I finally got a chance to get out into my yard and garden. It was a perfect Northern California day. It was sunny, but cool and I had our nanny, Sandy, for the next 4 hours to watch after Walter while I devoted undivided attention to my plants. Such luxury! I began with mundane tasks. Out came the weed-eater and I took care of all the edging and those darn weeds that grow up between the paver stones on our front walk way and near the sidewalk. Then I yanked out some trees that were cleverly volunteering amongst my jasmine. They were clever because they looked very similar to the jasmine, however, the jasmine is in full bloom and they weren’t producing any fragrant and delicate white flowers. So out they came! Digging them out led me to discover a new place that snails like to hide: the jasmine so out they came and the smashing commenced.
I used to be one of those crazy hardcore gardeners. We had a greenhouse, started out all our plants from seeds, generally grew about 15-20 different fruits and veggies and had about 250 square feet under garden space. We did it all and it was so tasty during the summer when everything would come in. Every year we had our first bean harvest day when there was enough green beans to cook. I would blanch them, and then toss them with sea salt and shallots sauteed in butter. It was heaven. Yes, there was the zucchini that was so proficient that it continued to grow bat sized squash after we ripped it up and put it into the compost (we referred to it as zombie squash), but there was also my peach tree where I would just sit and eat peaches to my heart’s content when they came in. I always thought I would cut them up and freeze them for smoothies, but they all seemed to disappear before that could happen. Alex and I worked on that garden for a good 2 ½ years and then something happened. I got pregnant and my energy went straight in the toilet. I had no idea it would happen so quickly, but it did. Then add to that my complete revulsion with all things veggie. I made Alex sit far away from me every time he ate a salad and the garlic and onions hanging in the garage made me want to puke. The saddest thing was that it was August and everything was going strong and we were getting so many veggies in.
Once Walter came, the garden limped along. We had some fantastic visitors right after he was born that helped with our spring planting. We got some veggies and fruit in. Then there came the craziness of buying a house and it just so happened that it happened in August, again when there the harvest was at its peak! The new house is much more nicely landscaped than the old house and I have been working to try and put in things here and there, but I just have a really hard time trying to find the time to get out there and do things. This year we have bought only seedlings and no seeds and still there are veggies sitting on the table outside which have been waiting for over a week to get planted. I know, I know, it is just part of running after a little guy. He loves to be out in the yard with me, but it takes much longer to do things with him too. I feel like as time goes on, I have to admit that more and more of my previous life (before Walter) is not going to come back and I just need to let it go. I wouldn’t change anything and am happy to have my little guy, but a part of me still misses my old garden.
At Common Ground, we bought a book on Biointensive gardening. It’s a method for growing as much food as possible in a small space, while also maintaining a healthy soil. Long ago, people perfected these techniques. Now that monoculture and industrial agriculture are depleting our soils, we will probably need these skills again!
We recorded this video of some digging we did recently in the backyard. Take a look!
If you’d like to try for yourself, I recommend the book we got, The Sustainable Vegetable Garden by John Jeavons. It’s a quick introduction to biointensive gardening, so you won’t be overwhelmed, and it explains how double-digging works a bit better than I can.
I want to start out this post by saying that normally I am a very peaceful, non-violent person. However, there is one thing that gets my blood boiling: SNAILS!! I am not quite sure if other gardeners have quite so many problems with snails or it is just this part of the Bay Area, but they are on a rampage this spring. You see I try and have an organic garden which means no pesticides allowed. I am lucky because in the Bay Area this is somewhat possible because there aren’t a ton of bugs waiting to destroy my crops. However, there has been lots of research done saying that the more you put on pesticides, the more you kill the good bugs and get more bad bugs, but I digress. The long and short of it is that snails love nothing better than to munch on my strawberries or my cute little lettuces or anything just poking its head out of the ground. You can also leave out beer in little plastic cups to deal with some of the snails, but that tends to work better on slugs and rolly pollies. I figure it is a rather pleasant way to go in that they just drown drunk.
According to the gardening books that I have read, the most effective way to deal with snails is to simply go around and pick them off and smash them. This sounds very simplistic, but I have found in the past if I can regularly get out into the garden, this actually does work. This year, they are all over the place. Now granted, I did leave them alone for 5 weeks to breed and grow while I was eating lots of yummy food in Europe, but still! Even before I left, I had done several sets going around the yard grabbing them from all their favorite places (in the compost, under the wood slats on the fence, in my strawberry patch! and hiding in the orange tree) piling them into flower pots and then smashing them all. Then this has to be followed up by an almost daily regimen of going back over the places and more grabbing and smashing. Once we got home, I did a thorough run through of grabbing and smashing and I thought I was doing well. However, today while I was putting around the front yard doing some pruning and watering, I discovered so many snails hidden in a lily that was on the side of the house. Now I have read that snails can travel over and under fences quite some distance to get to their food and these snails were big and fat so that meant that they had been eating lots of strawberries and such. The side of our house isn’t far from the garden. So I set to grabbing and smashing with a vengeance. Those buggers hid really well too. Every time I thought I had finished getting them all, there were more and more. I thought about cutting down the lily, but then I realized that I shouldn’t because it was a good snail attraction and I now knew where to find them. This is the bad point, when you start designing your landscaping around having snail traps……Now I need to head out to the backyard to check my traps.
This morning I woke up to find frost on the ground. In years past this wouldn’t have been of any particular note. It would have just meant a couple more layers on my way out the door, but this year I have a garden. Since this is California, I was under the impression that I could have it growing all year long. Evidently not so much.
Before we moved out to the Bay Area, my husband, Jake, looked up the weather to see what it would be like. According to Wikipedia, it was a mediterranean climate. This had me picturing warm breezes all year round. However, as the year has progressed and the temperature has sunk lower and lower, it appears that it gets cold in California too. The last couple of weeks, it has gotten even chillier. Jake found an alert on the weather channel that would text me if it was going to freeze that night so that I could tuck in my garden. Two days ago, I got just such a text. So I went hunting for old sheet and pillow cases and cleverly used clothespins to attach the sheet over parts of my garden. I woke up the next morning and there might have been a wee bit of frost, but nothing too bad. Yesterday, I got no such text, so I figured that my plants were fine. However, this morning proved otherwise. I think this is a lesson to me that weather forecasts are only so accurate and if it is cold outside, perhaps I should just cover the plants anyway.
I love pickles! Yes, I know that I said I love sweets this afternoon and I do love sweets, but I also love me some pickles. I have been very lucky lately to have some free time to do whatever I please and my to do list includes painting and lots of baking and yoga. One of the things on my to do list was to make pickles. A friend of mine sent me a wonderful Washington Post article about making pickles. On my weekly grocery shopping trip this week, I bought all the ingredients and today I made pickles! They were fairly easy to make. First you make a pickling brine and let it sit for about two hours. Then you layer dill and garlic at the bottom of a sterilized mason jar, stuff it with cut up cucumbers and top it off with more dill and jalepenos. Now the hard part begins – waiting for the week while the pickles get pickled. I am really looking forward to opening them up and trying them. Mmmmmmm…….