Sunday, May 13, 2012

Got extra garden produce? Help feed the hungry!

Many of us are busy getting our vegetable gardens planted, so it's a good time to think about how much we're going to grow, and what we're going to do with it all.  I don't know about you, but I almost always grow more produce than my family can eat.  I can, freeze, and dry, but there's usually still too much.  So this season I resolve to donate some of my surplus to a local food pantry to help feed the hungry.  I used to do that when I lived in Oregon, and it was a great feeling to know that my hobby could help improve someone's life.  (It was also a great justification to buy too many seeds and plant too many vegetables.  I'm not obsessed; I'm philanthropic!)

Anyway, there's now a web site to help me and other gardeners find a local food pantry: Ample Harvest.  Click on Find a Pantry and enter your zip code to get a Google map showing nearby food pantries, along with email and phone numbers.  Information is entered by the pantries themselves, so hopefully it's accurate.  I just typed in my zip and discovered a food pantry just a few blocks away.

If you want to get other gardeners involved in donating produce, you might consider starting a Plant a Row for the Hungry campaign.  Plant a Row for the Hungry is a public service program of the Garden Writers of America.  As a campaign coordinator, you work with gardeners and local media to coordinate donations of homegrown produce.  And for those of you who like to cook what you grow (that would be all of us veggie gardeners, right?), there's a Plant a Row for the Hungry cookbook with some yummy-sounding recipes.

So how about it, gardeners?  Let's share some of our bounty!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

How to plant tomatoes (or, Fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads...)

Fish head
 Love Apple Farms has some interesting, detailed instructions for planting tomatoes. Their most notable secret ingredient: fish heads!  All together now:

Fish heads, fish heads
Roly poly fish heads
Fish heads, fish heads
Eat them up, yum!

Or maybe that last line should read, Plant them up, yum!

For those of you who think I've lost my mind, you are correct, but not because of the fish head song.  The credit/blame for that one lies with Barnes & Barnes, whose novelty song was a staple on the Dr. Demento Show back when your Rainy Day Gardener was just a seedling.  If you're just dying to sing it to your kids/pets/plants, you can find lyrics, a Wikipedia entry, and a YouTube video online.

OK, enough with the fish heads.  Back to tomatoes.  I'll have to try the Love Apple Farms method next year, since I planted my tomatoes last weekend.  I didn't use any fish heads or other unusual ingredients, just some horse manure from my local landscape supply place (which, thankfully, does not feature piles of fish heads.  Can you imagine the stench?  The manure is bad enough.)  When I lived in Portland, I put crushed egg shells around the base of the transplants to help prevent blossom end rot and fend off slugs.  I like Love Apple Farms' idea of putting the egg shells in the planting hole (with the fish head), as it seems like the plant would get more calcium that way.

Do you have any special tips for planting tomatoes?  Or creative uses for fish heads?  If so, please share them in the comments.

I wonder if I can find a way to work one more instance of "fish heads" into this post.  Nah...

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Spring bloom time!

It's the height of spring here in SoCal. Just about everything is blooming--especially the roses. Here's what's blooming in my garden:


The most recent addition to my collection, which I bought last weekend for $5 at a garage sale: P1130602
Green and pink:
And pretty pink:

Front yard cottage garden
We're gradually transforming our front yard, formerly a flat, dull patch of scruffy lawn, into a cottage garden. Here's my favorite corner, which is actually beginning to look "done" (or as done as a garden ever gets). That's a lavender rose and sweet peas.

Here's a wider angle, which doesn't look quite as done. Left to right, there's an almond tree (variety is All in One), with nicotiana and basil in front, then some purple salvia in front of the lavender rose and sweet peas.

And here, not quite so nice, is the street side of the fence. I need to add some more bedding plants to fill out this stretch.


My husband and I both love roses, and they look nice most of the year down here (not such a long winter dead period), so we've been going a little crazy planting them. Here's what's in bloom now: One of several roses we got from a neighbor last year. I don't know the name. P1130597

 And another mystery rose from our generous neighbor: P1130596

And another one. This one looks something like Double Delight, but our Double Delight has a slightly stronger scent, I think. I need to wait till both are blooming simultaneously and compare side by side. P1130594

Another gift from our neighbor:

And another, which unfortunately has some discoloration on the petals: P1130592

And here's our newest rose, at least till my order from David Austin gets here. It's called Sheer Bliss, and it smells as wonderful as it looks: P1130590

 And a closeup of the lavender rose in the cottage garden pics above: P1130589

By the front porch 

 Mandevilla, rescued last winter from the clearance rack at Lowe's for a couple of dollars: P1130584

Succulents and portulacas in my favorite terra cotta planter. We found this planter at an estate sale years ago, and I've tried a bunch of different plants in it, none with much success. I think I've finally found the winning combination.

This is my favorite time of year here in SoCal. There are so many flowers, lots of perfect sunny days, and the heat and smog of summer are still about a month away. Now if I could just finish planting vegetables--and stop buying every plant I see--I could sit in the garden, relax, and enjoy the view. Yeah, like that will ever happen...