Thursday, August 6, 2009

Vegetable Garden

State of the Veg

Many in our neighborhood turned out for our annual block party last night. Our family offered up some homegrown zucchini for the grill, but were bested by Joel's cucumber, tomato, bell pepper salad. Though I did impress people will tales of our prolific pumpkins. And I made note of who's got what for future bartering. 

At the end of this post, I'll tell you about a class that can help you start your fall/winter vegetable garden.

In the photo above, you can see how I've tucked a pumpkin plant in among my natives and other low-water plants, such as cosmos and thyme. I started the pumpkins next to conventional irises (which headed for dormancy as the pumpkins took off), and coaxed the long vines into open spaces between my shrubs. (More on these pumpkins.)

As I predicted, we harvested our first fruit before July 4. These are Renee's Antique French Pumpkins. They're good for eating and carving.

So far, we've made 
  • Mini pumpkin pies (basically pumpkin custard smoothed into cooked pastry dough and baked in a muffin pan).
  • Pumpkin pancakes. My favorite recipe is from the fabulous Weelicious website. (You don't have to use rice milk; I use whatever kind I have on hand.)
  • Pumpkin smoothies: yogurt, banana, pumpkin puree, orange juice. 
  • Pumpkin smoothies II/popsicles: pumpkin puree, frozen mango pieces, banana. Pour the leftovers into popsicle molds.  
We also grew a bit of corn. It was delicious, but bolted on the first really hot weekend. Just as I was ripping it out, I noticed it had formed ears at the very bottom--which our local Possum had already discovered. As I've mentioned, we're pesto crazed around here, so we like to throw our corn, zucchini, and tomatoes into a pasta dish with homemade pesto.

We're enjoying four tomato varieties right now
  • San Marzano
  • St. Pierre
  • Cherokee Purple
  • and the greatest of these is... Sun Gold! These sweet cherry tomatoes have been producing for two months and are still at it.
I think the expression one zucchini plant can feed a family must be wrong. Our Mexican Zucchini is feeding a neighborhood. Best of all, it's super kid food. Grated it sticks to anything (i.e. can't be picked out and dropped on the floor). You can toss some on the top of your rice for the last five minutes of cook time. Then enjoy it with lunch, dinner, or breakfast. Yup. Warm the leftover rice with milk, honey and some fruit.

Also growing strong right now
  • cucumbers
  • watermelon
  • butternut squash
  • basil, basil, basil
  • bell peppers
It's been hot so I've piled on more mulch. The difference between a little mulch and four inches is amazing. I've also clustered the potted tomatoes around the raised beds and brought in a shade umbrella, because my babies were frying! (Plant babies, that is.)

I'm already dreaming about fall/winter veg. If you are, too, but aren't sure how to get started, one option is to sign up for the The LA County Arboretum's Square Foot Garden Class. I'm curious to see if Jo Ann Carey, the instructor, recommends an alternative to peat moss, which makes up a third of Mel Bartholomew's recommended mix for these dense gardens. Large scale harvesting and shipping of peat moss is not sustainable. At a recent Theodore Payne Foundation class Steve Gerischer of Larkspur Garden Design recommended using Coir instead. In any case, here's the class information, as described by Arboretum staff.


Your choice of 3 different dates:

  • Saturday, August 22 (Oak Room)
  • or Saturday, October 17 (Oak Room)
  • or Monday, October 26 (Bamboo Room)


Jo Ann Carey, instructor

$22 members/$25 non-members

Please call 626.821.4623 to register


Nothing compares to the flavor of food that is grown in healthy soil, without pesticides, and allowed to grow until just the right time for harvesting.  Square foot gardening uses only 20% of the land space of a conventional garden and saves both water and time. There is no tilling of the soil so anybody can do it.  This method will be fully explained so you may create your own square foot garden, with lessons on setup, planting, watering, growing vertically, pest control and harvesting. 

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