See those tiny little buds in the center of the plant? The plant is trying to bolt (produce seeds). You don’t want that! They do this because they are feeling threatened that they might die so they hurry to make seeds. Perhaps it is too cold, too hot, or they are starved of food or water. Perhaps it is just the natural end of their live. If they bolt the leaves will become very sour and unpleasant.
It’s time to harvest. But I have so much of it!!
Bolting can happen in a matter of a couple of days. If they bolt, you can then use the greens in soups but otherwise they will have a strong flavor even if steamed. I like to eat my greens in their prime so I had to pull these out FAST while they still tasted sweet.
I chose to take a pasta recipe of mine, cook the Bok Choy, and add it to the dish. Now I will freeze it.
Please don’t let it go to seed and spend all your time and love only to watch your plants be thrown away.
If you have lots of growing space, you can let the plants bolt and they will reseed themselves for another time. I do not have that option. And some plants you can just cut the top parts off early and they will go ahead and produce rather good greens…but not great. It’s a matter of experimentation.
But I say, if they bolt, eat or cook them FAST!!!
Thanks to those of you who have sent me photos…I LOVE THEM and you are doing such a great job. Soon I will ask for photos to post so everyone can see the progress.
Have you ever seen an aphid up close? I have!! Just for fun, I put a leaf of lettuce under my microscope and POW! There he was. I thought it was a clean leaf but this little bugger was scary!!!!!!!!! I had to do some yoga breathing!! They are probably edible but I don’t like the thought of putting one in my stomach especially if it is alive.
This is what it looked like!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMG!!!!
To get rid of aphids spray the plant with Neem oil at first sight. You can also soak the leaves for 10 minutes before eating the plants. The aphids will drown and wash off . It’s good not to let the aphids stay on the plant as they weaken the plant and can spread to others nearby.
This ladybug is in heaven!
This is another way to control aphids and you can get a box of ladybugs at the nursery. I hope you have better luck than I had with the girls. Mine just flew away. Guess my aphids weren’t good enough for them.
Here’s another one of my favorites, not:
These guys are tricky and they LOVE my kale! Like those transparent aphids, these guys blend in with the color of the leaf and you don’t see them unless you are looking every day. They like to travel along the veins of the leaf so check carefully there. Just pick them off and throw them on your neighbors roof with the snails. (Just kidding). I don’t like to kill them. If I put them in the green bin I feel better about it because at least they have food there and I don’t feel so guilty. There’s no way I want to eat a worm. I’d rather eat an aphid!
Pick those weeds and keep watering. AND it might be time to feed them a little also. The greens should be dark green NOT YELLOW. If they’re yellow, it’s time to give them some nitrogen…like fish emulsion.
I just had my first salad and it’s only been 4 weeks!!! Okay admittedly it’s not a real salad but it was a nice little topping! Very green and very healthy. There’s a little lettuce, chard, and Bok Choy.
I’m not the best thinner so I’m going to try to be better this year.
This is my Bok Choy that I love to use in stir fry and soups. When thinning your greens, slowly pull them out so as not to disturb the soil of those you want to preserve. They will be much happier now and will grow faster. I am hesitant to thin more than this. I’m so afraid a snail will venture by and eat one for dinner. I will thin them again when they get larger. In the meantime, I have a salad topper in my hand!!
There’s nothing healthier to eat than your own vegetables that truly do go from farm to mouth. I’m so excited. Soon I wont have to go to the vegetable market! I love it! I once heard that plants have the best filtering system in the world and they also know how to find only the pure nutrients. I don’t know where or how I got that information so don’t quote me, but I like it. If you think about it, that’s how we eat too. If there is something on our plate that doesn’t look edible, we won’t eat it unless we are very hungry. So keep your soil heathy.
Now is when I will start a little organic fertilizer. I use fish emulsion because that is what I have always done and you know how old habits die hard. I’m sure there are great ways to fertilize so I will refer you to google for this one.
If you have left a section of your garden bare like we talked about in the beginning. Now is the time to get to the nursery to find some really good pre-garden fertilizer and some stuff to enhance the soil. If you need soil, pay the big bucks and get the best organic soil you can find for growing vegetables. Just ask the nursery man!
I know it’s cold out there, but you really have to do this. You also need to check your garden EVERY DAY. You never know when those little varmints will drop by in the middle of the night and reek havoc in your garden. If you catch them soon and pick them off, you won’t get overwhelmed by them. After all, they have to eat too! My uncle once said, I plant enough food for both me and the bugs.
Ace hardware is having a garden sale this weekend so I am headed over there today. I’m going to pick up more seed too if they have it.
Happy gardening. And keep watering!!!! Check in next time for fun with bugs. Ya gotta love em, they’re so cute.
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I have to say I’m feeling a little bit of pressure here because you guys are doing so well. But this is not about competition, it’s about growing food. That’s our mission. If your seedlings are small right now, like mine, they will grow. This is the hardest time because growing up takes a lot of time and nurturing. Remember, KEEP WATERING. Have fun reading below about the different ways of planting that viewers are using.
From Viewer Sonia in Arizona
“Got my wine barrels planted, carrots, spinach, one tomato, one cucumber and lots of herbs”. (in another barrel)
Her husband made these planters. Brilliant!
From viewer Rachel. She is in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“Anne, here is the beginning of my garden. Lettuce seeds are sprouting! Tomatoes are in the pots outdoors. Will send a pic soon.”
I love the way she has just used plastic cups.
From Carla in the Bay Area
“A work in progress. Honeymoon salad…lettuce alone.”
“Instead of ornamentals, I’m planting food on my porch. Now I wish I could get my husband to build a small chicken coop in the backyard. We’d be on our way to self-sufficiency.”
Carla also grows lots of yummy fruit that she makes jam with.
Preparing to grow more!!!
Harvey and his “pet” owl who keeps the rats away.
He lives in Washington.
“Well, a neighbor who is a very serious gardener has already planted things under cut-out water bottles and a plastic cover over some beds. I started to turn over the leaves that I threw over my now deceased broccoli and have put up hoops that I use to cover my planter box garden. Normally I buy large tomato plants and deep plant them towards the end of April. I’m going to be preparing beds for a couple of weeks and then will decide whether to plant seed under covered beds or wait to buy small plants at the nursery.“
Now this is really getting into planter boxes.
From viewer Heather: she has a year-round garden on the central coast!
“My garden is now overgrown with red mustard, chard, collards, arugula, cilantro and flowers, food for the soul. When I find space, I’ll plant tomatoes and a zucchini! We have a lime tree in the background with a neighbor’s avocado tree behind it. “
I love these boxes and the way they are placed in a “U” shape.
From viewer Nancy on the Central Coast, she has a plot here.
If you don’t have room for a garden, your community may have a garden that you can pay a small monthly fee to rent a plot. This usually pays for the water use, and fellow gardeners have lots of good information.
Sooooo, there are many many options. Thank you all for sharing. Let’s check back later and for those who have not submitted, just send me a photo and a short caption.
A couple of blogs ago I linked a very good article from the The Guardian that my friend Carla sent me. It is about composting. But before we go into the benefits of healthy soils, there is a super important task we must tend to.
I just went outside for my daily gardening and couldn’t figure out why my chard wasn’t coming up. At closer look I found that they HAD come up but as their tiny head broke the dirt, they were chopped off by some bug!!!
Here is what you must do right away!! Don’t waist any time. The plants cannot grow without their heads attached.
So every place I have planted chard seeds, I covered with a plastic bottle. You just cut the bottoms off containers and put them in the ground. If you have high winds, be sure they go deep into the ground or secure them in a different way. The bottles also act as a little green house. I’m so glad I discovered these bugs in time.
You too can make a planter box.
Some of you have said you don’t have any planter boxes and you don’t want to leave the house. Here is what you can do.
Find some old wood in the garage or find someone who has just rebuilt their fence and get some of the old wood. Just remember that these boards can be any length or width as long as there are 4 of each plank
NOTE: In the first picture I am making sure that the screw will be long enough to go about 3/4 inch into the adjacent wood. I use galvanized sheet rock screws. They go in smoothly and hold well.
My box is made from fence boards but yours can be from any boards you have. Notice that mine does not have a bottom. That’s because I’m going to use it as a raised box and just set it on the dirt in front of my house…a spot that gets lots of sun.
If you need a bottom because you are using it as a planter, just add some strips placed half inch apart on the bottom. Then you can have fun by setting the box on some bricks, boulders, or whatever. It can be quite creative actually.
So go have fun. And let me know how your garden is growing. You have seen mine and there is not much going on at the time. I’m not worried because I will have more produce than I know what to with.
By the way, if you live in SLO, there is a wonder store there called The Growing Grounds and it has great starter plants if you want your garden to look lush in a hurry.
It’s interesting that I don’t see lots of people out walking today. Maybe they are home planting their seeds. I’m sure that’s it.
Okay, you’ve bought your seeds or you have ordered them and some of you have put them in the dirt. But I have checked and some of you are still thinking about it. NO, NO, NO. Review the previous posts and get your seeds, and plant them because we are ready to move on. This is so important.
Note: Be sure your soil is damp all the way to the bottom
If you have your seeds, this is what you do. If they are tiny seeds, Just rough up the soil a little and sprinkle the seed in the rough areas (the dark lines above). Then cover the the seeds with the dirt and press down firmly to pack the soil for the roots to take hold. Sprinkle it a little with water and BOOM! You’re done! If you have a larger seed like Chard (which is a must), just poke your finger in the soil up to your first knuckle and put two seeds in each hole about 5”apart. Cover with soil and water. That’s it. You’re done!
A word about planting in rows. For some reason vegetables like to grow in rows and do not like to be mixed with other kinds of seeds (they are quite particular in that respect).
I have heard that their roots talk to each other and share the nutrients. (Cute, huh?) If you plant herbs or flowers among your vegetables (which can be helpful for bug control) just be aware that they will compete for the nutrients. My aunt, whom I adored, would mix, mix, mix her flowers and vegetables. I loved her garden and think of her every time I go out to pick vegetables for my dinner. She would just search among her flowers and find her food. I thought it was so cool. Thinking back to it now, her plants were quite small and a little tough but it was still fun!!
Watering your seedlings is very important. Without water, they will not grow. It is better to water them too much than not at all. And speaking of water, I hope you all are collecting your rainwater. Now is a great time to do that because all that nasty, rotted, asphalt tile stuff on your roof has washed off from previous rains. Just put a bucket under your downspout and tada! You have your first collection of rain water.
Where do I put my rain water?
If you don’t have a place to put the rainwater, consider an old garbage can. Of course you can purchase an urn on Amazon, which is ideal, but they are expensive. BUT FIRST… get your seeds in the ground. We’ll talk about water storage later.
I planted my seeds, now what do I do?
What you should do now is pat yourself on the back. You will sleep well tonight because you feel secure that you will have food in about a month.
While we are waiting for the slow movers, let’s talk a little about planting indoors because I know many of you are still looking at snow out there. I’m sorry but we in California have sun and clear skies with a little rain. But you have those beautiful snow-covered trees that we in the west are all envious of. That’s hard to beat. The choice you have is to plant inside which is really fun!
Her we go. Even if you can plant outdoors, you might want to join the “cold-zones” because it is quite fun. I previously mentioned that you can get this tray from your hardware store, but if you are cautious of going to the store during virus times your can use little containers and punch holes in the bottom. Fill them with some soil and plant your seeds. Thats’ it!. Put the containers by the window for light and be sure to water them every day. Be sure to put a cookie sheet under the containers to prevent ruining your furniture. Soil? Again, if you are not going out to the stores, just use some soil from outside. Otherwise get some soil at the nursery. I use the Fox Farm brand.
That’s all for now. Don’t forget to “follow me”. And add a comment. Happy growing!
Can you see those little guys? I’m so excited! Did you know that when I thin these seedlings in a couple of weeks I can wash and eat them right then and there or I can add them to a salad or soup? I certainly don’t need to throw them away. More later.
I am really surprised because I just put these in the soil 4 days ago. And this is even my old leached-out soil. I am very pleased. If I look closely I can see that they are a little bit yellowish which means they could use some nitrogen food. But I won’t worry about that now because giving them any food while they are this small might overwhelm them. We’ll just wait and see. My lettuce is also peeking up. We have had some rain so I guess that really turned them on. As you can tell by any weeds in your garden, they love rain water.
Carrots, Yay!!!!! They are up too. Wow!
My Chard has not poked its head up yet. Let’s see how long it takes. I would LOVE to see some of your photos. And I am really enjoying your comments and encouragement. Thanks for joining me. We’re doing a good thing.
Don’t forget to water everyday
This is especially important when they are just seeds. They won’t germinate if you don’t keep them damp. After you water, scuff up the soil that borders your crop line and see if it is dry underneath. That water is very tricky. It looks like it seeps in but it really doesn’t if the soil under is not damp. Water every day and keep it damp.
It’s time to go shopping!!! For soil
I like to get organic soil especially formulated for vegetables. A couple good ones are: Dr. Earth, and Fox Farm. But I know there other good
ones out there. Figure out about how many cubic feet you will need and then talk to the nursery. I get very good information from those guys.
During the next week here is your to-do list:
Visit your plants daily to see what they need: love, water, snail removal, more sun, a wind break, maybe a cover…it only takes 10 minutes so take your coffee out with you if you’re in a hurry.
Get soil and think about building a planter box if you need one
Put soil in a planter, mix it well with water (all the way to the bottom of the planter and plant more seeds.
NOTE: It is very important when planting in planter boxes to keep the soil damp (not soggy) all the way to the bottom. The way you do this is start with a good damp soil that has nutrients in it. If you water it every day (even a sprinkle) it will keep the soil damp underneath. Don’t forget, those roots that develop, can go a long way down looking for more goodies. Give them a treat.
Do you like to compost?
Heres a great post from the Guardian on composting during the pandemic.
I know, I know, I know, I’m getting pushy. But you really need to get on board fast. If you have a hardware store near you, go purchase some seeds. If the stores are out of seeds (which they may be) here are some good websites to order from:
I am not recommending one over the other and I have no ties with them, I’m just giving you some quick links. Here are the ones I got at the hardware store. But don’t worry if the ones you get are organic, heirloom, or whatever, just buy the ones you want to grow. Remember my recommendations are CHARD, CARROTS, KALE, LETTUCE and any other greens you want. Let’s think about plants later.
Now you might be saying “I can just wait until the plants are in the nursery and buy those”. Well you can but there are some real advantages to planting from seed. First of all you want to grow plants in more quantity than the store can provide. Planting one plant or even a pony pack of lettuce will not feed you or your family long at all. Besides, these plants have been nurtured out of your sight and may have chemicals and other bad things in their soil. Sometimes they come complete with hidden aphids. Ugg!!! Adding bugs to your vegetable garden is a huge headache in the making. You always want to keep the bug population down so that you never have to use poisons.
Another huge advantage of planting seeds is that you get to experience the whole process of planting those little buggers in your freshly prepared soil, watching them emerge from the soil (extremely exciting) and bonding with them from birth. So plant the seeds NOW.
Having a vegetable garden brings a huge benefit besides the obvious one. If you are a parent or a grandparent; Or even a brother, sister or a neighbor, you are setting an example!! You are teaching by example and when your vegetables get to be picked by little hands, those little hands instantly become little farmers. These memories will stick with these kiddos throughout their lifetime. You don’t really need to say anything, they will just absorb it. It’s so cute.
But I live in a different region and it’s too darn cold. I can’t plant my seed yet! Oh yes you can!
I usually plant my seeds in February when it is very cold and rainy. The soil is too cold to germinate the seeds so I use a planting tray indoors and they are ready to transplant in 3-4 weeks. So if your weather is cold, find a sunny window, clear those books off the shelf and place a planting tray there. Be sure to put a cookie sheet under it though or you will big problems with water stains. I’ve been there and it’s not fun. When you get to transplant them on a nice warm sunny day, you have an instant vegetable garden. We will talk about the transplanting process later. Lets get them planted first!
You really should get some nice potting soil for these trays and the nursery clerk can help you with that. You can see that I have labeled each row because when they’re babies they can look the same and I want to plant them together when I take them outside.
Just put the soil along with 2 or 3 seeds in each little square. The soil should be damp. And don’t forget to water it everyday. Do not let it dry out and wait to fertilize until you transplant.
Until tomorrow, happy planting!! Or happy ordering!! Remember, we’re in this together.
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So having talked about the important reasons for having a vegetable garden, let’s get started.
This is what my balcony looks like at this moment (the one on the left of course). So we are going to grow together.
If you have dirt in a container or in a part of your yard, plant your seeds now. I mean NOW. Just put the seeds in the dirt as the seed packet suggests. But just plant two rows or about 1/10th of your space. I suggest this because there is no time to waste. In a month you will have some food to eat even if it has had some trouble growing. For me (I’m on the central coast of California) I should have started my spring planting last month, but that didn’t happen. I was in Mexico watching those cute whales tease us in our panga boats. My soil was sitting dormant (pictured). We’ll talk about that later. Tomorrow I will plant one box only, just to get something started since it is difficult for me to get to the store with the self-isolation that is going on. Fortunately before I left for Mexico I purchased some seeds. If you can’t find seeds at the store, there are lots of websites that sell seeds of high quality. Order some today and plant them as soon as they arrive.
Personally, I’m not sure how well my seeds will grow because my soil has been leached during the winter and I have not added any nutrients. But I am planting them anyway. Don’t be concerned right now about anything except getting the seeds in the dirt.
In one box (for now) I will plant a row of chard and some carrots. Chard is a staple in any garden. It grows like crazy, has lots of nutrients and it grows back after you cut it. It is a must-have. If you don’t plant anything else, plant chard. The carrots I will plant because carrots will grow well in poor soil as long as the soil is not clay. They take a long time to grow so I will seed them now and wait. In the meantime I will have chard. Leafy greens are more important than any other vegetable. My garden will end up being 90% leafy greens.
Rule #1: always plant chard.
If you have old seeds hanging around and cant get to the store, then plant the old seeds. However, they may not grow as well and you may be disappointed. But…right now it is better to get old seeds in the ground than no seeds at all. In the meantime, go to the store or get online to find your seeds. Remember to order chard. Other packets to order are lettuces (I like romaine and arugula because they are more nutritious and still yummy). Also order bok Choy, Kale, carrots, and beets (for beet tops and later for the root). These are the basics and easy to grow. They are nutritious leafy greens. Get these vegetables planted first.
Check back tomorrow for your next steps. In the meantime. Eat healthy!! Buy fresh vegetables about every 3 days and eat them before they go bad. Don’t eat old vegetables if you can help it. They are oxidized. We will talk about that later.
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FOOD. Is that on your mind at all these days? It is mine. In fact it’s alway on my mind. I live from meal to meal, and from snack to snack. I am one of those people who gets moody when hunger hits. I’m also one of those people who feels crappy when I eat a family size bag of potato chips with a coke which is exactly what I did yesterday as I sat self-quarantined, in boredom, watching the sad news on the TV.
We don’t know how long this Coronavirus pandemic is going to last but we need to be prepared for anything and everything. Food is one of the essentials of life. We must never run out of it. Never!
I’m going to start my first blog ever because I feel strongly that we as a human race have got to be prepared, and it is really going “hto be up to the individual to make this happen. I am speaking of planting food. I strongly believe that we should ALL plant food!! Not just some of us, but each and every one of us. It’s easy, fun, rewarding, and serves an essential purpose… keeping us alive!! Vegetable gardening has also saved me over the years in meaningful, helpful, and invigorating ways. It has never failed to give meaning to my life. I am convinced that it will give meaning to your life as well as a sense of security and a never-ending supply of nutrients on your plate.
I have been recreating my vegetable garden the past 15 years. And it IS a creative experience. I am an artist by profession and when people ask me what kind of art I am doing at present, I usually reply that I am “tending my garden.” Of course that means many things. Whatever you have “planted” and whatever is “growing” needs to be nurtured. It needs to be watered, given sunlight, fertilized, pruned, and talked to on a daily basis. I hope all of you are tending your own garden as much as you are tending others. But back to food.
With the Coronavirus on our minds, I would like to share my esperience of producing food with you in hopes that we can, together, plant our vegetable garden for this spring and summer. First of all, I live at the beach on a VERY small lot with absolutely no place to plant a garden. I have only five feet on three sides of my house… This area is covered with rocks and grows weeds like crazy. There is a tall fence around my small lot that allows sun to shine for only a wee part of the day. When I moved here I knew this lack of growing space was going to be a problem. I knew I would actually get depressed if I couldn’t have a garden. A vegetable garden is an absolute requirement for me. I always had one as a child and our family used it to grow mostly corn and chard. So I naturally have it in my blood to be a survivalist. I feel uncomfortable if I don’t have food growing somewhere. You may think me crazy but I don’t want to depend on other people for food. Not even the grocery stores. Especially the grocery stores. We’ll get back to grocery store vegetables at another time.
For most of my adult life I have been a vegetarian, but please don’t hold that against me. However, even meat lovers need vegetables on their plate so lets get busy. It does wonders for your spirit and brings you closer to the circle of life. With me, it focuses my mind on what is important in life. It is a visual illustration of how everything is connected. From the sun to the plant to the earth to the trees to the animals. We are all connected and by not having plants growing, I can lose sight of that connection. Then to harvest it, cook it, and put it in my mouth and savor it…now that is the ultimate reward. When it touches my tongue, I thank the lord for allowing me to make this connection, to feel the entire circle of life. Now, that may sound a little over the top, but it is absolutely how I experience the food when it comes from my garden to my plate and in my mouth.
I feel good when I eat good food. Food that I know is grown right because I grow it myself. I pick it the day I eat it and I don’t package it in plastic that has been made with chemicals and preservatives. I eat whatever is growing in the garden at the moment and it is amazing how creative I can get with a bunch of Bok Choy and a carrot!! I have grown this food with rain water, scraps from my garden and a little fish emulsion here and there. I don’t spray for bugs. I pick them off!! And I do this every day without fail mainly because it is my therapy but also because it is good for me and my body.
It’s like my religion!
So where is my garden? Hmmm. Well, It is on my roof. Above my first floor (which is 1000 sq ft). Up there I have an art studio that covers about 500 sq ft. of the house below. So that gives me 500 sq ft of garden. Whoa…no way!! You’re right, no way. I use most of that space for a small spa and a place where my grandchildren play in the sun when they visit. On a very small portion of the roof (less than 100 sq ft), I have large planters, filled with the best of soil I can find, in which I plant enough vegetables for myself year round and have enough left over for my neighbors.
I counted them, there are 49 neighbors on my street. Only two houses (I checked) grow food, myself and the small family three doors down from me. That’s hard for me to believe. When I do the math, that’s .04%!!! Am I right? I hope I’m wrong because that’s horrible. I’ll have that figure checked by my engineer friend. Anyway, from the looks of his garden there is no way my neighbor is feeding his whole family which without a doubt he should be able to do. No sweat, it’s that easy!!!
I am going to leave you with these thoughts and when I return tomorrow, we will get down to business. Don’t forget to check back!! And I mean TOMORROW, because there is no time to waste. We must get these seeds in the soil right away. Even if you don’t have warm soil. There are lots of options that we will go over, and hopefully many of you will want to add ideas, but we must plant NOW!!
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