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  • Holy crap, tomatoes

    Last time I wrote about the garden I was impressed by how much the tomatoes had grown. Well, now they are like some kind of mutant tomatoes that have grown so much they don't even begin to be contained by the cages we bought. One of them is getting tangled up in the orange tree and another one is so thick I don't think I am going to be able to reach the tomatoes when they ripen. 

    But considering we've only ever produced a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes since we moved to California, I'll take these crazy plants. We're starting to get lots of red and orange cherry tomatoes and they're really good. 

    One of the first plants to start producing a lot was the cucumber. It's huge now, and the little cukes become big ones in only a day or two. I'm making pickles now, so I'll write about that soon.

    We planted a few green beans along our fence. Some of them are happier than others, but I can see a few beans. 

    Mike and I were surprised that the tomatillos we bought don't look anything like tomato plants, but they do have tons of blossoms on them. We'll see. They're supposed to be purple!

    Some oranges finally ripened on the big orange tree, and they are so juicy and good.

    They're basically like naval oranges with a thick skin. Great for juice or snacking (Harper loves them). 

    The mandarin tree is looking great, too. We've never had an orange on there bigger than about a centimeter. Now there are a few that are an inch or bigger. Come on little oranges!

    The blueberries seem to be done for now, but I think they will blossom again this summer. The strawberry patch produces a few every day, but still not as many as I would like. I think I need to plants some more plants in the bare places. 

    I'm not sure why, but all the sudden the mint started growing like normal mint does. Actually, I did put some compost in there, so maybe it was just hungry!

    I'm so excited about the first raspberry blossoms. I know those plants are just babies, but I would love to have a few berries to pick.

    The flowers in the yard are kind of a mixed bag. Some are flourishing while others are drying out. I think they will be the first to suffer from the lack of rain. The calla lilies are way bushier than last year with a lot of blooms (pink and yellow). 

    This flowering bush, which as been just a few sticks since last summer, is finally coming back. 

    But the hydrangeas look like they have a fungus and have turned some strange colors. They seem extra prone to it.

    I should mention that the little garden my mom planted out front looks amazing. She dug out this little triangular patch, which has a rock border around it, and planted some drought-resistant flowers. Then, a bunch of California poppies sprouted right in the middle, so I think it looks just right now. The gnome thinks so too. 

    And finally, the grass we planted for the dog area is growing pretty well. It needs a lot of watering to get going, but hopefully that can taper off once it's established. There are a few dry patches, but those are easy to fill in.

  • Garden good, bad and ugly

    Now that we're coming to the end of the growing season and everything is starting to get brown and crinkly, I feel like I can evaluate everything we decided to grow this year. Overall it went really well, I think.

    Successes:
    • Both cherry tomato plants grew well beyond anything we could have imagined. They got so big they actually flopped over and have nearly collapsed their cages. We had so many that we got sick of them a long time ago.

    These have grown way up into the orange tree, well above my head. And they're still covered in green tomatoes!

    Mom and I started taking cherry tomatoes to our neighborhood crop swap (such a great idea, btw!) and I think even our neighbors are sick of them. Next year I think one plant would be plenty. The orange variety tasted better, in my opinion.
    • Cucumbers grew and produced like crazy. If I had to do it over I might choose a variety that is a little less bitter. Ours were nice pickled but not so great plain.
    • The San Marzano tomato plant has also grown like mad. It's overflowed into the surrounding plants.

    We've picked buckets of tomatoes from that plant, but the good thing about those is that when you peel and cook them down for sauce they make a much smaller amount. So you can't really have too many.

    • The "Michael Pollan" tomato plant took a while to mature, but now it has what I would call a sane amount of tomatoes on it and they are really tasty. Just like a tiny Green Zebra.

    • The standard looking tomato we planted has been producing a lot of tomatoes without going too crazy. They're good, but nowhere near as tasty as Purple Cherokees. Next year, heirlooms!

    • Mint just needed a little compost in order to go nuts like normal mint.

    Getting there:
    • Strawberries did pretty well, but we need more!
    • The blueberries and raspberry plants produced a few berries, but I think these plants need time to really grow to maturity.
    • I had just about given up on our pepper plants when one of them perked up. It now has a nice looking pepper on it. Maybe more compost next time?

    • I'm still holding onto hope that our little mandarin tree will produce edible fruit. Most of the oranges that survived to a bigger size are still there and some of them are turning yellow!

    Failures:
    • I think we grew about 3 edible green beans before all the plants died. We may have started them too late or put them in not-great soil.
    • The purple tomatillos grew tons of flowers and little casings, but they are all empty inside. Not sure why since they appear healthy.

    We don't have a ton of room to add more plants but I think next year it would be nice to have some sort of zucchini or squash. It just doesn't feel like a summer garden without them. So funny that at our crop swap no one had any! But there were all sorts of interesting things like lemon cucumbers, Thai papayas and Meyer lemons.

    We'd love to have rhubarb, too. And maybe some beets. We've grown carrots and lettuces in the past, but I'm not sure we liked them enough to do it again. 

  • Garden update

    I think it's fair to say that we haven't had a lot of time to work on the garden this year, but we're finally getting around to making some progress. We did plant a lot of vegetables earlier this year, and they are really thriving now. Not surprisingly, the tomatoes have gone NUTS.

    The red cherry tomato plant got so heavy it toppled the cage and I've had to cut it back several times.

    The orange one spread out a lot, but hasn't gone quite as crazy. It makes these huge bundles of tomatoes.

    Then we had this volunteer pop up next to my pot of lavender. I probably should have pulled it out, but I just left it, and now it needs its own cage.

    It kills me that Harper pulled all the blooms off that orchid (above left) since it only blooms once a year. It looks healthy enough to come back next year though. 

    I'm not really sure what kind of tomato this is.

    The tomatoes are medium-sized and kind of orange-red in color, so it's hard to tell when they're ripe.

    The sauce tomatoes are looking good. Hopefully I'll have my first batch ready to roast soon.

    And then we have these regular round tomatoes that should be ripe soon. I see a lot of caprese salads in our future!

    This is the first time I've really successfully grown bell peppers. This one plant produced a bunch of good-sized green ones, so I'm leaving them on there in hopes that they'll turn red.

    We also have some jalapenos that I used in tortilla soup last night. I'm not sure why they're turning black, but they taste good.

    I also had a purple kale plant that did really well, but I just cut it down because it was overtaken with bugs. Does anyone have a good remedy for that?

    One new addition this year is rhubarb! Mike got this plant from a neighbor and it seems to be happy.

    We bought 2 other baby plants at the garden store, but only one has survived so far.

    Our berry patch is not faring as well as the veggie patches.

    We have three raspberry plants that have produced a few berries, but the blueberries are mostly dead. I think the soil pH is off, so I will work on that.

    The strawberries have done well and I think they are coming to the end of their season. I froze a bunch to make jam or some kind of dessert later. Maybe something strawberry-rhubarb if the rhubarb gets tall enough?

    The orange tree has some oranges starting to turn yellow, but overall it seems to have a lot fewer than last year. Since the tree looks very lush and healthy, I think it just might be cyclical.

    Our neighbor's apple tree is full of yummy looking apples right now. Hopefully some fall into our yard!

    This area is kind of a work in progress. The flower bushes took a big hit during the drought last summer, and never really recovered. Basically, they dry out and then become vulnerable to fungus. By fall they look like they're dying, but then with winter rain they come back.

    I really want to save this one because it has such pretty flowers and smells like lemon when you touch it.

    And of course I love my red and white fuchsia.

    I bought another hanging planter with fuchsia and it got fried in the sun. But I moved it to a shadier place and it's coming back now. I feel like our yard needs more shade generally. Even with our moderate temperatures, things get fried in the full sun.

    One bright spot is our hydrangea (two actually). They were looking pretty bad last year, but with some pruning and extra water they filled out this year and they're looking great.

    And then there's this amaryllis my mom planted forever ago. It finally shot up into this brilliant bloom.

    And now it is blooming again.

    We have a plan to completely redo our front yard and make it into a succulent garden with a citrus tree, but we're waiting until we get some rain so the ground isn't so tough to dig into. Mike also wants to build a little fence for it. I'll update when we get to it!