Friday, January 29, 2010

Swapping seeds...sort of.

Saturday, January 23rd was the 2nd Annual Community Seed Swap, held in Alameda Park in Santa Barbara. Folks were welcome to bring seeds, cuttings, and/or skills to share with others. Even if you had no seeds to share (like me!) you were welcome to come and sample the offerings.

I actually walked to the park from my house, about 1.7 miles, because it was the first sunny day after a week of rain. Beautiful day with no clouds to be found!

There were about 25-30 people there when I arrived and there were several tables set up with info and most importantly, seeds!

Boxes of conventional seed packets like you would buy in the store were accompanied by little baggies and packets of home grown and saved seeds. Some folks had even brought a bunch of sealed envelopes (mostly the kind that come with bills for you to send back your payment in) that had been cut in half. You found the packets or bags of seeds you wanted a few out of, put some in a half envelope and wrote on it what it contained. In the ultimate act of brilliance, someone brought glue sticks so you could seal your new packet so the seeds didn't get out!

I picked up the following: Shasta daisies, arugula, black beauty eggplant, gold rush hybrid squash, and coriander (the seed for cilantro). Yay free stuff!

I used old 6 packs from the last plants I planted. I used basic Gardner and Bloome potting soil. I planted the arugula, squash and eggplant to start with. I'm lucky that the garden has a small greenhouse I can keep my seed flats in, since space is at a premium in my apartment (recall the amount of house plants I have).

Here are my flats:

And here's a look at what other folks are growing:
Here's an exterior shot of the greenhouse (more of a clearhouse, really). Note that there's a brick thing we have to keep in front of the door so critters don't get in!
Stay tuned, hopefully things will sprout forth from those flats...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New veggies

I went to Home Improvement Center on Saturday intending to get a good plastic container to start making my worm composting bin. Turns out, they didn't really have any good ones that had a tight seal. I decided to take a gander at their veggies and see if anything looked worth buying and planting.

I bought a 6 pack of Pak Choi (aka Bok Choy) that looked really healthy and strong. I also got a 4 pack of broccoli. I'm a little worried about the broccoli because even though it looks healthy, everyone else's broccoli is several feet high right now and bearing florets. These dudes are 4 inches high! Oh well...

I decided to put the pak choi and broccoli in rows next to the onions. There is still so much room in the plot, so I'm able to still give each plant a lot of room. Always keeping in mind that I need to make space for the hula hoe to get in between each plant.

Here is a closeup of the pak choi:

And the row from afar:

And my small but mighty broccoli:

And the little row of four:

Before I planted the kale, sugar snap, pak choi and broccoli, I went over the whole plot with a hula hoe. The soil was obviously very moist from the rains and it was easy to work through. There were lots of little weeds sprouting up but they are easy to loosen and pull out with the soil wet.

Lookin' good, Plot 24. Lookin' good.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Check up on the rescued plants

When we last left our heroes, the artichoke, strawberries and parsley that I saved from the weed pit that was plot 24, looked a little bit sadtown. After they had survived a week back in the ground, I did a little trimming of the dead bits. The artichoke was starting to perk up as you can see.

The parsley plant had an intense root structure and you can tell it had been growing for many moons. I trimmed back the yellowing stems and dead weight. There is some decent bright green new growth coming out of the top.

The strawberry plants are looking pretty good, and there are kind of a lot of them- 8 plants in all. They are definitely growing fruit, but the berries are all very small at this point. It seems like it's a great time of year for strawberries because I've noticed in many of the other plots that folks are getting some serious fruit production.

And for all you berry fans out there, here's a sexy closeup!

Thanks for reading, y'all!
(NOTE: This should have been posted before yesterday's post! Epic blog fail.)

After the rain

We had a solid week of rain here on the Central Coast. With such a constant stream of water from the sky, I worried that the garden might get a little water logged.

2 weeks ago I had noticed that 2 different vendors at the SB Farmers Market were selling seedlings of winter crops. Santa Barbara High School students had grown different lettuce varieties, spinach, and my favorite- Italian or lacinato black kale. I bought a 6 pack of the black kale, which I kept in the garden's greenhouse for 2 weeks since it was raining most of that time.

I also bought a sugar snap pea plant. I kept in the greenhouse for about a week, but then it started to wilt a little. I knew we had a week of rain ahead of us, so i decided to put it out in the plot so it could soak up some agua. To do that, I dug a shallow hole inside of a tomato cage and put the plant container in the hole. The container was a natural straw container so I thought it would breathe and drain better than a plastic one.

When the sun finally peeked out on Saturday, I took the opportunity to go assess the situation, and plant my kale and sugar snap peas.

All the older plants were thriving from the rain, especially the romaine.

Here is the kale:

And here is the sugar snap pea inside a tomato cage. It's a pretty aggressive vine so I had to coach it onto the metal wires instead of it growing onto itself.

It's looking a little yellow near the base, but hopefully now that it's in the ground.

Next post I'll show you the other new crops I planted on Saturday!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Time to plant!

Since planting those salvaged plants I've been going out and watering the plants most every day. I'm pretty busy so I don't really have too much time to get down and dirty during the week, but thankfully since my plantings are a little sparse still, there isn't too much hard labor to do.

After I got back from the holidays, I decided I could get some new plants in the ground. Obviously, it's Winter so there aren't really a ton of exciting crops like Spring and Summer will bring. But, hey- I couldn't wait!

I had done a little hunting at the local places you can buy veggies to plant- Orchard Supply Hardware, Home Improvement Center, and La Sumida Nursery. Don't get me freaking started about Home Depot- no I will NOT buy your crap crops that you ship in from God knows where!

Frankly, as far as winter crops go, Home Improvement Center had the best looking stuff. But I got an OSH gift card, so I decided to check out what they had to offer. It was a little bleak, but I got a six pack of white onion and a six pack of romaine lettuce.

Since it had been a week since I worked through all the soil, a few little weeds had started to sprout here and there. I worked through the whole plot with a hula hoe- the world's greatest gardening tool. It is extremely easy to use and I made sure to leave room between each plant so I can fit the hula hoe in between.

Here are my two finished rows:

Here are some closeups of the onion and the lettuce:

Next post I'll give you an update on the strawbs, 'choke, and parsley!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Preparing that soil

The weekend after I took possession of my plot, I made a day of it. I wanted to start out with healthy soil. Even though parks staff pretty thoroughly removed the ridiculous amount of weeds that were there prior, I wanted to dig deep and give my garden the best shot possible.

I turned on the ipod shuffle, slathered on the sunscreen and got down to business. On my hands and knees, I went over every square inch and dug about 8 inches down, pulling out any roots or weeds I could find. There are tales of nutgrass infestations in the garden, which is currently dormant for winter, but I wanted to get anything that might take hold and regrow OUT of my plot!

It took me several hours, but I felt quite accomplished. I then went to replanting the plants I saved from the last owner.

The artichoke:

The strawberries:

The parsley:

They looked a little rough, but as you'll see, they would start to perk up the longer they were in stable ground with regular watering!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Here goes nothing...

This is a little experiment. I've wanted to have a garden for a long time, but alas, like many people, I don't have a yard. I don't even have a postage stamp of grass. Or a patio. Or a balcony. NO OUTSIDE SPACE.

I live in a small apartment in Santa Barbara, California. At last count I have 8 house plants- that's kind of a lot. I'm sort of a crazy cat lady, but with houseplants. It's a little bit sad. I needed to branch out!

I thankfully live in a city that has had a progressive, environmental and community minded Mayor and City Council for the past little while. Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department has 3 community gardens. Go here and click on Community Gardens under downloads to see the rundown on the program. They provide the water and tools and a little greenhouse, and I paid $60 for the whole year.

I applied in early December of 2009 to get a plot at the Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. It is on the Westside of Santa Barbara and a 2 minute drive from my apartment. My neighborhood is actually on the other side of Highway 101 from the garden, but a pedestrian overcrossing opens up in my hood and spits you out right next to the garden area!

The application was pretty simple, you have to agree to a lot of rules, do's and don'ts, etc. There was also an in person group meeting. There was a bit of a waiting list, but they put you into a lottery and I got picked! I was told my plot was number 24.

I went to check it out on December 14th, the day before I would take possession of the plot. The plots are pretty huge, 10 feet by 20 feet. I rolled up on #24, and oh my! It was a giant weed patch. It was clear that it hadn't been tended in maybe...6 months?

I called Antonio at Parks and Rec and he said that if we requested (and you better believe I requested) they would send someone out to clear out everything in the plot so I could start fresh. He also said if there were any plants left in there that I wanted to keep, I needed to go take them out and save them.

I poked around and found that there was a pretty healthy artichoke plant, quite a few strawberries and a salvageable parsley plant. I was able to keep them alive for a few days in pots and the 'choke in a big bucket. Most of the foliage of the 'choke wilted, but it ends happily...I also got several tomato cages out of the deal.

Below is a picture of good old plot 24, post weeds.

In my next post, I'll show you the salvaged plants I replanted!