of berries.  We haven’t planted them in their more permanent planters yet (still under construction) but they seem to be doing great.  The blueberries are slowly ripening so we plan to cover them with bird netting soon to keep the birds for eating all of the fruit.  We have two varieties of blueberries, Sunshine Blue and Bountiful Blue, both of which have low-chill requirements since it doesn’t get that cold at the garden.  Blueberries also produce more fruit when two different varieties can cross-pollinate.

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Kale, Beets and Carrots.

The kale plants are ready for another harvest and the beets and carrots are growing nicely.  Remember to keep the carrots and beets evenly watered to produce the best roots.

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Strawberry Tower, Strawberry Flower and Baby Strawberry.

The strawberry plants are doing great in the strawberry tower.  There are lots of strawberry flowers and baby strawberries growing so we are eagerly awaiting our first strawberry harvest!

There are still a few garden tasks that need to be completed before we are ready for summer vegetable planting.  We need to finish construction of the redwood blueberry planters (details coming soon!) as well as construction of the tomato and cucumber trellises.  We also need to finalize our garden plan for the summer and figure out what sorts of vegetables we are going to be growing.

Strawberry Tower

We built a stacked redwood and cedar planter strawberry tower over the weekend to give vertical gardening a try. (Planter details will be in another post).

We used both redwood and cedar planters to see which one would hold up better.  Both are insect and rot resistant and the contrast between the red redwood and white cedar looked nice.  Planter dimensions are 15×7.5×7.5inches.  The bottom of each planter has 11 0.5inch drainage holes to allow water to exit the planters.

The planting mix we used was 1/3 screen compost (from the community garden), 1/3 organic potting soil and 1/3 organic azalea mix since strawberries like slightly acidic soil.

The strawberry varieties we planted were “Seascape” and “Sequoia”.  Be sure to check which strawberry varieties do best in your area before planting.

strawberry tower via http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/strawberry-tower/ strawberry tower 2 via http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/strawberry-tower/

strawberry tower 3 via http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/strawberry-tower/ strawberry tower 4 via http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/strawberry-tower/
Strawberry planting.

We started by filling each planter with soil mix and then lightly tamping the soil down to remove air pockets.  The final height of the soil was 0.75 inches from the top of the planter.  The lower soil level makes it easier to water the plants and it also prevents the soil from being washed out during watering.  It also allows us to add a layer of mulch to help retain soil moisture.

After all of the planters had been filled, we used a hand trowel to dig a shallow ditch on one side of the planter (1.5-2 inches deep) to plant the strawberries.  Ideally the strawberries should be planted so the soil level is even with middle of the crown (here is a good picture that shows proper planting depth).  Since we purchased strawberries that were in 6-packs, we just has to make sure that soil level in the planter matched the existing soil level on the strawberries when we planted.  If you wanted to plant bare-root strawberries, you would have to dig a slightly deeper hole to give the roots room to spread out.  After placing the strawberry plants in to the hole, we gently filled the soil in between the plants and lightly tamped to remove large air pockets.  We planted two strawberry plants on each side of the planter for a total of 4 plants per planter (one in each corner).  We also interplanted the two varieties just to mix things up.

The strawberry tower is supported by a 6ft metal t-post driven about 1.5 ft in to the ground where the planters cross (behind the planters so that the wind will blow the planters in to the post).  The bottom planter was set on two patio pavers to allow for better drainage and to provide a level base for the tower.  It is very important to have the base level the all directions before stacking, otherwise the tower will be unstable.

Finally we stacked the planters on top of each other, alternating directions so the boxes formed an “X” pattern.  Then we gave the planters a deep watering to help them establish deep roots.

strawberry tower 5 via http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/strawberry-tower/
Stacked strawberry tower.

Carrots and Beets: Hidden Treats

Recently we planted some carrots and beets in the garden.  Both are very easy to grow and its always exciting to harvest root vegetables since you never know whats hidden under the surface.

Carrots & Beets: Hidden Treats - http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/carrots-and-beets-hidden-treats/ Carrots & Beets: Hidden Treats - http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/carrots-and-beets-hidden-treats/Carrots & Beets: Hidden Treats - http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/carrots-and-beets-hidden-treats/
Carrot and beet seeds.

We planted two types of carrots, Long Imperator and Kuroda just to have some variety.  All carrots pretty much grow the same way with slight variations in carrot length and thickness.

Carrots & Beets: Hidden Treats - http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/carrots-and-beets-hidden-treats/ Carrots & Beets: Hidden Treats - http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/carrots-and-beets-hidden-treats/ Carrots & Beets: Hidden Treats - http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/carrots-and-beets-hidden-treats/
Carrot planting process.

Carrots are best direct seeded in the garden since they don’t transplant well (the long tap root that eventually forms the carrot is very delicate and tends to get damaged during transplanting).  To plant the carrot seeds, we first loosened the soil and removed anything that might impede carrot growth (rocks, branches, etc.) so the carrots could grow long and straight.  Then we made shallow (1/4 inch) trenches using the edge of a hand trowel for the seeds.  After the trenches were made, we sprinkled carrot seeds in to each row trying to keep the spacing between seeds about 1 inch.  Its better to seed slightly heavier and then thin the seedlings later in case some of the seeds don’t sprout.  Then we covered the seeds gently and very lightly tamped the soil to keep the seeds from washing away when we watered.

Beets were planted in the same way, but the spacing between beet seeds was 3-4 inches since beets get much larger than carrots.  Also, while each carrot seed contains only one “seed”, beet seeds actually contain a couple “seeds”.  So don’t plant beets too close together since the majority of the seeds planted will sprout (at least one beet seedling).  Beets can also be transplanted so if there are bare areas where seeds didn’t sprout, you can transplant seedlings as you thin out crowded areas.

Avoid planting carrots and beets in fresh manure or incomplete compost.  The vegetables will grow “hairy” roots and flavor may be affected.  Always mix the compost with the soil well and allow to age for a little while before planting carrots and beets.

After planting, remember to water the seeds gently to make sure they don’t wash away.  The seeds have to be kept moist, but not wet, to have good sprouting.  Overly wet soil will cause the seeds to rot and seeds in dry soil will never sprout.

Carrots & Beets: Hidden Treats - http://itsjoulife.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/carrots-and-beets-hidden-treats/
Carrot (back) and Beet (front) seedlings.

After the seeds have sprouted and the first set of true leaves (leaves that look like miniature versions of full-grown leaves) have appeared, you can thin the carrots to be 2-3 inches apart and the beets to be 3-4 inches apart.  Beets can be harvested when young for baby beets or you can wait till they are full grown for larger beets.  Beet greens can also be eaten so don’t throw them out!  You can check carrot growth by gently brushing away the soil near the base of the carrot tops to check on the size of the carrot, but its always a surprise on how long the carrot is.  Remember to keep the soil evenly moist throughout the growing season to help prevent cracking carrots and you will be rewarded with delicious hidden treats.

Seeds!

Here is how I organize all of my vegetable and flower seeds.

seeds 1

seeds 2

Small seeds are labeled and stored in the small containers and larger seeds (beans, etc) are labeled in the larger containers.  I keep all of the seed packets so I have all of the planting information handy when I need it.  I also keep a pair of tweezers hand to help pick up small seeds.  Everything is kept in a plastic box that makes it easy to grab everything at once.

I picked up all of the containers at a small Japanese store but pill containers (the ones used to separate pills for each day of the week) , empty film canisters and baby food jars work as well.

Ocean View Farms

It’s official! We’ve fully assimilated into the Santa Monica culture now that Wayne and I have our own organic garden plot at Ocean View Farms. Located near the Santa Monica airport, there are over 500 garden plots and flower gardens that occupy six acres in the hills of Mar Vista/Santa Monica West LA.

I love this urban garden community space. We have a large 13×17 feet area to grow our own organic vegetables–before we switched plots we grew eggplant, zucchini, kale, broccoli, romanesco broccoli, peas, carrots.

On a normal day we water and often exchange garden advice with veteran members who pass by. It’s a great garden community and everyone is so friendly. We pay a small fee for annual dues and put in 12 hour community work hours a year. There is a tool shed where you can check out garden tools and wheel barrows. Water and compost is also provided!

Wayne waited 3.5 years on the list. Not sure how long it takes to get a plot now. If you plan on living around the area for the next several years, it’s worth signing up! Ocean View Farms.
So far we’ve accomplished our first goal: Make a salad entirely with fresh ingredients from our garden!

Here are some casual shots I took on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the garden.

cacti trio

cacti trio

neighbor's cute mailbox

neighbor’s cute mailbox

neighbor's rustic mailbox

neighbor’s rustic mailbox

pop of pink

pop of pink

main path. wayne in the far distance. greenhouse to the right.

main path. wayne in the far distance. greenhouse to the right.

compost just around the corner

compost just around the corner

compost bins: it's quite a system they got here

compost bins: it’s quite a system they got here

our cucumber plants !

cucumber de familia

king tree + main path

king tree + main path

i'm hungry

i’m hungry