Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Retaining Wall
I put to use the concrete we were left with after we replaced our worn-out driveway:
I will backfill with yard waste, as I usually do. I have found that such beds of organic material, with the help of some top soil, are quite fertile. The pile of waste I have inside the bed will be pushed against the blocks of concrete. Come spring I'll have a nice bed. What will I put there?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Winter Kale and Chard
The potted kale is still producing:

as is the chard

and, surprisingly, the pansy on the deck:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ripened Tomatoes
The tomatoes that I had ripening in front of the window are beginning to ripen, and some are ready to be turned into sauce for a delightful dish of pasta alla Norma.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Long Squash.
I decided to make a sculpture out of my long squashes. So I lay them on the patio table:

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Green Tomatoes.
Today is the first of November, I Morti, the day of the dead. Tomorrow is All Saints Day. And I just picked the tomatoes that remained on the vine. Freezing temperatures are forecast for tomorrow. Here are the tomatoes, more than 20 lbs, together with a zucchini (for next year's garden), and three old lemon cucumbers, also seeds for next year's garden. I have collected enough beans for seeds for dozens of gardens. And there are some puzzling findings there. But, one thing at a time. First the green tomatoes on a pad in front of my shop window facing south. Later more.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

SasquatchNut One.
This one came in at 26.4 lbs. It was still in the garden. Somehow I had missed it.
I am making good use of these monsters. We have eaten one in various forms: delicious soup, delicious sasquatch bread. Its flesh has entered our Shepherd's pies and vegetable stews. I have taken three of the biggest to the food bank, where people there marveled at their size.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Still summer.
The flowers hang on, beautiful bougainvillea and giant marigolds...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Butternut or SasquatchNut?
I harvested most of the mutants. The one I weighed came in at 14.6 lbs, the average, I think. I left some smaller ones on the vine. What is their problem? The seeds I planted were extracted from last year's regular size butternuts. As one can see, some of the squash show some cracks. From ?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Looking at my tomatoes, I see that they might be thinking this is July, and not October.
Yes, the wagon garden is a little unkempt, but the fruit is abundant and of good size.
What have I learned from this summer's garden? I'll put my thinking cap on and report later.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Kale stems.
Before I cry about the kale stems, here is what I saw while I was gone one morning before sunrise, city lights still on:

And here is what I found in my greenhouse:
The work of one voracious grasshopper or two. Possible?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Without a doubt the most disappointing performer of the season. Here is what the five plants look like today:

Other performers:
lemon cukes: obscenely prolific
squash: huge and abundant fruit
beans: excellent, many pounds frozen for the winter
zucchini: just right
tomatoes: few but tasty, and still growing and ripening
herbs: thyme, mint, sage, dill all excellent
kale: just right, small leaves but relatively tender and readily available
spinach: (long gone) good.
I'm headed for a little vacation. The garden will be in good hands.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Twenty-eight gram tomatoes.
That's just shy of an ounce. So, rounding it to one ounce, how many of them would it take to make a pound? I'll work on this overnight--a version of my insomnia cure. Here they are with some relatives.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Today I broke down and penetrated the penitentiary jungle, however briefly. The ground teems with Delicata squashes; Butternut squashes, Lemon Cucumbers, and the mysteriously turned-up squash familiar to me from Sicily hang from the penitentiary chain-link fence or have settled wherever they could. The taste of this Sicilian squash doesn't appeal to me. The tender leaves of its vine are known as tenerumi, a word that suggest the fruit's tender consistency. I left the gigantic one on the vine (it now reaches the ground and turns to one side, slithering on), reserving it for its seeds, but I picked two others. There are quite a few more lurking here and there. The butternuts are huge. The quantity of cucumbers is obscene, like bunnies that can't stop reproducing. I also gleaned some beans from under the gigantic squash leaves and plucked four small artichokes. I should have picked these a few days ago. They are still edible, and though small are good. Tonight I will put all the cucumbers but five in a bag, by the driveway, for passers by to take some if the would like to. The squash will be next to the bag of cukes. I'm curious if they get adopted...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I've been busy harvesting and freezing beans. The grapes (protected by a nylon net) are taking on some color:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Here is another mushroom, growing in the front yard. A veritable myco-phallus. I have sent the photo to Erik Nelson ( and I'm waiting to hear from him.

Guess what! Before I knew it, here came Erik's reply:
Aah, a stinkhorn! Do some web searching you'll find lots of info on it.
So I did, and I discovered not only that they stink (I knew that), but also that Linnaeus and I, maybe, just maybe, think alike:
These distinctive mushrooms have a single, unbranched, erect stalk, sometimes gaudily colored, leading to Linnaeus aptly placing them in a genus he called Phallus (which has since been split into additional unsavory genera).
Here is the stinkhorns home page:

Friday, August 29, 2014

I harvested the first bunch of tomatoes. Good taste, tough skin. I think these are giant cherry tomatoes, each the size of an apricot. Here front and back:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rhubarb; Beans.
These five rhubarb stalks are more than what's needed for a crisp that serves 4.

This sick baby was the only sufferer I found in what I picked today (behind the rhubarb, above). Looks like dirt, but isn't. It's a crusty film on an otherwise healthy looking bean. Mmm.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

The recent rains have caused many mushrooms to pop up, even here in the Central Arizona Highlands ( and I put together a picture of two such cuties:

Oh, yesterday I fixed the greenhouse planter's soil (checked for insects, added manure and mixed the soil) and planted spinach and red chard. Might as well note it so we'll know how it goes.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Beans, buon'anima.
I have decided it was time to put the greenhouse beans out of my misery. Done. Here is a poor picture of these beans, ill-formed and blistered. Besides the blisters, visible though not too clearly, some of the fruit was covered by something that felt like cobwebs. Rolled between my fingers this film turned into white yarn, sort of. I will try to find out what the cause of these phaseolar problems was.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Long squash.
Yesterday and the night before it rained almost without interruption. Today was a beautiful, mild day, and when I finished the work I was doing I sat on my bench and watched the tops of my sunflowers all bent towards the ground incredulous about the size of the long squash. Unfortunately the picture is not good, but here it is anyway:

 Here is what they are staring at, a squash now only three or four inches from the ground:

I did enjoy sitting on the bench with Dewey the cat, and my refreshing beverage: a squirt of lime juice, a squirt of lemon juice, a teaspoon of agave syrup, cold water, ice cubes, all well stirred. Ah...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Beans, tomatoes.
The news about my beans is mixed. I have now uprooted and discarded probably ten plants. Two diseases: one is the speckled leaf. The leaves of the plants degraded from a healthy looking green to a sickly speckled brownish. I noticed some cobwebs on some of the plants and sprayed them off as best I could. I also removed the sorriest looking leaves. And I uprooted two more plants from the planter in the greenhouse. We'll see.

The other disease is stunted plants with curled and curly leaves. I have uprooted most of these, but there may still be a couple under the invading squash canopy. From that experience I learned that too many plants in a small space are not a good idea.

Nevertheless, the amount of beans I harvest is more than satisfactory. And the plants that are mixed up with the squash probably have lots of unpicked fruit on them.

Now Tomatoes. I started them all from seeds. And this is how the fruit bunches:
This particular bunch has twelve tomatoes and has more fruit than the average bunch. Every flower was fertilized. And most, if not all, other flowers on this and other plants are now tomatoes. But, they are the slowest growing things! They are supposed to be Rio Grande tomatoes. Appropriately named since the Rio Grande is not the Colorado.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hello again, journal. Before I get to the beans, here is part of what happened this morning. I asked myself, "Why am I journaling?" I replied, "Funny I should ask." "So?"

Well (yes, I will get to the beans), I was inspired by Valentina Igoshina. As I often do, I went to You Tube to listen to her performance of Chopin's Ètude Op. 10, No. 3, and to the words with which she prefaces her performance ( Valentina has her composer, and I should have something too. And I do. Beans. Squash. Eggplant. Kale. Spinach... That's why and how, journal!

Beans. Half of my beans are sick. I have already extirpated several plants. Beans in the greenhouse are a pitiable sight. The leaves are speckled, like. What salt and pepper hair is to middle-aged men, this speckling is not to the beans.
And contrary to the popular wisdom that a picture is worth a thousand words, these two pictures don't make the beans look anywhere near what their sorry state is. I take my word. Needless to say, these babies will not make it into the compost bin.
This morning I saw lots of interesting things in my garden spots. Some good, some puzzling, some bad. I'll do just squashes, and I'll start with a mystery one:
I say mystery because I don't know how it got here. I recognize the squash, common at around the 38th parallel in the Mediterranean, but I don't know how the seed got mixed up with what I thought was a hard winter squash. It's already over 2.5 feet long... I don't like its taste, but the young vines, known as "tenerumi" over there, are good eating as a topping for pasta. And this is the plant's flower:

Sticking with squash(es), here I document the progress of two monster butternuts and one delicata:

That's all for now.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Here is how I cure my soil:

I put my vegetable kitchen discards in one bin, and I cover these organic materials with a layer of dirt from the other bin, then often spray on water (when the weather allows it or the spirit moves). I spread some manure on top every few dumpings. Other matter I add to the bin: ashes from my outdoor fireplace, and saw dust. I also add some modest amounts of grass clippings when available. When the bin is near empty, I start adding compost material to it, and I cover it with material from the other bin. It works well.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

First, here is this morning's catch.

The onslaught of lemon cucumbers has begun. This evening I will put a bag of cukes at the end of the driveway with a sign encouraging passers by to take some.

When I started talking with locals about gardening, they all told me that the soil here does not favor the growth of vegetables. The soil has to be imported. An old timer whose garden I admired, advised me not to try to grow tomatoes other than Early Girl. Tomatoes around here do not grow to normal size.

In my yard there are a few inches of something like top soil, which I diligently cull and then treat with manure, compost, and an occasional bag of soil from the nursery. To set up the yurt I dug fourteen holes, each more than two feet deep and about twenty inches in diameter, and all I could set aside was about a cubic foot of "top soil."

Under this thin layer of brownish dirt there are layers of caliche.

At you will find a document that spells out the facts.

 Caliche is a layer of soil in which the soil particles have been cemented together by lime (calcium carbonate, CaCO3). 

Caliche is usually found as a light-colored layer in the soil or as white or cream-colored concretions (lumps) mixed with the soil. Layers will vary in thickness from a few inches to several feet, and there may be more than one caliche layer in the soil.

What Does Caliche do to plants? 
Caliche causes three problems in the yard or garden.
  1. The caliche layer can be so tight that roots cannot penetrate through it. The result is that plants have only the soil above the caliche to use as a source of nutrients and water and normal root development is restricted.
  2. The same conditions that restrict root penetration also reduce water movement. Water applied to the soil cannot move through the profile if a restrictive caliche layer is present. The restricted water penetration can contribute to problems arising from inadequate root aeration and can lead to accumulations of salt in the soil surface. Both problems, lack of aeration and salt accumulation, reduce the vigor of growing plants.
  3. The pH (acidity or basicity) and free calcium carbonate in a caliche soil are often high enough to cause iron to become unavailable for plants. The symptoms of iron deficiency are a yellowing of the youngest plant leaves while the veins in the leaves remain green. The resulting striping appearance is slightly different from that of nitrogen deficiency symptoms, which are a general yellowing including the veins of older leaves. Iron deficiencies are additionally aggravated by the water saturation of the soil. Check with country Extension agents for more information about how to correct iron deficiency in the yard or garden
The recommendations for flower beds is they should be 1.5' deep. A small tree needs a hole 5' deep! I'm tired just thinking about the digging I've done. Gotta go and rest.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Beans, chard, zucchini; artichokes.
First, here is what I picked this morning. The chard comes from a single plant that came up of its own accord in the wagon garden.

Here are two of the visible butternut squashes. Don't know how many are hidden under the canopy (and so are my beans!).

Coming up soon, artichokes. This plant, the only one I have, is in the penitentiary. I am growing another plant from seeds given to me by Lori a few years ago. I put nine seeds in a pony, and one did come up. When it's bigger I'll post a picture.

5400 feet elevation; 34.5 degrees latitude north; and soil where scrub oak and juniper do very well. What about my veggies? Do they like it here? Mmm.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tomato plant; Beans.
Double decapitation. A few weeks ago I nipped the top of one of my tomato plants. The plant remained tipless, but the lower two branches kept growing. Nothing happened at the top, but eventually an offshoot came up. Today I thought it was time to cut the plant above the new shoot. Curious to see how fast this new shoot will grow.

Still with the large but useless leaves:

The new shoot

To end on a good note, yummy beans.

Friday, August 8, 2014

My petunia, those bədúniz, I call them (you do know that the more (nick)names someone calls you by the more that person likes you), are no longer producing flowers. Immediate suspicion, too much nitrogen in my fertilizer.



The question now is, how do we fix this?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

This is my window garden, my bay window on raised garden (rescued from the remodel). Each of these five contraptions pictured encircles a plant, in this case eggplant, to keep it as warm as possible. Last night, for example, the low was 55, so the plants probably appreciated the wall-o-water. The problem with these walls is that they are in a single piece, so you can't open them up. All you can do is lift them over the plant and move them aside. A problem that manufacturers could probably easily fix.

This year there are two crops that I planted from seedlings: the cucumbers, and the eggplant. I bought a pony with six containers, but each container had two or more seedlings in it, so I ended up planting eleven cukes. Along with the squash (three varieties) they have taken over the penitentiary, while the eggplants are languishing with fruit the size and shape of calamata olives. Go figure. I'll be spending the hours of tonight's insomnia attack garden sleuthing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What I know about spittlebugs is that they, generally speaking, do not pose much of a threat to the plant they attach to. It's enough to wash them down with a hose. But there is probably more to know about them. Apparently they like my grape vines. They attach to the underside of leaves or directly on the fruit. Don't like them.

We know bees are in trouble, thanks to the devastating effects of pesticides (I have signed a couple of petitions urging big farms to curb their use). This season we've had plenty of pollinators; nevertheless, I decided to help my cause by placing a hive in our yard. Following my friend Barry's instructions, I have come up with this section of a log, cut at a slant, a couple of inches deeper at the top, in order to provide a sort of overhang. As soon as the contraption passes Barry's inspection I will mount it on the juniper tree next to the greenhouse.

Monday, August 4, 2014

It's monsoon season here, and it has rained in the last few days. There is growth of all kinds in the yard, and this morning I saw a yellow semi-spherical glob, about two inches in diameter, that had oozed out of my compost bin. Unthinkingly I touched it. Gooey, something like the crack filler we use around window and door frames. By the time I had gone inside to fetch my camera, the now smeared goo was orange at its center, yellow at the edges. What is it?