Archive for the ‘community garden’ Category

Faithful readers may recall the earlier plans I published here for a Three Sisters garden of corn, squash, and beans. With my usual cheerful abandon, I ignored various bits of online advice on when and how to plant it. Consequently, things are now somewhat out of control. A normal day in my garden! W00t!

To begin with, the vines you see creeping along the edge of the garden bed actually belong to the squashes planted about halfway down the bed, not the ones that are ‘supposed to’ be there. The little Black Futsu winter pumpkins don’t tolerate chilly weather as well as the robust kabocha types, so they are still dainty rosettes of fuzzy green leaves with a blossom or two, and haven’t really taken off yet. Meanwhile, the Hokkori is coming up in the outside lane to steal their thunder!

In this aptly-titled photo, we see the tomato cage trying to resist the encroachment of vigorous squash vines, kind of like trapped shoppers in a mall in a zombie movie. I came to the rescue, but it wasn’t pretty. While looking at the small squashes starting to form on the vines, I noticed that the vine giving the tomato cage the most trouble was also the one which was not breeding true to type.

This should be an ebisu-delicata hybrid “Ebicata 2007” that I saved and am planting out. I had banana squash growing nearby, and clearly some happy-go-lucky bee went to more than one squash party on a crazy summer afternoon. I’m not a huge banana squash fan (too bland) and this is the wildest and wooliest of the vines, as well as the primary instigator in the Tomato Cage Invasion. Part of growing stuff out is knowing what to get rid of and what to keep! I trimmed the vines, and then cautiously took out the whole plant and added it to the compost bin, saving the couple of soap-bar sized squashes to eat as summer squash.

This is what they should look like, and the plant sharing that garden section, grown from the same batch of saved seed, has delivered the goods. These are about baseball and table-tennis ball sized, respectively. More where I’d expect them to be this time of year, instead of the huge one just down the row from them.

I didn’t try tracing the vine to see if the big one is from the same plant, though it could well be. This one is already at close to mature size of 8 – 10 inches across. Early adopter! I won’t pick it until it is mature, otherwise it won’t keep well. The stem will be rock-hard and brown-dry, and the rind of the squash will be tough enough that it doesn’t casually dent to a fingernail.

This kabocha is new to me, though I think I’ve enjoyed it from the farmers’ market. It’s Hokkori, a dark green kabocha offered by Oakland importer Kitazawa Seeds. They’re a great source for all kinds of awesome Asian veggies, especially freaky cool greens like chrysanthemum that I haven’t learned to eat yet. These juvenile Hokkori are grapefruit and mandarin-sized. How come nobody describes citrus fruit in kabocha terms? Maybe they do in Japan!

This Hokkori is about softball sized. One thing I did while visiting the garden to water was to wipe the dirt off the bottom of each of the little squashes and put a piece of scrap plastic under it. Otherwise the pill bugs start eating the rind where it touches the dirt. If you don’t do this, the rind stays light colored and soft where it touches the dirt. When the pill bugs finish with it, the squash looks like it survived some kind of hideous medieval plague, and at worst they break thru into the main part of the squash and ruin the whole thing.

See you on the flip side: it’s two minutes to Blogger maintenance, so I’d better finish up! Oh yeah, the sibling rivalry– the beans are getting shaded out by the kabochas. They weren’t as cold tolerant, and the kabochas went in FIRST, because I started them from seed TOO SOON. Lesson here!


Read Full Post »

The bee and butterfly garden is coming into full bloom, just a few paces away from our garden bed.

I really love working in the community garden, and even more so now that we have our own garden bed. For the first year or two, I didn’t really want a bed because I have some garden space in our backyard. But enough beds go idle, or neglected, that I didn’t feel bad finally going on the waiting list, and this year, the 3rd year of the garden, we got our bed in the January lottery. It was baked hard in the sun, and needed some TLC, but we dug in (literally) and it’s a happy, happenin’ little place now.

Low-growing plants dominate this third of our community garden bed, so as not to shade the rest of the bed.

The garden beds were laid out east-west, so that they get full sun along the south all day. Terrific! One of the many tips in the mandatory new-gardener class is to arrange your plants so that taller plants are to the north and east. We followed that advice, putting corn in the eastern third of the garden bed and our tomatoes and peavines along the north edge along the bed.

We wanted a lot of sun for our peppers, and some low vines along the south side of the bed. I’m hoping that the tomatoes and corn will also act to filter some of the hottest sun, so that mid-summer won’t fry our peppers. We can always rig some sunscreen, though, if that fails.

An icebox size watermelon may or may not make it: the stem has been half-eaten by those darn pill bugs! We’re told that ashes from a wood fire or all-wood charcoal are an effective deterrent for these pests, but found out too late for it to do any good for us.

The eye-catching red of this merlot lettuce gives way to bright green at the base of the leaves, so it looks flashy, not weird, in the salad bowl.

Peas and peppers and beans for the middle!

After a slow start, Cherokee Wax and Blue Lake beans are now thriving in the middle section of the garden. Time to start another row or two of beans or soybeans there, to spread out the harvest.

Happy squash plant!

Just a little gal now, this Big Mama kabocha is a bush-type, rather than vining, winter squash– ideal for smaller spaces. Of course, I planted two of them too close together, because I thought they were vines. Wups. This is why you should read the packages when you start seeds, not when sorting seed packs after transplanting.

The eastern third of our garden bed: corn!

The last third of our garden bed is mostly sweet corn, with some bush beans and dwarf sunflowers around the edges. There’s one gorgeous Purple Queen bush bean plant there, which I neglected to get a picture of this time (wups!) and one or two tiny ones coming up. The pill bugs ravaged them and not all of them made it! There’s always a lot to say about corn, so I’ll save it for next time. Just remember: it’s not too late! You can put in 65 – 80 day sweet corn, or even 90 – 120 day dent corn, all the way into June here in the SF Bay Area’s mild climate.

Read Full Post »

Sunnyvale city officials joined board members from the Santa Clara Unified School District and the Sunnyvale Sustainable Gardens non-profit in planting the first fruit tree, a plum, at the ground-breaking ceremony for Full Circle Farm. The farm returns 11 acres of unused land at the Peterson School to agricultural use as a not-for-profit farm and education center that will supply produce to the school district and local charities, as well as sell directly to the public.

Shovels stand ready for the true ‘ground-breaking’, digging a hole and planting the first of a small orchard of fruit trees that will echo Santa Clara’s agricultural heritage and provide fruit for the Farm’s school lunch and market garden programs.

A sizeable crowd turned out for the afternoon’s festivities, which included informative displays about Santa Clara farming history, conservation strategies related to agriculture, the concept of ‘peak oil’, efforts to reclaim the former UC/USDA farm station in San Jose before it is developed and lost, and face-painting and rock-painting for children.

All of the tables were decorated with winter vegetable seedlings, planted in colorful pots that had been painted by children at last weekend’s Santa Clara Art and Wine Festival. Visitors were encouraged to take a seedling or two home with them. I chose Italian parsley, as my pot of it was accidentally left unwatered sometime this summer.

The collection of local dignitaries paused for a photo op with the commemorative plaque that will mark the tree. I hope to edit this shortly to include names and affiliations– please leave a comment if you can help identify people!

For even more pictures, see my
Full Circle Farm Groundbreaking set on FlickR

Read Full Post »