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Friday, November 18, 2011

Getting ready for winter

The past couple of weeks we got our garden ready for winter and all the weeds. Our yard has been riddled with weeds of all kinds. Slowly we have been trying to eliminate them (most importantly without the use of any chemicals).

Every year we have been covering unused areas with weed fabric or newsprint and a few inches of wood chips. (Read about our experience with Oak mulch here).

 Some of the woodchips we put down in 2008 have already started to decompose really well and are turning into organic matter. I now see weeds growing in them. I am not quite sure how I should deal with this. Add more woodchips on top maybe? or should I first remove the decomposed matter and them add new chips?

In areas (where I intend to plant this summer) I have not put down any weed fabric. Just a nice thick layer of woodchips.

Now that this big task is done...I can rest easy knowing that weeds wont take over my wonderland.

Friday, November 11, 2011

From the summer of 2011

This was very early on in the summer, because after the vegetables started coming in, there was no more time for pictures of the garden.

This picture now adorns my desktop, reminding me how far we have come.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011 is cold

The cold weather has set in almost everywhere in the US, and even in sunny California. We have been busy getting the garden ready for winter.

This is our first attempt at setting up winter protection. The past few years, we have either left the plants to fend for themselves and die in the process. We also housed a lot of the precious ones in pots that were moved indoors.

The precious plants were put inside the ground this winter, to give them the nutrition and the space to grow. So we had to built some protective cover for them.

This is the biggest structure, and it protects 5 Drumstick plants that I carefully grew from seeds (read it here and here)

This protects the Malaysian Guava that died every winter but has successfully managed to come back.

The most treasured possession i.e. my curry leaf plant looks lush in this picture. We pruned it well (with just a few sprigs to spare) and covered it p with some shade fabric and Burlap cloth as with the rest.

The foliage on this plant does not seem like much but the pruning yielded us at least a pound and a half of curry leaves (which is quite a lot, and should last me all winter)

The Loofahs are here

I finally managed to clean up and dry the Loofah Gourds I grew last year. (Read here)

This has been a task waiting to be done since the spring of 2011. This ended up being ZBB'd.

ZBB'd is a jargon (among a million others) that is often used at the new place I have joined and just to get a hang of them I have been using them everywhere. It just means that it is a low priority item and there are other tasks that are higher priority that need to be addressed first.

Now that the year's quota of sunshine was quickly running out, it was time i got these cleaned up. Almost half my Loofahs had some kind of dark discoloration and needed some cleaning. I skinned them and dunked them in a solution of baking soda and bleach mixed in water. After an hour of soaking they were rinsed out separately and left to dry.

Monday, October 31, 2011

First foray into canning

2011 marked our first foray into the world of canning. The scare of "botulism" has kept us away all this while. After reading up a lot on the topic we figured it was the right thing to do considering we grow our own Tomatoes and would much rather place our trust on home canned stuff (the right way) instead of the pricey, store bought, sodium laden, BPA laden canned tomatoes.

I picked up a pressure canner because I knew that my prime target was Tomatoes and because of their low acidity, it wont be safe to put them through a simple boiling water canner. I also made sure I got all the tools, and they were well worth the investment and make the entire process much more easier to manage.

We made sure we stuck to all the rules and requirements, boiling sanitizing and careful handling. (Reminded me of the days I helped my mom make Jams and Juices, growing up in India)

This was one of our first batches

So we were very motivated to skin the Tomatoes (as it was suggested in the books)

My favorite are the yellow Brandywines which were extremely sweet.

It was a lot of work, and yes it was the middle of the night by the time they got into the canner.

We had pretty good success rates with the seals, but we forgot to add vinegar in the water (hence the water stains on some of the Quart bottles). But hey it is just cosmetic.

The bigger Quart bottles contain either whole or pureed Tomatoes. (I have about 21 of them stocked up now). Hopefully they will last me all winter.

The smaller half pints have Tomato pickle (seasoned with sesame oil and Indian spices). The green colored ones are Tomatillo Salsa (Seasoned with homegrown green chili peppers).

Curry Leaf propagation experiment

The small bunch of regular readers of my blog know about the "Curry Leaf" plant that is my prized possession. (Read about it here, here and here)

This is the first year that our "Curry Leaf" plant is in the ground. For those skeptics who are against putting them into the soil, I know I am taking a big risk this winter. The plant is still fairly small and would need a nice protective jacket to help it get through winter. (We are working on that)

This is also the first year that our little plant yielded some fruits. The key is to have the freshest fruits to ensure good success rates for the propagation. We sowed the healthiest of the lot in flat trays so they can be moved inside. The only tricky part is that it is winter and I have serious doubts about their viability.

Stay tuned.

A new herb garden bed

It has been a while since new posts were updated in a timely fashion. The summer of 2011 has been pretty hard on us. Many a times we forgot to take pictures, and in the off chance that we did, the picture never got downloaded from the camera for many months.

Here is one such update about our new "herb bed". (Read the Prologue to this story here). We added a nice seating area and some finish trim to the herb planter bed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Exotic Gourds

The past couple of years, I have had a pretty bad time growing exotic asian gourds. The only exotic gourd I manged to grow was the Luffa Gourd in 2010 (Read those posts here)

I don't give up easy, so in 2011 I pledged to grow these exotic asian gourds yet again. But this time around I succeeded, but it has been bitter sweet.

The gourds I tried were- Bitter gourd (Indian and Chinese), Snake Gourd, Ridge Gourd and Bottle Gourd.

I have had great luck with the Bitter Gourds this year, too much good luck actually. I grew two varieties, the one on the left are what i call "Chinese Bitter Melon" as those are the ones I find in the local Ranch99. The ones on the right are the Indian variety (the ones I ate growing up in India and they are available at the local Indian grocery stores.

As much as one might be obsessed over Bitter Gourds, it is difficult to consume a lot of these. So I shared the bounty with the extended "Namakkal clan" and my Asian colleagues

Snake Gourds are a precious commodity here in the US, and I hear even in India these days. One typically finds the fat variety in the store. We gladly consumed all those lovely Snake Gourds (and shared some with friends too).

The Ridge Gourds though fairly common sight at the local indian grocer, the store bought ones look pretty worn out and tired (like me). My homegrown Ridge Gourds were very tender and kept well for over 3 weeks in the refrigerator even after harvesting. I made a couple of classic dishes and a few new ones. Need I say more- the Ridge Gourds were a grand success.

The Bottle Gourds are some of the most easiest to grow and the plants typically take over the planting area and the surrounding places too. They are typically shaped like bottles, i.e. cylindrical. My Gourds this year turned up in this shape instead and made for some cutesy gifts.

The Tomatoes of 2011

Here are the lovely Tomatoes i grew in 2011. The few Brandywines that didn't succumb to blossom end rot ended up ripening into the most sugary sweet Tomatoes of the year

The second best award went to the "Black from Tula" Tomato.

The Razzleberry Hybrid was the most firm and well rounded Tomato

The "Cream Sausage" were the most prolific

The "Red Siberian" had the most lovely Calyx

The "Prudence Purple" was a gorgeous and beefy pinkish red Tomato

And one of the entire bounty

Friday, September 16, 2011

The crazy month that is September

I haven't had time to get to the blog this month. New jobs for both of us, unplanned trips, and all this has to happen smack in the middle of harvest season.

Well, and I was thinking that we had scaled back this year, but it does not look like it at this point. Here is a sneak peek of what we have been dealing with.

This was all in a day and we did not have time to get to the Ridge Gourds and the Snake Gourds.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Blossom End Rot

WARNING.....some really disturbing images to follow and surely not for those with weak hearts.

Blosom End Rot that seems to be affecting almost every fruit on this Tomato plant

These are all from the same plant....the Brandywine

Monday, August 8, 2011

Potager 2011

Here are some pictures from a Potager in progress

Colourful Nasturtiums

The two Calendula varieties

The second Calendula variety

The Calendula's are growing along our Strawberry area and near the Tomatoes that has helped bring the bees to the Tomato flowers

The Chrysanthemum that is growing through the massive Zucchini monster

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lucky finds at the local nursery

We hardly ever get time to go out on the weekends. Most of our time is spent digging around in the garden and fixing things. Add back-breaking harvesting to this mix in summer.

This past weekend we were hanging out at the local garden center and I spotted the last ones. The exotic and oh so representative of south India- the one and only Kanagambaram (sometimes also known as Kanakambaram)

And the special item on display was none other that Kanakambaram's soul mate - Malli.

Now all I need to do is get them to grow well and give me loads of Malli and Kanakambaram that I can string into a garland. 

I claim complete ignorance to the art of stringing garlands in the traditional Indian way, but this may be a big motivation to finally learn this. 

I found this interesting link online on how to string one- link

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Fruit Farm in 2011

This is our Fruit tree lineup. This will be their first full summer in this spot giving them time to grow.

It has not been a promising year so far with the fruits. The baby Lemons and Oranges that emerged started dropping off magically at this size. I even remembered to fertilize them about every 2 months now since spring.

We did not spray our plum against leaf curl....and the Plum tree has been doing badly. I hope one year of lapse is not going to cost us dearly.

The Malaysian Guava that we managed to kill a second time (but not covering it in winter) around seems to be coming back to life.

The Pomegranates are full of flowers, but none seems to get past the flower stage.

Karela has his day

Each cuisine has a dish that is exotic to a trained palette but needs a lot of training (read force feeding) to get there. Being widely touted for its exotic nutritional/ disease fighting qualities, kids are trained from an early age to acquire the taste. But once you are converted there is no going back. This has a addictive effect of its patrons.

In three years of having a vegetable garden, I am finally proud to report the arrival of the "Bitter Melon".

For the uninitiated, yes ....these are really bitter.

I am growing two varieties this year. The one pictured above is the Asian variety that is considerably less bitter than its Indian counterpart. There are a lot more little baby Bitter Melons out there and I have my fingers crossed for a big harvest.

Oh, and Karela is its Hindi name. A sought after Indian delicacy it is also known as Bitter Gourd and Pagakkaai(Tamil).

Bloom time-Summer 2011

The gorgeous, yet easy to maintain Potato tree

The Dahlia planted in 2010 that magically re-appeared in one of the pots

The gorgeous Eucomis that were planted in 2010 but never flowered until this summer

The combination of white and black Eucomis are planted in a container

The last Rohee's Blacky Fuchsia that we picked up from a local garden center

The white Calla Lilies

 The Winter Jasmine that seems to be loving the new trellis

 And my favorite flowers in the summer garden.....the Asiatic Lilies. They are extremely fragrant and last a long time on the plants or in a vase.