sunday’s harvest

Yesterday’s beautiful harvest from my new vegetable garden:

4 radishes (3 oz.)

1 small bell pepper (3 oz.)

1 zucchini (8 oz.)

tomatoes (4.5 oz.)

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my urban vegetable garden


Chris & I devoted most of the last week of August working on our new garden.  Chris tilled and leveled the soil and removed some tree roots left by two huge trees in preparation for the placement of four new raised beds he built.  I had it fairly easy; I was in charge of  selecting, buying and planting all the vegetables and flowers.  I included flowers around the vegetables to add splashes of color amidst all of the green foliage.  I also transplanted all the herbs that were scattered around in different pots to a single raised herb bed.  Now most of my herbs – French tarragon, Greek oregano, Italian parsley, rosemary, sage, lemon thyme, and garlic chives are together.  I also have basil but I read that it is the perfect companion to tomatoes so I planted them together in a separate pot.  The basil is supposed to keep insects away and even enhance the flavor of the tomatoes.

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The Fruits of My Labor

For the past three months, part of my morning routine has included spending time in my garden.  I go out there around 5:30 every morning, coffee in hand, to inspect my tomatoes and wait in anticipation for the fruit to ripen.  It’s fast becoming my favorite part of the day, a peaceful and relaxing time before the hustle and bustle of my hour-long commute and work.  Since the middle of July, I have been able to pick about 3-4 tomatoes a day from each of my two plants.  I love the convenience of having some organic, vine-ripened tomatoes for salads a couple times a week.   Luckily both varieties of tomatoes, the Sweet 100s and the Yellow Pears, are very sweet and delicious.  This week, I have been rewarded for all of my efforts and I’m happy to show off my harvest. With the help of the warm Southern California weather, regular watering, and my tender loving care, I picked about 1-1/2 pounds of tomatoes over the last four days.  Stay tuned to see what becomes of my bountiful harvest!

Another Backyard Makeover

Last week, we had the two big Japanese blueberry trees in our backyard removed.  These trees were beautiful, with green glossy foliage that turns orange in late fall.  During the summer, the trees are covered with tiny white fragrant blooms.  Their best attribute was that they blocked the views of our neighbors’ homes and turned our backyard into a secluded oasis.   However, it turns out that these trees were totally inappropriate for a tract-home backyard, growing to 30-60 feet tall and 20-30 feet wide.  Jim, our gardener suggested that we take them down while both the trees and the cost were still relatively small.  Presently, the loss of privacy is a bit disconcerting, but in the long run, we know it was the right thing to do.  Now, we have a wonderful opportunity to redesign our outdoor space with new trees, flowers, and vegetables.  We’ve had so much fun gardening and tending to our “crops” this summer and it has been nice to harvest fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and jalapeños.  Perhaps our  “victory garden” can expand to include lettuces, onions, artichokes, carrots, and potatoes.  Any other crop suggestions?

Check out the before and after photos:

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the tomatoes are coming!

Tomatoes on the Vine

Today, I picked the first two tomatoes (the two reddest ones on the left) on my Sweet 100 tomato plant.  A few more are going to be ready in a couple of days.  There are lots of flowers and small fruits growing on this plant and in a week or so, I’ll be harvesting many more.  My other tomato plant, a Yellow Pear, is loaded with about 75 fruit, but it is taking its time in ripening.  It probably won’t be ready for harvesting until early August.  I can’t wait to eat homegrown tomatoes that are sweet, juicy, and flavorful.

Jalapenos

In addition to the tomatoes, I also harvested another 7 jalapeños for Chris to pickle in vinegar, bay leaves, garlic, coriander seeds, sugar, salt and pepper.  This brings our total harvest count to: 14 jalapeños and 2 cherry tomatoes.

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harvesting jalapeños

Jalapeño Poppers

Today, only 49 days after planting the little seedlings (see May 22 entry), I harvested seven jalapeño peppers.  With ample water and sunlight, the scrawny plants have now grown to about 2 feet, with minimum care.  The ripe jalapeños were about 3-inches long with a bright shiny green color.  There are still about 10-15 peppers ready to be harvested, and many more blossoms.  I will harvest more in a couple of days, but leave some of them on the plant until they turn red.  The red jalapeño peppers are sweeter and not quite as hot.

Since I don’t use jalapeño peppers regularly, I need to figure out what to do with all these peppers since I don’t want them to go to waste.  I can probably freeze or pickle them, preserve them in olive oil, or add them to homemade salsa.  In the meantime, we sliced the peppers for Southwest burgers, stuffed them with goat cheese for poppers, and added to some pub cheese (another good buy from Trader Joe’s) for nachos.  None of our dishes were very original or creative, but they were all very tasty!

Southwest Burger with Jalapeño

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looking out

Looking Out

Over 6-1/2 years ago, when I first saw our house, it had four bedrooms. One of the bedrooms was located off a hallway in between the steps down from the dining room and the master suite.  I remember walking into that hallway and into the fourth bedroom and telling Chris that if I owned the house, I’d knock down the wall of that room and make it a den or family room.   Chris gave me his signature look that says “you’re crazy!”  Well, as you may know, we did buy the house and eventually knocked down the wall.  The bedroom is now our den and it is spacious and bright with a nice view that looks out to the back yard.  We probably spend most of our time in that room.  We might only have a three-bedroom house now, but we gained a comfortable space to relax.

I’ve sat in the den countless times, but this morning, it really struck me that I have achieved the view I had envisioned six years ago and I just love it!

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my edible garden

As you can probably guess, I’m obsessed with gardening at the moment.  I’ve been enjoying my flower garden for the last month so now I turned my attention to my edible garden.   I like the convenience of growing and cooking with fresh herbs.  They grow with little care and attention.  However, I’ve neglected them for the last year and I needed a herb garden makeover.  The rosemary, oregano, and lemon thyme were repotted to plastic containers and moved to the corner alongside my beloved meyer lemon tree.  The pineapple sage was saved from the chopping block and repotted since I couldn’t part with the sweet scent of its leaves.  Plus during the summer, it has lots of little red flowers.   I added a small cilantro plant and some chives.  This year, I am also trying my hand at growing jalapeño peppers and two varieties of tomatoes – Sweet 100s and Yellow Pears.  If everything goes well, I should be able to start harvesting tomatoes in late July through the fall.
Could this be the beginning of my own locavore movement?  At least, I have the makings of some fresh organic salsa with the jalapeños, cilantro, and tomatoes.

Meyer Lemon

I’ve had this meyer lemon tree for about 5 years.  The first couple of years, it produced about 10-15 lemons total.  Once I started to apply some citrus food, it was happy and started to produce more and more fruit.  I’ve harvested about 75 lemons from each of the past few growing seasons.  I juice the lemons and store them in one-cup increments in a ziploc bag in the freezer.  It’s never been easier to make lemon curd and lemon bars.

Jalapeño Peppers

I planted a six-pack flat of jalapeño peppers I bought at Lowe’s for $1.98.  I wasn’t sure how this endeavor would turn out as the tall, gangly seedlings were barely able to stand on its own.  Now, four weeks later, I can see some buds forming.  I hope it develops into actual edible peppers.

Tomato

It looks a little silly to put a big huge cage over two little itty bitty tomato plants, but hopefully they’ll just shoot up and bear little clusters of edible fruit in a couple of months.  It’s so exciting to grow my own tomatoes instead of buying mealy tasteless ones from the grocery store.  I read online that growing basil next to tomatoes makes it taste better, although it was unclear if the article was referring to the tomatoes or the basil.  I think I need to make another trip to Lowe’s for basil.

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my flower garden

my flower garden

I love flowers and often buy bouquets at Trader Joe’s to enjoy. At this time of the year, the daffodils, tulips, and freesias are my favorites to have around the house. It finally dawned on me that for the price of a six-stem bunch at Trader Joe’s, I can purchase a 6” pot of freesias and plant them myself. This way I can enjoy them for the next two weeks and then with a little luck and two green thumbs, I can enjoy them again next year and the year after with a little effort and no added expense. Continue reading